Canal Zone Schools

Howard Airforce Base Elementary School

This photograph of Howard Air Force Base Elementary School has no date in its record.  There doesn’t appear to be much identifying information in the image, but could anyone take a stab at what year this photo may have been taken?



Did you attend Howard Air Force Base Elementary?  What were the best and worst parts of going to school on an Air Force Base?  What stands out in your memory about your elementary school days at Howard?


  • Pam Williamson

    I went to Howard from 1975-78 in 3rd-5th grade. My favorite memories include learning Spanish and walking through the jungle going to and from school and never using the sidewalk. I remember our teacher taking some us bowling that did good on our timed multiplication tests, running for track team in big stadium in Balboa and running 100 yard dashes In parking lot. I enjoyed square dancing classes in gym. I remember a field trip to a beach by the bridge that had an old rusted shipwreck we explored. I remember our gym teacher cooking iguana over an open fire and telling us it tasted like chicken. I remember a huge snake being found on a trail behind the gym and the CE guys rolled it up around a huge cable spool on the back of a truck. My worst memory from that school was busting out my front teeth when my wheelbarrow partner dropped my legs at the end of the mat and my arms collapsed and face hit the concrete.

    • danny white

      Danny white, attended school k-2cnd grade from 68-72, i remember doing calestinik exercises during gym class, learning to read in first grade and 5.5 earth quake about lunch time, but i didnot feel the quake myself. i though panama was beuatifull place as a youngster, the ginups banana trees the warm weather and the olymipic size pool where we learned to swim. how bout the shark net at kobe beach and the unmistakable bridge over the canal.

      • Judi

        I went to that school as well during ’68 to ’72. I remember, and felt the earthquake when we were at home (Howard AFB), and we did not go to school because glass was broke out everywhere. I remember Spanish lessons in school, and particularly the song that was taught to us about beating chocolate, “Bate bate chocolate.” Not sure if that was the name of the song, but I do remember that part. Absolutely loved our time in Panama, and this coming June we are going back😃

  • Joel Dunnington

    I went to Howard AFB Elementary in 1965-66 for 6th grade. I remember being a Safety Patrol and wearing a little belt with a shoulder strap. I remember we played kickball out front. I enjoyed it.
    My worst memory was the C-46 that crashed on the runway during school killing everybody on board. Two of my neighbors died.

  • Michael Jawson

    I went to Howard AFB/ Fort Kobbe Elementary in 1963 to 1967.I remember take the bus every day. I just love playing Kickball out front for the championship with the 5th garders and 6th graders also the 5th and 6th graders going to Kobbe beach at the end of the year. Living here was some the best years growing up in my life. Had good friends in Kevin Conners and David, Last name I forgot.

    • Dan Smith

      Bruce Bochy and his family lived next door to us in 1964. You might remember my older brother, Tim Smith. My Dad sometimes played catch with Tim and Bruce. Tim also played baseball with several other boys. I don’t remember whether it was a league or just a group of boys from the neighborhood. One day when they were playing one of the boys was running around the bases when an iguana ran in front of him. The boy accidentally stepped on the iguana crippling him. My brother Tim brought the iguana home and we ended up bringing it back with us to the States. We visited Washington D.C. with the iguana on our shoulders.

  • micharl page

    I went to school at howard elementary 1964 to 1967. Kickball out front on asphalt was ok. But baseball was the best i was a pitcher for the hawks. 1967 howard was the champion of all the bases and civilian teams. Played with bruce bochy,head coach san francisco giants pro baseball.

  • Elizabeth

    Attended 4th, 5th, and 6th, 1968-1972. Wonderful years. Remember school,trip to Pacific in 4th grade, finding sea urchins. Going home for lunch, sweet bus driver, singing 1960’s pop music: let the sun shine; what goes up, must come down; let it be…” Mango tree in our front yard. The October 1968 national geographic has aerial photo of Howard AFB housing. Marmoset monkey. We were there when some high school teens accidentally exploded a home made bomb and one tragicAlly died, I believe. But other memories, exploring beaches, villages, jungles and rivers off of the canal with my parents are magical memories.

    • Valerie Monda

      Hi Elizabeth! You mentioned singing on the school bus in your writing about Howard AFB. Do you remember what bus it was? I was wondering if it was the same bus my sister Suzanne and I rode. We lived one street before the street the Officer’s club was on. The Higgenbothims house where the teenagers exploded the copper tube on accident was close to there as well. Did you live in that area?

    • Elizabeth

      Hi, Valeri. I sure did. I was on the bus the day of the tragedy, and had forgotten that it was at the Higgenbothims house. That was such a terrible event. … Jay was my good friend, also Cathy Clausner, Rod, can’t remember his last name. We lived at the very bottom of the hill coming down from the Officer’s Club. What is your sister’s name and was Monda your last name then, too?

      • Valerie Monda

        Hi Elizabeth! My sisters name was Ardythe Gille. She went to the junior high. Curundo. She was friends with a Cathy Cid and the Higgenbothems. Also Bruce who was the one that passed away. Someone else last year wrote on this site about that tradgedy also, but I can’t locate it. Perhaps they delete old emails on here. She talked about the Sadi Hawkins dance where she was crowned queen or something. I responded to her email but she probably never checked as she had written the comment several months before. We moved in May 1970 back to the states. Do you remember Ardythe? I will have to ask her what our street name was as I have forgotten.

        On Sat, May 18, 2019, 12:27 PM The Panama Canal Museum Collection at UF wrote:

        > Elizabeth commented: “Hi, Valeri. I sure did. I was on the bus the day of > the tragedy, and had forgotten that it was at the Higgenbothims house. That > was such a terrible event. … Jay was my good friend, also Cathy Clausner, > Rod, can’t remember his last name. We lived at the ” >

  • tam

    I lived in Panama from ’68 to ’73 and loved it so much. Went to Howard AFB Elementary grades 2-5 and left 2 days before school let out for the year. I begged to stay the extra, I had one of the leads in my fifth grade play being performed on the last day of school for the whole school. I wish I could find two of my teachers, 2nd grade, Miss Garrity and fifth grade, Mrs. Willoughby. They Totally Rocked! My folks went to the Church of The Golden Alter, and I was active in Girl Scouts. We absolutely loved living there. We had a roseapple tree in our backyard before moving to base housing and my younger brother’s Godparents had a ginnup tree in their yard before moving on base. My 3 siblings were all born at Gorgas Hospital. My Dad had two tours in Panama, one before I was born and one after. I want to go back to visit so bad. Thanks for sharing your memories.

    • Valerie Gille Monda

      I lived on Howard from 1967-1970 and attended Howard Elementary for 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. I also remember Mrs Huff as my teacher. We made paper machete sculptures using different types of bottles. I made my cat Hamm”s out of a wine bottle. lol! I remember riding the bus home for lunch and singing songs along with the rest of the kids. Somebody taught us all the “Titanic” song and we would sing that at the top of our lungs to and from school. We had a ginnup tree and an avocado tree in our yard and I remember eating those ginnups right off the tree. I played in the jungle, went to the “oil pond” in our housing section and rode the malaria control horse with Debbie Black. I also remember friends Sherry Yarrington and Vivienne ( can”t remember her last name but she moved to Wright Pat in Ohio from Howard. Vivienne had 2 Boa constrictors for pets. I also remember the shark net and beautiful tide pools on Kobe beach. To Elizabeth who wrote a comment earlier about the explosion, I remember that vividly as my sister had just left the bus stop which was across from the explosion and knew all the kids involved. A couple of the boys were attempting to shoot a marble out of a little cannon and it exploded killing one (Bruce) and injuring many others that were watching. It was a terrible tragedy for all. On a happier note, Panama was a magical place for a kid to explore. And to Mrs Huff, you did indeed leave an impression for so many kid’s to remember you!

    • Ida Murphy

      Hi Tam! My name is Ida Hogarth Murphy. I was there from 68-’74 I had Miss Seagraves for 1st, Miss Guerrity for 2nd and Mrs. Russell for 3rd.My mom moved us to St. Mary’s school when I was starting 4th and and 5th grade. I lived at 1531-D court. OMG it is so cool to see others on here. If you would like get in touch I am on Facebook and my email is mommacat05@yahoo. Also if anyone else is reading this and want to touch base feel free. I don’t know if you remember a Cynthia Freeman, the Otero’s and the Bailey’s, etc. Thanks for the memories you listed such as ginnups, marmosets. Oh yeah Dad was Robert Hogarth Ret/Tsgt. USAF he ran the Chow Hall there at Howard. He passed on in 2014. Please let us chat sometime!!

    • Elizabeth Mathews

      Valerie Gille Monda, We were definitely on the same bus, but you must have been a year older than I was. The boy who taught us all the Titanic songs was also the lead in the local theatre production of Oliver! I can almost remember his name. He lived “up” the street from me, because we lived at the bottom of the same street as he and Sherry Yarrington. One day, playing hide and go seek, I hid in his carport, and ran my head into the corner of a wash basin. I remember his mom helped me and called my mom, I had to have stitches, and his mom told me to watch out and not get blood on the carpet, and I remember thinking, “What? I’m dying and you are worrying about your carpet?” Of course, it was actually just a few stitches! On the bus, we also sang songs from the musical HAIR, (“When the mooooooon was in the seventh house and Jupiterrrr alignnnnss with Mars…”) Do you remember Cathy Clausner or her brothers, Ricky, Wally, two more, and Chrisite? We also played “mud football” in the field behind my house during rainy season. Also went to the oil pond, and the very tame Coati Mundi (spelling?) I agree, a magical place to live. So much freedom. … Do you remember the scary story about the “man in the red coat” who was supposed to live in the jungle? I think a parent made that up to keep us from wandering too far in!

  • chris arnberg

    I went to Howard Elementary for all of my fifth grade year and part of my sixth grade-the years were 1971-1972. My fifth grade teach was Ms Huff (She obviously made an big impact on me since I can still remember her name). She actually took the best behaved group to the movies on Saturdays.
    I lived on base housing just a short distance from there. The neighbors to the left were the Carol’s (Bob, Jim, little brother & sisters) across from us was the Estes family (Michele I think was in my grade & big brother I think Tom), to the adjacent right were the Thompson’s (Jerry was in my grade) and the far right were the Beckem’s (Bev was in my grade). Not sure about all the spelling-it’s been a while.
    I have three older brothers-Ted, Rob & Scott (all one year apart) and a little brother Danny (just a baby then).
    It was a great time-many great memories-love to hear from any of you.

    • Elizabeth M

      @Chris Arnberg, I also was in Howard Elementary for 5th and 6th grades in those years. We left in 1972. My best friend was Cathy Clausner, other friends were Jay Higgenbothom, Michelle, Sandy Johnson, Rod, and others I remember but whose names I do not recall. We drove home from Panama to Tennessee, along the Pan American Highway, and I cried nonstop the first three days. We had to leave behind a green Amazon parrot that I loved very much, with another family.

      I visited Panama a few years ago, and hired a driver to drive onto the old Howard AFB. It is being preserved by a real estate development company, to develop as a retirement community or expat community. It was as pretty as I remember it. We walked along the main road that led from the pool and movie theatre, down to our house, the last one at the bottom of the hill. Our mango tree had been struck by lightening, but so much else was just as I remembered it. A wonderful place to spend a childhood.

  • alcush

    Oh wow! So glad I found this page! I began Kindergarten in 1974, having arrived in Panama 2 years prior. I attended from 1974-1979. My father was moved to Florida, so we drove up through Central America to get there. Ours was the last family given permission to make that drive. I told everyone that asked, for years, that I was “from” Panama. I still have such a fantastic love of the place and wish to revisit. Although, I was just brought to tears seeing what has happened with Howard AFB. Christine Pennington was my very first best friend. She lived there at the time, and I think moved not long after. I have long hoped to find her, or others with whom I spent this special time.

  • Bob Dillon

    About 15 years ago, I met t a direct descendant of Capt Charles Harold Howard, the person for whom Howard Air Force Base is Name. Here is his obit and headstone…

    Capt Charles Harold Howard
    BIRTH 29 Dec 1892
    Ashland, Jackson County, Oregon, USA

    DEATH 25 Oct 1936 (aged 43)
    Bryans Mill, Cass County, Texas, USA

    Mountain View Cemetery
    Ashland, Jackson County, Oregon, USA

    MEMORIAL ID 66324842

    “The Air Corps Newsletter” of 1 Nov. 1936:

    “An airplane accident on the night of 25 Oct 1936, near Bryan’s Mill, Texas, cost the lives of Captain Charles H. Howard and Corporal Edward N. Gibson, Air Corps, both of whom were stationed at Langley Field, VA.

    Capt. Howard enlisted in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps, during World War One, was an efficient and capable officer, an expert pilot, and was particularly well versed in the field of radio communications.

    He was a 1st Lt. assigned to Company C, 322nd Field Signal Battalion at Fort Lewis, Washington before transferring to Kelly Field, Texas with the 84th Aero Squadron were his duties related mainly to radio communications.

    In 1926 he was transferred to the Panama Canal Department for three year with the 7th Observation Squadron at France Field for two years and the 25th Bombardment Squadron the remaining year.

    In 1929 he was transferred to the 11th Bombardment Squadron, Rockwell Field, San Diego as there Communications Office. The 11th was transferred to March Field, Riverside, California in 1931 where he was the Squadron Commander”.

    For the period of January 16-20 of 1932 the 11th Commanded by 1st Lt. Howard dropped 34,136 pounds of burlap wrapped packages of food over a four day period to three reservations of Navajo Indians in Northern Arizona and New Mexico. The Indians had been cut off by snow since Mid-December. It is estimated that 20,000 or more inhabitants were feed.

    The Bombers were in the air 124 hours, with a total milage of 14,000 which included the distance from March to Winslow, Arizona the base for the operation.

    The 11th Bombardment Squadron was award the famous Mackay Trophy for this Notable Aerial Achievement. This trophy may be see at the Air & Space Museum, Washington, DC. This was the first time that to trophy was awarded to a organization.

    “During the summer of 1934, now Captain Howard piloted one of the B-10 planes in the Army Alaskan Flight, from Washington, DC to Fairbanks, Alaska and return. This flight was commanded by Brigadier General Henry “Hap” Arnold, who became the first and only 5 star general in the United States Air Force. Capt. Howard was the Assistant Communication Officer on this expedition.

    Captain Howard had to his credit over 4,000 hours of flying time. He was the author of various articles dealing most interestingly and convincingly with subjects in which he particularly specialized…Bombardment Aviation and Radio Communication”.

    The section in quotes are from the article, the rest from newspapers in Winslow, Arizona and Riverside, California.

    Family Members
    Charles B. Howard

    Mary Ann Kincaid Howard

    In Memoriam
    Order of Daedalians

    Captain Charles H. Howard
    Air Corps, United States Army

    Born December 29, 1892
    Died October 25, 1936

    First Flight….Sept 16, 1918
    Last Flight…..Oct 25, 1936

  • Evelyn Wysocki

    I went to Howard from 82-85! 1st through 3rd grade! Had Mrs Stevens for 2nd and Mrs westyn for 3rd! Remember doing the egg thing in court yard I guess you’d call it! Where had make something and then put egg in and they’d drop from roof and see who’s didn’t break! Taking Spanish and then you’d go on field trip and Spanish teacher made you order your food in Spanish

  • Damian Espino

    I attended 2nd, 3rd, and part of 4th grade here in 1991-1994. I had Mrs. Warfield, Mrs. Terry, and a male teacher for 4th grade, I don’t remember his name. My time here was absolutely magical. it was a true privilege to have had such wonderful memories in this place. I didn’t always live on base or have American privileges so soaking up all that was offered at this base and school were such a wonderful experience for a native Panamanian. When I was there, the pictured part above was the back end of the school, and a roof was built over the main part where the buses picked up the children. I loved how the school had jungle all the way around it, and you could sometimes spot toucans on the edge of the tree line.

    • Bob Dillon

      Just for clarity.. Those were not “American privileges.” They were Military privileges. We Zonians (Employees of the Panama Canal Company and dependents), American or not, did not have those privileges and could not enter and/or use facilities on military bases such as the Commissary, PX, Package Stores, Gas Stations, Theaters, Convenience Stores, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. We could not even enter as a guest of someone with military privileges.

      The inverse was not true. People with military privileges were not excluded from using facilities in the Canal Zone that provided services for Panama Canal Company employees. Most Panamanians were excluded as requested by the Government of Panama and codified in the various treaties and agreements.

      This led to great resentment by the Panamanians against the Zonians, even though it was their own government that created this division and perceived inequity..

      For approximately 1 year, when the Carter-Dictator treaty first took effect, the Zonians had military privileges in order to allow them to adjust and transition to life in the military dictatorship of Panama. After that period, they lost the privileges unless a spouse, parent or guardian, obtained employment from the Military in a position that included military privileges.

      There was no such thing as American privileges. That is a Panamanian myth.

      • Don Rogers Jr.

        My parent’s weren’t enlisted in the military and I went to both Kobbe and Howard Elementay schools. As did my brother and sister. That said military installation were obviously for US Military purposes and why anyone would expect a non military US citizen to have access to military stores, recreational facilites, etcetera on any military base anywhere is beyond me. Even to expect entry to a U.S. military instalation anywhere for the sole reason that one US citizen is out of line. Regards

  • Amy Leyva

    I went to Kindergarten at Howard Elementary in 1977. I then moved over to Kobbe Elementary. I remember thinking Howard Elementary looked so big and grand. I remember my brother making a little thing to “see” earthquakes – a washer hanging from a string. I don’t remember too much from Howard Elementary, but have a class photo from Christmas time. I’ve been back a few times in the past several years – always make a trip to Howard to pass through the old stomping grounds :).

  • Lori

    Hello. My name is Michael, I am a high school sophomore at American Heritage in Delray Beach, FL. I am doing a research paper on The Panama Canal for National History Day. Part of my project entails me to personally “interview an expert” on the subject and I would love to interview someone who lived in the Canal Zone. If you are willing to answer some of my questions via email, I would very much like to hear from you. Please reply here if you are interested in assisting me and then I can give you my mom’s email address. I can send you a list of questions and you can respond via email to make it easier for anyone to participate. Thank you in advance for your consideration. Michael, student

    • Amy Leyva

      Hi Michael – I’d be happy to answer your questions, but probably assume I’m not the expert you need as I was just a kid when we lived there. I can tell you, depending on what information you’re looking for, who you talk to, and when they lived there, you may get widely different viewpoints. There were some blissful times when it seemed like paradise and there were some pretty scary and tumultuous times. There are different groups on facebook your mom may want to look for that will have lots of people that served there for a few years and other U.S. citizens that lived there for years, grew up there – were civilians working for the canal. You might get a bigger response if your mom reaches out to those groups on FB. Just a suggestion if you have trouble finding the right expert :).

  • Dan Smith

    Looking at my report cards from 1st and 2nd grades I see that the school was called Kobbe at that time. 1st grade was from 9/6/62 to 6/6/63. My first grade teacher was Beverly Bonnell. 2nd grade was from 9/5//63 to 6/5/64. My second grade teacher was Pat Birchenall. I’ll see if I can figure out how to add a video clip of the school.

  • Teresa

    My father was stationed there from 1974-1977. My brothers and I loved it, we didn’t want to return to the U.S. We went to the elementary school in the photo. Sometimes we took the bus ,but often we preferred to walk. There was the sloth that we passed all the time until it died, we were so sad when we found it. I remember some of our neighbor kids…my best friend was Bonita Buckley, she was the best! Gerald Richardson, Thor Goldsmith, Diane Provost, the Yelvington family, Laquatra and little sister Shirley, Nancy Harris so many more.We would play kick the can at night, have “water gun fights” we’d run all over and even jump the fence into the jungle to escape the opposite team. Sometimes we’d just sit on the big utility box and just tell stories and jokes. Anyone remember the eclipse that blocked the sun and the sky looked dark almost reddish? The dogs howled. I was always afraid I’d find an iguana in the laundry room at the front of the house. Mrs. Willoughby and Mr.Fink were my teachers. Great memories!

    • Chris Arnberg

      I went down to Panama this January and visited the old Howard AFB. I lived there back in the early 70’s. The elementary school is now some type of technical school. There’s an airplane in the parking lot by the gym. The building looks pretty rough now. Many of the buildings on base have been torn down, but a lot of the original stuff still there. I took a bunch of pictures, but not sure how to post them here.

  • Dale Allen Lakatosh Jr

    I went to Fort Clayton in 68, Howard in 69 and Curudu in 70. We lived at 1439A on Howard. Our father was Msgt Dale Lakatosh. I played baseball for the Cubs with Robert Semler, Kent Fuller, Chuck Ferros, Rueben Rodriguez, Jerry Corral and Doug Miller. Those days were some of my favorite times in my life.

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