Remember when boys published their newspaper?


By Regina Villiers.  Originally published May 26, 1993 in The Suburban Life, added May 11, 2017.

Jack Morgan as he looked about 10 years after he and his friends published “The Madeira Sun.”

In the old-time movies, bored Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney would look at each other, and one of them would say, “Let’s put on a show.”

Then they would gather a few of their friends, also bored, and they would stage a production worthy of Broadway.

In a similar situation, Jack Morgan and three of his friends staged a venture worthy of Garland and Rooney.  But they did it in the publishing field.

In 1934, near the end of a long summer, Jack who was 13 at the time, and his friends, around the same age, started publishing a newspaper that was the talk of Madeira.

Their newspaper also attracted the attention of the local Cincinnati press, probably worried about the competition.

The Cincinnati Times-Star, which eventually merged with The Cincinnati Post, sent out a reporter and a photographer to interview the boys.

A feature article, complete with photographs, then appeared in the Times-Star.  Jack still has an aged, yellow clipping of the story tucked away in an album.

Jack thinks he may have instigated the undertaking.  He was always interested in newspapers, and his older brother, Brownie, worked during the Depression for The Madeira Press, a weekly newspaper published at the time.

Jack also liked to write, and he continued writing later for high school publications and at Xavier University.

Originally, there were three boys involved in the newspaper:  Alfred Stuart, editor; Bill Grimes, cartoonist; and Morgan sports editor.  Jack says it was natural for him to do sports, for he was sports-minded.

Shortly, another friend joined them, Jack Westerhoff, who became a reporter, increasing their staff to four.

The boys were just going into the eighth grade when they started the newspaper.

They called their publication The Madeira Sun and they published it weekly, every Saturday.

At first, they started out with about 10 subscribers, but in 20 weeks the circulation had increased to 100.

They began with a four-page issue but they soon increased it to six pages to take care of advertising.

Their ad rates were 10 cents for a little ad and 25 cents for a big ad.  They sold the newspaper for two cents per copy.

Their parents supported their effort, Jack said, with the stipulation being that they had to stay solvent and pay their own way.

He recalls that Oscar Meyer was one of their biggest advertisers, along with Bob Braun, who owned the local drug store.  Dr. Madden, the veterinarian, and Brinkroger’s Grocery were also regular advertisers.

At first, they produced the paper the hard way, by typing the copies with carbons.

Then the Rev. Meredith M. Hogue of the Madeira Presbyterian Church took an interest in the boys and offered them the use of his mimeographing machine.  The newspaper then went big-time.

The boys had an office in a corner of the Stuart basement, where they would write the newspaper.  Then every Saturday morning, they would go to the minister’s house to mimeograph it.  Then they’d deliver it to their subscribers.

They started out with four letter-size pages.  Then they moved to legal-sized paper to give more room for features.  They also gave it an artistic heading and wrote it in columns.

The first page was devoted to “spot news.”  Sports took over the second page, and the third page was filled with jokes.  Advertising and announcements took care of the fourth page; and fiction, a continued story, always ran on the fifth page.  The sixth page was the comics page done by Bill Grimes.

“Bill was a great admirer of Dick Tracey,” Jack said, “and he created a character patterned after Tracy.  But he was always running into telephone poles.”

The newspaper took up all their free time, but the boys told the Times-Star reporter that they enjoyed it.  They were quoted as saying it was “more fun than football.”

The boys wrote about everything that happened in Madeira and didn’t duck controversy.

Jack recalls that they took on the Madeira Fire Department because of a little incident with a tree house.

The boys and some of their friends built a magnificent tree house where they spent many happy hours.  After an incident, when there was a small fire at the tree house, the fire department showed up and chopped it down.

They boys never forgave them for this and a feud followed for a long time.

The boys published the newspaper for about a year, during their eighth grade year of school.  Jack isn’t sure why they disbanded.   He thinks maybe it was the pressure of weekly deadlines and the lure of baseball games and girls.