Canal Zone Schools

Gatun Elementary School

This photograph of Gatun Elementary is undated, but I’m sure there’s an auto buff out there who can help us date this photo by the cars that are parked out front!

Gatun Elementary

Aside from pulling up to school in your super cool car (with fins!), what do you remember about Gatun Elementary School?  It looks smaller than some of the other schools we have featured so far.  How big were your classes?  Please share any and all information about Gatun Elementary in the comments section!


  • Diane L. French

    When I married Jay French in 1970 we moved to Gatun in a house on a street in the back of the school. Our son John went to second grade here. Jay was his step-was his stepfather.When I was about five years old I use to ride a school bus in the summer that took the children from Margarita to the Gaturn pool with us passing this school every time we had classes. My husband Jay French use to also ride this bus with me going to swimming classes also at Gatun. We never knew that someday we would be living as husband and wife behind the school with one of our children going to school there. We had roots in the Canal Zone.

    • Joselyn Cassidy

      Hi Diane. I think you might have been friends with my mom, Jackie Cassidy, who recently died. I would love to get in touch with you and hear stories of Panama and specifically my mom! Joselyn Cassidy

  • carolyn rowley dillon

    My mother (Elizabeth W. Rowley) arrived in the Canal Zone in 1937 as Miss Wilson and taught in the Gatun Elementary School until her marriage in 1944 (married women were not allowed to teach in federal schools in those days). Later as a widow she returned in 1949 and taught there until 1956 when she transferred to Margarita Elementary School and worked there until her retirement in 1972. The photo here is of the back of the school (though the one most often seen as it faced the main road into Gatun.) The school is (was) “U” shaped with two class rooms in each “arm” of the U and a large kindergarten room in the “back,” the windows of which are shown in this photo. Originally there was no covered walkway from the parking lot to the left door but a 9-month rainy season finally necessitated its construction. The ceilings were very tall with many large windows (as shown in photo) to allow as much air into the rooms as possible in a time long before air-conditioning. All doors were propped open also. Occasionally a bird would swoop into the room and fly furiously around the room looking for an escape – much to the enjoyment of the children. Once I remember an iguana entering, only until the poor animal realized his mistake, and from time to time one of the children’s pet dog would find its way to school. Once a dog entered the room and reclined beside its master for quite a while until the teacher finally noticed it. I attended this school from K-11th grades. Memories made there are among my most dear.

  • CA Px

    The newest car in the picture is the one with the big tail fins. It is a Chrysler product from the late 50’s starting about 1957 and ending about 1960, although without doing a photo comparison in Google images I couldn’t tell you exactly which model it was.

  • CA Px

    All right. After caving in and doing the photo comparison recommended, it appears that the car is a 1957 or ’58 Plymouth, trim package undetermined.

  • Wendy Cotton Corrigan

    I attended Kindergarden at the Gatun gym and swimming pool. Mrs Kariger was the teacher
    This was 1945-46. I attended Gatun Elem from first thru half of 6th grade.
    I was always in a double grade class. First/Second; Second/Third; Third/Fourth; Fourth/Fifth; Fifth/Sixth. As a result, I was always with the same students (except 6th when they left for jr hi).
    Our classes, combined, had 16 students! I could names names of almost all of them!
    In 6th grade, my dad was transferred to Balboa and I attended Balboa Elem which had THREE 6th grade classrooms! I was terrified and lost. I felt like a bird that had fallen out of the nest before it could fly! My dad got in touch with some of his friends who had kids my age and they befriended me. I attended Balboa Jr Hi in the old wooden bldg next to the JC and BHS. There I met some more friends who have proven to be lifetime friends! My dad was transferred back to the Atlantic Dide at the end of my 8th grade year and I was privileged to attend Cristobal High on the beach. I graduated in 1958.
    The CZ is like an exclusive club where once a member, always a member. One can immediately call on other members at any time for any reason. The “connection” is always there.

  • Mike Paulson

    I went here, 1966-1971. At that time it was a K thru 4. I believe it was the summer of 67 that the kindergarten room got A/C. It was also the school library, loved to go there and not read. That’s the 4 windows in the center. In 69-70 I was in third grade, Mrs Milligan, 4th was Mr Fugelbird (sp), both residents of Gatun. For the most part kids either walked or rode their bikes to school. It closed in 71 and kids were bused to Ft Davis Elementary. 5th and 6th graders were bused to Margarita. It sat for a year and then they turned it into the Community Clubhouse. Mini mart, theater, library, Post Office, barber shop.

    • Joselyn Cassidy

      Hi Mike! We went to third grade here together and were in the same classes. I remember Mrs. Mulligan once made me put my nose on the wall because I was chewing gum. Do you remember Mr. Delgado? He was the janitor/handyman who would often give out telephone wire to the girls so they could make rings from it. I loved, loved Mr. Fugleburge. Do you remember Mrs. Gearheart (sp).? She was my Kindergarten teacher at Gatun.

  • James "Jimmy" Steele

    Carolyn Rowley Dillon, We of course knew your mother as “Miss Wilson” and she was one of our favorite teachers. My family left for the States in 1946 and I was unaware of her return to Gatun after the death of your father, whom everyone considered very handsome. I still feel Gatun is my hometown.

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