by Public Service Associate Owen
Bexley Public Library is happy to announce that The Torch digital collection is now live and accessible to the public! The Torch, Bexley High School’s student newspaper, has been a fixture of the high school and of the greater Bexley community for nearly a century. First published in October of 1925, The Torch has since received multiple awards for its excellence in student journalism. And now, thanks to the digitization efforts led by our Local History Librarian David Distelhorst, there are hundreds of early edition copies of The Torch, now accessible to the public, that contain a bounty of fascinating insights into Bexley and its history. I hope to feature some of my personal favorite editions of The Torch from this collection, as well as share a little bit about how The Torch works and how it has affected me in a positive way.
Guided by the venerable English and Journalism teacher Julie Horger and an array of senior editors, students work together to put together a new edition of the newspaper each month. From coming up with story ideas, to conducting interviews and photography assignments, to writing and editing the stories, to putting it all together in a big collaborative effort at the end of each month dubbed “Torch week,” students are at the forefront of every step of putting the newspaper together. The process is a synergistic effort, requiring student reporters and editors to work together to ensure quality in the writing, graphical elements, and photography, to adapt each month to new stories and themes to keep the newspaper fresh, and to put all of it together into a finished product that is ready to be published and distributed.
As an alumnus of The Torch, I know first-hand the sorts of valuable skills that are picked up while in those journalistic trenches. Proper interview etiquette, meeting deadlines, journalistic style, editing techniques, and the importance of planning (then adjusting when said plan doesn’t quite work out), and general writing and communication skills are all tangible abilities that I garnered from my time with The Torch. What I appreciated most, though, is the camaraderie that forms from everyone pulling the rope the same way, trying to make each edition of the newspaper better than the last. It is truly a special experience to be a part of at Bexley High School, whether you’re in charge of producing it or if you simply enjoy reading the new editions every month, which makes the fact that it is now digitized and readily-accessible online all the more exciting!
It is truly an eye-opening experience going through the digitized collection of The Torch, reading the stories written by past students and imagining what life was like for them. It is thrilling to find references to historical events in the students’ stories; it is like opening a window to the past, from the perspective of Bexley High School students.
Perhaps my favorite example of this is in the April 27, 1945 issue of The Torch, which features a touching dedication to the then-newly-deceased President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who guided the United States through the Great Depression and the Second World War across his 12 years as president. The article, which did not feature a byline, poignantly noted that “no longer will we hear his amiable, sincere, speaking voice . . . no longer will we see his friendly grin in the newsreels as he spoke with equal congeniality with Churchill or Stalin or Ibn Saud.” A Bexley student’s perspective on the death of such a towering figure in American history following the end of the bloodiest conflict in human history was fascinating to ponder, and these early copies of The Torch are filled with these sorts of curiosities.
Another article that intrigued me came from the September 26, 1958 edition of The Torch. It featured a brief interview with a Norwegian foreign exchange student named Solveig Ulricksen, who stated that “American television fascinates me,” and that “instead of having television in my country, we find pleasure in conversation and various games.” Ulricksen concluded that “we really find no need for television and don’t miss it.” I have no idea if Mr. Ulricksen is still alive or not, but I would like to know how he feels now that televisions have permanently invaded the Norwegian household, or if he thought Americans simply stopped having conversations or playing games once the television became widespread. However Mr. Ulricksen ended up, it is remarkable to see these little distinct moments in time that are documented in The Torch. They fuel my curiosity and allow me to gaze into my hometown’s past, which is truly a special feeling.
There are so many interesting little tidbits in each edition you sift through. An article in the April 1, 1938 edition that stated that the most popular names in the school at the time were Mary and Bob, which seems quite fitting for the 1930s. In the December 22, 1965 edition, I found out that the annual holiday tree-lighting ceremony here in Bexley stretches back decades. The students posing for a photo with Santa in that edition would not look out of place today! The front page of the January 31, 1975 edition has an article about the school lowering temperatures to conserve energy through the winter heating season, something that is still very relevant today. These are but a few examples from reading through the old editions of The Torch. I am sure there are many more hidden within these pages, ready to be found.
There is so much to glean from these digitized editions of The Torch, so if you’re itching to go down a rabbit hole then I highly recommend taking a look at the copies we now have available online. And be sure to check out the current editions of The Torch on its website! There you can find all the latest in Bexley High School news, opinions, sports, and much more. It is brilliant that both current and past editions of the icon of Bexley High School print journalism are readily-available online, and I hope you get down to reading both!