Dear Editor,

I read with interest your articles on Highland View Elementary School. It is sad to see it torn down. However, my sadness turns to reflective joy on what I remember about this special school. It is where my education first took meaning.

I was born at Port St. Joe Hospital in September of 1946. My mom brought me home to our four room house located one block from the location that was to be the future home of Highland View Elementary. My first grade year in 1951/1952 was spent at Port St. Joe Elementary School on Long Avenue. During that year I watched as my new school was being built. I waited and longed for the day that I would not have to ride the bus but walk down the hill to my new school.

I recall a conversation between my granddaddy, Mr. Player, who owned our local grocery store and Mr. Weeks, our local postmaster. There was no home mail delivery in those days. The school district was finishing the school and putting in playground equipment, including a tall slide and monkey bars. My granddaddy blurted out “before they finish that school it will cost over $100,000.” Now we see it takes nearly $700,000 to tear it down. Speaking of the playground equipment, before the school opened, all area kids, our parents and some grandparents all tried out the slide.

Finally the day came and I walked to my second grade classroom to begin the 52/53 school year. I was proud of my new jeans, new shirt and glad that I could walk to school barefoot. My second grade teacher was Mrs. Johnston. Mrs. Lawrence taught first grade. Mrs. Bartlett taught third grade. Mrs. DeWitt taught fourth grade. Mr. Ayers, our first Principal, taught fifth grade. We only had five classrooms, boys’ bathroom, girls’ bathroom, principal’s office and a lunchroom with a stage.

For the next four years, my friends and I enjoyed each of the teachers that I mentioned. I recall that for the 56/57 school year a sixth grade was added. Mr. Mahon was our new Principal and teacher and our classroom was on the stage in the lunchroom. Also for that year, Mrs. Fite was hired to teach fifth grade.

Lunchroom was a special treat for some of us kids. We had never eaten in a “restaurant” before. We paid our 15 cents and ate everything on our plate. Some of us learned that meat does not have to be fried to be good. Sometimes we had the chance to purchase an extra milk for 3 cents. The same cost as a postage stamp.

In 1957, I entered Port St. Joe High School on Long Avenue. I was afraid that the “city” kids would know more than me. That feeling went away after I made the honor roll the first six-weeks. Our Highland View teachers had prepared us for high school.

Highland View Elementary may disappear, but its impact on my life will never be forgotten. My wife of nearly 50 years, also attended Highland View Elementary. We own a beach house in Barefoot Cottages, west of Highland View. Each week-end that we come down from Tallahassee, we ride through our old neighborhood and say thanks for the best childhood ever. We will miss you Highland View Elementary.

Forrest Van Camp

Tallahassee/Port St. Joe