Canal Zone Schools

South Margarita Elementary School, 1955

Here’s a great bird’s-eye view of South Margarita Elementary School in 1955.

South Margarita

From school lunches and field trips to gym shorts and passing notes with friendsРthere is so much to remember about our school days!  What are your memories of South Margarita Elementary school?


  • Diane L. French

    I went to South Margarita school when it first opened. In the picture you can see the street I live on which is the second street on theleft. My girlfriend lived in the first house on the right on that street. I really enjoyed going to this school. Many memories of this school. Remember taking my cat to school one day and the teacher Mrs, Jones hid my cat in a cupboard when the music teacher came to give us a class. He was surprised as when he startedy playing his violin my cat started meowing. It ended up where I had to take him home. I was only able to go to one grade there as my father transferred to Balboa the next year. In later years from 1973 to 78 four of my children went to South Margarita School where I went to school, and their father Jay French. How neat to have your children going to the same school you went to years before. Brought back alot of memories when goiing there for parents day visiting the same class room I was in at one time.

  • Joan Ohman

    I went to school there from the 4th through 6th grade. In the background you can see the KC, best hamburgers ever, and the Catholic church. I think we had more fun walking to and from school than actually being in school! Our rabbit, Fluffy, use to follow my younger sister, Susan,
    and friends to school and the policeman would take him home! Yep, those were the days!!!

  • Gary W. Hudson

    What a memory I had of this school. We came from Connecticut in 1969. We had traveled through Central America in January and thought of having an interview to teach there and was offered a job. I told the assistant superintendent for elementary school that we would think about it. We had to shovel out our driveway on March 1st. I immediately notified her we would come. No air conditioning then, Fans in the ceiling and windows open. Really no problem. My principal was George Gercich. Next year I was moved to Coco Elementary School. We stayed in the Canal Zone until 1989. Paradise.

  • John Crimmel

    I attended Margarita during the 1959/60 school year. The only thing I remember is that I was picked to take part in the planting of a bonzi tree. Don’t remember anything about the ceremony. Don’t know why I was chosen.

  • Arthur T. Murray

    My family got to Fort Gulick, Canal Zone, around June of 1953, by passenger ship from New York, and we stayed in Panama for two years, until July of 1955. I was seven years old and going into second grade. At first in September of 1953 we were at an old, wooden elementary school, but soon we were3 transferred to the brand-new South Margarita Elementary School. My teacher for second or third grade was Mrs. Mehl, and the principal of South Margarita Elementary School was Mrs. Moomaw.
    One time our teacher took us on a field trip for a short ride on the rickety old Panamanian Isthmus Railway, an unforgettable experience. Another day we went out on the grass near the classrooms and there were hordes of tiny green frogs jumping around. A young blond American man drove our school bus from Fort Gulick to South Margarita, and I sometimes wonder if we a young Senator John McCain, growing up in Panama. The South Margarita report cards had the word “white” on them, so I sometimes wonder if the school was racially segregated.

  • Robert Dillon

    My grandmother, Elizabeth Rowley, taught at Margarita Elementary School and I’m sure she’s somewhere down there in that picture. She retired in the early 70’s.

    Immediately above the school is the Holy Family Catholic church where I was baptized. Of course, I was too young to remember, but I have seen “The Exorcist” so I can imagine what it was like.

    What interests me in this picture is all the different variety of houses. Several of these style were used in Diablo Heights including the one in which I lived.

    All the power lines and phone lines were buried. Therefore, there were little white houses that contained the transformers (and I assume the terminal connections for the phone lines). You could hear the transformers humming inside the buildings. If you zoom in, one of those little white buildings can be seen about 3 quarters of the way up, between the houses on the right hand side of the picture.

    Also, about 3 quarters of the way up running the width of the picture, you can see a thick tree line. Just behind the front of that tree line, is the east diversion, built by the French. It empties far to the right into Manzanillo bay just west of Coco Solo. Its purpose was to divert all the rivers east of the sea level French Canal and manage the unpredictable rain driven floods. It continued on to the left, crossing the U.S. canal just north of Gatun Locks and then curved back underneath what is now Gatun Dam.

    Just behind all the thick trees, almost to the top of the photo ran (the width of the photo) the Panama Railroad. Further up, between the trees and the water at the top of the photo is the French Canal. Some of it is filled-in, but parts of it are still there, somewhere in this picture, even if it is hard to define (look for water running left to right)..

    The storage tanks in this photo are still there and can be seen from Google Maps/Earth They can be used to get your bearings when looking at this photo.

    Limon Bay, and the eastern edge of the Panama Canal is visible in this photo.

    Here is a historical snapshot of the town from one month prior to the above picture…

    Margarita – Excerpts from The Panama Canal Company Review, December 3, 1954

    • DM Rzi

      Same here about the DDT, living on base went to Margarita 1954 1955 I think I was 6. Red ants, big wasps, iguanas in church, large preying mantis on clothes lines,street floods, crabs in the road at night, we lived across the street from a boy they called Gizmo. Memories……

  • Gerry Hayes

    In 1950 I was in half of second, third and fourth grade. My third grade teacher was Mrs. Alberton and fourth was Mrs. O’Connor. Father stationed in Coco Solo. We lived on base I think. House on stilts. Bug spray car came in evening and we ran behind it laughing and playing in the ddt. I think I went to two different schools. One in cristobal and one in margarita. My name was Gerri Runey now Hayes. My sister was born in Panama in 1950. We were there for 3 years. Best place of all in my childhood.

  • Ingrid Burgos

    I started my fourth grade at South Margarita School. We had just arrived to Fort Gulick from San Juan, P.R. l knew no English and it was hard for a while. But the best teachers where there helping me hang on. I have never forgotten them and I will always be grateful to Mrs. Clara Jorstad ( 4th ), Mrs. Crozier ( 5th ), and Mrs. Craig ( 6th).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *