Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: The State-of-the-art Gymnasium of 1967

By , 11 January, 2010, 2 Comments

In recent years, when many new school buildings are being opened in our county and marvelous remodeling and rebuilding efforts are taking place, community members don’t seem to be as fascinated with the unveiling of new educational facilities as they once were.  In the chronicles of school history in our community, the opening of schools was however, a cause for great jubilation.  Perhaps one of the most momentous occasions occurred in 1967 when a gymnasium was constructed and the community gathered around to enjoy this new-found status.  You see, the Zephyrhills Basketball team and other teams had played previously in outdoor courts and to have a state-of the art gymnasium was really the ‘cat’s meow.’

On January 12, 1967, Zephyrhills News reported:

A rare opportunity to visit those areas of a gymnasium usually restricted to physical education students and coaches will be afforded the public today when open house is held in the new gymnasium-classroom on the Zephyrhills High School campus. The Parent-Teacher Association will sponsor refreshments hosted by a committee headed by Mrs. Robert Chadwell, arranging for the social hour.  The opening game in the gym is Saturday evening against Tampa Catholic.

Imagine that for the first time, the high school graduation of 1967 was also held in this new gymnasium with ample room for seating. The auditorium had served quite well up until this time but by 1967, the graduating class had grown to 63 students and a new facility was needed. Here is a glimpse at that first graduation in the new gymnasium in 1967 from a Zephyrhills News article of June 1, 1967:

“The new ZHS gymnasium will be the scene beginning at 8 p.m. tomorrow of commencement exercises for the 63-member senior class. It will be the first community activity, excepting basketball, to be held in the structure which was dedicated earlier this year. Principal Raymond B. Stewart will preside at the annual event which is expected to attract a large attendance by relatives and friends of the graduates. It will afford many a first opportunity to see the long-awaited new physical education facility.

Mrs. Monroe Treiman, Supervisor of Pasco County Schools, is to make awards presentations and Mrs. V. E. Witt, Zephyrhills member of the Pasco County Board of Public Instruction, will deliver diplomas to the graduates.

“Speakers will include Salutatorian Joan Thompson, Valedictorian Marcia Deming, Class President Alice Back and Student Council President Richard Kinney. Reverend Richard Pollard, Vicar of the St. Elizabeth Church, is to give the invocation and the benediction will be given by the Reverend Millard Mount, pastor of the First Christian Church with Julia Miller as organist.  After commencement exercises, parents will host a buffet supper and swimming party at the VFW Hall and Municipal Pool.”

To get a feel for the topics of the day, here are some excerpts from those above-referenced 1967 graduation speeches:

Joan Thompson, salutatorian, and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Thompson, paid tribute to the teachers who have “guided us when we were uncertain or in difficulty and shown us how to bridge the gaps of thought along the way. Most of their help has been taken for granted but we are grateful for your passing on to us the culture which is America…for building patterns of morality as well as bridges of thought and for teaching character in our daily lives.”

Alice Back, class president, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Emmanuel Back, recalled developments in the field of motion pictures, radio, television, automobiles, airplanes, freeways and missiles, and said, “behind all the development has been the natural urge which people have to make things, for people want to use their knowledge and abilities in the most satisfying way they can find—the creation of new things and ideas.”
Recalling the time when people lived and died within a few hundred miles of the place of their birth, Miss Back said, “The automobile changed the private, social, industrial, and political life of the nation…leveled hills, extended horizons, created new opportunities. And just as the automobile was and is a factor in our world of mechanics and automation yesterday and today so will be nuclear energy in the tomorrows. Increased leisure time coupled with the creative drive within people will make for greater advancements in many fields…it is our responsibility to preserve what we have inherited, to become good Americans, to oppose any doctrine which attempts to destroy our heritage…By continuing a love for our country and her ideals, we will prosper and experience an even greater evidence of the creative drive.”

Marcia Deming, Valedictorian, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Deming said:
 “We must learn to rise above the conflicts and tensions so prevalent today and keep in mind that all these conveniences and improvements of the modern age do not provide solutions to our personal problems,” she said and continued with, “We are not satisfied to think of our lives as just short periods in an eon of time…we want to live deeply, learn, grow and be proud of our accomplishments. Each of us must find our own way to live, become involved and contribute to our civilization.”

Richard Kinney, Student Council President and son of Lt. Col. And Mrs. James F. Kinney, said “every person should ask himself what is most important?  We are God’s children and here on this earth to do His will. In making important decisions our first consideration should be ‘What would God have us to do?’ Our lives must be based on principles, our American ancestors sacrificed their most precious possessions, even their lives for what they thought was right.” Kinney quoted General Douglas MacArthur on important principles when MacArthur said, “Duty, honor, country: These three hallowed words reverently dictate what you want to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, and to create hope when hope becomes forlorn,” Kinney said, “this is our legacy.” He listed knowledge as the key development of strong characters to progress, self-discipline, deep thinking and right living as being among things of importance in every life.  With graduation season upon us, I’m sure the graduates of 2009 will be sharing inspirational messages as well.

Although the 2009 graduation is to be held at the Sun Dome because of the sheer size of its class, the pride of those 1967 graduates is still quite evident in the recollections of their delight in the new facility and hope for their future.

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 April 23, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

2 Responses {#}
  • Faye Gaskin Smith

    I kinda feel sorry for those folks who had to have that gym. They missed out on so much! LOL. Basketball out in the hot sun, blood if you fell because of the rough concrete slab the guys had to play on…. man-o-man, bet Clyde, Sam,Nelson could tell you some tales.

  • Erica Freeman

    I’m so glad that I heard that 2010’s graduation will be back at ZHS. I know there are plenty of graduates and their families who arrive by taxi, walking or other means and that seemed unfair to make them travel out of county to Lakeland or Tampa.

    Plus, there was something magical about graduating in the gym…especially if you were a Thespian like I was. You end up spending so many hours there that it becomes like a second home and graduation was the last time to see it.

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