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Bloomington High School’s The Optimist, 1923-2009

In the newspaper collection at the MCHC Research Library, we have numerous issues of The Optimist, the newspaper of Bloomington High School (later Bloomington High School South). The paper according to Wikipedia began in 1911. Our holdings appear to be the most complete with scattered issues from 1923 through 2009 (see Index for specific holdings). According to WorldCat, two other libraries have some holdings:

  • Indiana Historical Society: Elephant finale (1923), v. 1, no. 2(Nov. 3, 1913), v. 1, no. 3(Nov. 25, 1913), v. 2, no. 8(April 7, 1914), v. 2, no. 9(April 29, 1914), v. 3, no. 3(Nov. 16, 1914), v. 3, no. 4(Dec. 4, 1914) and the
  • Indiana State Library has: v. 38 no. 13, Jan. 22, 1932; v. 39 no. 1-2, [4]-15, Feb. 12-19, Mar. 4-May 20, 1932

I did not verify whether a complete run exists at MCCSC (Phone: 812-330-7700).

From a local history perspective, the Optimist provides a glimpse into the daily life of high school students in Bloomington over the past 90 years, images of students and teachers, and even coverage of budgetary and other issues of the Monroe County School Corporation from a students’ perspective. While the index provides only two or three “headlines” from each issue, they depict the situation at the time covered. A digital project might be useful in the future to provide individual names for family history research, especially if missing issues were obtained. I enjoyed just seeing the bylines, knowing the parents of some of the writers.

Cartoon by Charles Gerhart, '23

Cartoon by Charles Gerhart, ’23

The earliest issue we recently received as a donation is a real treasure. The Elephant issue of 1923, (explained as a special issue when the staff desired to “do something “big””) included a cartoon by Charles Gerhart ’23 illustrating the journalistic process of publishing the Optimist; images of the Optimist staff and the January Seniors with humorous biographies for each; several ads including ones from Howe Candy Kitchen, VanValzah General Hardware and Wiles Drug Company. Most delightful are the three or four “tongue in cheek” articles: “Jimmy Campbell offers a Change of Menu” by Keith Hepburn, “Cicero, The Terrible” by Edgard Dodd, “Frank is Dead” by Ralph Lessen, and the absolute prize in my opinion, “The Poor Fish” by Ruth Kirby. “The Poor Fish” is a story about a fictional place, Brookville, and the “15 karat gold fish, the pride of all Brookville”, being stolen and removed from the top of its courthouse!

Post submitted by Lou Malcomb (Library Volunteer)

Comments (0)

  1. David lemon


    Not long ago I personally visited the journalism class at BHS South looking for “Optimists” from the years in which I attended Bloomington High School. Kathleen Mills, teacher of journalism and editor of the Optimist, ushered me into a small office with a cabinet full of original “Optimists” from the early years of BHS to the present. Some were in hardbound books, others loose. It was a real treat to read through the newspapers that I had read when I was a student. Students helped make copies of the issues in which I was most interested. Looks like a future digitization project to me!

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