Historical Society of
County Seat Council Bluffs, Iowa
Lake Township Schools
The old Iowana school may be long gone, but it’s not forgotten. Just ask Charles Beardsley, Bob Whitman, Sandy Kanger, Frances Williams or Susan Claar.
Barb Lett Walter remembers. She lived next door.
Ivan Pierson or Betty Shomshor remember Iowana and they didn’t even go there.
In the Sept. 23 edition of The Daily Nonpareil, Beardsley said he attended the small country school outside the Council Bluffs city limits in the 1950s, but “I cannot even find any history of it being a school.”
In a bygone era, Iowana stood on Highway 183 north of Christy Crème, Beardsley said.
Whitman confirms, “Oh, yes, there certainly was an Iowana school, exactly where you placed it,” on Old Lincoln Highway near IowanaLane. Whitman has lived in North Carolina for 44 years, but the Raleigh resident attended Iowana with his three brothers in the 1930s and “we all went to Abraham Lincoln High School.”
Kanger attended Iowana in the late 1950s, still lives in Council Bluffs.
“Mr. Beardsley described the school pretty accurately,” she said.
Walter also knows about Iowana.
“I started kindergarten at Iowana in 1957,” she said, adding that the school was built on property purchased from her parents.
Iowana was just one of the schools in Lake Township. The others were Woodland School on Highway 183 near Lime Kiln Road, Vineland School on Lime Kiln Road, and Rainbow School near Mynster Springs Road and Monument Road. Shomshor added Lakeview School to the list.
“My dad was director of the Woodland and Rainbow schools,” Shomshor said. She went to both those schools, and remembers the Lake township schools used numeric identifiers, so “Woodland was No. 1, Iowana was 2, Vineland was 3, Rainbow was 4 and Lakeview was 5.”
Why so many small schools so close together?
“There were no buses and the schools were located to try to keep the distance down to two miles for everybody,” Whitman said.
“I also went to Iowana School,” Claar of Crescent said. “However, it had been renamed Lake Central.”
That was after the schools were consolidated in 1961.
“A new school was built high on the hill above the old Iowana school,” Kanger said. “It was renamed Lake Central, later it was just Lake School.”
“Lake School was built when I was in the fourth grade,” Walter said. “My mom was asked to name it.”
The original Iowana became the lunchroom and Lake Central was used for classrooms.
The school seemed to acquire a number of names over the years. Whitman said Iowana also used to be Barrett school, named for an early area settler, but was renamed in the late 1930s or early 1940s after a contest.
“One of my close friends, Alta Corneilson, won. It was quite an honor,” Whitman said.
Beardsley remembered the name “Iowana” over the school’s front door, as well as the rope used to ring the school’s bell.
“We all got to take our turn pulling the rope on the bell to make it clang,” Kanger said.
Kanger added that Beardsley didn’t mention one important fact: “There were no bathrooms in the schools. The boys’ outhouse was on one side of the playground and the girls’ (was) on the opposite side. It got pretty cold out there in the winter.”
Whitman also remembered the outhouses.
“In those days, you did not hire maintenance,” he said. “Everyone chipped in with whatever skills he had. When the privies needed work, new holes were dug and the outhouses were moved.
“We didn’t have PTAs. We had mother’s clubs,” Whitman recalled, and those clubs held meetings, met with teachers, raised money and tried to help as needed.
District records show Lake Township schools became part of the Council Bluffs School system in 1966.
“They took the seventh and eighth grades out of Lake and we were bused to junior high at Longfellow,” Kanger recalled.
Walter said the Iowana children went to Longfellow because Kirn (Eastside High School) “didn’t want us.”
Walter said some people evidently thought the rural students would be dirty, unkempt, perhaps uncivilized.
“They said they didn’t want us in the school because we were from the country,” she said.
Rainbow at 19242 Mynster Springs Road and Vineland at 20926 Hillsboro Lane South are now private residences.
“If you use your imagination,” Walter said, “the old Rainbow schoolhouse is evident in the remodeled, expanded house.”
Kanger thought Iowana had been saved, displayed for years at Westfair, then moved to a place east of Oakland to be preserved.
It wasn’t. Iowana was demolished in the late 1970s, according to Shomshor. A one-room schoolhouse that had been moved to the Iowana site in the 1950s and placed near the Iowana structure was the building that was moved and saved.
Williams, who attended Iowana when she was 6 or 7 years old.
“I always thought they made the school into a church,” she said.
They didn’t. Woodland School became a church. The facility at 21586 Old Lincoln Highway is Woodland Church, Pierson of Council Bluffs said.
“I went to Woodland School in the early 1950s,” he said. “It was just a two-room grade school. For high school, you had to drive into town.”
Nothing remains of the original Iowana school building but a set of concrete steps. The Lake School built to replace Iowana on the hill at Old Lincoln Highway near Iowana Lane now houses Heartland Therapeutic School.
Almost nothing remains.
“My younger brother, Rod, or his son has the old school bell that hung in the vestibule,” Whitman said.
And Walter still has a painting of the old Iowana school, painted when the school was in its prime.
“I wonder if there would be anyone interested in a reunion for those who attended any of these old schools?” Kanger asked.
“You bet I’d go,” Walter said.
Although Shomshor didn’t attend Iowana, Walter said she could attend, too.
“That was where everything took place,” she said. “We were one big family then.”
The following appeared in The Daily Nonpareil September 26, 2009; it was written by Dennis Friend.