A couple of posts ago I had been tagged by somebody, and I listed among my "six things about me" that I had operated the gates of the Panama Canal. That raised a couple of eyebrows among my readers and prompted requests for the rest of the story. I'll do you one better...I have pictures.
In 1974, I spent the summer with my aunt & uncle, who were missionaries in Guatemala at the time. I was 16 years old (you do the math) and had never traveled farther than a few hours from my home in Dallas, Texas. The whole story is much too long to tell here, but it was truly an amazing experience in so many ways.
After spending a few weeks at their home in Guatemala City, we drove to meetings with other missionaries in Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. My aunt & uncle had met a man from Panama who had brought his church's youth choir to their church in Guatemala and he had told them if they ever came to Panama, he'd give them a tour of the Miraflores Locks where he worked. So they took him up on his offer.
I confess the photographer in me cringes when I look at these pictures, but these were taken with a Kodak Instamatic on 126 film, long before I knew what I was doing. And these slides have been stored away for years, not always under the best of conditions. Did I mention that the lab messed them up when they were developed? They did, so I had to do a little digital manipulation to bring out the images the best I could. Here they are....
Here's a picture of me (on the right), my cousin and a friend (daughter of missionaries) in front of the Miraflores Locks. We're standing on top of one of the gates.
We went up into that control tower you see behind us in the picture and stood on the balcony watching the locks fill up and the boats come through. At that time, every ship that came through the canal had to display the American Flag, since it was still American territory. This was an amazing moment when we saw a Soviet ship come through...flying the American flag! Here it is:
We waved to all the sailors, taking pictures of them. You can see in one of those pictures that they were taking pictures of us, too!
It took quite a while for the water to drain between the different sections of the lock so the gates could be opened. I loved watching all the pelicans flying around while we waited...you don't see many pelicans in Dallas! Here's one that shows the difference in the water level as it drained and filled up:
And we did, indeed operate the gates ourselves. We toured inside the control tower. They had a huge mock-up of the locks laid out simulating the whole process with buttons and levers all around. Of course none of it made sense to us. But when our friend said "push that button" my cousin did, and when he told me "now, pull that lever" I did. And outside those huge nine-story tall gates began to swing open!