Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Memories of Dr. Henderson

By Gregg, 16 February, 2010, No Comment

Memories of Principal Charles Henderson

A popular book by Catherine Ryan Hyde popularized the phrase, ‘Pay It Forward.’ It set into motion a social movement that is very simply based upon the concept that good works and deeds ought to be passed from one to another. In follow-up to our interview with former ZHS Principal Dr. Charles Henderson (serving in the 1950’s-60’s), we were struck by the fact that Dr. Henderson and his staff had a pay it forward impact upon our local community that is very much evident yet today.

Pay it Forward!

I worked in the office the first hour each day.  I thought Mr. Henderson was the most handsome and wonderful man in the world and his wife—certainly the most elegant woman.   I had no idea then what a key role he would play in my life. Outside of my own family, Dr. Henderson was, without a question, the most influential man in my life.  I am so pleased that he is around to read what I have to say, for I never was able to thank him adequately. I came from a very poor (financially speaking) family.  My father had told me that he thought he could send me to secretarial school, and that was where I expected to go.  Inwardly, I was not too enthusiastic about it because I wanted to be a teacher. One day, toward the end of my senior year, Mr. Henderson inquired if I wanted to go to college.  I had never thought this would be possible.  I enthusiastically told him that it would be my ‘dream—come true.’  He invited me to their home the next Saturday afternoon to meet Mr. E. L. Henderson, his father, who was in charge of hiring students to work part-time in the State Department of Education in Tallahassee.  We talked at length and I was offered a job in his office for 60 cents per hour.  The door opened for me. After graduation that June, my father cashed a war bond he had bought worth $50 and purchased a bus ticket to Tallahassee.  He gave me the change and said, “Go get an education.”  I was on my way! Dr. Henderson, thank you so much. You cannot imagine how much you mean to me.  And, you may not remember this, but I still know how to spell reckless.~ Ellen Heath LeDuc ‘56

Group photo from 1961, courtesy of ZHS included Susan Gill, Judy Deen, Barbara Russ, Linda Graeber, Charles Henderson, James Turner, AP, Margaret Ann Johnson, Virginia Hauff, Linda Allen and Leslie Davis

Group photo from 1961, courtesy of ZHS included Susan Gill, Judy Deen, Barbara Russ, Linda Graeber, Charles Henderson, James Turner, AP, Margaret Ann Johnson, Virginia Hauff, Linda Allen and Leslie Davis

I thought Mr. Henderson was the most handsome and wonderful man in the world

I remember Mr. Henderson as a big man who stood very tall and had very stern eyes.  I know that I didn’t want to be called to the office.  He might be interested that I too became a principal for 17 years after 14 years of teaching. I hope that he and his family are doing well. ~Benny Smith ‘59

Mr. Henderson brought ‘class’ to ZHS and it was sad when he left us. I remember him well. My father, Robert Nichols began teaching under Mr. Henderson at ZHS and they were great friends. He was a no-nonsense guy and very fair, as was my father. They earned our respect. ~Lynn Nichols Timmons ’60 (a retired teacher)

He was a no-nonsense guy and very fair

Charles Henderson was very influential to me and, besides some of my coaches, one of my idols.  I was student body president in 1963-1964 and each time we shared time together that school year I was in awe and somewhat intimidated by Mr. Henderson.  He certainly demanded my respect.  I recall being called to his office one day.  When I arrived he was on the phone and motioned for me to enter.  Holding his hand on the phone’s mouthpiece, he told me that Florida State University was on the line and wanted to know if I was interested in playing football for the Seminoles.  On the spot, I told him I would prefer to take my chances playing college basketball and would wait to see what happens.  He concluded the phone call with them and the rest is history. ~Mike McGinnis ‘64

Remembering the Man and the Times

Walking down the hall, he had a commanding appearance–a big fellow! We were all very respectful of him! ~Carolyn Dean ‘69

He was principal all of my high school years and did a very commendable job.  He was a stern principal and well respected. I was reminded of one event that showed his lighter side.  Around 1960-1961, I was passing through the cafeteria line one day when the dessert was strawberry shortcake!  At the end of the food line was a large bowl of whipped cream for the shortcake.  My aunt, Jean Sellars, was the lunchroom manager then and Mrs. Fernandez, who I had known for a long time, was overseeing the whipped cream distribution.  I acted like I was going to make a swipe at the whipped cream with my finger and, having received an approving nod from Mrs. Fernandez, I swiped up a big gob of whipped cream, only to look up and see Principal Henderson step around and observe my action.  After what seemed like a long pause and very stern stare from Mr. Henderson, he broke into a big grin and I sheepishly and quickly hustled into the lunchroom, very thankful for Principal Henderson’s good nature! ~Bill McGavern ‘62

He was a stern principal and well respected

November 22, 1963–as a ZHS senior, I left the building west of the lunchroom on my way to my Office Assistant class in the office. Someone said that President Kennedy had been shot.  “It couldn’t be true.”  Entering the office, Mr. Henderson was wearing a face I had never seen. He met me at the door and gave me the news that the rumor was indeed true. I was charged with going to every class to confirm the information and give the option of going to the auditorium where two TVs detailed the most horrible memories of our young lives. ~Lenora Pollock Stokes ‘64

ZHS high school in the 50-60 era.

ZHS high school in the 50-60 era.

I remember Mr. Henderson as a stern but fair principal. He was a tall man in stature and luckily, I didn’t receive any paddlings from him (not necessarily the case, in general). I liked him and all of the teachers at “Ole ZHS” a lot and they made me the person I am today. ~Larry Hill ‘57

Mr. Henderson was not only ZHS principal but a terrific Spanish teacher who stressed vocabulary and congegating verbs, etc. I believe he was from Cottondale, Fla. and used to remark that one could see three states from that location.  Naturally his pronunciation of Spanish left a little to be desired but he really taught the course and because of that I still can speak many palabras and phrases in Spanish so that I could get along if need be. ~Gordon Pitcher ‘54

I received a valuable lesson about proof-reading. As a DCT student in the main office, Raybelle Surratt was the school secretary and my supervisor. Mr. Henderson was in a local civic organization and I was charged with typing and printing their newsletter. With the legendary Mrs. Alpha Gill as my business teacher, I felt confident in my skills. When Mr. Henderson returned from the Rotary meeting however, he pointed out a typo. You see the word I had misspelled, now made it a bit provocative and suggestive. As I look back on it as an adult, he must have gotten quite a chuckle from it.  I was embarrassed. I thought he was a great principal. ~Linda Freeburg Laviano ‘60

I thought he was a great principal

Schedule change—after a successful year with Lewis Wynne as my math teacher, I was assigned to another math class. I approached Mr. Henderson on the third week of school and asked to go back to Mr. Wynne’s class.  Mr. Henderson was obviously shocked because I had visited Mr. Wynne’s office (he was also the Assistant Principal) on several occasions. Mr. Henderson agreed and wrote the schedule change note. When I presented the note to Mr. Wynne, he naturally assumed that I was ‘in trouble again.’  As he read the note from Mr. Henderson, he had a difficult time hiding the surprise and I knew he was pleased as well.  I only received one paddling from Mr. Henderson and I’m sure I had it coming.  He was the right man for the job back then.  We could do with some more Henderson’s and Wynne’s! ~Billy Lowe, ‘65

I remember Mr. Henderson.  The summer after he left ZHS to assume principalship of PK Yonge High School in Gainesville, I talked with him. He phoned the University of South Florida and got me an appointment to meet the Dean of the new Engineering school. During my senior year at “Z”, our basketball team went to the state finals in Gainesville and some of us (Marvin Reed, Allan Ward, Reggie Brown, & Dean Martinson,) drove up there for one of the games. We stopped to visit Mr. Henderson.  He remembered each of our names and talked with us.~Dean Martinson ‘65

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 September 10, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

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