Canal Zone Schools

Diablo/Diablo Heights Elementary and Diablo Junior High School

Several Canal Zone school buildings were used for different grade levels at various times throughout their history; others transferred the school names to new buildings as they were constructed or relocated. Diablo/Diablo Heights Elementary and Diablo Junior High School were part of that practice.


The wooden building pictured was part of a collection of several structures that made up Diablo Elementary School by the 1980s. During that time only the first floor was used for school activities as the second floor was closed for use.

diabloJuniorHigh (2)

The Diablo Junior High School occupied one of the buildings that were later used as classroom spaces for Diablo Elementary School. There are some conflicting recollections about whether the older wooden building or one of the newer concrete structures housed the junior high students. Either way, Diablo Junior High School was in use in the 1960s between the time Balboa Junior High School closed and Curundu Junior High School was constructed. Once the middle grades were relocated to Curundu the building was used for elementary school activities.


  • Carl N Berg of Cocoli

    Re Diablo Elementary: this structure, I believe, is identical to the Cocoli School, but in the latter we did not have the steps in the middle of the building, the double steps you see directly behind the small, gabled portico at front. At the east end of Cocoli School, its large front yard and narrow driveway facing Tamarindo Avenue, a gabled-corrugated roof walkway connected the building to the nearby two-story gymnasium with a sizable blacktop parking area in the rear. From the top (upper rear back door) 2×6 landing of the emergency escape steps on the gymnasium’s east end, we had a good view from high up of the Little League baseball games only a few hundred feet away. There was room for about a dozen spectators on the landing; others could watch from the many steps at lower levels. The West Bank (Navy) team’s home field was the Cocoli ballpark; our team had quite a few players, including myself (1952-1953), from Cocoli. In 1993, I visited my home town (years 1947-1960 plus 1964-1966); sadly, the Cocoli School and gymnasium, among other public buildings, had been torn down and hauled off. In 1999, I stopped at the Diablo Clubhouse for empanadas, but they were no longer being sold. Caramba!! I remember the nearby Diablo Elementary School was still standing.

    • Doug Hanlon

      I went to Diablo Heights in 5th and 6th grade from 69-70. I remember Coach Kabablo and making making major as a patrol leader.

    • Leticia Welch-Dusenbery


      I was born in Panama, Canal Zone, in 1952. My family lived in Panama 1951 to1957.
      My older siblings went to Cocoli Elementary school. Three sisters, Eladia, Sharon, and Eileen Welch and my brother Brian Welch

      Do you know how to find school records of that time?

      Leticia Welch-Dusenbery

  • Lori Leung

    I attended Diablo Heights Elementary for kindergarten – 3rd grade 1969-1973. It was a one story building and it was right across the street from my house on Walker Avenue.

    • Peter Kirk

      Hi Diane – I also went to this school, I am thinking around 1971,72, 73… One of my teachers I remember to this day, Mrs. Beck. Also remember Mr. Wilson, Mr. Miskofski(principal), Mr. Wilkerson and Ruby in the office. Great school! I was a captain (patrol leader) as well and got out of class early to monitor the steps. HAHA, my memories are coming back fast…

  • Diane L. French

    This picture is so famiiiar as I started school at Diablo elemenary after moving to Los Rios in 1955. I went to fourth, fifth and sixth grade at this school. It has many memories for me as I loved playing on a softball team, and played in the gym. I had Girl Scouts in a little building next to the school. We even had a slumber party in the gym when I was in sixth grade. I got to be patrol leader being able to wear a while belt with a badge on it. I also enjoyed playing jacks under the school. We usually played before school and after lunch waiting for the bell to ring to go back to classes. It was neat being able to play under the school as when it rained it didn’t hurt our play time. While going to this school was when my father came to the school to take me to Gorgar Hospital to get me my polio shot that they had just received the vacine. I remember most of the children that were in my classes at this school as this was a fun time for me.

    • Mick

      We moved to the canal side of Corozal and I attend DHJH from 1963 – 1965 (7th and 8th grades) when we came from Puerto Rico after the Missile Crisis in 1962. I was in 7th grade math class when we got word JFK had been shot. Loved the Canal Zone! Came back to the states in 1965 (Fort Lee, VA).

      • Bobbie

        We lived on Ft. Clayton and I attended DHJH 7th and 8th (1963-1965) before moving to Ft Riley, Ks. Don’t remember any teachers except Mr Sprague for history.

  • Carla Rhea

    I attended DHJHS for 7th and 8th grade. That would have been 62-63 and 63-64 school years. At that time the Jr HS used both the new concrete and older wooden buildings for classes. I remember being on my way to a class on the second floor of the wooden building…I was on the stairs…when I learned that President Kennedy had been assassinated.

    • ngc3130

      Carla I went to DHJHS from 63-64 and 64-65. I was in Ms. Haig’s Social Studies class when hearing about Kennedy.

      I also remember Ms. Neville, Ms. Hess, Ms. Taylor.

  • Jerry Bliss

    Diablo Grammar was the last school I attended in CZ before moving to the states. This was in 1950. I was there in the 6th grade My house was in Carundo (spelling?) Heights and we were bussed to Diablo. sometimes I rode my bike that distance. As I recall, the teach was Ms Cocoli. LONG TIME AGO!

  • Mary Weadon Dias

    I attended school in Balboa 1960-62. What Junior High would that have been? I thought Balboa; but I do not recollect the pictures that I see of it. However, I do remember walking the sidewalk under the covered sidewalk on the pics of the Canal Zone Jr College. But I was only 14/15 at the time so I didn’t attend college. Can anyone help me with pics of what I remember. I will be taking a Princess cruise to the Panama Canal in March 2015.

    • Mary Weadon Dias

      I have been looking at more pictures and finally realized I must have attended Curundu Jr. High; but then I read it didn’t open until 1965. Help would be appreciated. My memory is not that good for over 50 years ago.

  • Steve Forster

    Arrived in 1964, 5th grade in the newer one story grade school with a/c. The next year the junior high moved to the new Curundu Junior High. My 6th grade class was selected to use the old Junior High building (Without a/c). Regardless it was a great education.

  • Donald Howe

    Went to DJHS in ’65. Not sure about the concrete, I thought there was a concrete basketball court where we held dance. Definitely used older bldg. that school was hot. What a change Curundu was

  • Robert Dillon

    A documentary that is being shown at the independent film festival in Panama shows the backside of Diablo Heights Elementary School, the third picture down on this page. Although I have not seen the documentary, watching the preview the school is plainly visible in the center of the screen at 47 seconds in for about 3 seconds. Having lived across the street from the school for almost 20 years, I look forward to seeing the documentary to see what else it will show. Perhaps I will see my own home. The link to the preview is below…

  • Osborne Herndon

    I went to Diablo Hts Elementary 2nd 1/2 of 2nd Grade I believe my Teacher was Mrs Jorgenson and in the 3rd grade Mrs. Coakely, She was tough but we liked her 4th grade also. Summers at Diablo playing Dodge ball & Monopoly, then Ft. Kobbe for 5th and 1st 1/2 6th grade 1951 – 1956

  • Jorge Lewicke

    Went to Kobbe School in 1953 – 4th grade. Cannot remember the teachers name but she looked just like June Allyson and I was in love with her.

    • Chris Arnberg

      I attended Diablo Elementary School for the 4th grade during the 70-71 school year. We lived in downtown Panama City then, but later obtained housing on Howard AFB and transferred to Howard Elementary for the 5th and 6th grades prior to moving back to the States. My classroom was in the old two story building. Best memories are of the dodge ball games we played during the lunch hour.

  • Leon Young (nee Dobrowolski)

    To Jerry Bliss:
    I probably was in that class at Diablo. After about 2 days the class was divided and I was changed to the other class. The teachers name was Ms Coakley. I had her in 5th grade at Cocoli the year before and really did not care for her. I had moved from Kobbe to Clayton in Jun 1950.
    I eventually graduated from Balboa High, class of ’57.

  • djhereblog

    I attended Diablo Elementary for kindergarten and 1st grade 1955 – 1956. I remember the building as pictured in the topmost photo. We lived in a house on stilts. It was a great place to be a kid

    • Mike Senzer

      I attended Diablo Heights Junior High School in 7th and 8th grades (Fall 1963 – Spring 1965) before switching to the brand new Curundu JHS for 9th grade. The Diablo school did not have a 9th grade, so all previous junior high school classes went to Balboa High School for 9th through 12th grades. As you might imagine we were not at all thrilled by spending an extra year as junior high students.
      The main article about Diablo JHS was uncertain about which buildings were used. Both the old — and somewhat rickety — wooden building and the newer concrete ones were in use for both grades. In the old building the first and second floors were in use. In 7th grade my math, social studies, and art classes were in the wooden building (all on the first floor), while my English and science classes were in one of the newer buildings. I don’t know when the concrete buildings were constructed since they were in use before I attended the school.
      Lots more about Diablo, Curundu (not to mention Gamboa Elementary and Balboa High) to tell, but this comment is already too long. So I’ll hold off on other memories for now.

  • Osborne Herndon

    I forgot how close together everything was. We lived in Curundu, I believe the unit was 2164, then, moved to what was called the contractors area. The units in Curundu were all stilt, one bedroom apts. 4 to a building. we had the top 2 apartments combined. Contractors area hone was a Florida looking 3 br 2 bath home, with carport except most of the walls were aluminum jalousies, for max cross ventilation. For Diablo heights Elementary it was second 1/2 of 2nd grade, my teacher was Ms Jorgenson, for 3rd grade it was Mrs. Coakley. She had a picture of her Air force pilot son on the desk. Things being close by in the Cz we rode the bus home for lunch. 5th and 6th grades were in Ft. Kobbe. Left Panama on Valentines day 1956

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