Posts by Gregg

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: A football star and a mermaid? Sounds like a Disney movie!

By , 17 February, 2010, No Comment

In celebration of the ‘football issue’ of the News, we bring you a glimpse of historical ZHS football with a delightful twist that captures a local celebrity and our very own ‘mermaid.’ We think you will enjoy the great stories!

To set the stage, let’s talk about the origins of Zephyrhills football!

ZHS fielded its first football team in 1941 and Thomas Burch Cornelius, ZHS Principal, was coach with W.W. Jackson as assistant. That first football team was composed of 15 players and they concluded a 10-game season with a perfect record—that is no wins!  The team was suspended for a few years during World War II.

The focus of our story is on one of the players on an early post-war team, Frank ‘Bunt’ Massey and his wife, Mary Lou ‘Cookie’ Richards Massey.  Bunt has the distinction of being the first ZHS player to score a touchdown against rival, Dade City, in the school’s history.   His wife, Mary Lou Richards Massey, was a Mermaid starring at Weeki Wachee—the only young local lady to have this honor!

Frank 'Bunt' Massey and Bill Richards

Frank 'Bunt' Massey and Bill Richards

‘Bunt’ received his name because of his baseball prowess—he could bunt a baseball and soon after arriving at ZHS, he was given the name by his fellow players.  Bunt was born in 1932 in a home near the Zephyr airport. His mother died when he was 9 and as he recounted the stories of growing up in the community; it was evident that school played an important role in his development. Bunt disclosed that he regularly chewed tobacco in class (usually overlooked by his teachers), sometimes played hooky by crawling under the school building and very proudly represented the school in baseball, basketball and football.  He remembered fondly his days in Future Farmers of America as well. Describing early football, he said the team practiced on a field near the school and played games during the daytime—there were no lights to illuminate an evening field.  His wife, Mary Lou related that she remembered standing at the school’s archways and gazing out to watch the players.  Bunt mentioned playing for Coach Clements. Scoring the first touchdown against Pasco put him in the record books for ZHS and he proudly recalled the event. In his junior year—1949, Bunt led the Bulldogs to four victories. He also remembered an assorted number of injuries including breaking his finger in a game against Turkey Creek High School.

We asked Bunt to tell us about the differences in football then and now. He shared that the helmets were interchangeable. They had just enough helmets for the players on the field so when the teams came in and out, the players exchanged their helmets. He also said that a smaller number of players in his day caused the athletes to play every down. He reminisced about good friends, Hap Cherry, Lonnie and Eddie White and others. For recreation outside of school, Bunt said a swim in Zephyr Lake was just the thing.  He served in the U.S. Army and worked for Kerr’s Ice Plant, Hercules Powder Plant, and Zephyr Egg.

While reviewing a wonderful assortment of family photographs, a 1953 prom photo was uncovered. Mary Lou was dressed in a beautiful red gown and paired with a handsome fellow (not Bunt). Bunt piped in jokingly, ‘we ought to burn that photo!’ Mary Lou teased that Roger Whitworth was a beau prior to Bunt! Not to be outdone, Bunt shared some tales of his various girlfriends at ZHS as well.

And this brings us to the other half of this fascinating duo, Mary Lou Richards.

Mary Lou Richards, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. C.A. Richards, moved to Zephyrhills at age 11. She was active at ZHS and attended UF.  As a young woman, she responded to an advertisement in the newspaper and the rest is history. She became a legendary Weeki Wachee Mermaid—the only gal in the Zephyrhills area to hold this title. The program pamphlet from 1954-55 had a profile of the mermaids at the attraction and stated: “Weeki Wachee Proudly Presents an Underwater Fantasy”.  The flier further explained that the show took place at 70 feet below the surface and put the mermaids in a dangerous pressurized water situation.

Mermaid Mary Lou Richards

Mermaid Mary Lou Richards

A local News article from the period further chronicled that Richards had learned the difficult underwater ballet routine below 70 feet of water in a month’s time. Before becoming a mermaid, Mary Lou served as a lifeguard at the Zephyr pool and credits Marianne Simons for teaching her how to swim—a lifelong sport. She continues as a strong promoter of a school swimming team and has recently advocated for the continuation of a swimming program at ZHS. Mary Lou Richards Massey, known locally as ‘Cookie’ worked in the area schools and retired from Pasco County Schools as a school lunchroom manager.

We thoroughly enjoyed talking with Bunt and Mary Lou who are both an example of wonderful folks who have contributed to our community.  As the ZHS football season gets into full swing, we know that the fellowship and camaraderie that will be evident at the games in 2009-2010 will reflect the long tradition that dates back to the first teams and personalities of early sports history.

Thanks Bunt and Mary Lou and the many others who have contributed to the colorful tapestry that makes up our community.

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 17, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Memories of Dr. Henderson

By , 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

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Who is Dr. Henderson?

By , 15 February, 2010, No Comment

We had the distinct pleasure on Friday, August 28 to do an interview with Dr. Charles Henderson and his wife, Ann. This week our article is compiled by regular writers as well as guest contributors, Betty Hall, Raybelle Surratt and John Clements.

To capture the rich and extraordinary interchange of this inspirational hour is challenging for us to do because we felt the recollections were indicative of the character and values that were set in place for the school community by not only the inspirational leadership of Dr. Henderson but also the contributions of  others such as Betty, Raybelle, John and many others.

Who is Dr. Charles Henderson?

Dr. Charles Henderson was principal of Zephyrhills High School from 1955-57 and 1959-65

Dr. Charles Henderson was principal of Zephyrhills High School from 1955-57 and 1959-65

Chuck, as he is affectionately dubbed, was the ZHS Principal from 1955-57 and again from 1959-65. Appointed by Pasco Superintendent Mark St. Clair, he chuckled that he was recruited to the area because of his talented wife, Anne, a business teacher ‘who they wanted at PHS to start their DCT Vocational program’ (Ann was later principal of Buchholz High School in Gainesville for 11 years). After two years in Dade City as an Assistant Principal however, Mr. Henderson was recruited to be ZHS Principal. Serving eight years, Henderson was again recruited during 1964 to become principal of the University of Florida’s Laboratory School, P.K. Yonge. A ‘Gator’ through-and-through, he became a UF Professor and worked not only as the head of graduate studies in instruction/ curriculum but headed up the educational department at UF that launched the educational departments at FIU, UCF and UNF; he retired from UF in 1997. Charles was also the inaugural President of the Zephyrhills Rotary Club and extremely active in the community.

Three members of his faculty and staff of course were Betty Hall, librarian, John Clements, coach, and Raybelle Surratt, secretary.

What we discovered?

The decades of the 1950’s and 60’s were formative years for Zephyrhills and the schools.

Academics: Betty Hall said, “Mr. Henderson, you were the best!” As a new ‘librarian’ Mr. Henderson wanted her to have the very best preparation and allowed her to work with an experienced veteran in a neighboring town. She recalled that he worked diligently to find scholarships for students and spent a great deal of time advising students.  Betty had prepared for the interview by speaking with several former students from Henderson’s tenure and recalled that he made a real difference in their lives. Sandy Pricher shared that he had perfect posture and was a great role model!

Dedicated to students, Henderson said that one of his true regrets was leaving the class of 1965 to take on the UF position. He revered this particular class and shared with pride his pleasure when they visited him in Gainesville at the 65 state championship game. He said, “Linda Hayden, Bobby Winters, Diane Clements, Larry Chauncey and others came knocking on my door at P.K. Yonge Laboratory School and wanted to visit. I took them on a tour of the school and we talked about their senior year! That was a very special class to me.”

The entire group reminisced about outstanding musicians Johnny Gore, George Neukom, Linden Laviano and Bill Hamilton. They recalled that the foursome used to perform for the school assemblies. Sometimes they would have to tell George, “Don’t be too jazzy!” Both Henderson and Clements visited Johnny Gore in Branson, Mo., where he served as a professional musician and talked with great pride about his musical accomplishments.  Henderson acknowledged the teachings of John T.V. Clark in the music field at ZHS for inspiring many.

Sports were remarkable. ZHS achieved state basketball championship status in 1961-62 & 1963-64 and from 1960-1966, reached the Class B (equivalent to today’s 2A) state tournament every season except one. Henderson was principal during most of those years and undoubtedly his leadership created a climate that produced leaders! It is no wonder then that some of the interview turned to sports.

Henderson recalled the enthusiasm in the community. He remembered a game in which Jed Wilkerson’s mom shouted from the stands to her son, “Jed—Do something wonderful! Be beautiful!” In response to the outdoor basketball slab that the championship team played upon, he said, ‘well, we had a wind advantage.’

He and Gore reminisced about their first meeting with Raymond Stewart in 1960.  Ray was the head football coach of Palmetto High School and had a winning streak of 25 straight games. Worried over the anxiety of fans, ZHS orchestrated a caravan of alumni to the game to safely escort the team. Low and behold—the Bulldogs whipped Palmetto 6-0. They recalled that quarterback Norman Weaver and Sam Groves were in the game but they devised a new play, which they coined the ‘Chauncey Special Play’ to win the game.  Henderson and Clements both admitted that it took Stewart many years to totally come to terms with the incredible victory which was repeated the next year (same score).  Perhaps that is why Ray eventually moved to ZHS.

Dr. Charles Henderson within a student group in 1963

Dr. Charles Henderson within a student group in 1963

Office Anecdotes: Henderson said that both he and his wife were indebted to the school secretary, Raybelle Surratt. “She introduced us to the town,” they said.

Surratt affectionately responded with some great anecdotes.  “Do you remember the young man with the asthma attack in the office? We were so worried about him.” (They both went on to reminisce about this fellow—a prominent Zephyrhills businessman today who they wanted to share updates and pride about).

Then the 1960 Hurricane Donna was recounted by all. Raybelle related that ZHS was opened as a hurricane shelter and the lunchroom ladies were called in to prepare meals. Three clinics were set up in part because of the shelter residents at the school—three were “very pregnant ladies.” With the barometric pressure of the impending hurricane, labor was eminent.

Everyone decided it was in the best interest for Henderson to locate a doctor. Henderson recalled that he got in his 1950 Ford and ventured out in the midst of Hurricane Donna to fetch Dr. B.G. Wilkinson. (We wonder if anyone out there recalls this experience and who those three Hurricane Donna babies might be.)

Note: Donna was a destructive hurricane that hit on September 11, 1960 with record rainfall of ten inches, sustained winds at 128 mph, and landfall pressure of 27.46 inches.

Advice for the New Principal: To conclude our interview we wanted to ask this veteran educator to impart some advice to the new ZHS Principal, Steve Van Gordon, who we described to him as an industrious and focused young man.  Henderson said, “Be patient…being principal of ZHS is a hectic job.  Always be interested in your students and faculty. Communicate with them and hear their ideas. Be involved with the community and listen to input and ideas.”

He shared that youth was a real asset. He was 28 when becoming principal of ZHS and remembers it fondly. Henderson and his wife, Anne, send their fondest greetings to Zephyrhills.

As the phone call was concluding, we listened to the five friends signing off. They all agreed, “We have been blessed.” It seems to Clereen and me that we in the Zephyrhills community (who have benefitted from these mentors and leaders who have shaped our school and community) are the ones who have truly been blessed. We are thankful to each of them.

We are so eager to hear your recollections of Dr. Henderson.  Be sure to share them with us!

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 3, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

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

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: The Early Years in Zephyrhills Schools

By , 10 February, 2010, No Comment

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

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Willie’s Taxi and the Fish Pond

By , 9 February, 2010, No Comment

As you recall special times in your own childhood, you undoubtedly remember key places and events. We have been fascinated by the fact that two “institutions” are frequently mentioned as folks share stories of Zephyrhills and Zephyrhills High School history with us— namely the signature fishponds and Willie’s Taxi Service. You may ask why we have combined these two characteristic establishments. Read on.

Willette Phillips had a taxi service in the late 1940s and ’50s. Her stand was at the drinking fountain on the corner of 5th Avenue and 7th Street that advertised “Zephyrhills, City of Pure Water.” It was good drinking water without all the chemicals that are used today according to the book Zephyrhills From A to Z.

Jon Ferguson of the ZHS class of 1951 provided us with some insight: Willette Phillips established the first taxi cab service in Zephyrhills. Competition soon joined her because of her business prowess. For example, Maurice Humphreys set up a similar business across the street from her. Willie’s booth was on the corner of 5th Avenue and 7th Street. A popular gold fish pond was nearby as well as the only public drinking fountain. Willie had a black and white television set in her nook. This was definitely the place to stop by and get the latest local news! Willie was always hospitable and everyone loved her.

Drivers for Willie's Taxi Service were expected to appear professional while performing their duties.

Drivers for Willie's Taxi Service were expected to appear professional while performing their duties.

Scenic points-of-interest around Zephyrhills for most of the 20th century included some charming sites: several fish ponds inhabited by goldfish (koi–members of the carp family), a wishing well, a limestone bridge at Zephyr Park and the occasional building (such as the Women’s Club on 5th Avenue) were crafted from a natural resource, local limestone rock.

We learned from our review of school history that before 1970 Zephyrhills High School also had a koi pond similar to the one by Willie’s, that was tended by the school principal and proudly protected by ZHS students. The school pond was constructed by George McGinnis and his son, James Douglas McGinnis and built around 1946. George’s daughter, Donna McGinnis Neal and son, Herbert McGinnis, described their recollection of the signature ZHS pond: It was approximately eight feet horizontally, and made of stone with a dome that covered approximately one-third of the pond to provide shade. They marvel to this day at how their dad was able to build the free-standing dome.  McGinnis built many other ponds for Zephyr Park, one of which had a bridge walk-way.

Several other ZHS alumni shared their reflections of these two uniquely Zephyrhills adornments:

Carrie (Parttridge) Clarke

My family lived what seemed a long way out of town on West 54, although recently revisiting our old home place, realize it is only 4 or 5 miles. We had to ride the bus and I always envied the kids that just walked to school and could hang out around and cut up after school, instead of hurrying to catch the bus. One of these friends invited me to spend the night with her because there was a party at another friend’s house that night. I thought it was well arranged and I was excited. The party didn’t turn out as I had expected. Then we walked o her home and met with her mom, screaming that we were late, and what was she doing bringing someone home with her. i was in a panic as we went to her room and to bed. As soon as the house got quiet I slipped out and walked downtown to Willie’s corner. The streets were deserted and i wondered how long it would take me to walk home if she wasn’t there. She was, and she just told me to get in and let’s go. She assured me I shouldn’t be upset or afraid and that my mom and dad would be really glad I came home. I’m not sure Willie ever got paid for that ride but she was truly an angel for that  young damsel in distress.

Norma Jean (Baker) Cecil

My family moved to Zephyrhills in 1946 – we did not have a car so we walked EVERYWHERE and it didn’t seem hard when you are only 6 years old (it sure would now). I remember a fish pond located downtown next to “Willie’s Taxi” (her office was a tiny stand). The fish pond was made with big rocks and it was full of huge goldfish. We would feed them bread or crackers and the pond was surrounded with huge elephant ear plants to keep the hot sun off the fish. There was also a water fountain (made with the same type of rocks) and that water was always so good and cold, especially after walking the mile from our house to town.

Phyllis (Geiger) Locke-Debien

Willie was a tall woman in stature and also had a good business mind with her successful taxi business on 5th Avenue for many years.  She sponsored many softball teams and was an avid sports fan!

Patricia (Kline) Graham

Willie’s Taxi was on the corner by the water fountain which proudly proclaimed, Zephyrhills—the City of Pure Water!

A photo from the 1951 Zephilsco shows the ZHS school pond with students, Joyce Baker, Mary Ann Vestal, Jack Lamb and Rex Gilbreath.

A photo from the 1951 Zephilsco shows the ZHS school pond with students, Joyce Baker, Mary Ann Vestal, Jack Lamb and Rex Gilbreath.

Ann Brooke (Smith) Neukom

I remember that unique gold fish pond in front of Willie’s!

Clereen (Morrill) Brunty

In the mid 1960’s, I would go to Willie’s Taxi and toss a penny in the wishing well.  The only public restrooms were located nearby and segregated.

Alan Thomas

When I relocated to Zephyrhills in the mid 1950’s there were two water fountains at Willies, one marked “Whites only”, and the other “Colored only.”  My how things have changed for the good!

Sarah Baggett

Willie’s was a nice place to find a cab ride home!

Lynn (Nichols) Timmons

I remember vividly the day we were walking past Willie’s and we stopped to get a drink of water. I was in 4th grade at the time and I was puzzled at a sign above the fountain that said, “Whites Only.”  I had no idea what it meant and when I asked my dad (a ZHS teacher) to explain what the sign meant, I was really shocked. I remember he added that we did not believe that segregation was right. How wonderful times have changed!

Diane (Clements) Vilas

As a little kid, I could walk around town in complete safety.  I’d walk from the municipal pool into town and if I had a few coins, I’d head to Neukom’s, Elsie’s 5 and 10, or Lamb’s Toy Store and I would pass by Willie’s.  You could watch the goldfish in the rock pond or stop for a cold sip from the only water fountain in town.  Willie was a kind and generous lady.  She lived in a house that faced the football field in front of the school.  There were lots of orange trees, and those of us who for one reason or another stayed after school and watched football practice were welcome to pick some green oranges to refresh ourselves in the afternoon heat.  To this day, football season brings memories of tart green oranges and sweaty boys.

Suzie (Hill) Pippin

Adjoining Wille’s Taxi service was a fish pond and we would feed the fish and throw in coins.  I wish that pond was still there…I loved it as a kid.

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 13, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Call for Founders’ Day Parade Entry Forms

By , 8 February, 2010, No Comment

Main Street Zephyrhills, Inc is calling for all Founders’ Day Parade applications. The parade will be held on Saturday, March, 13, 2010 at 10A.M. The forms must be returned by Friday, February 26, 2010.  If you have any interest in participating in the parade, please fill out the entry form and return to: 5224 7th St. Zephyrhills, FL 33542. Click here for the entry form! On the entry form, please make sure indicate which decade your float is in: 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, or 2000.

Video Shout-Outs

By , 8 February, 2010, No Comment

As you know, Zephyrhills has a very important birthday approaching fast! What better way to celebrate her birthday than with a “Happy Birthday” shout out?

We are creating a compilation of video shout outs to Zephyrhills that will be featured on the official Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary website, and will be posted to our Facebook page at The compilation will also be included in the time capsule that is being placed at Zephyr Park on March 14th, 2010.

If you want to participate, just make a short (60-seconds or less!) video answering the following questions: Who are you? How long have you lived in Zephyrhills? What is your fondest memory of Zephyrhills? Make sure you end your shout-out with “Happy Birthday, Zephyrhills!” Then just email either a .AVI or .MPG of your video to zephyrhills100 {at} gmail(.)com.

Visit the official Zephyrhills 100th Youtube Channel to see the format of the videos and what has already been uploaded!

Videos must be received no later than March 5th to be included in the time capsule, but we will accept videos all year long to add to the website!

New article about Founders Day at The Laker

By , 8 February, 2010, No Comment

From The Laker:

“We didn’t want to pick just one person to represent the entire city of Zephyrhills for the last 100 years,” Hatrick said. “Since the parade is divided by decades, we felt it would be best to pick one person to represent each decade. That seemed more fair and could help people learn the history of the city.”

Find out all about the Grand Marshall process and the Captain Jeffries look-a-like contest here: Zephyrhills has new plan for grand marshals.

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Colorful Reminiscences From ZHS History

By , 8 February, 2010, No Comment

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of interviewing legendary ZHS Coach John Clements and his lovely wife, Beanie.  Our goal was to do a story about the municipal swimming pool that the couple managed for so many summers. They literally taught hundreds of Florida children to swim.  Well, we also asked Mr. and Mrs. Clements about their years of service in other capacities and wanted to share with you this week some great stories that truly capture ZHS and Zephyrhills in the developing mid- decades of the twentieth century.

School Bus Transportation:

From left to right: Mrs. Smith, Mr. Bird, Mrs. Tyre, Mr. Wheeler and Mrs. Rooks

From left to right: Mrs. Smith, Mr. Bird, Mrs. Tyre, Mr. Wheeler and Mrs. Rooks

Today the Pasco County School system has 430 buses in its fleet that make multiple runs transporting children safely to and from school.  Coach Clements shared that when he first came to Zephyrhills as a coach in 1948, he was often asked to substitute as a school bus driver. Coach said “I had a chauffer’s license and there were then only three bus drivers in total: Mr. Byrd, Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Tyre. When one of them were sick or absent, the principal, Leon Luckenbach, would call me at 5:00 a.m., and say ‘John, I need you to pick up the kids.’ He would give me the directions on where to go and I would drive the route. Mr. Byrd used to drive the school bus for the sports teams too. He was the only bus driver who drove faster going up hill than down hill! For example, he would go up Greer Hill at say, 50 mph and down the hill at 30 mph.

Coach Clements

Coach Clements

ZHS Principal, Leon R. Luckenbach, may have had a bit of an ego!

Leon Luckenbach was ZHS principal from 1947 to 1951.  When you chat with old timers around town, he is a principal that is remembered for not only leading the school through some tumultuous times but creating a few controversies of his own. Coach admits Luckenbach was just a bit on the stubborn side. “He was the only ZHS principal to be put in jai! Yes, it was quite a story,” said Coach Clements. “At the time the town had one traffic light and very few policemen on staff. On his way to work, Luckenbach was issued a traffic ticket for running the ‘new’ stoplight. Luckenbach was emphatic that he did nothing wrong and refused to pay the $5 dollar ticket. When several days passed and he remained steadfast that he was not paying, a trial was scheduled in the city hall building,” said Coach Clements.

Former City Hall

Former City Hall

The city hall used to house the city clerk’s office and a jail house with two cells in downtown Zephyrhills; this is the current location of the McClain/Alfonso Law Office. With nearly the entire town in attendance at the trail, the judge ordered Luckenbach to pay the $5 He refused!  “What else were they to do but put him in jail,” Coach Clements said. “I remember Toby Smith’s dad and other parents wanted to break in and get OUR principal out of the brig! They were about to have a riot.” Johnny said. “I don’t know who paid the fine but he was released! It was the talk of the day!” Coach Clements said.

Johnny shared that Luckenbach and he built two office areas and renovated a chicken shack that was donated to the school and used for the athletic dressing room for years.

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 6, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise