Around Lakeside – At 101 years old, Congress of History’s Ben Dixon Award given to Lakeside historian Edna Kouns

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The Congress of History held its 31st annual conference in Mission Valley this past weekend. Historians and preservationists joined together to hear stories about the history of San Diego County. Lakeside’s own, Edna Kouns, who is 101 years young, won the coveted Ben Dixon Award for her preservation efforts in her hometown. Edna graciously accepted the honor and gave a speech about volunteering in your communities. Folks gathered around her to ask questions about her life, she is a living legend herself.

The Congress of History held its 31st annual conference in Mission Valley this past weekend. Historians and preservationists joined together to hear stories about the history of San Diego County. Lakeside’s own, Edna Kouns, who is 101 years young, won the coveted Ben Dixon Award for her preservation efforts in her hometown. Edna graciously accepted the honor and gave a speech about volunteering in your communities. Folks gathered around her to ask questions about her life, she is a living legend herself.

Edna was one of the founding members of the Lakeside Historical Society in 1972. Each week the members would meet and go through boxes of photos, articles and scraps of paper with bits of history written on them. They compiled three scrapbooks about families and the history of the community—this was the beginning of their archives. Over the years the collection of scrapbooks containing Lakeside history has grown to more than 300 scrapbooks.

During America’s bicentennial celebration in 1976 she helped the Historical Society celebrate with a special event for the entire community every single month.

In the early 1980s she helped with the publication of the “Legends of Lakeside” history book, which tells the stories of Lakeside clubs, schools, businesses, government agencies and families. During these days she also served two terms as president of the Historical Society.

In the mid 1980s she spearheaded the drive to rent the Old Community Church, built in 1896, from the Presbytery to become the home of the Historical Society on Maine Avenue. The deal was struck to rent the building for $500 a month while restoring it with its own fundraising projects. She became the chairman of restoration committee, an unusual job for a woman in those days. She enlisted the help from businesses and the community who donated over $250,000 in labor and materials. She and her committee were there, physically working six days a week to restore the building they loved, as most of them had attended the church as youngsters.

After the church was restored to its former glory the Historical Society decided to ask if they could purchase it from the Presbytery. Once again Kouns led the charge by being on the purchasing committee. They came to an agreement and purchased the old building for a whopping $150,000. The Society worried that they would not be able to pay off the mortgage, and worried that their grandchildren be strapped with the bill. Once again they put their nose to the grindstone and held any kind of fundraiser they could think of. Within four years they had paid off the mortgage and then held a big mortgage burning party to celebrate with the community.

In addition to the Legends book, in 2008 Kouns and Cathy Hanson compiled information, co-authored and published a new history book entitled “Dairies of Lakeside 1886-2008” about more than 100 dairies that existed in Lakeside over the years. In 2011 they compiled and co-authored and published another new history book entitled Schools of Lakeside 1883-2011.

She has been honored as a Citizen of The Year and Woman of Distinction awards in years past. She recently served on the committee to save Lakeside’s Historic Second School built in 1912. The Lakeside School Board decided to save it from demolition after hearing Koun’s stories and memories about the school she attended on Channel Rd. 

Kouns is a survivor of the 1916 Hatfield The Rainmaker Flood. Her family home in El Monte Valley was washed down river. Her Mother put her and the other children in the horse drawn wagon with all their possessions. Their Father rode his horse and drove the cattle and they went up Mussy Grade Road to Ramona and over the mountains to Imperial County to live for two years. This was the only time Kouns did not live in Lakeside. Every Wednesday Kouns is working in the archives at the Lakeside History Center and telling colorful stories and keeping the other archivists entertained.