Canal Zone Schools

Ancon Elementary School 1959

We hope this series of images of Panama Canal Zone Schools serves not only as a place to collect valuable metadata that we can add to the object records, but also as a place to share stories and memories!

Ancon Elementary School 1959

Please share any information or memories you have about Ancon Elementary School.  Who was your favorite teacher?  What years did you attend?  What is your fondest memory of your school days?

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  • Joe Wood

    The photo shows the back of the school building, with the playgrounds and ball fields in the foreground. To the left was the Ancon Gym. The Gym, playground and ballfields were situated along the Canal Zone border, with Panama city across the street. Access to the Gym could be made from the Panama side or from inside the schoolyard side. A high wire fence and backstop were situated behind home plate (batters would hit toward the school) and were designed to prevent foul balls from going back over the fence and hitting cars in the road or bouncing into some of the shops across the street. Many foul balls found their way over the fence, however, much to the chagrin of the teachers and players – who had difficulty getting the balls back – as well as the vehicle operators and businessmen who occasionally were victims of foul balls. The businesses across the street that Americans would frequent and shop included Ricardo’s Jewelry, Shaw’s China and Crystal, Best Key and Lock, the Linen House, Jhangamal’s, Ancon Inn (a favorite watering hole for Americans), Morrison’s Dept. Store, the Kool Spot, etc.. Zonians would park their cars in the Canal Zone and walk across the street into Panama to shop, imbibe, go to the movies or walk down “J” street to Central Avenue in the heart of Panama City. As elementary school kids, we could venture into Panama City without our parents and walk around without fear or any problems.

    I attended Ancon Elementary School from 1943 to 1949. My teachers were Miss Holden, Miss Baxter, Miss Clary (who used to rap our knuckles with a hard ruler) and the popular and very well known author and educator, Miss Sue Core, who during my sixth grade left in the middle of the school year to marry Dr. Odom. Sue Core wrote many children’s books and stories about Canal Zone life. At the Ancon School there were many Panamanian children,as well as children of American businessmen in Panama. whose parents could afford to send their children to American schools,. These students became lifelong friends as many of them continued their education in the Canal Zone School system through high school and even Canal Zone Junior College.

    • Nina Brown Kosik

      The building is still a school, I think for special needs children. This playground is now a parking lot for the teachers & visitors although the backstop was there last time I passed. Standing beside the photographer, you would have the Abou Saad Shriners’ building on your right, now a modern art museum.

      The architecture looks like that of Pedro Miguel (& I think Gatun). — a squared off C

    • Jean C. Gaskill

      This must be the Joe Wood who was my pal in those days. I also attended Ancon School from 1943 to 1948. I lived on Porto Bello Street at the corner of the street that led up to the Tivoli, across the street from the Granger family. Later,, Joe’s family moved to the newer quarters over by the ball field opposite the laundry. Is that you, Joe?

      • Joe Wood

        Hi, Jean. It has been a long time. Yes that is me. We lived on Tivoli Avenue and later moved to Venado Street by the Ancon Laundry. We tried our best to avoid going to Porto Bello street where the terrifying Grangers lived. I live in Tallahassee, FL. My email is pccjoebev@centurylink.net. Those were good days. Joe

  • Fred Sill

    Congratulations on your total recall, Joe. I guess I was a couple of years ahead of you (1941-1947). My teachers were Miss Henshaw (first grade), Miss Connor (second) Miss Clary (third — what a terror!)
    Miss Baxter (fourth — so lovely that we kids were ready to believe that she was movie star Ann Baxter’s sister) Miss Turner (fifth — who later got married and became Mrs. Brown)…and the unforgettable Miss Core in sixth grade. When she and Dr. Odom, who was head of the quarantine station in Corozal, retired, and moved to the USA, Panama fittingly awarded her their highest award for foreigners, the “Vasco Nunez de Balboa”. Our principal: Miss Jacobs, a real disciplinarian.

    • Joe Wood

      Hi, Fred – yes those were good days and, for the most part, we had wonderful teachers. I was terrified of Miss Clary as she dispensed corporal punishment for the slightest offense. She once threatened to beat a student and, the next day, the student’s mother came in with a whip she intended to use against Miss Clary if she didn’t stop abusing her child. It was at a water fountain on the first floor of the Ancon School that I first was told by an older student who ran up to me to say “Stop! Don’t drink from that fountain or you’ll get what I got!” Terrified that I would get a dread disease if I drank from the fountain, I asked him what he got, and he said, “Water.” A good joke that I passed on to younger kids as I grew older.

  • Ralph Edmondson, BHS 1961

    Hello Joe!–Miss Clary and I had a ‘confrontation’when I attended Ancon Elementary School in the mid-1950’s. She was a great teacher but, as you imply, rather strict and sometimes capable of being a bit mean. I was doing something I shouldn’t have been doing, and she started rapping my knuckles with her ruler. I kinda lost it and grabbed the straight metal point quill-type ink pen that was still in the ink bottle in the ink-well that we had on our tables, and told her to stop. She went to rap me again when I stabbed her left hand between her thumb and forefinger with the pen, which had ink in the point. Of course, I was in ‘Big Kaka’ then!! They called my mother and told her, and when I got home my father and I did what my older brother Bill and I called ‘Dancing with dad and the snake’. The ‘snake’ was dad’s belt, and he would hold one of our arms and give it to us on the back of our legs. As we tried to get away it would produce a circular movement to the left, and we called that ‘Dancing with dad and the snake’. Ahh! The Memories!!
    Years later when I came home form Clemson University for the summer, I saw Miss Clary and we ‘reminisced’ about Ancon Elementary. She showed me the blue, tattoo-like mark on her left hand that ‘Ralphie’ put there years earlier. HA! She seemed much nicer as time passed.

  • David Garcia

    I attended Ancon Elementary from 1968 to1970. Moved to Howard Air force base after. Found memories of playing marbles near the bus drop. I remember the huge fence that separated us from Panama City. The rainy season left us with a flooded car. I can smell the countryside right now.
    Does anyone remember Summit Gardens?

  • Chela Wallace

    I attended Ancon Elementary from 1970-1972 (5th and 6th grade); my dad was an Army doctor at Gorgas Hospital (got to walk to work every day – I can’t remember the name of the street, but it was the one that went up the hill from the hospital – wearing a guayabera shirt instead of a uniform). My favorite teacher was Mrs. Perez, and I loved playing on the field and buying sodas from the vending machine in the gym. I used to go into the city with my friend, Anna Wolf, without a care in the world. (Remember how the nuns would sell lottery tickets?) Her family had an island on Gatun Lake, where we’d go water skiing. I just told my kids about how we had only one 5th and one 6th grade at Ancon, and that TV in English didn’t come on until 4pm (with only the AFRTS news and M*A*S*H as current shows). We used to play some pretty intense kickball games on the front playground at Ancon – and vied for the opportunity to be a crossing guard and raise/lower the flag. I always tell people that, as an Army brat who moved around all the time, my three years in the Canal Zone were the happiest of my childhood. Summer year round, being able to take a bus to/from Balboa Pool, AND get an ice cream cone – all for about $1.10. I went back once in 1975 and again in 1977 and would love to go again.

  • Barbara Rittner

    I attended from 1950 to 1953 and remember Miss Hanna (who we called Hanna Banana) with mixed feelings – sometimes she was wonderful and sometimes I would be “seated” under her desk “until I learned to behave.” She loved robins and talked endlessly about their migratory path through Panama. We used to go over to Gorges Hospital to get milk from the goats – and to this day I love goat milk. I remember learning English and learning to read at the same time. Around November 3rd, we would go out on the street in front of the school to watch the Independence Day parades with women in polleras on platform trucks – how I loved all that lace and the elaborate head pieces. I had a little girl’s modified pollera – but nothing like the real deal.

    The gym was my favorite place, especially when one of the amazing tropical thunderstorms break before they could get us inside and the rain would pound on the roof and we would get stuck there for an hour or more. Then take our shoes off and splash through the puddles back to the classroom.

    We were not a military family and that made me stand out. My father was in charge of the Klim Leche plant (brown and yellow can) for the Borden Company. We lived over on Riviera and took the local buses to and from school.

  • Fred Sill

    Barbara….I was at Ancon School a few years before you, but I remember Miss Hanna, whom my dad used to refer to as “Heard-hearted Hannah from Savannah, G.A.”.

    Your mentioning your own dad, and KLIM, brought back memories of their jingle, which we used to sing along to when it played on the English language station, H.O.G, in Panama City…..

    “KLIM from the moo-moo cow to you-u,
    KLIM is the milk that’s good for you-u,
    Stop the baby’s cries, “boo-hoo-oo”,
    Children drink it, grown-ups too-oo,
    Cook with KLIM and cook good too,
    K-L-I-M…KLIM! Moo-moo!”

    Cheers, Fred

    • Barbara Rittner

      Miss Hanna was hard hearted. My English was terrible and she would try to torture wiTH instead of wiZ out of me. I taught at University for years – she was a sort of role model of what NOT to be as a teacher. I missed Miss Clary.

      I never learned to like “real” milk as we only drank KLIM. My Dad would be thrilled to know someone remembered the KLIM jingle. My brother and I refused to to sing it!!

      I’m going to Panama this December. I’m dying to see how high the mountains really are as they are monstrous in my imagination. We used to go to Chilibre to a farm there – but now it is a community of 50K people.

      Barbara

  • Matt Mavor

    Hi

    I attended Ancon elementary in 1964-66. I would like to identify the location on Google earth. Can anyone tell me the precise location?

    Thanks

    Matt Mavor, Golden Colorado USA

    • Patt Earl Anderson

      ANCON SCHOOL – 1957 – 1960 Grades 4 thru 6

      In 1957, when our Father retired from the US Army as the Signal Officer for the Caribbean Forces, our Mother gave him an ultimatum.
      We had to stay in Panama!
      She had a great job as an RN at Gorgas Hospital, and was loathe to give it up.
      Our Father decided to try running his own electronics business there.
      He was an electrical engineer from Kansas State U,
      a very bright man who had graduated from high school at age 15,
      saw combat in Italy during WWII, and wasn’t going any further with a military career
      because he was ROTC, not Academy.

      Our mother was orphaned at age 10 and raised by well-meaning
      but very poor relatives in Mississippi.
      She worked her way thru several years of college
      and then took Nurses Training at Nashville General Hospital.

      In 1953, we flew to Panama in the Father’s single-engine Navion,
      back in the days before most airfields in Central American countries
      had landing lights. As a kid, I thought nothing of it –
      just a LOT of hours couped up in the back seat with my
      little sister Penny, and told to keep quiet,
      so the pilot could concentrate on his flying and navigation.

      From 1953 until the summer of 1957, we lived at Ft Clayton.
      I believe my father, as the head of the Signal Corps in the Canal Zone during that period,
      was responsible for getting CFN (Caribbean Forces Network) Television up and running.
      Some years after his retirement, CFN became AFN (Armed Forces Network).
      Later, he installed, as a solo project, an AM Radio Station in the Republic of Panama.
      After his retirement, my parents bought a home in Panama City,
      near the end of the runway at the old Paitilla Airport, where the Navion was hangared.

      Being a very proud man, my father forbid our mother from
      becoming “Head-of-Household”.
      Doing so would have been MUCH easier all around.
      We could even live in quarters in the CZ!
      Because of this, our family was required to pay tuition to attend Canal Zone Schools.
      It was something like $31 per month for each of us.

      Here is some background information about Ancon School during that period.

      Ancon School was the two story building in the photo.
      It was located very near the border between the Canal Zone and Panama,
      down the street from the ancient but luxurious Tivioli Hotel,
      between St Luke’s Episcopal Church, the Maryknoll Sisters building,
      the ever-favorite Morrison’s (office supplies and) BOOK Store (Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew !),
      and, apartments for single PanCanal employees.

      By the time we attended Ancon School, PanCanal had built a covered rain shelter and
      walkway along the school traffic circle for kids to board buses in the rain.

      PanCanal also built a brand new gym for Ancon School.
      It was a two-sided building and had a corrugated metal roof,
      supported by steel girders and I-beam columns.
      It was located toward one end of the school building,
      below the concrete schoolyard way up above, and the grassy playground in between.
      On the other open side, it opened to the kickball diamond,
      toward the Maryknoll Sisters Building.

      The two concrete block walls bordered the street, known then as Fourth of July Avenue.
      The wall along the street was right on Fourth of July Avenue,
      separated merely by a sidewalk.
      The other wall was on the side where St Luke’s was across the street and Morrison’s was catty-corner.
      Inside the concrete walls, there were boys’ and girls’ restrooms, an equipment storeroom,
      and an office for the gym teachers, Mrs Morris “Miz Mo”, and Mrs Karriger.

      When it was raining, at recess, at lunchtime, or after school,
      we played battleball, dodgeball or Newcomb (like volleyball) under the Gym roof.
      When it was sunny, we played kickball outside in the sun.
      None of us suffered from a lack of Vitamin D !

      Our Principal was Mr Roger Michel. Later in high school, his daughter was a classmate.
      Mrs Rhyne was the school Secretary and jack-of-all-trades. She answered the phone,
      disciplined students (Mr Michel was far too kind to be the bad guy), and she
      operated the mimeograph machine to make millions of papers for the teachers.
      Mrs Skeie was the school Nurse.
      Most likely, she was the school Nurse for ALL the schools on the Pacific Side.
      These administrators were easy to get along with, kind people, who all had kids of their own.

      The population of Ancon School was the most varied in the Canal Zone.

      Many of the kids at Ancon School had parents associated with Gorgas Hospital,
      or some other PanCanal posiition.
      Some were military, living in Panama until quarters on Post became available.
      Some had diplomatic parents.
      Most of the other kids who attended Ancon School and who lived in Panamá were leftovers.
      Not PanCanal kids, not military kids, not “civilian” kids.
      Many were from Jewish families in Panama City, preferring to pay the tuition
      to get the superior education in a Canal Zone school.
      I was a half-breed because my father was retired Army
      and my mother was a PCC employee and we lived in “Panamá”!
      Every day we had to be driven to school and picked up,
      through the ancient termite-ridden French-building slums. Brown-bag lunch in the gym.
      Patsy Tomboy wore shorts under her skirt, and after school was out every day,
      the skirt was stripped off to play, until either parent arrived, after work, to pick us up.

      Just leftovers.

      In Fourth Grade, I had Miss Clary. I was a pretty good student.
      Reading other posts here, apparently she was a stern disciplinarian.
      Patsy Earl never had any problems with Miss Clary,
      but I didn’t especially care for her either.

      Singing at school was very important during that era,
      Music provided an enjoyable break from kids having to think.
      Sometimes we split up to sing alto and soprano.
      One piece we sang in Miss Clary’s class was two-part music.
      Half the class sang Stephen Foster’s Swanee River,
      and the other half sang a version of Dvořák’s Humoresque.
      It was a very lovely singing combination.

      In September, school supplies were distributed at a huge warehouse near Diablo.
      On the very first day of school, we were allowed to open these packages in the classroom.
      Not one second before!
      They were neatly bundled, sealed in brown wrapping paper, with pencils, erasers,
      lined paper, crayons, construction paper, all appropriate to the Grade.
      Upper Grades got boxes of crayons with lots MORE colors!
      Fourth Grade was the year students learned to use Pens and Ink! –
      those long pointy pens with the steel pen-points, which always dripped on your paper.
      Ink wells on top of our desks! Remember the Palmer Method of Penmanship !
      By then, since we had the large boxes of crayons, and we could write with pens,
      fourth graders were really becoming Somebody!
      Although the penmanship was all right, Patsy never did master writing
      Palmer’s Loopy ovals or the slanted Parallel Lines.

      In Fifth Grade, I started out with Mrs Beggs as my teacher.
      Her husband was a doctor at nearby Gorgas Hospital.
      Mrs Beggs was wonderful!
      When she became pregnant with their first child,
      Mrs Fears became the substitute the remainder of the year.
      Later on, Mrs Fears taught the eighth-grade cooking semester of Home-Ec
      at Diablo Junior High School.

      In Sixth Grade, 1959 – 1960, I had Miss Farley as a teacher.
      Like Miss Clary, I remember her as being stern but fair.

      Seems also, we had Spanish Class several times a week.
      Mrs Jaramillo came to each classroom for a thirty minute class – to teach us
      the names of the colors, Months, days of the week, animals, numbers,
      letters of the alphabet, and a million other Spanish words.

      Some kids spoke excellent, fluent Spanish because one or more parents
      were Panamanian. Penny and I spoke good Spanish because if we wanted
      to play with the kids in our neighborhood, we had to speak their language.
      If we wanted to watch dubbed-in-Spanish television (much better TV shows –
      Bonanza, Route 66) we had to learn Spanish.
      As kids, we actually didn’t know there was any difference.
      It was just two words to describe the same thing.
      Most of the programs on Caribbean Forces Network CFN (television in English)
      were either boring (Lawrence Welk, I’ve Got a Secret), or ancient,
      or ads to buy US Savings Bonds, or to “not abuse your commissary privileges”.
      So we kids learned enough Spanish to watch good television.

      1959 was the year of the Riots.
      Coinciding with Panama’s Independence Day (from Colombia)
      students from the University of Panama, rioted, in protest of lack of Panamanian
      employment practices in the Canal Zone. All to the horror of Panama’s government.
      The rioters arsenal was made up of mostly rocks/stones, molotov-cocktails and some guns.
      Communist financed, Panamanian students burned the PanAm (Airlines) building,
      a beautiful new four-story building on Fourth of July, near the Tivoli Hotel,
      and across the street from the Asamblea Nacional in the Republic.
      The Asamblea was well-protected by armed Guardia Nacional.
      The students looted and broke the windows in many other Panamanian buildings.
      It is hard to understand, even nearly sixty years ago,
      why Panamanians destroyed their own businesses,
      somewhat a precursor to Watts and Ferguson.
      When the riots occurred, in November of 1959, at Ancon School,
      there were bullets and pock-marks in the walls all over the outside hallway,
      because the building opened up on the Fourth of July Avenue side.
      Even more chips in the outside Gym walls.
      We were required to stay in our classrooms (concrete walls)
      until the various parents came to fetch us.
      Today, in 2017, I can imagine the circuitous routes parents must have driven
      to arrive at the school safely.
      Patsy Earl, almost twelve, doesn’t remember the drama, the fright
      or the violence involved, only the excitement!
      Our father drove from his office in Panama, near the Estadio Nacional,
      to take us home to Paitilla, most likely via the Back Gate at Curundu.
      Our Panamanian neighbors were wonderful.
      They said that if any of the trouble-makers came out to Calle 84, they’d protect us!

      After Ancon, I attended Balboa Junior High,
      in a sectioned-off part of Balboa Elementary.
      Mid-year, in Eighth Grade, PanCanal completed construction on the
      new buildings at Diablo Junior High and we were all transferred there.
      The old Diablo Junior High building was an original wooden building on creosote pilings.

      I look back now at that period in my Life, and am amazed how wonderful it was!
      And we, as children, were too ignorant to understand what a special
      growing-up place Panama was.
      “Doesn’t EVERYBODY have ships traveling through their back yards !”

      Still operating after all these years, with few changes to the original concept,
      I stand in awe of the Canal itself.

      Originally designed when the most powerful calculator was a slide rule,
      accurate to three decimal-places! No calculators, no computers,
      just human brain-power.

      And as little kids we had no idea . . . .

  • Gerry Fuhring Taylor

    I attended Ancon Elementary from 1942 to December of 1946 as a “foreign student” because I lived in Panama not the CZ. Miss Jacobs was our Principal. I remember Miss O’connor was 2nd grade. Miss Baxter was 3rd grade. I left Ancon just before Christmas because my Mother was moving the 2 of us to Vancouver Canada. If any of you from the above years are still around I would love to hear from you. /s/ Gerry Taylor nee Fuhring.

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