Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: The Early Years in Zephyrhills Schools

By Gregg, 10 February, 2010, 14 Comments

As Zephyrhills begins a new school term on Monday, August 24, we pause to reflect upon our own experiences in school. Advertisements for back-to-school clothes and materials bombard us. We recall those butterflies that we felt in our tummies on our own first day of school or later as we transitioned from elementary to middle/junior high or high school.

Excitement, anxiety, and a sense of new beginning return with each new school term.  Even veteran teachers readily admit that they often find it difficult to sleep the night before a new school term. Students are also anxious about their schedules and eager to renew old acquaintances. In short, there is unbridled enthusiasm!

For our Countdown glimpses this week, we want to share some historical accounts of school session openings! Feel the enthusiasm!

The Very First School Opening–

In September 1910, the newly consolidated Zephyrhills School was opened by the Zephyrhills Colony Company with enormous community pride.  At the conclusion of the 1909-10 term, the three existing one-room schools (Independence, Childers, and Union) were closed. ZCC had worked passionately for consolidation, obtained a deed to the site at the corner of 7th Avenue and 6th Street, hauled lumber from Greer’s Mill and set to work, achieving a completion of the first school building in late summer. The opening day had arrived!

Leo Ecker entered the brand new school building as a student and wrote: The officials and a great many parents were there. The county superintendent, M.L. Gilbert, made a talk in which he said that the student body and the faculty represented 42 states and territories.  I remember the old pump at school which supplied water for the children and for the school-wagon animals that were tied up in the shade during the day. One child pumped a tin cup full, drank and passed the cup to the next in line. The horses were watered one after another from the bucket.  In an argument one boy threatened to throw a cupfull of water in  his heated opponent’s face. ‘Do it and I’ll throw a bucketfull in yours,’ was the acceptance of the dare. The teacher saw the second act but not the first, and ordered the boys into the belfry!

The second Zephyrhills school building was erected in 1926 at the corner of 10th Avenue and 10th Street, the same location as Raymond B Stewart Middle School today. The last vestiges of this school were torn down in the recent renovation of RBSMS.

The second Zephyrhills school building was erected in 1926 at the corner of 10th Avenue and 10th Street, the same location as Raymond B Stewart Middle School today. The last vestiges of this school were torn down in the recent renovation of RBSMS.

…When the school day ended, the children of the town returned to their homes; but the children of the rural sections had a short playtime while the horses were being harnessed. The school wagons were fitted with benches on each side, and if the number warranted, a seat down the middle. There was a canvas roof with curtains that could be rolled down in case of rain.The rides along meandering roads were a time for getting acquainted, for trading leftover cake, cookies, sandwiches, or baked sweet potatoes from tin buckets or woven lunch baskets.

Zephyrhills School II

The opening of the second official Zephyrhills School was in 1926 and the News reported: August thirtieth marks the end of vacation period for boys and girls of the Zephyrhills Schools. School will open in the new building on the corner of 10th Avenue and 10th Street. All grades are included. Work on the building is expected to be finished this week and the installation of desks and grading of the grounds is being rushed.  The high school will have a full nine month term, and endeavors will be made to make Class A. The Principal, Professor M.P. Geiger will supervise eleven teachers. Free textbooks will be furnished by the state up to the 7th grade, but County Superintendent O’Berry states that probably there will be just about half enough, and requests all students to bring last year’s books as they can be used.  Mr. O’Berry predicts one of the greatest school years in the history of the city and is very enthusiastic over the outlook.

In next week’s article we hope to have memories of what it was like on their first day of school from those who grew up in Zephyrhills. Please email Clereen at clereen {at} tampabay.rr(.)com with your stories.

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 August 22, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

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