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Community celebrates 95 years of Lakewood schools

From left, Lakewood High School Class of ‘84 graduate Stephen Long gets an autograph from his former football coach and Algebra teacher, Dick Cardinal.   - Kirk Boxleitner
From left, Lakewood High School Class of ‘84 graduate Stephen Long gets an autograph from his former football coach and Algebra teacher, Dick Cardinal.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

LAKEWOOD — The Lakewood School District’s March 10 open house not only included kindergarten registration and eighth-grade parent orientation, but it also served as a celebration of the Lakewood School District’s 95th anniversary.

Photos of former students and school staff were displayed beside old class yearbooks and maps of the area, with some pictures mounted on poster boards while others were collected in albums or projected digitally as part of a computerized slideshow.

Former students and teachers browsed through the memorabilia and socialized with each other. Glenda Oas studied Lakewood class photos from the early 20th century with Howard and Donna Huglen, while Violet Kemp, who graduated from Lakewood in the 1940s, looked at photos from when she was still Violet Blacken, before her marriage. Stephen Long, who graduated from Lakewood High School in 1984, got the autograph of his former football coach and Algebra teacher, Dick Cardinal. Even those who never went to Lakewood schools themselves, such as Denise Hall, browsed through the yearbooks to check out old photos of friends.

The better part of Richard Jensen’s life has been spent at the Lakewood schools. Jensen attended first through eighth grade at the Lakewood school in the 1950s, “because they didn’t have kindergarten back then,” after which he went Arlington High School, but he returned in 1963 to teach at the Lakewood School District for the next 30 years, until his retirement in 1993. As he greeted former colleagues, and students who had long since grown from the young people in his classes, Jensen reflected on the growth that he’d witnessed firsthand in the Lakewood community.

“When I started first grade at Lakewood, every class had two grades in it, because there were not that many people in the class,” Jensen said. “When I got out of eighth grade, there were 16 of us that graduated. When I graduated from Arlington, we had 90-something. Now, there are classes of over 200 graduates, so there’s quite a bit of difference in the last 40 years or so.”

Beverly Miller is the granddaughter of Martin Lallemand and credits him with being one of “the instigators at the very beginning of the Lakewood school — not the school district, but the early, early school.” Miller brought books that she inherited from her grandfather, documenting the original school’s budgets and inventories, to the 95th anniversary celebration, and she pointed out the measurable ways in which times have changed in nearly a century.

“The first amount of money that they solicited lists a ledger of $46,” Miller said. “Eventually, they commissioned more money, getting $35 tops from their various neighbors. One person was able to donate only 80 cents, but they approved $246 and built a building. They had children from the ages of 6 to 15 in one classroom, with one teacher who was paid $45 a month.”

Carol Hovik Nelson is a relative of the Lallemand family, one of the “pioneer families” of the Lakewood area, and she attended school at Lakewood from 1942-1950. She currently serves as keeper of a collection of old class photos from the Lakewood schools, which has helped her reconnect to the community and appreciate the scope of the changes it’s undergone.

“These are wonderful things they’re doing for the schools,” Hovik Nelson said, in the midst of a gymnasium full of displays on different schools, services, activities and athletics within the Lakewood School District. “I’m overwhelmed as to how many schools we have in this one small mile area in Lakewood now. I have several cousins, and people who I’ve known all my life, who have four generations who have gone to school here. I think it’s an incredible feat.”

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