By BOB LINNENBERG ’63
“If it happened—it’s here” was the winning slogan submitted by sophomore Jeanne LeFeber ’50 in a contest held by Tower News in the fall of 1947. She was awarded a $10.00 prize for her entry, which was to appear in the Tower News masthead for the next 30 years.
The first edition of East High School’s The Tower News was issued April 22, 1921. Printed at school, the newspaper contained no advertising and cost 5 cents. Student Horace Wersel was given credit for suggesting the name for the paper. The students at East High had chosen to have a newspaper instead of a magazine; and in this regard, Tower News remained the first and only public school newspaper in Cincinnati for almost a decade.
Published bi-weekly, the paper consisted of club news, stories, poems, essays, cartoons, and humor. All aspects of sports news, both male and female, were prominent. In the ensuing years, alumni news and events were heavily featured. By the late 1920’s, the paper expanded into a weekly publication and added more cartoons and gossip.
In 1929, it became necessary to print Tower News out of school, and the business staff was expanded to bring in advertising.
By the early 1930’s, with the depression at its worst, the paper was scaled back to bi-weekly and fears were evident that, due to lack of sales and advertising, Tower News would have to cease publication altogether. The student body rallied, and the paper continued throughout the Depression.
World War II brought the paper back to a weekly publication. War news and stories of alumni and former students in service were prominent along with the usual sports, clubs and activities, and gossip. Instructions for air raid drills, and the sometimes humorous results of air raid drills, were featured along with articles about the Victory Corps and similar war time activities. Times may have been difficult but the most copy was given over to the popular “swing” bands of the time. What the hit songs were and where and when the bands were playing in the Cincinnati area helped relieve the stress of wartime life. Weekly casualty lists were published on the first page throughout the war.
In 1944, Tower News held a contest for new school songs. Suggesting that “On Withrow” was a “parody” of “On Wisconsin”, the Editors wanted to replace it with something specific to Withrow. With the school name changed from East High to Withrow High in 1924, Tower News had sponsored the same contest to get rid of the “On Wisconsin” tune. Both contests were unsuccessful. However, the 1944 contest for an Alma Mater had a winner. With Sigma Gamma awarding a $25.00 prize, junior Rowena Hezlep’s words remain the Alma Mater to this day. The song, with music by choral director Leo Grether, was presented on Class Day 1945.
Over the ensuing years, the Tower News remained a weekly paper. For special occasions, and for the year 1956, a six-page paper was possible. Special sports issues were common in the fall as was the Minstrel/Sounds of Withrow issue in the spring; an April Fool issue highlighted the wit of the Tower News staff. The Class Day issue at the end of the school year was prepared by the departing seniors, and the underclassmen took over the assignments for the next school year.
In the fall of 1965, the Board of Education bought Withrow a printing press; and the Tower News once again was printed in-house. It was reduced to a bi-weekly publication, but because advertising was no longer necessary, the content remained the same.
During most of its run, Tower News enjoyed an All-American or a First-Class rating from the National Scholastic Press Association. Withrow students knew they had good reason to be proud of their paper, and the national recognition was icing on the cake. And, after 50 years, the price may have doubled—but was still only 10 cents.