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Bismarck High School Debate Team, 1932


The Bismarck High School debate team was on a roll in the spring of 1932 as they competed for the state championship. Under the direction of Miss Pearl Bryant, Junior Birdzell, Lloyd Ode, and Frances Cox represented the club.


According to the rules of the competition at that time, two teams were allowed from each school, one typically representing the "negative" or cons of the argument, and one typically representing the "affirmative" or pro side. However, the Bismarck club took a different tactic that year, using one team that would argue both sides. The topic this year was whether states should have compulsory unemployment insurance.


The newspaper frequently reported on the Bismarck team as they compiled one victory after another. They won in competitions against Hazelton, Mandan, Jamestown, and a victory over Velva inspired one of the judges to say it was "one of the best high school debates" he had ever heard. One interesting note on the matchup with Jamestown, there was a 25-cent admission charge to help cover the costs of Jamestown’s trip to Bismarck. 


Bismarck was soon in the semi-finals, but that’s where the winning streak finally ended with a loss to the team from Leonard. Afterwards, the Bismarck Tribune published this note from the local team:


"To the citizens of Bismarck: It is with great pride this year that the high school debate squad is laying aside notebooks and pencils. Although the team has surpassed all previous records, it has not been the work of the squad alone. It is the people of Bismarck who have made the victories and the glory possible. ... With a determined resolution to equal and surpass our record next year, we thank you all for the wholehearted support you have given.” Signed: The Bismarck High School Debate Team.


And as for the state championship, the last teams standing were Leonard and Larimore, with Larimore claiming the championship. It was no surprise, as Larimore had won six of the last seven state championships!


Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker




The Bismarck Tribune, January 9, 1932, p2; January 23, 1932, p2; Feb 13, 1932, p2; Feb 29, 1932, p5; Feb 20, 1932, p2; March 19, 1932, p3; April 15, 1932, p1; May 2, 1932, p5; May 7, 1932, p1; May 14, 1932, p2; May 21, 1932, p1

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