Lake Lona Elementary School, Lake City, Columbia County, Florida
Lake Lona Elementary School
Lake City, Columbia County, Florida

* Located: 6.5 miles west of Lake City, FL on Hwy US-90
* Year Opened: 1928
* Year Closed: 1963
* Named after a lake: Lake Lona located about 1/8 mile north of the school.
* If you were a Lake Lona student, please share your experience.

The early years of Lake Lona Elementary School:
The entire school, grade 1st - 8th grade, was held in the one small building (pictured above).
The lunchroom was in a separate building to the left of the school building. The bathrooms were also in a separate small block building out back. I wonder if the bathroom started as an actual outhouse in 1928?

Portable building added:
I'm guessing, sometime after WWII (sometime between 1945 - 1950) a portable building was added to the school property increasing the number of classroom buildings to a total of 2. If you know when the portable building classroom was added to the property, please contact Henry Jordan.
During the 1962-63 school year, Henry Jordan and Wendell Stephens were 3rd grade students at Lake Lona Elementary School. Their 3rd grade classroom was in the portable building, their teacher was Mrs Evelyn Witt.

2 classrooms in the whole school:
The entire school consisted of three buildings (2 buildings had one classroom each):
#1 building: 1st - 3rd grade classroom taught by 1 teacher.
#2 building: 4th - 6th grade classroom taught by 1 teacher. (went to 8th grade in earlier years)
building #2 also served as our auditorium, a stage was at one end of the room.
#3 building: was the cafeteria lunchroom (good Southern Style country cooking)

How classes were taught:
* This description will be different for students of different years.
* If you are a student with a different experience, please let us know.
My 3rd grade teacher was Mrs Evelyn Witt. She was also the school principal. In my classroom, Mrs Witt, taught the 1st, 2nd & 3rd grade. The room, like most classrooms was arranged in rows, but in this room, the first 2 rows was the 1st grade, the second 2 rows was the 2nd grade and the third 2 rows was the 3rd grade. To teach the 1st grade she would stand in front of that row, and as she taught a different grade she move down to stand in front of that row. She didn't strictly stick to standing in front of each row, she would use the blackboard and move around the room.

History:
* 1928 - 1963 Lake Lona was a tiny country school built on 5 acres of land.
* The land for the school was donated by Mr Israel Edward Hunter (1897-1980).
* The land size has been stated as 5 acres, but the trailer park property is 3.44 acres.
* Someone needs to go to Columbia County Tax Assessor's Office to look up the original 1920's record.
* Mr Hunter built the school to educate his children and those in the Shalmanezer community.
* Hunter's 4 children were: James b.1920; Mozelle b.1922; Pearl b.1926 and Gussie Mae b. 1933
* 1900 - 1940 the farming area around Lake Lona was known as Precinct 5, Shalmanezer, Columbia County
* In 2015 this area is known as: Precinct 301, Westside Community, Columbia County.

Former Teachers at Lake Lona Elementary School:
(each name will turn into a clickable link as info is posted)
(if you know anything about any of these teachers please contact me)
(if you were a student, let me know who your teacher was & what years)
* Evelyn Witt (last teacher there)
* Thomas Jefferson Geiger (last teacher there) (Maurice Geiger is his son)
* Mr Brannon
* Lollie Rhoden
* E. R. Collins
* C.P. Wilson
* Miss Sikes
* Lois Revels
* Rosa Owens
* Gertrude Patterson Alderman
* Hattye McDonald
* Nellie Roberts
* Irma L. Graham
* George Thompson
* Ms. Foye
* Kenneth Neeley
* Ann Wilby (June NEELEY Burnham said, "I remember Ann Wilby taught piano one day a week.")

REUNION INFO:
An annual Lake Lona Elementary School Reunion started in 2011. Follow this link for all the up-to-date reunion information.

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Lake Lona Elementary School

Lake Lona Elementary School
image furnished by: Donald Barfield
Image #1
This is Lake Lona Elementary School located 6.5 miles west of Lake City, Columbia County, Florida on Highway US90.

School opening date 1928.
The school closed 1963.
The buildings are gone and the property is now a trailer park called:
Sunset Landing
100 SW Evening Loop
Lake City, FL 32024

In 1963, the school had 4 buildings.
(#1) This was the main school building (photo at right) and see drawing of interior floorplan. This building had 2 classrooms up front and auditorium with stage in the rear of the building. Many traditional Christmas plays have been held on that stage.
(#2) Another building was the cafeteria lunchroom where country cooking was served.
(#3) A small classroom portable building was added in the early 1960's. In 1963 this new classroom portable building was where Mrs Witt taught 1st - 3rd grade.
(#4) A concrete block boys & girls bathroom was located out back of all the school buildings, near the baseball / playground field.

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Lake Lona Elementary School

Lake Lona Elementary School
image furnished by: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
http://floridamemory.com/items/show/143214
Image #2
This is Lake Lona Elementary School located 6.5 miles west of Lake City, Columbia County, Florida on Highway US90.

School opening date 1928.
The school closed 1963.
The buildings are gone and the property is now a trailer park called:
Sunset Landing
100 SW Evening Loop
Lake City, FL 32024

This was the main building and here is a drawing of interior floorplan. In 1963, the school had 3 buildings. The other was the cafeteria lunchroom building and the 3rd building was single classroom building for the 1st - 3rd grades. The autitorium with stage, where the Christmas Play was held, was located inside the main building.

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Lake Lona Clock

Lake Lona classroom CLOCK
image furnished by: Wendell Stephens
Image #3

Lake Lona student Wendell Stephens said:
I know the building that was Ms. Witt's classroom was moved to the Columbia County Fairground and was still there as late as the early 1990's. My dad worked for the Columbia County Schools system, and when Lake Lona closed, he was given an old clock from one of the main school classrooms, and I still have that clock. My oldest brother said it is from the main building where T. J. Geiger taught the 4th, 5th & 6th grades and that building also contained the auditorium where the stage was located.

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Lake Lona Elementary School lunchroom

Lake Lona Elementary lunchroom
image furnished by: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
http://floridamemory.com/items/show/143213
Image #4
This was the lunchroom at Lake Lona Elementary School.

Jo Ann NOEGEL Nash says that the first lunchroom was a log cabin, probably built in 1928 by IE Hunter. When the old log cabin lunchroom was torn down, this modern lunchroom (see photo) was a very welcomed replacement.

Lake Lona student Donald Barfield said: One of the ladies that cooked food in the lunchroom was Mrs Brinkley. I wonder if she was related to our teacher Mrs Evelyn Witt, her maiden name was Brinkley.

Lake Lona student Wendell Stephens said: My mom worked part time at the school lunchroom with Mrs. Hunter, I still remember those lunches as good old country cooking. NOTE: Mrs Hunter, the cook, was the wife of IE Hunter that donated the land for the school back about 1928. She has two grandsons named: Ronnie & Steve Hunter that also attended Lake Lona School.

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Lake Lona Elementary 1959 Christmas Play

Lake Lona Elementary
1959 Christmas Play (left side of stage)
image furnished by: Cy Perkins
Image #5
This is Lake Lona Elementary School 1959 Christmas Play (left side of stage).

Lake Lona student Cy Perkins said:
Here's a pic of Lake Lona's fine Christmas Play in 1959... Henry Nash, Laymon Brannon, Donald Barfield, Charles Phillips, Steve Thomas, Willie Floyd, Cy Perkins, Bridget Amerson, Nan and Cindy Huchingson, Ronnie Hunter, Nancy and Mary Ellen Jarvis...

Here's a drawing of the interior floorplan of the main school building which shows where the stage and auditorium is located in the building.

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Lake Lona Elementary 1959 Christmas Play

Lake Lona Elementary
1959 Christmas Play (right side of stage)
image furnished by: Cy Perkins
Image #6
This is Lake Lona Elementary School 1959 Christmas Play (right side of stage).

Lake Lona student Cy Perkins said:
Future 1971 Columbia High School Seniors that were in this 1959 Lake Lona Christmas Play... Wille Floyd, Cy Perkins, Danny Peek, Ronnie Hunter, Elbert Barwick, Richard Bales..Standing behind us is Bridget Amerson, Nan Huchingson, Nancy Jarvis, Suzanne Tompkins and Elaine Green. We all received Tony's for our production!!! ;-) Mrs Evelyn Witt and Mr T. J. Geiger (Maurice's father) were the only two teachers in the whole school!!

Here's a drawing of the interior floorplan of the main school building which shows where the stage and auditorium is located in the building.

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Lake Lona Elementary 1959 Christmas Play

Lake Lona School Report Card
3rd grader Henry Jordan
image furnished by: Henry Jordan
Image #7

This is my report card.
3rd grader Henry Jordan
1962-63 school year
Lake Lona School, Lake City, Florida

My Teacher's Name:
My teacher was Mrs Evelyn Witt. Here you can see she signed her name Mrs Alton C Witt which was how married women properly signed their names in the 1960's. She was Mattye Evelyn BRINKLEY Witt, her husband was Alton Coil Witt.

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Lake Lona Elementary 1959 Christmas Play

Bell's Country Store & Lake Lona School
image furnished by: Henry Jordan & Google Maps
Image #8
In this photo you see Bell's Country Store and across Thomas Road (a dirt road in the 1960's) you see Lake Lona Elementary School located next door.

Mrs Bell operated a tiny country store right next door to the school where us kids would go to buy all our favorite penny candies and my personal favorite, a popular Made in Georgia, Southern soft drink was the: RC Cola & Nehi Grape or Nehi Orange. Yeah it was pronounced "knee high." The cost per bottle... 10 cents and then we would get money back for the empty bottle (I think we got 3 cents for the empty). I loved those fruit flavored soft drinks and the bottles were the largest of all the bottled soft drinks, so it was the most drink you could buy with your dime. I think the most popular drink and snack combo, at the time, was the 16oz RC & a moonpie. You really got the most for your 10 or 15 cents that the combo cost.

1963 student Wendell Stephens said: This is what I remember about Mrs. Bell's store. You could get just about anything there except beer or cigarettes. Gasoline, milk, bread, a few canned goods, sugar, flour, the necessities. There was a kerosene tank outside, with a hand crank pump. She even sold .22 ammo, after I was allowed to hunt on my own, I would collect soda bottles to buy a box, $1.04, that was 52 bottles @.02 cents per bottle. There was a glass display case to the right as you entered that held the candy bars, to the left was one of those old style drink coolers that held the drinks upright, and you reached down into it to choose. Nehi Orange, Grape, and Strawberry. Frosty Root Beer (still my favorite). And one called "Upper 10", a lot like a 7up.There was a freezer that held popsicles, nutty buddies, ice cream sandwiches, and those small cups of ice cream. Mrs. Bell was a widow I think, and when she sold the store, circa 1967-68, she married "Doc" Isom, and moved to Lake City. Doc would often help her around the store. They sold the store to a family named Davis, who ran it as a family business until at least 1973. There was an old wagon wheel set vertically into the ground at the corner of US 90 and Thomas Rd, with area mailboxes mounted on it. People would pull up and rotate the wheel to their mailbox.

As of Feb 2015:
This photo of Bell's country store is from Google Maps April 2009. By the next Google Maps photo (taken in 2013) Bell's country store building was demolished and is completely gone. Currently (2015) the Columbia County Tax Appaiser assessed the property as: 12.5 acres of Timberland (no buildings) and the property is owned by: Mohammad A Faisal (Faisal Family Limited).

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Lake Lona Elementary School property diagram

Lake Lona Elementary School property (1963)
drawing by: Wendell Stephens (1963 student)
(a classroom portable was added between the main building and the lunchroom)
Image #9
In this photo you see Lake Lona Elementary School and on the left, across Thomas Road (a dirt road in the 1960's) you can see the edge of Bell's Country Store. HWY US-90 runs left & right along the bottom of the photo.

The school consisted of:
* main wooden building built 1928 (with 2 classrooms in front & sometimes the auditorium was a classroom)
* wooden classroom portable (added early 1960's)
* wooden lunchroom buliding
* concrete block boys & girls bathroom out back.

Drawings of:
* inside main building
* school property layout

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Lake Lona Elementary School 1956

Lake Lona Elementary School
1956 newspaper clipping, Lake City Reporter
contributed by: John H. Stanford
Image #10

Lake Lona Elementary School 1956

This photo is a 1956 Lake City Reporter newspaper clipping.

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Wood deed rejection 1966

W.I. Wood deed rejection
1966 newspaper clipping, Lake City Reporter
contributed by: John H. Stanford
Image #11

1966
Mr. Wood deed offer rejected

This photo:
1966 newspaper clipping Lake City Reporter

Lake Lona Elementary School closed down in 1963. About 1966, Mr W.I. Wood (school bus driver) bought the school property at auction as the high bidder. The main school building was soon demolished. The lunchroom building was transformed into Lake Lona Community Center where 4-H meetings, Christmas socials and even Lake Lona student Cy Perkins' band "The Travelers" played music on occasion.

In 1966, W.I. Wood offered the "lunchroom building / community center" on approximately 1/2 acre of land to the Columbia County School Board but was turned down. The community turned down Wood's deed offer because of a reverter clause. That's what this newspaper clipping article is about. ------->

The community center was torn down after a number of years.

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Mr Wood drove a 1950 GMC school bus

Mr Wood, driver in 1963
1950 Ward GMC School Bus
photo by: Ward Body Works, Inc.
Image #12
The Bus

This photo is not of Mr Wood's actual bus.

Many bus photos were shown to a few students that rode Mr Wood's bus. They selected this bus as looking most like the bus he drove.
NOTE: Mr Wood's bus had yellow fenders.

What year did Lake Lona School start having a bus?

Mr Wood, bus driver:
In 1963, when I went to Lake Lona School it was Mr W.I. Wood (Washington "Wash" Ives Wood), age 57, that was the bus driver. He was married to: Ouida Bess Revels. Sometimes his son Wash Hardy Wood, age 20, drove the bus.

Every school day, Mr Wood drove the rural back roads picking up kids at their homes and farms to take them to Lake Lona School. Actually there were more farms than homes in this rural farming community. On the 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930 Fed US Census the area around Lake Lona was called: Precinct #5, Shalmanezer. People living in that area would be listed on the US Census as living in: Township of Shalmanezer; County of Columbia; and State of Florida.

Wendell Stephens said: About Mr Wood's bus. The bus we are discussing was bus No. 1, and that's the way it was stenciled on the side of the bus near the door. I remember this because there was a girl that would say she rode "Bus No One". It was the only bus that had "No." in front of the digits. Also Wendell remembers that Mr Wood drove his bus onto the school property from US-90 so that when the bus stopped the bus door was facing the school. Wendell would exit the bus and it was a straight shot to the school front door.

In 1963 and earlier years, everybody living around the Lake Lona School area lived on sandy, dusty, bumpy, unpaved roads (more like back roads). For us kids, riding Mr Wood's bus down those roads was a deafening experience with the sound of every nut & bolt in the bus rattling so loud we could hardly hear each other talk. NOTE: HWY US-90 was the only 2 lane paved road in the area.

Some kids transferred buses at Lake Lona:
In 1963, my cousin was in junior high school when I was in the 3rd grade at Lake Lona Elementary. He would ride to Lake Lona on Mr Wood's bus then transfer to Mrs Taylor's bus and continue on to Columbia Jr High School in Lake City on US-90.

How did kids get to school when it opened in 1928?
In 1928, yellow school buses hadn't been invented yet. The yellow school bus color was officially selected in 1939. I would guess many Lake Lona kids living within a couple miles walked or rode bicycles to school. Further away, some of these rural farm kids may have even rode a horse to school. The first Lake Lona school bus may have been a horse drawn wagon. Maybe some kids were driven to school in the family automobile or maybe the farm tractor?

Final thing about Mr Wood the bus driver.
He demolished Lake Lona School and built a trailer park.

On the 1940 US Fed Census Mr Wood occupation was listed as carpenter working at school house (most likely Lake Lona School). Then he was a Lake Lona bus driver. He was also a farmer and also a Reverend.

After Lake Lona Elementary School closed down in 1963 Mr Wood bought the school property and demolished the main school building. He transformed the lunchroom into Lake Lona Community Center where 4-H meetings, Christmas socials and even Lake Lona student Cy Perkins' band "The Travelers" played music there on occasion. The community center was torn down after a number of years.

Mr Wood turned the previous school property into a trailer park. He and his wife lived on the property operating the trailer park together. Mr Wood moved the portable building that was Mrs Witt's 1963 classroom to the Columbia County Fairgrounds on Branford Hwy and was used as a food concession selling burgers & hot dogs, etc. The concrete block boys & girls bathroom is the only Lake Lona School building that avoided the wrecking ball. The bathroom building was already plumbed with plenty of water, and a solid structure to be remodeled to a laundry/office in 1993 for the current trailer park. That building is still there today, standing in it's original Lake Lona School footprint.

The trailer park and address is:
Sunset Landing
100 SW Evening Loop
Lake City, FL 32024
(located 6.5 miles west of Lake City, FL on HWY US-90)

Lake Lona School started before the Great Depression &
ended during the Vietnam War:

Lake Lona Elementary School first opened it's doors in 1928, just one year before the Great Depression.

The Great Depression started in Aug 1929, then Wall Street crashed Oct 1929. The economy reached bottom in the winter of 193233; then came four years of very rapid growth until 1937, when the Recession of 1937 brought back 1934 levels of unemployment. It was 1939 when relief from the Great Depression started to be felt all over the country.

Then in 1939 we go right into WWII till it ends in 1945. All production of domestic goods was halted and switched toward war goods production. It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. In a state of "total war", the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources. Marked by mass deaths of civilians, including the Holocaust (during which approximately 11 million people were killed) and the strategic bombing of industrial and population centres (during which approximately one million people were killed, including the use of two nuclear weapons in combat), it resulted in an estimated 50 million to 85 million fatalities. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history.

Then there was the Korean War 1950 to 1953.

Little Lake Lona School like the little engine that could, saw another war start in 1955. The Vietnam War broke out. By the time Lake Lona School closed in 1963, America's involvement in Vietnam was esculating. The U.S. government viewed its involvement in the war as a way to prevent Communism from speading, starting with stopping it from expanding into South Vietnam. America thought it could bomb the communist out of that country. In 1968 the Tet Offensive changed America's mind about winning that war. The end of the war came with the capture of Saigon by the North Vietnamese Army in April 1975. The following year North & South Vietnam were reunited. Estimates of the number of Vietnamese service members and civilians killed vary from 800,000 to 3.1 million. Some 200,000300,000 Cambodians, 20,000200,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict.

As a final thought about this timeline.
In 1963, Lake Lona school closed, the buildings torn down... but wars... they still continue.

Where's the lake - Lake Lona?
From the school you cross Highway US-90 and about 1/8 mile was Lake Lona which actually was a large lake at one time and what the school was named after (naming convention: it's an eponym, not namesake)... I don't know exactly when or why yet, but that lake is now gone in 2015. As you'll read in Comments: Lake Lona student Windell Stephens said his family lived on Lake Lona, where they ran a fish camp, campground and swimming area.

Comments:

Comment:
Lake Lona student Windell Stephens Feb 13, 2010 said:

I can't believe I actually ran into someone on facebook that attended Lake Lona Elementary. My family lived on Lake Lona, where we ran a fish camp, campground and swimming area. I remember Ms. Evelyn Witt, she was my teacher. I was in 3rd grade at Lake Lona in 1963, I believe that was the last year it was open, then we all went into town to Central Elementary. We went on to graduate at Columbia High School in 1972.
(Henry Jordan said, "Hey Wendell, check out my report card above. You and I were in the same Mrs Witt's 3rd grade classroom.")

Student Photos:

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Cy Perkins collage

Cy Perkins
images furnished by: Cy Perkins
Student Photo
Cy Perkins

student: 1959 - 1965 (1st - 6th grade)

On Nov 4, 2009
Cy Perkins said:
LAKE LONA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Lake City, FL has been my home all my life except for the 24 years I spent in the Army. My family has been in Columbia County since sometime before the "War of Northern Aggression"!! ;-) I started school at Lake Lona Elementary in 1959. We had 2 class rooms, 2 teachers, and 6 grades. One room had the first and second grades with Mrs. Evelyn Witt as the teacher. The second room had the third through the sixth grades with T. J. Geiger as the teacher and principal. We had a great time and learned much!! That's back when there was an actual Lake Lona. I started in 1959 when I was still 5 years old... those were the days. They didn't even make us wear shoes after we got to school!!!

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Don Barfield collage

Don Barfield
images furnished by: Don Barfield
Student Photo
Donald Barfield

student: 1957 - 1961 (2nd - 6th grade)

Don Barfield said:
About 1957, my McKissack family moved from Jacksonville, FL to Lake City when I was 1/2 way through the 2nd grade. My brother Horace "Buster" Hall McKissack and I both went to Lake Lona Elementary through the 6th grade. A tiny school bus would pick us up right in front of our house on Turner Road & take us to school. My mother Viola Barfield-McKissack, worked as a nurse at Lake Shore Hospital and was the pianist at Mt Carmel Church. We lived on an 80 acre farm on Turner Road. We grew peanuts, beans, cotton and various vegetables. We also had a bunch of hogs.

Henry Jordan is my & Buster's cousin. Henry lived with his parents in Atlantic Beach, FL, but would come over to live with us on the McKissack farm on Turner Rd for short periods of time. Henry went to school with us at Lake Lona part of the 1962-63 school year. He was in Mrs Witt's 3rd grade class.

I still own a 5 acre property on Turner Road (right next to the 80 acre farm where I grew up). I also own property in Jacksonville, FL and is where I currently live.

Contact Me:
I'm looking for Lake Lona School students (all years).
I'm looking for information about Lake Lona Elementary School.
I'm looking for photos, stories, corrections and explainations.
Bits & pieces of info are welcome. No detail is too small.
Help me build & save the memory of Lake Lona Elementary School.
Please Contact Me.

I attended Lake Lona Elementary only for the 1962-63 school year.
That year, Mrs Evelyn Witt was my 3rd grade teacher.

Research, webmaster, genealogy and written by:
Henry M Jordan

henryjordan53@yahoo.com

Intro (contribute info) | Lake Lona Elementary | Henry Jordan