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Pawsitively perfect Panther periodicals

by Carolyn Newman

WALSENBURG — No sensational breaking news perhaps, but the school newspaper is a well-anticipated one. Is my name in it? What’s planned for Homecoming?

It’s scary – the whole world reads the student’s first attempt to be in print. The pressure is on – can he/she meet the deadline? The printer can’t wait. What if she/she makes a horrible mistake? Will friends notice?

The lessons learned as each individual takes a staff position – meeting deadlines, being accurate, checking spelling, being aware of others’ feelings, selling ads, cooperating with others, and facing rejection – all part of life.

Walsenburg High School (and Huerfano County High School and John Mall) saw its share of papers – named The Panther’s Tale (one Panther), The Panthers’ Tale (many Panthers depending on the apostrophe), Panther Print, Panther Paw, etc.

The high point for the budding journalists may have been in July 1974 after an arsonist set the high school on fire. The gym, cafeteria, and some classrooms destroyed. Dirty smoke was everywhere. The newspaper staff gathered over the summer to report the changes the fire forced on the school – assemblies and graduation on the football field, food trucked in from Washington School, using St. Mary School gym.

So efficient was that summer staff, the newspaper was ready the first day of school, complete with photos of the destruction. THE PANTHER’S TALE was named Best Small School Newspaper in Colorado by the Colorado Press Association. The editor and sponsor were invited to the annual Colorado Press Association Conference, three days in the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver.

Note the briefs at the top of this illustration. The state champions is a bit misleading; the story is about three who qualified for the state wrestling meet. “Hamlet” was the play students read and then celebrated with an Elizabethan feast and learning how to make proper English tea. Inside the paper, students sounded off on the new policy for fighting students – three-day suspension, police report, and a possible shortening lunch period for all students.

Stories reflect the times. In 1942 it was praise from the principal for the students collecting 120 tons of scrap metal for the World War II effort. One English teacher resigned in October to enter the military.

It’s been a long history of school papers since the first known one. That pioneer was printed in the 1700s in England on a bit of precious 4″ x 8″ paper and folded once to make four pages. The ad inside featured a reward for finding a student’s lost book.

School papers are keepsakes forever. Will social media replace school papers?

Information is from various school papers including 1942, 1947, 1991, 1974. The Heritage Center welcomes old papers from St. Mary High School and John Mall. Just bring them in some Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday afternoon or phone 719-738-2346.

The History Detective is a service of the Huerfano County Historical Society. huerfanohistory.org carlynewmn@aol.com

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