By David Montenegro
Purple Post Vice-President
The year was 1934. This country was recovering from the throes of the worst economic depression in its history. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the President of the United States. The clouds of war that would shape the world for years were gathering over China. Adolf Hitler had begun his bloody reign as the chancellor of Germany. It was on a cold day [on March 1st, 1934] that the Classical Review was born.
Every publication must have a clear conceived objective if it is to enjoy any measure of success. The Review had such an objective. In its initial offering to the pupils of Classical, it promised ‘to give each student an accurate picture of the affairs at Classical, and to better acquaint them with the school in general.’
(Review Completes Its Third Decade, Classical Review 2/28/1964)
This is “Part 2” of an overview of Classical’s dissolved newspaper, the Classical Review. For “Part 1” where I lay out its background and other basic information, click here.
In this edition of “Our School’s Lost Newspaper,” I will go over the early years of the Review, and its coverage of events ranging from the Great Depression to World War II.
The Classical Review was founded by two seniors named Owen Gretton and Thomas Serpa. Its first edition was published on March 1st, 1934, which was the beginning of a successful organization that would remain 78 years in circulation.
The Classical Review for most of its lifespan would publish 5 times during the school year, typically in the months of October, December, February, April, then May or June. The first few editions were simple. It contained general school news, school activities, sports, honor roles, humor, and book reviews. There was a section for letters for the editors, at the time during the 1930s were placed under the “Dorothy Trix Column.” Letters ranged from issues going on in their personal and school lives, and ask the editors to give advice on how to solve them. This only lasted for a short period of time; by 1936 the Dorothy Trix Column was gone. A few years later, it was reintroduced as “Letters to the Editor” or “The Mailman.”
In the December 1934 edition, the Review was able to get an interview with Mr. Baker, one of the former presidents of the Classical Alumni Association. He graduated from Classical in 1880, then named Providence High School. In the article, he explains one of the most memorable incidents to happen during his time in high school was the introduction of mixed-sex education. To his surprise, despite women making up a small percentage at Classical, they “usually captured high honors in all subjects.”
In 1936, the Review was able to conduct an interview with Olympic runner Jesse Owens. According to Wikipedia, he “was an American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist in the 1936 Games,” and overall one of the best Olympians of all time. Mr. Owens was staying at the Biltmore Hotel during this time, and did not “wish [for] any visitors” in his room. The student writers J. J. Wardell and Jack Dreyfus, eager to meet the most famous national athlete, managed to find a way to do it.
…a great debate ensued as to which one of us would knock on the door. They must have heard out knees knocking together, for the door was suddenly opened, and, after stuttering “Classical” a few times, Dreyfus and I were ushered into the presence of the Olympic Track star. Mr. Owens motioned Dreyfus to a chair, forced me into his, perched himself comfortably upon the bureau, and said, ‘Fire away’.
To everyone’s surprise, even the original writers, Classical High School always had a high level of recognition even outside of the state of Rhode Island. Jesse Owens would definitely not have let any other high school student come into his room; he knew Classical students were among of the most prestigious in the country. Classical High School was one of the three top high schools in America back in 1942. No wonder Jesse Owens let the students have an interview!
The Farcical Review was a small student satirical publication which were placed in some of the Review editions. Some headlines included:
Taking a glance at the Classical Review in its early years tells a lot about our community in general. By the amount of content published during this time period demonstrates that student life was thriving; clubs and sports were prosperous. In addition, we’ve learned about some old defunct student organizations such as the Rifle club and the Radio club. However, much of the newspaper content was not included here because it contained irrelevant information that only past graduates would probably relate to. We’ve noted that the “Letters to the Editor” was a way for students to express their concerns about things going on at school or in the world. In the near future, the Purple Post may revive this tool to communicate with students; so stay tuned.
The next edition of remembering the Classical Review will be from the 50s and onward.