Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Do you remember your first day of school?

By , 11 February, 2010, No Comment

It is our sincere hope that the 2009-2010 school year is a new and wonderful beginning for the students of Zephyrhills! Clereen and I both value public education and we enjoy working on the ‘centennial project’ to preserve some precious memories.  We thought it would be appropriate to survey the alumni about their ‘first day experiences.’ We received 13 wonderful and diverse responses. We chuckled a bit as we received these and expect that you will enjoy them as well.

September 1944: I remember the first day of school well.  My mom drove up to the curb, coaxed me out of the car towards the children on the play ground, and I was terrified!!!  As an only child who had been quite isolated from children. I remember crying and being really scared. Joan Leffler came over and offered me some of her chocolate ice cream cone.  I’ll never forget that kind gesture of friendship. ~Shirley Potter Happel

Immediately following Labor Day in 1944: Helen Hamilton was the teacher (she turned 32 that year).  She wrote her age on the blackboard to see if any of her students could read two digit numbers.  I remember the thrill and wonderful aroma of my new box of Crayolas (box of 8). Classmates were Glenn Miller, Nathan Geiger, Vonceil Clardy, Curtis Craig, Nell Locke and Mary Sawtelle.  The old red brick school building that was torn down in 2005 housed grades 1 through 12. I remember vividly walking home from school by myself, at age 6. In fact on that first day after school I announced to my parents that ‘I liked school but that I had decided it wasn’t for me—I wouldn’t go back.’ A few days later, my mother, Esther (Plank) Austin, a graduate of ZHS in 1926, was called on to teach the other first grade class and my grandmother, Emma Plank was the fifth grade teacher. The classroom seemed warm and inviting, now I would think of it as sweltering.  It had big open windows, high ceiling, and a picture of George Washington and an old master’s art print.  Helen Hamilton decorated her room with seasonal crepe paper blackboard borders printed by the Dennison Paper Company.  To me, they were just wonderful.  Now, vintage Dennison paper holiday decorations are highly collectible.  ~Edith Austin McGavern

A grade school classroom in 1962

A grade school classroom in 1962

The big red brick school stood on a slight upgrade north of the oak centered streets of down town.   Miss Johnson was my first grade teacher.  My Mother, Emma Kemp Fernandez took me to my classroom which was just to the left of the main doors where the principal’s office was located.  It was my birthday because Mother told me it was a ‘special present’ to be going to school.  I can still smell the wood floors, especially when they were sweeping.  I grew up on Chancey Road and did not know the town kids.  I thought them to be more special and wealthy to get to live in town. Mrs. Pollock was my nearest neighbor and I walked to her house after I got off the bus when Mama was working in Dade City at the orange plant. Bobby Geiger was on my bus route and he was one of my first friends. ~ Linda Sue Snider Kemp, class of 1963

I remember I broke from the line on my way to the lunchroom and ran home. The teacher shouted, ‘Catch him, Isabel!’ Isabel’s dad was the local preacher. I made it home, had lunch at home and my mother took me back to school ~Larry Turner, class of 1965

We moved to Zephyrhills in 1950 from Miami, and I entered the fourth grade. Rosemary Trottman was one of our teachers back then and I will always remember how she stressed the importance of penmanship. One of my very first friends was Tawana Campbell. Her Mother Mabel Campbell was an elementary teacher. ~Darlene Wilson Bamberger

My first day of school was almost 2 months after school had actually started. I moved to Zephyrhills the second week of October, 1954. The teacher was Mrs. Esther Austin. Although I don’t remember the details about going to school that morning, Mary (Fish) Young and I share a common memory of walking home together from school that first afternoon. It was a bright, sunny and crisp day. My grandmother, Rose Chenkin and my younger brother, Richard, were there to meet us! I remember stepping on the acorns on the sidewalk. I loved to hear their crunching sound under my feet!   From that day on, Mary and I walked to and from school every day– a tradition that continued through our senior year of high school. Linda Sante later joined us and it forged a friendship that lasts yet today. ~Helen Chenkin Hill, class of 1966

The first day was a bit scary yet exciting. Of course most of the other kids were older by one year because I started at age 5 ½. ~Lawrence ‘Charlie’ Morris, class of 1968

My first grade teacher was Mrs. Coe. Mrs. Smith was our bus driver.  Back in the day – the bus driver  didn’t put up with any foolishness—‘stay in your seat, face forward, no loud talking, no running’ and if the bus got rowdy, Mrs. Smith would stop the bus until order was restored and if you were the rowdy one, your parents got ‘the’ call.

I remember the school playground and its legendary ‘root beer’ tree.  We loved to smell and chew the tree bark. My favorite school lunch was hot biscuits and honey and my favorite dessert was apple crisp. To this day, when I smell apple crisp—I’m transported back to school. ~Carolyn Dean, class of 1969

There were very large oak trees on the east and west side of West Elementary and we would have recess under those gorgeous trees.  We would play tetherball, chase poor Willie Spence, and play four square.  Mr. Coumbs let us decorate his bulletin boards and run errands for him.  Mr. Clark would break yardsticks on Brett’s desk when he would misbehave!  Mrs. Gall taught me “real writing” and I can remember making lots of capital O’s to get the strokes correct.  Mrs. Anderson, our librarian, would read aloud to us and I was enthralled.  When I was in sixth grade, my mother started teaching there which was very cool! School was a wonderful place for friends and learning. That love of learning was instilled through all those years and I’m still friends with many of those long ago classmates. Thanks for letting me walk down memory lane. ~Suzie Hill Pippin, class of 1973

Students pose for a pic in front of the first Zephyrhills

Students pose for a pic in front of the first Zephyrhills

Memories of my first day of school are vague. I don’t remember being scared as I grew up with all the students and most of us went to the same church so it was more exciting to get together after summer break. I attended East Zephyrhills Elementary 1st through 6th grade. I had Mrs. Coe as my first grade teacher and my twin brother, Clyde, had Mrs. Anderson as my Mom preferred us to be in separate classrooms. Never really knew why. We would take naps on towels and listen to music or a story the teacher or assistant would read.  I remember trying to count all the dots in the ceiling tile but would fall asleep before getting through one square. The playground had several oak & camphor trees with swings and a tall slide that we always enjoyed during recess. It was great to attend the same school grounds from 1st through 12th grade. ~Clereen Morrill Brunty, class of 1973

My first day of school was in October of 1969.  I spent the day going around to the various classes getting teacher signatures.  I remember walking into the band hall under the domain of John T. V. Clark.  I was a Michigan boy with a crew cut, dressed in large bell bottom, pin-striped trousers and a silk shirt.  The whole band hall of students gasped as they had never seen someone dressed like that before since that was the rave in Michigan at the time.  Also I had huge locks of thick curly hair and from the looks of the female population, I knew that they approved.  From that day on I was never without female companionship and in the next six years became the luckiest guy in school. I owe everything to the staff at Zephyrhills High School, especially Mr. James Davis who gave me my recommendation for attendance at USF.  (Note that this is James E. Davis, not James T. Davis, recently profiled in the News. James E. Davis was principal of ZHS from 73-75 and ZJHS/Stewart from 75-85 as well as Director of Employee Relations for the School District for over 15 years.) ~Mark G. Glidden, class of 1975

I well remember my first day of school at ZHS…I was always the “new girl” at school because my father was in the Army and of course we moved a lot.  It was October 1, 1977 – the school year was well under way – and I was a 16-year-old junior.  Fortunately for me, the in the guidance office showed me around.  Even more fortunate for me, they were all cheerleaders and introduced me right away to the football players!  I fell fast and hard for a senior tackle named John Peavey, Jr.  We started ‘going steady’ and married after high school (We just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary a couple weeks ago and I still have the same crush on him!) ~Marti Puckett Peavey, class of 1979

The first day of 1st grade, I wore a white shirt, red shorts and tennis shoes. In fourth grade, the dress code allowed girls to wear slacks to school for the first time. As my class of 1979 moved on to junior high, we were on the 45/15 year-round school as well as double sessions from the over-crowding At that time, students started at different times. I was on B track. The first day at the brand new ZHS in 1975, seniors played a prank on freshman and informed us that the school had an elevator– not funny but typical! The new high school was a beautiful building to some. We did miss windows. It had that new building smell. My class was the 1st to graduate after going all four years there. We are the only class to graduate in the stadium. ~Cyndee Thomas, class of 1979

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 27, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

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