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Lake Wales High's Class of '74 Planning Trip Down Memory Lane

Class Will Tour "Old School" as Part of Weekend Reunion

High school reunions are still a part of American culture and life experience that can offer a way to reflect on a lifetime of work and achievement. The Lake Wales High School Class of 1974 is going back...back to where it all began.

On Friday, March 15, 2024, the class will be taking a trip down memory lane celebrating 50 years.

It's not unusual for classes to celebrate 50 years, but this class is somewhat unique. They hold the bragging rights of being the last class to graduate from the original location of the Lake Wales Senior High School, which was established in 1924.

They were also the largest class in the school's history, with close to 300 members. To celebrate 50 years, they're going back to where it all began. Although it is where high school ended, the memories have been cherished for almost 50 years.

"What better place to celebrate than the place that holds the memories?" said reunion committee member Rhonda Hearn NeSmith.

As part of their gathering, they will have the opportunity to revisit a portion of the "old school," as the Lake Wales Little Theatre and Bok Academy North have graciously offered their piece of history to help the class commemorate a half century of nostalgia. Both organizations now operate buildings that were once part of the original school.

Glimpses of the past can be seen throughout the beautiful campus. Lake Wales Little Theatre operates in a building that was once the school's music building, while Bok Academy will offer a tour of the newly renovated cafeteria, and the ongoing work redesigning the interior of the school's 1919 building for additional classroom space. The committee offered special thanks to Leslie Grondin and the Lake Wales Little Theatre board, along with Principal Donna Drisdom of Edward W. Bok Academy North for making this their most memorable reunion so far.

The history of the Lake Wales High School Class of 1974 sets them apart from other classes. Among the most socially active, this will be the tenth reunion they have organized, which includes a Spring Fling, a mini reunion, in 2022, following closely upon their 45th reunion.

They've enjoyed some memorable reunions, from a tailgate party before attending a homecoming football game, to hosting a "recession" reunion to accommodate the unstable economy.

The class is especially proud that their reunions are typically a little unique and thoughtfully planned with the classmates in mind. Their 50th reunion is being creatively organized with consideration of their alumni and alma mater.

The Friday night reunion event will include a tour of the old high school band room, with the added benefit of the reception area. Alumni will enjoy food offered by three popular food trucks, while reminiscing of days gone by.

The class will undoubtedly treasure the opportunity to visit some of the old high school buildings, including the 1919 building as the school rolls out the red carpet to welcome back the members of the LWHS Class of 1974.

The buildings hold memories of days gone by and are being strategically redesigned with the original wood floors and many of the original windows and rafters still intact.

"Don't let this historical gem fool you – it's a modern, masterfully designed, school with all the latest and greatest technology students could ask for," NeSmith said. Drisdom and her superb team "have done an outstanding job of maintaining the historical integrity of the former high school," she added.

"There's so much more that should be said about the Lake Wales Little Theatre and Edward W. Bok Academy North," NeSmith said. "What they have done to preserve a little piece of history should not be overlooked. By protecting the old gym, the City of Lake Wales has protected its legacy and has given young adults the unique opportunity to be a part of Lake Wales history."

"The Lake Wales High School Class of 1974 wishes to thank them for all they are doing to make the 50th class reunion the most memorable reunion to date," NeSmith added.

Editor's Note: Rhonda Hearn NeSmith, Mamie Ciszek Hall and Brenda Donaldson Wilkinson contributed to this story.


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