Remembering Lake Center

Thursday, July 12, 2012
The graduating class of 1962 was the last to graduate from Lake Center.

Last class celebrating 50 years Friday

Nearly 110 years ago, farmers used horse-drawn school buses to drive their children to the Central School of Lake Township in northeastern Clay County.

For the past 35 years, individuals have been driving past an empty school, commonly referred to as Lake Center.

The last class to graduate high school from Lake Center did so in 1962, and that class is organizing an all-school reunion set for Friday evening at Legends Events and Social Center in Spencer.

Susan Metcalf Rierson, of the class of '62, said how much life revolved around that school.

"Family life was centered around the school," she said. "I remember parents being involved in a musical showboat with some of the students. The people who attended that school were all farm kids. They didn't have a town, so their activities centered around the school."

That school started as a replacement for the seven individual schools in Lake Township. A total of $3,200 went into building the wooden schoolhouse that housed first through ninth grades.

"It was not the first consolidated school in Iowa, but it was the first rural consolidated school in Iowa," said Jim Graham, from the class of 1961. In 2011, Graham put together a presentation on the history of the school.

He began with the school song and his classmates joined in.

"On the field, on the floor, L.C. High will make the score, as our heroes go conquering on," they sang.

The heroes in that case were the Cardinals, donning black and red.

While they never had enough boys for football, basketball and baseball were staples.

"In 1959, the only school that beat Lake Center in fall baseball went on to win the state championship," Graham said of St. John's High School in Bancroft. "In basketball, our teams never got too far. We didn't have enough big guys."

He noted the average graduating class was 14 or 15, which included classes as small as one or two and some with 40 or more.

By the time the brick building was built, for a price of $125,000, the school housed 11 grades, with high school on the top level. Two years later, they added the 12th grade.

With no rural electricity, the school had it's own generators, along with running water and a fuel-powered furnace.

"They had to have a key to turn on the lights so they wouldn't waste energy," Graham said.

The school's property expanded from two acres to 12 in 1948, when they built a bigger baseball diamond. A new gymnasium was opened in 1953.

Graham said many of the girls basketball teams had to make their own uniforms.

Rierson said that while basketball and baseball were the main extracurricular activities, speech and music also played a role.

"And we had great teachers," she said. "You might think at that small of a school maybe the education wasn't that good, but it was very good. The people who graduated from there got a very good education. ... It was a great time and place to grow up."

With the final high school graduating class celebrating 50 years, Rierson wonders if this reunion will be the last.

Graham hopes that is not the case and is trying to assemble a committee to keep that from happening.

"I'm interested in old history and want to keep it alive," he said.

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  • Keep these historical stories coming!! I enjoy them very much.

    And thank you to those keeping the history alive.

    -- Posted by spencer-gma on Thu, Jul 12, 2012, at 1:22 AM
  • Had a friend just recently "discover" the place. He said it's a mess inside. Gonna fix it up?

    -- Posted by zane cooler on Thu, Jul 12, 2012, at 11:41 AM
  • Went to school at Lake Center up to 1974, when it was an elementary school for Terril. It's too bad that they could use the property for a newer school for the surrounding towns of Terril, Graettinger, Ruthven, Ayrshire, and Gillett Grove. I was in there last year up to the third floor. Stayed neared the staircase. I would be too nervious to be in the middle of the rooms. roof is not too sound. Basement was pretty spooky also. The gym floor that I remember when the 5th grade boys beat the 6th grade boys in basketball tournaments is gone. If you were to pay the building a visit, bring a face mask. there is alot of pigeon poo inside.

    -- Posted by retiredarmysarge on Thu, Jul 12, 2012, at 10:19 PM
  • A fond memory of Lake Center was John Dirkson's gas station on the corner where every Friday the elementary kids could go over and buy penny candy. A nickel or dime would go a long way in the early sixties. Also there were five ball diamonds on the playground area and all five had a game going at every recess. After the merger with Terril, the "Lake Center Kids" helped make up many of the very successful athletic teams that Terril had in the late 60s, 70s, and 80s.

    Lake Center was definitely unique.

    -- Posted by rarams on Fri, Jul 13, 2012, at 5:53 PM
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