Lakeside living history legend Edna Kouns leaves lasting legacy

Edna Kouns and Betty McMillan

At 105 years old, Edna (Swink) Kouns was a walking time ma­chine. Her younger days during the horse and buggy era and her later years making sure that Lakeside history was preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Kouns passed away on Feb. 5 at her home in Lakeside — a granite rock cottage that she and her husband Erman built by hand. It was recently listed on the County Register of Historic Places. In 1936 Erman Kouns formed the Lakeside Silver Gray Granite Company and shipped the very rare and beautiful granite to all parts of the U.S. They supplied the granite that was used for the “Guardian of Waters” statue at the San Diego County Civic Center. He brought home the rejects from Lakeside Silver Gray Granite and eventu­ally had enough rocks to build a lovely two-story cottage in Lake­side for their family of five.

Edna Kouns was born at her grandmother’s home in San Di­ego in 1914. She was a survivor of the 1916 “Hatfield The Rain­maker Flood.” The family home in El Monte Valley was washed away downriver. Her mother put Edna and her younger sis­ter, Carol, and their only posses­sions into a horse drawn wagon as her father rode his horse and herded their dairy cattle. They headed for warmer, dryer coun­try, the Imperial Valley, where other family members lived. They plodded up Mussy Grade Road to Ramona, then turned left at Santa Ysabel, around the mountains to the desert. It was along cold trip, camping along the way.

One of Edna’s memories of living in Imperial County was of the summer heat. She said that it was too hot to sleep in the house. “It was like an oven,” she said. Her father built the family members raised wood beds outside, he hung large clay pots filled with water over the beds. The water would drip on the beds to cool them like an air conditioner.

When Edna was in the second grade her family of five moved back to El Monte Valley in Lakeside. She attended school in a horse shed. She attended Lakeside Elementary School and graduated from Grossmont High School in 1932. She then attend­ed the University of Redlands and graduated from San Diego State College in 1936. She would become a teacher. While attend­ing Grossmont High School she loved music and played in the band.

After graduation, as a young adult, Edna formed her own dance band, she played the saxophone and large bass. The band traveled around to various local communities and charged $1.00 for each couple dancing.

Edna and Erman started their family, Charles, Westley and Virginia, and while raising the children she worked part time and did community service work too. She served the community as president of Lakeside Ele­mentary School and Grossmont High School’s PTAs. In 1959 she became the first president of the new El Capitan High School in Lakeside. She served on the Lakeside School Board for three years and became a substitute teacher for Lakeside, Santee and Alpine School Districts, teaching for 20 years. She especially en­joyed working with special needs students and had a fondness for little boys.

Edna and Erman and their kids loved camping, hunting and fishing, she would hunt, shoot, skin, clean and cook their catches.

Edna Kouns was a founding member of the Lakeside Histori­cal Society in 1972. The orga­nization met in various places around town. Then in 1986 she led the Society to take on the challenge of leasing and re­storing the Olde Community Church, built in 1896 in downtown Lakeside. Most of the Soci­ety members were in their 70s, it was a big adventure, but most of them had grown up attending the little church. It was a labor of love. Since the church had been a thrift store for 10 years, it was run down and neglected. Once again Edna led the charge, she was the restoration chair­woman and she ran a tight ship.

Edna’s memorial service will take place at her beloved El Monte County Park on Feb. 29.