Canal Zone Schools

Curundu Junior High School

This undated aerial photograph features Curundu Junior High School.  Do you have any information that could help us add a date to this photo’s record?



The domed building at Curundu Junior High is an interesting architectural feature!  Does anyone remember what’s inside?


  • Barbara T. Hudson

    Dear Aaron and Katie, I just read through your posts since February. Sorry I didn’t get to them sooner. This one and the few before were what drew my attention to it. Did you post these to the museum? Did you send them to us because you saw we had been on the site yesterday (or recently, time flies)? What is your connection to the Canal Zone? We lived there from September 1969 to January 1988. My husband, Gary, taught one year at Margarita Elementary school, many years at Coco Solo Elementary School, and two years at Los Rios Elementary. I taught one quarter at Cristobal High School. Was also interested in reading about your spring break experience at some Florida beach. Where were you? There are several beaches that are known for spring break. If you come again let me know ahead of time. Maybe I could visit with you and your group. I live in Tallahassee. Are you on some special missions trip this summer? Your sister in Christ, Barbara Hudson If you forward this correspondence, PLEASE delete the forwarding history, which includes my email address. It is a courtesy to me and others who may not wish to have their email addresses sent all over the world. Erasing the history helps prevent Spammers from mining addresses and viruses from being propagated. Thank you.If you agree with this, you may want to add this as a signature to all your emails, too.

    • Melissa Roesel

      There was a full cafeteria line there. Hot food used to be served. There were also vending machines. I attended in the early 80s. Good times.

      • Aaron

        They had a short order line and a regular school lunch line. My friends and I preferred the cheese fries and chili-cheese fries. 1989

      • Monty Burck

        The domed building at Curundu Junior High School was called the Cafetorium Where School assemblies were held, it was also the lunch room where lunch period consisted of about four lunch periods. Also vending machines weee also available. There were stairs going up top to sit for assemblies looking.down. The building was also used for dances throughout the year. The building in the front facing the road was the A bldg, the building in the middle was the B bldg, the building next to the back road was C bldg, the building accross the street was the F bldg. The boys and girls gyms were on top of the picture.

    • Tina Martin

      When I was at this school in 1978 it was the cafeteria ..I would love to hear from anyone who was there then ..also I went to Balboa high school canal zone ..would love to hear from anyone who was there when I was …

  • Carol Meyer

    The Buckminster “Fullerene” shaped building was called the “cafetorium”. It served as a place to eat and an auditorium. I was only in there once and that was to give a concert and the roof leaked like a sieve. I recall seeing lots of food and drink dispensing machines so I’m pretty sure there was no hot food provided.

  • Robert Dixon Gordon

    Thanks for a more precise picture and location, of the Curundu Domed. Last week I wrote a note regarding the location of the Domed, and I was corrected, Guess, that I got confused, by those structures at Fort Clayton back gate. The picture displayed above, gave me a clearer picture of it’s correct location. I remembered back in the early seventies, that the dome hosted quite a few vending machines, for the kids that attended school there, and it was operated by the Panama canal company, General services division,, “Vending, ” for the supply division. The supervisor in charged there was Mr, Rivera, a Porto Rican, American, supervisor. My job here was to take the empty money cans from the Balboa club house located adjacent to the Balboa swimming pool, where they had the money machines, Mr, Rivera’s job was to replace the empty cans, turn over the full ones, and I would take the full cans of money back the Money room at the Balboa club house. After the money was checked properly, at 14:00 hours, the clerk called the Balboa police station for an escort, for me to take the money to the bank located next to the club house, were it was deposited on a daily basis. also being a band member from the Mandingos band, a group of army soldiers mainly vietnam vets, stationed at fort Clayton, played gigs, on some weekends at said domed. As the treaties took effect in 1979, Mr, Rivera was transferred to the Canal protection division. As I collected my awards from Canal zone Governor Harold Parfitt, I was rifted to the motor transportation division, shuttling those panama canal pilots cross country, until I decided to join the ranks of the canal protection division, where I met once again with Mr, Rivera, now, a sector supervisor. Months after mr, Rivera left and returned to the states, I got promoted to a sector supervisor. I guess,,,those episodes we lived and enjoyed back then, should never be forgotten, as long as we live.

  • Jose Claudio

    I attended Curundu Junior High School from about 1970-72. We were bused to the school from Howard Air Force Base.That very unique domed building was the school cafeteria and when needed auditorium. We would watch educational films. We purchased lunch from the row of vending machines along the inside wall of the dome, about one the third of the dome. The remainder of the cafeteria consisted of long tables for the students to sit and eat. My favorite food from the vending machine was the warm empanda and honey buns. Empanadas from a vending machine. What a treat! We even had emapanada fights( throwing them at each other). On a more serious note I want to say how wonderful of an experience we had attending Canal Zone schools. We had excellent committed educators. Top notch. I would compare my education to a private rather than public education and institution. Hope that was of some help.

    • Kenneth Bemnett

      I attended Curundu 73-74, it was such a great time… remembered playing football on what I recall was the Gold team; really crazy thinking back on how we would play against Balboar High School… my family lived near the back gate on Albrook Air Force Base.

    • Lisa Castillo

      Jose – I attended Curundu from 1973 thru 1975 and was bussed there from Ft. Kobbe. Many of my friends were from Howard AFB. I was a cheerleader for the Howard Eagles football team. Terry Haggerty and Bev Beckham were from Howard and also cheerleasers. Steve & Ricky Willis, Al & Chuck Gammons & Dale Wold were also from Howard. I played violin in Curundu’s orchestra under Mr. Woodruff and also sang in the choir under Mr. Chapman. I performed a number of solo guitar songs during several of the musical performances by the choir in that cafetorium and recall our orchestral performances there as well. I ran for class secretary against Marcie Coombs & recall my campaign speech on that stage! I lost.
      The cafetorium was a central lifeline for us & I luv’d the warm empanadas from the vending machines, too. Everyone did! I also ran track, so that track in the photo is very familiar, as is the single section of buildings nearest the track as that’s where the orchestra/chorus rooms were located. My mom threw away all my yearbooks from Curundu! Would love to see the ones from the years I was there as they were so unique. I had 1 or 2 of those girls 1-piece gym suits we wore for gym class for the longest time! I remember running many laps around that track & also practicing sprints & hurdles. I agree the school was a class act & the teachers were top shelf. Lots of programs to be involved in.

  • Tammie Ferguson

    I attended Curundu upon moving to the CZ in 1973. The doom was the cafeteria/auditorium. Everyone ate out of vending machines and it was great. JOSE I agree with you our education was top notch. I graduated from Balboa High in 1978. At that time it was ranked as one of the top 10 high schools in the world and I am proud to say we are still the BALBOA BULLDOGS

    • yesenia marchena

      Hugh Thomas, requerimos contactarlo por parte de la Facultad de Bellas Artes, Universidad de Panama o alguien puede saber como lo contactamos, dejar mensaje a, sobre proyecto cultural y patrimonio académico.

      • yesenia marchena

        Hello we FACULTY OF ARTS BELAS, I need your mail to inforación of Curundú Middle Schooll, academic project and commemorate Iberoamerican Capital of Culture for the year 2019, nomination coincides with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the panama city,We are contacting people who studied there, 1960-1979, who have to submit photos gallery, may email:
        we are creating project to celebrate and make a gallery Curundú Middle Schooll, and invite those who studied there.

  • Hugh Thomas

    I went to 7th grade at Curundu Junior High School the year it opened, 1966. Our class was the first class to go all 3 years at Curundu. The Cafetorium was the cafeteria and if the tables were moved it became an auditorium. There were some hot lunches served there when we were there but alot of the food was also sold from vending machines. The original school layout only had A,B and C buildings plus the cafetorium. Additional building were later added.

  • Gail Goodrich Totten

    Hugh is right – there WAS hot food in the Cafetorium! I was in 9th grade the year Curundu opened, and we were the first class to have to stay an extra year in junior high, which I did not like! I think the photo must have been taken around the time the school opened, because I remember how muddy and bare the grounds looked. When we got to high school, we had our dances in the Cafetorium, so I have 4 years of memories there!

  • Kelly Karst

    The campus is now part of the University of Panama. The dome is an auditorium with permanent theatre seating. Saw a lovely concert by the University’s small orchestra there a few weeks ago.

  • Jennifer Annis Marquardt

    The dome did leak from day one. We also took our standardized tests in there. The building in the far back right were two gyms (one for boys and one for girls) for physical education. I believe the low building on the left was for art. The buses lined up on the curved road in the front. After-school fights were held in the open area between the dome and the buses.

  • Ewald Wiberg

    To help date the picture, the building on the left, F Building, opened for use in the 1969-70 school year. It aight social studies in room F102 from 1969 to 1971.

  • Louis E. Blount

    The dome building was the cafeteria. I went there in 1967. What a great life and time for me. One way halls. A theatre style basement to view movies. Way ahead of its time.

      • Kim Howard

        My name was kimberely Baher back then my father was in the service we were bussed to school there was a place on the out skirts we called Hollywood it was sad u would see naked kids running around and people lived in in huts I remember the cafeteria at our school because I bought em pandas put of it daily I got to swim year round for pe due to my asthma and allergies going to balboa was a big deal

        • Evangeline "aEva" Thompson

          Yes. This domed bldg was known as “the cafetorium.” To my recollection it was a multi-purpose building.
          It served as a cafetteria where you could buy a hot lunch, get foods from vending machines (particularly delish, were the fried chicken sandwiches, the likes of which I have never again tasted since graduating from Cristobal High School in 1977.)
          You could also bring a lunch from home and sit with friends to talk. I remember there being 2 lunch periods.

          The building served for dances, special school meeting, rallies, getting class photos for the yearbooks, it also hosted the annual Talent Show auditions and shows, by much beloved music teacher, Carl Chapman. (R.I.P).

          We had 2 lunch monitors when I went to school there. They watched the doors, broke up fights and were generally swoonwd over by the yound ladies. Ron Farnsworth and Gilly Lopez (R.I.P.)

          In the afternoon, around 1500, the yellow and white Bluebird school busses, that would deliver us home, would begin to circle the school driveway,

          Just a note…the near end of “F” Building was Mr Woodruff’s Band room and the far end was Mr. Chapman’s choir class. Most of the classrooms between them held 7th grade English, History, Art, Math,(Mrs. Foulk) and Life Science. (Mrs. Garcia). Time has erased other names.
          I think that if any of the cars could be identified…some car buff could come close to gueasing the year this photo was taken. I’m guessing 1970-1972. I attended here from 1972-1974.

  • Linda Adkins Stauffer

    Taking a bus from Howard AFB, I went to Curundu from mid-8th grade to 9th grade. The Cafetorium was my favorite building. With that dome, it seemed so futuristic! I loved the heated vending machine food, especially the empanadas. Looking back, I think it made me feel sophisticated and independent to operate them and make my own choices. Hot food was also served, cafeteria style, but I don’t have any memories of that – only those vending machines!
    I am remembering back to the Sadie Hawkins dance in the Cafetorium during 9th grade in 1968, and was even voted Daisy Mae for the dance. I had a white peasant style shirt with large black polka dots and a black skirt that had been cut short in a jagged style, with a rope belt. The girls asked the guys to the dance and, as Daisy Mae, I had to run after and “catch” Lil’ Abner. The picture is in the yearbook. It was the one dance where the best fashion was to be barefoot!
    One classroom I loved reminded me of a theatre. You entered from the rear and it was on a grade, descending in steps. It had special sunken accent lighting and was way beyond any school I had ever attended. It felt like an upscale college classroom for the time. If I’m not mistaken, it had theatre type seats. I took a history class in that room and I remember drawing elaborate battle plans from the Civil War in our black and white composition notebooks. I sure wish I still had those books. Great memories at Curundu!

    • Ron Swann

      O my God. LInda!!! I remeber you. Your famliy lived three doors down from mine and the Dooley”s. Curundu was so modern so hip. Remmeber Mr Spriggs Art class out side?

      • Linda Adkins Stauffer

        Hey Ronnie! Wow, it’s awesome to hear from you! I just found your response through a fluke, so I’m not sure you’ll get my return response unless you checked the box to receive them. Yes, I remember you so well! We rode the same bus. I think you were also around when Bruce died from the explosion of the cannon he made, but turned into a pipe bomb? Do you remember our street address?

      • Valerie Monda

        Hello Linda, My name is Valerie Gille, I believe you knew my sister Ardythe Gille. I remember the cannonball incident well as Ardythe was at the Higgenbothoms with Cathy Cidd?

  • Clea

    The dome’s roof when it was built was insulated using asbestos. This was before the dangers of asbestos was fully understood or appreciated. I do not know if the insulation was ever removed and replaced.

    Coming from a Canal Zone elementary school background where you had the same teacher for all classes–except Spanish, attending 7th grade was eye-opening. We were greeted with something called “Homeroom”, and we then had to switch from class to class all before the Tardy bell rang. Sometimes for short legged folks that could prove challenging when changing from A building to F building. I attended grades 7th through 9th. We had lockers for our books, you could even sign up for something called study hall. If discipline was in order you had to attend detention class after school. We had intramural sports and Chorus. Home Economics was originally for girls while Shop classes were for boys. When I was there hot meals were served in the cafeteria (doom). There were also vending machines—-soda machines, candy machines and food dispensing machine–empanadas were very popular as a lunch meal and rather cheap in those days. If memory serves me right a quarter. They served some very interesting French fries that grew rubbery as the lunch hour progressed. Additionally, we had staggered lunch hours due to the size of the student body. Students were not allowed to leave the cafeteria until shortly before their classes resumed. Students sometimes skipped out of going to lunch and enjoyed sneaking off to the Curundu clubhouse for fried wontons, or over to the Curundu PAD (military shoppette) during their lunch break hoping they would not be caught by the school’s vice principle, Mr. Tucker. The students had fun with his name. (Mr. Tucker eventually taught at Canal Zone College History). Stationed at each exit of the cafeteria were government employees, usually college students, to prevent students from leaving the lunchroom before the time. General Assemblies were held in the dome during the day and at night it became the dance hall for school dances.

    Some of the teachers when I was there included Mr. Case–a math teacher, Mr. Wolf–a WWII veteran and history teacher, Mrs. McCauley, an English teacher..Her favorite expression posted on the chalkboard was..”a slip of the foot you may soon recover but a slip of the tongue you may never recover.” Who could ever forget tree diagraming and the Robert English series books. Mr. Reyes, was one of the Spanish teachers.

    U.S. Title 9 came into play while I was attending classes at Curundu and the school scrambled trying find girls willing to play golf on the varsity team. I lettered despite my abysmal showing in one tournament. and eventually learned to play pretty decent golf.

    When classes were released in the afternoon, I believe it was around 1415, the orange buses were lined up around the entire building from end to end. Each bus had a code letter designating specific neighborhoods. Areas like Fort Clayton had several buses, while Balboa Heights and Ancon shared one bus that was driven precisely on time by Mr. Evela (sp?)

    • Jim

      Jim Sweeney
      I taught at Curundu Junior High for four years, mostly PE, from 1991 to 1995. Then it became a middle school, grades 6-12 under new administration and I returned to Balboa High School for my last years teaching in Panama. My wife taught social studies and ESL there for many years. Curundu was the largest school in the Zone. It had wonderful facilities, a pool, gym, weight room, access to the nearby bowling alley for PE classes, a big field for football practices, tennis courts, track, softball field, two soccer fields, and of course the famous domed cafetorium, used for assemblies, dances, awards ceremonies, teacher conferences, Cayuco Race awards night, and lunches each day. There was a big disco ball for dances, which I had to sponsor at times when I taught at Balboa High School. because that is where most of our dances were held. The picture above must be from the 1960’s before the Curundu Pool was built in the upper right hand corner of the campus on the hill. When I taught there I remember watching toucans flying over the campus, toward the jungle across the street. Now the campus is used by the University of Panama. During the Panama Invasion it was used by the US military as a temporary base.
      For a time the track Coach, Louis Husted, kept the school track and field records on a big board in the Cafetorium, until a new principal came along and painted some educational sayings over it.
      For a time Curundu sponsored sports teams in the Canal Zone Schools Division Leagues. At first they were JV teams that played against sophomores at BHS and lower classmen from CHS. The basketball team even played the JV at the College and usually won (Ron Bussiere was the coach then). Later when we went to a draft system for most sports seven to ninth graders could enter the draft and compete against high school and college age players, often doing quite well. Students were drafted by four teams on the Pacific Side, two from BHS, the Red Machine and Bulldogs, and one each from Curundu and the College. All sports except swimming drafted to include Curundu students, and only Curundu ninth graders or especially large 8th graders could be drafted for football. The soccer coach, Gary Hauser (later killed by killer bees in the Canal fishing off Barro Colorado Island) wanted to retain an all Curundu soccer team so they stayed out of the draft for most of the time. Including junior high athletes worked quite well. My seventh grade tennis playing son was able to beat a sophomore in college player, and sometimes younger players started on varsity teams. I did quite well using lots of junior high girls on my track team. This ended when the administration changed, much to the coaches chagrin, as Curundu became a middle school. Eventually they returned to the sports league in some sports, including track and swimming, while the high school teams continued to use their facilities and one team continued to be called the Curundu Cougars, but was made up of high school players from BHS.

  • Colin Crozier

    After running into empanadas at a Christmas party I was reminded of the vending machine empanadas in the cafetorium . I did a search and found this site , unbelievable ! I lived at Ft. Clayton ’65 to ’67 . I went to 6th grade at Diablo ( anyone remember Mo and battle ball ? ) and Curundu for 7th . I loved the empanadas and I fondly remember Mr. Wolf who made me write “I am a mealy mouthed moron” one hundred times for talking in class.

  • Clea

    Colin did Mr. Wolf ever share with your history class how when he was a soldier during WWII, how the Americans would greet the Russians in Berlin? When I had him as a history teacher he was explaining to the class what the mood was like in Berlin during the onset of the Cold War. When military personnel would great each other in that town, they would firmly shake hands, and while doing so attempt to thrust their elbow with sufficient force into each other’s ribs, in order to break a rib. They weren’t allow to fight since they were still allies at that time.

    Several of my classmates, impressed with Mr. Wolf’s description of this type of handshake greeting, attempted to mimic this maneuver with each other during class. One of my classmates, shaking my hand missed my ribs with his elbow and I landed in the school clinic with a split upper lip. I still have the scar.

    Mr. Wolf was incredible as a teacher and made history come to life in class.

  • Andy Sanchez

    The dome is where we ate lunch. Also I remember our choir performing in front of our parents and the student body in the dome.

  • Jim Parthenais

    I’m guessing the picture is very early 70’s. F building (top left) was added after original construction. The swimming pool predated the the school as I can remember watching the school being built from the pool – around 1965.

    • yesenia marchena

      Hello we FACULTY OF ARTS BELAS, I need your mail to inforación of Curundú Middle Schooll, academic project and commemorate Iberoamerican Capital of Culture for the year 2019, nomination coincides with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the panama city,We are contacting people who studied there, 1960-1979, who have to submit photos gallery, may email:
      we are creating project to celebrate and make a gallery Curundú Middle Schooll, and invite those who studied there.

  • bobdmagic

    I attended this school the first year it was open. As I remember the ceiling of the cafeteria had a egg carton like material and the students would toss their pencils into the air and stick them into the ceiling.

    • Mark K Boyd

      I also remember Mr. Vaughn kicking trash cans! I also had a Spanish teacher that was quite a character, but I can’t remember his name. Anyone remember? (circa 1975).

  • Jo

    Curundu was a sealed, air-conditioned building with tall windows that could not be opened. Frequently buzzards sat on the small concrete ledges at the bases of the windows. Usually, the teachers then drew the narrow black shades so the students stayed on task instead of “bird watching”. Initially, the main building (A, B, C) had no classroom doors. Instead, the hallways had several all-glass partitions with doors. I suppose this was to help with the air conditioning, but instead the hall doors proved to be traffic hazards. The hallway slow-down plus the distraction of watching others pass in front of the classrooms (sometimes making quite spectacular displays) eventually caused the installation of individual classroom doors and the removal of the hallway glass doors.

    Once Mr. Collins bet Mr. Dyer that he, Mr. Collins, could stand directly in front of him, Mr. Dyer, and that Mr. Dyer would be unable to touch him. Mr. Collins won because he stood on one side of the glass hallway partition while Mr. Dyer stood on the other. (They both taught Math in A Bldg and constantly had competitions of one sort or another.) Mr. Vaughn, Social Studies in C, was well-known for kicking his metal wastebasket into the hall when he was upset. His wastebaskets were replaced regularly.

    On rare occasions when the air conditioning was not functioning, we held outdoor classes. Some of the students had a tendency to sneak to the guppy-filled concrete ditch behind F Bldg. Others tried to wander off to the Curundu Clubhouse nearby. It was on 3rd Street diagonal to the wooden theater.

    Little known is that in 3rd floor A Bldg was a completely-furnished photography lab. When I used it at night, I took along my Doberman Pinscher, whose pad I kept there. The facility and grounds were too spooky with no one else around.

    C Bldg 3rd floor had special rooms with raised stages for theater, etc. On the second floor were well-equipped science labs.

    The first floor, or basement, held huge Industrial Arts Shops and Home Economic Labs, and the equipment in each was incredible. Also in the first floor was the tiered theater room for viewing films, mentioned in other replies.

    Curundu had one elevator, used mainly for moving supplies and disabled persons. Only a few had a key to this jewel.

    The mass use of windows in the building gave it a very open, cheerful feel.

    F Building was built soon after the main building because of so many students…around 2000 at the time. Primarily, it held 7th grade Social Studies and Science. Also, there were 2 huge Art rooms in which were taught grades 7-9. The large rooms at each end were for Music. On the left was Band; on the right was Choral and Orchestra.

    The students’ preferred seating area in the geodesic Cafetorium (cafeteria plus auditorium) was the balcony because the seats were tiered…and they could harass the students below by hanging over the railing (until caught). It was located directly above the food preparation area. The lunches were staggered into 3 shifts. And yes, there was always hot food prepared there. Rarely did I buy a plate lunch because also sold were the best empanadas in the world and sticky buns from Balboa Clubhouse. Sadness came when both were discontinued.

    The campus was large, stretching from the athletic fields behind F Bldg to the swimming pool across the street from the main entrance In A Bldg, to the gyms and track in front of B Bldg. Not only that, the main building had 3 floors. It was not always easy for the students to get from one destination to the next without being out of breath…or tardy.

    Curundu began as a junior high school, grades 7-9, and ended its Canal Zone career as a middle school, grades 6-8.

    • Jo

      Correction…the Curundu Clubhouse is directly after 3rd Street when walking from the school. It can be seen in the upper right of the photo, to the left of the white car. It is on the main road to the Curundu housing area, but I do not remember the name of the road. The theater is on the same road, but it is not pictured. It is on the other side of the street.

      • Kenneth Bemnett

        Hello Phillip, I also attended 72 – 73… was a pretty good running back for the football team… lived on Albrook also.

  • Phillip Wilhelm

    I went to Curundu in 1972 and 1973 for 7the and 8th grade. It was a wonderful school and the school itself was world class. I remember lots of dances in the Cafetorium. Also, I remember the English teacher we had was a real beauty. She was the dream for every boy in school. I also remember Mr. Tucker, the assistant principal and Disciplinetarian. I had quite a few after school and Saturday morning detentions. My dad made me walk home from Curundu to Albrook AFB if I had a detention. Most of the time, I hitchhiked…lol.

  • Denise Lynch Sargent

    My sister and I were at Curundu in 67-68 and I remember that cafetorium well. I’ve read all the posts, so please forgive me for mentioning yet again those fantasitc empanadas and sticky buns! On a good day the empanadas wouldn’t even fit in the little waxed paper sleeves they came in. I spent some time on the smallish empanada days wondering if the cook had just woken up cranky or something. The sticky buns never dissapointed. They came wrapped tightly in plastic and dotted with currants in their sticky elixir. I’m so sorry to hear that CJH students some time after I’d left did not get to have these for lunch. Although I loved the days I was able to buy lunch, putting my coins into those vending machines and picking the same thing every time (empanadas 25 cents, sticky buns 20 cents or eskimo pie as hard frozen as a block of ice 15 cents, and a cup of soda on shaved ice 10 cents), the most important thing about Curundu was its air conditioning! No small thing after 6 years of screens and blinds at home and at St. Mary’s. I loved Mrs. McCauley’s English class, mostly because I could spend the whole time cooled off and window dreaming. I can’t remember anything I learned, but I do remember what the clouds looked like from up there on the 2nd floor. Mrs. McCauley was very sweet about my wandering mind. I also remember Sr. Gumina for Spanish, and the joke was that if you sat in the front row he spit on you— accidentally of course. There was a language lab we had to go into every now and then. We sat with headphones on and were supposed to repeat phrases. Naturally I spent the time dreaming about Paul McCartney, until Sr. Gumina interrupted my thoughts right in my ear with a, “repeatalo por favor senorita Lynch.” If I’m not mistaken the man actually had a southern accent. His was my last class and one day I had to run back in for something and there he was having his usual soup or fruit cocktail out of a thermos with a red cup. Jeez, the things I remember!

    As schools go, Curundu was pretty spectacular. The hallways of each floor had some fantastic brickwork on the walls. One floor was orangish brick and the other was blue brick. They were shiny and cool (having come from New York, my memories of the CZ were a lot about cooling off). I recall HATING P.E. because it meant I had to go outside and run. Seriously? I was sweaty and red faced for the rest of the day. The ride home on the bus was longish and bumpy. During the riots we had to take the back route and passed by “Hollywood.” Was that really the name of it? It is still a reality check for me remembering the poorest of the poor in that sad place. From those rides I learned for life that we live like royalty in this country.

    Finally, I can’t remember if it happened at CJH, but one fun thing about those buses was getting “the candy cane bus” around Christmas time. Who knows where they stored it, but I never saw it except for the holidays. The whole bus was painted white with candy cane stripes. You never knew if it would be on your route until it pulled up. Those candy cane bus rides were always cool and never bumpy.

    • Jose Claudio

      Hi Denise,

      Thanks for your post. The part where you discuss “Hollywood” was touching for me. I remember our bus ride from Howard AFB and when passing by Hollywood and feeling compassion for those Panamanians that were less fortunate than me. That is an experience I will never forget especially after it rained and many of the residents would climb up the the trees because of the flooding. I attended Curundu in 1970-72. I miss Panama and hope to visit one day.

      • RR

        Jose Claudio! My brother used to hang out with you! We lived “behind” you…I believe the number was B-53 or 54….wow…blast fm the past! I think your family left before we did….we left in ’74.

  • Denise Lynch Sargent

    Hello Jose,
    Glad to hear from someone else who remembers this. The residents of that unforgiving place have never left me. I remember that every little kid wore nothing but a large filthy and holey t-shirt. I guess that was the only thing that made sense. A muddy stream of filth ran through the whole place. Some homes were made of cardboard with corrugated sheets for roofing. Like I said, I learned a lot down there. There is much to marvel at and miss about such a childhood.

    • Jose Claudio

      Hello Denise,
      Your use of “unforgiving” is an accurate description of Hollywood. I remember making eye contact with a boy standing on a tree and he just looked at me with this what I perceive as “awe”. It was if like he was questioning who are those kids in the yellow bus. Where do they come from? Thanks again for bringing back memories.

      • Steve Rosholt

        Hi Carlos….this is Steve Rosholt…your eighth street neighbor & fellow Curundu Jr High classmate…are you on Facebook. ..look me up so we can get up to date..Stephen Rosholt Chavez

    • yesenia marchena

      Denise Lynch Sargent, nos gustaria contactarla, somos de la facultad de Bellas Artes, del campus Harmodio Arias Madrid, ahora llamado. antigua escuela curundú. dejarnos algun correo a espero que nos podamos contactar y explicar sobre el proyecto.

      • yesenia marchena

        Hello we FACULTY OF ARTS BELAS, I need your mail to inforación of Curundú Middle Schooll, academic project and commemorate Iberoamerican Capital of Culture for the year 2019, nomination coincides with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the panama city,We are contacting people who studied there, 1960-1979, who have to submit photos gallery, may email:
        we are creating project to celebrate and make a gallery Curundú Middle Schooll, and invite those who studied there.

  • Carlos Herrera

    I attended Curundu JH for one year 1967-1968. It was quite a change from Los Rios Elementary. Plus, since I lived in Curundu Heights, I could walk to school. I remember while they were building it, before that, we would burn X-mas trees on that site and roast hotdogs/marshmallows. Back then, we lived on Eight St before moving to Curundu Heights.


    Sheer size of the school- three stories
    All the students-three shifts for the Cafetorium
    A food fight at the Cafetorium
    The neighbor who wanted to beat me up all school year, I spent most of the year trying to avoid him.
    His dad worked with my dad at IAGS.
    Loved the food in the Cafetorium
    Saturday detention- for spiting
    Social dances- I was too shy to ask anyone
    It was nearly brand new at the time

  • Dave S

    I attended Curundu middle school from 1978-1979. I was there for all of my 7th grade and half of my 8th grade. My family was stationed on Fort Clayton. I really loved this school when I attended it. Great memories! I wonder is it still standing. I plan on taking my family to visit Panama next year so they can see where I grew up.

  • Andrew Pearson

    We were stationed in Panama from January 1987 to July 1987. Our 3- year deployment was cut short due to the death of a family member. I arrived mid-school year in 1986 as an 8th grader. Coming from Texas, it was total and complete culture shock! Dad was Army; worked at pier 18 in customs, and then another job later. We lived out on Ft. Amador Apt. 19B on the row of officer quarters. We got bused to Curundu Jr. High. I was never quite able to assimilate into the Canal Zone mentality. And being from Texas I’m sure in many ways I stood out as out of place as they all seemed to mem but what can you do? Looking back, Panama had a lot of unique experiences and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to offer, but as a hard-headed 14 yr old, I refused to appreciate that at the time. I still have an old grainy recording of the annual Cayuco Race across the isthmus, as broadcasted on SCN (Southern Command Network), the only English TV station. Overall, school was tolerable, because there were a lot of activities especially in P.E. (swimming, bowling, etc.) that you didn’t have in the schools I was used to). The cool geodesic dome used as a cafeteria was neat, and an air conditioned refuge from the ferocious humidity after doing jungle runs around the school complex during athletics. The hot meat pies served for lunch were awesome. I’ve never had any as good before for since. One thing that always stuck with me though was the completely horrid teaching of one Mr. Fisher for math. I truly struggled trying to learn math from that man for the second half of 8th grade and all of 9th grade Algebra. It felt as if he would literally write with one hand and erase with the other. If you didn’t get it, on the first time round, you just had to do the best you could. Of course some of that could be kid distortion, but it was an understatement that he did not do much to help the struggling students he had. One especially demoralizing tactic he used was to pass back tests in grade order, highest to lowest. The longer you had to wait to get your work back, the worse you know you did. I was always in the bottom third of the class, comfortably wedged between those there were struggling as I was and those that didn’t give a rats… you know. That just sucked! I worked my butt off, but always seemed for fall short some way. Mr. Fisher had no sympathy for anyone that needed extra help. Due to his poor example as an educator during my formative years in math, I struggled with the subject all through high school, then technical school, finally getting the hang of College Algebra in my sophomore year of college, and when I got my bachelors degree in education. To this day, trigonometry remains a mystery. Fast forward… As the old Chinese proverbs goes things have a way of working out when we try to find good in bad (or something to that affect). When I get tired, or when a kid has me at the end of my rope, or when I feel that I’m just too busy to take the time; I stop… I stop and think about sitting in Mr. Fisher’s class feeling completely overwhelmed and undervalued, as a student, and as a person. I think about they way Mr. Fisher indifferently made me feel stupid and helpless. Then, I take a deep breath, and reach out to see how I can help a child. In a weird twist, maybe Mr. Fisher didn’t fail completely. His less than admirable example as a teacher has helped me to become a better teacher, a better person.

    • yesenia marchena

      Hello we FACULTY OF ARTS BELAS, I need your mail to inforación of Curundú Middle Schooll, academic project and commemorate Iberoamerican Capital of Culture for the year 2019, nomination coincides with the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the panama city,We are contacting people who studied there, 1960-1979, who have to submit photos gallery, may email:
      we are creating project to celebrate and make a gallery Curundú Middle Schooll, and invite those who studied there.

      • Rich Hunt

        I know it is a few years after you wrote your post but I remember Mr Hunt vividly too since he was my dad. One of the disciplinary counselors at Curundu. He started out as a math teacher at BHS and moved to Curundu when it opened. Died back in Nov 2010 after being ill for a while.

  • Roger Funk

    Beautiful modern class rooms. I remember Mr Hunt and Mr Tucker vividly, down at the administration offices. There was a fist fight every day, either in the cafetorium or PE… The only class I liked was music, with Mr Woodruff. He was an orchestral violinist and very cool. I hung out in the music room which was F…building. in the mean time I had a detention every day for being late for class or for something else. I had plenty of Saturday detentions. I had to commute every Saturday on the bus. There were alot of badasses in school and you had to worry about getting into a fight either on the school bus, or in the bath room where they were smoking a joint or some shit.

  • lfriedman

    Amazing memories of Fort Clayton and going to Curundu. Funny, though, when thinking about school here (’67-’68), all I remember is the bus ride there, entering the school, music class and lunch. Music and lunch were both in the cafetorium, and I would die for a bit of one of those empanadas. With ketchup from the squirt bottles on the table.

    • Jose Claudio

      I too remember the bus ride from Howard AFB over the Thacter Ferry Bridge and passing by Hollywood where the people there lived in severe poverty and remember them looking at our bus in awe. Really empathized with their condition. I loved the warm empanadas from the vending machine and the sticky buns. Would take a bite from an
      empanada and then squirt it full with ketchup was there (70-73) and returned (74-75)

  • Bob Dillon

    Can anyone verify/confirm that the stuff coating the inside of the ceiling for the Cafetorium was indeed asbestos. We always assumed that it was.

    • Kathy

      I went to curundu from Fall 77 to February 1980.
      I skipped sixth grade so I was a very young 6th
      Grader. Some kids made fun of me in Spanish
      Class saying I should go back to 6th grade.
      I remember Mr. Reyes telling me not to be
      Upset and that God loved me. Which looking
      Back is very weird for a public school but I digress.
      I wish I had kept my cougar pride yearbook.
      I remember Panama so clearly. My name then was Kathy Koterwas and I lived on Fort Clayton

      • Andrew Pearson

        Hi, Kathy.

        Yeah, Panama was complete culture shock for our family coming from mid-1980’s Central Texas. We lived on Ft. Amador, arriving January of 86, in the middle of 8th grade year as a stubborn 14/15 year old. There were a lot of adjustments to say the least. We were ill-prepared for the social and cultural inequalities and prejudices we encountered, both from within the military community, but also from the Panamanian people and Canal Zone civilians, many of whom had U.S. background. It was a shock to see demonstrations downtown with picketers holding signs that read, “Yankee/Gringo go home.” We we’d never dealt with that before. It was a different world… Curundu Jr. High was a neat place architecturally speaking, with the cafeteria in the shape of a geodesic dome. I fondly remember the rigorous athletics and P.E. class, which compared to what I was used to in the states, were more like boot camp than P.E. Otherwise, school was pretty much school like anywhere else, however, Mr. Fisher’s math class was another matter. Having been a teacher myself for the last 15 years, it amazes me that Mr. Fisher was able to hold a teaching job. He was truly awful, not that he lacked sufficient pedagogical skill to teach, but that he displayed a very apathetic and mean disposition. Maybe he was trying to build character, or he was just burned out from teaching, which I can completely empathize with now. At the time though, it appeared that he took delight in doing things to make his struggling students like me feel unimportant and down right stupid. Without question he was the worst teacher I had in school. I endured him for the last half of 8th grade and all of Algebra I as a Freshman. It took years and very much effort to overcome my difficulties with math due to the impact of his “teaching.” But the upside is that I used that experience to inspire me to be a better than he was, not just a better teacher, but a better human being on planet earth. A little bit of “golden rule” goes a long way… just saying… When I get overwhelmed or frustrated I think about the example he set, and try to avoid being overly critical or jaded with my students. So I guess in a weird unexpected way something positive came from Mr. Fisher’s poor example.

        Looking back on the whole Panama experience I wish I had taken more stock of the uniqueness of our situation; being in such a diverse place, a place of many contrasts and features found nowhere else in the world. We left Panama after 18 months due to the death my grandfather and returned to Texas to care for my widowed grandmother. I’ve never been back to Panama, but have tried to keep up with what’s been going on there over the years, especially since 1999 when the control of the Canal was returned to the Panamanians. From what I’ve seen on Google Earth, the Panama City area, especially the former military bases: Clayton, Amador, Rodman, etc., have undergone a lot of changes. I suppose a lot of that came as a result of the 1989 scuffle to remove Noriega from power and again when the Panamanians regained control of the Canal Zone. I’ve also heard that different areas of Costa Rica and Panama have really blossomed into Ex-pat retirement and tourist areas. Maybe I will have the opportunity to return someday?

  • Constance Armstrong (Connie)

    I went to the Junior High for 76 to 78. I loved the Empanas, Have not had a good one since. My best friend was Teresa Ann Russell. I have been trying to locate her for years. They lived on FT. Clayton and I lived on Howard AFB.

  • Charles

    Was in Panama from 1977 to 1979. I love anything Panama. I can post photos. Ya have to tell me how. Miss Ft.kobee hide away beach. Taboga island.

    • hortustherapy

      Hello what a suprise to find this website. I left Diablo elementary for Curundu in 1980 I guess. I lived on Albrook and was bused to the school. I remember the amenities at Curundu being quite amazing. Full gym and swimming pool and great track facilities. We had bowling and self defense for PE for example. And wore bloomers for most of our PE classes. We also had Home economics (for the girls) and Shop (for the boys). How outdated 🙂 I was an audiovisual student assistant so I would set up and run the Projector for the Educational school films in class. Usually science or social science. The teachers were fabulous too. Very high calibre all the way round. Yes that dome was the cafeteria for the most part. Tamara

  • Ricauter Luis Rivera-Morales (Rick)

    I went to the elementary and the Jr High until 1975. I played soccer and basketball for the cougars. Ricauter “Ricky” Rivera ( I’m from Panama).

  • andrea Winkler

    I attended there as a Junior High School my 7th and 8th grade in 91-93. The dome was a cafeteria, it had snack machines we used during break times and we held school dances in there. It was so much fun. Those years were the best years I ever had growing up. When I was there they taught 7th through 9th and I returned to the states for my 9th grade year. My dad was in the army and when I graduated and went into the army in 1997 they were not sending troops over there any more. I would have loved to go back. I remember swimming classes but I don’t see the pool. I don’t remember where it was but I remember that it was so much fun.

  • Eliane Peres

    such great memories from my years at Curundu! lived in panama between 78 and 81. also went to los rios elementary. the cafetorium at Curundu was used for a lot of things: having lunch, school dances, taking standardized tests and lots more. i was also a girl scout and i absolutely loved it. lived in La Cresta as we were not american but i thoroughly enjoyed spending time at friends’ homes in the CZ. just like as if you were in the US!! <3

  • John Balschun

    Yes, go Cougars ! I was “born” in Curundu, Dad first moved us to a street close to Trap street, next to the Curundu swimming pool, that’s where I learned to swim at 5 or 6, I remember Carlos Creekey was a lifeguard and gave me swimming classes.
    Then my Dad got housing in 12th street. I was around 7. Made friends with Wayne, Mike, Dorian and Scotty.
    At 12, Dad obtained a duplex at the caparts, 1st street, formed part of the younger Curundu boys, with Jonathan, Jimmy, Russ and others. That year, 1970, started my 7th grade at Curundu Jr. High, all the way to 9th.
    During summer vacation we’d “live” at the gyms, Curundu JHS, played in the summer leagues, enjoyed watching the older teams, 16-19 year old leagues. They were real good, the Curundu team would always be in the championship, players were Jeff Scott, Rich Marohl, Tom Duncan, Jimmy Cobb, Darrel Artist. We (they) would play the Canal Zone military & civilian communities like Clayton, Howard, Albrook & Cocoli. Very competetive games, but all on “our” turf ! Remember the refreshment stands at the gyms, deliciously cold Spur colas.
    Good memories indeed.

  • Chuck Hanlon

    Wow! Just nothing but wonderful memories at Curundu – Thank you all for your postings.
    Chuck Hanlon – 1967 – 1969 – like Jose, we were bused over the bridge from Fort Kobbe. Then we moved to Albrook. Oh man, those empanadas – I bet I ate a truck load in that Gold Cafeteria.
    Does anybody know how to view Curundu Jr High Yearbooks on line or would Facebook post pictures from that far back?
    If you were stationed in Panama – then you should Thank God that you got to experience a lifestyle that kids in the States just can’t relate to! Warm weather year round, swimming at the beach inside of shark cages, LED Zeppelin, empanadas, Diablo Heights, rainy season, base housing and Balboa.
    I remember the pipe bomb explosion – I think it happened at Howard AFB.
    I played baseball with a guy from Howard named Gary Swan – a guy from Albrook named Kirby Dalton and Bill Boatwright from Balboa.
    We need to have a Curundu Reunion for all of those who were touched by that 3 storied Building and the Gold Dome Cafeteria.
    Oklahoma City is in the middle of the USA – let’s all meet there – any takers?

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