Anchorage Remembers: The Race is to the Swift–Maybe: A High School Newspaper Aims for a Scoop

by Marie Lundstrom

“Do you think we could have a mock election here at West?” Ted Trueblood, editor of the school newspaper Eagle’s Cry asked me in journalism class. “I think I can wangle some voting machines.”
“If you can arrange for the voting machines, I think it would be all right. You’ll have to check with Mr. Rewolinski, though,” I said. I was the newspaper advisor as well as journalism teacher. John Rewolinski – “Mr. R”– was the assistant principal in charge of activities.

“The way I see it,” Ted said, “with all the fuss over this election coming up in November, we’ll have a great story for the Eagle’s Cry about how the kids vote.”

It was fall 1962—barely into statehood. The election coming in November was a big one. We had a race for governor between Bill Egan, the present governor since statehood in 1959, a Democrat, and Mike Stepovich, a Republican, who had been the governor in Territorial days just before statehood. Ernest Gruening, one of the two U.S. senators since statehood, a Democrat, was opposed by Ted Stevens, a Republican. Democrat Ralph Rivers from Fairbanks, our lone U.S. representative, was opposed by Lowell Thomas Jr., a Republican from Anchorage. There was much speculation in the newspapers and around town about all three races. How our West High kids voted might predict how their parents would vote. That was Ted’s idea—he thought it would be a great scoop for Eagle’s Cry.

Mr. R did approve, and Ted and the newspaper staff were off and running. Ted was able to arrange for two voting machines. We set a date that would work with our publication schedule, put up posters, urged everyone in school, maybe about 1,400 kids, to vote. Social Studies teachers encouraged their students to vote as a practice in civic duty.

The word got out into the community that West was having a mock election. Like us, others saw the significance of our election as a straw poll indicator of how the November election might go. I got phone calls at home.

“Miss Lundstrom, I’m calling from the Anchorage Times to ask about your election at West High.”

“I’m calling from the Anchorage Daily News. Can you tell me about the election at West?”

Democratic and Republican headquarters folks called the school, Ted Trueblood, John Rewolinski, and Les Wells, West High principal. We told everybody the same thing: wait until after our election–read it in the Eagle’s Cry.

Election day at West High arrived. The Eagle’s Cry kids, especially Ted, were all excited. The voting machines, which had arrived the night before – big and black, about the size of upright freezers – were set up in the foyer, near the main entrance and the gym, where everybody went at some time during the day. Mr. R, who knew everybody, and newspaper staff kids watched nearby to see that kids didn’t vote twice. Students could vote only between classes, at lunch, and before and after school. At lunch, the lines of voting kids were long. Reporters and political folks were walking around the school off and on all day.

“I’m not telling anyone the outcome,” Ted said. He was under a lot of pressure. It was after school, and the voting was over. He had the results and was writing the story for the Eagle’s Cry in our second floor journalism classroom while the voting machine handlers packed up the two machines downstairs in the foyer.

The rest of that issue of the newspaper was already at Anchorage Printing, owned and run by Herb Rhodes. Ted typed up the story, and I made sure he got it to the print shop to fill the hole set aside for it.

We waited on tenterhooks for the Eagle’s Cry to be printed–-it would take a couple of days. Ted kept his cool, even as he sat on hot political stuff. We waited to get the word from Herb Rhodes that the paper was all printed, then Ted and I planned to pick up the copies ourselves, take them to school and deliver them to classrooms and kids.

The day after our election, with another day to go before the Eagle’s Cry would be printed and ready to distribute, Ted came to my classroom just after lunch, waving a copy of the Anchorage Times, and yelling, his face red.

“Look at the headline, Miss Lundstrom. They scooped us! How did they find out?” He was furious.
The headline was “Egan, Gruening Win West High Election.”

I immediately called Herb Rhodes at Anchorage Printing to see what had happened.

“The Times reporter came over and asked,” Herb said. “I told him.”

“That was our scoop! You had no business giving out that information!” I yelled at him. I couldn’t keep my calm teacher voice, I was so mad.

“Oh, I thought you’d be pleased that they were interested in your election,” Herb said.

I pulled the Eagle’s Cry out of Herb’s print shop and moved it to Northern Printing the very next issue.

Marie Lundstrom taught high school English and journalism at West, Dimond, East, and Bartlett high schools in the 1960s and early 1970s. After 20 years of marriage, two children, and earning two graduate degrees in Wisconsin, she returned to Alaska in 1996 and spent 10 years as the Dimond High School librarian. After her retirement in 2006, she worked part-time as an editor at AQP Publishing for five years, and in 2015 she will complete a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with an emphasis on poetry at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

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