June 6, 2008 - After serving the Panama Park community for 92 years, the doors to Lola M. Culver Elementary School were closed for the last time.
Built in 1916 to educate the children of this working class neighborhood, Lola M. Culver Elementary School once served as the only public school in this area of North Jacksonville. With the river as it's neighbor, school number thirteen once rang with the thrill of childish laughter and play. Named for it's second principal, a pleasant but stern woman of the mid nineteen hundreds, the school's huge front steps, bordered by six foot thick bulwarks on either side, welcomed you to it's narrow hallways and spiral wooden stair cases to the second floor. The surrounding live oaks and quiet streets still stand as reminders of days less cluttered by technology and more of children walking to school, or being ridden on the crossbars of a bicycle. Close by was a "Little Store" where your fifteen cent lunch money would get you a Delaware Punch drink and a fist full of Mary Janes, or a set of fake wax teeth that you could chew like gum. Thirty five cents, a week's allowance, got you a Duncan Yo-yo. or a three sheet set of cardboard dolls with exchangeable clothes with little tabs that you folded to hold them on. It was a school where you were summons to class by a real bell, and no one ever heard of an intercom. Where the teachers that taught you may have taught your parents, and where if you took a roll call of all the students that had ever passed through it's doors most would tell you that they began every day with a prayer and a pledge of allegiance to the flag.
I pass by that school when I'm in town every now and then. As I slowly pass, I somehow expect to see a hundred or so little Tom Sawyers in their rolled up trousers, and Becky Thrashers in their Sunback dresses and pigtails standing in front of that flagpole after the morning bell, or dancing around a real May Pole in the spring.