Dukate School Comes Tumbling, Crumbling Down

A piece of Biloxi history came crumbling to the ground Friday. Workers with a demolition crew brought down the old Dukate School on East Howard Avenue.

The falling bricks and crumbling wood stirred the memory of school days past.

Dukate's destruction sparked flashbacks of childhood in Ronnie Blanchard's eyes.

"We used to come and sit there. Ride the bikes around the old school," said Blanchard, while watching the Dukate walls collapse.

"Miss Eubanks, in the library, where we used to have the most trouble. I run many a lap for Miss Eubanks," he remembered.

Dukate educated generations of Biloxians. Each classroom that crumbled prompted another school days' story for Ronnie Blanchard. Not always pleasant.

"The paddle. Still had the good old paddle. You're talking about instant heat when that paddle hit your behind, you got instant heat," Blanchard explained.

Dukate was built in 1924. Rafters that haven't seen the light of day since, are exposed in a single blow. More youthful memories are also uncovered.

"And then when we got to high school, I think the prettiest teacher was Miss Rosemary Guitterez. And she's still around. She was an English teacher. And we had a lot of trouble with that English," said a smiling Blanchard.

Dukate school days will now exist only in the memories and yearbooks.

"It's actually another Biloxi landmark that is coming down," said Fred Griswold Sr., who lives across the street on Howard Avenue.

Rather than a landmark lost, he prefers to focus on the future.

"It's a necessity. You know it was becoming a danger. And the city is wanting to put a new community center on this spot," says Griswold.

Before that happens, longtime classrooms must come down. As Fred Griswold put it, it's like losing an old friend.

Not all of Dukate was torn down. The City of Biloxi saved the auditorium and gymnasium. The gym will be used for summer recreation programs, while the auditorium will provide a community meeting place.