Best newspaper in the state by a dam site
By Candace S. Hughes
Like many Ohio University students, Alfred Craft Jr., A.B. ’35, didn’t want to leave Athens after graduation. He knew how hard his father worked in the family’s newspaper business in nearby Glouster and wanted to get a master’s degree and instead become a history professor.
When he returned to The Glouster Press that summer, it was clear that his father wasn’t able to continue in the business, so the son picked up the struggling operation serving 1,300 subscribers so that his parents would have an income.
His ties to his family and the Glouster community brought him back to the newspaper business where he turned the paper into a profitable business.
The 1935 “Athena” yearbook at Ohio University pictured Craft, as Phi Delta Theta president, sitting in the fraternity house reading a newspaper, foreshadowing of his upcoming responsibility. At the time, however, Craft felt he was fortunate to have his room paid.
He had been selected as one of the outstanding students of his senior class, and served as a business manager for the Green and White, a semi-weekly student newspaper where he earned $12 per issue.
Before entering OU however, he was elected president of his high school senior class in 1931. He went on to be a leader at OU, showing more interest in business than journalism. He was a liberal arts major with a minor in history, but he also took economics classes.
The decline of mining from 1925-1931 made it difficult for the family to send Al Craft to Ohio University, so he stayed with an aunt and uncle in Athens during his first year in college and did chores in exchange for room and board.
“When I moved into the fraternity I felt like one of the rich guys,” quipped Craft. “I had more money than I ever had for two-three years after getting out of college. I lived a great life my senior year. I was quite busy, but because I worked for the newspaper I got passes to the senior prom and theater passes so I could take my dates there. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I would have stayed on for a few years if I could have.”
The Ohio University graduate followed in his father’s footsteps in several ways ranging from continuing the paper’s improvement of village life to caring for his parents and wife when she became ill.
Long hours and no vacations took their toll on publishers of small newspapers, including W.A.Craft. He died Dec. 11, 1941 at the age of 64, four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and was forced to retire several years before then. Alfred ran the paper until he left to serve in World War II in 1943. The last weekly issue published by the Craft family was Jan. 7, 1943.
W.A. Craft left school during the seventh grade to support his elderly parents who had been swindled out of all their savings after retirement. He learned to set type by hand at The Messenger, and it was there that W.A. met his wife, Nona, the owner’s secretary.
Founded by W.A. Craft, Al Craft’s father, and Calvin D. Myers, The Glouster Press began publication Sept. 17, 1896 and folded 71 years later on April 22, 1971. Publication was suspended during part of World War II.
The Craft family published the paper for 47 years, with at least eight of the last years under the direction of the Ohio University graduate. Craft’s father had partners from 1896-1920, and then owned the paper with his wife, son and daughter until his death in 1941. Alfred, his mother Nona, and his sister, Phyllis, owned the paper until the family sold it in 1946.
The Glouster Press touted itself as “the best newspaper in the state by a dam site” due to its promotion of the dam at Burr Oak State Park and showed a devotion to community involvement. Subscribers from out-of-state who left the mining community as the industry closed down eventually outnumbered locals who were willing to pay $2.50 annually to receive the paper.
The Glouster Press helped its community look for solutions to problems, assess the impact of new projects and laugh at its mistakes.
It also provided entertainment, and was a source of information about local people as well as natives of Glouster who had moved away. Without this vital communication link, Glouster residents would have been without the one aspect of their community which consistently worked to unify its citizens and build a town of which they could be proud.
Except for the period from 1943-1946 when Al Craft was in the service, the paper was a continuous influence on community affairs for 71 years. An Athens Messenger reporter now covers the area.
Craft’s destiny as an OU alum was foretold in The Glouster Press’ first issue: The paper carried an Ohio University ad on page four. The copy here is reprinted as it appeared.
A thorough equipped institution for undergraduate work with facilities to give instruction in Art, Music and Business. Library and labs for original researches in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, etc. There is
NO CHARGE FOR TUITION
In the collegiate preparatory studies. Summer term every year. Superior advantages afforded to those who wish to prepare for teaching or superintending. An elegant boarding hall for ladies. Cost of living very low. Send for catalogue to L.M. Jewett, Secretary of the University, Athens, Ohio.
Called simply The Press until 1905, Craft’s father supplemented the son’s education by including him as a typesetter and made sure he was a good speller. In the summers he spent four hours a day setting type by hand, an experience which also helped improve his grammar. He did not help cover news however, until he began to work at The Press full-time in July 1935.
After taking on the job of providing an income for his parents, he found the years from 1936-1943 “rough.” He said, “We should have given up, but we didn’t.” Although his father was still active in the paper’s operations in 1935, “my objective was to make him less active.”
Al learned to run the press, do stereotyping and cast metal mats for ads, and by 1938 his father had retired. Although W.A. still played a role in the paper, his son had begun to cover news and run the business. He never thought he would work in journalism after leaving college, and he continued to run the paper much longer than he originally thought.
When The Glouster Press published its first issue in 1896, the village was a thriving, expanding community determined to build a town of which the miners and business owners and their families could be proud.
Glouster grew gradually from 2,527 persons when the first census was taken in 1910, to a peak of 3,140 in 1920. A rapid decrease in population began in 1925 due to a general depression in the coal fields. The most recent U.S. Census found 1,972 people living in the village north of Athens.
The Sunday Creek Coal Co., at one time the second-largest coal company in the world, had its headquarters in the town.
Printed every Thursday without missing an issue until Jan. 7, 1943, when Al Craft was drafted, the paper printed an apology Nov. 12, 1942, explaining the difficulty in obtaining paper as the reason for the abbreviated four-age issue:
“We had planned to stop publishing two weeks ago to enter the Army, but we have been allowed to continue for three more months as newspapers have been considered essential during the war. An eight-page issue will now be published every two weeks until more paper arrives.”