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Tales From Utah Valley: A walk through history from the pages of student newspapers

December 16, 2018
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The Special Collections department of BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library is in the process of digitizing all of the past copies of The Daily Universe.

“The jitterbug is dying a slow death.”

This, according to an article titled, “Evolution Seen in Dance Music,” was printed in The Y News on Dec. 15, 1939. The newspaper was a precursor to The Universe, Brigham Young University’s current student newspaper, which is produced by students from the school’s Department of Communications.

“Amanda Knight Hall Ready For Occupants,” reads a headline in the March 3, 1939, edition, announcing the opening of the brand new women’s dormitory. Currently, there are plans to possibly demolish the building and build a replica of it in its place.

How did I find copies of newspapers dating back several decades? It all happened because I thought it might be interesting to read some of the articles that my grandmother, Vera Dunn Tolman, wrote when she was a reporter and editor for BYU’s newspaper while a student there. Her boyfriend at the time — later my grandfather — Rex Tolman, was the business manager for the paper. They fondly spoke about the newspaper world and encouraged my love for the written word.

Many of the articles in those older copies do not have bylines, so I am not sure which ones were written by my grandma. But, on Jan. 26, 1940, an article was printed, edited by Vera Dunn. The article titled, “Church Dignitaries Speak to Crowds; Forty Sections Afford Variety,” was about the ending of the 19th annual Leadership Week held at BYU. One person quoted in the article was then-president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Heber J. Grant.

Interestingly, in that same edition, there is an article about the first student from Argentina to ever enroll in BYU. Before that time, no student from there had attended the university in Provo. Other fascinating pieces of history can be read in the digitized pages of the former student newspapers along with advertisements from local businesses, lists of social gatherings and even students’ engagement announcements.

The university has had a number of different student newspapers over the years, beginning in 1884, according to Cory Nimer, university archivist. These include Academic Review, BYU Student, Business Journal, The Normal, Journal of Pedagogy, The White and Blue, The Y News, Brigham Young Universe, Daily Universe and currently, The Universe.

Reading the history of the university as well as local and world news through the words of past student writers is both enlightening and entertaining. On Feb. 20, 1962, the major headline of The Daily Universe was “Glenn Makes Orbit.” The article detailed the “first orbital flight by an American and the first for the Free World.”

In The Y News on Jan. 11, 1929, an inflamed editorial titled, “Where the Hell Are Our Yellmasters?” was printed. The school’s chosen yellmasters – gentlemen chosen by the student body to lead yells — were called out from the keys of a typewriter for not fulfilling their duties. Apparently, they were nowhere to be found during the previous three basketball games. “If those who now hold these important offices are ill-disposed and do not wish to act, we suggest that their resignation might be in order…” it reads.

The Special Collections department of BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library is in the process of digitizing all of the past copies of The Daily Universe. They are available to view online at BYU Student Newspapers.

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