We know that Grandpa Dick (Clifford/Richard Brown/Durand) was in the Army in the late 1920s and early 1930s and was stationed in Panama where he and Donna met. We don’t know exactly when Donna and her husband Sammy Amsterdam went to Panama, but we do know they left Panama and headed for the States in April of 1930. We are also fairly certain that they were estranged at the time. Donna and her three-year-old son, Russell, indicate their address was her mother’s in Detroit, while Sammy indicated that his address was his mother’s address in Brooklyn[i]. Family oral history has long held that Dick and Donna met in Panama and that Sammy and Donna split up because of Dick.
While I was researching Dick’s activity in Panama I encountered An American Legacy in Panama: a brief history of the Department of Defense installations and properties, the former Panama Canal Zone, Republic of Panama by Suzanne P Johnson; United States; Department of Defense; Legacy Resources Management Program; U.S. Army Garrison (Panama)[ii]. In An American Legacy… there is a photo of two “Cabaret Girls,” one of whom looks just like Donna. I talked with Russell and he agrees, it looks like Donna to him. The photo is also from the correct time and place that Donna would have been in Panama, and finally, it shows here in a bathing suit, something that Donna started being photographed in when she was seventeen. She also starred in several Bathing Suit Revues over the ensuing years (See Donna Montran).
Family oral history also says that when Dick saw Donna in Panama, he told an army buddy that he was, “going to marry that girl.” Dick and Donna never married but they did have a child in January 1932. In any event, I consider this another photo of Donna. When I have a chance to visit the National Archives, I’ll do some more searching and see what additional information they may have about the “Cabaret Girls” of Panama
[i] Ancestry.com, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.Original data – Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls); Records of the U.S. Customs Service, R), iOS Application, Year: 1930; Arrival: Microfilm serial: T715; Microfilm roll: T715_4710; Line: 1; List number:.
[ii] University of Florida Digital Collections.