From Jimmy Olsen to Tintin, the boy reporter is a mainstay of juvenile fiction. But what happens when the boy reporter grows up? From 1916 to 1920, The Cincinnati Post featured the work of its own boy reporter. Here is the rest of his story.
The Post hired 10-year-old Freddy Printz to provide weekly insights from the kid’s eye view of Cincinnati. Working only on Saturdays, so as not to interfere with his school work, Freddy accompanied reporter and columnist Al Segal around Cincinnati. Segal, who penned a column under the pseudonym of Cincinnatus, identified stories for Freddy to investigate and probably ghost-wrote most of Freddy’s columns, cute misspellings and all.
What sorts of stories attracted the eye of a boy reporter? Freddy weighed in on Prohibition, wondering why the “wet” opponents chose a daisy as their symbol; about hazing at Hughes High School, where the upperclassmen smeared stove polish on the freshmen; about sending tobacco products to the doughboys fighting in World War I; and in support of The Post’s annual fund drive for needy children. Freddy’s encomium on behalf of tobacco [Cincinnati Post September 1, 1917] was typical of his style (and spelling and grammar):
“I don’t smoke and I hope I never will. The soldiers in Europe are giving their life for us so they ought to have a smoke. They are thousands of miles away from there mothers, sisters and best girls and they ought to have a smoke to make them happy.”
Freddy replaced a previous boy reporter known only as Sam, who lasted less than a year, and filed copy from October 1916 to July 1920.
Freddy Printz was the son of Christian and Catherine Printz. His father’s parents and his mother were German immigrants. Freddy grew up in a substantial house at 2478 Paris St. in Mount Auburn. His father was the chief operator at the Postal Telegraph-Cable Company, a nexus of information visited by many journalists. In the 1917 City Directory, Freddy had a bigger listing than his dad.
For his very first story [October 7, 1916], 11-year-old Freddy visited Cincinnati’s fabled Public Library and was impressed by the elevator: “They have a big elevator what takes you up the steps very quick.”
That fascination with elevators was to set the course of Freddy’s life. After graduating from Hughes High School, where he lettered in swimming, he headed to Cleveland. There he got into elevators in a big way, first as an installer, then as a salesman, and finally as the owner of an elevator company.
In 1935, although living in Cleveland, Freddy, 29, drove to Erie, Pennsylvania to marry a good Irish girl named Patricia Farragher, 22, from Xenia. There’s no telling what sent them to Erie for a wedding officiated by a local alderman—unless it was a convenient stop on the way to Niagara Falls.
Freddy and Patricia set up house on the west side of Cleveland until opportunity knocked in Dayton. As president of the Printz Elevator Company, Freddy (now Frederick) got involved in major construction projects throughout Ohio. He got to know the politicians who controlled the public funds for these projects, and he watched the politics in action.
Although he claimed to have supported Franklin Roosevelt in his first two terms, by 1968 Printz was a hard-core George Wallace delegate, although he considered the white supremacist Governor of Alabama a tad too liberal for his tastes. Commenting on the 1970s grape boycott organized by the United Farm Workers, Printz opined: “I know that the Left plans to control the nation’s food supply, and that this is a move in their plan. I usually don’t eat grapes—but this year I do.”
From his perspective as a former Barry Goldwater supporter, Printz said he had no love at all for Richard Nixon: “If a person is for Nixon, he’s got to move over to George (Wallace), because split-level Nixon can’t be pinned down and George tells you how he’s going to do things. If you’re sick, you go to a doctor, not a quack.”
Printz had high hopes that a conservative third party was poised to rescue America: “We kooks will not end with this election. Our direction is to greater and greater strength.”
It was not to be. The American Independent Party, on whose ticket Wallace ran unsuccessfully in 1968, splintered afterward into a number of ineffective factions.
Frederick Printz, formerly Freddy the Boy Reporter, died in 1971.
In 1931, business brought Freddy back to Cincinnati and he visited the Post newsroom, where he was remembered fondly, but expressed a desire that his fans would forget about him: “Old-timers on the staff regarded him as a serious-minded kid. Today, he’s a man, but still serious-minded. Today he admits he gained fame, but not fortune. ‘Let them forget about Freddy the Boy Reporter’ was his ultimatum.”