My Gator Family

I was only 16 when I graduated from high school, and I ended up doing all four years at schools close to home: two years at Pensacola Junior College (now Pensacola State) and two years at the University of West Florida. Before there was a University of West Florida, my maternal grandparents attended the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Hoyt & Willie Cook at Lake Wauburg during a stay in Gainesville for college.

Hoyt and Willie (Stevens) Cook were teachers. As I recall being told, Willie took some classes early on at Florida State College for Women (now Florida State), and both Hoyt and Willie took extension courses (usually over a weekend) throughout their teaching careers. They also built up a lot of credits by attending summer school in Gainesville.

When their children – my mom, Zenova, and the boys, Aldis and Howitt – were young, sometimes Willie’s mother, Molly Pittman Stevens, would go with them to help out. My mom spoke of playing Monopoly by their own rules and the games could last for days. Sometimes relatives would come visit.

In order to graduate, they had to attend a full year on campus, so in 1955 they headed to Gainesville. My mom had graduated from high school the year before, so they made her go along. She says if they had let her stay in Pensacola and continue going to PJC, she would have earned her associates degree, but she had to transfer, and in 1956, she got married, and she never finished college.

All that’s set-up to this: I was scanning Mam-ma’s photo albums, and I found this:

Ticket booklet for the 1955 University of Florida football season

It’s a ticket booklet for the 1955 football season. The first eight tickets are torn out. Pap-pa has signed the book, and it has a physical description. I have no way of knowing if he attended all eight of those games; it’s entirely possible that he drove up with the team or rode with someone else, or he could have just discarded the tickets. I don’t know why he wouldn’t have attended the last three games. Two regular season games were out of town, but there’s also a ticket good for a Freshman game (the ticket says “if one is played on Florida Field” so perhaps there wasn’t one).

Pap-pa enjoyed sports. He played and sometimes coached various teams. He also enjoyed being with a group of people, talking and having a good time. Mam-ma was more likely to stay home and study. She used to complain that he’d fall asleep in class and still get a better grade than she would! They both graduated in Spring 1956 with their Bachelor of Arts in Education.

Zenova Cook in Gainesville – 1954. This is a grey dress with a two-tone skirt. Willie Cook ordered this for Zenova from an ad in American Girl magazine. It’s signed “Love, Zenova” because she sent it to my dad.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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