Wells Family Genealogy

The study of my Family Tree

15 Oct 2016: A postcard from the past October 15, 2016

A few weeks ago my cousin, Sharon, mailed me an old postcard she’d come across.  It’s from our great-uncle Frederick Kranz to our great grand father John Kranz.  The card  was sent from Cristobal, Panama on December 1, 1919.  Here it is:

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The caption on the front of the card says “Looking Through arches showing guard gates Pedro Miguel, Panama Canal.”

The note on the back of the card says “Monday 12/1/19 Dear Father, Have arrived safe at Colon, Panama and am leaving for New York Thursday Dec 4. I will expect to see you about the 12th of December.”  It is addresses to Mr. John Kranz, 194 Elizabeth Street C/O Empire Wagon Works, New York, U.S.A.

I don’t know as much as I wish I did about what happened to my Kranz cousins.  Unfortunately I never had to the opportunity to sit down with my Grandmother when I had the interest to know the answers to these questions.  Sadly now that she’s gone, I’m left with holes in my understanding of what happened to my greater Kranz family relatives.  When it came to my grandmother’s brother Fred, I suspected he was the Fred Kranz I found on this ships manifest/crew listing I discovered on ancestry.com, but was never 100% certain until Sharon mailed me this postcard.

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According to these papers, Frederick Kranz is listed an ordinary seaman, age 20, from America, height 5’9, weight 158, sailing on the General W.C. Gorgas arriving in the port of New York on October 13, 1919 from Cristobal, Canal Zone.  So these papers confirm that Fred was sailing on the General W.C. Gorgas at the same time as the postcard was sent.  It also confirmed that my great Grandfather did work at the Empire Wagon Works.  He was a blacksmith and made part for wagon wheels, or so my father always said.

Here’s a picture of the General W.C. Gorgas, the ship Fred was sailing back and from Panama to New York on back in 1919:

General W.C. Gorgas

General W.C. Gorgas

Ironically enough, I too have been through the Panama Canal, four times no less!  I used to work on a small cruise ship and we sailed through the canal on our Costa Rica/Panama cruises.  I even remember sailing through the Pedro Miguel locks, one of the three locks you pass through while sailing the Panama Canal.  Here’s some pictures I took of the Canal when I sailed through back in the mid 1990’s:

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The Panama Canal as seen from the deck of the Yorktown Clipper

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I doubt what I saw a I sailed through the canal was much different from what Fred saw.  It’s pretty old school technology.  I wish I’d known of his adventures on the canal when I was there.  I do remember wondering if I was the first in my family to go that far south in the world.  Looks like I wasn’t.  Fred died back in 1984.  I never met him so I have no memories of this man who led such an interesting life. The lesson to be learned here is to ask those questions of your relatives now, before it’s too late to discover the interesting life stories of the generations that came before us.

-Jennifer

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