I was born at Gorgas Hospital in Ancon, Canal Zone, on December 18’th, 1947. At that time, my Dad (Ted A. Marti) worked at Pedro Miguel Locks with the Panama Canal as a mule operator (the locomotives that pulled the ships through the canal locks). I grew up the first five years of my life in Pedro Miguel. We had lots of pets—a sloth, 12 baby alligators, two hoot owls, seahorses, a hawk, and of course the regular cats, and dogs. The area was a good enviornment to grow up in—safe—except for the DDT trucks that sprayed for mosquitos when it turned dusk. I can remember when Queen Elizabeth passed by the front of our house, in an open carriage. She was so pretty, and she waved right at me—I felt so special.
When I was 5 years old, my family moved to Balboa, on the Prado. Our address was 712-D. It was a beautiful location there on the Prado—all those royal palm trees lined up in a row. My house was located right across the street from the Balboa Elementary School. I hated how I could never have an excuse to be late for class. Playing hop scotch, Dutch jump rope, exploring an old dungeon nearby, sliding down the steep hill at the Administration Building on a large piece of cardboard, riding my bike, playing dodgeball—these were the “fun times”. Whenever the sun shined bright on the sidewalk on the Prado, a person could find little clumps of mercury. It was a fun thing to collect bits of mercury onto a leaf, then handle it in your hands—rolling it back and forth. If only I had known the dangers of mercury then. Challenging each other to who could hold their breath the longest when the DDT truck came by—leaving its thick fog behind its path—another “fun thing” a Zonian kid would do. It was a “normal” thing to have a whole stalk of bananas hanging from a rope, to pick as you desire one. Pulling a mango from a tree limb, you know, when it’s just the exact amount of ripeness—all free for the taking and enjoying. Also, cases of bottled cokes and pepsi’s were delivered right to your doorstep--$1.00 a case. Wow, do I miss those times. The main rules I had from my parents at this period of my life, was to do my homework first, then I could play outside until the streetlights came on. Seems like that was pretty much a standard rule for most kids of that time. Television didn't come to the Canal Zone until I was about 14 years old—so playing and exploring were the “fun” of the times.
I attended Balboa High School, which was located just two streets away from my home. Again, no excuse to be late for classes. I enjoyed BHS, especially the music classes. It was at this time in my life that I studied the Accordion and also the Organ. I taught lesssons on both instruments, and at one time had 21 students. I had a job as organist at the Christian Science Church, as well as at several of the military chapels. Good times, good pay, and the start of my career as a professional organist. I graduated Balboa High School in 1966, then attended Canal Zone College in La Boca. Also moved there at that time in my life. Yep, again, walking distance to that school.
So many great memories of the Canal Zone—the food, the climate,
the unique “Zonians”, and the culture of Panama. I left the Canal
Zone in 1967 to go to college in the United States. I’ve been “home”
only twice since. Once to give birth to my second son, Ted, and again
in 1972. The Canal Zone was a very unique “paradise”, and all of
what “was” once the Canal Zone, will be turned over to Panama on December
31, 1999. There is an emptiness I feel in that the Canal Zone will
no longer “be”—but I know that my memories will always be “within me".