“A Mad Mixture of Sleigh Bells and Telephone Bells”: The History of Dial-a-Carol at the University of Illinois

An advertisement for Dial-a-Carol (Daily Illini, 12 December 1975)

The holiday season is once again upon us and along with it an Illinois tradition returns. From December 14 until December 21, thousands of callers from around the world will dial in to Snyder Hall 24 hours a day to be serenaded with yuletide tunes.

Betty Gordon is commonly credited with conceiving of the Dial-a-Carol idea around 1960 when she was working as a clerk in Snyder Hall. “The story goes that she was speaking with a friend on the phone and her friend mentioned she could hear Betty’s radio playing while they were talking. Betty was inspired and thought it would be a neat idea to play carols on the phone to friends. She started Dial-a-Carol with the help of Snyder Hall residents and the rest is history,” said Snyder Hall RA George Carrera in 2008. [1]

Snyder Sanctum member Steve Price participates in Dial-a-Carol in 1962 (Daily Illini 11 December 1962)

Traditionally, the student volunteers have kicked off their 24 hour carol hotline with a call to Gordon at 12:01 am on the first day of the event. “As the students always do, they asked me if there was anything special I would like to hear,” Betty said in 1982, “Then no matter what I said, they sang ‘Jingle Bells’ at the top of their voices… After they sang, I told them the same thing I always do: what you lack in talent, you certainly make up in volume.” [2] Read More »

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