Interview by Cecil V. Reynolds S.
Translated by Lydia M. Reid
Calton Francis was born in the province of Colon on January 23, 1927, the only son of Mrs. Vera Clotilde Markham of St. Lucia and Calton Francis of Colon. He completed his primary school studies in Pedro J. Sosa where he served as the center on the basketball team. He attended Secondary School at Artes y Oficios where, under the supervision of Cirilo McSween, he continued playing basketball and baseball.
He would eventually fall in love with and marry Clarisa Farell with whom he would have seven children, six boys and one girl, and would adopt two daughters, Magdalena in the province of Colon, and Maria Luisa in the United States. Out of this union he would be blessed with twelve grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.
In 1949 he was working as a messenger on the Canal Zone as a Messenger but began having problems with his supervisors. Back then the Silver and Gold system was strictly enforced and there existed separate facilities for everything. At the time there were two water fountains in the area of the docks where he worked one was for whites and one for blacks. The drinking water for the Blacks, however, was “blue” since the gringos mixed a laxative into the water so that the Blacks would have very loose bowels.
As a form of resistance to these forms of harassment the Silvermen formed civic organizations and lodges, churches, and a financial support system to help them. By paying monthly quotas of .25 to .50 cents into this network they were able to pay hospital expenses for the sick, burial expenses using the funeral home of their choice, and other benefits such as providing a lump sum to retiring workers who wanted to return to their island home with some money to see them through their resettlement.
There was a representative association for each island. On “O” Street, for example, one would find the French Association, and in the area of Calidonia was the Jamaican Association (Mariano Arosemena Street). It was a grand tradition of unity that has been lost by the youth of today.
He became a member of the Panamanian National Guard in 1951, within which he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, retiring in 1976 with 25 years of service. Among his duties he served as a translator of books for the military men and police stationed on the Canal Zone and he also served as a liaison between the American Embassy, the military and the police.
He was an active member of the Methodist Church of Panama as a layman, a member of the choir, and a member of the Committee of Church Property. He also held various positions in the Fishermen of Galilee Lodge for many years since its inception eventually becoming it Grand Major.
Even today, Calton Francis follows the progress of Westindian dance groups in their tours nationwide. The President of Martinique honored the Afro Caribbean Dance Group led by Francis in July 2008. Also, the Bayano Foundation held a banquet on November 4, 2008 where Calton Francis was again honored for his selfless support of and adherence to the objectives of their foundation’s principles. On February 4, 2010 he received a certificate of recognition from the University of Panama for his involvement in the meeting of work groups for the opening of the Diamond Student Summer 2010 season.
He was passionate about Scouting
In 1935 he joined Troop No. 1 of the Methodist Church of 16th Street East, better known as the British Scouts “boys Brigade” as a cub scout. From 1944 to 1948 he was Chief Scout leader of the Cubs and Scouts with the Boy Scouts of Panama under the Ministry of Education supervised by Professor Manuel Roy and Clifford Bolt who was Chief Scout. By 1951 he became the Cub Scout Commissioner.
In 1960 he founded the Group No. 12 Wesley, headquartered in the Methodist Church, where he presented the formal re-organization of the National Association of Scouts of Panama formed under Law No. 80 with him as head of this group.
1963. Preliminary course of Tropa-Chorrera (Chorrera Troop).
1964 Operation Ever Ready- January 9; First Camporee in Panama and Central America took place in Tocumen.
1965 Francis is appointed Commissioner of District “A” Sta. Ana, San Felipe and Chorrillo Wood Insignia Cubs in the Chorrera Field School; he is named Local Sub-Commissioner, Province of Panama.
1967 1st. Scout-O-Rama on Via España.
1968 He founded and became the first president of the “Sydney A. Young” Chapter of the National and International Association of Boy Scouts Veteran Scouts.
1974 He served as Chief Delegate in the Caribbean Jamboree in Suriname with 83 delegates (first time lady pack leaders were involved). This group presented Panamanian folklore and the Diablito dances in conjunction with the International Scouting Association of the Canal Zone and the 801 Council of the B.S.A. See our article about the history of The International Boy Scouts in the Black Canal Zone here.
1976 He served as Executive Commissioner for the province of Colon and Director of the scout course of Wood Insignia (Quito) Ecuador.
1977 Cub Scout Wood Insignia course- Costa Rica.
1978 Conference in Guatemala – National Executive.
1981 Training Seminar- Costa Rica.
1984 National Patrol Camp – Divisa.
On January 23, 1985 he handed over the direction of Group No. 12 Wesley, which he initiated, to Lic. Victor Wynter; this action reflected his love of and interest in continuing the scouting tradition. Ever since then he has continued his involvement with Group No. 12 Wesley in an advisory capacity.
1999 The National Scout Association of Panama celebrated its annual dinner in recognition of a pioneer, Lieutenant Calton Francis.
This year (2010) he organized and participated in the 50th Anniversary of the Group No. 12 Wesley with a parade and mass.
The advice he leaves for the youth of today is to always seek God and promote friendship between all.