Travel on the Ancon and Cristobal
by George Chevalier

I must go back to one of the best features of life as a CZ Brat and that was travel on the old PRR ships of the 1930s. The old Ancon and Cristobal were built in 1902, 10 years before the Titanic. They were bought by the ICC to support the building of the canal. At 9300 GT in the beginning they ended up close to 10,000 GT after they were modernized. Coal burning at first they were changed to oil when rebuilt. The Cristobal was done in early 1920 at the Balboa Shops and Dry-dock while the Ancon was done in NYC during 1924-25. The Ancon was given an extra deck over the Cristobal and passenger capacity raised from 78 to 250 with the Cristobal carrying less. The cabins were set up for four people in two sets of bunk beds. No toilet camode only a wash basin/sink with running water. Thunder Mugs were provided and kept under the bunks but that we felt was too undignified and so you would get up in the night and don slippers and bathrobe to head out into the night down the deck to the public bathrooms. On stormy, windy and rainy nights this was an adventure walking the pitching and rolling deck. Each cabin had an oscillating electric fan as the only means of artificial cooling.

Sailing date out of Cristobal was on Sunday PM I believe between 3 and 4 o'clock. Monday and Tuesday were through the Caribbean and you could count on it being hot. Late Tuesday night we rounded the cape into the bay of Haiti and arrived at the one pier in Port AU Prince early AM to spend the day sight seeing or shopping. Departure was late afternoon and some time I guess after midnight we would round the cape into ocean waters and the incr eased motion of the ship would wake you to that fact. Dawn Thursday saw the passing of the lower Bahamas in the Windward Passage and was also the day we passed the sister ship going southbound. With ships horn and much waving we saluted the passing. The weather on Friday and Saturday turned colder with the influence of Cape Hatteras. Sunday evening the lights of Atlantic City and Asbury Park could be seen off the Port side if your parents had allowed you to stay up at that hour. Finally anchoring in the lower bay of NY in the last part of the night. The very slow fog shrouded trip through the Narrows toward the main harbor and pier began early with a biting cold that penetrated our southern bones. Pilot, Immigration and Public Health had all come aboard to check us and do their jobs. We knew it was over when we rose and went on deck to see the deck chairs were all folded up and stacked out of the way giving the deck an unnatural wide look. While suitcases were in use the main instrument for hauling clothes was the large steamer trunk. It stood on end in the middle of your cabin and swung open to multiple drawers on one side and full length hanging of suits and dresses on the other side. These you packed in advance and Canal or PRR people came to your home and picked them up the day before sailing. Upon boarding the ship there would be your trunk sitting in the middle of the cabin as if to say "Were Off".