Woodrow Wilson was one of the two junior high schools that opened in the fall of 1915. The other was George Washington. Our doors opened with a faculty of ten teachers and an enrollment of 259 students. It was a time when Davis Island was only a swamp, and Palma Ceia and Hyde Park were new communities of growing families. Once again in the fall of 1992 Wilson lead the district as one of the first four middle schools to open in the county with a faculty/staff of 58 and an enrollment of 610. The renovated building sits amid trees in the quaint
community of Hyde Park.
The faculty and staff of Wilson have always appreciated competent and energetic leadership under the direction of many accomplished principals. The first principal was J. R. Monahan and he served for 10 years. During this administration some memories of Wilson involve World War I. Students of Wilson showed their patriotism and support of their country by making imitation Springfield rifles out of wood in the Manual Training Department at Wilson. They were under the direction of Professor Ralph Crist. The ninth grade boys marched, carrying their guns, in preparation to the possible war close to home. Gorrie elementary students, during lunch or recess, would line the curb in front of their school to watch the Wilson soldiers parade past.
In the early years Wilson had no lunchroom. Most students brought their lunches from home or were permitted to leave campus to buy sandwiches at Sumner Grocery, Hixon's Pharmacy, or O'Brien's Drugstore. The sandwiches cost a nickel or as much as a dime. The Hamburger Stand, a favorite gathering spot, was located on what is now our parking lot. For many years students enjoyed the cherry cokes made with cherry syrup sold there after school.
On unforgettable event of the 1920's was the tidal wave produced by a major hurricane that hit Tampa Bay on October 25, 1921. The tidal wave drove water up as far as Inman Avenue, forcing Wilson students to evacuate the school. The trolley lines were down, and much of the town was disrupted. Many boys from Wilson helped police the Hyde Park area during this community emergency.
The original structure, costing $40,000 was the section that faces Swann Avenue. The wings were added in 1920, and by 1928 physical education and art buildings had been constructed. In 1958 additional space was added to the lunchroom area, followed by a new band room and shop in 1960. The shop has been converted to the present media center which houses about 6,000 books and reference materials. In addition to books, we currently have 25 computers for student use.
The first class play was performed in Wilson's auditorium in 1925 with Sam Davis in the lead role. In the 1960's and 70's each ninth grade homeroom was responsible for performing a play for the school. The homeroom teachers were the directors, and students came in before school for rehearsals. The student body always enjoyed the productions. Since then Wilson has enjoyed many fine major productions including Our Town, Midsummer's Night Dream, The Wizard of Oz, and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown under the direction of Mr. James Wicker. Wilson's drama students participated yearly in the county Drama Festival where their performances were highly regarded. Drama is now offered as an elective to 7th and 8th grade students.
Traditionally, the performing arts have also included an orchestra and a band. The first stage band, consisting of Sol Fleischman at the drums and Morris Acton on the piano, performed for the students on a regular basis. This stage band originated in the 1920's and then united to entertain once more at the fiftieth anniversary celebration for Wilson. One former band director, Mr. Warren P. Frederick, served Wilson from 1953-1978. During his time at Wilson he composed the "Wilson Pep Song" which was sung at athletic events and pep rallies. Through the years, our band and orchestra have won many awards. When they have participated in contests, a ranking of superior or outstanding has always been achieved. We are proud to say this Wilson tradition continues!
From 1925-1930, Vivian Gaither was principal of Wilson. He was followed by Elmer E. Jeter from 1930-1933. Miss Pauline Bush served Wilson through the years 1933-1960. During these years Wilson maintained a reputation as a school with top-notch curriculum. It was during the time of Pauline Bush that a student was hit by a car at the front of the school. Although the student was not seriously injured, Miss Bush had a wall built in front of the school to protect students from future mishaps. The wall was removed in the early 70's. Also as a result of the accident, she initiated the first school safety patrol program.
Wilson's Parent-Teacher Association came into being on April 20, 1937, when a charter was issued by Florida Congress of Parents and Teachers, Inc. By 1940-43 Wilson had the largest PTA membership of any junior high school in the state. This was the beginning of the now traditional strong, organized parent-community support of Wilson.
In the early years at Wilson, curriculum consisted of English composition, spelling, arithmetic, geography, ancient history, biology, and zoology. There were not structured physical education classes at the time. The Manual Training Department taught carpentry and woodshop. Only girls took the early sewing classes, and the cooking classes introduced in the 40's an 50's were also restricted to females. It was not until the early 70's that classes of shop, home economics, and physical education became coed with expanded curriculums. For example, home economics began to include family and personal relations, child-care, housing, food and nutrition, clothing and textiles.
The 1950's saw the institution of Student-Teacher Day at Wilson. For more than 30 years 9th grade students had the opportunity to assume the role of teacher and administrators on one special day. The student-teachers prepare the lesson plans in advance and then actually instruct the classes. They find that teaching is a fulfilling but much more difficult job than they had anticipated. Many begin to think of other careers! The tradition continues now, as our 8th graders participate as student-teachers.
A yearly event that began in the 1950's was the Magazine Drive that continues to be a success. It is our major fundraiser for the year. Students sell subscriptions to magazines, and Wilson is able to use the profits for school equipment, beautification, and other "extras" for our classrooms. Our continued success has depended on student enthusiasm and parent-community support. The magazine drive continues as one of the many fine traditions from which we all benefit.
Strong leadership at Wilson continued with Eddy G. Hauer as principal from 1960-71. He was followed by Joe S. Conte in 1971-78 and Bernie Wilson in 1978-81. An important school tradition that emerged during this time period, is a day known to Wilson, then and now, as "Red and Blue Day". On game days or spirit days, Wilson students, faculty and staff unite in their red and blue to show support for our school. Throughout the years, through victories and defeats, Wilson students and faculty remain loyal supporters of the Bulldogs.
Another sports tradition that has brought pleasure and excitement to many of Wilson's students over the past 16 years was the Wilson Basketball Tournament or WBT. During lunch, teams of three competed against each other in the form of a round robin tournament. Teams participated under the names of "Hyde Park Hustler", "Armadillos", and "Shake and Bake". This event caused days of comment, argument, and boasting between teams and many attempts to get passes out of class to watch this WBT during first lunch!
As we moved into the 80's our school saw structural changes. Robert Godwin served from 1980-81 with Gordon Burnett as principal from 1981-88. Air conditioning was finally installed in the 1980-81 school year. But by 1982, Wilson was fast becoming an "endangered species", and the Wilson PTA mounted a campaign to save the Hyde Park landmark. The $2.4 million renovation began in 1986. The entire school operation was moved to the George Washington Center. Teachers prepared for the move months in advance. After 11 months at George Washington, we returned home. Principal Gordon Burnett's commendable organization and commitment to a smooth transition were instrumental in maintaining the high morale and school spirit. After one and a half years, Wilson reopened its doors to the
students. On May 17, 1987, Woodrow Wilson Junior High was officially rededicated in a ceremony in the auditorium.
On August 19, 1992, Wilson opened its doors as one of the first Middle Schools in Hillsborough County under the leadership of Jacqueline Heard, who began as principal in 1988. For the first time, sixth graders walked through the halls of Wilson as part of our student body. The transition to middle school was evidenced by many teacher's training hours and adjustments to new instructional methods. Familiar language among the staff became cooperative learning, alternative assessments, hands-on activities, cultural diversity, teachers-as-advisors, outcome-based education, time blocks, teaming and flexibility.
Teams took field trips to Lowry Park Zoo, the Tampa Theater, and the Performing Arts Center. Sixth graders spent the usual week at Nature's Classroom, however the experience was completely new to some of the teachers. Teams participate in community service projects, which include visitations to Tampa General Hospital, and local nursing homes. Gifts are made for the children at Lee Moffitt Cancer Center around holidays. Canned food drives continue to help the needy.
In early February, 1996, Wilson Middle School received notification from Washington that we were selected as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. On February 21, 1996, Jean Hamilton became Principal of Wilson Middle School. On March 5, 1996, Wilson faculty, staff and parents gathered at the Raymond O. Shelton School Administration Center to be honored by the School Board for the Blue Ribbon Award. In 2002, Mrs. Hamilton, Jayne Hobgood and Janice Lackey traveled to Washington, D.C. to once again accept the coveted National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award.
The traditional bugles sound at Wilson to begin the day. The homeroom bell rings and students and faculty stand at attention while the bugles play "The Morning Call." This is the "Pledge of Allegiance" and the WBN Morning Show. When the afternoon bell rings, students stand once again for the playing of "Evening Call." Students are then dismissed. This is probably the most unique tradition we have at the Home of the Bulldog. Throughout these years many excellent students have passed through our doors, experiencing the highest quality instruction, curriculum, and administration. Excellence in education is the BEST of Wilson's traditions. We who have enjoyed the privileges of Wilson Junior High/Middle School welcome those of you who are just entering. We are a faculty and
administration dedicated to the education of children. We are proud of Wilson and its traditions; we want you to share this pride with us.