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Records of YMCA international work in Panama

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-23


Includes correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, maps, development plans, pamphlets, newspaper and magazine articles and other records of the YMCA international work in Panama and the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) movement in the Canal Zone of Panama. Early correspondence and documents involve the ASYMCA, which operated in the Canal Zone of Panama beginning in 1906. The material is strongly dated between 1904-1915 and then between 1966-1989. There is a single folder making up the interval of time. Later materials are split between the ASYMCA and the Panama YMCA, known locally as the ACJ (Asociaciones Cristianas De Jovenes). Much of this later material also involves the coordination of the plan to integrate the ASYMCA and the Panama YMCA, which took many years to resolve.

A great deal of the correspondence involves the YMCA of the United States, the ASYMCA, and Panama YMCA secretaries and employees A. Bruce Minear, Fred D. Carl, Paul Krouse, Tom Badley, Amadeo Basile, Jerry Prado Shaw, Jose Chong Hon, General J. L. Huang, and Guillermo A. Cochez. Much of this correspondence concerns programs that are in place or are being proposed both in the ASYMCA and the Panama YMCA. The programs of the ASYMCA focused on the moral upkeep and health of canal workers, while the Panama YMCA programs focused around youth support. A portion of this material discusses the Youth in Civic Development program, which was very well received by the Panamanian citizens. Another large portion of this material discusses a camp area that became a main focus of the Panama YMCA's programs.

Also included in the collection is correspondence and newspaper clippings about the governmental turmoil in place in Panama. This topic is especially predominent in the material from 1968, when there were riots due to a fraudulent election. It is also notable in material from the late 1980s, when General Manuel Antonio Noriega's headquarters in Panama City were bombed and there was a six month power struggle. Noriega's headquarters were just half of a mile from the Panama City branch of the YMCA, and so many of its staff and clientele were greatly affected. The reorganization of the Panama YMCA and the eventual integration of the Panama YMCA and the ASYMCA is also a focus of a large portion of the material.


  • 1904-2007
  • Majority of material found within ( 1904-1915 and 1966-1989)


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


In 1904 a letter was written by Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal Zone, John F. Wallace, to Admiral J. G. Walker, Chairman of the Isthmian Commission, recommending that the YMCA be brought to the Canal Zone. With the approval of both U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and Secretary of War William Howard Taft, A. Bruce Minear, an experienced secretary, was sent to organize the association work in the Canal Zone. Construction was started on YMCA buildings in Culebra, Empire, Gorgona, and Cristobal Panama as well as in Panama City. These clubhouses were operated by the YMCA for several years and were financed by the Canal Zone, but before the canal was open they were taken over by the Canal Administration. In 1918 the Army and Navy YMCA was asked to come into the zone and twelve Army and Navy secretaries were brought in at the expense of the YMCA war fund. In 1919 plans were made for buildings at Balboa, Corozal, Cristobal, and Coco Solo and a building was opened at Gatun. By 1920 there were nine buildings in operation in the Canal Zone. In 1942 the Army and Navy YMCAs were turned over to the U.S.O. which assumed general management of the Balboa and Cristobal YMCAs and opened other facilities that operated during the war period. Gymnasiums were added to the Cristobal and Balboa buildings in 1943, and in 1948 the two clubs became Armed Services YMCAs receiving support from the U.S.O. and operating under the National Council of the YMCA's Armed Services Committee. In 1960 the Armed Services Branch of the YMCA terminated relations with the U.S.O.

The goals of these branches in the Canal Zone was to provide the men working on the canal with entertainment of an elevating character, stimulating social intercourse, a banishment of class distinction, opportunity for intellectual improvement, to keep men in good healthy conditions, to promote a spirit of contentment among canal employees, and to elevate moral standards of living. Some of the suitable entertainments provided included camera club with a darkroom, bowling, checkers, chess, dominoes, shuffleboard and other small games, a reading room, calisthenics, volleyball, handball, indoor baseball, basketball, fencing, Spanish class, mathematics, mechanical drawing, bible class, minstrel shows, boxing smokers, dramatic clubs, literary clubs, debate clubs, glee clubs, orchestras, lectures, excursions, activities for the boy's department, and afternoons for the ladies. These activities were intended to help the men better themselves, remind them of home, and avoid the the temptation of taverns. The YMCA partially measured their success by the lack of alcohol sales in an area.

In 1966, Ambassador J. L. Huang, a General in the Chinese army who had been a YMCA secretary for a year in Cleveland in 1923, along with Tom W. Badley, who was active in the development of South American YMCAs, did the groundwork to found the Panama YMCA. The Panama YMCA was founded on May 24th, 1966. The main goal of this YMCA was to secure the well-being of the Panamanian youth by use of programs that would allow them to succeed in their future endeavors. In 1967 Paul Krouse was assigned to the Panamanian YMCA as a Secretary. Krouse began a very popular summer activities program that had many active members and succeeded in establishing the Association as an organization that catered to the youth of Panama. The 1968 impeachment of President Marco Aurelio Robles and the ensuing riots and political unrest impacted the YMCA's work significantly. Due to the chaos, the schools were closed for five months and the after-school programs at the Panama YMCA were canceled. The use of the school equipment, such as the pool and gym, greatly helped the YMCA's ability to continue on with the swimming classes and summer programs. These programs remained popular throughout this time.

In 1969 the Panama YMCA was given their first piece of property, a forty-acre piece of land for a day camping and nature center site, allowing them to expand their programs and to consider the possibility of exchange programs. At this time they were working out of a rented office, using school facilities, and were looking for a larger youth center facility where ongoing programs, such as swimming, youth and adult recreation, english classes, field trips, and sports leagues, could be carried out with greater ease. The camp allowed the Panama YMCA to expand a great deal and became a major resource for the program. The camp also was used as a conference center. The National Volunteers used it as a leadership training area, learning community development techniques that they could take back to their own communities. The Girl and Boy Scouts as well as church groups also used the area.

Amadeo Basile, an early volunteer, became the first indigenous Executive Director for the Panama YMCA on January 27, 1972, taking over for Paul Krouse. Programs that were offered at this time were swimming, judo, kindergarten, camping, adult and youth recreation, drug education and leaders clubs.

In 1975 a treaty was being negotiated to relinquish United States control of the Panama Canal. At this time the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) felt the need to change its orientation, objectives, structures, and programs. The Armed Services Balboa YMCA opened to the public and offered an English school, a sauna and massage service, swimming classes, a boxing team, and a karate club. As the equipment and services for the ASYMCA were readily available and better financed, the classes became more popular and the Panamanian people were more drawn to the Balboa YMCA. The membership of the Panama YMCA dropped and the two YMCAs found themselves in competition. In 1976, Jose Chong Hon, treasurer of the Panama YMCA and Guillermo Cochez, past president of the Panama YMCA, pushed the U.S. YMCA for assistance in the reorganization of the organization in Panama. As of December 31, 1976, a provisional committee was appointed, and the camp became the basis for a new YMCA and a reorganized board. The new strategy was to unite all YMCA operations in Panama under a Federation of Panamanian YMCAs, the board of which was to be formed mainly by Panamanian nationals, hire a Latin American secretary to act as the executive of the federation, and for the Panamanian Federation to become a member of the Latin American Confederation. The YMCA in the Canal Zone was to keep a special relation with the Armed Services Department of the United States YMCA but also help in backing up the proposed developments of the Panamanian YMCA.

The new reorganization brought in Jerry Prado Shaw as the general secretary, kept Jose Chong Hon as the president and Guillermo Cochez as the honorary president. Youth support was still the focus, as the population in Panama was forty-five percent age of fifteen or under. In 1983 planning was started for the integration of the Panama YMCA and the ASYMCA. In 1985 Fred D. Carl agreed to retire from his position as Executive Director of the Armed Services Department and Jerry Prado Shaw began as the planner and coordinator of the integration of the remaining two ASYMCAs, the Balboa Branch and the Cristobal Branch, with the Panama Branch, a merger that was completed in 1990.

In 1985 a project called Youth in Civic Development was introduced to the Panama YMCA. This program instructed Panamanian youths about democratic participation through understanding of the nation's legal and legislative institutions and involvement in social action projects in the local community. The project was quite successful and popular and continued to expand into the 1990s.

The 1989 bombing of General Manuel Antonio Noriega's headquarters half of a mile from the YMCA Panama City headquarters in Panama City created strife that displaced many people. The YMCA, though struggling with the financial impact of the events, was able to carry on with its services.

The following is a list of individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Panama along with their dates of service:

Freeman, F. C. Minear, A. Bruce (1905-1910)
Krouse, Paul, E. (1966-1972) Morgan, Maria (1980-1982)
Ludwiszewski, Christine B. (1972-1973) Morgan, Mark (1980-1982)
Historical information largely adapted and quoted from the collection.


1.6 Cubic Feet (6 boxes)


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, maps, development plans, pamphlets, newspaper and magazine articles and other records of YMCA work in Panama and the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) movement in the Canal Zone of Panama.

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.


Biographical information on many of the secretaries involved YMCA work in Panama (see list of individuals in the historical note) is available in the YMCA Biographical Files, separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, February 2009, as collection FP045. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Catalog Record ID number: 6334099

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov and Melanie Doherty.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area