Current staff reveals Highlights of past

A look inside the East Highlights archive.


photo by Jonathan Dumois

The first issue of the East Highlights issued on September 13th, 1940.

Jonathan Dumois

For decades, East High School has taught thousands of students from across Rockford. But the history of this school has largely gone unnoticed to most students. 

With the addition of the touch boards located next to the gym and the cafeteria, students have been able to look at all the yearbooks this school has ever published. From the 2020 yearbook, to the very first yearbook ever published in 1941, which includes photos of the school undergoing construction dating back to April 5, 1939. 

It is quite a fascinating look back at our school’s history. But it isn’t the only way to look back.

Deep in the back of the library, where the computers are located, there lies a bookshelf. However, it isn’t like the other bookshelves in the library. In this bookshelf, there are yearbooks from many years. Not as expansive as the touch board’s archives, but plentiful. But there’s also another source of history.

Right next to the yearbooks lies the vast archives of the East Highlights Newspaper. Yes, the same newspaper you are reading now has a vast archive of its previous copies just sitting there waiting to be read. These archives span all the way back to the very first issue of the newspaper, published on Sept. 13, 1940. The newspaper didn’t have a name then, a question mark was where the word “Highlights” should have been. 

The first newspaper printed with the East Highlights name was published on Sept. 27, 1940. The name was submitted by Marcella West, who won $3 for naming the newspaper, worth $60 today. Her entry was chosen over 50 other submissions such as the “East Tattler,” “East High Eagle,” “East Horizon,” “East High Rocket,” and “East High Bugle.” 

There are amazing stories that are told in these newspapers. An example includes a photo of the first Football teams to have ever represented East. Back then, our home games were played at the 15th Ave. stadium, known to us as the Beyer Stadium. (That’s where the Rockford Peaches played if you are not familiar with the location.)

There are countless other stories to be told, not only about the school, but also the city. One issue of the Highlights had a special section talking about the launch of television in Rockford, back then only two stations signed on, WTVO Channel 39, and WREX Channel 13. 

And the advertisements were really a sign of the times. The school newspaper used to be a subscription-based newspaper, only costing $2 for a full-on subscription, about $40 dollars today. So, it was reasonable that advertisements would help cover the costs of running the paper. A variety of businesses advertised on the paper, from diners wanting you to stop by after the big game, to clothing retailers offering the very best at low costs. There was even an advertisement for the school’s cafeteria, offering fine food while music plays in the background. (I wish there was fine food and music in the cafeteria today.)

 It is truly outstanding to believe that the people running the newspaper kept these newspapers for decades, possibly in the hope of future generations of students and student journalists to look back on what happened during the vast years of East’s history. It is something that the previous teams in recent years have failed to do, and is something that I hope is corrected, starting with the current Highlights team.