October 4, 2013

Life in the Panama Canal

The last of the story of Kitty and Minnie life in the Panama Canal and after.

Aunt Rosie's story continues...
The first order of business was to go to the commissary to purchase a sewing machine and some light weight material for tropical clothes.
The housing consisted of square cement blocks made into an oblong building with no windows, just jalousie blinds (a window blind or shutter constructed from angled slats of wood). There was a wide front porch on each building. The kitchen had no cupboards, just hanging shelves, so the ants and other bugs could be kept away. Everything had to be tightly stored at all times.
The clothing spaces were all fitted with electric lights, that were kept on day and night, to prevent mildew.
The reason for this simple structure was that as the Canal progressed from east to west, the workers and their families had to move along too.
Since the only things the workers owned were their own personal belongings, it was no great chore to pack up at twenty four notice and be down at the railroad station at a given hour. This railroad runs the length of the Canal, fifty miles.
Post card sent home to family
 Kitty told me that as they were pulling out from the station, they could look back and see the houses being blown up so the canal could continue. 
They arrived at the next stop to settle into the same kind of housing.
The Halligans lived in the Canal Zone until 1924. They raised and educated the family there. One rule was mandatory, government workers, must leave the Canal Zone for one month each year and go to a more temperate climate. That usually meant going home to Toledo, Ohio.
It was while living in the Zone that Margaret, Mary, Alice, and Catherine all met their husbands. Catherine the eldest met her husband when he came to supervise the railroad and later became its director. Catherine had a number of children born there. Upon her husband's retirement, they went to live in New York state in a town named Malone after her husband's people. 
The family was living in the Zone during World War 1, so the girls who were becoming young ladies were pressed  into service whenever a troop ship or hospital ship came through the Canal. It takes, or did take at that time twenty four hours to go through.
Under close supervision, they helped to entertain the men, and in the case of the wounded, they would light their cigarettes for them. My cousin, Mary, became a confirmed smoker.
Only girls of good morals and respected families were permitted at the Officer's Club. Margaret, who was an accomplished musician, was much in demand to entertain. Catherine, who had an excellent soprano voice often was called upon to sing. Mary was the most popular, though not a musician, she had a sparkling Irish wit and could play cards with the men.
Photos taken in the Panama Canal

While we know that they were taken in the Zone,
we don't have names of the people in the photo.

Three of the Halligan sisters, how sad we don't know which is which.
Margaret met her husband when the Navy Midshipmen of Annapolis made their world cruise before graduating. Philip Lampert was a son of Congressman Lampert of Wisconsin. When Philip had fulfilled his obligations, he married Margaret and took her to live in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Mary came to Wisconsin to be with Margaret when her child was born, but unfortunately both mother and child died.
Mary met Philip's brother, Florian, who was in the road building business, and they married. They had two children and later retired to Florida. I know nothing more of them.
 When the folks retired from the Zone in 1924, Alice was twenty years old. She went to visit Mary in Oshkosh and met Philip who had been married to her sister. He was attracted to her and got permission to marry her. So two Lampert men married three Halligan women.
When Kitty and Tom retired from the Zone, they lived for a while in California, but Kitty did not like the earthquakes, so they came to Chicago where they were near to us.
Tom found employment in a roundhouse as he was a specialist in precision instruments. 
Tom had a peculiar fear of working on gloomy days. He would not show up for work on such a day. That was why he was found on the street in Chicago, a victim of a heart attack. He was taken to the morgue as an unknown for he carried no identification. Kitty, after waiting all night for him to come home, went to the police who took her to the morgue.
Kitty then went to Oshkosh, to live with Mary. She was there until her death.
My Aunt makes no further reference to my Great Aunt Minnie. I wonder what became of her? I'll have to find out.

So is the story of a sinking ship and life in the Panama Canal.

Added Friday, October 4, 2013 at 5:16 PM

Thanks to my cousin Ruth from the blog Dians Timpanalley I know what Great Aunt Minnie did after leaving the  Zone.

Minnie stayed with Peter and Kathryn Malone in New York or actually they lived in New Jersey and Minnie died in 1948 at Brooklyn, NY.


  1. It is such an incredible story and one that should be passed down through your family.

  2. Lovely photos and great story Paulette.

  3. Fascinating that's for sure! I would love to know more. Isn't it sad how the pictures are not marked. what a wonderful series about your family.

  4. Paulette
    Hope you are still active on this blog. Catherine Halligan Malone is my grandmother. My mother is Catherine's daughter; Margaret Kathleen Malone Williams. I remember Mary Halligan Lampert (aka Aunt Mary) fondly during my visits as a young girl.

    1. I would love to connect with you if you would like contact me directly

  5. Paulette,
    I am James Malone and live in St. Louis. I also am Catherine Halligan Malone's grandchild My father was James Leo Malone who lived for many years in Wisconsin before he died in 2002. I also remember visiting my Great Aunt and Uncle Mary and Florian Lampbert in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I was not aware that Margaret and Philip Lambert were my great aunt and uncle or that they also lived in Oshkosh.Catherine and Peter Malone moved from Panama and lived in Brooklyn, for a time with Aunt Minnie. As they grew older they moved to Cresskill, New Jersey. Peter Malone was killed by a hit and run drunk driver as he crossed the street to mail a letter. Catherine later moved to Florida where she lived with her daughter Eileen until she died.