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Jane Christenson Retirement Party Friday

By: Harold Smith
Posted: Friday, January 04, 2013

Jane Dunlap Christenson started delivering newspapers for the Harrison Daily Times as a blonde-haired 10-year-old girl riding a bicycle with saddlebags on the back.

Over the next 52 years, she has sold advertising, written and edited a weekly food column, served as publisher of the Newton County Times, organized promotions and events, and been one of the newspaper’s most-recognized faces in the community.

January 2013 will mark her last days in the world of ink and paper, and everyone in the community is invited to a retirement reception in her honor from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 4, in Kirby Manor on South Pine Street.

Jane Dunlap Christenson was born into a newspaper family.

Her father, J.E. Dunlap Jr., wrote, edited and published the Boone County Headlight, then after the weekly paper merged with the Harrison Daily Times, he wrote, edited and published both newspapers.

Her mother, Leota ‘Sammy’ Dunlap, was a one-person office in charge of circulation and the contact for community correspondents.

When Jane was two years old, J.E. was president of the Arkansas Press Association in 1953. Jane was elected president of the Arkansas Press Association in 1991, the third woman to hold the office in the association at the time.

The distinction of being elected president of the Arkansas Press Association isn’t the only distinction shared by the father and daughter.

They’ve both been close friends of governors - J.E. with the late Governor Orval Faubus and Jane with current Governor Mike Beebe - and spent nights in the Governor’s Mansion.

They’ve both served on the Arkansas State Police Commission, and like her dad, she will be chairman. Her term will start in 2013, and she expects responsibilities of that office to keep her busy.

Jane quickly grew into the newspaper’s delivery force, first delivering newspapers downtown, then advanced to a regular route. When Bill Magness retired from the West Central Avenue route, she picked up his more than 100 customers.

At that time, she delivered newspapers on her bicycle with saddlebags on the back. On snowy days, she tied a box on a sled to deliver newspapers up Central Avenue and side streets.

Jane said she had to collect from subscribers every week. “Christmas was fun,” she remembers.

Customers “gave us gifts and money. Back then, that was a pretty big deal and still is today.”

Jane attended college with the ambition of becoming a business teacher. When she couldn’t find a job at the December break, her dad offered her a job selling advertising.

Her brother “Lee and I were the only ones in advertising for a long time,” she says. “We stayed late at night laying out double truck grocery ads.

“I became food editor in 1978,” a position she held for 32 years. “I met so many neat people.

“Cook of the week was a fun way to meet new people in town and renew friendships of people I had known.”

For the past 40 years, Jane says would go to work not knowing how the day would go. “I used to always have a camera with me.

“I could get the call to go to wrecks if dad was out of town. It was kind of scary for a while.

“I would take pictures at shootings, and a couple of times had to take murder scenes. I had to go to court on some of those.”

Jane slowly shook her head at all the changes she’s seen. “Dad didn’t have budgets, but when he had the money, he was the first to buy new equipment. He was among the first to have an offset press, a fax machine, front end computer system. Dad was one of first to have a laptop computer.”

And that’s brought about a part of the business she misses on the last days of 2012. “Now, everything is done by computer.

“We’re losing a lot of personal contact because everything is e-mailed. Even in advertising, people rarely call on the phone anymore. This seems more like a lack of communication.

“When I got out of advertising, I missed the contact I had enjoyed for so many years.”

And this retirement is one thing Jane won’t have in common with her dad. J.E. was still writing columns and going to the office everyday when he died at 83.

When Jane signs out of the newspaper for the last time, she intends to get back into the community, take a lot of day trips and travel Arkansas with her husband, Jeff, and visit their daughter and son-in-law in Colorado.

And best of all, she won’t get up at 4 a.m. each morning to meet Debra and Jim Keef at Lake Harrison at 4:30 a.m. and walk around the lake. Debra is also retiring so they are still going to walk but a little later.

What were some high school activities: I was a majorette, played flute and saxophone in the marching band, was in the homecoming court and played the piano, National Honor Society, Girls State and editor of the Goblin newspaper.

What was your college major: I was business major and practice taught in Bentonville High School. I came back during December and looked for a teaching job. None were available, so I substituted for Principal Irma Adair in first and second grades. I was used to high school kids and realized I didn’t have the patience to teach.

How about a college story: J.E. called and got press credentials for Jane and her roommate to attend Henry Kissinger’s press conference. We (her roommate and sorority sister Janice Stanford) wanted to ask something different, “Are you the swinger people say you are?” Dad liked Janice because she was a real journalism major. I still stay with her when I go to Little Rock.

How did you meet your husband: We actually met at the office. When he moved to town, he came in to take out a subscription, and he wanted the newspaper delivered to his apartment. I was counting money at the front desk, and he asked who had the sports car parked in front, which was Jane’s car. He was the Harrison High School band director and had an old sports car at the time. They were married in 1975. He started working in the pressroom during summers, and eventually quit teaching and sometime later became publisher of the Harrison Daily Times.

Who influenced you: My parents gave me work ethics to try to always do better in life and work.

Who was a mentor: Charlotte Schexnayder was the first female president of the Arkansas Press Association and the first female president of the national newspaper convention. She and her husband owned the Dumas newspaper. When Jane was attending twirling camp in Dumas, she would walk down the railroad tracks to the newspaper office. Other possible careers: I wanted to be a court reporter when I was growing up. I was good at shorthand, always in the top of all my classes. Now, they don’t even teach shorthand.

Tell us another favorite story: When I was president of the press association, the national press convention was in Little Rock. One of the speakers was Caroline Kennedy, and I was asked to pick her up at the airport. She was wearing jeans, tennis shoes and a tweed jacket. We talked along the way, and I told her my dad was at the Democratic Convention when her dad was nominated for president. She thought that was very cool.

Favorite Arkansas destination: Gaston’s on the White River. Jim Gaston has been a special family friend for many years.

What’s a favorite Sunday afternoon: A picnic and hike around Cedar Grove picnic area along the Buffalo National River.

Something no one knows about you: I constantly watch Andy Griffith and Matlock reruns and NFL Football.

Last song you played on the piano/flute/saxophone: I love playing Moon River on the piano. The last time I played sax was at community band concerts during fourth of July celebrations.

Comfort food: Mushroom and black olive pizza. My “last” supper if I was on death row would be pizza.

Who would you like to interview: Hillary Clinton. I’ve known her for several years but would like to hear more about her travels abroad as First Lady and Secretary of State

Something you did naughty as a child: My little brother Lee got a new motorcycle for his birthday and I got on it before he could and drove it into the air conditioner unit of the house. It tore up the air conditioner and his brand new bike. I was crying, Lee was crying and my parents were just mad.
Superstitions: None. I have two black cats Mason and Dixon and my favorite number is “7.”
Lesson your mom taught you: Mother taught be to always be courteous to everyone and to send hand-written thank you notes which I still do today rather than an e-mail thank you.
Why are you still in Harrison: I’ve lived in Harrison all of my life. Thanks to my father I found a job I dearly loved (even though I didn’t realize it at the time.) I’ve lived in a 10-block radius my entire life except for college. I always wanted to live in a big city after college graduation, but something always kept me right here.
Where do you take visitors in Harrison: We always take visitors and relatives to Newton County and Buffalo National River. People always take our area for granted and don’t realize what we have in our “backyard.”

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