Gamboa News

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Gamboa Gold Elementary

chronicled by
Dick Shobe, Carolyn Pollak Tyssen, Jessee Crawford,
Jake Baker, Bill Campbell, Bob Ross,Jim Shobe,
Skip Rowley, Lyla "Lou" Womack


School days, school days
Dear old golden rule days,
Reading and writing, arithmetic,
Taught to the tune of a hickory stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful barefoot beau
You wrote on my slate "I love you so"
When we were a couple of kids.

Gamboa Gold Elementary
by Dick Shobe

My 5th Grade Report Card

That was my best year! I was on my best conduct and got my best grades. The longer I stayed in school the better my grades, a legacy from each and every teacher. Helen Starr scored me low, and taught me well.

"Penmanship and...I'm Left Handed"
by Dick Shobe

Go to a table and sit down. Pretend your at your 5th grade desk but all the desks at the school are for left handers. So you slip into the desk chair from the right instead of the left. This leaves you with no place to rest your right hand. It time for penwomanship drill. Place a piece of paper on your lefthander's desk so that a line drawn from the upper right corner to the lower left corner points to you. Now try using your Palmer skills to write a line starting at the right margin progressing to the left margin.

Using ink will and pen makes it an order of magnitude more difficult.That's the left handers burden. It is doable though still difficult if you are allowed to position the paper for a lefthander's convenience. That is what I did. We ended up playing a game where she would never look at me during penmanship drill. The few times she did seem me I would move my paper to the correct position.

Itąs bad enough to make a kid stutter, and stutter I did until I got in Jr.High School where penmanship was not on the curriculum.

Nevertheless I had no problem in getting accepted into Auburn in 1953. None of the three Shobe brothers got good grades but, I never say the job we could not do with David and myself watching Jim.

The Teachers for the Gamboa Gold
Graduating Class of 1947
by Dick Shobe

Thank you one and all
Kindergarten 1 1939 - 1940 Viola Stephens
Kindergarten 2 1940 - 1941 Viola Stephens
First Grade 1941 - 1942 Norma Helton
Second Grade 1942 - 1943 Mildred Edson
Third Grade 1943 - 1944 ?
Fourth Grade 1944 - 1945 Mowry
Fifth Grade 1945 - 1946 Helen Starr
Sixth Grade 1946 - 1947 Helen Starr

The Spanking
by Lyla "Lou" Womack
(written for first and second graders)

I wasnąt always quiet in first grade but I learned how to be very quiet. One time I brought home my report card with a bad grade by whispers too much. It's funny how times have changed because nowadays if a student whispers that's a blessing for the teacher, but in those days whispering was not permitted.

My mother told me, "Lyla Lou, you will bring home an "A" next time wonąt you? (meaning I didnąt whisper any more) If you donąt you will get a spanking!"

Well I worked a little bit harder on not whispering "too much" and I received a "B"....not and "A". I looked at my mother's eyes while she reviewed the grades on my report card. I distinctly remember the place where the grade "whispers too much" was.....even to this day. I could see her eyes scanning quickly and suddenly they stopped on the "B" for whispers too much. My stomache was in knots as she said, łThis is not an "A". And you know the rest of the story......"Whack! Whack! Whack! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!"

For the next nine weeks I was a very, very quiet student and I came home with a great big "A". Wow! That kiss and hug from my mother was wonderful. I no longer whispered in class. What a way to learn.

Gamboa Gold Elementary

Kindergarten~Mrs. Banton

Carolyn Pollak Tysssen
I remember Kindergarten was in a room at the bottom floor of the Club House. We vied to get the best instrument to play in the percussion band. The triangles were good but the sticks were not. One boy, Allen Bartholemew, must have had juvenile diabetes because he woulld always have some kind of "spell" and the teacher would have to give him orange juice. Later, I heard that he had died in his 40's or 50's.
Jessee Crawford
Hey, do you remember the blankets we carried to kindergarten to take our naps on during the afternoon. Mine was black and white and I have pictures of me on the way to school holding it my arms. I actually remember the darn things - we kept it for years - my mother even used it in her nursery school in Gamboa. Ahh, the memories - there will never be another Canal Zone in the annals of time.

First Grade~Miss Moomaw

Lyla "Lou" Womack - Forget Me Not
Jimmy Suddaby! Now that rings a bell! Why we were in first grade together. I blush to say this but I think he was my first boyfriend and now I shall tell you why. After class was over for the day we used to walk up the hill together and he would pick forget-me-nots along the way. As we strolled along he would pick the petals off of the flower, one at a time and say, "She loves me, she loves me not." If the last petal picked was "She loves me," he would lean over and kiss me on the cheek. However if the last one was, "She loves me not," he would put his hands up to his eyes and rub them and cry, "Boo! Hoo!"... He had to be my first boyfriend!

Second Grade~Mrs. Edson

Third Grade~ ?

Fourth Grade~Mrs. Mowry

Fifth Grade~Miss Starr & Miss Hubbard

Sixth Grade~Miss Starr

Vera Jones~ What Grade?

Jim Shobe
When I think about Gamboa certain things evoke happy memories. Sitting in Miss Starr`s 6th grade class and looking out the window daydreaming as I watch the rain coming over the hill and marching into town.
Jake Baker
I sure remember Miss Starr, she was stern and sure commanded respect. My memory is fuzzy but doubt I was a model student putting it mildly. Suspect she was glad to see me move on to 7th grade in Balboa.
Bill Campbell
It seems I was forever having to stay after school for Miss Star. She had all of those wonderful long division problems for us to do. If it wasn't for Rodney the janitor helping , many of us would still working to find the answers.
Lyla "Lou" Womack
I too can remember daydreaming in her class. Miss Starr, even though she was very petite, had complete control plus order of the whole class. When she spoke with very soft voice, "Now people.˛ all "the people," fifth and sixth graders included...listened up! E. F. Hutton would have to take a second to Miss Starr. Years later when I was teaching I would use the same expression, "Now people," but for some reason or another, I just wasn't as effective as Miss Starr.

An interesting tidbit...

One of the gang was a teacher there.

Don Connor
After my active duty I returned to work in Gamboa as an elementary school teacher. I was also in charge of the gym and pool at that time.
Lyla "Lou" Womack
Remember the names Mrs. Edison and Mrs. Murray? Which grade did they teach? Was it second and third? Also remember those timed tests we had in the morning for addition and subtraction in second grade I believe. If we didnąt miss the problems we didnąt have to come back to school in the afternoon.
How about the inkwells and those scratchy pen points we put into the pen holder...before of course ballpoint pens were invented.
Carolyn Pollak Tyssen
The only thing I remember about the first through the third grade was penmanship. We had to write letters and practice ovals and straight lines for hours. This was the "Palmer Method". I still have the book. Jake Baker
Vera Jones, was another teacher in Gamboa, she was my favorite. She and Alton, who were good friends of my parents lived close to me here. I visited with Vera, a short time before she passed away. I sure remember Miss Starr, she was stern and sure commanded respect. My memory is fuzzy but doubt I was a model student putting it mildly. Suspect she was glad to see me move on to 7th grade in Balboa.
Bob Ross
This brought back a lot of memories. Vera Jones was my math tutor, after school I would report to her home and each time she would be exercising before we got started my that was so long ago. It must It must have been about 1943. I just turned 71 and still remember her slim figure. Thanks Jake Baker for bringing it all back.

by Jim Shobe

School was not my favorite choice, it interfered with my playtime. I remember when I was in Miss Hubbard (Jones) 5th grade class we had an exercise book with math problems that were to be done each day before you were allowed to leave. I quickly realized that she was not checking on them so I would write any numbers that came to mind, show her that I had completed the assignment for the day, and out the door I went.

Towards the end of the year we were told to turn in our exercise books. Alas the day of recking was upon me. My mother was called in and shown what I had done and that she (Miss Hubbard) had no choice but to fail me. My mother asked that if I were to redo the whole exercise book in the coming week would that suffice? Miss Hubbard, bless her, said if it were done in the coming week she would accept it.

Needless to say I was woke up at five oąclock and erased and worked on problems until it was time for school. At lunch time I worked until it was time to return to school and after school I worked until bedtime. The work was completed in the alloted time, but it wreajked havoc with my playtime.

I believed I learned more math in that one week period than I have in the rest of my life.

The only other touble I got into was in Miss Starr`s sixth grade class. At that time we still had ink wells and real pens. You girls liked to bring coffee roses or some kind of flower and put hem in the ink well and they would turn blue, this has nothing to do with this story, just trivia.

It was one of those days that you do something dumb and don`t really know why you did it, but for some reason I looked at that ink well on my desk and put my mouth on it sucked up a mouthful of ink and spit it back in the inkwell. I waited patiently for Miss Starr to look my way and when she did I gave her the best smile I could possibly muster. You have no idea how quickly I was out of there and on my way home, again hellfire and brimstones was waitng for me. Punishment was swift and just.

Taught to the Tune of a Hickory Stick
by Skip Rowley

Just a few tidbits of info this time.Back in those early days of our schoolingand before that, it was permissible to smack a child with a hickory or a pointer or ruler if they either misbehaved or were just not paying attention. I used to get smoked a lot. I especially remember Mrs. Graham in BHS, smacking me with a ruler in her Algebra, Geometry classes. She'd leave welts on my hands and forearms. My Mom didn't care for that, and went to complain to Mr. Hotz. You cannot do that today in schools. Touch one hair on any child, and your b~*^+ will be history. I truly think that is one of the major problems with the modern school system. No class discipline

The next is very interesting. Mrs. Moomaw was my principal in Cristobal Grade School on Colon Beach. I can still remember her to this day. Mrs. Godwin was my first grade teacher. Tell Dick that he is a brave soul to show is report card on the air. I'm to embarrassed to show mine. Lots of red marks on it and they weren't stars. If it was bad, there was a check mark on the right side for me too. But then after the third grade when I got hurt and had to withdraw from school because I was in the hospital, my grades went down even lower. So I repeated the third grade, still missed more school that was allowed, but was passed on trial for the next several years.

Finally my Mom asked that I be held back again in the 8th grade. This time they sent me to a military school in New Bloomfield, Pa., where I got a lot of personal training and brought my math and what not's up to par and was OK after that. So you see, I started out in Cristobal with the class of "57", was with the class of "58" for several years. and finally graduated with the class of "59". What a bonfire that was.

The Gold Elementary
by Lyla "Lou" Womack

Ah yes, the Gold Elementary, that place where I spent seven years of my life. Starting with Miss Moomaw in first grade and having her a second year because I failed the first grade, "because I couldn't read." How embarrassing it was for me during those years especially when my friends were passed on to the second grade and I stayed behind in first. Each grade had one teacher except 5th and 6th. For both of those grades we had Miss Starr. Now Miss Starr had total control over both grades, all she had to say was, "Now people," and she had our undivided attention.

It was named the Gold Elementary because in the days of the construction of the Panama Canal, I am told, the white people were paid in gold and the black in silver. In our town we also had a Silver Elementary where all the black children went to school. In fact our town was divided into areas where we, being white, lived and the black people lived in their designated area. I found out a few years ago from my cousin that a lot of southerners went to Panama during the construction days and that was probably why we had Jim Crow Laws in effect. Needless to say, no black children went to our Gold Elementary.

On our weekends all of the Gamboa Gang would ride their bicycles under the school. Concrete pillars supported the school above so it was an ideal race track for us to use. Those pillars can sometimes get in the way though if one is not watching carefully. I ruined a bike by running into a pillar under an apartment building at another time.

The war years were scary for us because our open area for riding bikes was sealed off with sandbags from concrete floor to ceiling for an emergency air raid shelter. Those sandbags were always gentle reminders of the strategic location in which we lived. During the war I vividly remember the many ships that came through, the blackouts, and the air raid drills at school. With anxious hearts, when a drill was called, all of the students and teachers from the first story level which was supported underneath by concrete pillars, would run down the outside stairs to the ground level shelter made of sandbags.There we would wait until the "all clear" signal was given, needless to say, never soon enough for me! Those were scarey days for me as a child.

We were always having music programs at Christmas time. I can always remember Nina Bates singing so beautifully, "in a Little Village of Bethlehem". Occasionally I got to sing a duet too which was such a joy for me. All my childhood Mom and Dad and I harmonized songs while riding in the car to Balboa for our corbina at the Balboa Clubby so singing was something I really enjoyed. Our music programs were held in the hallway between the classrooms which was wide enough to hold everyone. Later, after the Second World War was over our music program were done at the Civic Center. We couldnąt use it during the war since the GI's used it for entertainment.

Before going into class we lined up for water and the water fountain in the hallway. One time I drank some water but held it in my mouth so I looked like a chipmunk when I went into the classroom. Before I sat down some student came up to me, saw my face and slapped both of his hands on my cheeks and water squirted out all over him. I can't recall if I got in trouble or not over that. All I can remember is the gusher of water squirting on him.

While living in Gamboa, my dad would bring home all kinds of animals from the jungle plus be given animals because he had gone to veterinary school in Ames, Iowa for two years and was known as the neighborhood vet. We were given a macaw that a friend had almost lost because of a opposum attack. In the fight for her life one of her legs was broken so I am sure that's why she was given to us. She was named Taca after the Taca Airlines. You might say she fulfilled the expression "as free as a bird" because she was never caged and was always allowed to fly all over Gamboa. One time she followed my brother to school, kind of like Mary's little lamb. When he went up the stairs and into the hallway, Taca decided to follow him and flew in one entrance and down the long hallway and exited out the back door. No Bub, so she flew home to her tree that was next to our cottage.

I don't believe we had a library for the school so each room had their own library. Cafeterias weren't in existence at that time so we had sack lunches in elementary, junior high and high school years.

I can always remember penmanship practice sessions, "Oval, oval, oval, up!" Then those up and down strokes we would make as the teacher would say, "Push, pull, push, pull." Hopefully we didnąt have to do them in ink and only pencil. Ink wells, scratchy pen points and blotters didnąt enhance writing lessons. However, later on in life I became a calligrapher and the thing I detested I thoroughly came to enjoy.

We weren't even allowed to whisper in class. If we did our report card would be checked, "Whispers too much."

We werenąt allowed to chew gum in Miss Starr's class or any other for that matter... but I did one day. I sure hate to admit all of these childhood antics that I did...but I imagine some of you reading this might be able to identify with me? Dick Shobe at the same time was chewing gum. I wonder if this was after the war years because I know that during the war we never saw any bubblegum and it might have been true for gum as well. Anyway, the two of us got caught...big time! So Miss Starr made us put our gum on a piece of paper and told us we would have to stay after school. The chore we had was to number our paper from 1 to 100 and beside each number we would have to put a piece of gum. Now I had one stick of gum, but Dick had two sticks in his mouth when he got caught but the rules were still the same. Piece by piece I tore that sticky gum from the wad and placed it diligently on the paper. While I was doing it I looked over at Dick to see how he was doing and he was pulling the gum apart into a long thread then cutting it by each number. I thought, "Now why didn't I think of that?" When immediately Miss Starr glanced back at us. I froze but Dick kept on until her shadow was cast upon his desk. Then there was an abrupt stop! Miss Starr told him that he would have to take all of that gum off of the paper and start all over again. I think I got through before he did and I know that I never chewed gum in school ever again.

We had no playground equipment but I do recall having so much fun during recess playing baseball and probably kickball that I didn't want to come in. Later on some equipment was set up when my brother started school nine years later.

Sometimes I would be so bored in class that I would love to look out the window more than listening to the might say I loved to daydream. So if it became too monotonous I would escape to my own little dream world for a while. The canal was so close to our school but I canąt quite remember if I could see the ships passing by and if so wondering what their destination was...the South Pacific to the war or California or some tropical island in the South Pacific. The emblem I always remember that was engraved on my senior class ring stated, łThe land divided, the world united.˛ So who knows where that ship was headed in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. In eight hours it would be heading out into one of those mighty oceans.

In front of our school was a lawn that made a complete circle and right in the center of the circle stood the flagpole. We were taught in the upper grades how to unfold the American flag and hook it to the flagpole each day. I think we all gathered around it but it's been so long ago it's hard to remember. We would have said the pledge of allegiance the first thing in the morning. This was a practice I continued every day of my twenty-nine years of teaching. At the end of the day we brought the flag down being very, very careful for it not to touch the ground in the process, then we folded it into a triangular shape and put it away in the storeroom for the following school day.

Oh, if only I had kept a journal in those much richer in detail my writing would be now. Seven years at the Gold Elementary and this is all I have to show for it.

My how time can change a person! Failed the first grade because I couldn't read and my most favorite subject that I taught was.... reading.

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