Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Wrapping up the holidays

By , 4 March, 2010, No Comment

You may have noticed the notoriety that our town received this past week for New Year’s? It seems that the TripAdvisor™ selected the ten most outrageous events to ring in the New Year. Zephyrhills scored NUMBER 4 on this worldwide list—quite an achievement! The local acclaim involved christening-in 2010 at Zephyrhills Skydive City for a midnight parachute jump over Zephyrhills as part of the Skydive Boogie at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport. The TripAdvisor™ predicted that 600 folks would be jumping for the occasion. We weren’t there so we are not sure if we made the quota? You wonder what were the other choices? The first three included: 1) A skinny dip in Miami at Haulover Beach; 2) a wake-up plunge in Edinburgh, Scotland in the icy waters; or 3) a torchlight snowboard excursion down the slopes of Girdboard, Alaska. Wow, we made the list!

This week for Countdown, we are in fact, wrapping up the festive season with some accounts form our ZHS alumni of memories of their holidays. It is a smorgasbord of vignettes and a few photos.

The elementary school classrooms were festively decorated. Music teacher, Artiste Parsons produced an annual Christmas concert. I remember the soloists; Taryn Travis Chauncey had such a lovely voice! We brought gifts to exchange according to our gender. There was plenty of festive food at the class parties supplied by the homeroom moms; our mom’s made first-rate homemade cookies. In fourth grade at East Elementary School, Ms. Jones and Ms. Riegler convinced the students to perform a Christmas play. We rotated throughout classrooms down the hallways to act out our presentation throughout East Zephyrhills Elementary. I was the narrator. Later in high school, gifts were exchanged among friends. In our Junior and Senior hear of high school, the ‘promise rings’ were all the rage. ~Cyndee Thomas, class of 1979

Speaking of choruses, Artiste Parsons, music teacher who served West Zephyrhills Elementary School as well as Zephyrhills High School/Junior High over the years is shown in the 1970’s photo in front of ZHS and the Wickstrom Memorial. Artiste retired recently and was known for her concerts at the school that showed her student’s fine musical skills.

In 1954, our parents (Gilbert ‘42 and Audrey Chenkin) photographed us (Helen and Richard Chenkin) lighting Hanukkah candles in our living room window on 11th Street in Zephyrhills. ~ Helen Chenkin, class of 1966 and Richard Chenkin, class of 1969

The first Christmas after we moved from PA in 1950, my dad still didn’t have a job and we were surviving on his VA pension (I realized later). In the German tradition, we, like others in our former PA community, did not put up a tree before Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Santa brought the tree after we were asleep, and it was decorated when we awoke on Christmas Day. In Zephyrhills, all the neighbors were bringing home trees and setting them up. As I was playing with Sandra Farnell who lived down the street, her dad brought home their tree and began cutting off the bottom branches. I had never seen this done before and the cut-off branches were pretty, so I asked to take them home. Just before Christmas, Dad tied the branches together and put them in our Christmas stand. It actually looked like a small Christmas tree. However it had no ornaments until we woke up on Christmas morning. And there it was all decorated with every ornament our other trees had ever held! That beautiful tree changed our meager Christmas into a grand celebration! Years later, when I was teaching, without telling the identity of the little girl, I would tell the children in my classes this story and ask if they thought it was fact or fiction…They had a difficult time believing it was a real story about me. ~Lynn Nichols Timmons, class of 60

I remember the wonderful folks at the various elementary schools during the holidays who were a part of the welcoming. A photo included features Anne Wentworth and Delores Moore in the late 1980’s at Woodland Elementary School with the Christmas tree. I also marvel at the dedicated teachers who produced Christmas pageants and taught lessons about culture around the world. Lynn Timmons and her team at Woodland which included Sharyl Robinson, Marion Post, B.J. D’Antonio and John Abernathy come to mind. They taught the students about people around the world through holiday traditions. Wow, we were really lucky to have folks like this teach our children!~ Madonna Wise, teacher/principal 73-2003

As a child, warm memories of Christmas always meant a trip to Holsum Bakery (in Tampa on East Hillsborough Avenue; across from the old Sears Building).  The bakery hosted a December open-house tour with a waiting line WAY down the street. All the sweet smells and aromas were everywhere and you could breathe in and enjoy.  At the end of the line was a little bag with some fruit and nuts and candy and a tiny loaf of bread!  This was always part of my birthday as well on December 11th and my grandparents and Aunt (almost like my sister), who lived close to the Bakery, joined us.  Even now as I drive by, I still can smell get a whiff of that wonderful scent and memories flood back.  Things which seem so simple now were what made those precious memories of childhood. ~Lenora Pollock Stokes, class of 1964

Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. I have lots of fond memories of sharing Christmas with my family & friends. Seems to last all December and sometimes runs into New Years Day. From our Breakfast Girls get-together to our gift exchange and dinner with co-workers at SunTrust Bank to a couple of family gatherings.  A tradition our family has done for a very long time is when it is time for everyone to open their gifts, we always start with the youngest first and graduate up to  the oldest so everyone can see what they receive.  Now I understand why my parents would almost fall asleep after waiting patiently for their turn but find it worthwhile as they/we (parents) receive the most gifts of all, not just monetary items but having the whole family together at one time enjoying the laughter and fellowship. ~Clereen Morrill Brunty, class of 1973

Each year at Christmas time, I make Italian “S” cookies with my two sisters-in-law from an old recipe passed down from a beloved family member.  We stay up many late evenings and make over 1,000 of these cookies to share.  It has become my family’s tradition to leave a plate of “S” cookies for Santa.  My son and daughter (ages 9 and 5) look forward to each Christmas Eve when we get out a special plate and fill it with cookies for Santa — to them, the “S” is for Santa! ~Darla Suk Sarhaddi, class of 1982

One of my favorite memories was tied to a Christmas time edition of the Zephyrhills News.  The title was “Zephyrhills Girl Gets Wings for Christmas”.  The story was about the fact that I soloed one of my father’s airplanes on my 16th birthday which was on December 18, 1975.  It was indeed a great birthday/Christmas present.  Dad, David Sullivan, ZHS class of 1952, was on the ground watching and talking to me on the radio.  I radioed down and asked him how to get the plane down.  His answer was simple, “In one piece!”  It was a very special time as my father had also soloed on that very same airport, possibly the same runway, when he was 14 years old.  Dad had taught me to fly but the official training hours came with 2 instructor pilots, Bill Jackson and I can’t remember the main instructor’s name.   I made my first commercial flight a few days later!  Also, we used to go to the Bahamas for New Years Eve.  One year Dad, Kathy, my stepmother, and I went and I got to take a friend, Nancy Dockery, also from class of ‘78.  We were 16 and had a blast. ~Trish Sullivan Farmer, class of 1978

We had a loving, stable, comforting, country life, with wonderful holidays spent on Gore’s Dairy during my early childhood.  It was idyllic, really.  Traveling into town two miles away was a big deal, and we always looked forward to visiting Zephyrhills every Thursday to do our shopping—especially as the holidays approached,.  The roads took us through seemingly endless orange groves, then across the magical overpass!  The first sign of ‘civilization’ was the Thriftway Supermarket!   But due to divorce, we were forced to face a new life in town, and moving day was the day after Thanksgiving in 1972.It had been a horrendous year—my parents divorced in July.  One week later, Karl Wickstrom who was like a big brother to me, was killed in a tragic accident, and then six weeks later, my Grandmother Mary Gore, died.  I missed my beloved farm and the family there that now no longer exists.  The holidays were not much to look forward to, but a special lady, Libby Peel changed all that.

Libby, and her husband, Vincent, had a New Year’s tradition.  They hosted a party every year for a lot of ‘the old and the bold’ in town.  In 1972, they opened their circle a little wider, and drew us in.  New Year’s Eve parties at the Peel’s never deviated, and went like clock-work, according to a plan.  Libby roasted turkey or a ham, and all the other ladies brought a covered dish.  We enjoyed this amazing feast at about 6:00 p.m., then the men would retire to the TV room to watch football, while the women washed dishes, then visited in the living room.  The Peels rounded up the usual suspects for this tradition, although some had to scoot out early.  I remember our wonderful ZHS band director, John T.V. Clark, usually had to eat and run, as he inevitably was playing a New Year’s gig in Tampa or St. Pete that night.  In later years, his older sons would sometimes join him.The rest of us ‘young folk’ would go outside to play games like freeze tag or ‘Stuck In The Mud.’  Sometimes, Thor Wickstrom, Ronnie Peel, and Bruce Clark would sneak some fire crackers out to the front drive for a little excitement.

When one minute to midnight arrived, the scene was like a well-rehearsed dance.  The men grudgingly flipped the TV channel to Guy Lombardo, the ladies put their coffee cups down, and met the men between the French doors that connected the TV and living rooms.  At precisely midnight, the couples kissed briefly to the strains of Auld Lang Syne, then the women returned to the living room for more gossip, and the men got rid of Guy Lombardo for more football.  Every year, it was the same.  Even when Libby lost her beloved husband, Vincent, she kept the tradition alive. Even when, years later, she remarried  Alan Winslow, she continued to hold her annual New Year’s Eve party.  As I became an older teenager, I used to think, “Is this all there is?  Where is the exciting, romantic New Year’s Eve party, like they show in the movies?”  I longed for more, and was determined to have more, if I could ever get out of Zephyrhills.  But now, looking back, I realize we had it all!

I am so grateful to Libby Peel for her kindness and generosity. And for being the secure woman she was. Many times, when there is a divorce, people rush to offer dinner invitations to the new ‘bachelor.’  They rationalize that he must need a good home-cooked meal.  Even now, most folks do not rush, or even amble, to invite a single woman and her children over for a home-cooked meal.  I guess they assume she does not need a break!  Libby gave us more than a break.  She gave the gift of friendship and hospitality.  She included us, and made us feel wanted at a time in our lives when we had never felt more unwanted. We were broken, and she began to mend us.  She gave us love, which, after all, is what the holidays are truly all about.  And Libby Peel forced us to celebrate the New Year whether we felt like celebrating it or not!  Conservatively, yes; Not with reckless abandon, no, but with great generosity and love.

Libby Peel is no longer throwing her great party.  And many of her dear guests have also exited stage left — folks like Chief Bill Eiland, Bernie Wickstrom, Dr. Harry Brownlee, Eleanor Chadwell, and John T.V. Clark.  But she — they — live on in my heart.  She symbolized the town I remember growing up in.  Not a town without pity, but a place of kindness and inclusion.  I feel thankful and blessed for Libby Peel’s loving example.  God Bless you, Libby, and Happy New Year, Dearest! ~Luan Gore, class of 1977

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 January 7, 2010.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: 2010 and a new decade

By , 4 March, 2010, 1 Comment

The Zephyrhills Historical Association with Margaret Seppanen as their wonderful leader, printed a lovely historical calendar for 2010 that was hot off the press this past week. Please contact the ZHA at (813) 782-8405 or (813) 782-4495 if you wish to obtain a copy. It includes a lovely array of historical photos which they have collected over time. For this week’s article, we profile a few of the photos and reflect back on one hundred years.

A new decade brings a sense of renewal. You will recall that at the start of the decade of 2000-a new millennium, we were responding to the prediction made by technology gurus that the computer systems of which we had become so dependent, would malfunction at the strike of midnight. As you know, this did not occur and perhaps it was a prediction of the changes that were to continue throughout the decade in regard to communication. Looking back on that new decade of 100 years ago, here are some glimpses.

First Decade of Zephyrhills

Zephyrhills in her first decade

Zephyrhills in her first decade

The decade of the 1910s, the origin period of ZHS, is a time of great change in the USA.  For the first time, the country was considered a world leader. The dominant issue of the decade was World War I.  There were a larger number of girl students than boys and in 1919; the Junior-Senior Banquet even included two large flags in the banquet hall in place of the two seniors, Lyle Gilbert and Dale Leonard, who left school early to fight in France.  At the graduation ceremony in 1919, a letter from Lyle was read to acknowledge his patriotism and service.

1912 ZHS girls

1912 ZHS girls

The themes of change and certainly the impact of a worldwide war influenced the activities and directions of ZHS.  Opening exercises for the school term were heavily laden with patriotic and religious overtones, and attended by all community members with a strong leadership role played by area church ministers.

During this time, family roles were impacted by the 19th amendment which granted women the right to vote in 1919. The ZHS high school play of 1919, was in fact, reflective of this social change, and entitled, “Her Honor the Mayor.” It was advertised as “a playful satire on women’s suffrage, chocked full of fun and the joy of life.”  In the synopsis of the play, the female was not portrayed in a very worthy light, which may have reflected the conservatism of the community and at least some perceptions of the new amendment.

In sports, Principal Walter Roberts served as the basketball coach and alumni report that the basketball team was outstanding.

This US decade included the first child labor laws which were enacted in 1915 and economic changes that scanned the spectrum from monopolies to the impact of immigration on the labor market. Consider that the Model T cost about $350 and the National Park Service and Girl Scouts of America were born in this era of prohibition There was the unthinkable sinking of the “unsinkable ship,” the Titanic in the news, while Zephyrhills experienced its own tragedy in the new ZHS building, christened in 1910 being destroyed by a fire in its second decade in 1926.

A newly consolidated school was an important milestone for the Zephyrhills colony. The Colony’s first high school was born in 1910!  The Zephyrhills Colonist, the local newspaper reports in 1915: “The Colony Company’s first high school was built between 7th and 8th Avenues on the west side.”

Rosemary Trottman in her book, The History of Zephyrhills, reports the following description of the first school building:

“As soon as the county school board received the deed to the site at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Sixth Street, it ordered the beginning of construction of the new school. Lumber was delivered from Greer Mill and the carpenters began the work. The inspection of the completed building was set for late summer…The school opened that first fall, September 1910, and the children were busy just getting to know each other. The children who came in school wagons tended to find a shady spot and eat lunches as they had in the previous one-room groups. It was like Sunday every school day when the Union, Childers, and Independence (one room school) pupils were united for lunch as they had been at church. “The building in 1910 had four rooms on the first floor with a wide hall and stairways leading to the upper story which was divided into two rooms. The dividing wall was a set of folding doors arranged on a metal track so that they could be folded back to make an auditorium of the two classrooms when necessary.”

Judge James Wilton Sanders

Judge James Wilton Sanders

The first principal was Judge J.W. Sanders who later served as the Pasco School Superintendent from 1913 to 1921.  Professor Sanders was age 25 when elected Pasco County Superintendent which means that he was in his very early twenties when serving as the first principal of ZHS—undoubtedly the youngest to serve as leader of the school.

Graduations were spectacular events for the day in this first decade, and the graduation speakers were prominent state leaders. The 1919 ZHS graduation featured Dr. Conradi, the President of the Florida State Women’s University (now FSU).  The first ZHS graduation of seniors was held in 1913 although an eleventh grade graduation was held in 1912.  Don Storms informed the alumni in 1972 that he was the only ZHS graduate to have graduated twice, as he participated in both the eleventh grade and twelfth grade graduations in 1912 and 1913. There were eleven graduates in 1912.

To learn more about our fine town, consider visiting one of the Zephyrhills Historical Association events or view their calendar.  Here are a few photos you will enjoy:

ZHS basketball yeam 1919

ZHS basketball yeam 1919

The first basketball team in 1919 was coached by Zephyrhills Principal Walter Roberts and team members were: Willie Stebbins, Robert Helms, Gerald Briggs, Curtis Geiger, Warren Haynes, Fred Stebbins, Kenneth Storms, and Edwin Stebbins. This began a legacy of basketball and sports in the area. 
J.F. Stebbins Manufacturing Company produced the P.C.S. Brand cane syrup and was located on the west end of Gall Boulevard at 8th Avenue. The building was also used for cotton ginning, per Margaret Seppanen.

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 December 31, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Christmas in the Zephyrhills Public Schools

By , 4 March, 2010, No Comment

In the twenty-first century we are poignantly aware of what is politically correct in school and government in regard to religious holidays and cultural diversity via the Supreme Court and regulation. Our Zephyrhills School (ZHS that was originally grade 1 through 12) throughout its 100 years reflected robust Christian traditions. In the early years, weekly chapel events highlighted local ministers and particularly Christmas was a religious event. With this in mind, we hope you will indulge us when we report this week on ‘Christmas’ going-on’s and the public schools. We have captured a few tidbits throughout the centenary and see the recurring themes of tradition, student pageants and community service. These three topics seem to epitomize December events in our Zephyrhills School over time. As always, we scoured through the historical news coverage and came up with some example items.

1887: Celia Anderson in her unpublished manuscript, Earliest Schools in Present Pasco County, reported that before 1887, G.W. Beardon, the first Pasco Superintendent declared a Christmas holiday of just three days off from school.  Did you know that this year in 2009, the students have a holiday of 16 days from December 23rd to January 8th?

1905: Daniel Cripe in It Takes a lot of Living To fill Those 90 Years wrote of the one-room Zephyrhills School that he attended. I remember the community center where all of the important things happened. We had picnic dinners there on the ground quite often and on Christmas we had a program with a Christmas tree and all of the trimmings. People brought presents and hung them on the tree.

1964 and for many years after: ‘White Christmas Collection for Needy Families’—Students at all three schools (Zephyrhills, East and West)  collected baskets of food Music teacher, Alice Zimmerman, coordinated for East and West Schools. For the junior and senior high school the choir was directed by Kaye Henry with a special reading by Joe Maniscalco of the Innkeeper. The Peninsula AAA Club also gave out bicycles but included cycling safety rules to the schools to teach the students. The Junior Chamber of Commerce hosted a gala Christmas party complete with movies at the Home Theatre with goodies arriving on the Zephyrhills Fire Engine. Officers of the chamber were Keith Lane, Woody Johnston and Fred Gore with Freddy Peterson as guest celebrity (area artist) on the fire truck.  Today many food drives originate at the schools. ZHS had a spectacular project coordinated by the ZHS ROTC club just recently that topped off previous drives with tremendous service to the community.

1965: Bulldog Basketball dominated the news in December. The Bulldogs went to a pressing defense and scored 35 points in the third period Friday night to stump the South Sumter Rebels 78 to 58.  Tom Porter scored 26 points for the Bulldogs. This win was the fourth against one loss for the Bulldogs. In the third period the “Dogs got red hot and out-scored the Rebels 35 to 17. Brant Blessing added 17 points and Bob Price 13. Don Woods hit 12, Randy Sperry five. Richard Kinney four and Roy Hutto one for the balanced Bulldogs.

1968: December news again featured basketball…Winners of their opening game of the season and preparing for their first home game here Friday night, were the basketball squad: Keathel Chauncey, Terry Linville, Richard McLellan, Doug Prowant, Rodney Price, Coach Carroll Phillips, Bob Geddes, Dale Palmer, David Krystofiak, Bill Porter, Richard Back and Manager Frankie Hall.

1970: The dynamic Bulldog marching band won superior at the District Marching Competition. When they performed at halftime of the Ft. Meade game, fans gave them superior applause!

1976: The Mouse That Roared,” a musical comedy was  presented by the Drama Class. under the direction of Jean Hawes, drama teacher. Cast included: Ivan Corbin, Alan Corbin, Bonnie Gray, Glen Howard, Jeff DeWitt, Tim Potwin, Beaty Cunningham, Pat Barrentine, Linda Greene, Regina Banks, Marcy Bednar, Carol Jacobs, Debbie Chauncey, Myra Smith, Mindy Smith, Paula Shortt, Tammy Crowe, Sabrina Bruce, Gerri Geddes, Carol Zinn, Carl Forry, Melvin Wade, Kevin Poe and Lenny Bahr.

1979: A new vocal group at ZHS was the Vocal Ensemble which made its first appearance at the annual Christmas Band Concert and sang at the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Zephyrhills; they included Karen Holt, John Lovette, Tracy St. Onge, Joey Galyan, Vivian Webb, Kathy O’Malley, Earl Paul, Dottie Fraio, Eddie Hicks, Becky Walters, Joan Hyder and David Wolfe, Sound Engineer with director, Dan Benham.

For next week, we have asked our alumni to write in with their own memories of the holiday time and thoughts of old ZHS.  For Clereen and Madonna, we wish our friends in Zephyrhills the most blessed of Christmas times with joy and happiness. We hope you’ll enjoy a poem we recently uncovered which we think reflects the season.  Let’s paraphrase it and say, “It’s Christmas Time Again at ZHS…”

It’s Christmas Time Again – Bob Lazzar-Atwood
Put your problems on probation
Run your troubles off the track,
Throw your worries out the window
Get the monkeys off your back.
Silence all your inner critics
With your conscience make amends,
And allow yourself some happiness
It’s Christmas time again!
Call a truce with those who bother you
Let all the fighting cease,
Give your differences a breather
And declare a time of peace,
Don’t let angry feelings taint
The precious time you have to spend,
And allow yourself some happiness
It’s Christmas time again!
Like some cool refreshing water
Or a gentle summer breeze,
Like a fresh bouquet of flowers
Or the smell of autumn leaves,
It’s a banquet for the spirit
Filled with family, food and friends,
So allow yourself some happiness
It’s Christmas time again!
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 December 24, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Jo Beddingfield Clark

By , 3 March, 2010, No Comment

We had the opportunity this past week to interview retired ZHS English teacher, Joanne “Jo” Beddingfield Clark. Not unlike our other experiences in conducting interviews with community contributors, we uncovered so much more about this classy lady in addition to her years as an instructor in the public schools. Jo imparted much to the Zephyrhills community throughout her years of service as a civic-minded community participant, Cub Scout leader, PTA organizer, church member, and regular vocalist in community events as well as a teacher. She talked lovingly of her role as a mother and spoke proudly of her five sons and precious grandchildren.

Jo arrived via the railway depot when her husband, Roy Beddingfield and she relocated to Zephyrhills in 1948 and he took a position as foreman of the Seaboard Railroad. Many will recognize Beddingfield who served on the Zephyrhills City Council (the youngest elected official until 2005 when Danny Burgess was elected). He was Zephyrhills Fire Chief and instrumental in the establishment of the first fire department.  Fire-fighting is an important part of Jo’s family heritage. Jo’s father was a fire chief and encouraged his son-in-law in the field and even assisted Roy in developing the specs for the first-ever Zephyrhills fire engine. He also as developed a training program for the department. Perhaps less known was the fact that Roy was quite an athlete and filled in for Coach Johnny Clements in 1948 to prepare the ZHS football team for its season until Clements was released from his professional baseball contract. Unfortunately Roy passed away suddenly in 1978.

When asked to share her most treasured teaching experiences, in her humble manner, Jo told us about the fine teachers she had worked with over time who inspired children and co-workers. She shared about the  years of year-round schools with ’45-15’ and double-sessions and  teaching grades 7 through 12. Her favorite teaching topic was William Shakespeare. Particularly she enjoyed Romeo and Juliet. It was not difficult to interest young ladies in the story with the romantic tales but enticing the young men into the study was more of a challenge. Ingenuously, she wove in the play’s sub-plots of aggression, intrigue and conflict, and ‘voila,’ they were hooked on the classic play as well! She recalled one of her most rewarding adventures was a field trip to the Polk Theatre in Lakeland to see Franco Zeffirelli’s version of Romeo and Juliet. She remembered parent chaperones telling her in astonishment that some of the ZHS students were mouthing the lines from the play in perfect rhythm with the actors.

We learned that Jo was a den mother for her son’s Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts for many years and an active member of PTA. Tommy Eikland, Tommy Alston as well as her sons and so many more enjoyed the weekly lessons, crafts and camping adventures. She said sometimes she did a great deal of chauffeuring of the boys to and from meetings. PTA was a significant organization throughout the 1940’s to early 1970’s in Zephyrhills and Jo was there as they developed goals, built and funded projects and worked closely with the schools. The annual Halloween carnival was an event for the entire community and Jo served as Homeroom mother and recalled colorful fun, costumes and frivolity.

As a community member, Jo is particularly proud of the work of the Junior Women’s Club. She was President and served with many others.  Their annual project was the Zephyrhills Follies in conjunction with Founder’s Day and the club produced a rather magnificent talent show. It took place for a few years at the Zephyrhills Theater and later in the Municipal Auditorium for a packed crowd and a two-night performance. Jo was a regular  organizer and well-known as a singer with a melodious trio that also included Jean Murphy and Bobby Hooks (occasionally Elaine Warfield was a part of the group.)  Can you just hear the likes of song titles she shared with us from the era? … Can’t Help Loving That Man; Rag Time Cowboy Joe? She recalled a great dance duet of the Charleston that was performed by Lois Linville and Frances Brown while Libby Peel was usually the music director.

Jo enlightened us about one of the popular local projects of the Junior Women’s Club, a 1950’s cookbook; the introduction of the cookbook states, “The Junior Women’s Club of Zephyrhills, Florida was organized and federated in 1949. Since that time it has been actively engaged in public services such as: welfare and health, polio drive, Sunland Training Center in Gainesville and many other worthwhile projects.” The developers of the cookbook were: Lois Linville, Bobbie Hooks, Mary Ellen Ahrens, Lea Bales, Frances Brown, Betsey Brownlee, Audrey Chenkins, Dorothy Hunter and Georgia Phillips. We asked Jo if we could share one of her authentic 1950’s recipes with our readers from the vintage cookbook and she graciously agreed:

Congealed Vegetable Salad (Asheville Salad)

Bring to boil one can of tomato soup. Stir in one cake of cream cheese and one package of unflavored gelatin which has soaked 10 minutes in ½ cup of cold water. Cool; stir in 1 cup of salad dressing, 1 cup of chopped celery, a little onion and dash of salt.

Perhaps it is somewhat prophetic in the manner in which our lives unfold. Sometimes as we reflect, we see interesting connections… Such was the case for Jo as she recalled that she first heard a young man named John T.V. Clark play a magnificent trumpet solo of Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White at one of these annual follies.  Later after both she and John were widowed, they would forge a wonderful marriage and write many more chapters of Jo’s rich life together.

John T.V. Clark appeared on the scene in Zephyrhills in 1948 and would build the school band program from scratch. In 2008, the new band room at the school site where he taught was named in honor of him and his family attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. While a student at Florida Southern College, John was drafted into World War II service and rose to the rank of second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, flying as the navigator on a B-24 “Liberator” bomber from Shipham Air Force Base England. When the war ended, he resumed his studies in Music and English at Florida Southern.  He obtained his master’s degree in Music from Columbia University. He took the position as Band Director at Zephyrhills High School in the fall of 1948, where he taught for 30 years.  His first wife, Audrey who served as a school social worker for many years in the area, passed away in 1978 and John retired soon after. John and Jo married several years later. Throughout his life, John was very active, playing with various bands in the Tampa Bay area.  His primary instrument was trumpet, but on occasion he played bass guitar, keyboard, and valve trombone.  He backed up such notables as Burt Bacharach, Liberace, Vic Damone, Patty Paige, and Mel Torme.

Jo told us that their first date was to a Jazz concert in Buena Vista but included a dinner at the local Wendy’s, which she always teased John about. It is so clear in talking with Jo that she and John shared a passionate love of the arts.  They clearly envisioned a world that was enriched by music, art and literature and saw it through a lovely filter that they imparted to their hundreds of students throughout time. They both enjoyed traveling after retirement.

Jo has great joy in her sons, Steve Beddingfield, class of 1970; Larry Beddingfield, class of 1973; Kenneth Clark, class of 1972; Steven Clark, class of 1975; and Bruce Clark, class of 1978 and their nine grandchildren.

We invite our readers to enjoy the memory book about John T.V. Clark at: http://www.fivay.org/zhs/zhs21a.html and would ask that you share recollections of Jo Beddingfield Clark and the other community members mentioned in the article. We thank Mrs. Clark for the gracious interview!

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 November 26, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Founder’s Day Parade Map

By , 3 March, 2010, No Comment

The Founder’s Day parade map is now available online. It includes a color coded route for the parade and Family Fun Run, a list of events for the day, and an icon legend. The electronic version of the map is also interactive; click any icon to get a full description of the event. T minus 9 days until the festivities begin!


Click me!

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Thanksgiving & ZHS families

By , 3 March, 2010, No Comment

In an age of ever-changing technology and fast paced-living, we want to pause this week to share our gratitude to the community. We thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to impart some historical tidbits from the last one 100 years that have shaped our town. At the annual ZHS alumni celebration, the monthly 100-year committee meetings, or local school events, we consistently witness the importance that the instutution of ‘school’ has had a place of gathering, organization and growth for children and families.

Thanksgiving is, of course, also a time of gathering, family focus and appreciation of our country’s heritage. We suspect that many may recall Thanksgiving pageants at school that encompassed Pilgrims, American Indians and symbols of Harvest. The historical accounts from the Zephilsco, News, and other sources depict PTA celebrations, classroom events and service projects in the community. Perhaps the most noteworthy of Thanksgivings was that of 1939 when ZHS was closed for two weeks because of diptheria outbreak. Ironically, in 2009 with H1N1, it is not the first time the local school has been challenged with health questions and persevered to benefit students and families.

Thanksgiving takes on many dimensions for us.  You may be traveling, hosting your family, working at a center to serve up a scrumptious meal for others or perhaps savoring some past memories. We also know that families come in all configurations and for some institutions such as church and school comprise dimensions of nurturing as well.

The theme of family has often been a thread throughout our historical research about Zephyrhills High School. Just recently in our interviews with James E. and Claudette Davis, Raybell Surratt, Charles and Ann Henderson, Bunt and Cookie Massey and others, we have been mesmerized by their many warm stories about people and traditions in our community. The Clements, Rooks, Reutimanns, and others have jogged our memories about sports, entertainment and events that locals cherish. Along the way with the assistance of the Depot, Zephyrhills Historical Society and so many individuals, wonderful photos have surfaced that often capture events without words. So with that in mind and perhaps with the old script of that Thanksgiving Song by Lydia Maria Child that so many of us sang in school at this time of year, “Over The River and Through the Woods To Grandmother’s House We go…” we wish to share three photos that capture three example families from Zephyrhills over time.

The dates are: 1945, 1960 and 1969. It so happens that two of these families were in the midst of visiting grandparents when the photos were snapped and all three photos give us a glimpse of the importance of connections in our lives. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Miller children stand in front of the landmark Neukom’s Drug Store which posted a sign announcing, ‘War Bond Sales.’ The photo taken in 1945 showed Larry, Glenn, Nancy and Craig Miller enjoying a refreshing ice cream cone in downtown Zephyrhills. Feel the home-town warmth!

The Miller children


The Miller children stand in front of the landmark Neukom’s Drug Store which posted a sign announcing, ‘War Bond Sales.’ The photo taken in 1945 showed Larry, Glenn, Nancy and Craig Miller enjoying a refreshing ice cream cone in downtown Zephyrhills. Feel the home-town warmth!

The First family

The First family


The First family  including Mary Crawford First and sons, Gary and Greg traveled to Cleveland, Ohio to visit their grandmother in 1960 by railroad and they boarded the train at the Zephyrhills Depot which was then located where the Village Inn is now located. “At that age, nothing was more fun than riding a train, especially visiting the dining car,” said Greg who has been the ‘voice of the local Zephyrhills High School Bulldogs’ for over twenty years as sports announcer.

The Travis family

The Travis family


Bernie Wickstrom ran the Travis family photo in the Zephyrhills News after the family had just returned from an antique car show in 1969 and a visit to the grandfather’s home. Mr. Travis had a hobby of restoring Kaiser autos and this was a vintage 1947 Frazer Manhattan made by Kaiser-Frazer. They had just driven from Zephyrhills to visit relatives in upstate New York and they recalled watching the moon landing on their Grandfather’s black-and-white TV, this was the era of Woodstock.  In the photo were: June, Cindy, Jeff, Bob and Cliff Travis along with their dachshund,  Penny.

For Clereen and Madonna, family is an essential part of our lives, and we wish each and everyone a very lovely Thanksgiving!  We hope sometime during the holiday weekend, you’ll have an opportunity to remember some family events that have shaped your life. Whether you are visiting grandparents or perhaps savoring our lovely Florida weather with an ice cream cone instead of a turkey, we know you’ll remember past times as we do!

In our ongoing effort to capture the memories, please send us your stories about Thanksgiving.

Over The River and Through The Woods

Over the river, and through the wood,

To Grandfather’s house we go;

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh

through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood—

Oh, how the wind does blow!

It stings the toes and bites the nose

As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,

To have a first-rate play.

Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding”,

Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood

Trot fast, my dapple-gray!

Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound,

For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood—

And straight through the barnyard gate,

We seem to go extremely slow,

It is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood—

Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!

Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?

Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

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 November 19, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Veteran’s Day Tribute to ZHS

By , 3 March, 2010, 1 Comment

ZHS alumni Linda Sante asked us to develop a countdown article to commemorate Veteran’s Day and the ZHS alumni who have served in the armed forces from our community. With Linda’s assistance, we offer some glimpses of these brave alumni. We invite our readers to share the stories about Veterans and service over time.

ZHS teacher and Zephilsco sponsor, Tracey Snyder, is planning to devote several pages in the 2010/2011 yearbook to ZHS alumni Veterans.  We wish to use this Veteran’s Day article as a springboard to assist Tracey and her student staff in compiling information about military veterans who attended ZHS. The school has maintained no historical record previously. We are humbled by their service and would like to be as all-inclusive as possible in recognizing the ZHS alumni who have served our country. Help us to assist the yearbook staff in this worthwhile endeavor.

We give reverence to two young men from ZHS who offer recent tragic heartache and serve as courageous models–Marcus Mathes and Jonathan O’Neill.

Marcus Mathes was killed in Iraq in 2008. He was a 2002 graduate of ZHS and had joined the U.S. Army in 2005. He completed basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and served in Afghanistan from October 2006 until March 2007. He left for Iraq in November 2007. Mathes’ was awarded the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, NATO Medal and the Combat Action Badge.

Another hero, Jonathan O’Neill, 22, was “Just a good kid,” said ZHS Coach Tom Fisher. The 2004 ZHS graduate was hit by a roadside bomb that exploded near O’Neill’s vehicle on June 2 in Afghanistan. After he was injured, the military transported O’Neill to Germany — where President Obama, visited him and presented him with the Purple Heart. He was assigned to the 549th Military Police Company, 385th Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade (Airborne) at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

ZHS grads of 2001, Mary Katherine Mason and Andrew Prilliman, and ZHS grad of 2000, Aaron Guynn served together in Iraq. Mason was a driver in Iraq and injured in the line of duty. Steven Orosz, President of ZHS Class of 2006, and Ryan Orosz, President of the Class of 2005, both also served in Iraq.

The Florida Vietnam Memorial consists of two granite columns with the American flag suspended between them. On the columns are engraved the names of 1,942 Vietnam War dead and 83 men listed as “Missing in Action.” Linda Sante visited the memorial for the research on the article and discovered the names of  Jonny E. Lewis, Harry L. Thain, and Donnie M. Stokes—all ZHS alumni. In April 1967, the community received word that the first person from the area to have been killed in combat in twenty years –was recent 1965  ZHS graduate Pfc. Johnny E. Lewis. Lewis was a victim of the Vietnam War and his wife, Janice Williams Bassett, also an alumni, suffered the loss of her husband. Recently a commemorative stained glass window was placed at the Zephyrhills Depot Museum to honor Johnny Lewis by his sister, Jackie Lewis Puskas, class of ’64.

Harry L. ‘Butch’ Thain also succumbed to the Vietnam War when his helicopter was shot down in May of 1972 in the jungle of southeast Asia. Thain, a highly decorated West Pointe graduate, was on his second tour in Vietnam. Thain’s helicopter was shot down just a few weeks after he was awarded the silver star for gallantry for his flying heroics. Thain was honored by his alma matter, West Point, with the establishment of the Captain Harry A. Thain Memorial Award presented annually to the outstanding member of the West Point pistol team. Donnie ‘Freck’ Stokes  a 1961 ZHS graduate was deployed to Vietnam for a one-year term and almost made it home safely when, with two weeks remaining, a sniper’s bullet took his young life. This was on Dec. 3, 1968 and he became the second serviceman from Zephyrhills to be killed in the line of duty. He left behind a wife of one year, Shirley Benefield Stokes from Dade City. ZHS grieved for these losses and others affected by the Vietnam War.

Irene Graf, a 1970 graduate, was one of the first women admitted to the Air Force Academy in Colorado as the AFA 15. Second Lieutenant Graf  held a degree in Chemistry from the University of Florida when she was debuted in the media as one of the first fifteen women officers as full-time cadets at the Academy. We know there have been many other Academy recruits. Other notable women to name just a few were: Lisa Cherry in 1992 and Ashley McGavern in 2002

Donald Harrison, a 1975 graduate, guarded First Lady Nancy Reagan and Air Force One. The News reported:  “He served as a guard on Air Force One, the president’s aircraft and currently serves with the security force protecting First Lady Nancy Reagan, Harrison is one of 130 men chosen to protect the air craft at Andrews…”

Alumni also sent us information regarding Donnie Poe who served our country.  We learned that long-time Zephyrhills attorney, Lester Bales was a Marine stationed at Iwo Jima in World War II as was Art Fish was served as a Marine at Tarawa and Guadalcanal.  Notably, Donald A. Pattie penned a book entitled, To Cock a Cannon about his experiences in the military.

ZHS student, Robert Kersey, was celebrated as a World War II recruit when he graduated in the class of 1944.  Former Zephyrhills Mayor, Dr. Emerson Arnot, Jr. took time off after his 11th grade at ZHS to serve in World War II in the Navy and then returned to graduate with his two siblings in the class of 1947. Two graduating seniors in 1919, Lyle Gilbert and Dale Leonard, were remembered at the Junior-Senior Banquet at Hotel Zephyr with two large American Flags in honor of their graduation in absentia, while they were fighting in World War I in France. A letter from ZHS student, Lyle Gilbert was read at the 1919 graduation ceremony and there was great patriotic pride at the graduation ceremony to know that Zephyrhills was represented at the then “war to end all wars.”

We would like to assist Tracey Snyder and her yearbook staff in compiling a comprehensive list of ZHS veterans.  We invite you to send information to Clereen or Tracey at tsnyder {at} pasco.k12.fl(.)us.  Tracey would also like to receive photographs of the veterans in uniform for inclusion in the yearbook.  The deadline for submitting information and photos to the yearbook for inclusion is July 2010.

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 November 12, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: A Salute West Zephyrhills Elementary

By , 2 March, 2010, No Comment
Music Class at WZES directed by John T.V. Clark in 1967. These are students from ZHS class of 1973 and are: Back row - Johnny Ray White, Vickie Griffin, Suzie Hill, James Meyer, Dale Reutimann, Steve Massey, Robbie Kretschmar, Richard Risher. Front Row - Rhonda Duncan, Connie Geiger, Linda McAdams, Jason Osborne, Tommy Garland, Debbie Messer, Nancy Clark, Mark Coyne, Dale Myers.

Music Class at WZES directed by John T.V. Clark in 1967. These are students from ZHS class of 1973 and are: Back row - Johnny Ray White, Vickie Griffin, Suzie Hill, James Meyer, Dale Reutimann, Steve Massey, Robbie Kretschmar, Richard Risher. Front Row - Rhonda Duncan, Connie Geiger, Linda McAdams, Jason Osborne, Tommy Garland, Debbie Messer, Nancy Clark, Mark Coyne, Dale Myers.

Our mission is to preserve memories of the 100 year history of education in Zephyrhills and we love sharing anecdotes and milestones of the past. Coinciding with the 100 year educational history and certainly embedded within it is the golden anniversary of West Zephyrhills Elementary School. This weekend, the school is honoring the 50 years of service to the community with a bash on campus. Clereen will be there representing our duo since Madonna will be in Louisville, Kentucky as a mom of her daughter, Rachel who is competing in a speech competition. We both send our congratulations and deepest gratitude to all who have served West over time!

As you might imagine, we dug up some Zephyrhills News articles over time to give you a flavor of this elementary school. Recently, we attended the inspirational memorial ceremony of the second principal of West, Ferdinand Renninger. Randall Belcher gave a moving tribute to this fine gentleman and asked that Ferd’s family, colleagues and friends share their recollections. There were moving tributes and one of the stories was particularly charming and we believe captures the spirit of Ferd as well as West. Zephyrhills businessman, Brant Blessing, a ZHS alumni of 1965, related that he was the Assistant Principal at West and was recruited by Mr. Renninger. He said that Ferd was a true inspiration but also a person who knew how to seize the moment and have some fun. To inspire the students in the 1960’s, Ferd proposed that Brant dress up in a superman costume and frolic across the campus, waving his cape to inspire the students to do their best. Brant’s wife, Beth, sewed the costume and Brant made his rounds across the campus. Brant related that customers at his State Farm Insurance office to this day, remember his superman flight at West Zephyrhills Elementary School. Can you imagine how many other stories could be told by the walls of West Zephyrhills Elementary?

It holds laughter, tears, triumphs, and inspiration that have undoubtedly impacted many generations. To the hundreds of students, teachers, staff and parents who have walked the halls of West, we say, thank you for your contributions.

Here are some glimpses of Zephyrhills News coverage over time to help you recall some milestones:

1959: First Principal! Stewart Brown has been reappointed principal of ZHS. The Pasco County Board of Public Instruction on Tuesday also appointed Arleis E. Ross principal of the new Zephyrhills Elementary School and Thomas McCree of Volusia County, to the principalship of the on-the-campus Junior-High-Elementary School.

WZES Principals

WZES Principals

March 18 1960: Zephyrhills West Elementary School was dedicated during Zephyrhills Founders’ Days in ceremonies at which Chester Taylor, Pasco County School Superintendent, officiated in the new cafetorium. John T.V. Clark, Jr. directed the ZHS Band in a program of music.

Taylor told how the new school was planned and financed. The plant proper, exclusive of walkways, embraces 13,655 square feet built at a cost of $11.95 per square foot, the entire amount for the cafetorium and eight classrooms totaling $181,000. The school has a capacity for 24 classrooms when completed it its entirety. Mrs. Pauline Boggs sold the 43-acre site to school officials for $21,192 and Taylor said eventually the campus may include a junior high school plant. Zephyrhills West Elementary is probably the only school in Pasco County with maximum plans for expansion, he stated.

Superintendent Taylor said:

“We dedicate this school building, providing parents of the community with a plant in which teachers can pridefully instruct, with the thought in mind, however, that no school can offset the evil influence not merely of a bad home but of a home with low disciplinary and moral standards.

If fathers and mothers offer their children no more intellectual fare than comic books, a television set and picture magazines; if they make a home merely a place to sleep, drink and eat, and not the center of life then they have no right to complain of schools.”

Arleis E. Ross, principal, officially accepted the school keys from I.A. DeMinicis, Architect. Platform guests included Zephyrhills city officials, Pasco County board members and school trustees. A 49-star American flag for use in the auditorium and another for the outdoor flagpole were presented to the school by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary, with Mrs. Robert Sibley, assisted by Mrs. Jack Selzer.

1962: Elementary Graduation–Special ceremonies for graduation of 6th grade pupils into junior high will be held Monday, June 4, at West Elementary School. Miss Alice Zimmerman is in charge of planning both programs.

1963: Teacher assignments at Zephyrhills schools for the school year beginning in the fall have been announced by Chester Taylor, Jr. At ZHS, where Charles A. Henderson is principal the faculty will include: Lamar Calhoun, John F. Clements, John T.V. Clark, John D. Geiger, Mrs. Alpha S. Gill, Mrs. Betty Jane Hall, Mrs. Constance C. Kaylor, S.B. Kendricks, Ernest Kretschmar, Jr., Mrs. Marjorie Parantha, Earl Reitz, Mrs. Katharine Swing, W.A. Worthington, Lewis K. Wynne, William R. Jeffries, D. Hobson, Laird Jr., Miss Marion J. Ditter, Mrs. Lillian B. Johnson, William R. Kustes, Charles W. McKinney, Will H. McRaney, Clyde R. Mills, Green Napier and Mrs. Georgia H. Skyles.

West Elementary School, with Arleis E. Ross as principal, will have these faculty members: Mrs. Celia Anderson, Mrs. Vianna Gall, Miss Peggy Padgett, Mrs. Beulah Flynn, Mrs. Hettie Jane Price, Mrs. Anne Tipton, Mrs. Dorothy Rhodes, Mrs. Dorothy D. Turner and Mrs. Constance A. Ronnick and Mrs. Marguerite Goetz.

Zephyrhills News photo: A portrait of Arleis E. Ross, Principal of West Elementary School from its founding in 1959 until 1967, was unveiled in a ceremony in the school lobby. Standing beneath the picture were Miss Peggy Padgett, left, second grade teacher, who spearheaded the drive to raise funds for the memorial, and Miss Susan Gill, right, fifth grade teacher who was chairman of the committee which obtained the oil-tinted photograph. Mrs. Ross, Dade City, was on hand for the unveiling ceremony.

Zephyrhills News photo: A portrait of Arleis E. Ross, Principal of West Elementary School from its founding in 1959 until 1967, was unveiled in a ceremony in the school lobby. Standing beneath the picture were Miss Peggy Padgett, left, second grade teacher, who spearheaded the drive to raise funds for the memorial, and Miss Susan Gill, right, fifth grade teacher who was chairman of the committee which obtained the oil-tinted photograph. Mrs. Ross, Dade City, was on hand for the unveiling ceremony.

October 26, 1967: Zephyrhills News, ‘Memorial to Principal Arleis E. Ross’ – A colored photographic portrait of Arleis E. Ross, Principal of West Elementary School from its founding in 1959 until his death earlier this year, was unveiled in a ceremony in the school lobby. Mrs. Ross, Dade City, was on hand for the unveiling ceremony

May 4, 1967: Arleis Edward Ross, 51, principal of Zephyrhills West Elementary School since it was opened eight years ago, died Tuesday morning at Lakeland General Hospital. He had been in ill health for several months, suffering from a brain tumor. Services are to be held at 10 a.m. Friday at the Sanctuary of the first Methodist Church in Dade City with the Rev. James R. Crook, pastor of the First Methodist Church of Dade City, officiating. All three Zephyrhills schools will be closed Friday morning during the funeral. Students will not report to homerooms until 11 a.m., it was announced Wednesday morning by Ferd Renninger, principal of East and acting principal at West during Mr. Ross’s illness. Mr. Ross was born August 17, 1915 in Whitley County, Kentucky of Frank Ross and Mary Ellen Davenport Ross. He came to Pasco County 13 years ago from Pine Knot, Kentucky, where he taught after receiving both the Bachelor of Arts and masters degrees in education from Eastern Kentucky State College. Mr. Ross served as Assistant Principal at ZHS prior to assuming the principalship of West Elementary.

He was a Methodist, a member of the National Educational Association, Florida Education Association, and the Principal’s Association of Pasco County. Survivors include his wife, Mrs. Verna H. Ross of Dade City; a son, Ralph E. of Melbourne.

1967: Almost 9000 students are expected to enroll in Pasco County schools, and a share of this increase is expected in Zephyrhills. At West Elementary enrollment topped 425 last year (it had been only 330 in 1965-66) and is conservatively estimated at 470 this year and at East Elementary, where the average daily attendance was 341 last year, about 360 are expected to enroll.

At all three centers some additional transferring in of African American students is expected, although crowded conditions will somewhat limit a total “freedom of choice” operation in the county. Although to any school of their choice, the school board has reserved the right to limit such changes in accordance with available space.

1968:Zephyrhills’ three public schools had a combined opening day enrollment of 1,636 students as classes for the 1968-69 term began Friday. Of this number 721 were enrolled at ZHS, 435 at East Elementary School and 480 at West Elementary. School Principals Raymond B. Stewart, James Walker and Ferd Renninger of the three schools, respectively; anticipate an appreciable increase in the enrollment figures as students return from vacation trips.

1971: West Elementary School’s opening day enrollment of 600 had been predicted and school closed Wednesday with 618 enrolled. This is an increase of 89 over last year. Double Sessions went off well. Except for some wrinkles to be ironed out in bus schedules to bring all of the buses into the schools at about the same time, everything went smoothly “all things considered,” on opening day Tuesday.

1975: Leland Brant Blessing, former ZHS basketball star, will return to this community in the fall as the new assistant principal of West Zephyrhills Elementary School, Principal Ferd E. Renninger has announced. West Elementary has 900 students on double sessions; the school has a rated capacity of about 600 students, Principal Renninger has never had a full-time assistant.

A 1965 graduate of ZHS, he was a member of the ZHS state championship basketball team.

Melodica Class at WZES in 1965 directed by Ms. Alice Zimmerman. Back row - David Calhoun, Tim Cleary, Steve Massey, Johnny Ray White, Dales Myers, Joey Street, Mike Reagan, Rhonda Duncan, Jan McCreadie, Teresa Quick, Cole Skinner. Front row - Alton Osborne, Vickie Griffin, Becky Williams, Lynette McCreadie, Eugenia Hall.

Melodica Class at WZES in 1965 directed by Ms. Alice Zimmerman. Back row - David Calhoun, Tim Cleary, Steve Massey, Johnny Ray White, Dales Myers, Joey Street, Mike Reagan, Rhonda Duncan, Jan McCreadie, Teresa Quick, Cole Skinner. Front row - Alton Osborne, Vickie Griffin, Becky Williams, Lynette McCreadie, Eugenia Hall.

1976: New instructors are Miss Susan Sullivan, Mrs. Christine Cole, and Mrs. Evelyn Hilton, a 1975 graduate of ZHS.

1978: West Zephyrhills Elementary School Principal Reinninger will be the first principal for the new elementary school now being built west of ZHS, Woodland Elementary. The new principal for West Zephyrhills Elementary will be Louis Freijo. Freijo is certified in elementary administration and has been employed by the Pasco County system for the past seven years.

1993: In 1993, Principal Jeanette Lovelace chaired the district-level committee for the development of the new elementary report card. She worked with representatives from all groups to develop a new assessment system that was researched-based and aligned to the needs of children and stakeholders.

1996: Principal Jeanette Lovelace oversaw the renovation of the West Zephyrhills Elementary campus. It received a new facelift with the addition of a new administrative building and several new classrooms. Having served as the principal since 1987, Mrs. Lovelace was delighted to unveil the beautiful newly remodeled school site.

1998: In 1998, six Florida Educators were chosen as Fulbright Scholars and were hosted by the Government of Japan to a visit to Japanese schools and homes. The representatives included Madonna Jervis Wise, Principal from West Zephyrhills who forged a partnership between her school and the elementary school in Nara, Japan. This grew into an international partnership which was initiated by Dr. Mary Giella, Assistant Superintendent who tapped Wise to be part of the USF initiative. Ing-Britt Pousette, principal from Sweden, nodded approvingly as a parent at West described how she volunteers twice a week to help children at the school learn to read.”It is better when the teachers are not always the experts,” said Pousette, 46, of St. Olofsskolan School in Sundsvall, Sweden. Pousette concluded that Swedish and U.S. schools face many of the same challenges. West and Sundsvall, Sweden students compared notes on weather and climate conditions throughout the year.

1999: Nancy Massey Perkins was named Pasco County’s outstanding social studies teacher in 1999. Nancy, a 1970 graduate of ZHS, attended West Zephyrhills elementary as a student and is proud of the fact that her mother has served the school for many years as a bus driver as well. She was nominated by Kathy Steiner, District Social Studies Supervisor, because of her innovative interdisciplinary units on Native Americans and The Wild West. Perkins arranged for the entire school to visit Spunk Sasser’s Rodeo and much to everyone’s surprise, Perkins and Principal Wise rode their quarter horses for the kids!

2003: West Zephyrhills Elementary jumped two letter grades, from a C to an A – the largest improvement of any of the schools in the county.

“We are all in shock,” said a gleeful Emily Keene, principal at West Zephyrhills. Keene said that when she saw the grades on the State Department of Education’s Web site, she announced it over the intercom for the enjoyment of teachers working during the summer. Keene credited the school’s teachers for their focus on reading and writing instruction last year. An after-school program that attracted about 60 students also helped, she said. “It was just a lot of hard work,” Keene said. “I’m really proud of everyone.”

From Clereen and Madonna, we second that Emily! We are very proud of all who have served West!

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 November 5, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise

Contest Locations Have Changed

By , 1 March, 2010, No Comment

The Captain Jeffries look-alike contest, Longest Beard/Mustache contest, and Ladies Hat contest are being moved to the Eiland Bandstand. All of the contests will still be held at 2 P.M. on Saturday, March 13, 2010.

Zephyrhills 100th Anniversary: Memories of Jim & Claudette

By , 1 March, 2010, No Comment

In follow up to our countdown story on James E. and Claudette Davis, we asked alumni to send us recollections. We got some wonderful responses. Here are a few that we think you will enjoy.

Coach Davis was on me to play football. I told him that I was not playing. My plan was to avoid  spring practice. Then my plan was to come out when the regular season started. Mr. Davis said, Robert, you are to play and I said, I’m not playing now. Coach Davis arrived at our house at 5:30 a.m. the next morning and ended up having coffee and breakfast with my mom. I ended up having to go to spring training! ~Robert Reeves ‘70

As a 1972 graduate of ZHS I had the opportunity of knowing Mr. Jimmy Davis during his days as a teacher and principal.  He was the epitome of a true, southern gentleman, and I always had a tremendous amount of respect for him. However, it was not until I married into the Hill family in 1975, that I really got to know him well.  He was like a third son to Ada and Ed Hill (my in-laws) and another brother to my late husband, Dale, and brother in-law, Carl.  Over the years we spent many special times together as “southern” families do—great meals, celebrations of marriage, anniversaries, births, birthdays and even those times of mourning as we said farewell to our loved ones.

There was always one constant…and that was Jimmy’s presence!  He was always there for us…in good times and bad. But the most wonderful memories that my family shared with Jimmy are the many special hunting trips spent together in our camp in southwest Georgia.  Jimmy was by far the best friend to Ed, Ada and Dale and Carl, but as our children (Tiffani, Britni, Dustin, Heather, Kara and David) grew up, they too loved Jimmy and his family as if they were blood relatives.  He was a tremendous support to my children and I during Dale’s death in 1995, and a wonderful mentor to all of our children in regard to educational endeavors.  He always gave wise advice to us and it was guided by his moral compass and tremendous compassion to see others succeed in life.  His educational background and loving support helped to pave the way for the success that our children have experienced in both college and their early careers.  I so wish Jim and Claudette a wonderful retirement and many years of contentment that is so well deserved!  I salute Jimmy Davis as both an educational mentor and a wonderful friend!!  He is truly a beloved and extended part of the HILL family… and always will be. ~Judy (Alston) Hill ‘72

Coach Davis showing Ryan Gray how to receive a baton, 1968-- courtesy of ZHS

Coach Davis showing Ryan Gray how to receive a baton, 1968-- courtesy of ZHS

I was a student under Mr. Davis; he was a teacher, mentor, and without me knowing it a friend.  I can clearly recall my math class with Mr. Davis. Ben Cook and Tony Neal were in the class with me, and we received some special tutoring on a regular basis. Our parents had agreed to corporal punishment as needed, and well let’s just say, we needed it more than I like to remember.  He also would let me sneak away to the lunchroom where my grandmother worked (Belle Locke) to scam a couple of her best fresh-baked yeast rolls.  I always shared!  I left ZHS for three years to attend Brandon and returned just after Christmas break in the 11th grade.  Sure enough there was Mr. Davis, and we resumed our special relationship, yet now it was more of a mentoring and coaching friendship. He often asked, “Kenny, what are you going to do with your life?”  I really did not know.  He helped guide me to the Air Force where I served 20 years and retired.  I would often see Jim after I left school. My mother Nell Nesbit, ZHS Class of ’56, worked as a special education assistant, so I would stop in and talk with Jim.  He was always interested in what I was doing, and what my plans were.  He was a true example of leadership. I learned so much from him, and I hope in the end he is proud of me as a student and a person. ~Ken Nesbit ‘72

My memories of Mr. Davis are as  “Coach” because that is what he always was to us. My older brothers were on the football and track teams so I got to hang around their practices from about fourth grade on. I remember Coach giving the players instructions on running through the line in football. Then without pads on he would show them. I also remember him being the strongest person I had ever seen—lifting weights. I remember going fishing with him along with my dad and brothers. Then later on as Dean of Boys getting sent to his office; he would tell me to not do whatever it was that got me sent to the office and then we would talk about fishing. He was a very respected person growing up and a father-type figure as well. Thanks, Coach Davis! ~Keith Reeves ‘76

I remember my brother, Larry Thomas, class of 1970 who thought highly of Coach Davis as his JV football coach in the late 60’s. I had him at Junior High. You always knew he would listen and he always carried himself like an exemplary leader. Gee! He witnessed a lot of changes. He may have been old school by the one’s I see today, but had good character – Solid character! ~Cyndee Thomas ‘79

Claudette Davis is a classy southern lady! She was a wonderful co-worker who brought energy, wit, and knowledge to the worksites she served in Pasco County.  My years working with Claudette were some of the most enjoyable times of my career that I spent working at West Zephyrhills Elementary School.  She made it fun–not like work at all.  She was truly the best of friend to me through challenging and changing times in education.~ Nancy Massey Perkins ’70

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 November 5, 2009.

All rights reserved. Photos © Madonna Jervis Wise