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An infamous date in Panama

Posted on Thursday, April 2nd, 2009.

Last week, StoryCorps visited Austin, TX, not for SXSW, but as part of our Memory Loss Initiative. Family ElderCare welcomed Door-to-Door to Lyons Garden, a low-income senior housing community, in East Austin and we recorded six interviews with some great Austinites.

Charlotte and Greg Flynn

Charlotte Flynn, who celebrated her 90th birthday on March 28, came in with her son Greg and talked about growing up in St. Louis and meeting her husband, Bill. After graduating from Washington University in 1941, Bill got a job working as an engineer on the Panama Canal. Three months later, Charlotte joined him in Panama. She told her son Greg about a night in Panama she will never forget :

On December 7, 1941, it was the first day that Dad had a chance to take me sightseeing in Panama. And it was about five o’clock. All the transportation were Army buses….and they all congregated at the train station. And were getting ready to go home and all the service men were just streaming out. And we said, “What’s going on?” They responded, “We don’t know. Get back to your base as soon as possible!”

So then we got back to our apartment and we didn’t know what was going on. We were just married, and we couldn’t afford a radio….Then when our neighbors came home, we found out about what happened. I was starting to fix supper, and then all the lights went out. And after a little while, they went on, stayed on for half an hour, and from then on we lived in blackout.

Every plane in the Panama Canal was up in the air. And you just heard that noise all night long, just zooming around. So it’s a night that’s well etched in my memory.

Soon after, construction on the canal stopped and Bill began working for the Army Corps on Engineers.

While we were recording at Family ElderCare, Julie Moody, a reporter from KUT, Austin’s public radio station, came to check it out. She spoke with Charlotte and Greg, as well as with Emma Long, who recorded an interview later that day. Visit the KUT website to hear more from Charlotte and Emma.

Julie Moody interviews Emma Long

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