The Balboa Elementary School

The town of Balboa, founded by the United States during the construction of the Panama Canal, was named after Vasco Núñez de Balboa, the Spanish conquistador credited with discovering the Pacific Ocean. In 1513 it was called Mar del Sur or South Seas because it was discovered while traveling south from the Atlantic Ocean where he started his journey.

The name Balboa, was suggested to the Canal Zone authorities by the Peruvian ambassador to Panama.

The town of Balboa, like most towns in the Canal Zone, was served by Canal Zone Government-operated schools, post office, police and fire stations, commissary, cafeteria, yacht club, service center and recreational facilities. Balboa’s children were educated at the Balboa Elementary School, Balboa High School, and the private St. Mary’s School.

The town was also home to two private banks, a credit union, a Jewish Welfare Board, several Christian denomination churches, civic clubs, a masonic temple and a YMCA.

The demographic changes resulting from the departure of most of the town’s American population has also brought the closure of most of the town’s former public facilities and institutions, including Balboa High School and Balboa Elementary School.

Below is a photograph of the Balboa Elementary School taken on March 22, 2009.  Here we go.

Photograph of the elegant Balboa Elementary School Building located at Balboa, Panama City, Panama.  (Credit:  Omar Upegui R.)
Photograph of the elegant Balboa Elementary School Building located at Balboa, Panama City, Panama. (Credit: Omar Upegui R.)

If you have been following my recent posts, you would have noticed the beauty of the architecture style of the buildings of the former Canal Zone.  Good Day.

36 thoughts on “The Balboa Elementary School”

  1. I went to school there for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Grade. What a memory! I remember there being more trees and vegetation around it but could just be the picture

  2. I attended school here also, 5th & 6th grade. During that time there was a HUGE tree which grew up from the courtyard in the center of the school – and the top could be seen peeking out over the top of the roof. Really interesting.

  3. Hi there,
    Wow! What a difference a few decades make. My brother and I both attended Balboa Elementary in 1973-74 (6th grade for me and third for him. He stayed for fourth and fifth while I went to Curundu Jr. High for grades 7 and 8) It seemed so much bigger then- we lived on the bottom of Quarry Heights on Morgan Avrnue and could walk there in about 15 minutes. Any other former CZers out there?

    1. Hi Steve:

      Yeah, time passes and in its path, changes things. I decided to take these pictures, because I know that thirty years from now, this area will be unrecognizable. With these pictures I’m freezing time so folks like you can recognize where you lived in the former Panama Canal Zone.

      Thanks for your comments,


    2. Looking for CZC friends from the past circa 1974-1978. I lived on Ancon Hill in Gorgas Appartments near the governor’s mansion. In particular looking for contact info on Peter Goldman. WOW, check out google maps… difficult to recognize BHS or Balboa

  4. Omar,

    Thanks for your work in documenting these places. I was fortunate to return to Panama in 2008 after 32 years. I was born in Panama, and lived in the CZ. Many changes, but yet somethings look so much the same.

    If you ever get a moment, some snapshots of the old Balboa Gun Club in Farfan would be neat to see.

    The Balboa port Captains office at the piers would be neat too, but I think that is closed off now.

  5. Hi Joe:

    I never visited the former Balboa Gun Club in Farfan, however will try to visit it if it still exists.

    I will also take pictures of the Balboa Port Captain’s Office in Balboa. I think it’s still there.



    1. Omar,
      I would also love to see the old Farfan gun club layout. I used to compete there during the late 60’s and early 70’s leaving in ’72. I was born there and went to BHS, Los Rios and Curundu JHS

  6. I was in third grade at Balboa Elementary School 1954-5. There was a tree in the courtyard. I remember most how cool the building was compared to the heat of the day. My family lived at Albrook Air Force Base. One day we were taken outside to see Pat Nixon drive by. We were all handed small American flags to wave.

    1. I was in kindergarten in 57-58–we lived at Albrook, after living at Cocosolito, then Pedro Miguel . . . we were waiting for housing–it is so silly to say this, because I was so young, but it was the best place with the best memories of my life!! Did you know the Clayton family or the Kellys? Or the Uribes?

      1. I lived on Albrook AFB from 1959 to 1962. There was a Uribe family that lived only two houses away one was name Phillip and the other I can’t remember. We lived at 49B.I adored Panama, (Albrook) and my fondest childhood memories were living there. I attended Balboa Heights for 6th grade, my teachers names was Miss Guy. I remember the huge tree in the middle.

  7. Hi There,
    I attended this school, Balboa Elementary school for 6th grade in get this………..1960!!!!! The building looks the same. My classroom was top floor, left side in far back corner, my teacher was “Miss Guy”. What memories I have of our stay in Panama. Dad was stationed at Albrook and my brother attended Balboa High School.

    Does anybody remember Lacona Heights Elementary School, which was near the canal? I think they closed it down, since it was a WWII building. All students were transferred to Balboa Elementary. I went from there to Diablo Heights Junior High School, and then sadly we returned stateside in 1962!


  8. I’m looking for Robert L. Hicks Jr. Born in 1957. Father was a service man in the Navy in 1957. Robert would have attened school in 1963,1964,1965 I don’t know his date of birth just know he was born in 1957, in Panama City. This could have been the school he attended. Is there any other school there he might have attended? I could check graduation class names in those years above.

    Thank you.

  9. I went to kindergarten there in 1957-58 . . .oh my goodness! I loved Panama, the jungle, the locks, the weather–I am going to retire there in 2 years!! I’m going back for the first time since my family left the CZ in June ’58!!

  10. I taught 5th grade at this wonderful school from 72-76. One of the highlights of my life now that I’m 60! You must get pictures of this school in 1976 when we painted it for the Bicentennial Celebration! I have some for your archives! What a show we put on.
    Thanks for the memories.
    Kathy (Manners) Kent

    1. i was there then! i remember sponge painting red and blue stars on the walls! i was in 2nd grade then. Mrs. Sosa was my teacher. i’m 43 now… best years of my childhood! 😉

    2. Dear Ms. Kent,

      My name is Carmen Lovett. Part of second grade and then all of third grade, my teacher was Ms. Goldman at Balboa Elementary School. She was very nice and also a professional. Fourth grade came to an abrupt halt, about one month into it, 1976, so I cannot recall that teacher’s name. My sister recalls having Ms. Ray for her third grade teacher. My sister and I were sent to southern California to live with an aunt by summer of ’76.
      It was a total shock for me. I’ve been considering writing a memoir. It would be most helpful to receive an adult’s perspective from that period in time. Also, any photographs from then would be welcomed!



  11. I went to 4th and 5th grade there in 1956- 57 then Ft. Kobbe school for 6th. I remember what I think was a cacao tree in the courtyard with what seemed at the time like a giant cacao nut on it. I was always fascinated by that tree.

  12. I went to St Mary in Balboa till June 1965 and came to New Orleans to live. My name was Ana Gonzalez and my best friend was Maryann Sasso and I would love to know how she is? If any one can help me find her, I would be so happy.

  13. Steve Schimming 1/11/12
    This is in reply to Kathy Kent’s message. I think I remember you. I had a friend in 5th grade (I think his name was Ronnie ?) whose fifth grade teacher was Mrs. Manners. I started out 6th grade (1973-74) with Mrs. Raymond, then Mr. Denesio (?), then Mrs. Quick, then back to Mrs. Raymond then finally ending the year with Mrs. Sherman, whose son, Scott, was a friend of a friend. I was kind of a weird kid that year, but Mrs. Raymond was always nice and we even wrote once or twice after she left the CZ. If not mistaken, I believe your husband at the time, Mr. Manners was my Scout master for Boy Scout Troop 19 out of Amador. Talk about small world. Thanks for the memories and would have liked to have seen the Bicentennial display. My brother Scott mentioned it and believe he was in Mrs. Taylor’s class, not really sure as it has been so long ago. Thanks again.

    1. Yes, my husband was the Boy Scout leader!
      I love hearing about that life in the Canal. I can get u Mr. Manners email if you’d like. Do glad u wrote.
      Thanks for the memories.

      1. Ms. Kent: ,
        That would be nice-I was in Troop #19 from September 1973-April 1975 and dropped out. Lots of family tension going on and I found it hard to concentrate on troop activities. However, remember a lot of what he and Col. Carillo taught me which I use when I hike mountains in New Hampshire, even though I still can’t figure out how to use a compass!
        Thanks very much and have a good day.

  14. That is how I remember Balboa Elementary! Such wonderful memories! My 6th grade teacher was Mr. Decina (?? can’t exactly remember) I attended in 76-77 then went to Curundu afterwards and left the CZ in 80. I lived in Quarry Hts. If anyone remembers me – please contact me!

  15. I went here for 1st grade in 1991 then I was transferred to curundu elementry for 2nd and 3rd

  16. I was the last PTO president at Balboa Elementary, 1996-97. We included photos and stories from alumni covering the entire history of the school in a supplement to the yearbook.

  17. Hi. I taught 3rd grade at Balboa Elementary in ’89-92. One of my sons went to Curundu and one went to Balboa High School. We so enjoyed our time short time in Panama.
    Laraine Donnelly

  18. Was at Diablo Elementary ’76-77 (3rd.& 4th. grade)
    Anyone remember Mr. Wilson?
    My first crush was a mischevious Scott Thompson! Also..friends I’d like to find..Cheryl Rendon, Sonia Verde & Alicia Schulke. Good ole days!

  19. I lived in Balboa from 1974-1976. I was in 1and 2nd grade. We made golden angles and I still have mine. It was the best time of my childhood. My stepfather was a Resident. I was there when Elvis died. The Hardens lived across from us. We were from Mississippi. My maiden name was Myers. My stepfather was Dr. Hubbard.

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