Second of two parts
Frankie McKay Howze first came to Palmetto to teach in a one-room schoolhouse in 1889. Though students of all ages shared a classroom and teacher, Mrs. Howze divided children into classes to teach age-appropriate lessons.
While it was standard for kids to go to school up until their early teen years, Mrs. Howze found several older youth interested in higher subjects. Guided by a model for study, Frankie organized classes in literature, Latin, science and algebra. These core subjects laid a foundation for high school.
Under Frankie's direction, final exams became a big event. All members of the local school board and county superintendant would watch each student work an assigned problem on the blackboard. According to a descendant, "To be a student in Miss Frankie's school was now quite an honor." Parents from the surrounding counties would board their children in town to take advantage of the great educational opportunities.
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Instead of just focusing on academics, the forward-thinking Mrs. Howze believed in educating the whole child. Frankie emphasized physical education before PE was a standard part of the curriculum. Former student, Lenore Stewart, reminisces about early-morning exercises in the school chapel (auditorium), where students sat in every other chair to follow along
with Mrs. Howze's stretching exercises.
Mrs. Howze even taught fifth- and sixth-grade boys football! In an interview after her retirement, she mentions that she "read up on it, you see, and I love the game. Used to take the boys around in my car to other towns where they were to play."
As an above-and-beyond type of educator, Frankie also made sure her students received lessons in music appreciation. Alice Myers, a late Palmetto historian, shared stories of music lessons in which Mrs. Howze would lift the needle of her Victrola mid-song and ask students to identify the different instruments. Other former students have noted that Mrs. Howze was the reason they knew that the music played during many western chase scenes was from the "William Tell Overture."
As education continued to improve in Palmetto, new schools were built and Mrs. Howze was made principal of the elementary school. In 1927, a school was built and named in her honor. A marble slab was put on the original building declaring it the "Frankie A. Howze School," where she continued as principal until her retirement at age 72.
In 1979, after the demolition of this original structure, the slab was affixed to a new building in Palmetto Elementary School. In recent years, the school has been relocated to a different part of town and Frankie's marble slab now resides in front of the kindergarten building at the Palmetto Historical Park.
While all of these duties and accomplishments would have been plenty to keep Frankie busy, she was also the town's librarian for a while. During her first year here, Frankie helped organize a civic organization with the main goal of establishing a library in Palmetto. The Carnegie Library was finally built in 1914 and Mrs. Howze served as librarian from 1916 until 1926.
It isn't only locals who think Frankie's contributions deserve to be remembered. In recognition of her philanthropy and public service, Frankie Howze was named one of the Department of State's Great Floridians 2000.
This program was designed to honor individuals who have "enhanced the lives of Florida's citizens." A commemorative plaque denoting this honor is proudly displayed on the façade of the Carnegie Library.
This building that Frankie loved so well and fought hard to establish is currently in danger. Leaking windows threaten the 100-year-old structure as well as the irreplaceable archives housed inside (including the file about Frankie's life).
The Palmetto Historical Commission and the City of Palmetto are working to save this landmark, and you can help. When you donate $100 or more, your loved one will be recognized on a plaque in the Carnegie Library. Not only will they be honored for years to come, but you will be saving history. Spaces are filling up fast, and the historical commission is accepting donations.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 941.723.4991.
Amanda Polson, supervisor, and Tori Chasey Edwards, curator at Palmetto Historical Park, love discovering century-old gossip. They call it research. Contact Tory at email@example.com or 941-723-4991.