Local History #tbt Blog - "Optimists" Flourish at Middletown High School
The American Heritage Dictionary defines an “optimist” as “one who usually expects a favorable outcome.” *
For decades the word, “Optimist,” has been the name of the Middletown (Ohio) High School yearbook.
In 1923 the word took on greater meaning when a grand, new Middletown High School building opened on Girard Avenue, foreshadowing a bright future and “favorable outcomes” for the young minds who would occupy its stately halls.
Built at a cost of over $1 million thanks to the passage of a 20-year bond levy in 1919 (1), the structure became the embodiment of civic optimism.
With the finest accoutrements, the new Middletown High School building was considered “one of the most expensive and finest schools in the state at that time.” (1)
It boasted 55 classrooms, the first gymnasium in the school system, oak-paneled offices, a working fireplace, doors of copper and brass and a 1300-seat auditorium with black leather seats, a lobby with marble walls and floor, gold trim in the foyer, on the box office and on the ornate plaster, silk tapestries on the walls and Tiffany glass chandeliers. The new building had the latest heating and moving-air systems and, last but not least, its own greenhouse. (1)
On November 11, 1924, the entire student body gathered to pose for a photograph in front of the new school. To this day the panoramic photo remains a tribute to the school officials who envisioned its construction, the taxpayers who funded it, and the young minds who were educated within its walls. (2)
Call it civic optimism at its best.
The 1924 Optimist was the first yearbook to be published from the new, state-of-the-art edifice. The significance did not go unnoticed by the yearbook staff. In the book’s opening pages the students wrote :
“This, the first volume of the Optimist published in the new high school, would not be complete without some mention of the noble work of the superintendent and the members of the board of education who planned and supervised the construction of the new high school building.
“To Mr. Solomon, Mr. Danford, Mr. Banker, Mr. Harlan, Mr. Betts, and Mr. Lewis, those men who have worked unceasingly to make our dreams come true, we extend our most sincere gratitude.” (3)
The yearbook’s final pages feature a poem entitled “Upward and Onward” that embodied the optimism and fond memories of the departing Class of ‘24:
“Our ship is launched, our career begun,
And though rough be the sailing before it is done,
Our course is straight -- onward it lies
Where the blue of the sea shall meet with the skies.
The past may become but a memory,
And though vague and dim may that memory be,
Still in our hearts we shall treasure the days
When we all were so glad till the parting of ways.
And when we have reached that far away goal
Toward which we shall ever onward roll,
No sweeter remembrance can surely be found
Than those days when we all for the same place were bound.” (3)
In the late 1960s Middletown High School students moved to a new, modern building on Breiel Boulevard. The aging building on Girard remained open, housing the Freshman School, Vail Middle School and, finally, Middletown Middle School.
Today it faces demolition.
In the meantime, Middletown High School and Middletown Middle School students receive an education in a state-of-the-art campus on Breiel Boulevard, the result of a recent major renovation/construction project.
No doubt the next edition of the Middletown High School “Optimist” will reflect the same hard work and faith in the future that earlier generations once felt.
Their optimism lives on.
* American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 2006, available at MidPointe Library, Middletown.
1. “A Brief History of the Middletown City School District 1800-1987 -- Museum Copy” by Norman M. Hayes available at MidPointe Library Middletown, Local History and Genealogy Gallery.
2. “Middletown High School All-Class Photo 1924” available for viewing (and enlargement) on MidPointe Library’s Digital Archives : www.midpointedigitalarchives.org/digital/ > Roger L. Miller Collection > Middletown High School students November 11, 1924
3. “The Optimist” 1924, Middletown High School yearbook, available for viewing in the Ohio Room at MidPointe Library Middletown or online at
www.midpointedigitalarchives.org/digital > The Optimist -,
Middletown City School District High School Yearbooks