Canal Zone Schools

Balboa High School

Originally, Balboa High School was housed in the building that later became Balboa Elementary School. The iconic Balboa High School building was not erected until 1942.


What are your memories of Balboa High School?


  • Ray Crucet

    This photo is not Balboa High School. It is Balboa Jr. College.

    You should include several photos of BHS. It was the largest and most up-to date school in the Canal Zone.

  • Cheryl Russell

    It later became Balboa High School…I graduated in the Class of 1965. My husband of 44 years asked me to go steady near that tree partially shown to the left of the building. Rick Williams remembers being late leaving Mr. Ackerman’s shop class and afraid of not making it to his 4th period class on time..,with Mr. Knick roaming the halls!

  • Mimi Stratford Collins

    Class of ’61; also CZJC Class of ’63. As Ray mentioned, this image was the junior college wing in those days, before the college became 4-year and relocated.

    I loved the library mezzanines! In recent visits, I’ve been pleased to see that it is still a well-maintained library. I used it for both HS and JC, and was a HS library aide. I went on to become a librarian and am now a retired community college library director! πŸ™‚

  • Diane L. French

    This is Balboa High School. and this is the main building of the High School. The college was on left of builing in another building which was also Balboa High School only the Junior College took up the upper part of the building. It was neat as I waited for the high school bell to enter building I got to associate with the college students. I also went to Junior High School in the wooden building on the back side of Balboa High School with the gym being right across the street from the Junior High. I went to Balboa HIgh School for four years graduating in 1963. I have so many memories of the four years I spent there that I could write a book about my many experiences. I was secretary for Vic Herr the music teacher’s
    for four years. He gave me this job so I could earn an extra credit for graduation. The teachers at Balboa High School were wonderful teachers who taught the Zonian teenagers how to be responible alduts with a good education. This was a very high rated school on education. Most students after graducation would go to the Junior College in Balboa or to college in the United States.

  • Diane L. French

    It has been years, and I’m sorry, but the more I look at this building I see what I said was wrong about this building. the college was on the top floor of this building. The main bullding was after you walked across the walkway between the buildings. I had four classes on the second floor which was art, tpyeing, shorthand, and Household arts. I spend four years in this building going to sewing and cooking classses. Guess this is why I finally remembered this building. I see the window where I throw the sewing pins out the window when Miss Monroe my sewing teaching didn’t like the way I pinned the seams on a pattern together. I remember now too that our school buses use to pass by on the road in front of this building. Sorry I got mixed up, but when you haven’t seen a place in so many years it can happen!!!!!!

  • nancy tinney

    i graduated in 1970. i had a panamanian gym teacher named mrs. young, whose command of english was minimal. when we played volleyball, i always tried to volley with one hand (don’t ask me why) and she would yell “two hands, tinney!”. pretty soon my nickname was “two-hands tinney”. the speech teacher (don’t remember her name) was fabulous. my algebra teacher would say “well, don’t just sit there with your bare face hanging out (or ‘with your teeth in your mouth’)–say something!” i think he was from georgia. and then there was the civics teacher who began every class with “good morning students: everything is relative.” they weren’t just quotable, they also gave me a great high school education!

    • Janet SciglianiGarcia

      Mrs Young and Ms Harding (other gym teacher) were real characters. Mrs Young had bleach blonde, teased hair – always had sun glasses on. Ms Harding always had a smile on her face. I believe β€˜Helen’ was the name of the attendant that gave out and collected our gym uniforms. A very nice Panamanian lady.
      Sounds like your algebra teacher was Mr Williams. He always had a bow tie on and his remarks were usually snarky.
      I graduated in 1968.

  • Jim

    Jim Sweeney, former teacher and coach BHS 1972 to 1999 with seven years in between elsewhere.

    This is the college wing of the high school. It is connected to the main building with a breeze way on both the first and second stories. It was originally Canal Zone College, while the main building was the high school. When the College moved to the old Latin American School Campus in La Boca the high school used both buildings for classes. Most of the math, social studies, English, and administration offices were in the main building while the building shown in this picture had science classes, Spanish, art, and some others. The old wooden building was behind this building and had some classes and I think may have been a junior high at one time, but was later torn down. For a time when I taught at BHS the wooden building had the Athletic directors’ office and a teachers’ lounge, which I didn’t visit because it was always full of cigarette smoke. There were also single story classrooms behind the main building where there were more classes, the ROTC, computer classes, math, biology, and Chemistry. The buses came between these buildings and the gym and sports field at Balboa Stadium. It was connected by a covered high roof so you could avoid the rain during rainy season when going to the buses or gym.
    I taught in room 301 from 1972 until about 1985. I taught mostly social studies, but once or twice a few gym classes. My favorite classes were Behavioral Science, Humanities in Three Cities, and Anthropology. I also taught geography, World Regions, US History, and Tradition and Change in Four World Societies, as well as ethnic studies, psychology, and government. Our first department chair was Joe Norton, who would let us meet to try to decide what to teach each year. Very democratic way of doing things.
    Later I went on sabbatical 85-86 and came back to a different room before going to the college for two years, then the junior high for four and returning to BHS to finish my teaching career from 95-99 when we had the last graduation on the front lawn, with a fence around the campus to protect us from problems with Panama. There was a demonstration for the anniversary of the Flag Riots and some figures of kids trying to climb the fence made of wood or cardboard were put on the fence for a while.
    The school was famous for the start of the 1964 Flag Riots over the flying of the Panama Flag alongside the US flag at the high school flag pole. The conflict and riots began there in front of the high school. Today the buildings are used by the new Canal Authority as offices.
    All my four kids graduated from BHS and played sports there. Some of my fellow teachers were also graduates of the school. We initially had to have a masters to get hired there, something not required of stateside high school teachers. I coached a variety of teams, five years of tennis (four we won the league, football (three as JV coach, winning each year, two as Bulldog assistant coach, 8 as head coach Red Machine), 26 years as swim coach, also some intramurals, and sponsored for a time the Afro-American Club. I coached football at the college for about 8 years as an assistant to Louis Husted, and coached mens volleyball and coed track for a while as well, which later included BHS students, as well as Curundu students when we went to the draft. I used to teach summer school when not on home leave.
    My favorite time of the year was football season. It was a very popular sport and the coaches were really serious about it. Lots of students got to play football as high school players at one point could be drafted on one of four teams along with ninth graders from Curundu and college students at the College. All my sons played for various teams and my daughter was a cheerleader. The coaches were good friends and we had lots of fun with the sports programs, for the most part, trying to make it interesting and rewarding for the students in our limited way and I think it mostly worked quite well.
    The school, students and faculty went through lots of changes, threats, and unique experiences over the years I was there. The school was used as a refugee camp for residents of Chorillo when it burned down during Just Cause Invasion. Hundreds of families were temporarily housed on the football field, in the gym, on the outdoor volleyball courts and under the stadium as well as on the stadium steps. The ROTC office was a dispensary. Military guys used the classrooms to sleep during the invasion and the school was surrounded by concertina wire. I remember watching the Guardia National chasing strikers from the port during the opposition to Noriega, while the school was on lock down and we were all in the library watching the people trying to avoid getting caught.
    We went through a period when bomb scares were popular and frequently had to evacuate to the stadium or across the street to the shop areas. Later the teachers were assigned to check lockers for bombs. Not a good plan I think.
    We transferred from the Canal Zone Schools to the Department of Defense Schools and it was at first difficult to adjust to some of the differences and the threats to our jobs and housing. Later it worked out OK. We had a sick out as part of the concerns over labor issues related to the Panama Canal Treaty negotiations. The schools were closed for a few days and the students joined the teachers in striking. There were several protest marches and mass meetings of concern during the treaty negotiation times at the stadium. We were all concerned about our jobs and the survival of the community. In 1989 the school year was cut short because of the election crisis and we were all evacuated from our housing in Panama City and sent to the US for the summer. Things changed and for some of us it worked out for the best.
    Lots of memories of my time at BHS.

    • Mimi Stratford Collins

      Thanks for sharing your story, Jim. I graduated BHS in ’61 and CZJC in ’63, and went on to teach in Micronesia, Australia, American Samoa, and Liberia. Even in Liberia, between the coup and the civil war, we didn’t have your adventures! I’ve read the Knapps’ “Red, White and Blue Paradise” and also appreciate their “on the ground” perspective. Thanks again.

    • guess who

      I remember coach Sweeney πŸ™‚ Really cool guy! I wonder if he can post any of his cayuco race pics. I remember Jason too. I played for Red Machine . Rick Dahlstrom was our coach… good guy too. We won the season without losing a game. Hahaha Bulldogs especially ROBERT THRIFT…sniff, boo-hoo! Haha: Darrel Moore & Cougars! ( Love your pic in the 89 Zonian…. INTERCEPTED) I was friends with most students but kept to myself most of the time. Still do. Still live here. I can ride my bike to old BHS. I dont dwell much about its history before during or after I was a student but I always remember the funny moments with everyone who was cool.

    • Rusty Collins

      I had you for for PE at Curundu and World regions in 9th grade. Don’t know how many f-ups you had named Rusty among your years but i would like to thank you foe letting me sllep through world history in 11th grade and making the teacher nuts for still getting a solid B. You made it interesting even tho i wouldv’e admitted it at the time.

    • Jeff Engelhardt

      I had Mr. Sweeney for World History in β€˜β€™81 and remember watching Movies featuring Charles Bukowski who we would laugh at and that Mr. Sweeney had a great sense of humor – never A dull moment! Long time ago in another world!

  • Sandra

    Mr, Sweeney was a cool and fun teacher in a cool and fun place to grow up. Great memories of my three short years at BHS. Paradise!

  • Robert Dillon

    The first floor had the chemistry and physics labs. The physics lab being, if I recall, in the middle on the facing side of the building. Chemistry classroom and lab on the back and I think it took the middle for the classroom and right side of the bottom floor for the lab (2 rooms with a chemical storeroom and small office in the middle). The lab had big sinks, a shower, eyewash, big black tables with electric outlets and gas for burners. I had Mr. Holland for Physics and Mr. Thale (hope I spelled that right) for Chemistry. I remember that Mr. Dekle taught art on the bottom floor, facing-side right classroom and he taught drivers ed during the summers. Allen Dekle and I used to grade the drivers ed papers when we were kids. I remember one summer, late in the ’70s, we helped him clean out his classroom at the end of the year. They were throwing out all the old slide rules (calculators had just become a “thing”) and I took some home and learned how to use them. A skill I never used again.

  • Kathy Graham

    I was at BHS from 1974 to 1976. Fabulous memories, and our class of 1976 just had a 40th class reunion in Panama this year in Februrary. My fondest memories were of my literature class my senior year, taught by Charles Walls (RIP). Loved my time in the Canal Zone and at BHS–so glad my class has kept in touch all these years.

  • John E Schmidt Jr

    Well I guess it is not much fun t share my memories of the 46-50 time frame in those magnificent building that housed my Jr High and High years. Class of 50. “Nifty Class of Fifty” I don’t want to give away our secrets of those days. so I wont even try. Our Class of 170 special kids are still around today and when we can – we relive the most wonderful and special days of our lives.
    John Schmidt
    BHS 50

  • Bob Zumbado

    This article and series of comments should include a better photo of the jr. college, the high school built circa 1942 and the Balboa School building which many remember as the elementary school. A picture of the so called elementary school would show that high up on the building are the words Balboa School. This building was actually the Pacific side version of a “one room” school house. It housed elementary, junior high and high schools. Of course it had many rooms and several stories. Eventually it became just the elementary school. As the CZ work force grew the need for more buildings became necessary and the, someone used the word “iconic,”high school was built. I graduated from BHS in 1955 and wonderful memories abound. I spent grades 3 through 6 in Balboa School and have fond memories of that school. Do any of you remember Mrs. Erickson, Mrs. Maulden, Miss Guerke (later Wallace), Mrs. Milavetz, Miss Baker? Remember recess in the field where now the Goethals Memorial stands. How about the pathway to the orchid garden? Great place to grow up!

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