December 6, 2009 - The Lake City Reporter

By H. Morris Williams

Back in 1960 a Lake City Junior High School teacher brought a small hand-cranked generator to school to demonstrate basic electrical principles to students. The students came to call the little generator 'The Shocking Machine.' Here's why.

One day after class two boys asked the teacher if they could hold the generator's two lead wires and touch hands while a third kid cranked the generator so they could feel the low voltage electricity flow through them. The teacher agreed and the boys felt the mild shock.

Then they found that if the generator was cranked really fast it produced more current and more of a shock.

Word spread around school about the 'shocking machine' and in no time at all lots of kids started showing up at recess to see who could crank the most power and who could hold the wires the longest and stand the most current.

The fastest crankers could generate enough power to send the current through six or seven hand holders in the circle. When a kid couldn't stand it and dropped his hands the other kids howled with laughter.

The 'generator room' soon filled up with boys waiting their turn to get in the circle to see how much current they could stand. The late Joe DePratter was one of the kids who could withstand the most current.

Rodney Thomas, Johnny Smith, Larry Freeman, Howard Register, and Randy Register were other students who were good at it.

Some of those kids, now in their 50's, still remember the great times they had with the old shocking machine.

The fun ended when a parent complained to school officials that these students were being 'tortured'. Her complaint was untrue but it ended the days of the shocking machine.

Ironically, Johnny Smith, who loved tinkering with the generator, grew up to become a lineman with the Florida, Power, and Light Co.


The book "Lake City, Florida—A Sesquicentennial Tribute" by UF professor emeritus Dr. Kevin McCarthy and me will go on sale at Hunter Printing, 1330 SW Main Blvd. starting Thursday, December 10, at 9 am.

Those people who pre-ordered their book(s) can pick them up one day earlier, Wednesday, December 9, from 2 pm-5pm.

The book has 300 pages, over 200 pictures, and costs $20. Make checks payable to 'Lake City Book'.


Ginger Hill of Lake City, now a doctoral student at the University of California at Irvine, sent me this clipping from the St. Louis Globe-Dispatch dated 1878: "Col. McLeod of Lake City, Florida, has just killed an alligator in whose stomach was found a turtle, a pig's head, and a peck of blackberries. The question now is—How did that alligator pick those blackberries?"


The University of Florida fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, got started in Lake City when UF was here. The fraternity's web site says that 11 young college men gathered on the second floor of the Blue Goose Inn in Lake City on November 17, 1904 and founded the Alpha Eta Chapter of their fraternity.

One of those 11 youngsters was Walter M. Hackney, destined to become one of our town's leading citizens.

When UF moved from here to Gainesville in 1906, the fraternity moved with it.


The late F. W. "Shorty' Bedenbaugh joined the Mormon Church when he was 53 years old and he was baptized in Lake Jeffrey by his son Arthur.

Shorty, a 50-year barber, a 20-year state legislator, and an always-entertaining storyteller, told this humorous story on himself about his baptizing.

"In my 53 years of living I had committed just about every sin in the book and then some, but I didn't fully realize just how much sinning I had done until I got baptized and had all my sins washed away.

When I came up out of the water, that lake was so polluted with all my sins that the fish and even the alligators  had to swim to the far side of the lake to find fresh water!"


He didn't believe in dog. square

H. Morris Williams is a local historian and long-time Columbia County resident.