Photo of the Week
August 1 2021


This week we have a unique photo of the Panama Canal Company Welcome Wagon.  This photo was taken to be used in the March 7, 1958 issue of the Panama Canal Review.  I never knew of this program and was a good way to welcome new employees with open Zonian arms.  I wonder if everyone received this treatment.

Here is the article that was published to accompany the photo:

"A real WELCOME greets Canal's newcomers

Frederick Willoughby, 2, didn't pay much attention to Maxwell Smith and Fitz Charles, left, when they explained the Welcome Wagon service to his parents.

There need be no more frantic first trips to the commissary for new employees from the United States, thanks to a Welcome Wagon service just inaugurated.

A new family will find enough food in the Welcome Wagon assortment to provide a palatable lunch and break-fast the next day, too, together with a pair of sheets, a pair of pillowcases, towels, washcloths, light bulbs, soap, garbage-can bags, and a few other miscellaneous items for household use.

The new Zonians will be able to spend their first day getting unpacked and more or less settled in their new home, rather than having to rush off to their neighborhood commissary.

The idea of a Welcome Wagon has been flourishing in the United States for almost 25 years but has never been tried here before. A few units have "settling-in kits" for their newcomersó things like sheets and towels and pots and pansóbut these are on a loan basis, to be packed up and set aside for the next to arrive.

Some years ago, newcomers were hurried to the commissary by their escorts as soon as they arrived to pick up pre-packaged bedding and linen for which they paid themselves. Today's Welcome Wagon assortmentófrom bacon and eggs and coffee to ice, if neededóis charged against the division for which the new employee will work.

 In the United States the items which make up a welcome assortment are contributed by merchants in the newcomer's community.

In the Canal Zone, the Welcome Wagon is a cooperative project of the Community Services Division, the Personnel Bureau, and the employing division, with the Housing Branch of the Community Services Division making arrangements for the assortment and providing the actual delivery service.

When Maxwell Smith of the Personnel Bureau notifies the housing office that a new family is arriving, the housing office in turn calls the nearest commissary to assemble a standard welcome assortment.

The commissary has everything packed and ready and a few minutes after the new family has reached their quarters, the Welcome Wagon is at their door.

Its driver and semi-official welcomer, who carries the welcome assortment into the newcomer's house and helps Mr. Smith answer some of the many questions the newcomers invariably ask, is Fitz Charles, a man with an infectious smile who has been driving for the housing office for several years.

While the recipients of the Welcome Wagon's first call were officially "new employees," the only real newcomer in the family was two-year-old Frederick Willoughby. He was much more interested in the whereabouts of his box of animal crackers than in the fact that he and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Charles Willoughby, were making local history.

Mr. Willoughby, a graduate intern-engineer for the Locks Division, is the third generation of his family to work for the Canal organization. His grand-father, W. C. Willoughby, came to the Canal Zone just before the Canal was opened in 1914 and his father, Fred, of Gatun, is a foreman mechanic at Gatun Locks. Mrs. Willoughby, the former Ann Edwards, is the daughter of Mrs. Russell A. Edwards of the Payroll Branch. Both are graduates of Canal Zone high schools, Mr. Willoughby from Cristobal High School in 1948, and his wife from Balboa High School three years later."

 

 


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