Recently, Becky Harman Worthington was chatting with me about Mrs. Winn's 100th Birthday coming up. For those who do not know her, Mrs. Winn touched many lives in Citrus County through Education. Becky is her niece and was also in Education in Citrus County for many years. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to honor Mrs. Winn by having her "In The Spotlight". Thanks to Becky, we have a wonderful story and pictures of this admirable woman that educated many of us through the years...
Laura Lou Tolle Fitzpatrick
Mrs. Ethel Puckett Winn
Mrs. Ethel Puckett Winn will turn 100 years old on January 7, 2012! She has spent her life in service to the children of Citrus County as teacher, principal, substitute, and adult school administrator.
Mrs. Winn was one of the ten children of Wilbur G and Minervia Priest Puckett. Wilbur Puckett was born in North Carolina and as a young man moved to Georgia to work on the railroad. He came to Crystal River and met Minervia Priest whose family lived (and still does) in Red Level. They were married on October 1, 1906. Mr. Puckett was an Atlantic Coast Line Railroad track foreman. The young couple moved to Georgia where sisters Louise and Lois were born. A move to Crystal River saw the birth of sister, Fannie. They moved the family to Ocala to get away from the mosquitoes and fevers in Crystal River! Ethel was born in Ocala and moved with her parents and three older sisters to Floral City when she was 16 months old. The rest of the Puckett children were born in Floral City: Vivian, George, Wilma, Lawrence, Earlene and Gene.
Mrs. Winn went to school in Floral City and remembers the pump shed and outdoor toilets. She is also able to remember her teachers; 1st grade, Miss Hubert, 2nd grade Miss Elva Knight, 3rd and 4th grades, Miss Eva Davis, 5th and 6th grades, Mr. Edwards, 7th and 8th grades Mrs. Dort and 9th grade was Mr. Farbee. She went to Citrus High School in Inverness for 10th, 11th and 12th grades. The high school was located at the site of the present Checkers.
With her 2nd grade Teachers Certificate, Ethel began her teaching career at Rosheel School on Western Island on February 2, 1931. Her recollections are:
The county superintendent, Mr. Montague sent me a card asking me if I would take a position on Western Island at Rasheel School. The current teacher wanted to leave. It was a big decision because there was no way to get there except by water, however, I accepted. On Sunday afternoon my family carried me to Crystal River and I met Mr. John Waddington at Steven’s fish house. He left his two older daughters in Crystal River to attend high school for the week and picked me up. We went down Crystal River in his inboard motorboat for four miles and then four more miles down Salt River to reach the Waddington home. It was the first time I had seen the sun go down over the water. It was my first time going down the Crystal River! I was to board with the Waddington family and became great friends with their oldest daughter who was about my age. The five younger children would be my students, an 8th grade girl Jessie, Harold in 1st grade, Oscar in 2nd, and twins Hampton and Henry in 3rd. I also had four little Lee children and Gertrude Edge in 8th grade. The following morning the five little Waddington children and I went to school in a rowboat called the school boat. This was my first day of teaching. I really enjoyed my time at Western Island. The river ran in front of the schoolhouse and you could see mullet jumping and other sea animals going by. I spent two years teaching on the Island.
After eight weeks of college at The University of Florida (yes, she is a gator) Mrs. Winn went to Citronelle for the next two years and made $50.00 per month. She remembers paying $6.00 a week to board from Sunday night to Friday afternoon. She had 28 students with familiar Citrus County names like Driggers, Roddenberry and Hamilton. She had to do her own janitorial duties and again had only a pump house and outhouse that was 100 ft. from the building. Heat was a potbelly stove. The WPA added to the one room school while school was in session! Ethel remembers finding out that two teachers in the county with no college were making $55.00 a month while she with 24 hours of college credit was making only $50.00. She was told that the reason she made less was because they had spent money to repair her school the previous year!
Mrs. Winn taught in New Hope for the 1934-35 school year. She remembers the year being very sad as several tragedies occurred in the community that year. Ethel moved to Red Level School the following year. She has 13 students including her cousin Dean Priest. She was able to board with her Uncle Crozier and Aunt Ollie Weaver Priest. Crozier was her mother’s brother and Aunt Ollie’s brother was the future Citrus County School Superintendent, Roger Weaver. The following year she went to Holder school as lead teacher but continued to live at her Uncle Crosier’s home in Red Level. Sister Fannie took her place at Red Level and also boarded with her at their uncle and aunt’s home. Ethel rode to Holder each day with Cattie Martin who was teaching there also. Staying at the Priest home was much like being at home with lots of family around. There are many stories to tell but one that sticks out was when they stored sacks of peanuts that were to be shelled for planting in an empty room next to the one Ethel and Fannie shared. The wood rats found them and at night they would run the rafters. The room was not sealed and Ethel remembers being very scared. Poison was put out to kill the rats but then it took days to get rid of the smell!
The years 1938 – 1944 were spent at Homosassa.
Three trustees of Homosassa School came to our house and begged Fannie and me to take their school. Because this would allow us to still be together we decided to make the move. It was the first time I had only two grades. We got an apartment upstairs at Mr. Carl Harman’s house, which was next to the school. This made it easy to go home for lunch, as we didn’t have a lunchroom. Before we left Homosassa we had a lunchroom upstairs.
The six years were really different than my previous years. We could walk to the store and spend time with friends getting a coke or something to eat after school. We often went to the fish house and fished off the back porch. We always caught snapper, or small fish then went home and fixed some for supper. Different friends would drop by with a bass already dressed and right out of the river. Sunday nights we would go to church and after service a group would go down the river for a ride. The last two years we had an apartment at the Croft’s apartments near the river. The school bus driven by Mr. Stevenson would bring water to the schoolhouse from Crystal River. The river children came by boat and the rest walked to school. Delna Harman and Elta Whelden were so good to us. Elta would get things ready for a picnic after school and we would go down to the pump house, fry fish and make ice-cream. About once a month we enjoyed doing something special. We met at different homes and played bridge. When the war broke out we met and rolled bandages for the soldiers.
Mrs. Winn and her sisters Louise, Lois and Fannie all got their BA degrees from UF the summer of 1944. Fannie went to Brooksville High School and Ethel went to Floral City teaching 1st – 4th grades. Lois was teaching 6th grade in Inverness and Louise left Floral City to join her as a fifth grade teacher. The following year a second teacher was hired at Floral City and Mrs. Winn taught 1st and 2nd grade there for the next eight years. She received her Master Degree in Education from the University of Florida in 1952. All of her college work was done during school summer vacation.
Living at home allowed Mrs. Winn to again provide help and support to her aging parents and ever growing family. Her father was very ill for several years and died on July 27, 1949.
Ethel married Irwin Winn from Crystal River on August 9, 1953 and began teaching second grade at Crystal River with 27 students. The following year she moved to first grade and began the year with 55 students. Thankfully, another teacher was added and she only had 30 for most of the year! She continued to teach first grade until Cattie Martin retired in 1965 and then changed to take her place with the fourth grade for one year. Mrs. Winn had taught many of these fourth grade students as first graders and she remembers the pride she felt for them in their progress.
The enrollment of Citrus County Schools was exploding at this time and there was simply not enough room at the elementary school for all of the students. Four 3rd grade classes and two 5th grade classes were moved to the Methodist Church. Mrs. Winn began teaching 3rd grade and served as lead teacher. It was an interesting year going back and forth from the school to the church, back to the school for lunch and then back to the church for the afternoon. The new Crystal River Elementary School was completed in 1967 and she taught 3rd grade for one more year in the new building. Ethel remembers all the teachers moving into the new building on Saturday before school started on Monday.
The following year Mrs. Winn became Principal of the Primary School. Six weeks later the schools were integrated and the black students from Carver joined her. She was the principal for the K – 4th grades and Martin Lewis was the middle school principal. Kindergarten classes and several 2nd grade classes were taken to Carver School and the rest were in the new building off 3rd Avenue. This made travel back and forth between the two schools necessary. She was also responsible for the lunchroom that was shared with the middle school. Edith Wenner was the principal’s secretary and she remembers the wonderful help and support that Edith gave her during this time. The school was very overcrowded during these years. There were 908 students in 1972 in the K- 4th grades with 40 students in many classes.
Mrs. Winn’s eyesight was very poor and after a detached retina in 1971 that only made it worse, she decided to retire in June 1972. Ben Branch became the principal of Crystal River Primary at that time. The following year the new school in Homosassa was completed and 300 students were moved from CRPS to Homosassa.
She remembers her retirement party with very fond memories.
I had a lovely retirement party with Beth Hagerty who was also retiring. There were many lovely gifts and so many people. One special gift from my faculty was “The Living Bible” with each one’s signature. My second grade teacher, Elva Jones, was able to attend. She presented me with a gift as well as made a speech. It meant so much to me that she was able to be there.
After a fun summer vacation with family, Mrs. Winn started substitute teaching as soon as school started. She substituted at Crystal River Primary, Hernando Elementary and The Key Center for the next seven years. She says that during those seven years she never had a month that she did not have both her retirement check and one from the school board for subbing. It was also during this time that her sister Louise died in 1977 and then her mother in 1979. After major surgery in May of 1979 she decided it was time to stop substituting.
This retirement only lasted two months and in July of 1979 she became Principal of the adult education/CFCC/Vo-Tech program housed in the old two-story building of CRMS that was just across the street from her home. For the next seven years she worked from 6 pm to 10 pm in a job that she really enjoyed. Mrs. Winn says that she enjoyed all of her positions and loved her students, big and little. She retired for the final time in June 1987. Her husband, Irwin, insisted that it was time she came home to stay!
Ethel has seen the death of each of her sisters and brothers as well as her beloved Irwin in 1996. She still remains active with her church and Sunday school, the church circle and unit meetings, The Retired Teachers Organization, Kappa Gamma Society, the Eastern Star, Crystal River Women’s Club, and Order of the Amaranth. She feels very blessed to have friends who take her to each of her activities.
The Puckett sisters, Louise, Lois, Fannie and Ethel dedicated a total of 191 years of dedicated service to the teaching of children. Most of that time was spent in Citrus County. They have all been loved and cherished by not only their family but also the community that they served. Mrs. Ethel Winn will celebrate her 100th birthday on January 7, 2012. The community is cordially invited to a birthday open house in her honor at the First United Methodist Church of Crystal River from 2 pm to 5 pm on Saturday, January 7th. We hope to have previous students, teachers, church and community members, friends and of-course family in attendance.