Friday, March 29, 2019


It is Friday, again, the last of March. It is time for a leisurely stroll around my garden to enjoy the beauty of God's creation in this glorious springtime we are enjoying in the south. It has been warm and wet of late and this has brought out all the plants at once. Let us walk around my garden as it appears in this, the last week of March. Click on image for enlargement.

White flowering chocolate vine (Akebia quinata 'Alba'). An excellent vine for a trellis in a sunny place. This one is in full bloom with small white flowers. Very aromatic, said to smell of chocolate, hence the common name..

The chocolate vine up close. A sweet aroma (does not smell of chocolate to me) fills up a section of the garden.

"Adams" crabapple tree (Malus 'Adams'). Dark pink flowers against the blue sky. This is a good choice for a flowering fruit tree. Grows to 20'. The large tree is sweet gum, the bane of my existence and soon to be gone entirely from my garden. I have removed most of them.

Variegated Solomon's seal (Polygonatum odorantum 'Variegata'). Good perennial for a moist shady spot. Small white, aromatic blooms.

 Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica "Pleniflora'). Fills this corner of the garden with small, bright yellow flowers in early spring and summer.

Yellow bush is Abelia "Francis Mason," an excellent shrub. The evergreen on left is Spartan juniper. The palm is Windmill palm.

Japanese snowball (Viburnum plicatum 'Sterile'). This shrub is full grown at 20'x20'. At this time of the year it is always covered with hundreds of "snowballs" making it the spectacular star of the garden. 

 Yoshino Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino'). These are about full grown at 40'x20'. They make an excellent screen near the street to give privacy to the garden. In the foreground are loropetalum shrubs. Loropetalum is commonly used in southern landscapes, for good reason.

 Camellia "Emmett Barnes." Owing to the warm and wet winter, the camellias have flourished in my garden as never before and just do not want to quit blooming. Emmett Barnes is a small bush that blooms prolifically with pure white flowers, an unusual but worthwhile choice for a camellia.

I hope you enjoyed our little walk around my garden. And, I hope you are enjoying being out in this glorious springtime as much as I am. Whatever woes one may have in life, and we all have them, they are on the micro level. Getting outside and into nature one becomes immersed in life on the macro level. One realizes he or she is part of something far greater than oneself, a creation of boundless beauty, order, and wonder that could only have been made by a force infinitely greater than ourselves. A garden may not make one's woes go away, but it will make them easier to bear. Enjoy the spring. It is my favorite season of the year; and I hope it is yours too.


As many of you know now, Bishop Skip Adams's wife, Bonnie, was recently diagnosed with Grade 1 breast cancer. She is to have surgery in Syracuse next Wednesday. Afterwards, she is to have radiation in Charleston. Please join me in prayers for Bonnie Adams's full and speedy recovery. 

The Rev. Dr. William (Roy) L. Hills has published the second volume of his church stories:  Divine Glimpses, Church Stories Volume II. Volumes I and II are available on Amazon. Vol. I was a delightful collections of vignettes of parish life to which we can all relate. I am sure Vol. II will be an equally worthwhile read.

Thursday, March 28, 2019


As a bad amusement park ride, the wild twists and turns of the litigation since the schism have left us all with whip lash, six years worth. Today, we are all wondering, with some trepidation, whatever next?  

I had planned to expand my history of the schism to include the whole course of the litigation, once everything was resolved. I was going to condense the part (300,000 words) I have already published and add on the rest of the litigation (post August 2, 2017) and publish it as a revised and expanded edition of my history of the schism. However, I have collected such a huge mass of material since the book that I may have to just go to Volume II. What is more, I am meticulously documenting each item because when I turn in my new manuscript, my editor may accuse me of making it all up and refuse publication. He may say it is just too fantastic for people to believe. Sometimes I wonder about that myself. This is one of those times.

This mad-cap non-comedy of errors would be funny if it were not so sad and tragic. It is anything but humorous. 

Our present concern is focused on the state courts. Circuit court judge Edgar Dickson suddenly announced on March 19 that he would hold a hearing on Wednesday, March 27. The hearing was to entertain arguments on the breakaway diocese's (DSC) suit for "Betterments." He did this in spite of the fact he had told the hearing of November 19, 2018 (I was there) that he was considering only one motion, DSC's petition for clarification of jurisdiction. The annoucement on the 19th of March meant one week's notice for the lawyers to prepare whatever written and oral arguments they could on Betterments, something they had been told was off the table for the time being. On the next day, March 20, the Church lawyers announced they were filing with the South Carolina Supreme Court, a petition for a Writ of Mandamus (I doubt there was any connection between the Mar. 19 notice of a hearing on the 27th and the petition on the 20th since the petition would have been prepared well beforehand). The petition asked the SCSC to order Judge Dickson to implement the SCSC decision of August 2, 2017. Then, suddenly on Tuesday, March 26, Dickson declared he had cancelled the hearing of the 27th on Betterments. Can you keep this straight? My head is spinning too.

So, what next? According to the SC Judicial Code, the DSC lawyers have twenty days to file a response with the SCSC. Find Rule 245 here  . I figure twenty days means the DSC lawyers have to file by the 9th of April. 

How will the SCSC handle this petition and reply? Rule 240 gives us the details. Find it here . It says, "Unless otherwise ordered by the court, motions or petitions shall be decided without oral argument" (240, h). This means the SCSC will probably rule on TEC/TECSC's petition without holding a hearing on it. 

Can one judge grant or deny the petition? Yes. "Except where these rules require the concurrence of two or more members of an appellate court, an individual judge or justice may grant or deny any motion or petition on behalf of the court. Any review of an order issued by an individual judge or justice shall be by petition for rehearing" (240, j). I interpret this to mean that one SCSC justice could issue a grant or a denial but this could be challenged in a petition to the court for a rehearing. It is hard to imagine that one justice would go off on a limb and take action without support of the other justices. My guess is that the justices will consider both TEC/TECSC's petition for action and DSC's response, then make a majority opinion on a response. 

What are the chances SCSC will grant TEC/TECSC's petition and order Dickson to implement its Aug 2, 2017 decision? The only appropriate SCSC decision I could locate was The City of Rock Hill v. Michael Dean Thompson. Find it here . This was a decision of the SCSC on February 11, 2002. In this case, the City of Rock Hill had petitioned the SCSC for a Writ of Mandamus ordering a municipal judge to apply a certain law. As I read this as it may apply now to Dickson, TEC/TECSC has to establish that Dickson has a "ministerial duty" to implement the SCSC Aug. 2 decision. In the Rock Hill case, the SCSC said the judge had discretion on how he could apply the law in question and therefore the SCSC could not order him to act in any certain way. Thus, the SCSC denied the City's petition for a Writ of Mandamus. 

The question, then, becomes does Dickson have "ministerial duty" and "discretion" in how he can respond to the SCSC decision of August 2, 2017? In my view, he does have ministerial duty and does not have discretion on how he does that. The SCSC clearly listed three majority decisions on the last page of its Aug. 2 decision. On November 17, 2017, the SCSC sent this letter to the circuit court in Dorchester County:  "The above referenced matter is hereby remitted to the lower court or tribunal. A copy of the judgment of this Court is enclosed." The operative word was "remitted." This meant it was sent back to the lower court that had tried the case in order the for that court to carry out the decisions of the SCSC. (A "remand" to the lower court would have meant the lower court could reconsider the case.) "Remitted" meant that Dickson had no discretion as to the SCSC decision. I would conclude that the Rock Hill case does not apply to the Church case and that the SCSC must see the judge as bound to act without discretion. This is his "ministerial duty." 

So, what happens now? First, we have to wait for the DSC lawyers to present their counter-claim to the SCSC. After that, I rather doubt that the SCSC justices will take very long to act on this matter. I doubt too there will be a hearing on this. I expect the justices to issue a written decision without listening to oral arguments. It is reasonable to conclude that the SCSC will order Dickson to implement its Aug. 2 decision.

As I see it, Dickson has two viable options now. In one, he could proceed and order an implementation of the Aug. 2 decision. He could do this at any time, and on his own. He does not have to hold another hearing. Doing this would save him from the humiliation of a Writ from the high court being served on him, something that is rare. In other words, he could act and render TEC/TECSC's petition moot. In another option, he could wait and see if the SCSC will grant or deny TEC/TECSC's petition for a Writ. This would be a risky gamble. It is possible that the SCSC will deny the petition although, in my view, this is unlikely. If the SCSC does grant the petition and issues a Writ, it will order Dickson to implement this decision. In a way, this would work to his benefit since it would free him from trying to pick apart the thorny issues involved in this case as he seems to be trying to do at the moment. This would take a lot of responsibility off his shoulders. If the SCSC denies the petition, he will be left where he is now.

Given the way Dickson has handled this case so far, I rather doubt he will proceed with the first option. I suspect we will have to wait for the SCSC to respond. If they grant, he will be ordered to implement. If they deny, he will go on grappling with the six motions/petitions before him and we can expect the wild ride to continue. 

As they say, "Ya can't make this stuff up."

Tuesday, March 26, 2019



10:45 a.m.
Word just arrived from Judge Edgar Dickson's clerk that the hearing Dickson had scheduled for tomorrow has been cancelled and will be rescheduled at some future time. The clerk said he had not received confirmation of the date and time from a majority of the lawyers involved. No other information was offered.

I will return as more information about this strange twist becomes available. 
Ron Caldwell

Monday, March 25, 2019


FLORENCE, SC. 25 March. 
I attended the memorial service for Dolores Miller on last Saturday. It was a beautiful and moving remembrance for a remarkable person. The Church was overflowing with her many friends who came from far and wide.

I expect to attend the court hearing on Wednesday, the 27th, in Orangeburg SC and will make a report here as soon as possible afterwards, probably by noon. 

There are two legal matters at hand now. The first is the hearing on Wed. Just last week, Judge Edgar Dickson suddenly announced he would hold a hearing in his courtroom on three motions before him:   1---the breakaway diocesan (DSC) suit on Betterments, 2---the DSC motion for complex case, and 3---the Church (TEC/TECSC) motion to dismiss DSC's Betterments suit. He set the date as March 27.

In the Betterments suit, the DSC lawyers are asking TEC for reimbursement for the improvements made on the properties of the 29 parishes in question. Betterments assumes TEC owns the properties. DSC argued in the last hearing that TEC does not own the properties of the 29 parishes. It will be interesting to see how the DSC lawyers argue opposite points.

The second legal matter at hand is TEC/TECSC's petition to the SC Supreme Court for a Writ of Mandamus. (See blog piece of 21 March). Apparently, there was no connection in the timing of these two events. It was coincidental that they occurred a few days apart.

DSC has published a response to TEC/TECSC's petition for Mandamus. It is a note from the Rev. Jim Lewis and may be found at . DSC is trying to dismiss the significance of it. Such an effort will not work. This petition is highly significant.

In fact, the petition is the deciding point in the whole, long matter of the ownership of the 29 parishes. How the SCSC responds to the petition will determine the outcome of this issue. It is anything but insignificant.

One question I have about the petition is whether one justice can issue a Writ of Mandamus; or, would it require a majority of the justices? I have asked numerous lawyers. No one knows for sure but the unanimous opinion was that even if one justice could issue it, he would have to have the support of the majority.  One should remember that Justice Kaye Hearn is recused in this matter.

This leaves four justices to consider the petition for the Writ. Chief Justice Donald Beatty was the "swing" vote that gave the majority to the Church side in the SCSC decision of Aug. 2  2017. Justice Kittredge voted against the church even though he recognized the authority of the Dennis Canon. There are two new justices on the SCSC bench. Their positions are unknown.

In my opinion, how the SCSC responds to the petition will depend on how the four justices regard this case, as fundamentally a judicial or social issue. If judicial, they will assert the authority of the SCSC over the state courts and will order Dickson to implement the SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017. This will reinforce the integrity and authority of the SCSC and the whole state court system.

If the four justices see this whole matter before them as primarily a social issue, they may respond differently. Social conservatives generally oppose equality for and social inclusion of open homosexuals and women. This was the direct cause of the Episcopal Church schism in South Carolina. The breakaway diocese's raison d'etre is to reject and oppose equality for and inclusion of open homosexuals in the church and to keep women from offices of authority in the church. If the four justices decide that they have to support this socially conservative stance, they may decide to reject TEC/TECSC's petition as a way of overturning the Aug. 2, 2017 decision. If so, they would be allowing Dickson to side with DSC and to overturn the SCSC ruling of Aug. 2, 2017. This, however would be setting a very dangerous precedent, something they should understand.

So, it seems to me it boils down to whether the four justices see the overriding issue at hand as judicial stability or social stability. At this point, there is no way to know how they will lean. We will just have to wait and see. Of course, it is possible that Dickson could suddenly rule on his own and order the implementation of the SCSC decision. This would save face.

One should bear in mind that judges and justices in the state courts of South Carolina are all elected by the state legislature. This means all judges/justices are in some sense political appointees. As everyone knows, SC is a conservative state with a solid conservative Republican majority in the legislature and state government. To be sure, no one should project this ahead because the state supreme court, much to my surprise, actually came down on the side of the "liberal" Episcopal Church. It could happen again.

I expect to return on mid-day Wednesday with a report on the hearing, unless, of course the hearing is postponed or cancelled. 
Ron Caldwell

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Yesterday, March 20, 2019, the Episcopal Church and its local diocese, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, filed in the South Carolina Supreme Court "Petition for Writ of Mandamus." Find it here . Find the diocesan news release about the filing here . The petition is a remarkable document, and one of the most important in all the six-plus years of litigation since the schism. It deserves much consideration. 

I  must begin with these caveats: I am not a lawyer or legal expert; I am not an official of any diocese and speak only for myself; and what I offer here is only opinion. These things being said, here are my thoughts about yesterday's action.


First, what is a "writ of mandamus"? Simply put, it is an order from a superior official or body to a lower official or body to carry out the law. 

In this case, TEC/TECSC lawyers are asking the South Carolina Supreme Court to order Judge Edgar Dickson to implement the SCSC decision of August 2, 2017. On the face of it, that is the simple and entire point of yesterday's filing. It is uncomplicated. The lawyers wrote on p. 19:

"Petitioners [TEC/TECSC] seek a Writ of Mandamus directing the Dorchester County Circuit Court, to which the underlying action has been remitted, to enforce the mandate of this Court by effecting the transfer of possession and control of the diocesan property and the property of 29 of the parishes at issue..."

Under SC law, a writ must meet four requirements. The lawyers argued at length in their paper that these were abundantly satisfied in this case.


They took this action for two reasons: Judge Edgar Dickson has failed to take any measure to enforce the SCSC decision of August 2, 2017, and Dickson is indicating that he is going to re-litigate the issues already settled by the SCSC.


The aim is to have the South Carolina Supreme Court order the circuit court (Dickson) to implement the SCSC decision of August 2, 2017.


Yes, it was final. Three factors made it final:  1-the SCSC denied DSC's motion for a rehearing on Nov. 17, 2017; 2-the SCSC remitted its Aug. 2 decision to the circuit court on Nov. 17, 2017; 3-the United States Supreme Court denied an appeal of the SCSC decision, on June 11, 2018. Under the established rules of jurisprudence, a final supreme court decision is the law of the land; it cannot be ignored or altered. A lower court does not have the right to re-litigate the same case.


Here is the decision. This is the last page (p. 77) of the decision (click on image for enlargement):


I wish I knew. This is the great mystery of the day.

There are three areas of concern about Dickson:

1---The SCSC remitted its decision to the circuit court Nov. 17, 2017. A "remit" is an order to carry out a decision (a "remand" is an order to reconsider the case). In January of 2018, Dickson was assigned the case. Time and again, he gathered written arguments from both sides (I counted 23 papers). Finally, eleven months after his assignment, he held a court hearing, on Nov. 19, 2018, to listen to the oral versions of the same written arguments he had before him. He did not issue any decision. This meant no action for fourteen months.

It is true that Dickson had six petitions/motions before him for his consideration. However, in the hearing of Nov. 19, which I attended, he said he was dealing first with only one, the DSC request for clarification. He indicated he would address the rest at some later time.

As I understood him, Dickson indicated in the hearing that the SCSC decision was unclear, lacked direction to him, and was open to (his) interpretation. In fact, as we have seen above, the SCSC was perfectly clear in its order. It specified three directions. It seemed to me that the SCSC decision was clear, was a direct order, and was final. I could not understand why Dickson held a different view. I still do not.

2---Dickson said in the hearing that he would send emails to the two sets of lawyers with questions he wanted answered. Yesterday's petition quoted two emails from Dickson, both on p. 6. These indicated that Dickson might be seeking to re-try the case as to the issue of local property ownership. In fact, this issue was settled by the SCSC in its Aug. 2 decision.

On January 8, 2019 Dickson sent this email to the lawyers:

"There was a chart prepared in the PowerPoint presentation that was shown in Court on November 19, 2018. That chart purported to indicate the issues of agreement among the various justices [standard of review for facts, legal rationale, parish property, Trustees' beneficiary, and service marks]. The Court would appreciate a compilation, with appropriate page citations, quoting from the five opinions, the areas where two or more justices are in agreement and their agreement either supports or does not support your side."

If I had been a TEC/TECSC lawyer, I would have emailed back the last page of the SCSC decision. It speaks for itself. I do not understand how Dickson, or anyone else, for that matter, could say the decision was not precise and concise. 

On January 14, 2019 Dickson sent this email to the lawyers:

"The Court would like documents supporting that there was a vote on the Dennis Cannon [sic] on or before September 1979. Also, please provide any accompanying documents which indicate what churches voted and what churches did not vote (i.e. messages[specifically numbers 75 and 76], voting sheets, if presented anywhere previously, please provide this information to the Court (transcript and/or otherwise)."

This is the strongest evidence yet that Dickson might be seriously considering re-litigating this case. In fact, the five SCSC justices went over the documents about parochial accession to the Dennis Canon and handed down a decision and direction on this issue. Four of the five justices agreed that 29 of the 36 parishes in question had indeed acceded to the Dennis Canon (one justice held that a parish could rescind its accession; this left a 3-2 decision that 29 parishes remained under the Dennis Canon and therefore property of the Episcopal Church). As I see it, Dickson has no right to re-open this issue. It is now proper for the SCSC to step in and overrule Dickson.

3---Just a few days ago, Dickson announced that he would hold a courtroom hearing on DSC's Betterments suit on March 27, 2019. He said that at the same time he would consider TEC/TECSC's petition to dismiss Betterments, and DSC's motion for complex case designation. Why Dickson is doing this, and so abruptly, is another  mystery. In fact, he said (I was there) in the last November's hearing that he was considering only one issue, DSC's petition for clarification. Here, four months later, has not ruled on clarification, yet is moving on to other issues without explanation.

Yesterday's petition suggests several points about the TEC/TECSC position at this point in the long course of this legal war:

Frustration. The legal combat has been going on for more than six years. Church lawyers have lost patience with Judge Dickson. In fourteen months on the case, he has done nothing to implement the SCSC decision. To the contrary, he has shown willingness to ignore, perhaps even overturn the SCSC decision. Under the long-established judicial system, a lower judge does not have the right to ignore, or alter, a final decision of the state's highest court.

Alarm. Alarm at the suggestions in Dickson's two emails that he is open to re-litigating the issue of the property ownership. This matter was settled, largely in the Church's interest, by a final decision of the SCSC.

Urgency. The petition has an air or urgency in it. All this time has given space to the 29 local parishes to diminish their assets and burden the rightful owners with responsibilities upon physical restoration. No one knows what has been going on in the 29 parishes that will make life more difficult for the Episcopal Church bishop when he returns, as he surely will.


Probably. The main reason is that the SCSC must preserve the integrity and authority it has held for more than two centuries. As I see it, the SCSC now has three choices: 1-ignore the petition, 2-grant the petition, and 3-reject the petition. Ignoring and rejecting would give Dickson the green light to do as he wishes to re-litigate the case. That, in effect, would be the SCSC agreeing to overturn one of its own final decisions. This would set a very dangerous precedent. From then on, no SCSC decision would be final. Every one could be re-tried by a lower court even upon a "remittitur" rather than a remand. In fact, these two terms would become irrelevant in the judicial system. This would turn the ancient judicial system on its head. It is unthinkable. The only logical outcome is to grant the petition.

There is only one possible reservation to all of this. The present South Carolina Supreme Court is not the same as the court that handed down the decision of August 2, 2017. Two justices (Pleicones and Toal) have retired and have been replaced by new justices elected by the state legislature. This leaves only two (Beatty and Hearn) of the three justices who ruled in favor of TEC/TECSC in 2017. That means there are three justices today who either opposed TEC/TECSC or whose positions are unknown. It is possible that this majority could resolve to undo the decision of Aug. 2, 2017, either by inaction or denial. However, I still think such a scenario is remote because of the overriding issue of judicial hierarchy.

The South Carolina Supreme Court is likely to grant TEC/TECSC's petition of March 20, 2019. If so, Dickson will have no alternative but to accede to the high court's direct order. This means the Episcopal Church bishop will return sooner rather than later to the 29 parishes on the list.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


It was such a lovely spring day today that I could not resist the urge for a day trip, this time to Birmingham, an hour and a half away, and this time by train (I am a RR fanatic, but that is another story). Strolling leisurely around the downtown in the beautiful sunshine, I spied this across the street:

This is the front of the First United Methodist Church. The church is a venerarable treasure in the very middle of downtown Birmingham. It was finished in 1891; and is on the National Register of Historic Places. I had to go take a closer look. This is the sign up close:

Well, look at this. The First United Methodist Church in downtown has put up a big sign welcoming LGBTQ people to the church. Note this is not a generic sign . It was especially made for the church because it has their web address. Then, I went around the other street side of the building, and there it was again:

FMUC of Bham has two big banners out, one on each of the street sides, in the heart of downtown Birmingham. No one can miss them. I was instantly heartened. A brilliant spring day got even better. This made my day.

Several points struck me about this:

In the first place, FMUC is making a bold statement against the recent vote of their denomination to reject equal rights for and inclusion of openly gay people. In fact, the session reaffirmed the church's old condemnation of homosexual behavior, and even increased punishments for disobedience. They are saying to their fellow Methodists: In your face; We are going to do the right thing whether you do or not. We refuse to judge people; we refuse to condemn or exclude anyone. I say, more power to you First United Methodist Church of Birmingham, Alabama.

In the second place, what a difference a half-century makes. It was only a couple of blocks from here that in the darkness of 50-odd years ago Klansmen blew up a church killing four girls, and "law" officials perpetrated horrific violence, fire hoses and vicious dogs, on defenseless children who were only exercising their constitutional rights. All these years later, we know the demonstrators to be right and the "law" men to be wrong. The struggle for human rights is a long and hard one. This time people in downtown Birmingham are doing it the right way. Fifty years from now, society will understand that FUMC did the right thing.

In the third place, across the street from FUMC stands the old Alabama Power Company building. It is an art deco gem built in 1926. It is topped by a gilded statue officially named "The Divinity of Light." It is a 23-foot tall image made by sculptor Edward Field Stanford, Jr. Locals call her "Electra." She has lightning bolts in her hands and coming out of her hair. Electra has been en-"light"-ening downtown Birmingham for nearly a hundred years.

I would like to think Electra enlightened the people across the street in the FUMC but I really do not think that. I believe their hearts were enlightened by a profound religion of love which they have incorporated into their lives. I think it was God who gave them that light, not Electra. I just could not resist the poetic irony of light shining on the good people of this church.

Just one block over from FUMC stands another landmark church of downtown Birmingham, the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Advent. I walked over there and found no banner welcoming anyone, not that I was expecting one. In contrast to FUMC, the clergy and leadership of Advent are frequent critics of the policies favoring equality for and inclusion of openly homosexual people in the church. In fact, when the Episcopal Church affirmed Gene Robinson as a bishop in 2003, the first openly gay bishop in TEC, the dean put out a black flag on the front of Advent as if in mourning. From the black flag of 2003, we now have the rainbow flag of 2019 a block over. At least we are moving in the right direction.

So, a big "thank you" to the people of the First United Methodist Church of Birmingham. You are on the side of history. Your are on the side of light. Even more importantly, in my opinion at least, you are on the side of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All people are made in the image of God. We are called to love God and our neighbors, no exceptions, no exclusions. That is the true divinity of light, or, perhaps we should say the light of divinity.

NOTE. Check out FUMC of Birmingham on Facebook. This is what you will find:

Two thumbs up.

Saturday, March 16, 2019








This is to remind you of an important gathering you should attend on tomorrow, Sunday, March 17. Your future as church families is at stake here. In the near future, your parishes will be returning to the authority of the Episcopal Church bishop. Here is your opportunity to find out all you want to know about how this process will work and what this will mean to the life of your local church. The meeting is open to everyone including the Episcopalians in Cheraw, Florence, and Sumter, and any interested parties in the 29 parishes and the Episcopal congregations beyond. The format is informal, featuring individual and group "conversations." No one is going to be forced to commit to anything.

The meeting will be at the Cross and Crown Lutheran Church, 3123 W. Palmetto St. (U.S. 76) in Florence, from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. A good way to get there is to take I-95 to Exit 157. Turn eastward on Palmetto (U.S. 76). In a mile or so you will pass a Burger King on the right. The church is just beyond, on the left. 

Under the law as made by a ruling of the South Carolina Supreme Court, the parishes listed above, and 23 others, are property of the Episcopal Church. This is because these 29 parishes acceded to the Dennis Canon of the Episcopal Church. This Canon holds that the local parish may own the property but holds it in trust for two beneficiaries, the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church diocese. The parish may own the property on the condition it remains part of the Episcopal Church. If the parish breaks its loyalty to the Episcopal Church (i.e., refuses the authority of the Episcopal Church bishop), the ownership of the property moves to the Episcopal Church and its local diocese as beneficiaries of the trust. Thus, when the 29 parishes declared they left the Episcopal Church in October of 2012, the legal ownership of the local property moved to the Episcopal Church because they had acceded to the Dennis Canon. The clergy who remained in the 29 parishes left the Episcopal Church and are not now Episcopal Church clergy. The clergy and vestries operating in these 29 parishes today are not legitimate under the law because they are not loyal to the Episcopal Church, the legal owner of the property.

It is just a matter of time before the six parishes listed above, and the 23 others, return to the control of the Episcopal Church. This is in the works in both state and federal court in South Carolina. In the state court, Judge Edgar Dickson, of the circuit court, is underway toward a resolution of the implementation of the state supreme court decision, of 2017. He held a hearing last November and, presumably, has been communicating by email with the lawyers on both sides about how to carry out the SCSC decision.

The federal court case concerns the ownership of the entity of the old diocese. The breakaway diocese claims it is the legal and legitimate continuation of the old diocese. Mark Lawrence claims to be the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina even though he very publicly left the Episcopal Church in October of 2012. The Episcopal Church bishop, now Skip Adams, is claiming that Lawrence is in violation of the federal law protecting federally registered trademarks. In essence, this suit is asking the federal court to decide which of the two dioceses has the right to be the heir of the pre-schism diocese with all the names, rights, and assets this entails.

Thus, there are two issues at stake now in the courts, the ownership of the local parish/mission properties, and the ownership of the old diocese. The first issue has been settled by the South Carolina Supreme Court. On August 3, 2017, it ruled that 29 of the 36 parishes involved in the lawsuit remain property of the Episcopal Church. The court sent its decision back down to the circuit court for implementation. Judge Dickson is now working on this. We may expect his decision on how to carry out the SCSC decision any day now. Dickson has no choice but to implement the majority decisions of the state high court. Under the judicial system, he cannot alter or ignore the SCSC ruling.

A federal court decision is also imminent. Judge Richard Gergel, of the U.S. District Court, in Charleston, has set a trial date at May 1 or after. I have a hunch, and it is nothing more than that, that there is a good chance Judge Gergel will hand down a decision on his own in the near future. In fact, both sides have asked the judge to make a ruling, that is, on his own without a trial. This judge is well-known to be expeditious and efficient. Odds are very strong that Gergel will rule in favor of the Episcopal Church. It flies in the face of simple common sense that a bishop can leave the Episcopal Church and still be the Episcopal bishop, of the Episcopal diocese.

To be sure, the separatist Diocese of South Carolina refuses to accept the actuality of its situation today and is trying to convince its people that reality is not reality. After all that has happened, it should be abundantly clear to all communicants today that the DSC has little to no credibility. Why should anyone believe what they DSC authorities are saying? Look at their record of misleading statements. The basic premises underlying the legitimacy of the schism turned out to be false, according to the state high court:  the Dennis Canon is optional, the local parishes own and control their properties outright, and the diocese is an independent and sovereign entity that may leave the Episcopal Church unilaterally and at will. All of these were tragically wrong and were revealed as such after many millions of dollars of the communicants' money were thrown away in a futile effort to make the judges believe their erroneous assertions. The people of DSC would be wise to regard with healthy skepticism anything their leaders are telling them.

For instance, DSC has on its website a list of "Frequently Asked Questions." Find it here . This is meant to convince the DSC faithful that their church properties will not be returning to the Episcopal Church. In one part, it says:  "what the ruling [SCSC decision] actually says is that no congregation should lose their property." In spite of the conditional "should," what this is clearly meant to convey is that the 29 parishes in question will not return to the Episcopal Church. This is patently, even ridiculously, false. It is also cruel to the people in the 29 parishes to misinform them. The SCSC decision was very clear on its last page that three decisions were resolved by majority vote of the justices: 29 parishes remain under TEC, 7 parishes are independent of TEC, and Camp St. Christopher is property of TEC. In fact, the SCSC sent its decision down to the circuit court for implementation in November of 2017. The refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case sealed it. It is just a matter of time until implementation happens, no matter what other, misleading claims the DSC authorities make.

As for the federal case, the DSC FAQs say it is "laughable." I doubt Judge Gergel finds it funny. I doubt DSC will be laughing when Gegrel hands down his ruling. It is all but certain he will come down on the side of TEC. It is ridiculous to claim that a diocese of the Episcopal Church can leave the Episcopal Church and still call itself "the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina." This is just Alice-in-Wonderland nonsense. We will see what is "laughable" in the near future, perhaps within the next six weeks.

The DSC FAQs also assert:  "none of these matters are [sic] close to immediate resolution." DSC authorities are trying to convince their followers that the litigation will go on indefinitely; and, therefore, they do not have to worry about TEC regaining possession of the properties. If people think it is over, they will stop donating money to the DSC lawyers. In fact, "these matters" are certainly close to resolution in both state and federal courts. The end is clearly in sight, even in spite of the obfuscation of the desperate and failed leaders of DSC.

To me, the most absurd assertion the DSC FAQs make is that the schism had nothing to do with sexuality. Talk about "laughable." Give us a break. Even Mark Lawrence admitted only last year that he left the Episcopal Church because of the church's acceptance of the transgendered. I spent 300,000 documented words in my history of the schism showing that homosexuality/transgender was the direct cause of the schism. No one has challenged my thesis. Advice to DSC authorities: do not insult people's intelligence.

The Episcopal Church diocese also has a Frequently Asked Questions on its website. This one is in the realm of non-fiction. Find it here . I highly recommend that every communicant in the 29 returning parishes read and think about the questions and answers presented here. Your church future depends on it.

I do not mean to make light or be flippant about the current situation in the old diocese of South Carolina. On the contrary, this is a terrible tragedy on many levels. It is anything but "laughable." Church families have been torn apart. Indeed, families have been torn apart. Friends have stopped speaking to each other. Anger, suspicion, incrimination, even demonization of the other side have crept in to corrupt Christian hearts. This is heartbreaking in more ways than one. And, all of this destruction was because some people did not want others to have the choice to accept the inclusion of openly homosexual persons and the transgendered, and did not want women to have equality in the church. The choice is between inclusion and exclusion. The once unified part of the body of Christ in this little part of the world now lies broken, wounded and bleeding. How could this be the right thing to do? How could this be God's will?

The people of Bennettsville, Cheraw, Florence, Hartsville, Stateburg, and Sumter, and their environs, have a good opportunity tomorrow to learn the truth of what is about to happen to your local churches. Your religion will go on. Your parish will go on. Your life will go on. The services will continue unbroken as the lofty words of the venerable old Book of Common Prayer are entoned again and again as they have been for generations, even centuries, in South Carolina. 

At the gathering tomorrow you can ask all the questions you like and bring up all the issues of your concern one-to-one with Bishop Skip Adams, Archdeacon Callie Walople, and the Rev. Bill Coyne. They will be overseeing the restoration of the parishes. They are your friends, not your enemies. They will be your guides tomorrow and in the months to come. I will not be there in person, but my prayers and best wishes will be with you. Have courage. Your faith will see your through. 

Friday, March 15, 2019


It is Friday. What's more, it is Friday in mid-March. If March is a time of madness, we should all take a break and return to sanity by soaking up the beauty of a garden, any garden. It is good for our mental health. It is good for our souls. Let us stroll around my modest garden as it appears this week.

This winter has been relatively mild and wet across the mid-south where I live. This has resulted in a glorious spring for the late winter/early spring plants. They are in their full bloom, some flourishing as they have never before. We are having a brilliant springtime. Click on the image for enlargement.

 Japanese flowering cherry, or Yoshino flowering cherry (Prunus x yodensis). I planted this as a twig 10 years ago. It is almost full grown. This is the first time it has come out in full bloom all at once. The most famous grouping of Japanese flowering cherry trees is at the tidal basin in Washington DC near the Jefferson memorial.

A trellis entrance to one of the walkways. I know I will have to fight this Carolina Jasmine vine to keep it from taking over the whole place, but that is alright. It is a well-suited native plant that thrives with neglect. Some people regard this plant as a weed. I do not.

 Flowering quince (Chaenomeles). This is the first time this bush has burst into bloom all at once. Flowering quince comes in numerous colors. This one is unusual with its coral/peach color.

 There is an oval of yaupon holly around a dwarf palmetto as the center piece of the larger part of the garden. The holly is Ilex vomitoria 'Nana'. The palmetto is Sabal minor 'Birmingham'. The tall evergreens on the right are Spartan Junipers. They flank the entrance to a seating area. There is a redbud tree barely visible on the left. The budding small tree in the middle is a crabapple. In the foreground is knock out roses and the quince.

 Dwarf peach tree (Prunus persica 'Bonanza').

 Pearl Bush 'The Bride' (Exochorda x macrantha). One of the most beautiful of the early spring flowering shrubs, majestically flowing with branches of pure white flowers.

 Camellia 'Kramer's Supreme'. Most winter camellias have past their primes and are beginning to fade out. Kramer's Supreme is one of the best. It is a medium bush profuse with big red flowers, easy to grow. If you have room for just one camellia, try this one.

Viburnum tinus 'Spring Bouquet'. Evergreen bush that blooms in winter and early spring. Viburnum is one of the best families of shrubs for southern gardens. Some are evergreen, some deciduous. 

So, the world may seem mad this March, and in some ways it is. However, the universe is not mad. It has rhyme and reason. Here is the rhyme, the beauty of God's infinitely great creation. It has an order beyond human comprehension but not beyond human appreciation. The wonders of God's work are all around us, at least those of us lucky enough to live in the south at this time of the year.  

Monday, March 11, 2019

3:00 to 4:30 p.m.

On next Sunday, March 17, there will be another open conversation for returning parishes. This one will be for the Florence area. It will be at Cross and Crown Lutheran Church, 3123 W. Palmetto Street (U.S. 76), Florence. Bishop Adams, Archdeacon Walpole, and the Rev. Bill Coyne will be there to talk with local Episcopalians and members of the returning parishes. The topics of conversation are wide open. 

There are two Episcopal congregations presently outside of the old diocesan properties: St. Catherine's Episcopal Church, and the Cheraw Worship Group. St. Catherine's has mission status in the Church diocese, the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. St. Catherine's meets at Cross and Crown Lutheran and the Cheraw groups meets in a bank in Cheraw. There is an Episcopal Church in Sumter, Good Shepherd.

In 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that 29 of the 36 parishes involved in the lawsuit against the Episcopal Church are property of the Episcopal Church. The justices said the parishes acceded to the Dennis Canon. They said once the parish broke the terms of the Canon by leaving the Episcopal Church, the property reverted to the trust beneficiary, the Episcopal Church. There are six parishes in the Florence area that are property of the Episcopal Church according to the SCSC:

1. Bennettsville --- St. Paul's

2. Cheraw --- St. David's

3. Florence --- All Saints

4. Hartsville --- St. Batholomew's

5. Stateburg --- Church of the Holy Cross

6. Sumter --- Church of the Holy Comforter

In addition, there are three local church whose status will be determined later. They were not among the 36 in the lawsuit. Their place will be decided in the future by whether they acceded to the Dennis Canon. The three are:

Dillon --- St. Barnabas

Florence --- Christ Church

Marion --- Advent

As of now, there are two parishes that remain in the separatist diocese that uses the name "Anglican." The SC supreme court said these were not property of the Episcopal Church because they had not acceded to the Dennis Canon:

Darlington --- St. Matthew's

Florence --- St. John's

The disposition of the 2017 SCSC decision is now in the hands of Judge Dickson of the circuit court. He is underway in discussions with the lawyers on both sides. We are awaiting his decision on how he will implement the SCSC decision. Dickson has no choice but to carry out the decision. Since the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, in 2018, the SCSC decision is the final law of the land. It cannot be appealed or changed. The SCSC sent its decision back down to the circuit court in November of 2017 for implementation. This is what Judge Dickson has to do. He cannot change or ignore the state supreme court ruling.

This means that in the near future, probably within a year, the six churches listed above will return to control of the Episcopal Church bishop, presently Skip Adams. He has promised that there will be no break in services. They very first Sunday after the restoration there will be an Episcopal clergy person in the local church for regular services.

The court has already declared the six churches belong to the Episcopal Church. The breakaway diocese refused to recognize the SCSC decision. The clergy remaining in possession of the buildings are not now Episcopal clergy. They abandoned the Episcopal Church in 2013 and were released and removed from the ordained ministry of the Episcopal Church. They may return to the Episcopal Church through a process of reintegration that has been set up by the Church diocese. Three clergymen have already returned and been reinstated. There are certain to be many more. Once the Episcopal Church bishop regains control of the properties, he will place an authorized Episcopal clergy person in the local church.

There are hundreds of people in St. Paul's, St. David's, All Saints, St. Bartholomew's, Holy Cross, and Holy Comforter who will be affected by the return of the properties to the Episcopal Church bishop. It behooves them to get all the information they can about the process of the restoration and all this will mean to their local churches. Much of what these people have been told by their leadership has been incorrect and misleading. These communicants will have big decisions to make. They should make them with all the information they can gather.

This is the purpose of the conversation next Sunday in Florence.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

NOTE. This blog post has nothing to do with the schism in South Carolina. It has to do with my childhood, schools, and Pensacola. This is the revised and final edition of my history of and memoir about my elementary school. The building was foolishly demolished in 2017 destroying one of the treasures of Pensacola architecture and history. I have deposited hard copies of this essay in the libraries and archives of Pensacola. I am putting it here to give it presence on the Internet as a way of encouraging other alumni to add their memories of the school. Ron Caldwell




By Ronald James Caldwell, Ph.D.
Professor of History, Emeritus,
Jacksonville State University,
Jacksonville Alabama

March 7, 2019

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

Hallmark School, August 2008. 

The George S. Hallmark School, 115 south E Street, 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. The following is my part in the endeavor to keep Hallmark School alive forever. This is my research on and my experiences in this school.

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 sneakers 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 stopped 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 six-year-old boy that I was, I wanted to be independent. She smiled and 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. Then 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 sunny September day in 1949 when I walked through the north door of the George S. Hallmark Elementary School. It was a wonderful beginning.


From the time the Spaniards left, in 1821, to the Civil War period, Pensacola remained a small, relatively poor and unimportant town, really a rather rough village of some 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 coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The Spaniards claimed all of Florida, then made a settlement at Pensacola (named either for a town in Spain or a local Indian tribe) in 1559, quickly left, and returned in 1698 to build Fort San Carlos de Austria at the mouth of Pensacola Bay mainly to plant the flag and keep the French, who were moving eastward along the Gulf coast, from infringing on Spanish claims to Florida. When Spain transferred Florida to the United States in 1821, the Americans found Pensacola Bay to be an excellent place 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. The new arrivals were mostly rural and small-town people from northwest Florida, south Alabama, southwest Georgia, and southeast Mississippi driven from home by low agricultural prices. Thus, in the four decades from 1880 to 1920, Pensacola exploded from a small town into an important and sizeable 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 sawmilled 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). In honor of the town’s Spanish heritage, many of the new buildings featured Spanish, Mediterranean, or Renaissance Revival styles: e.g., new Christ Church, city hall, the L&N depot. This gave Pensacola a certain Old World flavor, similar, but on a smaller scale, to nearby New Orleans and Mobile.

Pensacola was on a roll. However, as is so often true with booms, the good days would not last. Once the forests had been largely 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. After the end of the timber boom, Pensacola largely fell back on its military heritage as army and navy posts multiplied in its environs. It helped a great deal that in the First World War era, the Navy established the naval flight training school at the Pensacola Naval Air Station where it remains. All navy pilots earn their wings in Pensacola.

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. 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.  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 crowding into each of the four classrooms. The crowding only worsened.

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 naval stores plants and the arrival of the Frisco (St. Louis and San Francisco) Railroad. 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 Joseph B. Lockey Grammar School in 1916 (Blount Junior High after 1937), at 113 north C Street, seemed to do little to alleviate the school crisis on the booming west side. The school board knew something had to be done and soon to provide more classrooms for the burgeoning population in the two-mile stretch westward from Palafox St. to Bayou Chico that was composed largely of industrial workers, laborers, mechanics, clerks, drivers, policemen, nurses, shopkeepers, salesmen, 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 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 four-room 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 administrative offices of the school board now stands). They resolved to explore selling the building and constructing a new school for the children of the westside somewhere else nearby but with plenty of space.

In 1925, at the height of the Florida land boom, 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. (The deal failed. 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 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. The site was approximately half way between Palafox Street and the western city limit at Bayou Chico. 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 school board did not have. To raise the funds for the new construction projects, the board proposed to offer $225,000 in public bonds at 6% interest. They got the influential 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 another city block 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 city 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 be built on the northern city lot with the southern lot left as a playground. It was to look eastward, toward the city center, and face E St. with its north side on Romana St. Willis had also designed the J.B. Lockey School and 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. It has survived many a hurricane.

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 nineteen rooms in all plus two small offices flanking the front door, one for the principal and one for the nurse. There were 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, eighteen teachers, one librarian, one principal, one secretary, one janitor, and several lunchroom workers.

The building itself was very substantial. It survived many hurricanes and storms in its life from 1928 to 2017, with Ivan in 2004 being the worst. 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 spacious interior 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 a separate maintenance 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, much to Miss Hartman’s chagrin.

In 1950, a cafeteria/auditorium was built as a separate structure connected to the northwest corner of the building by an enclosed walkway 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 folding chairs set up facing the stage for assembles and performances. The stage had a curtain topped by a large golden “H.” (The original curtain was still there when the building was demolished.) 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 of the school.

On the two city blocks, the building(s) stood on the north. The south 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 parts of the school ground became one long block. This gave ample open area for games and recreation. Toward the far 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, Mary Eulalie (called 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. When Moses was killed in a railroad accident in 1884, Anna Yniestra was left with eight daughters to support, ages 23 to 6. Although we do not know from the record, we might imagine the oldest, Allie, had to assume a great deal of responsibility for the support of this large household. 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.

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 a large and outstanding PTA. In the fall of 1928 between 200 and 300 proud mothers and fathers crowded into the first PTA meeting in the splendid 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 her lunch room served everyone. She kept this quiet and today no one knows how she managed to do this. She was also known to work with the room mothers 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 her remarkable teaching career in 1939, at age seventy-eight, and moved to St. Petersburg, FL to live with a nephew. She died there in 1941. Her funeral was on March 11, 1941, at St. Michael's Catholic Church, Pensacola; and she was buried in the St. Michael's cemetery. 

Emma Louise Hartman was born on January 17, 1904, in Pensacola. Her parents had married in 1890 in the (German) 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 (the 100 block was the red-light district). 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. Upon starting work, she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Florida State College for Women (now Florida State University) by attending summer classes. In the 1920s, the large Hartman family moved to 1102 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 a student 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. 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 go around looking 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 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 low salary 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 1961 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. 

Miss Catherine Adams taught sixth grade at Hallmark from 1929 to 1966. After she retired she taught for several years at St. Stephen’s Catholic School. She died on February 18,1987, aged eighty-four. Mrs. Forest A. (Grace M.) Wheeler taught First Grade at Hallmark from 1929 to 1950. She died on May 3, 1980, aged eighty-five. In addition, many other teachers gave years of devoted service to Hallmark School. None of these devoted teachers should be forgotten. Their names should be honored forever.

       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 only $3,700/year. In 2018, the base salary in the county schools was $37,000/yr., barely a living wage. 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, at age seventy-five, in 2018-2019. They are abundant, overwhelmingly pleasant, and after all these years, fresh in mind. I have always been blessed with a good memory, something that served me very well as a student of history. I attended Hallmark School 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.” I was a shy, insecure, 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 was good at it. Unfortunately, handwriting has all but disappeared from schools. I also learned how to read by seeing repetitive words in my “Alice and Jerry” readers. I was hooked on books. 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 (back) 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, Miss Edith Oliver, was 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. On any given Saturday, three Oliver sisters could be seen majestically strolling down Palafox Street dressed to the nines with hat and gloves and eager to stop and talk with the many friends, students, and parents they encountered. 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 three Oliver sisters on their way to Christ Church, in 1955. Edith (L), Minnie (M), and Eulalie (R). This photo is courtesy of the little girl, a niece, Michelle Hallmark Oliver Llewellyn. 

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 huge 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 did not say 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 the beauty of both nature and religion. On nature, she took the class on walks around the five-acre school grounds and told us about the various aspects of plant life (as why some plants stay green all years and some not). Our spacious school yard 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 maxim, “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 sermons I heard every Sunday at 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. It was not whether we were “saved” or “unsaved,” it was about how we incorporated faith in our everyday lives. 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. If anyone forgot and put something on top of her Bible, he or she got a stern rebuke. 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 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 their understanding of the role of religion in life was right. 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 when 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 personal 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 warring 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, foreboding, and self-loathing.  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 is still there but closed). 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 big 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 the two miles 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 between downtown and 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, vanquished the bad guys 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 evil. The next day on Sunday, I was told that the world was not right, that it could not be made right, that Satan would be vanquished only in the next 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 to be.

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. 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, my teacher, Mrs. Juanita Marich, decided my class needed to visit this school and we did. I was appalled at what I found there. The rooms were small and crowded. There was only one class per grade with two classes crowded into the same room. The “playground” was tiny and, and I saw no lunchroom or auditorium. The children looked lifeless and glum. I returned to my school with a great new appreciation for the place that 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 academic 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, age twenty-two, 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, large dark eyes, and the sweetest disposition imaginable. She was beautiful inside and out. She loved us and we all adored her. (The following year, 1954, we were all heart-broken when she announced she would not be back the next year as she was about to get married and move away.) 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 best work 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.)

Yvonne Dionne married Richard W. White in 1954. The couple had three sons. This picture is from the Pensacola News-Journal of June 12, 1977, twenty-three years after her time at Hallmark. At the age of 46, “Miss Dionne” was still a radiant beauty. She died on September 28, 1986, at the age of 55, and was buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery, Pensacola.

In the Fifth Grade, I was in the class of Mrs. Velma 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. Pensacola has always been a gardener’s paradise. 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 Barrancas Avenue 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). It was the first time I had ever stayed in a hotel. We toured the spectacularly beautiful Hialeah racetrack, closed to the public for the summer. South Florida seemed another world to me, strange and exotic. I remember the sun being extremely bright. 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 “development” that a lot of native Floridians, as myself, see as destruction.

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. There was no cross-ventilation or air-conditioning. For much of the year the room was stifling, usually with a slight breeze of salty, humid air off Pensacola 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.

The following two pages show 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 about Columbus for the Sixth Grade classes. I agreed. We rounded up a cast of a dozen or so. 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 must have been profoundly disappointed in me but she did not say 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 approached. I had mixed emotions, thrilled at the end of the school year and the promise of a summer of lazy fun ahead, which in Pensacola meant the beach, 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 by 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.

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 (only a few children brought their lunches). There was no microwave oven, no frozen meals. The cooks arrived before the children and left at the end of the day, no doubt exhausted. 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 her most popular was “sloppy joe.” There was also an assortment of other entrees, as spaghetti, hot dogs, meat loaf and mashed potatoes. We also got an assortment of fruits and vegetables. The meal was always accompanied by sliced whole wheat bread. Our least favorite item was half an orange which we often got in the winter. It is hard to eat an orange halved across the middle. 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 in big letters and drew little cartoons around it featuring the dishes.

The photo is of me, Ronny Caldwell, at age 12.

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. Margaret Rogers, the faithful, long-serving 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 annoying 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 Madi 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. They were always works of art.

Getting to and from school was also an adventure for me. It was about a mile from my house on 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 ride my bicycle, or in bad weather, get a ride from my Dad. My main route was Barrancas Avenue. When I was a small child during and just after the Second World War, this was the only direct route between downtown and the Pensacola Naval Air Station, several miles to the southwest of the city. At that time, traffic was always bumper-to-bumper on the thoroughfare. It was a broad avenue that ran diagonally from Garden Street to near the mouth of Bayou Chico where it originally crossed on a narrow, two-lane rickety old wooden bridge that had a single draw. Occasionally drunk sailors went into the bayou. 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, the old one demolished, and Barrancas traffic was diverted at “O” Street, later called Pace Boulevard, to go over the new 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 way 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. I found the smells to be bitter and acrid (I have a lifelong aversion to beer). Adjacent was the Crystal Ice house at busy Government Street. Passing Leo’s Laundry and its dry cleaning odors, I cut through to the school. On Barrancas near Hallmark stood the Gulf City Coffee Company invariably pumping out through the whole neighborhood a heavenly and strong smell of roasting coffee. I still love 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 was a short wooden stair. At its top, on the edge of 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 know now that the ice house 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 sweaty and thirsty youngsters like me. So, I say a belated “thank you” to the Spearmans and the men who worked at the ice company. I think that was the best, and coldest, water I have ever drunk. (The ice house is still there, now named “Reddy Ice.” The brewery was demolished in the 1980s.)

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. The east side was the more affluent part of Pensacola. This reached its fullest measure in the late 1950s when Hallmark School housed well over 600 students. At my church, on N Street, the average Sunday School attendance at that time 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. In 1959, Tristan Village advertised a new house and lot for $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 stampeded to claim 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 to 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 residential neighborhoods, built mostly in the 1920s and 30s, 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. African American children were provided substandard schools and substandard educations. All-white Hallmark began to integrate racially in or about 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. The school had seen a remarkably stable and long term administrative and teaching staff from its beginnings until Miss Hartman’s retirement in 1964. There was little turnover. Afterwards this changed and turnover became more rapid with time. From 1964 to the end, in 2011, there were seven principals:  Gavin E. Thorsen (1964-1967); James E. Reese (1967-1985); Marjorie W. Hankins Anderson (1985-1991); Joan M. Fox (1991-2001); Connie Farish (2001-2004), left to become principal of Scenic Heights Elementary School; Linda Green (2004-2005), left to become assistant principal of Myrtle Grove Elementary School; and Sheree Cagle Mauldin (2005-2011). Cagle-Mauldin was chosen as the principal of the successor school.

To its credit, the school board did about all it could to keep the school functioning well. It increased programs and services, greatly enlarged the staff, and poured money into plant repair, improvement, and expansion. In 1969, kindergarten was added for the first time and the school lost the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. Hallmark became a K-3 school. The board began hiring teachers’ aides and other support staff. By 1978, there were more staff positions than classroom teachers. This included nine “teachers’ aides.” This trend was to continue.

Several times the school board adjusted the configuration of the school. In 1985, a pre-kindergarten was added making the school pre-K-3. The support staff positions continued to grow. As the student body continued to shrink along with the test scores, the school board decided to return grades four and five. They were resumed in 1996 making Hallmark a pre-K-5 school from then on. Nevertheless, enrollment continued to decline. The school board refused to give up on the school, at least not yet. It continued to add positions. When Miss Hartman retired in 1964, the school had a total staff of about 27, 19 classroom teachers, one librarian, one secretary, one principal, one custodian, and several lunch room workers. In 1978, there were 38 positions with only 10 as classroom teachers. By 1999, even as enrollment declined, there were 50 full-time staff at Hallmark. This included 17 classroom teachers. There were 10 others as reading, music, PE, counselor, LD, SLI, librarian, curriculum coordinator, and EMH. In addition, there were 17 “educational support” positions and the principal, cafeteria manager, secretary, data processor, and “child care site director.” 1999-2000 was the high point of the school board’s efforts to keep the school going. This was also the time they decided to build a new state-of-the-art media center, behind the school, that would feature the latest technology. Apparently, the efforts did not work well. Academic achievement remained relatively low. However, even at the end, in 2009, the school still held 39 full-time positions, of those just 13 were classroom teachers. In the end there was only one pre-K class, one K, and one Fifth Grade class. The others had 2, 3 or 4 classes.

By 2009, it was clear Hallmark was not sustainable as a public school. Enrollment was down to about 250 students. All the money, improvements, and staff galore did not turn the school around. The school board decided to close both Hallmark and Allie Yniestra and to combine the student bodies into a new school to be built on land between the two schools. The decision to close was handed down in 2009. The school board set the opening of the new school to be the fall of 2011.

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.

The old school closed its doors in 2011. Fortunately for me, I visited the building one day shortly before that. It was in August of 2008, 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 golden “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 left the place, as reluctantly as I had all those many years ago, in 1955.

The golden "H" topped the dark blue stage curtain and presided over every assembly for sixty years.

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, an architectural treasure of the city’s past, could not have been preserved and repurposed as so many old schools have been.

I do not know as a fact, but I suspect what happened to the Hallmark School building had less to do with the building and more to do with the land. The two city blocks contained five acres of prime real estate, perhaps the last such large parcel available in close proximity to the city center (app. I mile). The original purchasers of the old school, 349 LLC, paid $1m for it all as they talked about various uses they could make of the building. The school board made the sales agreement with Matthew Pair, of 3 West Garden Street, on March 19, 2013. The deed was signed over on April 10, 2013. In time, however, the buyers sold it for app. $1.6m to a house construction company which intended to demolish the old building to make way for seventy-six townhouses around the edges of the five acres. Actually, parts of the west side of the City of Pensacola have been going through “gentrification” for years now. The old school was demolished in 2017. Pictures of this are available in the newspaper. It is too painful to reproduce them here.

I do not want to leave anyone with the impression that Hallmark School was a perfect place when I was there. It was not. I wish it had had some men teachers. Little boys need male role models. I wish too it had had more science in the curriculum. I wish, as well, the student body had been more diverse so that I could have gotten a better understanding of people beyond my narrow socio-cultural-economic range. This would have helped my adjustment to the broader world as I grew and matured into adulthood. Looking back, Jim Crow was harmful to us white children too. None of this, however, is meant to be a criticism of the school itself.

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, history, writing, mathematics, art, and music. On socialization, I learned how to get along with a wide range of personalities. I learned that people vary greatly but beneath it all were the same. On self-awareness, I began developing an understanding of who I was as an individual person, what was important to me, 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 at age seventy-five, I cannot imagine being the person I am today without having had my six years at Hallmark School. For children like me, education offered an avenue to a better life. Hallmark School was my way up 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 for the better by that remarkable place.

Finally, I have a request of the Escambia County School Board. The grandiose name of the new school, “Global Learning Academy,” is absurd. This is a ridiculous name for a school on the west side of Pensacola. This school should be named The Yniestra-Hartman Elementary School. For more than five decades, these two remarkable women devoted themselves completely to the school children of the west side of Pensacola even as they received so little in return. This is their school. This is their legacy. We, the fortunate ones who benefited so much from their lives, owe at least this recognition to them. Therefore, I move we rename the new school The Yniestra-Hartman Elementary School. Any seconds?

SOURCES. The primary sources of information were the digitized collection of Pensacola newspapers available on the Pensacola News-Journal website, the U.S. Census, and the records of the School District of Escambia County.