By Brian Brennan
A number of years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a dinner at the Park Vista Retirement
Community. One of the guests seated at my table was Burke Lyden, a Park Vista resident.
He was a distinguished-looking gentleman with white hair, a small moustache and a beard. He reminded me a little of the Burl Ives snowman character from the famous holiday television offering, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
I was very happy to meet him because I remembered that Lyden was the founder of The Jambar. At the table, Lyden exhibited an age-induced reticence — until I mentioned his role with The Jambar.
He became more animated then and happily told me his story. In the wake of this conversation, there was no doubt in my mind that the creation of The Jambar was one of Burke Lyden’s proudest accomplishments.
By early 1931, many students at Youngstown College wanted a campus newspaper, but it was not until young Burke Lyden took up the challenge that such came into being.
Lyden approached college secretary Freda Flint for help. Flint provided Lyden with paper and other supplies. The first editions were put together in the attic of the old Wick Mansion, where present-day Jones Hall is located.
Seeking a title that would be unique and reflect the industrial heritage of the Mahoning Valley, Lyden and his sister named the newspaper after a rod used in steel production by “puddlers” to clear jams in the old-style Welsh furnaces that were in service in Youngstown at the time. The name stuck and continues to grace the paper’s masthead.
The premiere issue of The Jambar came out on Jan. 14, 1931, and looked nothing like the current publication. Having to be done on the cheap — this was during the Depression, after all — professional printing was out of the question.
Lyden and his staff typed their copy on stencil masters, with printing done on a mimeograph machine. Early issues were presented with full cover pages. Artwork and lettering were hand-drawn. Interestingly, readers were charged two-cents per issue.
From today’s vantage point, one cannot help but chuckle. While their news coverage mostly relates to sports, specifically basketball and fencing, the stories are light-hearted. Student gossip and innuendo abound, but there’s nothing tasteless.
In fact, the text concludes with an endorsement by Youngstown College Director Homer Nearpass, the de facto president of the institution, who praises the endeavor and urges other students to contribute to the success of The Jambar. Later issues included student poetry.
While Burke Lyden has since passed away, his legacy at Youngstown State University lives on. In the years since its initial printing, The Jambar remains in publication and has won many awards.
The paper’s complete run is preserved by YSU’s Archives and Special Collections, located on the fifth floor of the Maag Library.
In addition, The Jambar may be viewed online via the Maag Library’s homepage at www.maag.ysu.edu (click the link to “Digital Collections” for access).
The first issue of The Jambar may be viewed directly at http://hdl.handle.net/1989/3864.