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 first Classical Review Board (Taken from the 1934 Classical Caduceus)

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.

(Classical Review 2/24/1942)

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.”

The oldest physical Classical Review copy dates back to December 13, 1934. This was also the first paper printed version. In the previous months, the Review was produced through a mimeograph, which is according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “a duplicator for making many copies that utilizes a stencil through which ink is pressed.” The first Classical Review copy from March 1st, 1934 could not be found in the school archives.

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.”

Classical’s Band Club (Classical Review 4/28/1936)
Jesse Owens Grants Exclusive Interview to “Review” (Classical Review 11/4/1936)

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!

Jesse Owens Interview (Classical Review 11/4/1936)
President Franklin D. Roosevelt visits RI on October 21, 1936 (Classical Review 11/4/1936)
The Debate Club used to have elected officers, including a President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer (Classical Review 11/4/1936)
Classical’s Radio Club (Classical Review 11/1937)
Remembering Classical celebrating the end of World War I in 1918 (Classical Review 11/10/1939)
Classical students practiced their second Amendment right at the Rifle Club (Classical Review 4/9/1941)

The Farcical Review was a small student satirical publication which were placed in some of the Review editions. Some headlines included:

Classical High School to Assist In Extensive Defense Program. (Farcical Review, April Fools 1941)
Flying Course To Be Offered At Classical (Farcical Review, April Fools 1941)
Photo of School’s World War [I] Battalion Found (78 years ago). In 2019, we don’t know where it is (Classical Review 11/12/1941)
Spanish class wasn’t introduced to Classical until 1941 (Classical Review 11/12/1941)
America enters the Second World War. Classical students are bold enough to enlist to the army to fight the evils of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany (Classical Review 2/24/1942)
How Do You Salute The Flag? Op-ed by a student (Classical Review 2/24/1942)
The Classical Debate Club, founded in 1844, remains to be the oldest student organization at our school for over 175 years (Classical Review 2/24/1942)
June Graduating Class Ready to Accept Responsibilities of Wartime (Classical Review 5/28/1942)
One Hundredth Anniversary of Classical’s Existence (Classical Review 11/13/1942)
Pro-American World War II cartoon drawn by a student (Classical Review 2/19/1943)
Classical student body supports the war (Classical Review 2/19/1943)
This World War II political propaganda cartoon was placed behind the 2/19/1943 edition of the Classical Review. It was a drawing by Dr. Seuss depicting Japanese Emperor Hirohito with racist stereotypical characteristics: buckteeth, slanted eyes, and a big nose.
Graduating seniors entering an uncertain world at war (Classical Review 5/28/1943)
Stories of Classical alumni participating in the war. One was awarded the Purple Heart! (Classical Review 5/28/1943)
A teacher’s nephew, who was serving in the military, died in a plane crash (Classical Review 11/2/1943)
Living Together — A Hope of Tomorrow (Classical Review 11/2/1943)
Even more Classical Alumni in the war (Classical Review 11/12/1943)
Our Armed Forces (Classical Review 11/10/1944)
Report Cards (Classical Review 11/10/1944)
Student reacts to the end of World War II: “We Won the Peace; Let’s Keep It” (Classical Review 10/31/1945)
During the war (and the Great Depression), many American high schools opened between 9:30 AM to 3:40 PM in order to conserve gasoline (Classical Review 10/31/1945)
Classical High School in 1945 (Classical Review 10/31/1945)
Classical High School at the time was one of the few schools in the state to not have a student council (Classical Review 11/15/1945)
Former Rhode Island Governor John O. Pastore talks about his years at Classical High School (Classical Review 11/26/1945)

Assorted Ads in the Review between 1934 to 1949
This Seventeen Magazine ad covered nearly the entire Review back page on the November 1944 edition
This Band Leaders Magazine ad covered the backpage as well on the November 1945 edition

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.