Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Miss Granger’s “Rangers”

By , 21 January, 2010, No Comment

The ZHS 100 Committee is working in collaboration with Zephyrhills Main Street, Inc. to plan celebrations for the Zephyrhills Centennial in 2010.  Our goal is to feature some glimpses of educational history over time. Please contact us to share your reactions to our vignettes at: Madonna Wise (mwise {at} hughes(.)net) and Clereen Brunty (clereen {at} tampabay.rr(.)com).

Have you heard of the creative teaching method known as Montessori? It is an imaginative approach for young children that was developed in the late 1800’s which infuses art, music and self-expression; and it has produced some great thinkers in our world.

Well, in Zephyrhills, a pioneer primary and uniquely creative educator was Mary Frances Granger who operated “The Child’s Garden of Learning” in her home on 11th Street just past 9th Avenue, for over 35 years.  The school taught many prominent citizens (i.e. Emil Reutimann, George Neukom, Emerson Arnot, Christine Douglas and many more.) We were encouraged to include “Miss Mary” (as she was known) in our historical tributes.

The spunky and sometime eccentric Miss Mary moved to Zephyrhills with her family in 1926 and opened what was first named The Merry Kindergarten. George Neukom told us that students who attended Miss Mary’s school for a few years at the kindergarten level were given an evaluation test when they entered Zephyrhills School and often skipped over several grades as was the case for George.

A 1947 Tampa Times newspaper article said, “Child’s Garden of Learning takes particular care to both physical and mental development that will cause the garden to burst forth with sweet flowers…the children! Natural and organized play, music, construction, dramatization, and art guide children in the accumulation of knowledge at various ages at this particular school.”

Miss Mary operated the only kindergarten in town.  She was a single lady who was known to always wear a hat. She was very active in the community. Jon Ferguson, one of her pupils said in an interview, “She was a small lady in stature but there was a huge monument of caring and tender love for students. She could handle quite a large number of students without help. She had that gift of gathering her little chickens under her wings yet was firm in discipline…just what the children needed.”

A 1956 Zephyrhills News report on the annual end-of-the-year ceremony may give you a feel for what it was like at the “Garden of Learning.” See if you recognize any names?

“The 1956 annual closing program of Miss Mary Granger’s School was held at the Woman’s Club Wednesday afternoon with a large audience. With youngsters singing Oh What A Beautiful Morning as a prelude, the curtain opened on an apple blossom garden scene complete with picket fences entwined with flowers and foliage… Group songs included Friends, April Showers, Singing in the Rain, In Apple Blossom Time, and Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing. A Rainbow Fairies novelty song and dance featured Donna Bales, Sandra Johnston, Betty Muse, Shirley and Gloria Rose, Judy Lane, Joey Chenkin, Mikie Barber and Linda Lippincott. Paul Hilson and Rene Geddes acquitted themselves nicely in the The Little Shoemaker and an alphabet song in which all the youngsters participated which was followed by a Flower Wedding number and a skit, Teddy Bear Picnic

Diplomas were awarded to Gail Chenkin, Ritchie Chenkin, Gay Ann Kirkland, Sandra Johnston, Betty Muse, Arthur Chadwell, Paul Hilson, Rene Geddes and Donna Bales. An interesting display of handwork completed by the pupils was shown.”

We also understand that any later years, Miss Granger became more eccentric. Terry Linville shared that he and Sam Surratt still tell tales of their days at the school and like to refer to themselves as ‘Granger Rangers.’ We hear that the school was operated with a strong fist and punishments could sometimes be composing long lists of numbers.  Terry shared that one of the alumni, Jerry Pricher, was known to escape when playground time came around. Please share your memories of Miss Granger or perhaps this has prompted you to remember another teacher and life experience?

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 June 18, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

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