The Gateway has colorful past in its 100-year history

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Written by Guest Columnist, Dr. Warren Francke

Dr. Warren Francke, a professor emeritus in the School of Communication, is also a historian, writer and commentator.

 

The 100th anniversary of the Gateway was well celebrated recently, but a few fun facts were missing.  For example, how did Omaha University, a little school spawned by a Presbyterian seminary, come up with a secular name for its newspaper?

Well, it wasn’t going to keep calling it “The Yellow Sheet,” the apt name for the single daily sheet of yellow paper that preceded the Gateway, which started as both a monthly in 1914 and a yearbook in 1915. If you wonder where the yellow went, a yellow mutt named “Dammit” was the official mascot in 1920 when journalism students organized as the Yellow Dog Chapter sponsored by a teacher named Mrs. Jolley.

One expects to see her smiling, just as one expects colleague Berniece Banghart Grant, teacher of calisthenics and oratory, to do jumping jacks while reciting the Gettysburg Address.

But the more permanent name came with two connections: to Omaha as the Gateway to the West, and to the university as the Gateway to education.  It stuck when the paper became a weekly in 1922, but was at risk when the school became the Municipal University of Omaha in 1930.

An issue of the paper appeared in 1931 with a series of question marks—“? ? ? ? ?”—in place of its name.  A poll was being taken on changing its name until the Dean of Students proclaimed:

“Leave it as it is. THE PRESTIGE HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED.”

More than a few administrators and state senators have challenged that lofty pronouncement over the years, especially when April Fool’s issues bearing such names as “The Hateway” popped up in the spring.

I wrote for the Gateway in the late 1950s and served as Gateway adviser in the 1960s.  Dr. Hugh Cowdin, then journalism chair and later director of the School of Communication, led in liberating the Gateway from faculty advisers who were replaced by working professionals.

The earliest Gateway editor I’ve encountered had the most distinguished name: Oldham Paisley, a 1916 graduate, who became publisher of the Marion, Illinois, daily and donor of a journalism scholarship.  The first woman editor, Pearl Gaines, was appointed in 1916. In one of those word-play couplets popular in the day, it could be said that Pearl never loses, Pearl always Gaines.

Two of Omaha’s legendary high school journalism teachers, Gunnar Horn and Ellen Hartman Peary Gast, were editors in the 1930s.  Future mayor and congressman Glenn Cunningham was advertising manager, among other roles, in that decade.

And, lest any of us former columnists would claim fame, it’s fair to say the Gateway columnist who has contributed the most to Omaha would be a fellow named Dick Holland.  It helped that he was smart enough to get acquainted with that part-time teacher of an investments class and borrow against his life insurance policy to hand the money to professor Warren Buffett.

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