History of Lacoochee Elementary School


Lacoochee Elementary School

Lacoochee Elementary School

Photo at left: The former Lacoochee first grade building, now located at the Pioneer Florida Museum. This page was last revised on Jan. 6, 2019.

School board minutes of July 3, 1893, indicate that the Lacoochee School (no. 39) was discontinued.

A Tampa Tribune article has: “The first school classes in Lacoochee were held in 1910 in two wooden stores on the west side of what is now U. S. 301, across from Cummer Road. The old classrooms burned and were replaced with a brick schoolhouse that also burned. The one-room Lacoochee School that now stands at the Pioneer Florida Museum and Village grounds was located in the vicinity of the Cummer mill. The museum saved the structure in 1975, just days before it was scheduled to be torn down, and moved it to the museum grounds. Although it was built in 1927, it is typical of one-room schoolhouses of much earlier times.”

In 1917 a new brick school opened at Trilby and apparently Lacoochee students began attending that school. The Dade City Banner of Mar. 17, 1922, refers to the “combined Trilby-Lacoochee school.”

School board minutes of April 6, 1925, indicate that a delegation from Lacoochee came before the Board and asked that the six lower grades be provided for at Lacoochee.

E. H. Capes writes, “The Lacoochee Elementary wooden buildings on Coit Road were used from 1926 to 1970 [1971?]. There were four buildings–first grade, lunch room behind the first grade, and two larger buildings for the other classes. It was closed in 1970 [1971?] when the new school was opened on Cummer Road. Floyd Academy operated from 1947 to 1970 in Moss Town for the black students in the area.”

School board minutes of June 16, 1926, show these teachers appointed: Mrs. F. O. Revels, Miss Emma Lee Smith, Miss Laura Croft.

School board minutes of June 6, 1927, show these teachers appointed: Mrs. Annie Fogg (principal), Mrs. Lizzie Mickler, Mrs. Frances Ferrell, Mrs. Ivah Mulvaney.

Minutes from July 2, 1928, show these teachers appointed: Mrs. Annie Fogg, Mrs. Lena Crum, Mrs. Frances Ferrell, Mrs. Ivah Mulvanney.

Minutes from July 3, 1930, show these teachers appointed: Mrs. Annie Fogg, Principal; Mrs. C. F. Andrews; Mrs. T. R. Clark; Mrs. Bethel Revels.

School board minutes of June 15, 1931, show these teachers appointed: Annie Fogg, Principal; Mrs. C. F. Andrew; Mrs. Susie Clark; Mrs. Bethel Revels.

School board minutes from July 15, 1932, show these teachers appointed: Mrs. Annie Fogg. Mrs. C. F. Andrews, Mrs. Susie Clark, Mrs. Bethel Revels.

School board minutes from July 5, 1934, show that James Ward awarded bid on Trilby School for $8731.73 and Lacoochee School for $6539.45. McCormick has “1934 Lacoochee School built.”

School board minutes of May 6, 1935, show these teachers appointed: Mark St. Clair (Principal), Mrs. Frances Ferrell, Mrs. Dorothy Browning, Miss Hazel Moreland, Mrs. C. F. Andrews, Miss Frances Gladden, Mrs. Susie Clark, Mrs. Alice St. Clair.

On Aug. 5, 1935, minutes show Miss Mozelle Miller appointed to teach sixth grade at a salary of $30.00 per month, and Ella Dayton appointed music teacher at Trilby and Lacoochee.

School board minutes of June 4, 1936, show the board confirmed teachers recommended by the Trustees of Lacoochee School: Mr. Mark St. Clair, Principal and teacher of ninth grade; Mrs. Alice St. Clair, Primary teacher; Mrs. Susie Clark, teacher of second grade; Miss Frances Gladden, teacher of third grade; Fourth and Sixth grades not filled; Mrs. C. F. Andrews, teacher of fifth grade; Miss Lois Hancock, teacher of seventh grade; Mrs. Frances Ferret 1, teacher of eighth grade. On Sept. 8 the Board appointed Mrs. Starr Cox.

Back Row: Mark St. Clair (principal), Mrs. Starr M. Cox, Agnes Williams, Dick Scally. Sitting: Mary Spearman, Leona Sable, Agatha Andrews, Sue Marie Hyatt, Alice St. Clair, Margaret Mickler. Picture courtesy of Anita Chesser Webb.

On May 19, 1937, these appointments were made: Mark St. Clair, Principal; Frances Ferrell; Lois Hancock; Mrs. Starr M. Cox; Agatha Andrews; Susie Clark; Alice St. Clair; Agnes Williams.

On June 4, 1937, the Zephyrhills News reported, “. . .on Thursday night of this week, the Junior High at Lacoochee granted diplomas to a class of 26 pupils.”

On May 20, 1938, the Dade City Banner reported, “On Friday night, May 20, a class of eleven graduates will receive diplomas from Lacoochee Junior High school. Class honors to go Miss Iris Thompson, valedictorian, and to Miss Irene Milton, salutatorian.”

On June 6, 1938, minutes show these appointments: Mr. Mark St. Clair, Principal; Mrs. Frances Ferrell; Miss Lois Hancock; Mrs. Star M. Cox; Mrs. Agatha Andrews; Miss Margaret Mickler; Miss Mary Spearman; Mrs. Leona Sable; Mrs. Alice St. Clair; Mrs. Agnes Williams, Music; Mr. D. E. Roberts, Janitor; Mr. J. B. Ferrell, Transporter. On Aug. 15, Miss Alice Caroline Lee was appointed a teacher.

On May 15, 1939, these teachers were appointed: Mark St. Clair, Principal; Agatha Andrews; Mrs. Starr M. Cox; Mary Spearman; Sue Marie Hyatt; Margaret Mickler; Alice Lee; Leona Sable; Alice St. Clair; Agnes Williams, Music. On July 17, Jarman R. Scally and D. E. Roberts were appointed.

On Sept. 4, 1940, Helen Hancock was appointed as a teacher.

Artie Mims Taylor, who started school in Lacoochee in 1943, recalled, “We were living in our first house in Lacoochee about a mile from Lacoochee Elementary when I entered school. Our Mother would walk with us to school each day. At Lacoochee School there were four buildings at that time, the first grade building, one that housed 2nd to 5th grades, one that housed 6th to 9th and one held an auditorium. The lunch room behind the first grade building. Later the school only went to the 6th grade. Mary went through the 9th grade there but I only went through to 6th grade there. After the 6th grade we were bused to Dade City.”

Appointments on April 7, 1941: Lacoochee, District # 12: Mark St. Clair, Principal and ninth grade; Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Eighth grade; Mrs. Starr M. Cox, Seventh grade; Miss Margaret Mickler, Sixth grade; Miss Helen Hancock, Fifth grade; Mrs. Esther Reinke, Fourth grade; Miss Sue Marie Hyatt, Third grade; Mrs. Leona Sable, Second grade; Mrs. Alice St. Clair, First grade; Miss Pauline Morrow, Music; D. E. Roberts and Mrs. Ollie Hayes, Janitors. On Sept. 2, Inez Miller was appointed as a teacher.

Appointments on March 16, 1942: Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Mrs. Starr M. Cox, Miss Helen Hancock, Miss Sue Marie Hyatt, Miss Margaret Mickler, Miss Pauline Morrow, Mrs. Leona Sable, Mrs. Alice St. Clair, Mrs. Esther Reinke, R. D. Sanderson, Janitor.

Appointments on April 19, 1943: Margaret Mickler, Sue Marie Hyatt, Pauline M. May, Esther Reinke, Leona Sable, Alice St. Clair, Agatha Andrews, Mrs. Starr M. Cox, Zerue Hancock. On June 7, 1943, Lula B. Bucklin and Ruth Giddens were appointed. On Aug. 2, 1943, Myra O’Berry appointed as teacher was appointed.

On April 17, 1944, these teachers were appointed: Agatha Andrews, Lula B. Bucklin, Ruth Giddens, Zerue Hancock, Myra O’Berry, Leona Sable, Alice M. St. Clair, Esther R. Reinke.

On May 24, 1944, the Tampa Morning Tribune reported, “Lacoochee junior high school’s graduation exercises will be held Thursday night. Members of the class are Marie Agner, Imogene Boyett, Dorothy Justice, James M___nn, Jimmy Mahaffey, Riley Mills, Harry Milton, Mary Florence Mullins, Charlie O’Berry, Lorena Schrenk, Christine South, Marjorie Spivey, Ronald Stanley, Norma Thompson, Bobbie Mae Whitner.”

On Aug. 21, 1944, Mrs. J. P. Hill and H. B. Wilkes were appointed to Lacoochee Junior High.

On April 17, 1945, these teachers were appointed: Mark St. Clair (Principal), Agatha Andrews, Zerue Hancock, Myra O’Berry, Emma L. Hill, Esther R. Reinke, Alice M. St. Clair.

On Aug. 20, 1946, Helen Frances Wise was appointed.

On April 21, 1947, these teachers were appointed: Mark St. Clair (Principal), Agatha Andrews, Esther Reinke, Zerue Hancock, Helen Frances Wise, Myra O’Berry, Alice St. Clair.

On May 5, 1947, these teachers were appointed to Lacoochee Jr. High: Agatha Andrews, Helen Frances Wise, Esther Reinke, Myra O’Berry, Zerue Hancock, Alice St. Clair. On Aug. 21, 1947: J. M. Dukes, Janitor; Frances M. Rogers; Mrs. Marion Sedwick.

On Oct. 20, 1947, these teachers were appointed to Lacoochee Jr. High: Mrs. Mary Brinson, Mrs. Dorothy S. Richardson.

On May 6, 1948, these teachers were appointed to Lacoochee Jr. High: Agatha Andrews, Esther Reinke, Zerue Hancock, Alice St. Clair, Myra O’Berry, Helen Wise, Dorothy S. Richardson.

On Sept. 7, 1948: Mrs. Mary Brinson, Mrs. Marion Sedwick, Mrs. Margaret Hawk.

On Dec. 20, 1948, the Board accepted the resignation of Mark St. Clair, Principal of Lacoochee, effective January 1, 1949. Malcolm E. Goforth was appointed Principal of Lacoochee.

On April 4, 1949, Agatha Andrews was appointed principal.

These appointments on May 2, 1949: Esther Reinke, Zerue Hancock, Edna O’Berry.

On June 6, 1949, teachers appointed: Mrs. Adell Bird, Joseph Bird, James S. Garrett. On July 5, 1949, Miss Jean Edscorn. On July 18, 1949, Nina Leonard.

On April 4, 1949, Mrs. Agatha Andrews was appointed principal.

Randall Belcher, who would later become Principal of Lacoochee Elementary and Woodland Elementary School, began working as a teacher at Lacoochee Elementary School on Jan. 10, 1967. He became Principal at Lacoochee in 1969 according to a 2006 St. Petersburg Times article. He worked for the school district until he retired in 2006.

The Lacoochee 1st grade building, now at the Pioneer Florida Museum. A second building housed grades 2-6, and a third building housed grades 7-9 and an auditorium and office. Photo courtesy of J. W. Hunnicutt.

A new Lacoochee Elementary School opened in the fall of 1971 with an enrollment of 355.

On Aug. 19, 1971, the Dade City Banner reported:

Next Monday, August 23rd, elementary school teachers of Lacoochee will report for another nine months of instructing, and on September 7th, children, from kindergarten age through the 6th grade, will get the first orientation of their new school building.

Pasco School Superintendent, Chester W. Taylor and School Board members. Jay B. Starkey and Leon E. Milton have inspected the new block structure which will accommodate approximately 520 students during the 1971-72 term.

Principal Randall Belcher announced that the school will be a vast improvement over the rambling and decaying building formerly used for so many years.

Construction Superintendent for Thompson Brothers Construction Company of Leesburg is putting in the final installations of the project that costs $420,000.00.

The Lacoochee School is almost a duplicate in service and design of the Northside Elementary School of Brooksville, offering facilities for about 50 kindergarten students, and plans are to provide self-contained outside units for an additional 40 migrant-family kindergarten groups, while those in advance classes will enjoy the modern open-classroom concept.

According to the web site of the Pioneer Florida Museum, the old Lacoochee School “was acquired in 1976, only a few weeks before it was scheduled to be torn down. Although built in the 1930’s as a part of a complex of frame school buildings and used as a first grade building, the structure is architecturally typical of the one room school houses of an earlier period. The school has been restored and furnished in the style of the one room schools prevalent in Pioneer Florida.”

On March 21, 2016, a Tampa Bay Times article reported that Lacoochee Elementary School was built for 579 students and was well below capacity. Superintendent of Schools Kurt Browning expected enrollment to be at 280 by the end of the school year. Browning said that the school serves as a focal point for the community and that he had no desire or plan to shut down the school.

In October 2018 school district officials proposed closing Lacoochee Elementary School at the end of the school year. However, on a 3-2 vote on Dec. 18, 2018, the school board rejected the proposal.

Lacoochee Elementary School, Tampa Bay Times photo published in 2018.


1926 Mrs. F. O. Revels
1927-33 Mrs. Annie Fogg
1934-49 Mark St. Clair
1949-70 Mrs. Agatha Andrews
1970-85 Randall Belcher
1985-93 Renee Sedlack
1993-97 Charles R. Rine
1997-04 Ky Grand
2004-10 A. Karen (Addie) Marler
2010-2013 Shirley Ray
2013- Latoya Jordan

Here is a series of columns about the Lacoochee School by Lorise Abraham which appeared in the Dade City Banner in 1971 under the title “Lorise’s Corner.”

July 29, 1971

It’s “Down Memory Lane” time for this “Corner” with some very good reminiscing from former Lacoochee students. The first one to reply to my request was Wayne Groover, son of Josh and Alice Groover of Dade City. Wayne is making a very fine teacher himself over in Orlando. His letter was so good that I haven’t touched a word of it. Am going to share it with you just as Wayne wrote it. And, Wayne, thanks a lot for bringing back some mighty wonderful memories. I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one who reads it and weeps! Here goes:

It will be easy to list fond memories of the Lacoochee school. The difficulty will be in limiting them.

The best approach for my reflection is one of a personal nature. If you wish to use any of my thoughts, you may, if not, you will at least realize that others share a love of the school with you.

My first grade teacher was marvelous. She made education come alive. The methods educators praise today, my teacher, Miss Jean Edscorn, was practicing twenty two year ago. She made each child feel important, and each of us successfully completed some school work each day.

Mrs. Brinson was my second grade teacher. Every morning I looked forward to her pleasant voice and her understanding manner. I remember her singing “The little Red Caboose.” The arrival and departure of the Caboose were controlled by her voice.

It was during this year that the Lacoochee Fire Dept. was called to the school to stop the black smoke that poured from the third grade classroom. The fire started before school and we watched from the playground and shivered partly from cold and fear. The damage was not extensive. Mrs. Brinson talked to us about safety and we discussed all types of fire hazards.

Year number three was spent with the wonderful, Mrs. Hancock. She had a twinkle in her eyes and could read stories better than anyone. I think of her often, and her smiling face, and I almost hear those stories.

Mrs. Rose Reid was teacher number four. She read the Bible every day, and she could quote more scripture than any other two people I knew. She listened to any verse we committed to memory and encouraged all of us to memorize Bible verses and poems.

My fifth grade teacher was Mrs. Hancock. She was the same find lady as before during the third grade. Each year as I read Huckleberry Finn to my sixth grade students I think about Mrs. Hancock. She made each of us feel as if she were reading directly to us. That was one of Mrs. Hancock’s special talents.

Grade six was only half a year because we moved to Dade City. My teacher in Lacoochee was Mrs. Rodney Cox. She was firm, but fair. She was pretty (still is) and we learned many interesting things. The day we moved she graciously consented to have her picture made. (I just checked my picture file and I have that Picture. It was in an envelope labeled friends). During my elementary years my principal was Mrs. C. F. Andrews. This great lady had the gift of making any task seem important. Once, in her special way, she asked me to ring the bell for dismissal. I felt as if I had been asked to ring the chimes of Notre Dame in Paris.

These are merely a few of the reasons why I remember the years at Lacoochee School with admiration and nostalgia.

Wayne L. Groover.

And, Wayne, I remember too but many many years before your day. Mrs. C. F. Andrews was there then, having her students learn as nobody else could. I shall always remember her saying, “Can’t never could do anything” every time I protested that I could not do Algebra. She refused to accept that statement and I am grateful for that because she taught me Algebra in spite of myself! Mrs. Andrews has had so many students that I think it would be impossible for her to remember us all and the details that we can recall so easily. I do remember that she made me feel special too and that she had more faith in my ability to learn than I did! The best thing that can happen to a student is for his or her teacher to have faith in them. Mrs. Andrews did. I would sooner have died than to disappoint her so by golly, I learned!

Prof. St. Clair was principal in my day and everybody, just everybody loved that man, even when he had to reprimand us. Now, it really takes a special talent to have students love you even when you’ve been forced to give them a licking or a lecture!. Prof made learning so much fun and he always brought humor into the classroom with him.

Just thought I’d throw in a few of my memories at this time too. All of them are good though and I know you will never meet a Lacoochee person who didn’t love going to school there! There’s more coming up so keep reading and if you haven’t added your thoughts, then please do. If you don’t like to write, then call me at 567-3939 at night and I’ll put them in writing myself. Later, too, a list of each teacher who every taught there and the years they taught.

The next letter came from good friend Hazel Brannen in Lacoochee. When I read it to Mom and Dad, they too had a few tears to wipe away. See if it doesn’t have the same reaction on you. and I quote:

I started school in Lacoochee in 1929. Mrs. Fred Revels was my teacher, it was first grade. The bell rang and we lined up by the front steps and marched in. I didn’t notice the room was small, to me it was grand. The alphabet was printed on the blackboard, capital and small letters. Mrs. Revels stood with a yard stick and pointed each one out and we learned their names and sound. Soon we were given a reading book, “The Baby Ray Book”. It wasn’t long before I could read it while looking or with it closed (you see, I had memorized it). This was the time I had my first problem in school. For some unknown reason I was afraid of the teacher and every day we had to take our book up to her desk and read aloud to her. I discovered one day that the next day’s page in my book was torn. I was so scared, I just knew the teacher would paddle me for tearing the book. So, I told my Mama that I didn’t feel like going to school that day, I had a stomach ache Now my Mama was a firm believer in castor oil that she purchased at Abe’s drug store. In her book it would cure almost anything so I got a dose of castor oil for a stomach ache I really didn’t have! The next morning I went to school confident that my crisis was over but it seemed the day I stayed home, Mrs. Revels read a story to the class and I still had to go up and read from the book with the torn page. Mrs. Revels was sweet and let me read from her book “Baby Ray has three ducks. The ducks are yellow. Baby Ray loves the little ducks. The little ducks love Baby Ray.” The next year I went to second grade. Mrs. Susie Clark was the teacher. She was a kind woman with a sweet disposition and a kind voice. I also got a reading book in her class so it seems I was bound for trouble again. One day the class was real noisy and Mrs. Clark said, “The first one out of their seats before school lets out will get a paddling” (teachers used a paddle then). We were told to study our reading book. I began to study but soon there was a word I didn’t know so I started for teacher’s desk. All at once I knew I was in real trouble so I thought real fast. I walked boldly up to teacher and said, “Mrs. Clark, I think I see my Mother outside waiting to pick me up.” (We didn’t have a car at that time and, if we had my Mother would never have driven it because she is now 87 years old and has yet to drive a car.) Mrs. Clark, bless her, said, “Go and see if it is your mother. If it is, you may get your book and go.” Well, you better believe I looked quick, got my book and walked slowly home. I was six years old at the time.

Next was third grade and Mrs. Agatha Andrews was teacher. She was nice and I learned my lessons well in her class in more ways than one. She was the first and only teacher that almost paddled me. I can tell you, she made me a believer! It was this way. One of my classmates, Leslie, passed me a note and I passed one back. Teacher caught us. First she read the notes aloud and then asked us to stay in at recess. We stayed but Mrs. Andrews didn’t come in. After recess she apologized for forgetting us. (I know now this was part of our punishment). Then she asked us to remain a few minutes at lunch time. I was scared, all this waiting was killing me. But I was destined to wait a little longer. We were forgotten at lunch time too! Right after lunch when we marched in, she called us up front and said she would just go ahead and punish us. I was sweating and my hands were clammy and I am sure I was pale. Teacher asked Leslie how many spanks with the paddle it would take to make him remember not to write anymore notes. Leslie said, “None” but he got a paddling anyway. Then she asked me and I sure knew I better give a better answer than he had so I said, “Four licks.” She looked at me and said she thought I’d been punished enough and sent me to my seat. I was real glad to go and, as I said before, from then on all the way through school, I was a believer and tried to stay out of trouble.

My next teacher was Mrs. Annie Fogg, this was fourth and fifth grades. Mrs. Annie was a smart teacher, really I think she must have written the first book on psychology. Mrs. Annie used it on all her pupils. A wonderful teacher, no favorites, every child was special to her. [More on Mrs. Fogg is here.] I made a very good friend also in 5th grade, I haven’t seen her since but lots of times I think of her and wonder where she is. Her name was Mary Beagle. We shared our lunch sometime and she always had some home cured ham or bacon, a baked sweet potato with butter, to share with my peanut butter and jelly and perhaps boiled eggs. Good days all of them.

[Charles Blankenship provides this information: Mary Beagles (1924-2004), daughter of Sophronia O’Berry and Thomas C. Beagles, was a niece of Mrs. Annie Fogg. Her siblings were Thomas Ules O’Berry and Kenneth O’Berry. Mary married Henry Lee. According to Laura Beagles, Mary Beagles Lee taught at a Brooksville school and at Richey Elementary School.]

Then came 6th grade and the new building and now we would have classes one through nine in Lacoochee instead of one through five. I looked on the new building with mixed emotions: joy, sadness, and pride. Joyful because I would still go to school in Lacoochee. Sad because I had hoped to go out of Lacoochee for school. Proud because we had this nice new building in Lacoochee.

Mrs. Jacobs was my 6th grade teacher. I remember her as being very pretty. Next came 7th grade and Mrs. Browning teacher. To me she was all a teacher could be. Next, the 8th grade, Mrs. Julius Ferrell was home room teacher and Mr. Mark St. Clair was science teacher. Ninth grade was Mr. St. Clair for home room teacher and Mrs. Ferrell taught Algebra. Never has there been 2 better teachers. Mrs. Ferrell knew math backwards and forwards, if I didn’t learn much, it surely was not her fault. Mr. St. Clair made science and literature come alive. Wonderful years in my life. During these years, especially the first 5 years, Mrs. Hughey O’Quinn was a substitute teacher and we all loved her. She was a good teacher, pleasant, kind, and always smiling. Just being her own sweet self and, you know something, she is still the same. Want a pleasant good morning and a smile? Visit Mrs. O’Quinn in the grocery store right here in Lacoochee.

After we got the new building with classes one through nine, we had a music teacher. Mrs. O. L. Dayton, Sr. With a lot of patience she taught us to sing. “The Blue Danube, Seeing Nellie Home and many more.” Next, we had Miss Agnes Williams. Miss Williams promoted many plays and operettas that we all enjoyed very much.

All of this brings memories to life that I thought were forgotten but there is one I’m sure I won’t forget. The year I was in 6th grade, sometimes high school kids, going to Dade City school, would visit our school. Seems if you maintained a good daily average you were exempt from monthly tests so, if they skipped tests, they visited our school. Well, there was a certain young man that had a girl in the 9th grade. I knew him so every time he came to visit, I would run by and pick at him. You know, slap him on the arm and run. He’d grab my arm and smile and say, “Quit that, youngun!” And, of course, I’d do it again. I really had a crush on him (I must have been eleven). But a few years later, I suddenly grew up and, you know something, he got a crush on me! We have been married 31 years this September and he still calls me “Youngun” sometimes and I like it.

Both of my children, William and Fred, Jr., went to school in Lacoochee and this year my first grandchild, Regina Lynn Brannen, went to school there too. Precious memories in this time of life also.

The old school will soon be no more but I still have my memories. Hearing the old bell ring, the teacher saying, “Turn, Rise, Pass” and we marched out to form a straight line near the steps and teacher said, “Dismissed.” Pictures we’d made of Santa Claus and Bunny Rabbits displayed on the window panes and black boards. Being chosen to dust erasers, wash the blackboard or maybe asked to ring the bell, was sheer heaven, no one could ask for more.

Great class mates and devoted teachers and I loved them all. Yes, soon the buildings will fall but now I need a hankie because all this makes something else fall ….. TEARS!

All I have to add to what Hazel has written is “Amen!” See you next week.

Aug. 5, 1971

It never ceases to amaze me Just how many people (other than Lacoochee people) tell me they enjoy reading the recollections about Lacoochee in this column. I have had several former Dade City school students tell me that they wished I would do a similar series on Dade City schools, in days gone by. Sounds interesting to me and, if time permits, I just might do that, since it looks like everyone enjoys remembering their “good old days.” This week’s mail brought another letter, this one was signed “Anonymous” but nothing in the world could have kept me from knowing its writer, who was and still is (I hope) one of the very best friends I ever had. It is a beautiful letter and it is my pleasure to share it with you:

Souvenirs embitter our lives, only fools keep them.” I can’t remember where I heard that, but in a way it’s true. I used to keep souvenirs but I don’t anymore, still there’s a few left, like the invitation that says, “Let’s go see Lum and Abner Friday night” signed Prof. That was Prof. St. Clair’s graduation gift to the ninth grade. We all went and had a grand time. Now memories are something else – you can’t throw them out. I have a lot of them, some good, some bad, but all of them a part of growing up. I remember all of my Lacoochee teachers. Mrs. Revels was my first grade teacher and we read Baby Ray books Mrs. Clark was my second and third. I believe it was a combined grade. Miss Gladden was fourth. Mrs. Andrews fifth and then my favorite of all teachers, Mrs. Cox, sixth and seventh. Mrs. Reinke eighth and Prof. ninth.

When I first started school in Lacoochee there was only one building and only five grades. One of my earliest memories and biggest thrills was being asked to ring the bell. This was done by pulling a rope that hung down in the center of the hall. At first I needed a little help, since the bell weighed almost as much as I did and about all I accomplished was a swing on the rope, but as I grew the bell became smaller and I never ceased to be thrilled when the teacher would ask me if I would please ring the bell.

I remember just about all the kids I went to school with and all the boys I was in love with at one time or other.

When I first started school there, instead of a gate, we had a stile (steps that went up over the fence) this was great for all kinds of games and a good place to eat your lunch.

We didn’t get to school by bus, we walked. We also walked home for lunch, unless we carried it with us. I remember in the ninth grade our first class after lunch was Algebra. I hated it … so about three of us girls decided to be late every day and miss about half the class This worked fine for almost a week and then instead of waiting for us to get there. Prof. met us. I can’t remember if one single word was said but when we were ushered into class that day, we knew we’d better quicken our steps in the future. I don’t believe we were ever late again.

I also remember the time in Science class when Thurmon Harper was telling about some experiment he was about to embark upon and Prof asked if he’d like to shake hands with everybody before he left; and he said “Only with the boys, the girls can kiss me goodbye.” When Prof stepped out of the room, about six of us decided we’d do just that We covered his face with lipstick. Prof. came back in, took one look at Thurmon and gave us a week’s detention. Thurmon pleaded our case gallantly, but we still had a week’s detention… but he got off scott free cause he was just a victim of circumstances.

Mrs. Starr M. Cox, a wonderful lady that I still think of very often Of all my teachers, she was special. Maybe it was because she gave more of herself than was absolutely necessary. Maybe it was because she made me feel a little special myself, but whatever it was, it has remained with me over the years. She tried hard to make little ladies and gentlemen of us. She believed in good manners, always practiced them herself, and expected the same from us. She was also a great one for correct grammar. In her room, we had what was referred to as a “Mistake Box.” When any of us made a mistake in our speech, it was written down and put in the box , then each Friday, the box was opened the mistake read in front of the class and we were asked to correct it, which we usually did, but let me tell you, some real doozies came out of that old box!

I think of the kids I knew and how close we were. I’ve lost track of most of them, but I still remember Charlotte Curry, Mary and Jimmy Mahaffey, Carl Crumpler, Phyllis Spradley, Jack Carlton Nell Berkstresser, Gene Ferrell, Tommy and Jeanette Abraham, Harold Little, Billy Hayes Dorothy McClamma, Rudolph Crawford, Jeanette and Edith McElveen, Edith Jenkins, Aldora Hyatt, George Kilpatrick, Lonse Abraham, Lawrence Cox, and so many, many more. I now have a fourteen year old daughter of my own and the very best that I could wish for her would be the fun, the happiness, the closeness of the teachers and pupils and the good times and bad that we shared in that old school in Lacoochee.

Signed Anonymous

So many people have mentioned ringing that bell. It made a mark on all our lives so I think it only fitting to tell in this column what will happen to that bell when the school closes. Mr. William David Mobley (who has taught school over there so many years and is busy now transferring to the new building) tells me that the bell will be mounted on a special dolly and enjoy a place of distinction and prominence in the new facility. So the old bell will still be around for kids to look at and remember with love, for many years to come.

It’s tribute time. I’m going to attempt to list every teacher who taught in Lacoochee. I am able to do this because of the kind help given me by Mr. Wynn O’Berry, William David Mobley and a fine young man named Anthony Hayes (Anthony is from Lacoochee and a graduate of Pasco High School and he took his own time out to help me run down some of these teachers’ names and I really do appreciate it). Many thanks to Wynn, David and Anthony!!!

1926: Mrs. F. O. Revels, Miss Emma Lee Smith, Mrs. Frances Ferrell, Miss Laura Croft.

1927: Mrs. Annie Fogg (Principal), Mrs. Lizzie Mickler, Mrs. Frances Ferrell, Mrs. Ivah Mulvaney.

1928-29: Mrs. Annie Fogg, Frances Ferrell, Bethel Revels, Lizzie Mickler, Ivah Mulvaney, Cora Mickler.

1929-30: Mrs. Annie Fogg, Mrs. C. F. Andrews, Mrs. Lena Crum, Mrs. F. O. Revels.

1930-31: Mrs. Annie Fogg, Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Mrs. T. R. Clark, Mrs. Bethel Revels.

1932: Mrs. Annie Fogg, Mrs. C. F. Andrews, Mrs. Susie Clark, Mrs. Bethel Revels

1933: Mrs. Annie Fogg, Pauline Eiland, Mrs. Susie dark, Mrs. Bethel Revels.

1934: Mark St. Clair, Principal, Frances Ferrell, Dorothy Browning, Mrs. C. F. Andrews, Mildred Stevens, Susie Clark, Bethel Revels.

1935: Mark St. Clair, Mrs. Frances Ferrell, Mrs. Dorothy Browning, Miss Lots Hancock, Mrs. C. F. Andrews, Miss Frances Gladden, Mrs. Susie Clark, Mrs. Alice St. Clair.

1936: Mark St. Clair, Principal and teacher of 9th grade, Mrs. Alice St. Clair, primary teacher, Mrs. Susie Clark, 2nd grade. Miss Frances Gladden, 3rd grade, Mrs. C. F. Andrews, 5th grade. Miss Lois Hancock, 7th grade, Mrs. Frances Ferrell, 8th grade

1937: Mark St. Clair, Mrs. Frances Ferrell, Miss Lois Hancock, Mrs. Starr M. Cox, Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Mrs. Susie Clark, Mrs. Leona Sable, Miss Margaret Mickler.

1938: Mark St. Clair, Mrs. Frances Ferrell, Miss Lois Hancock, Mrs. Starr M. Cox, Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Miss Margaret Mickler, Miss Mary Spearman. Mrs. Leona Sable, Mrs. Alice St. Clair, Miss Agnes Williams, Music.

1939: Mark St. Clair, Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Mrs. Starr M. Cox, Mary Spearman, Sue Marie Hyatt, Margaret Mickler, Alice Lee, Leona Sable, Alice St. Clair, Agnes Williams.

1940 Mark St. Clair, Mrs. Starr M. Cox, Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Miss Josephine Coleman, Miss Sue Marie Hyatt, Mrs. Leona Sable, Mrs. Alice St. Clair, Miss Margaret Mickler.

1941: Mark St. Clair, Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Mrs. Starr M. Cox, Miss Margaret Mickler, Miss Helen Hancock, Mrs. Esther Reinke, Miss Sue Marie Hyatt, Mrs. Leona Sable, Miss Pauline Morrow.

1942-43 Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Mrs. Starr Cox, Miss Helen Hancock Miss Sue Marie Hyatt, Miss Margaret Mickler, Miss Pauline Morrow Mrs. Leona Sable, Mrs. Alice St. Clair, Mrs. Esther Rinke.

1943-44: Mr. Mark St. Clair, Mrs. Alice St. Clair Lula Belle Eaddy Bucklin, Zerue Hancock, Myra O’Berry, Esther Reinke, Leona Sable Agatha Andrews, Ruth Giddens.

1944-45: Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Lula B. Bucklin, Ruth Gidden, Zerue Hancock, Myra O’Berry, Leona Sable. Alice St. Clair, Esther

1945-46: Mark St. Clair, Alice St. Clair, Agatha Andrews, Leona Sable, Zerue Hancock, Myra O’Berry, Esther Reinke, Marion Sedwick, Mrs. H. B. Wilks.

1946-47: Mr. Mark St. Clair, Alice St. Clair, Agatha Andrews, Leona Sable, Frances Rogers, Esther Reinke, Zerue Hancock, Myra O’Berry, Helen Wise, Marion Sedwick.

1947-48: Mark St. Clair, Alice St. Clair, Esther Reinke, Helen Wise Myra O’Berry, Mary Brinson, Agatha Andrews, Marion Sedwick, Dorothy Richardson, Zerue Hancock, Frances Rogers.

1948-49: Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Esther Reinke, Alice St. Clair, Helen Wise, Zerue Hancock, Myra O’Berry, Dorothy S. Richardson.

1949-50: Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Principal, Joseph S. Bird, Aden W Bird Mary Brinson, Jean Edscorn, Zerue Hancock, Nina Leonard, Edna O’Berry, Esther Reinke, Elizabeth Scoville, Marion Sedwick.

Next week will take us on up to the last year that particular school was in operation. Looking over the years, it looks to me as though Mrs. Agatha Andrews taught there longer than anyone else on record and was principal longer too. To me, that record deserves a “Hats Off” salute to Mrs. Andrews!!!

After having written twice that he was coming here, friend Tommy Wang finally drove in the other day in a brand new Jeepster with all the trimmings. He had taken his time driving down from Mary and so was a few days late getting here. Tommy has been visiting old friends in this area so I hope the ones who came by here to see him will get to before he takes off again. Tommy especially enjoyed a visit, in Lakeland, with Miss Nina Percival. Now, there is a teacher for you! So many of her former pupils have asked me to do a column on her and I would just love to. Anyone got something special to commemorate her many good years of teaching let me hear it from you!!!

August 12, 1971

A little more about the bell at the Lacoochee school. Had a call from Margaret Mickler Hawk this week and she told me that bell was given to the school by her Grandmother, Mrs. Lizzie Mickler in 1927. Among those who helped install it was Silas Hagood. Margaret was pleased to learn the bell was being moved to the new school, as was everyone else.

Also had a call from Mary Strickland Philpot in Lacoochee. Mary wanted to know why I failed to mention the old wood heaters and the lunch room over there. Just an oversight, Mary, that’s all. I remember when the lunch room opened everyone thought that was really “up town” to be able to eat at school and to be asked to work in the lunch room was the epitome of honors!

Mary also reminded me that Kate Mullins was the one who started 4-H club activities for girls in Lacoochee. Kate stayed with that long after her own girls were out of school and there couldn’t have been a better person in charge either. I guess another record of public service was held by my own Mom. She was treasurer for the PTA over there for many, many years. Even Mom has forgotten how many. The reason for that was because if Prof. needed the Treasurer, he could always find Mom in the store, therefore bills were paid promptly without too much hassle locating the treasurer.

Now to finish listing the teachers:

1950-51: Mark St. Clair, Principal; Mrs. Zerue Hancock, 4; Helen Jackson, 3 & 4; Willard H. Brown, 1; Jean Edscorn, 1; Esther Reinke, 6; Adell W. Bird, 5; Carolyn Douglas, 3; Henry C. Strait, 7 & Music; Eddie Szaro 7 & PE; Mary Brinson, 2.

1951-52: Agatha Andrews, Principal; Adell Bird, 5 & Music; Mary Brinson, 2; Carolyn Douglas, 4 & 5; Miss Helen Jackson, 4; Zerue Hancock, 3; Mary M. Fullwood, 1; Esther Reinke, 6; Marion Sedwick, 1 & 2.

1952-53: Agatha Andrews, Principal; Mary Brinson, 1 & 2; Zerue Hancock, 5; Janet H. Hilbert, 2 & 3; Pat Laurie, 3; Johnnie R. Reid, 4; Esther Reinke, 6; Marion Sedwick, 1; Helen J. Clawson, 6; Eddie Szaro, 7 & PE.; George Wells, 2.

1953-54: Agatha Andrews, Principal: Marian Sedwick, 1; Georgia M. Wells, 2; Carolyn Douglas, 6; Zerue Hancock, 5; Patricia Laurie, 3; J. Rose Reid, 4; Omaleah Graves, 3 & 4; Mary Brinson, 1 & 2.

1954-55: Agatha Andrews, Principal; Mary Brinson, 2; Patricia Nadine Chafous, 3 & 4; Betty Webb Cox, 6; Zerue Hancock, 5; Johnnie Rose Reid, 4; Marian Sedwick, 1; Henry C. Strait, 7 & Music; Eddie Szaro, 7 & PE.; Iris Talbert, 2 & 1; Georgia Wells, 3.

1955-56: Agatha Andrews, Principal; Dorothy J. Brown, 4 & 5; Georgia Wells, 3: Zerue Hancock, 5; Eddie Szaro 7 & PE.; A. E. Ross, 6; Iris Talbert, 1 & 2; Mary Brinson, 2 & 3; Annette Bucholtz, 3 & 4; Ethel Lease, 4 & Art; Bernice Fehelberg, 4: Marvin Stocks, 6;

1957-58: Agatha Andrews, Principal; R. E. Bell, 2; Katherine Hayes Goodson, 2; Marion Sedwick. 1; Mary E. Binson, 2 & 3; Georgia Wells 3; Ethel Lease, 4 & 5; Bernice Fehelberg, 4 & 5 ; Zerue Hancock, 5; Eldon J. Smith, 6; Eddie Szaro 7 & PE; Marguerite Goetz, 3 & 4.

1958-59; Agatha Andrews, Principal; Margaret Evans, 4 & 5; Eddie Szaro, 7 & PE; Katherine Goodson, 6: Marion Sedwick, 1; Georgia M. Wells, 3; Zerue Hancock, 5; Mary E. Brinson, 2. In the lunch room that year were Harriet Carrington and Ellen Wiggins.

1959-60: Agatha Andrews, Principal; William David Mobley, 6; Eddie Szaro, 7; Zerue Hancock, 5; Marguerite Goetz, 2; Mary Brinson, 3; Georgia Wells, 4; Anna Campbell, 4 & 5; Ann Harris, 1.

1960-61: Agatha Andrews, Principal; Eddie Szaro, 7 & PE; David Mobley, 7, Music & Art; Jerry Keisling, 6; Betty Ruth Dean, 5; Anna B. Campbell, 4; George L. Sarver, Jr., 3 & 4; Mary Brinson, 2 & 3; Marguerite Goetz, 2; Georgia Wells, 1.

1961-62: Agatha Andrews, Principal; Robert Neighbour, 5: Mary E. Brinson, 2 & 3; Eddie Szaro, 7 & PE; Marguerite Goetz, 2; Jerry Keisling 6; Gertrude Neighbour, 2; Anna D. Campbell, 4; Georgia Wells, 1; David Mobley, 7, Music & Art.

1962-63: Agatha Andrews, Principal; David Mobley, 7. Art & Music; Marguerite Goetz, 2; Georgia Wells, 1; Jerry Keisling, 6; Anna D. Campbell, 4; Mary E. Brinson, 3; Eddie Szaro, 7 & PE; Merle Coumbs, 5.

1963-64 Agatha Andrews, Principal; Imogene Crosby, 1; Jerry Keisling, 6 Eddie Szaro, 7 & PE; David Mobley, 5 & Art; Anna D. Campbell, 4 Mary Brinson, 2; Elizabeth McClure, 4; Freda Holt, 4.

1964-65 Agatha Andrews, Principal; Imogene Crosby, 1; Mary E. Brinson, 2; Anna D. Campbell, 3; Mary Averitt, 4; David Mobley, 5 & Art; Joan Barrentine, 6; Eddie Szaro, 7 & PE.

1965-66: Agatha Andrews, Principal: David Mobley, Art; Imogene Crosby, 1; Mary E. Brinson, 2; Anna D. Campbell, 3; Cynthia Edna Roberts, 3; Leonard Cimador, 5; Rebecca F. Mucci, 4 & Music; A.C. Tompkins, 6: Eddie Szaro, 7 & PE.

1966-67: Agatha Andrews, Principal; David Mobley, 7, Music & Art; Imogene Crosby, 1; Mary E. Brinson, 2; Elizabeth McClure, 4; James Collins, 3; Helen Richardson, 4; A.C. Thompkins, 5; Randall Belcher, 6; Effie Davis, 6; Eddie Szaro, 7 & PE.

1967-68: Agatha Andrews, Principal; David Mobley, 7, Music & Art; Imogene Crosby, 1; Mary E. Brinson, 2; Elizabeth McClure, 4; Katherine Goodson, 3; A. C. Tompkins, 5; Randall Belcher, 6; Eddie Szaro, 7 & PE.

1968-69: Agatha Andrews, Principal; Randall Belcher, 6; Kenneth M. Brown, 4; Elizabeth McClure, 2; Imogene Crosby, 1; Peggy Johnston, 3; Autrey Tompkins, 5; Eddie Szaro, 7 & PE; David Mobley, 7, Art & Music.

1969-70: Agatha Andrews, Principal; David Mobley, Music & Art; Imogene Crosby, 1; Elizabeth McClure, 2; Peggy Johnston, 3; A. C. Tompkins, 4; Randall Belcher, 5; Eddie Szaro, 6, 7 & PE.

Whew!! Quite a list, isn’t it? Looking back, I see the names of Mrs. Zerue Hancock, Georgia Wells, Mrs. Mary E. Brinson, Eddie Szaro, David Mobley and, of course, Mrs. Agatha Andrews, cropping up so many times. They all put in many years at the school and left some good memories for their pupils too. The principal at the new school will be Randall Belcher. I met Mr. Belcher for the first time when I began this series on the school and he impressed me as being a fine man with lots of interest and energy to devote to education. He will be assisted by a fine staff and I wish them all many good years in the new school.

August 19, 1971

Writing about the Lacoochee school has been one of the most pleasant assignments I have ever had so naturally I am happy to have such favorable response to those articles. Believe me, it’s a labor of love to ever write anything about Lacoochee and Lacoochee people! Reading about those school days also brought some good school memories to Sarah Jane (O’Berry) Gilbert. Sarah Jane told me that, in her opinion, two of the finest teachers who ever lived were Miss Nina Percival and Mrs. Mildred Huckabay. There are quite a few others too who have told me the same thing. Sarah Jane told me about a lesson in discipline Miss Percival gave her one time that she has never forgotten. It seems that she and a couple of other students were eating in Miss Percival’s class one day and Miss Percival caught them! Well, the next day Miss Percival brought them a big bag of soda crackers and insisted the offenders eat every cracker without benefit of water. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, Miss Percival permitted them to go outside to the water spigot and drink. Sarah Jane said they drank, and drank and drank until their thirst was finally quenched and, after that, none of them ever ate anything in the class room again. I’ll bet they didn’t either. I really enjoyed that talk with Sarah Jane and I thought it was interesting that this incident stuck in her mind so well. Miss Percival had ways of disciplining her students that were much more effective than a paddling could have ever been. Yet, she retained the love and respect of everyone she taught.

Sept. 16, 1971

I have a real treat for you this week, a perfectly wonderful letter from our own Charles Harris who is Outdoor Editor for the Orlando SENTINEL. Charlie has written a very interesting letter and I am sure all you folks who know Charlie too will be as proud of him as I am.

Dear Lorise, I have read with much interest and nostalgia several of the articles on memories and people of Lacoochee. Of course, like dozens of other Lacoochee natives who can still feel the sandy “streets” scorching the soles of their bare feet, I’m probably. prejudiced.

But I am totally consumed by every word and you are doing a great job. Thank you, and please keep it up. Although we didn’t get too far away from Lacoochee (we live in Bushnell), our hearts remain there and the echo of Cummer’s wildcat whistle on payday still rings in our ears.

My wife, Willie Marie (Gideons), works in Dade City at Multi-Line Can C.; son Jerry also works there and daughter Sandi is attending high school in Bushnell. We visit Lacoochee occasionally but, naturally, it seems so different from childhood days. Perhaps that is why we often think and talk of it in the past tense.

As you pointed out many times, that humble little sawmill community produced some solid citizens. However, I am sure there were many times Prof. Mark St. Clair had his doubts as he watched us struggle up through school there. I’m sure you are aware that Lacoochee is the birthplace of the shopping center marketing concept. All of the stores were clustered in a single row, practically under one roof, where you could get anything from a haircut to drunk at one parking place.

And it surely must have been the last stronghold of the free-range cattle era—remember the fat old sow that used to roam the streets with all the casual authority of a town marshall? Seems she had a litter of about 10 pigs at least twice a year. She could usually be found at the end of each day feeding in trashpiles across the street from the stores near the railroad. She really had an affinity for those cardboard ice cream containers your father Abe used to dispose of there. She often would accumulate a half-dozen metal rings around her neck from nosing around in those containers.

I wonder if many people remember the “Hoodler,” the first diesel locomotive that came through Lacoochee on the Seaboard line, getting its nickname from the strange sounding airhorns. On its maiden run it attracted at least a couple of hundred people, maybe they even shut down the mill for the occasion, I’m not sure. A limited number of people were treated to a free trial ride on the Hoodler to Dade City, but most people were satisfied to view the new-fangled iron monster from a safe distance.

In retrospect, you certainly couldn’t think Lacoochee’s social and economic standards were such to catapult its youth into success in neither area. Yet, a surprising number of people who grew up there survived the negative influences of a town that didn’t exactly have the best image in these parts. Was it because of it or in spite of it? guess we’ll never know.

Deserved or not, Lacoochee had a bad reputation and if a stranger came to town, especially on Friday or Saturday nights, you could bet he was looking for trouble. And sometime before dawn on Sunday, he always found it. For a long time, I was ashamed to tell anyone where I was from. Then for awhile I was scared to tell them. However, I later learned that if you told them you were from Lacoochee, the word got around and they left you alone.

In later years I stopped telling people I was from Lacoochee because I grew weary of trying to explain where it is. I would always simply say, “seven miles north of Dade City.”

Then Jim “Mudcat” Grant finally put the place on the map during his baseball career. Then people would ask if I knew Grant. I delighted in telling them how I used to deliver groceries to his house every Friday night from Huey O’Quinn’s store. I have been Outdoor Editor here at the SENTINEL for a little over six years, my first attempt at professional writing. In that time I have been honored with seven state awards in writing and photography. I am past president of Florida Outdoor Writers Association. My first book was published this year, also won a state award and it has already sold out once. My second book (both are about Florida fishing) will go to press about the middle of 1972. I have won the world’s fresh water invitational fly fishing championship the last two years. My greatest moment in writing came this year when I broke the Lake Apopka alligator story which enjoyed extensive national coverage for about a month.

This is the first time I have ever projected my personal achievements, and I would be very embarrassed if it were construed as boasting—I am humbly grateful for the things that have come my way. But I just want it in the records that I am proud of my Lacoochee background. I wouldn’t want to change a thing if it were all to do over again. Unless, maybe we could get Vivian’s Theatre to run Roy Rogers or Gene Autry films every night instead of just Fridays and Saturdays!

Three cheers for Lacoochee—and for you and THE BANNER for reviving the interest. Let’s hear from the other Lacoochee alumni, especially the guys who used to put the sidewalk benches on the store roofs every Halloween!!

With best regards,

Charlie Harris

A special note to Charlie from me. Don’t you dare be embarrassed for writing about your accomplishments! Heck, that’s just what I was wanting to tell the people about, and believe me, everyone’s going to be very proud of you and your fine job of reporting. Your letter was so very good, it’s going into my personal file of things I want to keep.

And, Charlie, isn’t Prof St. Clair proud of your awards in fishing? Remember his great love for that sport? Do keep in touch with this “Corner” and let us know what you are doing just as often as you can. Thanks a million for writing!!!

It isn’t only the young people of Lacoochee who are accomplishing things in this life. Let me tell you about one of our senior citizens whom I think is doing a great job in spite of age and injuries. I’m talking now about Mrs. Sally Roberts who will celebrate her 88th birthday November 16th. At the age of 74 Mrs. Roberts broke her leg and then at age 82, she broke her hip, but that hasn’t stopped this gallant lady one minute. Since she reached the age of 80 years young, she has hand-stitched quilts for her five daughters, 1 daughter-in-law, 15 grandchildren and 11 great granddaughters, not to mention countless baby quilts and, when she has nothing else to do, she makes all her own clothes! How about that? Mrs. Roberts raised 6 fine children and makes her home with each of them, alternating from one to the other. They are: Mrs. Hazel Brannen of Lacoochee, Mrs. Dorothy Peterson of Brooksville, Mrs. Thelma Milton and Mrs. Eva Milton both of Tampa, Mrs. Maye Dell Larramore of Bartow and her son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. William Roberts who live in Mulberry.

And while we are on the subject of Mrs. Roberts, it’s a good time to bring up the writing ability of her daughter, Hazel Brannen. I heard that Hazel had written a poem, dedicated to all law enforcement officers, but written especially for Laverne Sullivan. I called Hazel and asked her to share it with us and she graciously consented to do that. As you all know, Laverne is a former Lacoochee resident and once an employee of Dade City BANNER for many years. He is now a patrolman and living in Apopka with his wife, Shirley, and their two children, Pam and Kevin. Laverne’s mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Sullivan, still live in Lacoochee.

Cummer Co. Donates Land for Lacoochee Elementary

This article appeared in the Dade City Banner on Nov. 6, 1969.

Chester Taylor at the November 4, School Board meeting informed the members of a letter received of J. T. McKinstry, Vice-President of the Cummer Company, stating that the Cummer Company has granted the request of the Board to donate approximately 20 acres to the Pasco County School Board for the proposed new School Site near Lacoochee.

In a letter to the company written by Taylor, it was explained to the company that because of the School Board’s tight budget any donation of land would be a great savings. The land, which was originally priced at some $400.00 per acre, is located approximately one-half mile from Hwy. 301 on Cummer Road.

Mr. McKinstry stated in the letter that the board must decide within three months whether the site would be used. He also said that if in the event there was no school constructed on the property within three years, a reverter clause in the deed would return the property to the company.

Taylor also mentioned that the Company would possibly clear and prepare the land for construction.

Her School, Their Oasis


This article appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on Sept. 17, 2006.

LACOOCHEE – The first change Karen Marler made when she came to Lacoochee Elementary as principal was to tear down the barbed wire on the school’s front fence.

“This is not a prison, it’s a school,” said Marler, of the building that was once painted the same dingy yellow and brown as Zephyrhills Correctional Institution. “I was so disheartened and disappointed by what I saw.”

Marler, who came to Lacoochee Elementary in 2004, set out to make major changes at the school.

Get rid of the hurricane windows with broken seals that were opaque with mold. Fix the leaky roof. Clean up the mildew that made the halls smell. Fix the lights in the library so it was bright enough for children to read.

In the past two years, parents and teachers say, the school building has experienced a major turnaround and is becoming an oasis in Lacoochee.

The children in the community need a school that’s beautiful, she said. The area is poor – almost 86 percent of students there receive free or reduced price lunch, and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office stepped up patrols this summer to deal with a rise in drug- related crime.

“I’m not the type of person to sit still and not let our children here not have the same opportunities as other children in the county,” she said.

Marler, 56, knows what it’s like to grow up poor in Lacoochee. As a girl, she moved around a lot. Her dad worked in construction and moved to where the work was. She started to work in the fields when she was 10.

At the end of the sixth grade, she came to live with her grandmother and went to Lacoochee Elementary full time. They didn’t have much. They used a wood-burning stove for cooking and for heat, and there was an outhouse out back .

Still, Marler says her childhood was full of joy. Swimming in the river, walking through the woods to get to the rodeo, rolling in fields of flowers – those are memories that she cherishes.

“We were never afraid,” she said. “We knew our neighbors.”

She wishes it were the same for her students now. When she was a girl, there was substance abuse in the community, but it was alcohol, not methamphetamines.

“You see the children, some of the pain they bring in from the issues,” she said.

It’s not unheard of to see drug deals occur in the intersections around the school, said sheriff’s spokesman Doug Tobin.

“There has been a concentrated effort to take the drugs off the streets in and around that school in Lacoochee,” Tobin said of the increased patrols that started this summer. “If you are dealing drugs in and around that school area, you should look in your rear view mirror, because you are going to go to jail.”

This summer, violent crime from the area has made the news. In late July, Chanel Cato, 31, and her father Ponce Cato, 54, were shot at their home, but survived. Eighteen-year-old Jonaey Peyton was arrested for the crime. Also in July, two teens from Wesley Chapel, Derek Pieper, 17, and Raymond Veluz, 18, were slain on a remote Trilby road, a few miles away from Lacoochee. The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office said the investigation of their deaths is still ongoing. And earlier this month, Luis Angel Rivera, 23, was arrested for the death of William Medley, 72, at his home on Franklin Drive in Lacoochee.

The community’s reputation has made it tough to recruit teachers, Marler said, even though there has never been an incident at the school.

To change the community, Marler has spearheaded a community action task force. Community leaders meet regularly to brainstorm how to improve the area. And to change the school, Marler pushed for $1.3- million from the school district to make improvements. The bulk of the renovations started about a year ago, and continue today. Much of the funding came from Penny for Pasco, a 1-cent on the dollar sales tax increase to build and expand schools, improve roads, buy conservation land and pay for city projects.

“It was a mess,” said Ray Gadd, the assistant superintendent for support services. “It’s important to make sure your community school is not in disrepair, to get the building back up to speed as the community deserves.”

Janice Wells, an instructional assistant who has worked at the school since 1994, said every change in the school – from the mold removal to the new carpets – is noticed by the students and staff.

“We are proud of our dwelling,” Wells said.

Andria Hernandez, the parent involvement coordinator at Lacoochee Elementary, said that the school is the place to start to improve the entire community.

“If you make a difference in the child’s life, then that will reach the family,” she said.

Marler wants to keep working to make Lacoochee Elementary a place where kids feel safe and secure – to feel like an extended family.

“They have so much support here, they don’t know what to do with it,” she said.

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