Latin America 1950s 9
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RETURN TO PANAMA 1982
I returned to Panama in late 1982 and started a business with Manuel Calderon, the advertising guru. We developed inter-active booths for placement at airports, hotels and malls for tourist information. Push a button for “Hotels” and all the hotels lit up on a large screen. Choose the hotel and you would get visual and ticket-printed instructions on how to get there. It looked like a great business and meanwhile, Manuel owned rights to all International airport advertising, a real money-maker. Unfortunately one day we received a visit from representatives of General Noriega who made an offer to “buy” the business (or lose the concession). We actually received the first payment but they ceased immediately afterwards and that was that. Our French Canadian partners spent the investment money for their own living requirements and defrauded us out of all of it. The inter-active business went down the drain. I was out of a job again and things were not easy. I went to work with a steel company and then developed a Cable TV project aimed at the military dependents in the Canal Zone.
One son went to Gettysburg to study with the aid of scholarships and grants and to play football. The other attended the Balboa Canal Zone High School and eventually went to Barry University in Miami Shores. We lived for a time with my in-laws in Calle 17 in the old and poorest part of Panama. Financially things were not good at that time. However, it was a vibrant place to live and every Sunday morning I would go to the market to buy a week's food. My very own wheelchair friend would watch the car and my permanent "trolley" boy would wheel the trolley with the huge bag on it. I would start with meat and have the butcher cut the meat as I wanted. A whole filet would cost about $5.00 trimmed! Then the vegetables and on to the fish (Langostinas $5.00 a pound) I would buy a week's fresh food for about $40.00. We didn't have much money but the market enabled us to eat well.
I administered a real estate office for a while and my friend Roberto Velasquez who was Minister of Housing at that time, put in a good word so that I was able to rent one of the "reverted" houses in the old Canal Zone which the Panama government had taken over. Then things changed for the good. In 1986 I visited my friend, Chris Morice, in hospital in Panama. Chris was a shipping agent who had been a policeman in Norwich before coming to Panama; we had played golf and fished together for years. Also visiting him that day was Captain Bob Andrews of Caleb Brett (Inchcape). Chris introduced us and after many discussions with Bob I joined him at Caleb Brett as Director of Marketing two months later. I was involved in operating the Venezuelan GATT contracts and setting up a new laboratory for testing fuel samples in Balboa. Captain Bob ran the operation and it was a very interesting experience. Andrews was a brilliant strategist and came up with many money making plans for the company. He became a good friend and helped me enormously. He initiated the cross Panama oil pipeline which avoided the necessity of ships transmitting the Panama Canal with their cargos of gasoline, oil etc. They docked at Puerto Armuelles on the Pacific side or at Chiriquí Grande on the Atlantic and discharged their oil into the pipeline and it was pumped across the Isthmus and reloaded onto tankers again for on-shipment. Bob was a real character and the stories told about him are numerous. He would come into the office with a hangover some mornings and would "suggest" we go play golf. We would drive out 20 miles or so to Summit Country Club and start off. After a hole or two Bob would suggest we had a quick beer. This meant the end of golf for the day and a morning of one beer after another. Around noon he would suggest we go back to Panama for lunch. One day we returned to his favorite watering hole, the Pavo Real, and he asked for his tab for the month. A batch of receipts was presented totaling about $500.00 and he proceeded to go through them. There was a lot of head shaking, "tut-tutting" and sighs. Then he turned to me and said "Jesus Mike. You've got to stop drinking so much. Look at these bills. Ninety percent have your signature on them. You really have to slow down." He ordered another beer, paid the account with his checkbook and we carried on. I didn't remind him that I was signing most of the bills because he was incapable of writing anything after an evening at the place, hence my signature all over the numerous bills. It was no use telling Bob this, he had already forgotten it! Another time, up in Puerto Armuelles, he was telling a group of friends that he had just bought this new Microwave which would cook a whole roast in about 15 minutes. Chris Morice, who was working in Puerto at the time, told him this was impossible but Bob insisted and said he would cook the meat and then serve it to everyone who was there. He went to the kitchen and put the roast in the microwave and we carried on drinking beer in the living room. When everyone was talking, Chris Morice slipped into the kitchen, pulled the roast out of the microwave and put in an old piece of hamburger and turned it back on. About twenty minutes later Bob invited everyone to the kitchen to see the magnificent roast beef. He opened up the microwave and lo and behold there was a small piece of burned meat! He swore he didn't know what had happened and that he would return the microwave oven in the morning and was generally mystified until Chris finally 'fessed up to what he had done! I think Bob laughed louder than anyone! Bob came up to Miami in 1990 for my 50th birthday. He had no idea how to get to my house in his rented car but he knew the street address where we lived. What did Bob do? Well he went to a Pizza Hut and ordered a pizza to be delivered and followed the delivery car! Never a dull moment with Bob.
1985 The house at Loro Place, Ancon (reverted from Canal Zone) with the '76 JAG)
CAPTAIN BOB ANDREWS
Chris Morice in 2002
Press release for appointment as Director of Marketing for Caleb Brett
OPERATION "JUST CAUSE" - THE US INVASION OF PANAMA DECEMBER 20 1989
My eldest son Michael, travelled to Panama on December 19th 1989. We were to join him two days later. He was staying with my in-laws at our old house in Loro Place in what was originally the Canal Zone. Just down the street were the headquarters of the National Investigation Department. He told us that the first they knew of the invasion was the sound of the US helicopters overhead followed by rockets hitting the DENI building about a block away. The family sheltered in the bathtubs in the house as there were fragments flying everywhere. The operation began on the night of December 20th 1989 with an assault of strategic installations, such as the civilian Punta Paitilla Airport in Panama City and a PDF garrison and airfield at Rio Hato, where Noriega also maintained a residence. U.S. Navy SEALs destroyed Noriega's private jet and a Panamanian gunboat. A Panamanian ambush killed four SEALs and wounded nine. Other military command centers throughout the country were also attacked. The attack on the central headquarters of the PDF (referred to as La Comandancia) touched off several fires, one of which destroyed most of the adjoining and heavily populated El Chorrillo neighborhood in downtown Panama City. Fort Amador was secured by elements of the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and 59th Engineer Company (sappers) in a nighttime air assault which secured the fort in the early hours of December 20. Fort Amador was a key position because of its relationship to the large oil farms adjacent to the canal, the Bridge of the Americas over the canal, and the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Key command and control elements of the PDF were stationed there. C co. 1st Battalion (Airborne) 508th PIR was assigned the task of securing La Commandancia. Furthermore, Fort Amador had a large U.S. housing district that needed to be secured to prevent the PDF from taking U.S. citizens as hostages. A few hours after the invasion began, Guillermo Endara was sworn in as President of Panama at Fort Clayton. It is generally agreed that Endara would have been the victor in the presidential election which had been scheduled earlier that year. We of course never made it to Panama in 1989 and Michael was stuck for a week before he could leave.
NORIEGAS "COMANDANCIA" THE PANAMA DEFENSE FORCES HEADQUARTERS AFTER THE INVASION OF DEC 20 1989
DENI Headquarters Ancon (one block from where Michael was staying) after rocket strike
ANOTHER CHANGE OF JOB - WORKING FOR TELERATE SYSTEMS AND DOW JONES MARKETS - SEEING SOUTH AMERICA
Early in 1987 I received a call from Scott Rumbold who had worked for Reuters and whom I had known in Panama when I had worked for COMSA/WUI. Scott was now involved with Telerate Systems, a company partially owned by Dow Jones. He asked me if I was interesting in running their newly formed Latin American Division. I travelled to New York to meet the executives and upon my return, I had to tell Bob Andrews I was leaving. He took it very well.
This new job was a life changer for me. Scott Rumbold was most helpful and when I told him I knew little or nothing about financial markets he said "You know people. That's the important thing and that's why we hired you". I was always thankful to Scott for the break he gave me. Later, after I had left DJ, he made a special trip to Panama to provide a deposition for me when I needed one. That's a friend for you! I hired an old friend as Sales Manager, Negro Franco and he took care of the Panama sales operation. After a few months I was made VP for the new Latin American Division. As Division Vice President I travelled on multiple occasions to almost every South American country and the majority of the Caribbean Islands. I ran the business and also wrote and contributed financial and political news to the real-time, on-line news service we developed. We were told we were a first class company and as such travelled first or business class and stayed at all the best hotels. We entertained the bankers, stockbrokers, Government officials and others. The first (of many) trips I made was to Venezuela and then after two days, down to Rio to meet Scott Rumbold and Claude Erbsen (VP of Associated Press). Claude's father-in-law was a very rich businessman who had a wonderful penthouse apartment on the Cocacabana strip. As we walked through the incredible front door (it was painted with so many coasts of bright red lacquer it glowed!) I saw a Picasso and a Monet handing on the walls. I didn't have to ask, they were the real thing!. Before lunch we were taken in the family yacht to the other side of the bay to swim! Wonderful and very impressive! Between 1987 and 1991 Telerate Systems (Later to become Dow Jones Markets) was a high flier. The President was only 40 years old and all of the executives were pretty much the same age. You did your job, made money for the company and in return, were given pretty much carte blanche as to how you went about things. I made my travel arrangements three months in advance and became a favorite of American Airlines, accumulating about 120K miles a year. We ate at the best restaurants in all of the capital cities of Latin America and stayed at some very exotic hotels. Bermuda, Mexico, Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Panama and all of the Latin country's down to Chile. It was one trip after another as we attempted to increase business. A typical voyage would mean getting to Miami airport at 9pm Saturday evening and taking the overnight Pan-Am flight to Buenos Aires arriving at about 8am Sunday morning. Sleep until noon Sunday and then have lunch with the local Manager and a rest in the afternoon. Then a late (10pm) dinner. Monday and Tuesday see clients and Tuesday evening fly to Sao Paulo in Brazil. See clients Wednesday, Thursday and then Friday evening fly to Santiago de Chile. Spend the weekend there, probably driving down to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar for lunch and then see clients Monday thru Wednesday morning. Fly to Paraguay Wednesday afternoon and see clients Thursday and Friday and then come back Friday evening via Buenos Aires to arrive in Miami again Saturday morning. A week back in the office and back on another, shorter trip of a week to Colombia and Venezuela. Back again and then up to Bermuda and on to Mexico. It was nonstop. I accumulated so many free miles that I could take the family for a European vacation First Class every year. In return for all these perks we worked 12/14 hours a day, travelled weekends and holidays and built up a very lucrative business for the company.
In Panama in late 1987 things went from bad to worse. Norieiga was showing his brutality and daily demonstrations were being broken up by baton and shotgun wielding troops. The banking system was affected and Telerate decided to move its Latin American headquarters to Miami. We did this in February of 1988 and secured offices downtown. I bought a house in Miami Shores and have lived in that area ever since.
In December of 1988, during a visit I made to Buenos Aires, Argentine Army troops revolted. It was a tense time in the Capital which finally ended when the Commanding General, Gen. Jose Dante Caridi, and two other senior generals, Miguel Abbate and Enrique Bianchi, resigned. In Venezuela in February of 2002 I was staying at the Euro building, a big hotel in Calle Guarita in Caracas. I was awakened very early one morning to the sound of gunfire and when I turned on the TV, found that Lt. Colonel Hugo Chavez had launched his first coup attempt. As dawn broke we (myself and Steve Van Eyten our engineer) looked down from our hotel rooms across to La Carlota, the civil airport in the city. The rebels were holding buildings there and Government troops were preparing for an attack. It was a classic infantry assault with platoons leap-frogging as they moved forward. It lasted about fifteen minutes but we learned afterwards that the rebels had escaped through underground tunnels leading away from the administration area. I was stuck in Caracas for four days until the sixth of February when commercial flights resumed.
There were frequent trips to the New York Headquarters located on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center. I would arrive on a Sunday evening and stay at the Vista Hotel which was in the Center. Monday morning I would walk across the lobby to take the elevator up. There was another lobby at the 75th floor which you would change to an elevator for the last part of the ride. The President of Telerate was Neil Hirsch, a 38 year old wonder-kid. Neil was the CEO but the company was ramrodded by John Terranova, an ex-broker from Wall Street whose management style was extremely abrasive. He was backed up by John Jessop and Scott Rumbold. I would arrive in New York late Sunday and be at the office Monday mornings for meetings. Walking down the corridor where the executive offices were located I would hear "Hey you. What the hell are you doing up here!" It was John Terranova giving his good morning welcome. "Come in here!" he would say. "Now what have you got planned for tonight?" Of course I would say I had absolutely nothing planned and he would then tell me to be at his office at 530pm and we would "see what could be done". John was a great social person and evenings out with him were fun. John Jessop would attend and we would start at the Market Bar on the ground floor of the Center. From there it would depend what the bosses wanted to do. On some evenings Neil Hirsch would come along and bring Bianca Jagger, his current fancy. She must have thought we were crazy because the two John's could come up with some amazing things to do! Later, the offices moved to New Jersey, just across from the trade Center on the river-front. There was a lot more room there. We would still stay at the Vista and take the PATH train under the river. I would carry my luggage to the office on the day I was leaving and then when ready to leave, a limo would be called to take me to the Newark airport. We lived life well in those days. In 1993, Ramon Morell came to Miami to take overall charge of the Company. I remained running Business and Administration and Ramon took over Sales and Marketing. We would meet up on trips to South America as our paths crisscrossed.
On to what happened with Dow Jones and Telerate:
(From "International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 10. St. James Press, 1995.")
"In September of 1989, Dow Jones moved to complete its piecemeal acquisition of Telerate. The company offered $18 a share for the rest of the company's outstanding stock, but Hirsch rejected this offer as too low. In November, Dow Jones increased its bid to $21 a share, and purchased another 25 percent of the company for $515 million. It then owned 92 percent of Telerate, and it was only two months later that Dow Jones finalized its acquisition, spending $161 million, for a grand total of $1.6 billion. This made Telerate the most expensive acquisition in the history of its venerable parent company." (HOLDERS OF TELERATE OPTIONS DID VERY WELL FROM THIS DEAL, HOWEVER, DJ NEVER FORGAVE THE TELERATE EXECUTIVES AND NEIL HIRSCH, THE TELERATE FOUNDER, WHO HELD OUT FOR THE HIGHER STOCK PRICE)
Firmly in control of Telerate, Dow Jones began to make rapid changes in an effort to return what had once been a cash cow to its highly profitable ways. The company brought in new engineers to rebuild Telerate's technological capabilities, and it stepped up efforts toward customer service. When a group of Cantor's fellow interdealer brokers announced that they would make price quotes on government securities available, effectively ending Telerate's monopoly over this information, the company moved to counter the impact of this blow by negotiating the right to carry this information in addition to its long-standing Cantor rates. Despite these efforts, the company reported earnings down significantly in mid-1990, and 41 executives were laid off. In addition, the two companies experienced a clash in corporate cultures between the younger and more freewheeling Telerate and the older and more conservative Dow Jones.
The last paragraph above explains in a nutshell why Telerate Executives Hirsch, Terranova, Jessop and Rumbold were let go in the early 90's and myself and Ramon Morell were released a couple of years later. By then, it just wasn't any fun working there.
I finally left DJ in 1995. After a month of looking around I met with my attorney in Panama to discuss my claim for compensation under Panama law (I was recruited and hired Panama, something DJ tried to deny). Back in Miami I joined a Financial Services company to work writing TV scripts for their programs and to edit a widely read monthly financial report. I remained with this outfit for just over a year but it was an hour's drive from the house and heavy traffic and I finally left. In 1996 DJ finally agreed to settle my claim in Panama and I received compensation as required under local labor laws.
Picasso in the apartment of Claude Erbsen's (VP Associated Press) Father in Law - Rio de Janeiro 1987
Reception for Central Bank in Paraguay 1992
Mike Merry - Paraguay 1992
Punta del Este Uruguay 1993
Passport entries (Three different Nationality passports - UK, US, Panama)
At Reception in Venezuela 1990
Reception Venezuela 1991
Reception for opening of new offices in Panama 1987
Mike Merry, James Merry, Mariela Merry, Scott Rumbold
Dow Jones - Telerate offices Miami
WORK AND PLAY AT TELERATE SYSTEMS
Cricket match - Telerate vs Reuters at John Jessup's house, Round Hill Greenwich Cn. John Jessup (Holding hat at end of row 1 on left as you look at photo. Mike Merry and Mike Merry Jr. (in shorts) in front row right.
In 2000 I commenced working at IDS a local Miami communications corporation. Part of my responsibilities were relations with our Ecuadorian partner, the Municipality of Cuenca, Ecuador's third largest city. I travelled regularly to Ecuador and Panama. We had a contract with the Municipality for communications and frequent visits were necessary to keep up relations and handle new developments. One evening I invited the Satellite station engineers out for dinner and they insisted on taking me way out into the countryside for dinner. After being given copious amounts of Zhumir, a local aguadiente or cane licor I was asked to look out of the window of the primitive wooden hut we were in. There I saw a long grill and on it was a row of guinea pigs all sizzling and roasting in a long line. These “quie” as they are called are considered a local delicacy! Actually they weren’t too bad but not something to eat every day!
The city and its surroundings are incredibly beautiful. The quiet restaurants on weekdays may have six waiters and only four guests! The city, with its cobblestone streets (which always seem to be under repair) lead to small markets and shopping areas. The Flower Market is a "not-to-miss" experience.
Small planes connect Cuenca to the other Ecuadorian cities. There are larger aircraft these days, a 727 being one of them, now that the Cuenca Airport has been expanded. Outside the city, deep into the mountains, the local Indians live as they have done for hundreds of years. There is a tale about a commuter aircraft that crashed some 30 miles from Cuenca back in the 1980's.Search parties failed to locate it and all hope was abandoned after a month of looking. Then, in the 90's, a police patrol seeking smugglers came across the crashed aircraft, identified by its registration numbers. It had been stripped of everything of value and the skeletons of the crew and passengers, all clothes and valuables removed, were found. The Indians had found the wreck, everyone aboard had perished so they helped themselves to everything and had never told a soul! Rather creepy.
The River Tomebamba behind the hotels in Cuenca
The Crespo Hotel in Cuenca where we always stayed
Guinea Pigs (Qui) on the grill outside Cuenca
Cuenca Cathedral Domes
SINCE 1995 - SOME CLOSE FRIENDS AND EUROPEAN VACATIONS
Today I still work in telecoms but only on a part time basis. Work is no longer a priority and we have taken to making trips for long weekends around Florida and every couple of years, to Europe and of course, to Panama. We have taken our grandchildren three times and they have visited UK, France, Germany and my personal favorite, Spain. We maintain a close friendship with the Morell’s (Who I worked with at Dow Jones) who live in Madrid where he runs a brokerage business. Their children are more or less the same ages as our grandchildren and we have taken several vacations to different parts of Spain with them. All very enjoyable. I also went a couple of years back to meet Malcolm Wollaston at what he described as "his country cottage" but which turned out to be a large two floor farmhouse (complete with a small farm!) He had all the "toys". A tractor, workshop etc. Every inch the country gentleman except that he had a hole in the knee of his trousers! We met again in 2009 when he trained up to London and we met for lunch and discuss old times. Always good to see Malcolm and swap story's.
Mike Merry with Malcolm Wollaston - Somerset 2009
VACATIONS WITH THE MORELL'S IN SPAIN
Top: With the Morell's in San Sebastian
Bottom: Dinner at the Dominguez house (Morell brother in law) in Madrid
WHERE WE HAVE STAYED WITH THE MORELL'S AND FAMILY IN SPAIN
Natxiondo Hotel Rural in Ispater (Archway entrance dates back to 1700's)
Hotel El Corcal de Liebana in Tama near the town of Potes
Hotel La Casona de Pio in the fishing village of Caudillero
The fishing village of Caudillero
Mike and Mariela Merry - Cuenca Spain - June 2013
Mike and Mariela Merry - Dario and Marta (Morell employees) Ramon Morell - Spain June 2013
OTHER VACATIONS AND VISITS
Pat Cleary& son, Mike Merry & wife - Dublin 2009
Pat and Breda Cleary (Sadly, Breda passed away in late 2012)
THE HAYWARD'S VISIT THE MERRY'S IN MIAMI - FEBRUARY 13 2013
John and Jan Hayward (John worked with me in London back in 1958/59 and then came to Balboa) drove down 200 miles from Port Charlotte on Florida's west coast to Miami to see us Saturday 13th February. We had lunch at our house. Spanish omlette, garlic shrimps and empanadas! We met again during the evening for dinner. My sons, Michael and James, came over to say hello as did my grandsons, James Michael and Jason. We had a very pleasant day and the opportunity to swap old stories and catch up on new ones!
The Merry's and the Hayward's
The Hayward's with James Merry
Jan Hayward, Mike Merry, Mariela Merry, John Hayward 2010
JOHN O'NEIL - FORMERLY OF AAC IN LIMA PERU
I received an e-mail at the end of May from John O’Neil who was one of the boys sent from Waterville to go to Lima, Peru in 1951. It appears that the company sent people abroad from Ireland, Newfoundland and the UK on more occasions that I was previously aware of. John went with Declan O’Sullivan, his brother John and Joe Twomey. John O’Neil was in Lima from 1951/54 and again 1957/63. John also worked at Bocanegra outside Lima in the radio receiving station there. In Maurice Hale's group farewell photo shows John as ("unknown") at center between Joe Twomey and Ken Mcleod. I have made a note below the photograph naming John in Part 4. John eventually left AAC and now lives in New Zealand (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I hope to get more information from John in the near future.
ONE OF MY TRIPS TO PANAMA - AUGUST 2013
I was back in Panama for a short visit in August of 2013. Not having been there for about 18 months, the changes were enormous! I got to see Negro Franco who was a Balboa AAC&R Operator with me in the early '50's and John Akers, one of the shipping agents. Of course my amigo, Roberto Velasquez was present. (Pictures included below) - I spoke with Peter Stevens but alas, he was to have lunch with us but at the last minute had to attend a funeral so passed another year we have not seen each other. The Panama skyline is changed. The view from the apartment, originally almost unimpeded, is now dotted with 70 floor buildings! The Cable Office in Gavilan Road is unrecognizable! Coronado is now a small city! I would council anyone to invest in Panama, it's growing bigger and bigger! Compare the photographs below with those in Part 8!
THE CABLE OFFICE IN GAVILAN ROAD 2013 ( Yes! that's the old office!) View looking towards Balboa Road
View looking at what was the parking lot of the office where they have built this monstrosity!
VIEWS OF PANAMA CITY SKYLINE LOOKING TOWARDS THE BAY AND TOWARDS THE CANAL ENTRANCE (BALBOA) - ALSO A VIEW OF SAME SKYLINE IN THE TROPICAL RAIN
THE HOUSE IN LORO PLACE ANCON WHERE WE LIVED - NOW MODERNIZED
PHOTOS OF MIKE MERRY WITH ROBERTO VELASQUEZ, WITH JOHN AKERS AND ROBERTO VELASQUEZ WITH NEGRO FRANCO
MIKE MERRY AT THE CHURCH OF THE GOLDEN ALTAR
MIKE MERRY SITTING ON THE BALCONY OF THE CORONADO APARTMENT
VIEW TOWARDS CORONADO ACROSS BAHIA SIRENA
VIEW ALONG 4TH OF JULY AVENUE THE CROSSING AT ANCON BOULEVARD NOW AN UNDERGROUND TUNNEL - THE ANCON INN WAS LOCATED BELOW THE WHITE SIGN WITH THE GREEN LETTERS
AN UPDATE AS OF JANUARY 2014
In December 2013, after several years of searching for information, I found that Tony Cancel, a friend from the UK back on the 50's and 60's, had passed away. This lead me to search for other old friends and I was fortunate enough to discover Kevin Horgan, another Chadwell Heath friend, living near to Ingatestone in Essex. We exchanged e-mails and Kev was kind enough to provide the addresses of even more old friends. I have since been in touch with Vic Bush and Peter Errington and look forward to hearing more from them in the near future.
CHADWELL HEATH FRIENDS
In June 2014 I had the opportunity to speak with some old friends from Chadwell Heath. Victor Bush, Kevin Horgan and Peter Errington. Vic sent a picture of them from his place in Washbrook in Somerset were they go every year for a get-together.
A VACATION IN PANAMA
We took a mini-vacation in the middle of July and went to Panama. A couple of lunches, the first with Roberto Velasquez and Jorge Obediente, old friends from the sixties and the second with Peter Stevens and John Akers. In between we went to my nephews condo in Coronado. It's so relaxing there. No one around, quiet, just the noise of the waves breaking on the beach. We stayed three days. The sea was warm and the pool even warmer! Coronado is getting to be a City these days with three supermarkets, a hospital, three pharmacies, beauty parlors, a couple of dozen restaurants and many other amenities. A great break!
Peter Stevens and Mike Merry Panama July 2014
Roberto Velasquez, Mike Merry, Jorge Obediente July 2014
A view out to sea from the Condo at Coronado
Pat Price, formerly of CCC in London 1958/? and a good friend of Peter Stevens - They met again in December 2014!
Frank Chatburn vessel wrecked off Galapagos January 2015
The Galapagos supply vessel Floreana was grounded off Galapagos on January 28th 2015. The owner is Frank Chatburn who many will remember as the son of the AAC&R Manager in the 1950's/60's. The story nade many international newspapers as the Galapagos are very environmentally sensitive.
VACATIONS IN UK, ITALY AND SPAIN - 2015
Ramon Morell and Mike Merry -Charlie Champagne's, Madrid June 28 2015
Bernard Merry and Mike Merry - Outside Weatherspoons, Bury St. Edmunds June 20 2015
Mariela, Mike Merry - Rome June 23 2015
We were in UK, Italy and Spain in June 2015. After spending a few days in the UK (The Boeing 777 ER 300 is a great aircraft in business class !) with my brother we went to Rome, a first time experience for us. Really good food and available quite cheaply at almost any restaurant in the city! On to Spain and we got to see the Morell's as usual. Wednesday at noon were picked up at the airport by Ramon's wife and daughter and taken to a lunch. Friday we took RENFE to Avila for a visit. Saturday was the Chueca district in Madrid and Sunday the great "El Rastro" flea market. After a late Sunday lunch with our friends we took the flight back to Miami on Monday.
Mariela, my wife (married 53 years in February 2016) does charity work for the Church. My eldest son, Michael, holds the world record for drug-free bench press in his senior division. He is the Florida representative for a large industrial clutch and transmission company. My other son runs a division of a heavy equipment and generator company. James' sons, James Michael and Jason are at school. JM is at University of Central Florida (UCF) and Jason at Chaminade Madonna High School.
I do a lot of fishing with Michael Jr. on the many Florida canals and lakes. Out early in the morning in one of the boats and using live shiners for bait the Peacock bass are especially aggressive and good sport to catch and release. With James we take the boat into the bay and catch snapper, baracuda, gar and sea trout.
Michael's World Record Certificate from 2008
Michael New World Record - Lifetime Drug Free 11.10.2012
James, Mariela and Michael
The house in Miami Shores
Mike and Bernard Merry - UK, 1989
Mike and Bernard Merry 2009
THE GOLDEN ALTAR
In 2002 Four Seasons Publishers released my first novel "The Golden Altar" (a newly edited version was published in September of 2012 by Palibrio) It was a fictitious account of how an ancestor of Henry Morgan (who sacked Panama in 1671) finally stripped the gold from the altar of the famous church of San Jose. Then, in 2008, I published "The Reluctant Colonel" which is the anatomy of a coup in a fictitious Latin American country and what happened afterwards. In February 2012, a Spanish version of "The Golden Altar" was published in hardback, paperback and Kindle.
Summary THE GOLDEN ALTAR
In January of 1671 the pirate, Henry Morgan captured and sacked Panama City. In an amazing feat of arms he crossed the Isthmus of Panama and attacked the city from the east, something that military strategists of the day said was impossible. Morgan took considerable booty from Panama but missed the fabled Golden Altar, a priceless artifact which local churchmen had painted with creosote to avoid detection. This story tells in detail of Morgan's invasion and of his rage when he eventually discovered what he and his band of buccaneers had overlooked. It goes on to relate how an ancestor, Major Henry Morgan, a British army officer who passed through Panama when returning from the Falkland’s war, goes back in 1985 to steal the altar himself. The amazing details of his preparations for the robbery and the melting and disposal of the gold are explained at length in this book. The descriptions of Morgan's raid in 1671 and of the City of Panama in 1985 are accurate. However, the un-violated Golden Altar still resides today in the church of San Jose in the old part of the city. It's not far from, where General Manuel Antonio Noriega's infamous Defense Forces headquarters stood until 1989, when the US invasion destroyed the complex and life in Panama changed forever.
Summary THE RELUCTANT COLONEL
THE RELUCTANT COLONEL
In the late 1950’s, the United States finally started to pay attention to what was happening in Latin America. The revolution in Cuba was gathering steam and very soon, a committed communist regime would be operating less than one hundred miles from its coastline. It was imperative to keep an eye on this potential menace and as relations with Panama became worse, the US military was anxious to secure a base from which Castro’s island could be kept under observation. It’s 1964. A Latin country south of Panama with a huge international business presence is under the thumb of a corrupt dictator. Maraguay has a deep-water harbor and an island air strip which is leased to the United States. The treaty is up for renewal. The dictator stands to collect a huge chunk of the money the US is offering for a new agreement. Officers of the Armed Forces and Daniel Montego, the senior cadet from the military academy, plot a coup. Key to success is cutting all communications to prevent the U.S. from getting news of the coup and sending troops from Panama to intervene. Friends of the cadet leader who work at the country’s franchised telegraph company are recruited to help. By default, they become deeply involved as the Coup succeeds. Death and injury during the battle to take over the military headquarters, find the senior cadet at the head of the junta. When the dust clears, multinational businesses operating in the country demand that the treaty bid open to all comers. The new Junta agrees to their demands and issues invitations to bid to the world’s leading powers. George MacGregor, a young friend of the new leader is named to negotiate the treaty. He deals with Castro, Roa, Rusk and Johnson and these historical figures are resurrected as they meet in Cuba and at the LBJ ranch in Texas where an unusual compromise is reached. The inner workings of a coup, and how it affects both participants and the general population, are revealed. Meanwhile, millions stolen by the ex-dictator and his friends are tracked to their secret hiding places and strangely enough, are used by the coup leaders to further their aims of returning the government to a civilian power and establish a trusted relationship with the population. The story is interspersed with the hilarious personal tales of one of the key coup participants.
SUMMARY THE EDUCATION OF SANTIAGO O'GRADY AND OTHER STORIES
THE EDUCATION OF SANTIAGO O'GRADY AND OTHER STORIES*
This is a book of nine short stories and novellas. The title novella ‘The Education of Santiago O’Grady’ tells the story of a young man who learns about life and the philatelic business working at his country’s Posts and Telegraphs. In ‘The Major’, an ex-military officer meets a former subordinate. A British Army corporal barters bullets for gold in “A few won’t do any harm, and in ‘Very Professional,’ bank robbers use an unusual method to escape the police. A Chaplain clashes with the Colonel’s wife in ‘The Chaplain’ and ‘Wrecked” tells the story of two boys shipwrecked during a scuba outing. ‘The Zone’ is a personal account of life in the Panama Canal Zone 1959/62. ‘The Hand’ tells how a young man records the history of an indigenous people, and ‘Across a Crowded Room’ tells of strangers meeting at an embassy reception.
*0N PAGE 95 OF THE BOOK THERE STARTS THE STORY OF THE LONDON BOYS WHO WENT TO PANAMA IN 1959/1960. WHAT THEY DID THERE AND HOW THEY ADJUSTED TO THE TOTALLY DIFFERENT LIFESTYLE. THEIR STORIES ARE ALL DIFFERENT, SOME THRIVED, SOME DIDN'T, BUT THEY ALL HAD THEIR INDIVIDUAL HISTORIES. IMAGINE, ONE DAY LIVING AND WORKING IN 50 DEGREE LONDON AMONGST TALL BUILDINGS AND LITTLE SIGN OF NATURE AND THE NEXT, SIX THOUSAND MILES AWAY IN 90 DEGREE PANAMA SITTING BENEATH A PALM TREE WATCHING EXOTIC BIRDS, MONKEES AND IGUANAS. IT TELLS OF WHAT WE DID, WHERE WE WENT, WHO WE MET AND WHAT WE SAW AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, HOW WE WERE AFFECTED BY EVENTS DURING THE YEARS WE SPENT THERE.
LATEST BOOK RELEASE (FEBRUARY 2016)
"GUTEN TAG, MR. CHURCHILL"
SYNOPSIS -‘Guten Tag, Mr. Churchill’ This is a book of eight short stories and novellas. The title novella ‘Guten tag, Mr. Churchill’ is an alternative history of WWII telling of a German invasion of Great Britain and how Churchill’s secret ‘Auxiliaries’ made their presence known. The Auxiliaries were groups of volunteers who would stay behind after the initial attack. The plan was that when the invasion came units would hide in an underground bunker and let the Nazis roll over the top of them. Then after a month they were to come out at night and attack munitions dumps, railway lines, and other military targets. Guten Tag tells of one such group.
‘Finding Jimmy’ is another alternative story. A young man meets a girl whose uncle was a Teamster. It turn out he is privy to the secret of Jimmy Hoffa’s demise. A secret which has endured for more than forty years. The details come to light when he himself passes away. ‘Jack’ is a story told by the loving mother of a troubled young boy who joins the British Navy in WWI. The Navy and its matelots help make a different person of him. His mother sees this but deep inside knows that one day, she will lose him. In a bloody battle Jack, by default, becomes a much needed hero.
‘Second Chance’ follows a remorseful young robber and his journey to redemption. He enters a monastery and gradually becomes learns how he can partially atone for his mistakes and return his ill-gotten gains. His work in the archives leads him to eventually venture out into the world again on a journey that takes him across the American west, following clues to discover a treasure abandoned more than a century before.
‘The Lady’ is an alternative tale that tells of a man’s love and admiration for a refurbished ‘Seaford’ amphibian which is being flown to the US from Australia for a big budget movie. The old aircraft lands near an unmapped atoll for some minor repairs and this leads to the solving of an old aviation mystery.
‘Ghostbusters’ reveals details of a secret U.S. Government organization that tracks embedded foreign agents. When a “Ghostbuster’ finds out about a plot to assassinate the President it turns out that the Agency is not as secret as it thinks it is.
‘Cohen’s empanadas’ Cohen’s delicious meat pies are known throughout the Capital and are offered to the clients of an exclusive safe deposit box company. A disgruntled employee of one of the country’s richest family’s vows to get revenge for her dismissal and with the help of a Presidential chauffeur, plans are made to steal her ex-employers jewels from the Cohen’s secure vault location.
‘Two Priests’ narrates the story of Steven and Paddy, boys who follow their vocation in the Catholic Church. One struggles with the interlectual requirements of becoming a priest while the other thrives, making a name for himself in Rome and eventually becoming a Cardinal. The fact that the two remain friends all their lives brings a strange conclusion to the story.
Book interview available at: http://www.bookpleasures.com/websitepublisher/articles/7937/1/Meet-Michae-J-Merry-Author-of-his-most-recent-tome-Gutten-Tag-Churchill-and-Other-Tales/Page1.html#.Vt7WolPSnIU
Cover of Books written by M Merry 2003/2016
The Golden Altar (Published 2002)
The Golden Altar (Re-Published 2012)
El Altar Dorado (Spanish version)
The Reluctant Colonel(Published 2008)
The Education of Santiago O'Grady and other stories. (Published 2014)
Guten tag, Mr. Churchill (Published 2016)
SOME CLOSING PICTURES TAKEN EARLY ON IN PANAMA/UK SENT BY MY NIECE VICTORIA, FOR MY 70TH BIRTHDAY
DESCRIPTION OF PICTURES IN COLLAGE BELOW
Mike Merry at 20
In my leaner days on the boat fishing
With my wife in 1964
First vacation 1962 - With my Mother, father and brother
My engagement 1962
With my brother 1966
The work below was written in 2008 and published in "The Incandescent Jungle", a collection of poetry. I wrote it after visiting my old school (Royal Liberty) in England and remembering my days there. Perhaps it reminded me of how we all grow older and change as we grow.
"The Royal Liberty School is a boy's secondary school (ages 11-16) in Gidea Park in the London Borough of Havering in East London covering the liberty of Havering-atte-Bower and part of Chafford hundred. The liberty of Havering-atte-Bower, with its royal manor-house, usually formed part of the queen of England's dower from the 13th century to the 17th. Its tenants had special privileges and it had a measure of admini-strative independence which was formalized in a royal charter of 1465."
Hare Hall, Romford Royal Liberty School - Romford Essex England The original Hall which served as the main administrative building of the school.
- AN ATHLETE GROWS OLD
- Saturday, no throng of boys shouting, pushing, full of noise,
- No one running, no one late, it seems they've moved the South Drive gate.
- No blazers blue, with badge of gold, shout at Bob, a horse so old
- Who pulled the roller, cut the grass, remembered now from misty past.
- There, where Bert* would ring his bell, a figure walks, too far to tell,
- But closer now I recognize, the hero's face, the cobalt eyes.
- Recalling that in '51 from Scruff** to new boys, everyone
- Knew this lad's records and his name, an athlete of extraordinary fame.
- He stops and looks as I advance, past the pool where sunbeams dance
- Upon the water, cold and clear, silent now at end of year.
- He hesitates, my name he calls, the years of course they change us all
- From boys to men for `tis the way, the faces lined, the hair turned gray.
- He stoops a little when he walks, slurs some words when `ere he talks,
- The hair is thin there on the top, gone the uncontrollable mop.
- Knuckles knurled, age spots abound, but I've seen these hands around
- A cricket ball, a marvelous catch that won the school a crucial match.
- Eyes cerulean, watery now, shine out below the whitened brow
- Speaking slowly (when at all), gone the calculated drawl.
- Feet move slowly, taking care, but I've seen them swing through air
- And strike the thrown ball on the volley, pay the `keeper for his folly.
- Listen as he snorts and blows, no longer breathing through the nose,
- Coughing softly behind hand, gone the swimmers year-long tan,
- The arms are long, and thick the wrists, I've seen them on the high board twist
- And throw the diver high and clear, to cut the water like a spear.
- Strolling slowly, old and sore, he doesn't hurry any more,
- Wearing old Bermuda shorts, gone the hero of the sports.
- Slippers now he seems to like, but I remember running spikes
- That flashed and shimmered with the sun in the hundred meters run.
- With his years so well advanced, the tired legs no longer dance,
- The eyesight not so good these days, gone the old unwavering gaze.
- Shoulders seem to shrink with age, but I remember on the stage
- The lightning gloves that moved with grace, flashing at opponents' face.
- Tired now in advanced years, but fitter still than many peers,
- Norman Roman Saxon Dane***, who stumble round with crutch or cane.
- Torso sags, no longer thin, but I remember in the Gym
- The horse he'd vault, on beams would swing, waiting for the bell to ring.
- Could this elder be the same, the boy who played at every game?
- Who cups and shields galore did earn, hero worship always spurn.
- The Captain of the Cricket team, I remember centuries on the green
- That came about in fading light, providing all with much delight.
- Across the soccer pitches walk, of days gone by we laugh and talk,
- The sun sinks down behind the School, in lively wind horse-chestnuts fall.
- Across these fields in bygone years, we laughed we played, shed bitter tears
- Never thinking we'd grow old, our lives no more than blue and gold****.
- Forgotten voices reach the ear, Hamlet, York, Macbeth and Lear,
- Roars from Sports Days in the past, cheering runners first to last.
- Then all forbidding silence reigns, no shouts from pupils playing games
- That finished fifty years ago on muddy pitches laced with snow.
- Darkness now does gently fall, hiding from us Old Hare Hall*****,
- The too-few school years flew so fast, now buried in the murky past.
- Only memories now remain, at these we clutch and query "fane"******
- And laugh albeit, with tears in eye of tales of Prefect's, caps and tie.
- Originally published in "The Incandescent Jungle" 2008 Michael J. Merry:
- Bert - The Caretaker
- Scruff - Mr. GHR Newth M.A. - The Headmaster
- Norman Roman etc, - The 4 school houses
- Blue and Gold - The school colors
- Hare Hall - The original main school building constructed 1768.
- Fane - A word used in the school song. It's meaning oft-discussed by pupils.