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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Editing and Indexing the School Newspaper

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 24, 2013

[library article 24 FEB 2013]


By Alan Hall




Last week, I told you about finding my father’s school newspapers in the basement of the family home, and my indexing and editing of those papers into a research volume.


I realize it is a “librarian-thing” as people seem astonished that I would go to that much effort for some old school newspapers.


Without that work, the history of that school and its district would likely be gone forever, so I kept that in mind as I read years of school newspapers and fed the names into an index file in my computer.


But first, I had to do some work on the physical condition of the school newspapers.


Most of the papers “felt damp” to the touch, but did not display any evidence of mold development.  For those papers, I simply placed them in a warm, dry place for several days and the smell and dampness disappeared.


A few of the papers were produced during World War II, and were a poor quality of paper stock, so they had turned a dark yellow color.  The mimeograph ink was rapidly fading, so I experimented with photocopying them with machine adjustments to great success.


Although some pages still had a yellowish cast, they were quite readable.


That left me with some of the older grade school papers, which appeared to be mold-damaged from years before.  The stains were permanently set in the paper, so I put them in plastic sleeves and transcribed the text onto a new paper with a note placed at the bottom of the sheet.


Other pages were photocopied, with the original pages discarded along with the mold on them.  Finally I had a set of usable pages to begin the editing and indexing.


Boy, I thought I could now really move with the indexing, once I had the school papers in order.  I quickly found that the editors of the Bloomfield Miniature school newspapers did not consider placing a “date” on the publication to be that important.


The school paper seemed to be published about 6 times a school year, so a seasonal theme of Autumn, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Lincoln’s Birthday, and Easter would put them in order within a year, but what year?


The only way to figure out the year of publication was to read the text carefully and look for clues!  For instance, 1932 was the Bicentennial of George Washington’s birth, so anything about Washington’s 200th birthday had to be 1932. 


The Ohio Legislature completely rewrote school funding in 1934, so I matched articles about that to 1934.  I remembered that Dad’s best friend’s sister, LouWilda, graduated a year before he did, so that was 1936.


I finally got them in fairly good order, and I added the year to the front of the paper and got them in order.  On some papers, I found my grandmother’s handwriting, like when she wrote “Harry was sick for this school play.”


The school plays were called “Operettas” and seemed to involve the entire school.  They were clearly major social events for the community, and were always directed by the English teacher, Miss Freda Wood.  The playbills were all included and I placed them together toward the rear of the volume.


As to sports, these small rural high schools seemed to concentrate on basketball, with no football or other sports.  Baseball seemed to come and go as weather permitted.


My father was on the basketball team, and looked forward to the county tournament as they got to travel across the county on the two busses that the school district owned.  A bulletin from the 1936 county tournament found that the “Bloomfield Spartans” coached by math teacher Wilbur G. Spies lost in the first round in what would  be “low-scoring games” today.


Dad always said that the basketball would bounce off the large beam on the ceiling of their gymnasium that held the water tank on the roof, causing complaints from visiting teams.


As you can tell, this was a labor of love for me, reliving my father’s school days through his school newspaper.  I recognized other names as people my parents knew, and I enjoyed reading the events and writing of the 1930s.


When finished, the volume contained exactly 400 pages, with 16 pages of indexing, and a dozen pages of introduction and history.


Perhaps the unusual thing related to Bloomfield High School was the fact that the Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Roy R. Uhlmann, was hired in 1925, and maintained that same position for 37 years without interruption, retiring the day the high school closed and he locked the doors for the final time, May 25, 1962.  The End.