Lake Country Museum’s History
Lake Country Museum is located in the old Okanagan Centre Elementary School, of which the first part was built in 1932. The school population fluctuated over the years as other parts of the community developed. Some years students were bussed into Okanagan Centre; other years saw them being bussed out. The school, at last, held only the youngest students and finally closed permanently in 1984.
As a school district trustee, Helen Gatzke knew about the closure. She, along with other members of the local Ratepayers Association, thought that the school property should be kept intact and used for the benefit of the community. On June 18, 1984, after a special meeting of the Ratepayers Association, the Lake Country Heritage and Cultural Society was formed. Helen Gatzke of Oyama was elected as the first president, Ron Carter of Okanagan Centre the treasurer, and Jane Arnold of Winfield, the secretary.
In June 1985, School District #23 advertised asking for tenders to purchase the property. By July 18, the Central Okanagan Regional District was prepared to bid $1000 for it. Meanwhile, about 550 members of the community signed a petition expressing support for the CORD bid. By September, CORD was prepared to grant the Heritage Society a long term lease and to maintain the grounds if the School District would turn over the property to them. At a regular meeting of the Board of Trustees, the members voted unanimously to turn over building and property to the Regional District for the sum of one dollar. It has housed the museum ever since.