Thursday, December 27, 2018

2nd Edition


One calendar year is about to come to a close and another is about to start. This is a good time to reflect on the status of the schism, where we have been in the last twelve months and where we might be going in the next twelve. We are now in the seventh year of the schism (sigh). It started on October 15, 2012 (we were all much younger then). We are about to begin the seventh year of litigation between the two sides. The law suits began on January 4, 2013 (painful to recall). Weariness, exhaustion. This is what I hear the most from people on both sides. When will this end? How much longer? And, where is God? Why does not He stop this disaster and bring peace? This is the unspoken sentiment I sense coming from people often too. These are all good questions. They are all valid. They should all be embraced with all of the emotions they may evoke. It is best to get things out in the open. Wounds heal quicker in fresh air.

We have turned the corner in the history of the schism. The most significant event of the year 2018 was the U.S. Supreme Court's denial of cert. This meant the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017 is the final law of the land. It cannot be changed or appealed. It must be enforced by the lower court. That decision gave the bulk of the prize to the Episcopal Church by recognizing Church control over 29 of the 36 parishes in question, plus Camp St. Christopher.

In the past year, the two sides reacted to the SCSC decision strongly but, of course, entirely differently.


The DSC strategy is to deny and delay, first to deny that the decision says what it says and secondly to delay its implementation even if it says what it says. This is called offensive defense. And so, DSC has been on the offensive all year long against the decision and its beneficiary, the Episcopal Church.

DSC leaders carried out contradictory moves throughout the year. On one hand, they told their followers they need not worry about losing the properties because the diocesan lawyers would throw up roadblocks in court to prevent TEC from seizing the churches for many years to come. On the other hand, they carried out a campaign to move communicants out of the buildings into quarters elsewhere. 

DSC leaders combined plans for relocation with a fierce demonization of the Episcopal Church, to prod their faithful with a place to move and a reason to move. Efforts of emotional manipulation and brainwashing swept the diocese. On December 1, 2017, the DSC leaders released a secret plan to move congregations out of their buildings to meeting places elsewhere (see my blog piece on this here .) 

DSC's attack on the Episcopal Church was particularly intense. To be sure, it was nothing new. As early as 2013, Bishop Lawrence had called TEC "the spiritual forces of evil." This is still up on the DSC website. Find it here (p.2, lower left). In March, April, and May of 2018, DSC leaders conducted two "teaching" campaigns in St. Michael's and St. Philip's churches to convince parishioners that TEC had abandoned the true faith, and therefore any return to TEC would amount to abandonment of the true faith (see my blog post on this here ). At an ACNA conference in Birmingham and in an address of Kendall Harmon, the speakers seem to imply that TEC was a "pagan" religion.

DSC's bitter denunciation of the Episcopal Church took a definite turn in intensity after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected DSC's appeal of the SCSC decision, on June 11. With this, it was clear that TEC would regain control over the 29 parishes. It was just a matter of time. In order for DSC to remain a viable entity, it would have to create new congregations out of the old parishes. The SCSC decision left it with just six local churches. Hence, the vitriol arose.

The highlight, or lowlight as the case may be, of DSC's public relations campaign against TEC was Bishop Lawrence's tour of the diocese from July 31 to August 9, with stops in Sumter, Walterboro, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and James Island. About a thousand communicants of DSC attended. The obvious aim of the swing was to strengthen the emotional bond between the people and their bishop. On this, it succeeded. He portrayed himself as the innocent victim, emphasized the us against them dichotomy, and declared there would be no reconciliation. However, he subtly promoted contradictory themes telling the people on the one hand the SCSC decision was unenforceable, and on the other people should not be attached to their buildings.

At this moment, we cannot discern the effects of the contradictory themes. However, more than one parish has announced that it is no longer raising money to pay lawyers. Meanwhile, rumors have been flying that numerous DSC parishes are actively looking for meeting places in exile. Apparently, some DSC parishes are proceeding under the secret Template of Dec. 1, 2017 for relocation.


TEC and TECSC are looking for the implementation of the SCSC decision of August 2, 2017. They are awaiting Judge Dickson's orders for the return of the 29 parishes and Camp. They have proposed to the judge to name a Special Master and to appoint an accounting firm to expedite the SCSC decision.

In the federal court, they succeeded in getting the trustees of DSC and the DSC local churches included as defendants in the case. Just last week, they asked Judge Gergel for a summary judgment in favor of TEC/TECSC and against DSC.

Another important event in 2018 was the failure of the court-ordered mediation process that began in October of 2017. In January and February it became clear the mediation had gained nothing, and on February 14, Gergel lifted the stay he had imposed on the case pending the mediation.


Having looked at what happened in the year past, what can we reasonably expect to develop in the year ahead?

Circuit court Judge Dickson is unpredictable. He has had the case for nearly a year and has done nothing about it but gather arguments. He has indicated the SCSC decision is unclear and uncertain even though the last page of the decision spells out precisely and concisely the three decisions of the high court. Moreover, he has taken up only one of the six motions/petitions before him. Therefore, anyone's guess of what Dickson will do and when he will do it is as good as mine. I do wonder at this point if he is waiting for guidance upon the ruling of the federal court. Otherwise I have no understanding of why he is delaying this case.

Federal court Judge Gergel is much more predictable. We can expect expeditious attention to this case this year. The TEC/TECSC side submitted its request for summary judgment on Dec. 7. The DSC lawyers responded by filing a flood of papers with Gergel, all nonsensical in my opinion. As I understand it, Gergel may either hold a hearing or go straight to the trial he has already targeted for March 2019. Either way, I expect we will get decisive action soon and a resolution of this case in 2019. Odds are that the Church side will prevail in federal court mainly because of two main factors: -the hierarchical nature of the Episcopal Church, and 2-the First Amendment separation of church and state. I expect Judge Gergel to grant TEC/TECSC all of their requests although this may not come until after the trial. 

There is a major "however" in both of these courts. The decision of both judges can be appealed, the circuit court to the South Carolina Court of Appeals and the federal court to the United States Court of Appeals, in Richmond. Even so, I see no reason why the Church cannot repossess the properties, assuming the judgments are favorable, and proceed with the restoration of the old diocese even during the appeals. If so, there is a good chance that the 29 parishes will return to Episcopal Church control in the calendar year of 2019. 

Although there is still a long way to go before all the litigation ends, it is clear the final outlines of settlement have been made. The Episcopal Church has regained 29 of the 36 parishes in question, plus the Camp. Judge Dickson has no choice but to implement the decision of the state supreme court. Likewise, I think Judge Gergel has no choice but to recognize the Church as hierarchical and therefore entitled to determine its own government. 

So, where does this leave the two sides? Both will be in much weaker conditions with difficult roads ahead. Even as TEC/TECSC "wins" the 29 parishes, it loses many of the communicants, how many we cannot know yet. TECSC will be hard pressed to rebuild these diminished congregations and  make them self-supporting. 

The independent diocese will be in a much worse state with six local parishes and a handful of other parishes and missions. When it loses the entity of the pre-schism diocese, it will have to start from the ground again to rebuild, a highly formidable task given the severe diminution of assets which will occur. A feasible alternative to rebuilding is to melt the present DSC into the ACNA Diocese of the Carolinas under Bishop Steve Wood, at St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant. Bishop Lawrence, soon to be 69 years old, could retire and go off into the sunset to live comfortably. The DSC leaders could still claim a victory of a sort by having removed a certain part of the Episcopal diocese. The removed part would still be in ACNA and still committed against equality for and inclusion of homosexuals, transgendered, and women in the life of the church.

I think the two sides should disabuse themselves of some wrong-headed beliefs. TEC/TECSC should not assume the "congregations" in the 29 parishes will return to the Episcopal Church. The parishes will return but many of the people, probably at least half, will leave the buildings rather than return to the Episcopal Church. That is just the reality of the situation that no wishful thinking can change. In time, I expect some of these people will return to their "home" churches, but this may take a long time.

The DSC leaders should drop the unreality that somehow they are going to keep the 29 parishes and the Camp. Most of all they should stop telling their people such. It is cruel to mislead them so. The SCSC decision is the law of the land; and it is not unclear. Just the opposite. It is only a matter of time before TEC regains possession of the 29 parishes, the Camp, and the legal entity of the old diocese. The assertions that DSC is going to keep any of this are just far from true.

The DSC leaders are only compounding their mistakes which have been many already. They were given three chances to make out of court settlements and they turned down all of them. And, why they did, we really do not know. They will have to tell us that. Looking back, their biggest mistake was to reject the June 2015 offer from the Episcopal Church to swap the parishes (to DSC) for the diocese (to TEC). If the DSC had accepted this, all of the 36 parishes in the lawsuit would now be permanently independent of TEC and sole owners of their local properties. Instead, 29 of them now are returning to trust control and physical control of TEC.

Let's be frank and honest here. The schism has been a failure. The DSC authorities led their people to believe they could leave the Episcopal Church and take the properties of the diocese and the parishes with them. The SCSC has proved them wrong. The DSC faithful are now left in the lurch.  

Unfortunately, I think we can expect an acceleration of DSC's bitter attacks against TEC in the year ahead as the courts inevitably move in on the Church side. What we saw in the past year was bad enough, but I am afraid it is going to get worse. The DSC leaders have shown that they will go on to the bitter end doing all they can to prevent TEC from regaining the old diocese, at least the people if not the buildings. No doubt they will increase the pressure on the 13,000 communicants in the 29 parishes to leave their churches rather than return to the "false teachers" and "pagans."

So, all signs indicate this war is still going on full-fledged and has a long way to go with many more casualties to come. Gettysburg has occurred, but the end of the fighting is still far off. It is just so hard for some people to accept failure. The schism has been, and still is, a disaster for the old diocese of South Carolina. Some people made some bad choices. Unfortunately, the consequences of those wrong-headed choices fell on thousands of innocent people. The schism has been going on for more than six years now, longer than the Civil War, longer than the Second World War. The wounds are open and deep, the pains too real. The destructive effects are pervasive. Nevertheless, what one should focus on now is not the past but the future, not where one has been but where one can go. There are signs of grace all around. There is redemption ahead. There is always new life after a wildfire. There is new life ahead. And, all is because enough people are committed to the two great commandments, love God and love neighbor. With this as the guide, the people of the grand old diocese of South Carolina will find their way home even though the road is still long and hard.

Monday, December 24, 2018

[A NOTE TO BLOG READERS:  This posting has nothing to do with the schism in South Carolina, or with South Carolina for that matter. My elementary school was demolished in 2017; and I wrote this little memoir to keep the place alive in a sense. This essay will not be published but copies will be deposited with the archives and libraries in Pensacola. This is my brief history of the school and my memories of my time there. I am posting it here to give it space on the Internet.]





By Ronald James Caldwell

Copyright, Ronald James Caldwell, 2018.


   Hallmark School, 2010

The George S. Hallmark School, Pensacola, Florida, was demolished in 2017, to make way for a housing development. The building is no more but the school lives on in the hearts and minds of the thousands of people like me whose lives were transformed by it. We must not let the memory of this great place disappear. Here is my part in the endeavor to keep Hallmark School alive forever. This is my research on and my experiences in this school.

Dedicated to the memory of Miss Emma Louise Hartman,
Principal of Hallmark School, 1939-1964

My mother walked me to Hallmark School on that hot and sunny day in early September of 1949. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. All forty-eight pounds of me felt as if I were the biggest boy in the world getting to go to the First Grade. I had not gone to kindergarten the way some of my little friends had. Kindergarten cost money in those days and my father’s policeman’s salary did not stretch far beyond the basic needs of six people. So here I was in my new clothes and new tennis shoes off to school and the great big wonderful world I knew it would bring. When we arrived at the north side of the school, we stood on the sidewalk and I said to mother, “Now you stay here” (meaning, I did not want to be seen with my mother walking me through the door).  Little, skinny boy that I was, I wanted to be my own person. She watched me walk eagerly to the north door then took my picture. I turned and entered what would be six years in wonderland. In so many ways these were to be the best years of my life, they certainly were the most important years of my long education.

After Hallmark, I went on to Blount Junior High School, a few blocks away. It has also been demolished. After that I went on to Pensacola High School and then to Pensacola Junior College. After that I traveled to Tallahassee to enter Florida State University where I earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Education and a Ph.D. in History. Upon finishing there, I started a teaching career at Jacksonville State University, in Jacksonville, Alabama. I am now Professor of History, Emeritus, of Jacksonville State University. My long and full life in education all started on that September day in 1949 when I walked through the north door of the George S. Hallmark Elementary School. It was a wonderful beginning.

Before I recount my experiences in the school, let us look briefly at the history of the place.

From the time the Spaniards left, in 1821, to the post-Civil War, around 1870, Pensacola remained a small, relatively poor and unimportant town, really a rather rough village of 2,000 people. It was, as it had always been basically a military outpost given its strategic position and finest deep water harbor on the central Gulf coast. The Spaniards returned in the early 1700s after a very long absence mainly to prevent the French from taking over all the Gulf coast as they moved from New Orleans eastward to Mobile and threatened to infringe on Spanish claims to Florida. The Spanish fort at the entrance to Pensacola Bay would do the job. When the Americans arrived in 1821 they found the Bay good for a Navy yard.

After the Civil War, Pensacola became a transportation hub as maritime trade escalated and railroads connected the town eastward, westward, and northward. The great Pensacola boom was from 1880 to 1920. From 6,845 people in 1880, Pensacola swelled to 11,750 in 1890, 17,747 in 1900, 22,982 in 1910, and 31,035 in 1920. These arrivals were mostly rural and small-town people from northwest Florida, south Alabama, southwest Georgia, and southeast Mississippi driven out by low agricultural prices. Thus, in the four decades from 1880 to 1920, Pensacola exploded from a village/small town into an important and sizable city with four times the population. What underlay this boom, primarily, was the lumber trade. After the Civil War and the expansion of a good railroad network, millions of acres of virgin forest lands were opened up in northwest Florida and south Alabama, all with access to export from Pensacola. Lumber companies moved in, even into remote areas to harvest the old growth trees, mostly pines. Hungry markets in the north and overseas swallowed up the good, plentiful and relatively cheap timber shipped out by boat and rail. At the height of the boom, Pensacola harbor was thick with ships of all descriptions loading up with countless feet of saw-milled lumber. Money poured into the city along with people to take advantage of the economic good times.

The golden age of Pensacola produced a building boom in the city, notably from 1900 to 1920: new Christ Church, Blount Building, American National Bank Building, City Hall, Hotel San Carlos, Thiessen Building, First Methodist Church, L & N Depot, old Sacred Heart Hospital, and the High School (1921). (Two of these have been demolished, the Hotel and the High School.) Pensacola was on a roll. However, as is so often true with booms, the good days would not last. Once the forests had been depleted, the trade and the money dwindled. The great boom ended in the 1920s. While population continued to grow, the rate was far slower than it had been.

The city struggled to provide education for the flood of incoming residents. Soon after the Civil War, the Board of Public Instruction began setting up public schools. The map of 1885 showed a school, Public School Number 1, on east Wright street. In 1898, a school appeared in the record called Public School Number 74, located on east Government Street. It proved to be wholly inadequate. Two years later, in 1900, the school board built a new School Number 74 on the south side of Garden Street, between Spring and Reus streets. The Pensacola News (Oct. 22, 1900) described it as “One of the most convenient and complete structures of its class in the city.” It sat on a lot of 200 by 300 feet. This four-grade school building, built by F.M. Williams, had four classrooms, First and Second grades on the first floor, and Third and Fourth grades on the second. Each room had windows on three sides. There were four teachers, one for each grade. Mrs. Sabra Collins was the principal, soon replaced by Miss Jessie Griffin. Great improvement that the school was, it was already barely adequate for the 192 children who lined up for school on the first day. That meant 40-50 children in each of the four classrooms.

Between 1900 and 1920, Pensacola’s population ballooned from 17,747 to 31,035. The hard-pressed school board could hardly keep up with the demand for space in the over-crowded schools. Meanwhile the west side of Pensacola was quickly developing as the industrial, working-class part of the city, thanks in large measure to the arrival of the Frisco railroad (St. Louis and San Francisco). The Frisco built a passenger station on west Garden St. in the 1920s (since demolished). The L & N (Louisville and Nashville) R.R. served the north and east of the town. The opening of J.B. Lockey School (later known as Blount Junior High) seemed to do little to alleviate the school crisis on the west side. The school board knew something had to be done and soon to provide education for the burgeoning population of the west side that was composed largely of industrial workers, mechanics, clerks, drivers, policemen, nurses, shopkeepers, commercial fishermen and the like.

Meanwhile, in 1919, the board renamed School Number 74, the George S. [Stone] Hallmark School even as it was obvious the building was far from adequate to meet the needs of the area’s growing population. George S. Hallmark (1846-1906) was a prominent local judge, civic leader, vestryman of Christ Church and member of the school board. 

By 1925, the board decided the school building could not be improved and expanded enough in its rather small lot on Garden St (where the building that used to house the school board now stands). They resolved to explore selling the building and constructing a new school for the children of the west side somewhere else nearby but with plenty of space.

In 1925, the school board debated selling the Garden Street school property to Abe Durschlag, of Chicago, for a total of $60,000, $15,000 in a down payment, the balance in yearly payments at 7% interest. There was lively discussion among the board members about this. Some said the board had no money to build new schools, and this deal would not provide new funds in timely fashion. Nevertheless, the deal went through. The buyer agreed to rent the present school building to the board for one year at $2,000. (In early 1928, Durschlag returned the deed to the board. He made the down payment of $15,000 then defaulted on the annual payments. The April 4, 1928 Pensacola Journal reported that the board was accepting a new offer of $40,000, from B.F. Yoakum, of Chicago. The new deal would mean the board would lose $7,000 on the original deal.)

The board considered several sites on the west side of downtown and finally decided on a vacant city block bounded by E St., F St., Romana St., and Intendencia St. at a cost of $10,000. The land was secured by January of 1927. Apparently, many people were unhappy with the new site and opposition to it began to grow. Several new construction projects, including new Hallmark, were estimated to cost $200,000, money the board did not have. To raise the money for the new construction projects, the board proposed to offer $225,000 in public bonds at 6% interest. They got the P.T.A. network to back them, but still found opposition to incurring this heavy debt. To win over support for the controversial site and the whole scheme, the board purchased additional land for the new school bringing the site south to Government Street (new Hallmark School was to occupy five acres of land, an unusually large space for a public school). Apparently, this worked to win over public support for the new site. In a referendum in 1927, the voters approved of the sale of the bonds. This gave the board the necessary funds for Hallmark’s construction, on the site chosen.

The board acted immediately to have the new school ready for the start of the school year in September of 1928. In the summer of 1927, local architect Walker D. Willis, with office at 517 Blount Building, drew up the plans for the new nineteen-room George S. Hallmark School. It was to face E St. with its north side on Romana. He had also designed the Pensacola High School, on the east side of Lee Square, which opened in 1921. On September 20, 1927, the board advertised for sealed bids for the construction of the new Hallmark School to be submitted by October 13, 1927.

On October 14, 1927, the board announced that it had awarded the contract to the lowest of the ten bidders, the Herrington Brothers Construction Company. Their bid was $66,032.23. Charles A. Born won the plumbing contract at $11,437, and Woodward Electric Company got the electrical job at $1,888. The whole construction of new Hallmark School was to total slightly less than $80,000. Work began immediately. It was just ten and a half months before school was to start in September of 1928.

By the spring of 1928, work on the new school seemed to be progressing well. In April, Jeff Herrington reported that the building should be finished on time. He also remarked that the type of (yellow) brick being used was in short supply as it was in demand for other construction. The newspaper reported “Contractors of the city have praised the brick work being done on the building.” (Pensacola Journal, April 16, 1928). Photos of the demolition show that the walls were about a foot thick of solid brick formation. It was a structure built to last.

Herrington may have been pleased with the progress, but the school board was not. In May of 1928, they charged him with “demurrage,” that is, falling behind on the terms of the contract, for which the contractor could pay a penalty. The board sent a letter urging the hiring of extra workmen and asking for a report on the new workers hired. The board was afraid the building would not be finished in time for school to begin in September. Apparently, Herrington got the message. Shortly thereafter, he told the board the work would be finished by July 15 (it was not). In August, a strange incident occurred. Workmen arrived one morning to find a room on fire. They called the fire department which extinguished the blaze before it could spread to other rooms. The cause of the fire was never discovered. The building was ready for teachers and students in September of 1928 and the first year of the new George S. Hallmark school began.

Hallmark School in 1928 or 1929.

New Hallmark School was the pride of the west side of Pensacola. It was by far the most important public building west of downtown. The architect Willis really outdid himself in the artistic charm of the building, far surpassing the larger but plainer Pensacola High School. The building is listed as “Renaissance Revival” architecture, but I always thought of it as “Spanish.” It had an impressive front entrance, a recessed door in the middle of three arches supported by columns. Above were three rounded iron balconies and windows topped by decorative work displaying “H” in the middle and topped by an art deco finial. Pinnacles punctuated the red tile roof edging (actually, the building was flat-topped). At the two ends of the front were iron balconies in walls topped by more decorative work. The structure contained three classrooms for each grade One to Six, grades One to Three on the first floor, and Four to Six on the second floor. At its highest enrollment, in the 1950s, the school housed over 600 students.  

The building itself was very substantial. It survived many a storm after 1928. Its foot-thick walls were solid yellow brick. The floors were hardwood as were the two broad stair cases, at the ends of the building. The inside had a simple elegance. The doors to the classrooms were glass-paned so that one did not have to open the door to see inside the room. On the back side, in the middle, there was an iron fire escape stairway from the second floor. Just beyond was the boiler room where the janitor had his headquarters. The original building had a lunch room, as I recall, a double room on the west side of the first floor. When I was in the First Grade, we students went through the line putting on our trays the meals and a small bottle of milk, the kind with the cream on the top. We took the tray back to our rooms and ate. The trick was to get the tray both ways without tipping over the bottle. Some of us did not succeed.

In 1950, the cafeteria/auditorium was built as a separate structure connected to the northwest corner of the building with a rolled-up metal fire door at the entrance. When I entered the Second Grade (Sept. 1950), all students went in shifts to each lunch on tables set up in the auditorium. When necessary, the tables were stacked away and chairs set up facing the stage for assembles and performances. The stage had a curtain topped by a large “H.” Another outbuilding was built, a new media center, or library, in 1999-2000. After the cafetorium was built in 1950, the old lunchroom space became the library for the school.

The school site was two city blocks, an unusually large space for a school. The building(s) stood on the north lot. The south lot was left in its natural state as a “playground.” At some point, early on, Intendencia Street, which would have separated the two blocks, was closed off and the two blocks became one long block. This gave ample open area for games and recreation. Toward the southern end, on Government St., the pine trees became more numerous. Some were old and large. On the west side near F St. stood an ancient live oak tree whose enormous spreading limbs provided much sought-after shade from the hot sun (also good for climbing). In the 1940s and 50s a large sycamore tree stood on the back side of the building near the fire escape.

Along with the remarkable building, Hallmark School was fortunate to have a remarkable faculty. Some of these teachers devoted decades of their lives to the school. A few spent their entire teaching careers at Hallmark. In the five decades from 1913 to 1964, there were only two principals, Allie Yniestra (1913-1939) and Emma Hartman (1939-1964).

Allie Yniestra’s father was Moses Gale Yniestra, born in 1837, in Pensacola. He married Anna Elizabeth Gause on May 21, 1860, in Mobile, AL. Allie was the first of eight girls born to the Yniestras. She arrived in March of 1861. Moses served in the Confederate army; and, after the war moved from Greenville AL back to Pensacola to become the superintendent of the gas works. Moses was killed in a railroad accident in 1884. Allie Yniestra’s mother was left with eight daughters to support, ages 23 to 6. Although we do not know from the record, we might imagine Allie had to assume a great deal of responsibility as the eldest of eight girls. We do know that for many years, her mother operated a boarding house at 229 North Spring St. Allie never married and after her mother’s death in 1914, she and her sister Bessie continued living in the house. Bessie died in 1937.

The first record of Allie Yniestra as a teacher in Pensacola appeared in 1899 when she was thirty-eight years old. She was paid $30/month (this was about half the average wage of a working class man at the time). The next year, she got a raise to $45/month. From at least 1905 to 1913, she taught at School Number Two, in Pensacola. In February of 1913, Yniestra was named principal of School Number 74 at a salary of $50/month. The next year she got a raise to $65/month. While she was principal, the school was renamed for George S. Hallmark and was moved to its new building in 1928. She was a firm believer in the Parent Teacher Association and saw to it that Hallmark had an outstanding PTA. In the fall of 1928 between 200 and 300 proud mothers and fathers showed up for the first PTA meeting in the beautiful new school. It was said she was also a strict disciplinarian who walked around with a palmetto switch and did not hesitate to use it. She was also a very resourceful person with a kind and generous side. In the Great Depression of the 1930s, when so many children went hungry, Yniestra saw to it that the lunch room served everyone. She kept this quiet and today no one knows how she did it. She was also known to collect food and clothing and distribute such to the “disadvantaged families” of her school, which on the west side of town was more than a few. Apparently, she was such an outstanding educator that the school board named a school for her while she was in the middle of her career. The Allie Yniestra School, on west Jackson Street, served a growing population in the Brownsville area until it too was closed in 2011. That building has been preserved and is reportedly being converted into medical offices. Allie Yniestra retired from teaching in 1939, at age seventy-eight, and moved to St. Petersburg, FL to live with a nephew.

Emma Louise Hartman was born on January 17, 1904, in Pensacola. Her parents had married in 1890 in the Lutheran Church, in Pensacola. According to the U.S. Census of 1910, her father owned a bakery, and there were nine children in the household, fourteen residents in all. Her father, Charles, was born in Alabama, her mother, Elizabeth Greuninger, in Indiana. All four grandparents were born in Germany.  The Hartmans were devoted members of Immanuel Lutheran Church to which Emma had a lifelong attachment.  In 1920, when she was sixteen, this large family lived at 300 West Zaragossa Street. This was the south side of the block on which Hallmark School was located. She graduated from high school at sixteen, and, as she said later, originally wanted to be a nurse but her mother discouraged her on the idea nursing was too menial. At that time young women were limited on job choices: nurse, teacher, secretary, clerk. Emma decided on teaching. In those days one did not need a college education to teach but could get certified by examination. Emma took the test for teacher certification, passed, and began teaching at George S. Hallmark School in September of 1920, as the First Grade teacher. She spent her entire career with the same school. Upon starting work, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Florida State College for Women by attending summer classes. In the 1920s, the large Hartman family moved to 1100 East Gadsden Street. Emma’s father Charles died in 1933. In the Census of 1940, Emma was listed as the head of the household which included two brothers and three sisters, still living on Gadsden St. Emma never married.  

“Miss Hartman” as I and everyone else called her followed her mentor and role model, Allie Yniestra. She too put great emphasis on the P.T.A. and always managed to have large meetings and active programs. My parents were sometimes officers of the group. And, she too was a stern and strict disciplinarian. One should remember that these were the days of corporal punishment. The worst thing that could happen to one was to be sent to Miss Hartman’s office. It meant a rough time. She tolerated no nonsense. Fortunately, I was never sent to her for discipline but I did have a visit to her office once that did not go well. At about the age of ten, a friend and I decided it would be a good idea to pencil in moustaches on our faces. We though it was a fun idea, and so we did. Who knows why ten-year-olds behave as they do? Unfortunately, I had to go to Miss Hartman’s office for something. When she took one look at me, instead of bursting out laughing as anyone else would have, she scowled, got up, wet her thumb and proceeded to rub my skin raw until the moustache was gone. I have blotted out from memory the few choice words she uttered as she sent me away. Miss Hartman cared enough for me that she did not want me to look like a fool.  

In spite of her stern demeanor, I always suspected Miss Hartman had a good and soft heart beneath it all. She just did not want to show it for fear of losing her authority. I never saw her smile let alone display any sense of humor. She really was a rather small and shy person who hated public speaking and avoided it when she could. Yet, she loved children; she loved her job. To stay at the same job in the same school for forty-four years, one would have to care a lot.  Her faculty and staff were devoted to her, some serving for decades under her iron-will leadership. I cannot say the children loved her, but they respected her and what she was doing to provide them good educations, and that really was what was important. I look back now and marvel at the great job she did for us, even for the pittance that she was paid. Miss Hartman ran a tight ship. She did it for us and we were the beneficiaries. She retired in 1964, after twenty-five years as the principal. Emma Hartman died on December 15, 1987, at the age of eighty-three and was buried in the St. John’s cemetery, Pensacola. He tombstone bears the inscription, “Faithful to the end.” Truer words were never spoken.

The Pensacola News-Journal, April 14, 1964 published this photo of Miss Hartman upon her retirement. I saw her daily for six school years and never saw her smile.

Next to Allie Yniestra and Emma Hartman, the best known faculty of Hallmark School were the Oliver sisters, Edith and Eulalie, granddaughters of George S. Hallmark. They were very proud of that and would tell you so on any occasion. Edith Hallmark Oliver was born on September 23, 1893, in Pensacola to Arthur Oliver and Lelia Hallmark Oliver, living at 15 West Garden St. Arthur was a clerk. Lelia was born on November 29, 1873 to George S. Hallmark and Lelia Hallmark. Edith Oliver was graduated from the high school in 1911 and was hired the same year as a permanent substitute teacher. She took summer classes at the Florida State College for Women. The next year, 1912, she was hired as a teacher at Public School Number 27 at $50/month. She was there for several years then at the Sabra Collins School, at Bayou Chico. By 1926 she was on the faculty of Hallmark School along with her sister Eulalie. Edith taught Second Grade at Hallmark from 1926 until she retired in or about 1958, a remarkable 47-year career in teaching, 32 of them at Hallmark. Edith Oliver died on June 5, 1974 and was buried in the St. John’s Cemetery.

Eulalie Oliver was born in May of 1900 to Arthur and Lelia Oliver. She began at Hallmark in 1926, the same year as Edith and taught Third Grade for thirty-two years, until her retirement in 1958.

 The picture is from the Pensacola Hews-Journal of April 29, 1988. Eulalie Oliver died on November 6, 1989 and is buried in St. John’s Cemetery.

Miss Julia Lee Cooey was another long-time teacher at Hallmark. She was born in Westville in 1895, and moved to Pensacola in 1922. She joined the faculty of Hallmark School in 1924 and taught First Grade for about forty years. She died in March of 1970 at age seventy-five. Miss Barbara Muriel Dillard was another long-time teacher at the school, serving from 1930 to 1967. She was at Cordova Park Elementary School from 1967 until her retirement in 1976. She died on February 15, 1994. Yet another long-serving teacher was Mrs. Miriam Windham Pfeiffer. She started teaching at Hallmark in 1928 and taught Third Grade until around 1960. She died on February 22, 1974, at age seventy-seven. Yet another was Mrs. Lucile P. Gonzalez. She first taught at Allie Yniestra School in the 1930s, and then at Hallmark for about twenty-five years as Fourth Grade teacher from the mid-1940s to perhaps the early 1960s. Mrs. Gonzalez died on October 27, 2004, at the age of 103. Mrs. Frances L. McKenzie taught at Hallmark from the late 1930s to 1954 (she was principal of Turner Lee Day School 1954-1961 and Montclair Elementary School 1861 to late 1970s). She died on Oct. 16, 1992 at the age of 81. Mrs. Marie MacArthur taught Sixth Grade from 1946 to 1971. She died on January 24, 1987, age eighty-two. In 1980, she was Volunteer of the Year, and the News-Journal of May 13 published her picture: In addition, many other teachers gave years of devoted service to Hallmark School.

It is remarkable that so many women devoted their lives to teaching, and often in the same school for years on end, and did so for meager salaries. As we have seen, the going pay for a teacher around 1900 was about $40/month. At nine months, that would amount to $360/year. At the time, the average wage of a working man in America was $500/year. In 1946, the base salary for a teacher in Escambia County was $1,764/yr., with four-year college graduates starting at $2,850/yr. By 1955, the salary of a college graduate with ten years’ experience was $3,700/year. In 2018, the base salary in the county schools was $37,000/yr. Public school teachers have always been, and still are underpaid in Escambia County FL. 


These are my memories of my time at Hallmark School as they are in mind now in 2018. They are abundant, overwhelmingly pleasant, and after all these years, fresh in mind. I was there from the start of First Grade in September of 1949 to the end of Sixth Grade in June of 1955. The school day began with the first bell, at 8:30 a.m. and ended with the last bell, at 3:00 p.m. Only if it were raining could we enter the building before the first bell.

 In First Grade, I was introduced to numbers and letters. I was fascinated but unprepared as I remained only average in grades, straight “C’s” as I recall. I was a slow starter. I recall printing and writing letters on First Grade paper, with the two lines and the dashes in the middle. We spent a lot of time and effort writing cursive letters large and small making the figures just right over and over. It was an art form and I did very well at it. Unfortunately, handwriting has all but disappeared from schools. I made good friends, my best buddy being Walter whom I remember with red hair and freckles. What stands out the most about First Grade was that my teacher, Mrs. Ruby Ward, suddenly disappeared one day and we were told she was going to be gone for some time. Several months later she reappeared one day with a baby in her arms. Apparently, in those days a married woman could teach until she started showing pregnancy. Near the end of my First Grade year, in the spring of 1950, Hallmark put on the last one of its May Day festivals. A short wooden platform was set up in an open area on the west side of the school and on one bright, hot day, I suppose at the first of May, the queen of the May was crowned as children twined ribbons around a Maypole. We played games and had all sorts of treats as refreshments. I remember chocolate covered ice cream on a stick. It was a bright, sunny, and glorious day.

My Second Grade teacher was Miss Edith Oliver, perhaps the most important and influential teacher I had at Hallmark. I regarded the Oliver sisters as the epitome of ladies: genteel, dignified, always perfectly dressed and coiffed, kind and generous. They had a way of making every child feel he or she was the most important one. Edith was slightly plump, with a round face and full lips. She had a very sweet and pleasant disposition. All children seemed to love her and she loved them. The year did not start well for me, however. On the first day of class I took my desk near the middle of the room so excited and thrilled to be starting another year. As she was telling us what we should bring to school, she spied my desk, walked over to me and held up my notebook and told the class not to bring this. It was a stenographer’s pad. All the children looked at me as if I were stupid. I began to cry. Miss Oliver was taken aback and quickly went on to something else. For the rest of the year, it was as if she could not do enough for me. Of course, I loved all the attention, and I excelled in my work. One time my doctor gave me very large iron pills to take to combat anemia. I could barely swallow them in the best of circumstances but could not manage leaning over the water fountain out in the hall. The pill fell out of my mouth every time. Miss Oliver saw my struggle, disappeared and instantly reappeared with a cup, filled it with water and handed it to me. She never said a word. That was the kind of person she was.

Although I learned a great deal in the Second Grade, what impressed me the most about Miss Oliver was her introduction to me of the beauty of both nature and religion. On nature, she took the class on walks around the school grounds and told us about the various aspects of plant life (as why some plants stay green all years and some not). Our large two city block school ground was a good teaching tool for trees, shrubs, flower and the like. All winter long, she kept a glass bowl on her desk full of beautiful camellia blossoms from her yard. This was where I first started developing a lifelong love of horticulture. Today I have a large botanical garden that I designed and developed myself in the vacant lot adjacent to my house. It has some 700 trees, shrubs, bulbs, vines, ground covers and the like. And, yes, I have camellias, some two dozen bushes of varying kinds. Miss Oliver would be so proud of my beautiful garden.

Concerning religion, Miss Oliver was a practitioner of the well-known phrase, “Preach the Gospel, and use words if necessary.” She was a woman of profound faith that she lived out rather than talked out in her daily life. This was a far cry from the hell-fire-and-damnation religion I experienced every Sunday in my family’s church. By her example, I learned that religion should be the guiding light of how we live our lives on a daily basis. She talked to us often about the differences between right and wrong behavior without ever preaching. She kept a Bible on the corner of her desk and insisted that absolutely nothing should ever be put on top of that book because of its supreme importance. Every morning, she started class with a Pledge of Allegiance, Bible reading, and the Lord’s Prayer. This is where I memorized the Lord’s Prayer which was not recited at my church. The Oliver sisters were devoted parishioners of Christ Church (Episcopal) and the epitome of Episcopalianism. By their examples, they started me thinking about the connections between religion and daily life. Many years later, I decided that they had been right about religion. This goes to show that teachers can have great influence over students, even those of early age. I wish I could tell Edith Oliver today how much she influenced my life, all for the better.

I did not understand it at the time I was seven years old, and could not have articulated it, but it was in the Second Grade that I first started becoming aware of different forces influencing my life, three in particular: church, school, and popular culture. These were not the same, in fact, often in conflict, or at least stark difference. In church I learned a Manichean world view of the oppositional dualities of the universe, God v. Satan, good v. evil, heaven v. hell, saved v. unsaved, etc. This was a world of intuition and emotion. It was also a view full of fear and foreboding.  Through emotion we could get to ecstasy but only after going through the depths of despair. In school, I learned a vastly different world view, that the world was not necessarily a bad place but could also be beautiful, wonderful, informative, and revealing. This was a world of information and reason. Through reason we could get to higher understanding of ourselves and the world around us which was both good and bad.

Then there was popular culture, which for me, in the late 1940s and 1950s meant cowboy movies on Saturdays at the Rex Theater. The Rex was the “B” movie theater on Palafox St., and a ticket cost just thirty-nine cents. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger, and many other heroes filled that silver screen. After I did my Saturday morning chores, my mother gave me a seventy-five-cent allowance. With that, I could ride the city bus to downtown and back (25 cents), buy popcorn and perhaps a coke, and see the double feature at the Rex. I rode by myself on the bus after the age of six. Bus # 13 ran by my house on its way to and from the Naval Air Station. The cowboy movies were morality plays. Evil men (black hats) did bad things, then good men (white hats) came along and defeated evil and made the world right again. Every movie was a variation on the same theme. By the time I left the theater, I knew my world would be right, but only if I too did my part to defeat the bad guys. The next day on Sunday, I was told that the world was not right, that it could not be made right, that good would defeat evil only after this world. So, looking back, at the age of seven my mind was a battle ground of three competing forces: how bad I was, how good I was, and how responsible I must be for making the world a better place. It would remain so for many years as I gradually matured and sorted out the competing forces at play in my mind. I cannot say I have reconciled the differences, but I can say that by the time I became an adult, I understood them better than ever. Today, I give Edith Oliver credit for helping me to begin to see that I was a person in my own right and could make my own way in a world that was as beautiful and wonderful as she knew it.

By the time I reached Third Grade, in September of 1951, I had caught up with and surpassed most of the other children in my grade. In Third Grade, I found my stride and made all A’s that year, for the first time. I had a good teacher, Mrs. March, but, unfortunately, she was out much of the time with physical problems. What stands out in my mind the most about this year was my class’s visit to St. Stephen’s Catholic School, on Garden Street, a few blocks from Hallmark. For some unknown reason, Mrs. March decided we needed to visit this school and we did. I was appalled at what I saw there. The rooms were small and crowded. There was only one class per grade with two classes in the same room. The “playground” was tiny and, there was no lunchroom or auditorium. The children looked lifeless and glum. I returned to my school with a great new appreciation for the place which I already loved. Forever more I had no doubt that I was fortunate beyond measure to have my great school. Whether this was Mrs. March’s intention, I will never know.

In many ways, my Fourth Grade year was my best at Hallmark. Mrs. Lucile Gonzalez (the one who died at 103) was my teacher and I was in my heyday as the “teacher’s pet.” Mrs. Gonzalez loved me, and I loved her. We had a great year. Two memories stand out to me know about this year, history and pageantry. At that time, the Fourth Grade curriculum included the introduction to history with a study of Florida. Mrs. Gonzalez had each of us make a scrapbook of Florida history. I went all out to make the very best one possible. I wrote off to numerous Chambers of Commerce across the state and got back a host of brochures, pictures, and other pieces of information. I made a great scrapbook of Florida history (it was so good, Mrs. Gonzalez used it as a model in her next year’s class). Most importantly, I formed a concept of history as a wonderful field of study. This began a lifelong love of the discipline of history. Of course, as a child, I had heard stories from my parents, grandparents, and others about their lives of years ago. It was the Fourth Grade that was the real beginning of my study of history which grew from year to year from them on, until eighteen years later I was awarded a doctor’s degree in History by the Florida State University. In a way, Mrs. Gonzalez was still with me. Unfortunately, I did not see her after my time at Hallmark, but I hope somehow she knew the profound difference she made in my life.

As for pageantry, Hallmark put on its annual (1950 to 1961) “operetta” on Friday, March 13, 1953, at 7:30 p.m. It was directed by Miss Yvonne Dionne, the music teacher. Miss Dionne, in her early twenties, was drop-dead gorgeous and we children were all madly in love with her. We could hardly wait until our weekly music session with her in the auditorium (she traveled to various schools). She was a natural beauty with soft shoulder-length curly brown hair and the sweetest disposition imaginable. She loved us and we all adored her. (We were all heart-broken later when she announced that she would not be back next year as she was about to marry a naval officer.) The program this year was a trip around the world in music and dance. The Fourth Grade classes were assigned Spain and so sang and danced to “Spanish” themes. However, I was not on stage with them as I was a “knight.” Each of the eighteen classrooms of Hallmark elected a “knight” and “maid” to represent the class in the royal court as the highlight of the operetta. My class elected me knight, and, as maid, Alexandra Deomes, a Greek beauty. The king and queen were elected by the Sixth Grade classes (this year, Carl Shiver and Loretta Keller). On the evening of the performance, the teachers lined up the “court” of knights and maids in the hallway for the procession to the stage but Alexandra was not there. Finally, she rushed in at the last minute in a lovely yellow dress with ribbons. I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and I was so proud to hold out my arm to process up onto the stage to greet the king and queen. Whatever immaturity, insecurities, and self-doubts I usually held vanished for the couple of hours in which Miss Dionne put on what was probably her greatest show at Hallmark. It was spectacular. I was on the top of the world. (The Pensacola News Journal described the performance in its Mar. 8, 1953 edition.)

In the Fifth Grade, I was in the class of Mrs. Echols, another outstanding teacher. The history subject of this year was introduction to American history. What stands out in my mind now is that she taught us different views of history. She had us do a debate on whether Alaska and Hawaii should become states of the union. As I recall, the pro side won. Here is where I learned one could see the same subject with differences of opinion, that views were not necessarily right or wrong. Mrs. Echols was also a lover of botany. One day she arranged to get a school bus and took us all over Pensacola to study nature. I remember visiting a garden nursery and having the owners talk with us about the differences in plants. 

It was also in this year that I was proud to be chosen for the “school boy patrol.” A few boys of the upper grades were selected for this. In the morning before school and in the afternoon after school, we patrol boys manned the main intersections and stopped traffic with our “flags” to let students across. We also had to put out and take in from the middle of the street a heavy metal “policeman,” about life-sized. He announced the school zone. Thankfully, it had a round base that allowed the “policeman” to be rolled on and off the street. 

As a reward for this year-long service, the city policeman overseeing the program took us on a school bus tour of the state of Florida, in June of 1954. We had a wonderful time rattling around the state in that bumpy old unairconditioned bus. It was my first exploration of the state I had come to know and love so well in my Fourth Grade project. We went through Tallahassee then stopped at Silver Springs. We went down old Highway 441 through the orange groves. We were disappointed the oranges were small and green. We spent a night on the gym floor of the Howard Junior High School in Orlando, near Lake Eola. From there we went down the east coast and spent a night in an old air force base in Ft. Lauderdale. In Miami Beach, we stayed in the Blackstone Hotel, an old 1920s structure (I think it has been demolished). South Florida seemed another world to me, strange and exotic. From there we went up the west coast and stopped to see the sponge divers at Tarpon Springs. On return to Pensacola, we were all dead tired but exhilarated by our journey around the state. Looking back, I am grateful to have had this trip because in 1954, Florida still had much of its natural beauty that has since been overwhelmed and destroyed by “growth.”

In the Sixth Grade, I was fortunate enough to get in the class of Mrs. Marie MacArthur. For whatever reasons, she was fond of me and I of her. The curriculum of this year featured European history. This is where I began to learn about the backgrounds and cultures of countries beyond my own. This began my fascination with Europe (on the Ph.D. level, I specialized in the French Revolution and Napoleon; and this required months of research in France). Mrs. MacArthur was a wonderful teacher. Nevertheless, I remember a few uncomfortable things about this year. In the first place, her room was the upstairs one with one row of windows facing south. For much of the year the room was stifling, usually with a slight breeze of salty, humid air off the bay to the south by a few blocks. Our papers and books often stuck to our sweaty arms and hands. Fortunately for us students, Mrs. MacArthur allowed us to relax after lunch as she read aloud a book, a chapter a day. Our favorite of the year was The Black Stallion.

Here is my Sixth Grade report card:

Also, this year I had one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, and it was entirely my fault. Mrs. MacArthur, who was always partial to me, asked me to be in charge of putting on a play for the Sixth Grade classes. I agreed. We rounded up a cast of a dozen or so. The play was about Columbus. She put me in charge of the whole thing and left it all to me. I had never been in this kind of situation and immature as I was, really did not know how to pull it off. I gave out the scripts, and the cast and I put together costumes and had a few “rehearsals.” However, I did not realize that the lines had to be thoroughly memorized and practiced before the performance. Somehow, I thought it would just proceed naturally. On the day of the play, the Sixth Grade classes came in to the auditorium and the curtain opened. The actors started to recite their parts. After a few lines, I and everyone else forgot what we were supposed to say. We had not memorized our lines as we should have. So, we just stopped and stood looking at each other for what seemed like an eternity. There was no one to “cue” us the lines. After the “deer in the headlights” moment, Mrs. MacArthur realized what was happening and she quietly got up and ushered the classes out of the auditorium. We failed “actors” shamefully ambled off the stage and back to our rooms. Mrs. MacArthur was certainly profoundly disappointed in me but she never said a word about it, and I certainly did not mention it to her. I was mortified with embarrassment as I am sure she could see. However, I learned a very important lesson that has stuck with me for my whole life: When a person puts trust in you to carry out a responsibility, you must do it to the best of your abilities, or else bring dishonor on yourself and disappointment on the one who offered the trust. While I cannot say I have perfected this, I have tried to live my life under this principle:  If you agree to take a responsibility, carry it out as well as you can, for your own sake and the sakes of others. This was the most important lesson I learned in the Sixth Grade, perhaps in all of my grades. For this, I am eternally grateful to Marie MacArthur. Perhaps her faith in me was not misplaced after all.

Finally, June of 1955 arrived and the end of my days at Hallmark School arrived. I had mixed emotions, thrilled at the end of the school year and the promise of a summer of lazy fun ahead but also deep sadness at leaving my “home” of the past six years. In so many ways, I was and was not the same little boy who had arrived so eagerly nearly six years earlier leaving his mother behind. I remember that hot and sunny June day of 1955 very well. At the closing bell, all the students ran out of the school immediately, all except me. I lingered. Part of me did not want to go. Finally, I ambled out alone, my desk things in hand. I went down the south stairs, and out the south door. I stopped, stood for awhile as happy memories flooded over me. I had spent half of my life in this beautiful building among these wonderful people. It was so hard to let go. In the bright, hot sunshine, I looked around one last time. I ran my hands over the yellow bricks around the door and said my sad goodbyes to the place I had loved so well. I turned and slowly walked the mile or so back to my house. At the age of twelve, I knew my life had reached one ending and was about to start a new beginning at Blount Junior High School. However, I had the confidence that my years at Hallmark had grounded me for life. I was ready for whatever was to happen next. My gratitude to Hallmark School today knows no bounds. The picture here is of me at age twelve at the end of the Sixth Grade:

                                "Ronny" Caldwell, age 12

Another memorable part of Hallmark School was its cafeteria. It was first-rate. Mrs. Ruby Jennings managed it for thirty-eight years, until her retirement in June of 1983. She was as lovingly devoted to the school as were so many of the teachers. Mrs. Jennings and her crew worked wonders providing lunches for the children. In the 1940s and 50s when I was there, preparing lunch for 600 children was a lot of hard work. The cooks arrived before the children and left at the end of the day. Most dishes had to be made from scratch or out of a can; and most prepared in huge pots and pans over hot stoves (none of the school was airconditioned). Mrs. Jennings served many delicious meals, but perhaps her most popular was “sloppy joe.” There was also an assortment of other entrees, as spaghetti, hot dogs, meat loaf and mashed potatoes. My very favorite item was Mrs. Jennings’ mouth-watering vanilla sheet cake covered with pink frosting. It was made from scratch. I think now what made her meals so great was not the food alone but the loving hands that prepared and served that food.

When I was in the Sixth Grade, I was given the task of preparing a sheet-size menu of the day to be put up on the bulletin board at the entrance to the cafeteria to inform the children of what would be on the lunch tray that day. In the morning, I would go talk with Mrs. Jennings to get the menu. She was also patient and kind even though she had probably rather not be bothered in view of all the work she had to do. I wrote out the menu and drew little cartoons around it featuring the dishes.

When I started school in 1949, lunch cost ten cents, when I left in 1955, fifteen cents. My parents managed to pay, but some parents on the west side of Pensacola could not pay. There were some students on “free lunch” but the rest of us did not know who they were. When we entered the cafeteria in single file, Mrs. Rogers, the school secretary, sat at a little table and took our money. She knew who the “free lunch” children were and passed them through silently. 

One matter that bothered me about lunch was that Miss Hartman had an occasional habit of circulating around the lunch room scolding us for not eating well or drinking our milk. The milk came in little glass bottles with the cream on the top. I was lactose intolerant, so I pretended to be drinking when she reached me barking “drink your milk” and then put it down as soon as she left. If I drank much milk, I doubled over with stomach pains.

Hallmark was well-known for its large and active PTA. Every Halloween, the PTA put on an elaborate carnival on one evening as a fund raiser for the school. Hundreds of people visited and participated. In addition, the school always entered a float in the annual Fiesta of Five Flags parade. Instead of a Mardi Gras, as Mobile and New Orleans had, the authorities of Pensacola decided to have an annual Fiesta as an homage to the town’s Spanish heritage. In the days of festivities, there was always a big parade on Palafox Street, usually from Main St. to Wright St. Hallmark School routinely won First Place in the school float contest in the 1950s. This was because George Markham, a local commercial artist, designed the floats and, with the help of PTA men, constructed them.

Getting to and from school was also an adventure for me. It was about a mile from my parents’ house on west Cypress Street to Hallmark School. In the First Grade, I rode the bus to and from school, but after that I had to walk, or in bad weather, get a ride from my Dad. My main route was Barrancas Avenue. When I was a small child, this was the only direct route between downtown and the Pensacola Naval Air Station, several miles to the southwest of the city. Traffic remained very heavy on the thoroughfare. In 1949, a new four-lane street was built connecting the City and NAS as Garden Street was extended by a viaduct over the Frisco railroad tracks into Warrington where the route was called Navy Boulevard. At the same time, a new bridge was built over Bayou Chico and Barrancas traffic was diverted at “O” Street, later called Pace Boulevard, to go over the bridge into Warrington and NAS beyond. In my school years, Barrancas remained a busy street but not as congested as it had been in the Second World War period.

There were several interesting features on my walk to and from school. In the morning I first encountered the creosote plant with its unpleasant odors. Shortly after that, the main line of the Frisco railroad crossed Barrancas to run along Main Street toward the harbor. We hoped that trains would not be blocking our path. Then came the Spearman Brewing Company and its beer aromas. Adjacent was the Crystal Ice house at busy Government Street. Passing Leo’s Laundry and its dry cleaning smells, I cut through to the school. On Barrancas near Hallmark stood the Gulf Coast Coffee Company invariably pumped out through the whole neighborhood a heavenly and strong smell of roasting coffee.

On my walk home, which most of the year was in sunny, hot, and humid weather, I always stopped at the Ice house on the south side of the intersection of Barrancas and Government. On the corner of its loading dock, it had a short wooden stair. At its top, on the dock stood a large wooden barrel with a faucet on the bottom. All of my friends and I stopped for long and ice-cold drinks of water from the faucet. We drank all we could hold. At the time I took the plentiful and free freezing cold water for granted but looking back, I can see it was an unspoken gift of the Ice company to us school children of the neighborhood. The Spearman family of Pensacola owned the Ice house just as they did the brewery next door. I can see now that the workers saw to it that blocks of ice were put in the barrel so that plenty of cold water would be available when the school children walked by soon after 3:00 p.m. The fact that the water was always there and always ice-cold was no accident. This was a kind gesture that meant a great deal to lots of thirsty children like me. So, I say a belated “thank you” to the Spearmans and the men who worked at the Crystal Ice Company. I think that was the best, and coldest, water I have ever drunk.

My life at Hallmark ran from age 6, 1949, to age 12, 1955; however, my family’s connection to the school lasted from 1945 to 1961. My oldest brother attended Hallmark from 1945 to 1951, my next oldest brother from 1947 to 1953, and my sister from 1955 to 1961. Thus, my family’s time at the school lasted from 1945 to 1961.

By 1961, the demographic complexion of Pensacola’s west side began to change. It had been the mostly white lower middle class and working-class area of the city. This reached its fullest measure in the late 1950s when Hallmark School had a full house of over 600 students. At my church, on N Street, the average Sunday School attendance was 400. By 1960, this began to change; and the change accelerated dramatically in the early 1960s. Around 1960, low-cost new housing developments began mushrooming well beyond the old residential limits to the west and north of the city. Tristan Village advertised a new house and lot for about $10,000. These were three bedroom and one and a half bath houses. They were small, at around 1,000 square feet, but they were new and inviting. Buyers raced out to buy the new houses; and immediately developers began constructing other new neighborhoods near Tristan Village, as Montclair. Thus, by the early 1960s, many white residents who lived in Pensacola between downtown and Bayou Chico moved out the new, inexpensive suburbs. By then, my church’s Sunday School attendance had declined by a third. Hallmark’s enrollment began to fall. The older white areas of the west side increasingly became racially mixed.

Integration arrived in Escambia County’s public schools in the early 1960s. The old Jim Crow system of the south had kept the schools strictly segregated by race and African Americans were provided substandard schools and substandard educations. All-white Hallmark began to integrate racially perhaps in 1963 or 1964. We do not know the exact relationship between integration and the school enrollment. What we do know is that the school increased minority enrollment and decreased overall enrollment. By 1987, the student body stood at 375, by 2008 at 250, and at closure in 2011, 232 students, about a third of what it had been in the heyday of the 1950s. At the end, Hallmark was 91% minority (78% African American) in its student body.

Hallmark was superseded by a new school with the grandiose name of Global Learning Academy, at 100 north P Street. It opened in 2011 with 763 students in pre-kindergarten to Grade Five. The new school was reminiscent of Hallmark as it was constructed of yellow brick and had hints of the old architecture. How all this is going to translate academically remains to be seen.

The old school closed in 2011. Fortunately for me, I visited the school one day shortly before that. It was in August just before classes were to start. I felt a strange urgency to visit the old place. I must have had a premonition of what was to come. The few teachers on hand greeted me warmly and gave me free run of the place. I spent a long time slowly wandering about the building. I had not been inside in over fifty years. It was very much the same as I had remembered. Memories flooded over me as I strolled the halls and went from one old classroom of mine to another. I explored again the auditorium. The stage and the curtain were exactly the same as they had always been. My Sixth Grade embarrassment there was as fresh in mind as ever. I wanted so much to cut out the “H” in the stage curtain as a souvenir. I wish I had it now. Finally, as the ghosts of so many beloved teachers and classmates overwhelmed me, I walked out and took lots of pictures before I turned and left the place one last time, as reluctantly as I had all those many years ago, in 1955.

I can understand why Hallmark had outlived its educational usefulness. Time had passed it by. What was state of the art in 1928 was hopelessly inadequate in the new age of technology of the twenty-first century. What I do not understand is why the building could not have been preserved and re-purposed as so many old schools have been.  

In the end, how can I summarize my life at Hallmark School? I would use three words: education, socialization, and self-awareness. In the first, I gained a firm and broad knowledge, understanding and appreciation of reading, writing, mathematics, history, art, and music. On socialization, I learned how to get along with all sorts and conditions of boys and girls. I learned that people vary greatly in personality but beneath it all are the same. On self-awareness, I began developing an understanding of who I was as an individual person, what my strong and weak points were, and most of all what moral and ethical principles should guide my life. I believe these three things formed a solid foundation on which I built my life. Looking back, I cannot imagine being the person I am today without having had my six years at Hallmark School. For children like me, education was an avenue to a better life. Hallmark School offered that to me and I happily took it. I could never repay the debt I owe to the school board, administrators, teachers, and students who filled my young life with wonder and the opening to a better world. Hallmark School may be physically gone, but it will live on in the hearts and minds of countless people like me whose lives were forever changed by that remarkable place.