By Christopher Smith
If it hadn’t been for a friend of Richard Abernathy’s father, a key part of local history would be in a landfill right now.
The man found several issues of The Dalton Hi-Light — a student-run monthly paper distributed at Dalton High School, now discontinued — in an elderly woman’s house that he was painting.
“She asked him to dump them,” said Abernathy, who proudly displays the publications at his local janitorial supply company.
“I don’t remember the man’s name, but he used to come talk to my dad at the store,” Abernathy said. “One day, he just brought in the box of papers and asked me if I wanted them. I said ‘OK.’ That was back in the early ‘90s.”
Abernathy initially thought the papers were old Daily Citizens and put them in his attic until he rediscovered them a few years ago.
“I just opened them up and realized it was The (Dalton) Hi-Light,” he said. “I remembered reading them as a student before I graduated, which was — I guess 1975.”
The paper covered close to 40 years of Dalton High history said Dewey Hughes, a retired teacher who worked as an adviser on the paper in the 1960s and 1970s.
“I don’t know of the exact dates of when it started, but it probably began some time in the ‘50s,” Hughes said. “I advised the paper until ... Beth Nysewander — known as ‘The Mama Cat’ — took over until she passed away. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure it went on till at least the late ‘80s and maybe into the early ‘90s.”
Having such a large time span of Dalton High history is what makes the newspapers appealing, Abernathy said.
“We get a lot of people that come through here (the store) and I ask them if they went to Dalton High,” he said. “We figure out the years they attended and I pull out those issues if I have them. They get thrilled to death if we can find some old pictures or articles on their life in school.”
Many people featured in The Hi-Light are still active in the community.
“Frank Patterson, who works as a dentist here, fell asleep during an exam way back in the 1960s or somewhere around there,” Abernathy said. “The Hi-Light took a picture of him and published it. He came in recently and I pulled it out and gave him the copy. He was all smiles. There was even an article about (Mayor) David Pennington’s plans to graduate from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State College).”
Other students involved in the paper left Dalton.
“I was the editor during 1967-1968 and my sports editor was Danny Dantzler,” Terry Miller, a local attorney would worked on The Hi-Light as a student, said. “We covered news, features and all that, and Danny wrote for sports. He was a star on the football team and went on to play for the University of Georgia.”
Dantzler was a letterman on Georgia’s offensive line from 1971 to 1973 who died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease in 2009. His son, Watts Dantzler, is now an offensive lineman for the Bulldogs.
“It was a top-notch paper and it has a lot of history in it,” Hughes said. “It was student-run, of course. At the time, we had journalism classes and they’d take a class and as part of it they would work on the newspaper. We had a company called L.A. Lee that printed it for us, but students did the layout, wrote the headlines, and so on. It was completely a student operation. They sold ads, drew up the ad space, made contacts. I just read all their articles and proofed them.”
Staff members would go classroom to classroom to sell each issue for 10 cents apiece.
“We worked with a lot of companies to help fund it with ads,” Hughes said. “We also worked on and sold football programs. That was a good source of income. I remember when I retired that we still had a trophy or two. We were award-winning. I know some issues are in the student archives at the school.”
Abernathy said he thinks the school would take his issues, too.
“I thought about donating them, but I want to make sure whoever gets them will take care of them,” he said. “This is a real big part of Dalton High history — a big part of Dalton in general.”
Abernathy said he can make copies of papers for people, but doesn’t “exactly want to give them all away.”