Rory Slatko and Claire Xue
Then and Now: A History of The Dial
The students of Tower Hill today are exponentially different than those of 1920. But similarities still exist, and one undying tradition is that of the school newspaper. It, too, has changed significantly since its beginning. But whether you are looking at those issues of The Dial from the 1920s, softbound and filled with both fiction and non-fiction writing, or the paper you hold today, a regular newspaper with articles written by your peers, you are looking at a history that reflects that of the school. So we set out to discover exactly what that history was composed of.
Under the header of every issue of The Dial is the proclamation “Student Newspaper of Tower Hill since 1943.” But that sub-heading only came into use two or three years ago. Before that, the header stated, “Tower Hill’s Student Voice since 1920.” What was the reason for this change?
While, The Dial has existed since the founding of the school, it has only existed in its current form since 1943. Before 1943, issues were soft bound in book form with colorful cover art similar to the graduation lit pages today. Nearly half of the pages were taken up by a section called “Literary,” which displayed students’ creative writing. The Dial also included a few editorials, schedules, and updates.
Based on our research, this changed in 1943. At this point, The Dial became more like a newspaper, taking the form of a large flyer or the actual newspaper layout you currently see. The Lit Page split into a separate entity. However, according to Mr. Baetjer, who arrived at Tower Hill in 1970, The Dial was frequently merely a report on recent events. The permissible writing has changed as well. In the April issue of 1982, The Dial claimed the school had been recently evaluated, and the resulting report said “the community points its finger at Tower Hill and the committee feels this is rude, therefore we recommend the school break the community’s finger and put out an etiquette pamphlet.” It also talked about the creation of an eraser clapping team to keep erasers clean, the formation of a thumb-wrestling team, and tryouts for the sweating team.
The Dial has also undergone a variety of visual changes. Aside from the switch from softbound to newspaper style publications, there have been over seven different headings and many different article formats. Some editors went so far as to mirror image or flip the heading, one editor calling it the “Dizzity.” First pages varied as well, some pages allowing an article above the heading.
We found landmark papers from the past as well, such as the April issue of 1988. The front page article for this issue talked about Tower Hill’s new library technology and its use of computers, such as the computerized book catalog that we use today, and its use of barcodes on the books instead of signed library cards. One of the amazing things about all of the issues is the similarities they reveal about the school now and decades ago. In March of 1985, The Dial talked about the Parents Committee, whose focus included the balance of athletics, academics, extra-curricular activities, and community service. One solution to this was the suggestion to take one period of the academic day and dedicate it to extra-curriculars, and surely the result is the periodical 8th periods assigned to club meetings. It was surprising to find introductions to Mr. Smolko and Mr. Baetjer as new teachers among many others within the depths of the old issues.
Almost 90 years after the school was founded, students continue to attend classes day after day, week after week, and many complained about it, surely to no avail. But maybe it is some consolation to know that somewhere there is someone reminiscing about high school, memories of Tower Hill coming back to them every once in a while. What they see is completely different from what exists now, just as The Dial has changed its look and its purpose, its writers, and its message. But The Dial is still The Dial, the student voice of Tower Hill, and 90 years later, it doesn’t appear to be veering from that purpose anytime soon.