April 4, 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frances Langford. Today’s commentary isn’t about the notable Lakelander, it’s about the history of our community.
Lakelanders are rightfully proud of our history. With every walk through Hollis Garden; with every child’s laugh at Barnett Family Park; with every crack of the bat at Joker Marchant Stadium, we remember the citizens who contributed to that history.
What if a future generation forgets about Joker Marchant or the Barnett and Hollis families? Will their children play in Lake Mirror Park or walk through Lake Mirror Garden? Will Spring Training be in some sponsored Dot.Com Stadium?
In 2013, we sent a message to future generations that we respected our history. That we believed when Lakelanders honor a citizen, subsequent generations should respect that honor. This week the City of Lakeland re-dedicated the Frances Langford Promenade.
In 1946 Lakelanders honored a local woman that worked tirelessly to boost morale for our brave soldiers of World War II. With her bright smile and steamy rendition of “I’m in the Mood for Love” Frances Langford had captivated soldiers in many USO shows. The city wanted a way to honor the Lakeland High School graduate who had become a star of film, radio and recording.
They choose to name the walkway around Lake Mirror after her. On March 29th, 1946 then Governor Millard Caldwell came to Lakeland to dedicate the Frances Langford Promenade. Though she had to leave Lakeland to return to her fast-paced life as a recording and film star, Frances Langford continued her USO work again in Korea and Vietnam. She would state that entertaining troops “was the greatest thing in my life.” “We were there just to do our job, to help make them laugh and be happy if they could,” Langford once told The Associated Press.
For decades Lakelanders boasted that the woman on radio and television, or playing to packed houses in films and concerts was one of their very own. Langford never forgot her roots in Lakeland. She would stay in touch with friends and family. She continued helping Lakeland and Lakelanders, including donations to help Florida Southern College.
For a woman so connected to Lakeland, one so helpful to our soldiers through three wars, it is a surprise more don’t know the promenade was named for her. We believe Lakelanders began to forget their history when the city misplaced the Frances Langford Promenade marker during Lake Mirror restoration. We would like to rectify that error.
Now is the time to replace the marker. It will take $2,000 to replace the plaque. We’re asking for your help.
You can make a tax-deductible donation to the Community Foundation of Greater Lakeland in the name of the Frances Langford Promenade. 100% of that money will go toward the new plaque.
Please donate today. In order to unveil the plaque on July 4, 2013, we need to make the order by May 1st, 2013.
Every $10 helps us reach our goal. And with every walk around the Frances Langford Promenade, you’ll see the results of your donation. With every USO show, on every song, Frances Langford radiated Lakeland cheer and hospitality. With just a moment of your time, you can help generations of Lakelanders remember her selfless dedication to our troops.
Also read: Lake Mirror in 2008
Photo by Tom Hagerty for Lakeland Local