A real location, taken from fiction: WELCOME HOME MRS. JORDON by Janet Lambert
(After an army transport ship journey from New York to Panama, new bride Tippy and her Army officer-husband Peter have collected their luggage, car, and dogs from the ship and are beginning the drive from Colon where the transport delivered them, to Fort Clayton, near Panama City, where Peter's next military assignment will be their home for over two years. Actual text excerpts from the book follow; I've selected sections that match the book's descriptions to what I was able to see that day. Janet Lambert's Panama arrival is set in January; we were here in mid-November.
From WELCOME HOME, MRS. JORDON, by Janet Lambert © 1953; renewed 1981:
The road was long. The day shone its sun on them with blistering heat, as if it wanted to see how quickly it could cook them, and when it had them sizzling to its satisfaction, it turned on a faucet and poured down water.
"This isn't rain," Tippy said, steaming inside the closed car. "It's a cloudburst. It's worse than a Turkish bath. Do you suppose it does this way all the time?"
"It couldn't," he answered, loosening his tie and mopping his forehead with a piece of her cleansing tissue. "Hasn't everyone told us this is the dry season? How can it rain in the dry season?"
. . . And as suddenly as it had vanished the sun came back. It brought a little breeze with it, and they leaned out to drink in the fresh air and look at one of the great locks. The man-made waterway had a freighter in it. It was lifting the ship one step farther on its journey, moving it along until another lock received it and lifted it even higher. In three hours it would glide out, free again, and in another ocean.
"It's exciting," Tippy said, and for the first time, really knew that it was. They passed little villages, just ordinary clusters of houses . . . they passed a few beautiful homes, too, set in the hills with palm trees and flowering vines for decorations and higher, rolling mountains for a backdrop. And at last they rolled over a long winding hill and saw a lighthouse ahead of them.
"There she is!" Peter said, pointing. "A guy told me to watch for a light house. He said it would be on the left side of the road, and a bridge—the Miraflores, I think he called it—would be on the right. He said that as soon as we see it . . . yes, that's it. That's good old Fort Clayton."
. . . Peter turned the car through a gateway beside the lighthouse. There was a sentry gate, but no sentry, so he went on to park beneath the gold sabers. "I don't think this will take very long," he said. "I'll just have to report in. Gosh, where's my tie?"
. . . "Peter," Tippy said to the dogs, sitting patiently on the back seat, as Peter stepped out of the car into yet another rain shower, "has a great responsibility on his shoulders, so don't bother him any more than you can help. Until he shakes down in this new job it's up to us to do everything we can for him. We're all army, so let's remember that. . . . Everything's going to be a lot of fun,"Tippy told them cheerfully, and she sincerely hoped that it was so.
"The set-up's swell," said Peter, returning to the car. . . "I have our keys . . . let's go home."
. . . They wound along well-kept roads where green grass flourished on either side and flowers bloomed riotously. . . . One long street had large houses . . "King's Row," said Peter. "The top brass lives here." . . . They poked along between rows of yellow houses, until Tippy, watching house numbers, cried, "Stop" This is ours!"
The descriptions in the story still match what I saw that day, as much as I was able to see. While the Army's Administration Building (seen better in the slide show photos) is now the offices for the various international schools, and the sabers over the main doorway have been removed, the roads and other once-military buildings are still there, in excellent condition, and repurposed for school use. There are a few new buidlings mixed in; the architecture is quite different and its obvious they are from another era.
I know from reading the author's daughter's description of where her own relatives lived when stationed here that their assigned home was in what is called the 400 area, that is now private property, with homes, and I couldn't visit it, but similar areas can be seen along the roads that the Hop On, Hop Off bus took along country roads as it came in through the back route to the main complex. I really enjoyed my day there, complete with the rain showers, and since I was there in mid-November, it was still part of the hot, "dry season" of so many years ago! Of course, the bus I traveled on was air-conditioned; a luxury not available to Peter and Tippy Jordon in the 1950s!