A Rodman on the Panama Canal: 1907

A Rodman on the Panama Canal: 1907

Pedro Miguel
Canal Zone
May 25, 1907

Dear Mabel,–

There won’t be more than time to start this letter this noon, as I go to Paraiso in about twenty minutes.  Your letter was received Sunday—intended to write same day but various things prevented.

I’ve not been around a great deal yet except on my work between here and Culebra—was in Panama [City] for dinner a week ago Sunday but didn’t have time to do any thing else so haven’t really seen the town—was too busy when I first landed, getting a job, to see much else, but I’m working in about the most interesting part and glad to be away from town.

I’m really quite comfortable and happy here now—thought at first that I’d have to go to town at least once a week and get a decent meal, but things are different now.  Four of us, my roommate Mr. Coleman—Mr. Toby from Boston, and Snakes from Washington State and late of U.S.S. Gloucester—called Snakes on account of tattoo marks—and myself, have a table to ourselves at the “Hotel,” give the head waiter five dollars once in a while and not only get better service but the pick of the grub, although there would be lots of kicking if it were known…











Will Hobby’s canal work began officially April 12, 1907.  I assume he notified his parents, and also Cousin Mabel, more promptly than the above letter indicates.   He wrote Mabel again, June 23:

…officially I’m a rodsman at a thousand a year, but really I’ve done an instrument man’s work.   We have a little construction work—laying out building foundations, yard tracks, etc, but most of the work is taking monthly estimates of the amount of dirt moved, which is simply following up the steam shovels and taking cross sections every fifty feet, platting same on original cross-section sheets and measuring end areas with a planimeter and computing the volume.  We work at the estimate the last half of the month—in the end cut this morning and office in the afternoon—first half of the month we can’t find enough to keep us busy.

            The quarters are not so bad—this house has four rooms about eighteen by twenty, each with two doors and two windows which face front and back on a ten-foot porch which runs entirely around the house and is enclosed in mosquito netting—only one outside door so we are remarkably free from flies and mosquitoes—in fact mosquito bars over the beds are useless.  There are ten of us, Mr. Tenny has the room at the other end of the house, Coleman, Baskin and myself are in this end—have the advantage of two extra windows in the end—each of the other rooms has three occupants.  My Morris chair hasn’t arrived yet—will probably come with the next shipment of clerks, and be used by one of the same.  Nights are quite comfortable and the days are not as hot as we get at home sometimes—when it rains it’s cool.  I’ve been bothered with a head cold for several days—so you see the North has not a monopoly on colds…

Down the page, however, Will was considering moving on.  More about that later.

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