Much has been written about the athletic prowess of the boys football, basketball and baseball teams at Withrow during the first fifty years. Little mention has been made of girls athletics. When the new East High opened in 1919, the athletic field may not have been finished and the middle gym open to the elements; but that did not curtail the physical education department from implementing a full program for both boys and girls. In the 1920s boys may have participated in interscholastic competition, but to a limited degree, so did the girls. Field hockey and swimming teams competed with other high schools and the freshman girl’s team from the University of Cincinnati. However, for reasons unknown, the girl’s swim team was abolished in 1926; and from that point on, girls participated only in intramural competition.
Since its founding, the Girls Athletic Association (GAA) was always one of the largest clubs at Withrow. It was created to encourage girls to exercise and to develop an interest in physical pursuits that, hopefully, would last a lifetime. Sportsmanship and camaraderie were expressed goals of the organization. At first, competition was by class, with the senior girls playing against the sophomore girls, etc. There was also the occasional PlayDay with games with girl groups from other schools. The girls and their advisers set up hockey, volleyball, basketball and softball teams for intramural play. Tennis, badminton, ping-pong, shuffleboard and horseshoes were popular sports along with archery, bowling, hiking and gymnastics. In the 1940s there was even a horseback riding club within the GAA. To raise money for all these activities, the girls sold the programs at varsity games along with many other items over the years. GAA also sponsored a school dance.
Participants in GAA activities were awarded points in each sport. The more their team, or the individual won, the more the points. Tallied at the end of the year, the girls with the most points would be honored at a banquet for all GAA members. Beginning in 1928 the senior who was judged to be the best all-around member would be selected as the Honor Girl for that year.
Withrow’s GAA was founded in 1927 by physical education teacher Helen Holbrook Taylor. Miss Taylor, a graduate of the Sargent School of Physical Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts (since 1929 part of Boston University) was a native New Englander, born in New Hampshire and raised in Massachusetts. She came to Cincinnati to attend UC and was one of the original 1919 cohort of teachers at Withrow. Miss Taylor headed the Physical Education department until 1935 when she was succeeded by Miss Dorothy Sachs. Miss Taylor had switched from teaching physical education to academics, teaching English, health and physiology. She remained as an adviser to GAA until she retired in 1963.
After her retirement, Miss Taylor returned to Massachusetts, where she had spent summers throughout her teaching career, to be close to her family.
A native Cincinnatian and graduate of Woodward High School and the University of Cincinnati, Miss Sachs came to Withrow in the fall of 1927. At the time she took over the gym department in 1935, Miss Sachs had a “deep, dark secret” that she did not reveal until 1939. The secret was that Miss Sachs and Arthur Lally had eloped to Brookville, Indiana—in 1934. She was finally to be known as Mrs. Lally. They had eloped so that a marriage license application would not be published in the local newspapers. The Board of Education was leery about renewing teaching contracts of married female teachers of childbearing years. Miss Sachs met Mr. Lally on the Avon Fields golf course. Another common bond was that Mr. Lally’s sister, Miss Ella Lally, taught social studies at Withrow Junior High. Known for yelling, “Hey, you!” at recalcitrant girls in gym class, Mrs. Lally remained head of the girls physical education department until her retirement, also in 1963.
Dorothy Sachs Lally remained in Cincinnati after her retirement. By then a widow, she died in November of 1995, at the age of 94. She is buried in the Beth Hamedrash Hogodal Cemetery in Covedale. Miss Taylor and Mrs. Lally were instrumental in moving GAA forward in the first 44 years, sponsoring and advising on many activities. One of the earliest of the activities consisted of Saturday morning hikes of five to fifteen miles. Popular from the early 1930s well into the 1950s, participants in these morning rambles also got GAA points for every mile they walked. While Mrs. Lally stayed in her gym, Miss Taylor found time to direct the pony chorus in the Minstrels and to be an adviser to Literatas, the literary club for freshman and sophomore girls. Miss Taylor also founded the Dance Club in 1920, which lasted all the way through the first 50 years.
With Miss Taylor moving from physical education to English in 1935, Withrow welcomed Miss Grace Blasberg. A Hughes High School graduate, Miss Blasberg went to Ohio State, but transferred to and graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1930. In her youth she had been very active in the Girl Scouts, attaining the rank of Golden Eaglet. She began her teaching career at Hartwell High School before moving to Withrow to teach physical education, health and first aid. She also advised the Bowling Club and managed the spring archery competitions. Not one for those morning hikes, her greatest joy was sleeping late on Saturday. In 1955 she stated that her secret ambition was “to live in Florida when I retire.” Miss Blasberg did exactly that, retiring in 1966. She died in Miami in July 1998 at age 91.
During her career, Miss Blasberg was active in the Cincinnati Health and Physical Education Association. Writing on nutrition, she was published in The Journal of School Health. Her tenure at Withrow was not continuous as she took off two years, and returned to Withrow in September 1947.
Mabel Joyce Robinson was born in Hanna, Indiana, but considered Urbana, Ohio, as her hometown. A graduate of Wittenberg University, she came to Withrow in the fall of 1945 from Deer Park High School. Also qualified to teach English, Latin and biology, she stayed with physical education throughout her career, primarily in the Junior High. Also a GAA adviser, Miss Robinson was the faculty adviser to Dolphin Club and Junior Dolphin Club for many years. She taught swimming and lifesaving after school and in summer sessions at Withrow. She retired from teaching in 1971 and died in September 1996 at age 84. She is buried in Woodsfield, Ohio.
In her senior year at Miami University, Elizabeth Leslie served as a “cadet” gym teacher at Withrow during the 1953-54 school year. After graduation, she began her full-time job at Withrow in September 1954. She was also a swimming and lifesaving instructor and an advisor to Dolphin Club. In 1955 she claimed that her secret ambition was “to swim the English Channel not only over but back too.” Like Mrs. Lally, Miss Leslie loved to play golf and bowl in her spare time. Miss Leslie was also the faculty advisor to the cheerleaders and a GAA advisor.
After 30 years at Withrow, Miss Leslie retired in 1984. She died in August 1995 at age 63 and is buried in her native Zanesville, Ohio.