Remembering 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.