Extra! Extra! High School Newspapers!

In my last blog, I wrote about the interesting history that can be found in old newspapers. Today’s blog continues that theme and focuses on what I learned when I came across a 1937 issue of Fulton High School’s student newspaper. Aptly named “The Buzz,” the school’s four-page publication offers some clues about how things were for teenagers 80 years ago.

For starters, I was impressed with the number of students and faculty involved with the production of their monthly paper. Thirty-six young people created each issue of The Buzz, with leadership roles such as Editor-in-Chief (Emma Cortini), Associate Editors (Ann Mathews and James Reider), various Business and Advertising Editors and the all-important “Beat” Editors, including two for sports, four for the arts, and over a dozen roaming halls to get the news, or should I say, gossip. Two faculty members (Gladys Bonner and Earl Bateman) kept a watchful eye on the ambitious teens.

Also on The Buzz’s staff were a small army of “distributors” who sold the paper. Costing five cents (the equivalent of 85 cents today; still a bargain), the distributors had sales quotas to meet. Praise for 13 of them who outsold their target number earned them a front page acknowledgement.

Here’s more of what was considered newsworthy for Fulton High School students in 1937:

The January issue included a list of New Year’s resolutions, which the reporter noted had “some very odd ones.” Students resolved to “get to school on time, at least three times a week” or “buy only one soda a week (but accept all others given to me)” or “not to flirt with girls or boys, depending on who liked who.”

Speaking of flirting, what high school paper would be complete without a feature on current romances? The Buzz’s was called “Heart Squeezes” and the columnist (who chose to remain anonymous) cleverly turned his or her report into a poem:

“A little cupid strolled the hall,

with bow and arrow aimed,

and suddenly he heard a call,

that soon would make him famed.

He turned and saw without a doubt

the scene we’d like to tell about:

Arthur whispering in gentle tones,

to no one else but Ella Owens;

John Ciciarelli pursuing Lorraine;

Dowling and Halstead at Lover’s Lane;

Hillick and Bogwicz battling over Quinn,

‘til hard to say who we think will win.”

Sports have always been big news for Fulton high schoolers, and 1937 Buzz’s top athletic headline noted “Bonanno and Trepasso Elected Co-Captains of F.H.S. Ringmen.” I assumed the Ringmen were wrestlers, but they were actually the school’s boxing team. An upcoming match between Fulton and Oswego promised to be an exciting evening since both teams were undefeated that year.

There were other sport reports, enough to fill the newspaper’s entire back page. The girls bowling team was on a roll, featuring outstanding athletes Cora Chetney, Flora Cardinali, Nettie Dexter, Irene Emmons, Jean Trask and Laura Howard. Other girls were competing in ping-pong and paddle-tennis.

Boys on the “Basketeers” team boasted their recent game as “the most watched sporting event.” A hard-fought game, again against rival Oswego, was a nail biter at halftime with Fulton trailing by a few points. At the final buzzer, we’d lost by twenty.

School news wasn’t all sports. Another front page story covered the Boys Glee Club’s upcoming show, “Mellow Moon,” featuring the talents of Francis Quirk, John Halstead, Louis Briggs, Vincent Chalone, John Bowers and Donald Dowling. Admission for the Valentine-themed show was 15 cents for students and a quarter for parents.

The news wasn’t all rosy, as this headline proved: “Student Council Issues Warnings.” Someone had been writing on bathroom walls, the reporter noted, leaving them in “deplorable conditions.” Warnings were issued: students should shape up or “more drastic action [would be] taken.” I bet teachers today would be happy if that was the worst problem they had to deal with.

The Buzz received support from the Fulton community. Advertisers included Putnam’s Pharmacy (“Stop in for a great chocolate soda. 10 cents.”), Wilson’s Book Store (“Office supplies, Gifts, Stationery, Kodaks.”) and bowling at Recreation Park (“Special afternoon prices 15 cents per game.”).

My trip down high school memory lane got me wondering how today’s students get their news. Does G. Ray Bodley even publish a paper?  Knowing I wouldn’t find my answer in boxes of old newspapers, I used Google to find “The RaiderNet,” a weekly online publication from Fulton’s high school.

November 1, 2018’s issue of RaiderNet shared some common themes with The Buzz. The RaiderNet’s front page announced the boys’ soccer team making New York State semi-finals. The issue also covered the Lady Raiders basketball team’s preparation for the new season. RaiderNet did offer a few items you wouldn’t have seen in 1937, such as an opinion column debating the qualities of a good teacher and the school’s mountain bikers planning a trip to a Boonville outdoor education center.

I was pleased to learn that RaiderNet is still compiled by students and staff. Its current advisor, Justine Nylen, said that about 15 students contribute to each issue. Those students are usually enrolled in her Journalism class, where, as part of their studies, they write about school events for the paper. For many years, English teacher Len Senecal was the faculty advisor for The Raider. Justine was a student in Len’s Journalism class, became editor of the paper when she was a senior in high school, and then, in her ninth year of teaching, assumed the role of advisor after Len retired.

While I can’t hold the RaiderNet in my hands, I’m glad to know there are still young people interested in covering school events for history’s sake. Someday, the grandchildren of the RaiderNet’s staff will smile as they read the hot topics of Fulton High School in the good old days of 2019.

The RaiderNet, Fulton High School’s newspaper, has a lot in common with the student-run papers from years past.

The RaiderNet, Fulton High School’s newspaper, has a lot in common with the student-run papers from years past.