Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Celebrities!

By , 14 December, 2009, No Comment

In an age of instant stardom through phenomenon’s such as American Idol and pop star infatuations  with the likes of Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift and others, adults might be tempted to believe that the current generation is vastly unique from those of previous eras.  Granted in an age of technological innovation when texting, iPods, Wii’s, cell phones and PDA’s are necessary tween/teen paraphernalia, the tools may have been tweaked a bit but it appears that every generation has had its share of celebrities.

In researching the archives of history for Zephyrhills schools (primarily ZHS), Clereen and I discovered today’s era is not particularly exceptional in its admiration of celebrities. The influence of various popular personalities is seen throughout this community’s school history.  The school’s annual, the Zephilsco, reflects the influence of various acclaimed celebs. We discovered in consulting with several folks, that a particularly distinctive feature of the annual was the selection by letter/US Mail of a annual king and queen by a well-known celebrity. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, key celebrities (usually television or movie stars) worked with the annual yearbook editor and vendor to select the coveted ZHS Yearbook King and Queen. They chose the winners from among photographs of senior nominees. In checking with neighboring communities, we found that this was an unusual practice and may have been exclusive to Zephyrhills.  We are uncertain as to who may have come up with this innovative idea. Does anyone know?

Consider that the following students (many of whom you will recognize) were selected the yearbook king and queen by the likes of John Wayne, Red Skelton or Johnny Carson:

1961 (Editor: Sandra Pricher): Garry Moore from the Garry Moore Television Show chose Queen-Mary Alice Gill & King-Richard Miles,
1962  (Editor: Barbara Russ):  Henry Morgan from I’ve Got A Secret Fame chose Delores Braxton & Clyde Bracknell,
1964 (Editor: Howard Kersey):  Comedian Red Skelton chose Cletia Weaver & John Wintersteen,
1965 (Editor: Kaye Henry):  Jean Morris from the WFLA TV station’s then popular Hi-Time chose Sandy Kirkland & Reggie Brown,
1966 (Editor: Laurel Reitz): Richard Chamberlain, TV’s Doctor Kildare selected Myra Bialik & Bill Lyons,
1967 (Editor: Marcia Deming): Johnny Carson of the Tonight Show chose Joan Thompson & Jim Jefferson,
1968 (Editor: Laura Eloise Hall):  Steve Spurrier (1967 Heisman Trophy Winner) from UF chose Michele Burke & Riki McGinnis,
1969 (Editors: Donna Merrill & Patty Hayden): Comedian Jackie Gleason chose Donna Merrill & Johnny Braxton,
1970 (Editor: Julie Phipps):  Actor, John Wayne chose Pat Artabasy & Cliff Brown,
1971 (Editor: Lynda Stewart): Miss Florida, Linda Donovan chose Suzanne Arnot & Larry McDonald,
1972 (Editor: Dee Dee Toole): Mickey Mouse of the newly opened Magic Kingdom chose Martha Padgett & Benji Cook,
1973 (Editor: Lynne Strickland & Phyllis Jarrett): Rock Group, Chicago chose Essalene Buckins & Jay Linville.

It must have been incredibly thrilling for the annual (yearbook) editor to receive a letter from an actor of the stature of John Wayne. Notice that the famous person reflects the time period as well.

Humility puts all of us in our place however and as one of the authors of this piece, I must confess that when I was preparing the jpegs (that’s the photo) insert for the article, a young man of about 17 was assisting me at a Tampa Office supply store.  He was perusing the letters from Richard Chamberlain, Jackie Gleason, etc., and he said to me, “Were these famous people?”  I then explained to him the significance of the various personalities.  I suspect he was thinking, “What is she talking about?” And I realized it is all relative to the age.

All of us of each generation however, share an interest in movie stars, pop idols or famous persons! Who was yours?

Countdown to Centennial

Countdown to Centennial
By Madonna Jervis Wise and Clereen Morrill Brunty of the 100th Anniversary Committee, ZHS. Article originally appeared in the Zephyrhills News on January 22, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

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