Dating in the Canal Zone

KICeditBalboa High School students, date unknown.

To get into the Valentine’s Day spirit, we would love to hear your recollections about dating life in the Canal Zone. What locations were particularly popular for dates? Were curfews common? Did you go on double dates? What were common dating rules or customs?



  • Robert A. Dryja

    The picture provides two clues as to when it was made. The windows of the high school are open for ventilation. This would have occurred before air conditioning was installed. The girls are wearing dresses that extend below their calves. These indicate the picture may have been made in the late 1950’s or the start of the 1960’s.

    An annual Vanentine’s formal dance was organized at the Hotel Tivoli when I was in high school, 1961-65. Girls wore formal dresses with corsages and boys wore coats with a tie. Parents drove couples to the dance from their homes. This made us all very self conscious teenagers trying to grow up. People would go and forth between dance numbers. Boys would have to pull chairs back from the tables where they dates were sitting and also push the chairs back in when their date sat back down. My date sat down before I had her chair positioned and she unexpectedly ended up sitting on the floor by the table. We were all embarrassed and appalled.
    Such a memory for Valentine’s Day….

  • John Schmidt

    I have some clearly great memories of dating while there in the Canal for all of my 13 years in the school. i feel sure the dating did not start until I got to Jr High at Balboa. Now that think back on it. Might have been the reason it took me three years to get through Jr High.

    Does anyone care to admit just how you got to and from the Proms/Dance. Were you old enough to have a license ? If you were- you should have been over at CZJC. I don’t think they lowered the age for drivers license. You hired a taxi ! or you did like we all did and that having our parents take us – and of course we had to have similar “help” in getting our date home.

    Now that I think back on it – I wonder how we left the dance and all ended up at the Atlas Club or at El Rancho? We did. I have photos to show it.

    My time at BHS was 1946 -1950. Parents were the only sure way of getting to and from the Tivoli…….How else? You couldn’t drive (unless you were 18) Oh yes I forgot… there was a bunch of guys that drove motor scooters. They didn’t have dates for the dance.

    We had to grin and bear it as our parents “shared” many times in getting us to and from.,

    I can tell the story that was shared around the “Bulletin Board” (1st floor- just inside)
    when I had invited the daughter of the American Ambassador to Panama to a dance. My folks were going to take us – but were not able to bring us home.

    Can you imagine the response I got when I asked her if she thought “her” dad could pick us up.

    I even dated BHS ladies after I graduated in 50 and married a 1952 graduate. I was old enough to drive by then

    John Schmidt
    BHS 1950
    Tallahassee, FL

  • Bob Zumbado BHS 55

    My memories comport pretty much with those already stated with small differences. In the 1952 to 1955 classes getting to the Atlas Club and El Rancho after school dances wasn’t a real problem because there always seemed to be enough licensed 17.5 and 18 year olds to take groups of us there. Remember that in those years if you took and passed the driver’s education course you could obtain a driver’s license for the CZ and the R de P at 17.5. The proms and few other formal events brought the girls out in their finest formal gowns while the boys mostly wore white dinner jackets and black tux pants, the penguin look, or suits or sport coats. Casual dating consisted of meeting your date at the clubhouses or theaters. Remember the “crying room” in the new Balboa Theater? Fine place for necking when not occupied by parents with crying infants otherwise the back rows of the balcony area would serve the same purpose. Group activities were also very popular form of dating. Bob Zumbado BHS 55

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