Many people have heard the riddle, “What is black and white and read all over?” The answer is the newspaper, and Rhea County has had some type of newspaper since its beginning. I happened to find a number of articles from the 1933 Dayton Herald in some of the Bettye Broyles files, and thought it would be interesting to share them with readers of the Herald-News. (Bettye Broyles was Rhea County’s former historian.)
First, the newspaper was published on Thursday of each week, and named Frances Wilson Smith as Editor, and Ray Alden Smith as Business Manager. Next, in the June 1, 1933 newspaper, a column is found explaining that a vote would be taken on changing the name of the Herald from “Dayton” to “Rhea County” Herald. This told that there would be a coupon in that particular day’s paper which people could use to give their opinion for or against changing the name. Also, in this particular issue, is a letter from R. E. Winsett, stating that he had traveled over thirty-six states and Mexico since first seeing Dayton, and that he had never found any more beautiful scenery than in Rhea County. He also wrote that he came back to Dayton from Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he was living, in order to attend the Scopes Trial in 1925. In addition, his letter stated that he wanted to see Dayton grow, and that if Dayton could only grow as fast as the county newspaper had since being taken over by new management, the county would soon have no worries about that.
From the July 13, 1933 newspaper is a column relating to the subscription price being $1.00 a year until September 1of 1933. This article states that many of the subscribers had neglected to pay their subscriptions by July 1, so the newspaper would be extending the time until September 1. The column states that after this July 13 issue, no more copies would be sent out to any who are not paid in advance.
In the July 27, 1933 issue, we read that members of the Tennessee Press Association of the Third Congressional District will meet in one of a series of eight group meetings to be held in the state. This meeting would be held in the Editorial Office of the Herald on Saturday morning (July 29) for the purpose of formulating a code of practices under the NRA. The article also states that Hampton Maxey, field secretary of the association, will explain advances in printing trades, and methods by which small publishers can be protected under the act. Also in the column, it is stated that the publishers of the Herald are highly honored that this office had been selected as one of the eight meetings for the twenty-five publishers or representatives. In addition, the Herald would be entertaining the visitors with a dinner at the new Dayton Café at noon.
From the August 17, 1933 edition of the Dayton Herald, it is stated that in order to give the readers the very best county paper possible, the publishers had increased the size of the pages. Because of the new size, the reader would have one hundred and twelve more inches of reading matter each week; however, the subscription price would remain at $1.00 until September 1. After that date the cost increased to $1.50 per year. This increase was due to the rising costs of labor and materials. However, the newspaper swapped food for subscriptions! The column states that the Herald family had enjoyed the fresh fruits and vegetables that have come in, and that now that the season was getting late, canned foods would be just as acceptable; the article states that if a person doesn’t have a dollar, they are welcome to come in and trade!
The October 5, 1933 issue states that the subscription price was reduced for sixty days. This column specifies that the Herald found that there were many of their farmer friends throughout the county who did not take advantage of the $1 offer on the subscription because they were short of money. Therefore, they were going to give them another chance to get the paper for a year at the $1 rate. Until December 1, the Herald would accept new or renewal subscriptions at the $1 a year rate, and the price will go up to $2.00 per year in Rhea and adjoining counties, and $2.50 a year outside this territory on January 1, 1934. The article states that they would still take in farm produce, canned fruit, chickens, butter, eggs or anything they could eat, on subscriptions.
Then in the October 12, 1933 Herald, we find a column entitled, “Don’t Blame the Editor.” This article states that one of the easiest things in the world to do is to criticize or find fault with the actions of others. The column has a number of “don’ts” for the reader. One of these is not to criticize the publisher because some item of news is not inserted in his columns, unless you have made it your business to see that such news was given to the reporter or publisher. Another “don’t” involves not criticizing the publisher if your neighbor’s name appears in the columns of the paper more often than your dog’s. In addition, the reader is told not to criticize the publisher if the reader does not see advertisements of the local merchants in the paper each week; some merchants will not advertise because they do not see the need. Also, do not criticize the publisher if you think he gives more space to sporting events than you think he should. In the end of the article, the reader is told to place himself in the editor’s position and to think about the battle he has in these days of depression in order to give the reader as good a paper as he does.
The year 1933 was a period of depression in our country when times were hard, and merchants had a rough time staying in business. Many people did not yet have electricity, and goods were still being traded for services. Cars were not plentiful and walking or riding on farm equipment was the accepted mode of travel; many families could not afford both a car and farm machinery. However, people still needed to know what was going on in their communities, and the happenings in the world. The newspaper provided that information which addressed common concerns people had at that time. These few columns from the 1933 Herald provide a window into the world of Rhea County and our country during that time, and tell us that even though times have changed, many people still subscribe to, and read, the newspaper. To go back in history with Rhea County’s newspaper reminds us to study the past in order to live in the present and prepare for the future.
Pat Guffey can be reached at email@example.com