Lincoln—Interesting facts about living conditions in the Canal zone, particularly near Panama and Christobal, were brought home by Mrs. Eva Purvine and John Walling who have returned from a three months vacation. Mrs. Purvine spent her time with her daughter, Mrs. Russell Gallagher, formerly Marjorie Walling of Salem, and Walling visited with his son at Panama City.
Mexican hand embroidered linens, handbaskets, hand carved articles and other things were brought home by Mrs. Purvine. Rent there is very high she reports, with five room apartments unfurnished costing $50 per month. Land there is not sold, but is leased for a period of 99 years. Clothing is cheap, cotton materials being used largely and selling at around 20 cents per yard and good silks at 50 cents. Sugar is sold at 10 cents a pound, flour five cents per pound, eggs at 60 cents a dozen, and milk at 25 cents per quart. No grain farming is done. Alfalfa hay is imported for feeding dairy cows, and malt from the many breweries located there is dried, ground, and fed in place of grain. Bananas are bought there by the stalk such as we see hanging in the grocery stores here at 10 cents per stalk. Potatoes are high having to be shipped in, most of them from Idaho.
Meat in the markets is not cut into certain pieces as here, but is hung up in quarters and when a purchaser asks for meat it is slit off the carcass. Natives live principally on native future, vegetables, and rice. Bananas, cocoanuts [sic], pineapples, limes, oranges, and coffee are grown extensively. Stops were made at all ports along the way except Guatamala [sic], and coffee was loaded at all ports, including Nicaragua, Salvador, Puntarenas, LaUnion, and LaLibertad. At Nicaragua oxen were observed being used for pulling. Homes there are built next to the sidewalks. School children were being called in by means of the teacher striking a piece of railroad rail with a large iron bolt. Mexican women were seen smoking cigars, wore brightly colored clothes and no shoes.
Colored help is employed in all of the homes in the Canal zone. Unemployed do not come there seeking work as living expenses are high and a law exists calling for the use of 75 per cent Panamanian help. Residents are either government employees or business people. Government employees only can obtain necessities at the commissary which supplies goods at the same cost as in the United States.
Summer was just beginning at Panama where the Oregonians arrived there in November. Temperatures there during the day ranged around 85 degrees, a humid atmosphere, with considerable rain, often hard thunderstorms, rain pounding down violently during the downpour which usually lasted about 15 minutes with beautiful clear skies shortly afterward. Nights were comfortably cool. Mrs. Purvine reports that she saw no fires used while she was there. Gas was used in cooking and gas and light bills ran around $20 per month. Apartment buildings are made of cement.
At LaVenta, 48 miles from Pan- ings are made with cement. [sic] doing their weekly washing on the banks of the stream, soaping the garments and pounding them with sticks on a stone to loosen the dirt. Their wash tubs were made of large wooden bowls, hewed from logs, resembling chopping bowls. Homes are made of grass without floors and with thatched roofs, housing chickens as well as humans.
Volcanos were seen in action at Honduras and at Nicaragua, one that erupts at five minute intervals, and at night fire could be seen belching forth from them. A visit was made to Old Panama which was raided by the pirate Morgan and his army in 1671, and later a solid gold altar was seen in Panama City which had been hid by a priest in the old city before Morgan sacked the old cathedral.
Mrs. Purvine’s daughter and husband live at Christobal on a peninsula 50 miles from Panama City. There is no highway but the trip across can be made only by rail or airplane. Mrs. Purvine left Christobal February 9 and arrived at San Francisco two weeks later reaching Salem February 24.
Sunday a family dinner was given at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Walling in compliment to their daughter, Mrs. Purvine, and John Walling. Other guests included Miss Gertrude Walling, Harold Walling and Curtis Stewart, all of Portland, Miss Frances Holcomb of Salem and Mr. and Mrs. Jess Walling and sons, Jesse and Ellis, of Zena.
Source: Salem Capital Journal, March 2, 1934.