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Bulldogs unite behind old idea

For 33 years, Zephyrhills High alumni have held an annual reunion open to all who ever felt the tug of ties to the school's mascot.

By MICHELLE JONES, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 1, 2002

For 33 years, Zephyrhills High alumni have held an annual reunion open to all who ever felt the tug of ties to the school's mascot.

ZEPHYRHILLS -- Thirty-three years ago Jaynell Le Heup Vickers and a couple of her friends had an idea.

Sunday, 33 years later, more than 300 people were still celebrating that idea.

Although Vickers wasn't well enough to attend the Annual Zephyrhills High School Alumni, Faculty and Friends Reunion, she did send photo albums, memory books and her Zephyrhills High School yearbooks for people to peruse.

She had graduated in 1950 along with 27 other classmates.

However, this reunion is for everyone who ever related to the Zephyrhills Bulldogs, the school's mascot.

During her high school career Vickers was a cheerleader, class secretary, a member of the cast in a play titled Fantasy in the Attic that she and her classmates wrote, as well as the salutatorian of her class. In her graduation address she talked about being at the threshold of a wide tempestuous world.

That was 52 years ago.

Her mother, 91-year-old Angie Geiger Le Heup, Class of 1929, attended the reunion at the Lions Club on Dean Dairy Road. And cousin Linda Locke Arant, Class of 1978, was there too.

"She (Jaynell) and her friends were talking about how nice it would be to see old friends (33 years ago)," said Angie Le Heup. "The first reunion was held at Crystal Springs and it was a picnic."

These days the reunion is a two-day event. It is held the last weekend of June with a gathering at the Zephyrhills Depot Museum on Saturday and a covered dish luncheon on Sunday.

Lillian Bleier Grandon of Falls Church, Va., Class of 1940, said she tries to come to the reunion every year.

"It is great seeing people and meeting old friends," she said. "It is great to be together, but I do miss those who left (died)."

Ruth King Johnson, 1958, who lives in Lake Alfred, said she wouldn't miss a reunion.

"I come every year," she said.

One topic of discussion at the reunion was the recent Pledge of Allegiance controversy."

"I'm very upset about it," said Joanie McCellan Joyner, 1972.

Joyner is a teacher in Port Orange, Fla., and she said she believes more people are becoming patriotic since Sept. 11, 2001.

"We sang patriotic songs all year long during the morning television show at school," she said.

Her mom also comes to the reunion because all four of her children graduated from Zephyrhills High.

"She likes to see everyone," said Joyner.

Merle Padgett Schneider, 1959, said she tries to come every year.

She said she has become more aware of what is happening around her since last September.

"I never knew our country wasn't prepared," she said.

But, she says, because her faith is in God, she doesn't worry.

Lynn Steve said he was glad Vickers had the idea for the yearly reunion.

"Our class has stayed close. We had a reunion for our class, 1957, at my house last night," he said. "I hope we can keep it going."

Gregg Hilferding, 1998, is hoping the reunion can expand.

As the president of the reunion committee, he would like to see more of the recent alumni involved.

"It is good to see such a good turnout," he said.

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