The People of Pancho

At Play In The Archive

Picking Up the Threads in Haiti and Panama

Oh, did I say I was back? I meant in about a year. If anyone is still following this blog, thank you for hanging in there with me. Getting it back up and running is at the top of my list of goals for 2018. My beleaguered foot is doing much, much better now, and my two-year-old “new” job is becoming slightly less all-consuming (tech startups are difficult, People), so it’s time for me to return to this, my passion project. I’m contemplating a few changes to my approach, but haven’t made any decisions on that yet. Until I do, I’ll just pick up where I left off.

1926 was a big travel year for the Lessiack family. Leo’s job with the Hamburg-Amerika shipping line provided the family with lots of opportunities for adventure, and from the looks of it, they took full advantage. Leo typed up this set of notes for some unknown purpose, but they’ve proven very helpful in dating the photos that will appear in this and future posts.

HaitiPanama (2 of 60)

The following are a selection of photos from Lessiack family travels to Haiti and Panama in 1926. Needless to say, the Panama images are dear to my heart because they show so many of my childhood stomping grounds.

First, some vintage travel documents. You’ve already seen the 1925 edition of Leo’s “all access” pass. Here is the 1926 edition.

HaitiPanama (1 of 60)

Next up, the passport that includes one of my all-time favorite photos of my Great-grandmother Margaret and my beloved Grandpa Bob.

HaitiPanama (4 of 60)HaitiPanama (5 of 60)HaitiPanama (6 of 60)HaitiPanama (7 of 60)

The family sailed on the SS Ancon, a vessel well known to anyone with strong ties to the  Panama Canal. The SS Ancon was a cargo and passenger ship acquired by the Panama Railroad Steamship Line to serve between New York and the Atlantic terminus at Cristobal during canal construction.  The vessel has the distinction of being the very first ship to officially transit the Panama Canal in 1914. It wasn’t a complete transit, just a ceremonial one, but she carried some two hundred dignitaries across that important threshold. She also saw brief service during WWI returning American troops stationed in France back home to New York City.

HaitiPanama (8 of 60)

My family boarded her in New York on Jan. 14, 1926 to begin their travels to the Caribbean. Grandpa Bob’s cute little sailor suits are just about killing me. He looks for all the world like Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh, haircut and all.

On SS Ancon, Jan. 1926

Great-grandma Margaret and Grandpa Bob on the SS Ancon, Jan. 1926

SS Ancon Jan 1926

Great-grandpa Leo and Grandpa Bob on the SS Ancon Jan 1926. Note Leo’s characteristic pipe.

On SS Ancon, Jan. 18 1926, En route to Port Au Prince

Grandpa Bob playing on the deck of the SS Ancon en route to Port Au Prince, Haiti, 1926

SS Ancon Jan 1926

More play on the deck of the SS Ancon, Jan. 1926

Oh, and here is the cover of the album these photos came from, with Great-grandma Margaret’s handwritten inscription inside the front cover.

HaitiPanama (9 of 60)HaitiPanama (10 of 60)

It appears that they stopped in Port au Prince, Haiti first.

Port Au Prince, Jan 1926

“Port Au Prince, Jan 1926” in Margaret’s handwriting

Haiti, Jan. 1926, Street of National Palace

Great-grandma Margaret and Grandpa Bob, “Haiti, Jan. 1926, Street of National Palace” on the back

On Veranda of National Palace, Port Au Prince, Haiti, Jan. 19, 1926

“On Veranda of National Palace, Port Au Prince, Haiti, Jan. 19, 1926” on the back

Street scene Haiti, 1926

Grandpa Bob and unidentified woman, “Street scene Haiti, 1926”

Mountain House, Jan. 19 1926, Port au Prince, Haiti

Grandpa Bob and unidentified friend, “Mountain House, Port au Prince, Haiti” Jan. 1926

Road to Lighthouse, Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan. 1926

Great-grandma Margaret, Grandpa Bob, and unidentified friends, “Road to Lighthouse, Port au Prince, Haiti” Jan. 1926

Road to Lighthouse, Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan. 1926

Great-grandma Margaret, Grandpa Bob, and unidentified friends, “Road to Lighthouse, Port au Prince, Haiti, Jan. 1926”

Next up, Panama! The family landed in Cristobal, and here’s a press clipping describing their progress from there.

HaitiPanama (3 of 60)

So many of these locations are well-known to me. Including the beautiful Hotel Washington in Cristobal, where 59 years later I would attend my Cristobal High School prom.

Washington Hotel, Cristobal, Jan. 1926

“Washington Hotel, Cristobal, Jan. 1926”

Garden of Washington Hotel, Colon CZ, Jan. 1926

“Garden of Washington Hotel, Colon CZ” Jan. 1926

Washington Hotel, Colon, CZ, 1926

Great-grandpa Leo on the veranda of the “Washington Hotel” Cristobal, CZ 1926

Hotel Washington, Colon, CZ, 1926

Great-grandma Margaret and Grandpa Bob at the “Hotel Washington, Colon, CZ” 1926

Prom (1 of 1)

59 years later, in 1985, here I am in the ballroom of the Hotel Washington with my two best friends from Cristobal High School, Veena and Yvette.

From Cristobal and Colon, the family travelled throughout the Canal Zone.

Cristobal, Canal Zone, 1926“Cristobal, Canal Zone” 1926

Panama Street

“Panama Street”

Boyd's Office, Colon CZ 1926

“Boyd’s Office, Colon, CZ” 1926

Panama Railroad, Cristobal CA, 1926

“Panama Railroad SSL, Cristobal CZ” 1926. Presumably this refers to the Panama Railroad Shipping Line.

HaitiPanama (50 of 60)

“United Fruit Co. Bldg. Cristobal CZ” 1926

They visited the locks at Gatun, the town I lived in for many of my high school years, and the locks through which my stepdad, tugboat captain Lew Stabler guided ships.

Panama Canal, Jan. 1926

“Gatun Lock, Panama Canal, Jan. 1926”

Central Tower, Gatun Locks, Jan. 1926

“Control Tower, Gatun Locks, Jan. 1926”

Electric mule, Gatun Locks, Panama Canal, Jan. 1926

“Electric mule, Gatun Locks, Panama Canal, Jan. 1926”

They also visited Coco Solo, where I lived for many of my elementary school years.

Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone, 1926

“Coco Solo, Panama Canal” 1926

Next up, the family travelled to the “other side”, from my perspective as a native Atlantic-sider, anyway: the Pacific Side.

HaitiPanama (23 of 60)

I’m guessing here: “Stirewald. Mr. Heald’s Scty” 1926. That chair does not look like a standard issue CZ office chair to me, with those lathed spindles, but maybe the sturdier variety that I grew up with came on the scene much later.

Dry dock, Balboa CZ

“Dry dock, Balboa CZ” 1926

Ancon Hospital, Canal Zone, Jan. 1926

“Ancon Hospital, Canal Zone, Jan. 1926”

View of Balboa overlooking Pacific Ocean

“View of Balboa overlooking Pacific Ocean” 1926

Rubber tree

“Rubber tree” 1926

Administration Bldg. Balboa Heights

“Administration Bldg. Balboa Heights” 1926. Long-time readers of this blog will recognize this building from other posts. My grandpa Bob worked in this building for much of his career with the Panama Canal, and my mom later did as well as a writer for The Spillway. I vividly remember visiting the building as a child, eating in the cafeteria with my grandpa, and admiring the murals and the lovely, echoing, domed lobby.

Ship entering Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama Canal

“Ship entering Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama Canal” 1926

Balboa Heights, Canal Zone

“Balboa Heights, Canal Zone” 1926. Many, many years later, my Grandpa Bob and Grandma Kathi Lessiack lived in Balboa Heights not far from the from Admin building. Grandpa Bob used to come home for lunch and a quick nap.

Balboa Heights, Canal Zone, Jan. 1926

“Balboa Heights, Canal Zone” 1926

Driveway Tivoli Hotel, Ancon, Canal Zone, Jan. 1926

Grandpa Bob on the “Driveway Tivoli Hotel, Ancon, Canal Zone, Jan. 1926”

Balboa Heights, Canal Zone, Jan. 1926

Great-grandma Margaret and Grandpa Bob, “Balboa Heights” 1926

Roosevelt Avenue, Ancon, CZ, 1926

Grandpa Bob and Great-grandpa Leo, “Roosevelt Avenue, Ancon, CZ” 1926

Fort Amador, Canal Zone, 1926

Great-grandma Margaret, “Fort Amador, Canal Zone” 1926

Post Office, Panama, CZ 1926

“Post Office, Panama, CZ” 1926

Mr. Heald's house, Ancon, Panama Canal, 1926

“Mr. Heald’s home, Ancon, Panama Canal” 1926

Finally, the family took a ride on the Panama railroad back to Colon, again compliments of Mr. Heald, whoever he was. I suspect he was a shipping executive with either the Panama Railroad Shipping Line, United American Lines, Boyd, or HAPAG, as that seems to be the crowd my great-grandparents ran with.

In Mr. Heald's car en route to Colon, Panama Railroad, 1926

Great-grandma Margaret, “In Mr. Heald’s car en route to Colon” Panama Railroad, 1926

In Mr. Heald's car en route to Colon, Panama Railroad, 1926

“In Mr. Heald’s car en route to Colon” Panama Railroad, 1926. I can’t get over how much my Grandpa Bob looks like my daughter Anna in this picture.

In Mr. Heald's car en route to Colon, Panama Railroad, 1926

“In Mr. Heald’s car en route to Colon” Panama Railroad, 1926. Little Grandpa Bob looks ready to go home. And soon they did, apparently via Port au Prince, Haiti once again.

Pier at Port au Prince, 1926

Grandpa Bob and Great-grandpa Leo, “Pier at Port au Prince” 1926

Pier at Port au Prince, 1926

Grandpa Bob and Great-grandma Margaret, “Pier at Port au Prince, Haiti” 1926

Leaving Port au Prince, Jan. 29, 1926

Great-grandpa Leo, “Leaving Port au Prince, Jan. 29” 1926

Until next time, People. I promise that it won’t be long.

15 comments on “Picking Up the Threads in Haiti and Panama

  1. Smokey
    January 3, 2018

    Loved Your Panama Photos. It’s Of Interest To Us Also.. My Wife’s Great Grandfather Was An Engineer On The Canal, And My Mom’s Stepfather Was A Laborer On The Canal
    Best Regards,
    Smokey

    Like

    • Pancho
      January 3, 2018

      So glad you enjoyed them, Smokey. We both have a lot of Canal history!

      Like

  2. Amy
    January 4, 2018

    I wish WordPress had a love button!! First, I am thrilled to see you back. I hope you can find more time in this year for the blog. Second, what an incredible collection of photos. You are so fortunate to have these. And your grandfather was adorable.

    Now my questions! Were they just visiting Panama or were they planning to move there? How much later did the family move to Panama? I forget the story of how you ended up there! Sorry. The brain isn’t what it once was.

    Happy New Year, Leslie! So happy to see you back. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pancho
      January 4, 2018

      I believe they were just visiting Panama in the context of Leo’s work with HAPAG. My grandpa Bob didn’t actually move to Panama until just after WWII when he met and married my grandmother, Katherine Adams. Her family was the one with long canal history, her father (Roger H. Adams) having gone to Panama for the construction in the very early 1900s. He was a Roosevelt medal recipient. I think it’s just pure coincidence that Leo, Margaret, and Bob visited Panama in 1926, but what fun to see photos of them visiting the very places that Bob would later live and work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy
        January 4, 2018

        Well, I think all things are connected! Maybe his memories of Panama made the thought of marrying someone from that place and moving there more appealing!

        Like

  3. Luanne
    January 4, 2018

    Gosh, I hardly know what to say as I am blown away by such a stunning collection of photos!!! What a fascinating family history you have! I love the sailor suit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pancho
      January 4, 2018

      Isn’t that adorable? A for-real Christopher Robin, and it looks like he had several suits.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Luanne
        January 4, 2018

        So adorable! The first good outfit I put my son in was a sailor suit but it was for a baby not a boys outfit like Bob’s. so Christopher Robinish!

        Like

  4. Argie Fisher
    January 4, 2018

    Oh Panchy, how wonderful you are back!😊❤️😃
    What a gift from Great Grandma Margaret she loved keeping their trip in chronological order and with photographs for proof! I love her for that and I’m sure she and G.Leo are watching from above with great pride!

    Like

    • Pancho
      January 4, 2018

      They left me a great gift, for sure!

      Like

  5. Su Leslie
    January 5, 2018

    Welcome back 🙂 What a wonderful collection of photos 🙂

    Like

  6. thegenealogygirl
    January 9, 2018

    Wow!! These are wonderful photos. I can see why the one of your great-grandma and grandpa Bob is a favorite. It is really lovely. Glad you are back!

    Like

  7. Sheryl
    January 13, 2018

    Welcome back – I’ve missed you. You have such an interesting and fascinating family story.

    Like

    • Pancho
      January 13, 2018

      Glad to be back—thanks for hanging in there with me.

      Like

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