by Bob Linnerberg ’63
From the onset, the stated objective of the Annual has been “to make a true picture of school life” at Withrow. Anxiously awaited every spring, the yearbook has been a mirror of the times, and occasionally the troubles, of life in Cincinnati’s largest high school.
The first East High School annual was published by the senior class in 1920. The literary editor that year was Dorothy Pearce Atkins. She returned to Withrow in 1926 as an English teacher and remained until her retirement in 1961. Named The Tiger by the class of 1922, the annual remained so named as long as the school was called East High. Jokes and baby pictures of seniors, popular in the 1920s, were dropped from later annuals. The sixth annual in 1925 was the “first” Withrow High School annual.
Eschewing the repetitive names and themes of most college and high school yearbooks, the annual staff of 1926 declared, “We have never standardized our annual. Each book has an individuality, an appeal all its own.” Never were truer words spoken. Prime examples of this individuality were the annuals of 1930, 1933, 1943, and 1946.
Outstanding in almost every aspect, the 1930 yearbook, Ohio River Number, was so distinctive that such an annual has never been repeated. A folio edition, almost twice the size of previous annuals, it also came with a dust jacket. Containing professional photographs, individually mounted, of riverboats on the Ohio, it also contained individual photos of all the senior high students, a feature not repeated until 1953. Its cost must have broken the bank, as in the following years annuals returned to regular size and group photos by homeroom.
The Depression had a deep impact on the school population and even with the price cut in half to $1.50, the 1933 annual was a hard sell. Thinner than all previous annuals, A Scotch Thrift Number was cleverly compacted with fewer pages and less print. It was an economic jewel and ingenious in design and format. But times were tough and many students could still not afford to buy it. A successful school dance was held to raise money to help fund its publication. This also enabled the clubs that could not afford the $10.00 picture fee to be given free space in the 1933 annual.
The New World is Ours… A Phibsophy for the War at Withrow High School was the theme of the 1943 annual. It was an outstanding effort, conveying how high school students dealt with the situation by carrying on in the face of adversity. Addressing the Second World War head on, it confronted the consequences facing the graduating seniors and older male students for the next few years, juxtaposed with life as close to normal as it could be during an international crisis.
The most ingenious annual was 1946’s takeoff on the Sears-Roebuck catalog. The 27th Annual Catalog of Rewot and Egdirb, was a “catalog of fads, fashions, personalities and personnel” at Withrow. The products, of course, were the students, off the assembly line and all high-standard merchandise. Seniors were the super-deluxe models; underclassmen were “smaller sizes”. Inventively clever with a tongue-in-cheek jauntiness, one can see how some Withrowites might not have been pleased with its take on post-war life at Withrow.
These are just a few examples of especially creative annuals. With a wealth of exceptionally gifted writers, planners, and artists, Withrow was blessed with talent enough to create a unique product every year. Consistently recognized by their peers, the annuals won awards year after year. Just when you think you’ve seen the best annual ever, the next year is just as impressive. The ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s all reflect positively on their class. Fortunately, all are available for viewing in the Alumni Center, and most years are available for purchase from Withrow Alumni, Inc. by clicking HERE.