Soundings Celebrates 75 Years Of Staples Creativity

The history of Staples High School is littered with student clubs that sounded like a good idea at the time.

Like the Rifle Club.

Proctors (who sniffed out classmates for things like smoking), and the Student Court (which then handed down punishments).

Fraternities and sororities. (Okay, they were not official clubs. But they got a lot of space in the yearbook.)

Many clubs reflect their times. One day, a club called “Girls Who Code” (2021) may sound as dated as “Aid to Biafra” (1970s) does today.

But for 75 years, Soundings has been a staple at Staples High School.

That’s right. For three-quarters of a century — more than half the existence of the school itself — Soundings has served as Staples’ creative literary magazine. It’s evolved a bit, of course: Photography, art and video have been added to the original prose and poetry. And it’s now published online.

But much else is just as it was when the first issue appeared, early in the Truman administration. Students meet after school. They pore over submissions. Then they design, lay out and produce a magazine that showcases the creativity of their peers.

When the staff realized that a landmark anniversary loomed, they decided to look back. They dug into past issues, stored in the school library. Individual students researched different years; together, members voted on what to include in the special edition.

Advisor Kim Herzog calls those back issues “a time capsule of student voices.” They show the great degree to which young writers are influenced by the times in which they live — war or peace, prosperity or recession, political fervor or calm.

In 1968, Joan Goodman wrote and illustrated a piece called “In White America.” The next year featured ’60s-influenced art by Jill Coykendall, and a poem from Elizabeth Hughes.

Writing styles too have waxed and waned. At times, poetry thrived. Other years, there was little of it.

Herzog was struck though by the “vast creativity” that spans all 75 years, and many mediums.

The 75th edition includes over 150 stories, photos and drawings. Every year is represented (except 1973, 1990 and 2006 — no copies could be found.)

The very first Soundings is represented by a poem about an atom bomb, a drawing by Ric von Schmidt (who later became a nationally known artist), and a lament on the lack of sex, religious, philosophy and political education at Staples.”

The first issue in 1947 featured art by Ric von Schmidt.

Co-editor Julian Fiore says that “this outlet of creativity that has survived through 75 years is certainly worth celebrating.”

Reading the archives, he met “young activists, storytellers, poets, artists, graphic designers and more.”

Stories were “wildly different.” One writer described sacrificing oneself for the one you love most; others wrote about obsessions and fire trucks. Each was unique.

The editor found much to relate to, including a 1993 piece about “A Day in the Life of a Junior” (he found it “shockingly accurate an incredibly amusing,”), and a much older story — from 1952 — about the problem with Staples drinking fountains.

The artist of this fascinating 1983 work is unknown.

“The magazines were full of true and and unfiltered student voices,” Julian says. “This showed me the complexity of our student body — the varying passions, perspectives and ideas that exist within this community.”

Nothing lasts for 75 years without a few close calls. A few years ago, for example, the magazine was ready to go to press. Suddenly, it was discovered that then-superintendent Colleen Palmer had cut printing funds from the budget. Then-principal James D’Amico found money for that year.

There is no longer any money for hard copies. But a Staples PTA Mini-Wrecker grant has allowed the entire archives to be digitized. Click here to see each volume.

COVID made this year’s issue especially tough to produce. Most of the work was done remotely. But, Herzog says, it was “a labor of love” by the staff.

To see the fruits of their labor, click here.

By 2014 and ’15, Soundings added color and photography. Those years are represented by Emma Moskovit, Bridget van Dorsten, Noa Wind and Caroline O’Kane.


7 responses to “Soundings Celebrates 75 Years Of Staples Creativity

  1. Peter Jennings

    Amazing artwork !
    Thanks Dan for posting this.

  2. Peter Blau

    Excuse me Dan, I’m no gun nut, but I’d see absolutely nothing wrong with a “Rifle Club” today. I shot 22s in summer camp at the Weston Field Club, my kids did it in scouts, and we’ve even done some skeet shooting together on vacations. If you support sensible gun laws — which I do — there’s no reason to demonize shooting spots.

  3. Peter Blau

    I mean shooting sports.

  4. Peter Blau

    I do agree with the late Mr. Von Schmidt, however, in lamenting on “the lack of sex” at Staples. 🙂

  5. Kathie Motes Bennewitz

    What an amazing effort and archive of the students vast creativity and a tribute to all of the arts, visual and writing, at Staples High School. It is impressive and also offers a glimpse onto the cultural perspectives of the past 75 years.

    Congratulations on 75 years of Soundings and to the PTA for its generous grant.

    (I even found a photo I took that I forgot was published–crazy)

  6. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    I’m with Peter Blau, nothing wrong with responsible gun ownership and I believe my mother was in the Rifle Club back in the day and was a classmate of Ric von Schmidt. Thanks for posting this DAn.

    • Russell Gontar

      I shot a .22 at camp and I loved it. The range was strictly controlled and instructed. That said, the trouble with “responsible gun ownership” is that when you flood the country with 400,000,000 firearms, a certain amount of mayhem can be expected. I believe that there were 400 individual shootings over the 4th of July weekend. The trouble with gun owners is that they want their weapons but they refuse to take responsibility for the bloodshed that ensues. You can’t have it both ways.