HISTORY OF ZEPHYRHILLS HIGH SCHOOL

The Decade of the 1950’s at ZHS

1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953 | 1954 | 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1959

In the era of “Happy Days,” the rock and roll generation began to come of age at ZHS. Similar to the popular television sitcom which featured this decade, Happy Days, there was a real sense of optimism and fun at ZHS. There doesn’t appear to have been a “Fonz,” of this ZHS decade, however some influential teachers/leaders joined the faculty in this decade.  Mr. Stanley Kendrick did his student teaching at ZHS in 1955 under Coach Thomas Webb in history class, but came to have incredible influence on ZHS students for over three decades, in primarily career guidance. (During the 1950s, the vocational class programs such as DCT, changed learning to incorporate hands-on experience in the work world). “Mr. Kretschmar”—the legendary math whizz instructor and later the ZHS Assistant Principal joined ZHS in 1959—and becomes synonymous with the “Bill Gates” of ZHS—known as the “master scheduler extraordinaire,” responsible for the master schedule for over 25 years.” As a somewhat shy individual with keen insights, his mentality as a work trooper provided incredible conduit for the inner workings of the school. Having been a POW and a man of incredible work ethic, he was respected by the principals he served. A third instructor— a 1919 graduate of ZHS, Rosemary Wallace Trottman whose duration at ZHS as a teacher was a few years, made a significant contribution to education—as the author of The History of Zephyrhills in 1978 (and wife of a ZHS principal), she was a very important keeper of the historical facts of the school and community!

In regard to optimism, the motto of the class of 1950 was “Not At The Top—But Climbing” and 1956-“As Tomorrow Dawns.” The Zephilsco, the newly-developed yearbook (begun in 1945), instituted the annual ritual of crowning the king and queen of the yearbook in a renowned surprise ceremony. Examples of the yearbook royalty were: 1958—Felton Howard and Margaret Nelson; 1957—Lenore Lincoln and Paul Canady; 1956—Sarah Peck and Lamar Massey. The class of 1950 was excited to resurrect the annual ZHS alumni reunion and although they assumed they were the originators of the annual summer reunion, they were instrumental in launching this important opportunity for ZHS alumni and friends to get-together and reminisce about their experiences. The alumni celebration had actually first been begun by Don Storms in January 9, 1931 when he organized a New Year’s Eve Alumni Social at Sunset Beach on Lake Pasadena with Uncle Frank Tousey as the genial proprietor, hosting the small alumni group.

Another example of the optimism of the decade was the 1952 exhibition of square dancing which was presented for the ZHS P.T.A. At the regular meeting of the PTA at ZHS held on April 17, 1952 in the ZHS Auditorium with Mrs. Paul Braden, as president, the News reported:

The GAA girls under the direction of Miss Britton gave an exhibition in
square dancing and stunts. There cannot be enough praise for the way these
girls presented stunts which showed their timing, coordination. And gracefulness made the most difficult fetes performed an achievement of grace and beauty.

The school safety patrol was born and played an important role throughout the decade as a ZHS service club. Annual ceremonies in which the safety patrol members received their AAA patrol badges and handbooks were significant.  For example, in 1955--“James Jarrett, Jr. as captain headed the 26-member Zephyrhills High School Safety Patrol in receiving obligations of office in the school auditorium. Sam A. Bennett representing the Tampa Motor Club was in charge of the impressive installation ceremony.

Other significant institutions during this decade include the PTA. In 1955, the PTA put out a decree to the area parents to attend the regular meetings at ZHS. They presented monthly sessions and entertainment. Jean Murphy, a well-known community member/teacher often sang solos for the events. In 1954, the PTA hosted a special tea for the faculty and announced a membership goal of 500 parents for the year. At the September 24, 1954 tea, the topic was “What’s New in the Little Red School House,” and featured Mrs. Theo Ashley and Robert Mills, Pasco County speech and reading specialists to discuss speech disorders and reading failures. Note that the curriculum innovations were in great part, parent-driven.

Also significant as an institution was the Future Farmers Association (FFA) for boys. Nathan Geiger was an officer for several years, and not only did ZHS do quite well in the county tractor driving competitions, they also won many awards in the guitar-picking, band competitions for FFA boys as well.

As a country, people were self-absorbed and yearned for some solace after the Great Depression and World War II. ZHS experienced growth in numbers after the difficult ZHS school years of the 1940s with dwindling enrollments (when many natives drove their children to Pasco High in Dade City) in the aftermath of the ZHS school fire and displacement of students in city buildings for instruction. The Zephyrhills News reported for example, on September 15, 1950 that the Zephyrhills High School/public school opened Monday, September 11th with a record enrollment of 673 students—281 in the high school. They stated—“this enrollment is 20 more than last year, and just 19 short of the required number of 300 for a permanent high school.” The school almost closed at the decade change because of discontinued accreditation, a remnant of the fires, and many parents driving their students to Dade City but through community involvement the enrollment reached the required number by December of 1951 and the school was reaccredited. ZHS school enrollment numbered 1,142 by 1961. The growing total school population forced ZHS to look once again to the city for assistance in housing students and in the early 1950s the seventh and eighth grade attended classes in the World War II Airport Barracks.

Television as a medium came into its own and overtook radio as a major source of communication/entertainment in the country and technology was on the rise. True also at ZHS—the age of technology had been born. The news reported for example, in 1959—“An A.B. Dick duplicator was purchased from Richardson Co. in Tampa for use in the Zephyrhills schools at a cost of $250.” The Zephyrhills News instituted a weekly student-written column entitled “School Daze,” and a budding journalism student reported on weekly events at the high school and often editorialized on happenings. Some were Shirley Dixon in 1954 and Margie Braden in 1958.

There were advancements in medicine and science with the first polio vaccine developed. It is noteworthy that ZHS was invited to a momentous groundbreaking in the world of academia and a group of ZHS students attended the event—this was the groundbreaking of a major university in our vicinity, the University of South Florida. The Zephyrhills newspaper reported on September 12, 1958—

Last Friday, six juniors, Dedi Anderson, Lynn Nichols, Patty Sante, Linda Freeburg, Louis Leopold and Bob Baggett, accompanied by Principal Stewart Brown, attended the ground-breaking ceremonies for the University of South Florida. Present were juniors from around the state who took part in the spading after Governor Leroy Collins had begun the ground-breaking with a gold shovel, which was presented to the university.

Another unique curriculum feature of the decade was a banking program. Donald Whitworth of the Bank of Zephyrhills set up a savings program for students and encouraged them to bank their money right at the school for a 3% interest rate. He came every Thursday to the principal’s office to attend to students in their banking needs.

Sports continued to thrive. The ZHS baseball park was dedicated in 1957. In 1952, ZHS moved into first place in the West Coast Conference in baseball. The quarterback club that was formed in 1941, boasted a membership of 100 in 1956 and worked on funding bleachers and lighting for Krusen Field which had been dedicated a few years earlier. They also began the institution of taking the football players on an annual trip to see the University of Florida play a football game in Gainesville—quite a treat for the boys!    

The drama production that occurred each year as a community event again reflected the times. Sample plays at ZHS were: 1950—The Boarding House; 1952—Henry’s Hired Aunt; 1955—Finder’s Creepers; and 1956—A Boy Named Beulah. The leads in the plays were chronicled in the News and the sense of joy in the comedies is reflected in the yearbook and school newspaper reports.

The Cold War heated up during the 1950’s and the anti-Communist fervor spawned a new state-mandated curriculum offering at ZHS, Americanism verses Communism, in the era of the Joseph McCarthy Anti-communist witch-hunt period. The curriculum at ZHS and the state of Florida was infused with the anti-communist philosophy in the years after. This is reflected at ZHS in an incredible openness of information. There were simply no issues of confidentiality in this era. Honor role names continued to be printed in the newspaper but sometimes even more descriptive information. In 1958, the News printed information from ZHS Principal Stewart Brown in regard to those seniors who had a high enough grade average to be exempt from the semester exams—a rather lengthy list. A sense of safety and security is reflected in many of the extracurricular activities.  For example, the Future Homemakers of America (FFA) held “Hobo” days in which the girls of the club were available to do odd jobs to raise money for the club. The club president, Monica Prowant, in 1952, arranged for the students to do the work and the payments were put in the club treasury for projects and to fund their trip to the annual state convention.

Graduations during the decade were almost exclusively held at the Home Theater, that is the movie theater on fifth avenue in downtown Zephyrhills. The 1959 graduation at the end of the decade ended the tradition by being hosted at the brand new Zephyrhills Municipal Auditorium. The 1954 graduation program theme was “Faith in Tomorrow,” and the 1957 was “Not the End—but the Beginning.” The culminating activities for graduation included a five day senior trip—the 1959 class ventured to Miami Beach and the 1955 class went to St. Augustine and Daytona Beach. The prom was highly secretive and was sometimes exotic and other times, reflective of the time era. The 1957 prom theme had a “Sputnik” flavor (from the space race between Russia and the USA in the late 1950’s) with its theme, “Rocket to the Stars”—and the description of the decorations, favors and even music reflect the embryo space race time frame that was to dawn fully in the decade of the 1960s.  

Graduation continued to be a week-long celebration and the evening of graduation was quite involved. For example in 1958 the News reported that ...”following commencement exercises at the Home Theater last evening, Mrs. Robert Campbell, as general chairman of the party, plans for a dance at the American Legion Hall, immediately following graduation, a midnight show at the Home Theater, a swim party in the municipal pool and breakfast at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall.” It was most definitely happy days for ZHS!


The ZHS Media Center in the 1950s with Librarian, Celia Anderson


Postcard of ZHS in 1950s


National Library week and two ZHS librarians, Mrs. Hall and Mrs. Anderson

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