Before we conduct our search for Dorothy Craig, let’s think a little about how unusual it was for Dorothy’s name to be written at the top of Carl Knox’s notepad. In those dwindling days before Ron Tammen disappeared, all of his other check-writing or check-cashing or check-depositing activities pertained to businesses or organizations: places like Cleveland Trust, Delta Tau Delta, Shillito’s, and whatever entity had given him a loan. But Dorothy Craig wasn’t a business. She was a person. And weirder still, Dorothy Craig happened to be a female person.
In the year 1953, women weren’t generally known for their business transactions. Women were known for getting married. And once a woman was married, her identity was pretty much subsumed by her husband’s. Even her name. Once she was married, her signature would no longer begin with the name she was lovingly given on day 1 of her life—be it Helen, Margaret, Sadie, and, yes, Dorothy. Rather, she was now expected to use her husband’s name with the title “Mrs.” slapped in front. She was now Mrs. William this or Mrs. A.K that.
A woman in the 1950s was frequently told not to worry her pretty little head about something she was worried about. She would be asked to leave the room so the men could discuss something that was way too complicated for her cute, loveable brain. Actually, men in the 1950s were pretty ingenious. By telling women over and over (and over) that their place was in the home, they’d essentially removed half of the competition for the jobs they were vying for. Plus after a long, hard day of glad-handing and 2-hour lunches, they could come home to a clean house with sparkling children, not to mention dinner and a cocktail. Brilliant, boys…brilliant.
Sorry. I realize that last part comes off as a bit harsh, and I also realize that it doesn’t hold true for every ‘50s-era man. However, if you’ve read as many articles and ads from back then as I have lately, well, it can make a girl cranky.
Back to Dorothy Craig. What could this female person of the feminine persuasion have to do with Ronald Tammen that would have warranted her writing him a check? Conversely, what good or service could Ronald Tammen have provided in order to have earned said check?
As I began my search for Dorothy Craig, I soon realized that lots of women back then were named Dorothy. The surname of Craig was also common. I needed to establish some criteria. Here’s what I came up with:
First, she must be at least 18 years old in 1953 in order to have her own checking account.
Second, because the check was written on Oxford National Bank, which had no branches, she should live relatively close to Oxford, preferably within an hour’s drive.
And third, although this isn’t a requirement, I think it would be helpful if she had a job outside the home, since she would need some form of income in order to have her own checking account. Look at it this way: If Dorothy Craig had been single and living on her own, she would have needed a job—and a checking account—until she got married, that is. But if she were married and not working outside the home, Dorothy Craig would likely be the second name listed on a joint checking account. And if that had been the case, then Carl Knox would in all probability have written her husband’s name at the top of his notepad. See how it worked back then? If a man’s name had been anywhere near that check, even if Dorothy had written the check and signed it at the bottom, he would be given top billing and Dorothy would be largely ignored.
Keeping the above in mind, I conducted a search of the 1940 and 1950 censuses for all of the relevant counties and, if available, 1953 city directories for the tri-state area of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. I looked for anyone named Dorothy Craig who fit the first two criteria, and I also kept track of each contender’s employment status. I also checked Miami University’s 1953 student directory as well as the alumni database to see if Dorothy Craig could have been a fellow student. (Answer: no.) I also checked the census forms of any Miami students in the 1953 directory who had the last name of Craig to see if their mother’s name might be Dorothy. (Answer: again, no.) Then I made an interactive map.
So let’s interact, shall we? Here’s how:
- Click on the map above, which links to the interactive map.
- In the legend at the left, there are three categories. The first category is the location of unemployed Dorothy Craigs. The second category is the location of employed Dorothy Craigs. The third category is the location of Miami University.
- Start by checking the box next to each list so you can see all of the Dorothys at once and where they were located in comparison to Miami University.
- Now uncheck the Dorothys who were employed to see only the stay-at-home Dorothys and their location in comparison to Miami University. Click on each pin or the address in the legend to learn a little more about each person.
- Now uncheck the Dorothys who were unemployed and check the Dorothys who were employed and their location in comparison to Miami University. Click on each pin or the address in the legend to learn a little more about those Dorothy Craigs.
The best I can tell, there were 10 Dorothy Craigs that fit the criteria. Four Dorothy Craigs lived in Cincinnati; one lived in Newport, Kentucky, but worked in Cincinnati; one lived in a rural township in Montgomery County that later merged with the small town of Clayton; one lived in Dayton; one lived in Hamilton; one lived in Covington, Kentucky; and the last lived in Richmond, Indiana.
Let’s start by discussing the unemployed Dorothy Craigs. I don’t know about you, but I’m having trouble imagining how Ron’s life would have intersected with a random home-bound housewife whose husband worked in a factory or on a farm. It might happen if Ron were selling something door-to-door, but I’ve seen zero evidence of that—especially if said door was 40 miles away.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that, if Dorothy had anything to do with Ron’s disappearance, she might have been covertly working for a government agency—the CIA perhaps—and had purposely sought Ron out. Where better to conduct clandestine activities than a farmhouse in Randolph Township, Ohio?
Well, maybe. But she herself would have to be discovered by the CIA in the first place. If Dorothy were married to a mechanic or salesman and living in a brick bungalow in Cincinnati, well…I don’t think she would have been hobnobbing with the sorts of people who might have approached her with an opportunity filled with mystery and intrigue. If Roscoe Craig, husband to the Dorothy in Dayton, had been working for Wright Patterson Air Force Base, I suppose it would be somewhat possible, but he wasn’t. He was a maintenance worker at General Motors. I could be wrong, but I just don’t see how a housewife named Dorothy Craig could have sashayed her way into the CIA.
Only three Dorothy Craigs were employed. One was a single woman of 24 who worked at a drugstore in Cincinnati. The second was a 34-year-old married mother of four sons under 12, who commuted to Cincinnati from Kentucky to work for Gibson Art, forerunner to Gibson Greeting Cards. The third was a 51-year-old married mother of three adult children who worked at a paper mill in Hamilton.
Speaking of children, one issue that I began to consider a potential dealbreaker was the issue of offspring. Raising kids can be a lot of work, or so I’ve been told. They can take up a lot of their parents’ time and resources, particularly if they’re school-aged. No matter if Dorothy Craig was employed or unemployed, I think it would be way more difficult for her to have the motive, means, and opportunity to develop some sort of business relationship with Ron Tammen if she was raising one or more children under the age of 12 or 13. If Ron had been known to make some side money through babysitting, then maybe, but we have no evidence of that.
Which Dorothy Craig was it?
Let’s imagine that we have a bunch of ping pong balls, and each ball represents a different Dorothy Craig on our list. Now imagine that each individual ball is magically weighted according to how well that particular Dorothy Craig meets the criteria we’ve set for Ron’s Dorothy plus a few bonus attributes. The heavier the ball, the better the candidate. If we put the balls into one of those wire Bingo cages, and turned the crank, the heaviest ball would tumble out first, which would indicate that the Dorothy Craig it represents is more likely than the rest to have written the check to Ronald Tammen. And the most likely candidate to tumble out first is…
…51-year-old Dorothy Craig, on Carmen Avenue, in Hamilton, Ohio!
She lived and worked roughly 12 miles from Oxford, Ohio.
The Dorothy Craig on Carmen Avenue was the closest of all the Dorothy Craigs to Miami University—roughly 17 miles closer than the second-closest Dorothy Craig, who lived in Richmond, Indiana. It would have been more convenient for her to open a checking account at Oxford National Bank in comparison to the others. Likewise, it wouldn’t have been too out-of-the-way for her to make periodic in-person visits if she needed to make a deposit or withdrawal.
For those of you who are in your 20s, 30s, or, good grief, even your 40s, this may be new information to you, but that was something that people used to do in those days. They would make a trip to the bank, in person, all the time, especially on pay day. There was no such thing as direct deposit. There were no ATMs. What’s more, banking hours were super tight in those days. In that part of the state, the commonly observed hours of operation back then were 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Friday nights for people who weren’t able to get there during the day. There were no Saturday hours.
If my experience as a bank teller in the late 1970s and early ‘80s is any indication, we used to see the same customers routinely—some every day, others weekly. We knew people by name. We had conversations with them that had nothing to do with banking. We had our favorites and they had theirs. From the sound of it, Dorothy Craig was a friendly, likeable woman, and Oxford was a tiny little town. I’d venture to say that one or more of the cashiers at Oxford National Bank had probably gotten to know her by face and name as well.
She had an income.
Dorothy Craig didn’t just have an income—she had a good income.
This is despite the fact that, in her youth, Dorothy Mueller (her maiden name) had dropped out of high school after the 10th grade. At first, it seemed odd to me that she would end her education so soon, but I don’t judge. Apparently, people, especially women, did that a lot more back then. (See paragraph two.) I mean, if a young girl was constantly being told that a woman’s place was in the home, would she really need to learn about Euclidian geometry?
But Dorothy had ambition. She mastered the skill of stenography and landed herself a good-paying job at the local paper mill. For many years, she worked as an order clerk in the General Scheduling Division at the paper mill, a job for which accuracy would be imperative. From what I gather, Dorothy and her colleagues in Scheduling helped ensure that enough paper was being manufactured from pulp in order to meet the demand of customer orders. That seems important.
In 1939, Dorothy had earned $1300, which was $180 more than her husband Henry, a laborer at a stove foundry, had earned. Although that may not sound like a big difference, salaries back then were distributed along a much narrower spectrum. A person earning a salary of $5000 was at the upper end of the pay scale, according to the U.S. census. In the 1940 census, if you made more than that—if, for example, you were the boss of a major corporation or if, say, you were the beloved exuberant singer of show tunes known as Ethel Merman—your salary was marked down as “$5000+.”
Back at the paper mill, a secretary with two years of college had earned $1000 in 1939, $300 less than Dorothy. An order clerk with two years of college had earned $1800 that year, just $500 more than Dorothy, and he was male, which was always more lucrative. Another high school classmate of Dorothy’s—also male—with a bachelor’s degree and a lofty post in personnel at the paper mill, made $2000—just $700 more than Dorothy had earned that year. So she was well compensated. In 1949, her salary had nearly doubled to $2500.
By 1951, all three of Dorothy’s children were married and living their own lives. She and Henry were officially empty nesters, which allowed her to concentrate more on her work as well as the outside activity that seemed to buoy her most: her church. In the 1955-56 Hamilton city directory, Dorothy was listed as an order editor, which ostensibly was a promotion from clerk. In 1960, Henry passed away after a lengthy illness, but Dorothy kept working. In 1961, she was listed as an office secretary at the paper mill. According to her obituary, she retired in 1967 after 30 years of service. She died at the age of 80 in 1982.
Dorothy didn’t just work at any paper mill. She worked at THE paper mill.
It was probably sometime around 2012, not long after reading Carl Knox’s note for the first time, that I’d found Dorothy Craig of Hamilton in the 1940 census. So I’ve known about her for a while. When the 1950 census was released last year, I’d looked her up there too. Both said she worked at a paper mill, and my reaction was, “?” I figured she must be the wrong Dorothy Craig. I couldn’t imagine Ron Tammen ever bumping into someone who worked as a stenographer at a paper mill, just as I couldn’t imagine a stenographer at a paper mill writing a check to Ron Tammen.
But that changed last month. As I’ve mentioned earlier, in his book Baseless, Nicholson Baker described a person who was high up in the CIA—Col. Kilbourne Johnston, the assistant director of the CIA’s Office of Policy Coordination, AKA covert activities, from 1950 to 1952. Shortly after his time at the CIA, Johnston had joined the Champion Paper and Fibre Company, one of the most successful paper manufacturers in the country. He started at their Texas location in 1955, and in 1957, he moved to their headquarters, which was based in Hamilton, Ohio, and worked as director of operations programming staff. (He chose to go by “Pat” instead of Kilbourne now.) He was named vice president in 1962.
“Hold on,” thought I, “The number two guy in the CIA’s covert activities division moved to Hamilton, Ohio?”
I love Hamilton. It’s an easy-going, walkable city that celebrates its art, music, and history—everything I adore in a town. It has a fantastic library too. You should go there sometime.
Could I picture the assistant director of the CIA putting down roots there in the mid-1950s? Not really. I knew that St. Clair Switzer would have loved having a fellow military officer and former CIA guy living close by. I wondered who or what might have lured Johnston there.
Several weeks later, when I set out on my Dorothy Craig search, I reread the census forms for the Dorothy Craig who lived in Hamilton, and was reminded that she’d worked for a paper mill. Those words had suddenly taken on new relevance. I wanted to know which paper mill, since there was more than one in Hamilton. Sure enough, Dorothy Craig had worked at Champion Paper and Fibre. In the company’s vernacular for all of its valued employees, Dorothy Craig was a Champion.
I have no idea how well Dorothy Craig and Kilbourne Johnston knew one another. Nevertheless, I’m 100 percent confident that the two of them were sharing the same hallways for years, beginning when he arrived in Hamilton in 1957. That realization led me to ask if anyone else of importance was sharing those hallways with her in the days before Dorothy Craig wrote the check to Ronald Tammen.