She worked at the same company for 78 years!
Versailles newspaper woman retires at age 94

Mary Mattingly

Dorothy Craig is an anomaly in today’s workforce. How many people can say they worked for just one company, and for 78 years? Dorothy can. She has been a valuable contributing employee of Ripley Publishing since she was a girl of 15.

Dorothy Craig

Pictured at left is Dorothy Craig, who spent 78 years working for The Ripley Publishing Company in Versailles.


“I wanted to work until I was 95,” the Versailles native said. She almost made it. She turned 94 in April, but a fall caused her to not realize her goal. “I miss it,” she says of her life-long work. When others are thinking of retiring, Dorothy was working full-time Monday through Thursday. Actually, less than one percent of the population even live past 90, much less work! (Six percent of 65 and older make up the labor force.)

Maybe she can’t help it because news ink runs through her blood and the rumble of a press is music to her ears. It was her grandfather, Charlie Thompson, who bought The Versailles Republican and then the Osgood Journal.  Her father, Harry Thompson, took over ownership until his death, when Dorothy and her sister, Jean Martin, and their husbands, Carlos Barney Craig and Doc Martin, took over the business. In 1978, Gene and Jo Jean Demaree, Dorothy’s daughter, purchased the Martin’s share of the company and in 1986 purchased Dorothy’s share of the newspaper business. The publishing company has stayed in the family for four generations.

Gene and Jo Jean helped moved Dorothy to Dayton so she could be closer to family. She lives in a retirement home there. Dorothy was in town, though, for the annual Ripley Publishing Co. Christmas get-together, and she shared her memories of working in the newspaper business. She was a much beloved co-worker of the staff, two who worked with her for over 30 years.

There was a void left when Dorothy was no longer seen in her cubbyhole at work. “She worked hard, but Dorothy was also a lot of fun! She really enjoys life,” said Linda Chandler, publisher. She knows Dorothy well, as Linda started work at the paper in 1981, when Dorothy was 62 years old. “I love the way she lives her life. She always tries to do the right thing and never cuts corners,” Chandler commented. Dorothy is still sharp as ever, recalling names and events easily.

Her tasks
In between attending Versailles High School and later college, Dorothy began filling in with odd but necessary jobs, such as helping stuff the newspaper with the advertising inserts and assisting with the fair book. She remembers learning to set type by hand, using the linotype machine, which has long since gone. Linotype is a line-casting machine used in printing. It has a 90-character keyboard to create an entire line of metal type. Computers wiped away the tedious typesetting.

It was Dorothy whom many people first encountered upon entering the building on South Washington Street. She returned to the newspaper business after studying journalism at Tennessee Tech. Dorothy was low-profiled and more interested in the behind-the-scenes work of the newspaper business. Dorothy’s latest tasks for the paper were administering the many subscriptions, helping with billing to the advertisers, answering calls, and proofreading. If it was in the paper, Dorothy most likely read it. “I read everything except sports,” she said. Proofreading was her favorite job, the avid reader says.

One of her expert skills the staff relied on was her knowledge of the correct spelling of local names. See, Dorothy knew everyone and that’s not just because she grew up here, but she wrote the Versailles “Locals” column. These columns were staples of the paper (and of many community papers in the day) and let people know who came to town to visit, who had their tonsils removed, who went shopping in the city; it was kind of the social media outlet way before Facebook and Twitter came around and probably the most popular part of the paper. Dorothy recalls making phone calls to find out the latest news. “But, not everyone had phones back then!” she said. As a teen, she would walk the neighborhood and knock on doors to get the comings and goings of Ripley Countians.

Office challenges
While Dorothy doesn’t use a cell phone today, and steers away from computers, it was a computer that brought about the biggest change for her in the newspaper business

“We had to get the bills out by hand and it took a long time, until we had a computer,” she said, referring to the posting machine. Each bill had to be typed in manually. Things have come a long way since when she started working and an annual subscription cost $1.50, or “$1.75 if outside of the county.” She proudly recalls, “I earned a dollar a week, which bought a lot. I could get a Coke for a nickel, or an ice cream cone,” she remembered.

She was also the one taking the calls, when people failed to get their newspaper. People relied on the paper for local news, as they still do, and hated when a delivery was missed.

“People were awfully nice about it, and we’d send it out. But now, I’d have to say they are not as nice,” she said. Perhaps the faster paced world has led to quicker tempers and less patience for error, Dorothy acknowledges.

Dorothy has been in the news business through big national events, from World War II to the Iraq war, to presidential assassinations and to man landing on the moon. The one event that first comes to mind though was on Sept. 11, 2001, when the U.S. was attacked by terrorists. Dorothy became quite the traveler, and she was in Egypt at the time. She got stuck there, as flights and transportation were grounded.

Local news though has always been the staple of the paper. As for the biggest local event in her tenure, the one that stands out was the Milan ’54 team winning the state basketball championship, and most recent, the Holton tornado in 2012.

Most who know Dorothy, know she loves to travel, and to experience new things. She’s seen much of the world, including Europe, Hong Kong, South America, Mexico, and Tahiti to name a few places, but her favorite was probably Greece, she said. “I would still like to go to Thailand. I didn’t get to India.” She traveled with friends, after her husband died in 1978. His death also forced her to learn to drive at the age of 60.

Dorothy loves to dance, and says if she had not been in the newspaper business, she would have like to been a dancer! She and her girlfriends made the rounds of the local dances, such as at the Osgood Legion Hall where it “cost 25 cents for ladies, 35 cents for gents, as the ad read in 1938. She remembers a 20-car caravan of young people going to Cincinnati for a dance. “I think I went to three dances a week!” she said, mentioning the music of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey, some of her favorites. She admits if her husband hadn’t liked to dance, “I’m not sure I would have married him!” she jokes. They didn’t marry until after college in 1943. She left home to attend Bethel Women’s College (its co-ed now) in Hopkinsville, Ky., and then transferred to Tennessee Tech. The two of them not only operated the newspaper business, but raised two daughters, Jo Jean and Jill. Jill Branham lives in Atlanta, and between the two daughters, Dorothy has four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Today, Dorothy’s dancing shoes are retired, and she’s more often seen with her nose buried in a book. “I probably read a book everyday. I like mysteries,” she said. She misses the newspaper activity, moreover, the people, but is happy she could be a part of it for seven decades. “I guess it’s in my genes,” she said. We at Ripley Publishing are glad it is. We wish Dorothy the best in her retirement.


Legal advice free Monday

Legal Volunteers of Southeast Indiana will sponsor ‘Talk to a Lawyer Today’ providing legal service to the underserved on Monday, Jan. 20, as an annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther Kings, Jr. The program is for Dearborn, Franklin, Fayette, Ripley, Jefferson, Ohio, Switzerland, Union, and Wayne Counties. The hotline is 1-877-237-1023 or 812-537-0123 and open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A statewide hotline is open from 8 to 5 p.m. at 800-266-2581.



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