Dorothy Thompson Craig celebrates 90th birthday
Newspaper career holds appeal for 75 years

Wanda English Burnett

The front office of the newspaper business is the heartbeat of the operation.
It’s the place where the fast, sometimes hectic, pace changes at the ring of one of the four phone lines or with the presence of the open door. It’s often the place where the first tip for a news story is given, where advertising is generated and revenue tallied.

Dorothy Craig knows the business better than anyone, since she’s calmly perfected the art of front office procedures for 75 years. You might say she has “ink in her blood” as her family has owned the Osgood Journal and The Versailles Republican for nearly 150 years. “My granddad owned the paper, then daddy,” she noted. Her grandparents were Charles and Ida Thompson. The Thompsons bought the Milan Commercial and it was consolidated with The Versailles Republican in 1926.

Then she and husband Carlos “Barney” Craig, bought the paper and now her daughter Jo Jean and husband Gene Demaree, continue a four-generation ownership.

Dorothy celebrated her 90th birthday, Tuesday, April 14. She goes to work everyday - when she’s not traveling the globe - and works at the same fast pace as the other office personnel.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” she noted, saying she loves working with everyone at the newspaper office where she learned to set type by hand on the linotype machine, ran the addressograph machine every week, and did bookkeeping on a posting machine. Everything has changed with the age of computers. Dorothy still proofreads, sorts mail, handles subscriptions, and helps with the billing process, along with waiting on customers both by phone and in person.

As early as 15, Dorothy was active in her parents' (Harry and Dova Thompson) business. She was away from the business a short time while attending college at Bethel Women’s College in Hopkinsville, KY and then Tennessee Tech, Cookville, TN.

Dorothy’s family always lived in Versailles, making it possible for her to walk to school. “We walked or skated,” she smiled. Dorothy had a sister, Jean, who was just a year older. She said roller skating was a big thing and with about 20 others, they skated “all over town.”

More of a “tomboy” than her sister, who she described as more “studious”, Dorothy enjoyed events with action, such as swimming and dancing.

She remembers going to dances from the 7th grade through high school, bopping to the sounds of Big Band music by the Seagram’s and Paul Ogle bands. She said they mostly attended dances at Osgood and Milan, but sometimes went to Aurora. “We didn’t miss many of the dances,” she laughed.

As a young girl Dorothy told how she took a bus from Versailles to Greensburg, caught another one to Indianapolis, where she took tap dancing lessons. She loved to dance. “I still do,” she admitted when Big Band music comes on her television - she can’t stay on the couch.

After nights of dancing Dorothy and a host of others would cool off by going swimming in the quarry pond. “They just turned the car lights on the pond and we jumped in,” she recalled.

Going to the shows at the Austin Theater in Versailles was another childhood memory. “Cokes were a nickel, the show was a dime, ice cream and candy bars were a nickel, too,” she noted.

It didn’t matter how late she stayed out dancing, swimming, going to the movies and being with other teens. When it was time for church, she rolled out of bed. “Oh, yes, we always went to church,” she noted.

She explained how her parents were very active in the church and made sure their girls were there when the doors were open. Her grandfather was close friends with James Tyson, the well known philanthropist, who in the early days was connected with Walgreens, where he served on the original board of directors. Tyson left his fortune to the town he loved, Versailles. Residents today benefit from his generosity each year when the Tyson Fund money is distributed.

Matter of fact, her grandfather was the person who was instrumental in getting Tyson to build the beautiful historic Tyson United Methodist Church, that is still enjoyed by many today.

“I remember daddy going up to the church almost everyday to see the progress as it was being built,” she said. Her grandfather had passed away before the church was dedicated in 1937.

“When ‘Uncle’ Jim came to stay at my grandparents' home, he always brought a two pound box of candy to us,” Dorothy remembered. This treat was especially sweet because it was wrapped in a pink box, pink bow, and there was one for her and her sister, they didn’t have to share! She was also rewarded from Tyson with a nickel for not having a scraped knee when he came to visit. However, Dorothy didn’t collect much on this because her knees were usually scraped from her skating escapades.

As a child Dorothy was always aware of the newspaper business. She traveled with her family on many business trips and remembers Governor Ed Whitcomb, a personal family friend, staying with them often at their Versailles home.

After she and husband, Barney, took over the helm of the newspapers, they too traveled often on business trips that took them to many state parks, other states and even countries such as Mexico and Germany. They were married May 1, 1943.

Dorothy’s father was president of the Indiana Republican Editorial Association where he had connections with dignitaries such as President Herbert Hoover and many others. Her husband, too, followed in her father’s footsteps and was very active in both the Hoosier State Press Association and the Indiana Republican Editorial Association, serving in both as president. Before becoming involved as President and Publisher of the Osgood Journal and The Versailles Republican, Barney was employed with the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago in the examination department.

Many honors were bestowed on Dorothy’s husband, which he never spoke about. He, along with her father, were very civic minded people who went about changing things for the better wherever they could. Dorothy was never in the forefront, but always in the background working just as hard. She has sorted and processed thousands of Girl Scout cookies, as she remembered once when their entire garage was filled with the boxes. She served 21 years in the Girl Scout program beyond being a Girl Scout as a child. She also would wrap hundreds of presents each year for then Sports Editor Tiny Hunt, who would pass them out at the Muscatatuck and Madison State Hospitals at Christmas time.
Dorothy has a steady constitution and that coupled with her faith in God helped her through rough times such as losing her husband to cancer in 1978. After that she learned to drive and manage her household, something she still takes care of to this day. She said she never felt sorry for herself saying, “I just think that so many people have gone through the same thing.”

This week she was awarded a 69-year pin for her years of being in Tri Kappa, a sorority her father was instrumental in bringing to the area. She has also been a member of the Tyson United Methodist Church for 80 years.

Dorothy’s travels have taken her nearly around the world and just this month she took a cruise to Honduras, Belize, Cozumel, Mexico, and the Grand Cayman Islands with daughter Jill Bramman.
She’s been all over Europe, some places more than once; South America twice; and South Africa. She has visited many other places such as the Amazon, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Caribbean, the French Polynesian Islands, Singapore, Malaysia, Saigon, Rio de Janeiro, El Salvador, Chili, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Bora Bora, just to name a few.

“I’d still like to go to Thailand, Japan, Australia, Trinidad, and the Dominican Republic,” she noted. Of all her travels, she likes the Greek Islands the best because of the warm, tropical beaches, where she enjoys the sun and swimming.

Dorothy was in Egypt when the terrorists attacked on September 11, 2001. She said she wasn’t scared, just concerned about the situation. She didn’t let that stop her from traveling. “It does take a lot longer to get through the airport now,” she noted.

The unique way she looks at things could be the secret to a long life. Dorothy always looks on the positive side and says she has a good time wherever she goes. She truly knows how to make the best of any situation.

When she’s not working or traveling, she can be found at one of her daughters’ homes in Ohio - Jo Jean and husband, Gene Demaree who have two daughters, Dara Jo and husband, Kris Fraggos and Brandy and husband, Brian Vianello or Jill and husband Lee Bramman, who have two sons: Erik a sophomore at the Indiana University School of Business and Kyle, a sophomore in high school. Dorothy has one great grandson, Talon Vianello.

She can also be found at the home of her friends in Versailles, or they at her home, playing Head and Foot, a card game they enjoy.

She’s always up for something new and says that’s why she enjoys traveling so much to see the different cultures in action. She particularly enjoys seeing the children, and has a wealth of information in wonders of the world that she has witnessed first hand. She has stories like the lady who handed her flowers as she disembarked a plane in Paris, “probably because I smiled at her,” she noted. She’s walked millions of miles over the years and never been afraid while traveling in foreign countries. Well, once while she was in the Straits of Gibraltar some little monkeys tried to snatch her purse!

“I’ve had a wonderful life,” she concluded, saying her family celebrated her birthday in a big way over the weekend. “They’re all so good to me.”

Dorothy received many greetings, gifts and flowers for her special day. One special birthday greeting was from Governor Mitch Daniels where he congratulated her 75 years of dedicated service to the papers. “You should take pride in the longevity of this business that has remained family-run. You are certainly a Hoosier treasure!” he wrote.

Dorothy T. Craig is seated in a familiar spot, at a desk in the front office of the Ripley Publishing Co., publishers of the Osgood Journal and The Versailles Republican, newspapers her family has owned for four generations and nearly 150 years. Dorothy is most familiar with the front office process, but has also set some type and ran the addressograph machine for many years.