by Louis Husted
Well, class of 67, hello! I figured that you all might want to keep abreast of the happenings at BHS during the last year of its existence. As such, I will run an on-going update of events as they occur for your benefit through Freds efforts.
I just want to say that it is a real thrill for me to be teaching Seniors at BHS. Not a day goes by that I dont have a flashback to when we were here doing our thing! To begin with, there have been a few changes that have occurred since you were here. Yea, we have air conditioning and spiffy clean sliding windows to testify to that fact. The lower gym is now air conditioned also, as are the dressing rooms, but the upper gym is identical to what it was in 67 to include the same floor, huge open square-mesh windows, and walk-way ceiling. The rooms are all carpeted with the exception of the 600s wing (bottom floor of the 800 building) which houses the science labs. Also, the 400 wing, which housed the science classes and the ROTC, is now divided between the school and the Panama Canal Commission. The section containing the ROTC half belongs to the Commission and is no longer used by BHS. The hedge of red honeysuckle bushes that ringed the Balboa Head/flagpole are long gone. The most dramatic change, however, and an addition courtesy of Uncle Sams US Army, is the 10-foot barb-wired-top cyclone fence which now surrounds the entire campus. In addition and as a complement to the fence, the entrance to the road between the school and the gym has a monstrosity of a gate, somewhat reminiscent of the MGM gate at the entrance to MGM Studios in Orlando. For those of you who were fortunate enough to have been a GI Joe, (or Jane) you understand that "the perimeter must be secured". This was all in place at the beginning of school last year, which prompted my son Brian, who is a senior this year, to aptly label the school "Balcatraz"! We half-expected the circular gun turrets on each corner, but they never materialized. Gracias a Dios! The football field is the identical football field, however, the baseball diamond was turned around so that home plate and the $27,000.00 backstop are now where center field used to be. They dont put up the open bleachers any more since our population has dwindled so. Just outside the boys dressing room in front of the outside showers we now have a grove of midget coconut palm trees. It does enhance that area somewhat. Then, the old after-school haunt of so many of you, the illustrious bowling alley, is no longer in existence. It was demolished at the end of last year and all that remains is the concrete base. It is our understanding that a Nikos Cafeteria is going to be put up there. That pretty much covers the changes to the school buildings and campus in general. In the next "edition" I will cover the major changes to the athletic program, of which there are myriad. You all take care and God bless.
The athletic program at BHS has undergone a radical transformation. In 1975 Balboa split into two teams, the Red Machine and the Bulldogs. All BHS athletes whose last names began with A through K were on the Red and those from L through Z were Bulldogs. The College and Cristobal made up the other two teams for a four team league. Then in 1983 the league was restructured again. This time all athletes from BHS and the College (which was renamed Panama Canal College to do away with the name Canal Zone College due to the political incorrectness of its name) were placed into one pool from where they were drafted onto one of four team: the Red, Bulldogs, Devils, and the newcomer, the Curundu Cougars, who were housed at the Curundu Junior High School. Once an athlete was drafted onto a team, he remained with that team until he left the Isthmus. The Homecoming game always pitted the Red vs the Bulldogs and the Devils vs the Cougars. This was the case until 1995 when due to the complaint of ONE parent, the College students were not allowed to participate in any interscholastic athletics. Now the four teams consisted of athletes from only one school - BHS. The first Panamanian team, the Kiwanis, entered the league in 1992. The franchise was then taken over by the Panajur Panthers. They were basically a club team, selecting players from all the major high schools in the city. When Cristobal High School closed its doors in 1995, a second Panamanian team, the Falcons, were added to boost our league to six teams. Then in 1997 the Bulldogs were dropped from the league due to falling enrollment. We now had three BHS teams and two Panamanian teams. We decided to eliminate the Bulldogs from the league because the mascot was the representative of the school whenever BHS traveled to Puerto Rico. This year BHS returned to one team, the Bulldogs, for the first time since 1974.
In 1995, BHS participated in the first international football game since 1961 when they traveled with an all-star team to play the Antilles Pirates from Antilles High School in Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. We selected an all-star team from the four teams and prepared for about two weeks. My oldest, Kyle, was selected to travel with them, which made me very proud. We played on a Friday night and lost 14-7 on a questionable call. The following year, 1996, Antilles came to Panama early in the year. We were loaded with speed and seniors, (experience) and we whupped them to the tune of 28-14. Then after our regular season we traveled to Puerto Rico where we played the island champs, Commonwealth Blue Wave, on Thursday and won 28-0, then on Saturday we went up against Antilles, who were the tournament champs, and beat them 28-0. In 1997 we hosted Antilles in September, where they beat us, and then we went to Puerto Rico in November and got beat again. This year we traveled to Puerto Rico in early September and lost 30-7. Antilles may come again in November, but that is uncertain at this point. BHS has traveled to Puerto Rico to play soccer, baseball, basketball, girls soccer, softball, and basketball.
Our other sports at BHS have undergone pretty much the same route. Last year we had a 10-team boys varsity soccer league with four teams from BHS and six from Panamanian high schools. The same holds true for girls volleyball and basketball. Our athletes have faired pretty well in post-secondary competition. Many have gone on to excel in college and one, Leo Barker, from Cristobal, played outside linebackers with the Cincinnati Bengals and even went to the Superbowl. Right now I have an ex-Green Devil who is a second team true freshman fullback with the Nitany Lions of Penn State. Soccer has gotten very big here and many of our kids are currently playing in the US while a good many others are involved in the local semi-pro leagues in Panama City.
This pretty well sums up the athletic picture of BHS. I has been very rewarding to have coached here all these years. I feel pretty good about having coached football here for 26 consecutive year, longer than any other coach in the history of Canal Zone Schools. I cant begin to bring up the priceless memories which I have stored up, which one day I will have to record for posterity. The countless athletes I have dealt with have in a real sense become my kids. I have an affinity for each and every one of them, and they in turn have enriched my life beyond words. BHS has been very good to me!
October 21, 1998