Re-release of book on Steamboat history is celebration of author’s life and work | SteamboatToday.com

Re-release of book on Steamboat history is celebration of author’s life and work

Kari Dequine Harden/For Steamboat Today

Former Steamboat Pilot editor Dee Richards uses a typewriter in 1972. Richards was the editor of the newspaper for 25 years. She died in 2007 at age 86.

— From a historically passionate and uniquely journalistic perspective, Dee Richards, in her 1976 book "Steamboat Round The Bend," tells the story of how the community of Steamboat Springs was built.

From the 1874 discovery of hot water bubbling out of a hillside by James Harvey Crawford to the first Fourth of July rodeo and Winter Carnival, Richards details Steamboat's history through the fundamental social and structural building blocks — the post office, library, school, fire station, churches, system of governance, utilities, railway, hospital, housing and commerce, newspaper and ski and hospitality industries.

Richards, who passed away in 2007, moved to Steamboat in 1950 and was the editor of the Steamboat Pilot from 1965 to 1990. She had not only a distinct and engaging viewpoint but also total access to the town's printed archives.

Richards dedicates the book to Crawford and his wife, Margaret, "Who built a thoroughfare for freedom across the wilderness."

However if you are lucky enough to find a copy of Richard's out-of-print book today, it is likely a bit worse for wear.

On Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 5:30 p.m., a celebration of the "Steamboat Round the Bend's" re-release, and the life of Richards, will be held at Butcherknife Brewing

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The 227-page book, filled with newspaper photographs, ads and stories from the past 150 years, is being re-printed through a partnership between the Steamboat Pilot & Today and the Tread of Pioneers Museum.

"It's been a focus of mine for the last 15 years," said Tread of Pioneers Executive Director Candice Bannister.

The only copy the museum has is the copy Richards signed and gave to Bannister. And that copy has been used exhaustively for research, exhibition and research.

"When we find a gem like this, we want it to be accessible to the public," she said.

The only thing changed from the 1976 publication is the addition of a page of corrections made by the museum's Historical Accuracy Committee, primarily listing minor corrections to dates and photo identifications. 

Bannister said she was very excited the Steamboat Pilot, which has the book's copyright, was willing to join forces and get it back into print.

And Tuesday's event, she said, "is really about Dee and her impact on the community, and the book as a part of that."

Richards, with whom Bannister served on the museum's board, was a pioneer as a female in her field, in addition to her dedication to documenting and preserving the town's history, she said.

"Steamboat's history was something near and dear to her heart," Bannister said, "And we are excited to make her book, and her access through the newspaper, available to the public.

“The book has a wealth of information culled from early Steamboat Pilot newspapers, woven together with many early photographs and an interview with the founder of Steamboat, James H. Crawford," said James L. Crawford, local historian and great-grandson of James H. Crawford. "Dee wrote in a very entertaining style, with each chapter able to stand on its own.”

Richards also had a significant impact on those who worked for her and those her called her a friend.

Tom Ross was hired as a Steamboat Pilot reporter in 1979. Told by his father he could never overdress for a job interview, he showed up to talk to Richards in a three-piece suit, which he later learned was to her great amusement.

"She was a petite woman, with closely cropped steel hair," Ross said. "She usually wore a dress with a flared skirt and white tennis shoes."

Richards worked on a manual typewriter, while the rest of the staff work on the fancy electronic typewriters, he recalled, describing the late nights spent pasting up stories on the wall and measuring pages with a yardstick.

Ross described his former boss as energetic with a good sense of humor, and an editor who would use sarcasm when reporters were feeling sorry for themselves but also let them know she truly cared about them. 

"She was a mix between your mother and hell on wheels," he said.

Indeed, Richards was known for controversy and for sticking it to public officials.

"She was a bulldog when it came to defending journalistic principles," Ross said. "She wasn't afraid of anyone."

After her death, Ross wrote in a column, "Some of the subjects of Richards’ editorials never got over the lumps she dished out; others grew to admire her principles. She offered them all cookies and peace, but that didn’t mean she let up on them."

Ross likes the story of the Texas tycoon who tried to curry favor with Richards with the gift of a Rolex watch. He remembers Richards bringing him into her office to figure out how to respond. Ultimately, Richards returned the watch and asked the eager benefactor to instead plant a row of crabapple trees along Howelsen Parkway.

"No one ever questioned Dee’s moral compass," Ross wrote.

Richards was also a hearty outdoorswoman, Ross said. Into her 70's, she would climb Mount Zirkel as a day hike.

Longtime friend and across-the-street neighbor Nancy Kramer formed the "Tawdry Tourers" with Richards, a group of cross-country skiiers who spent Sundays skiing and lunching in mismatched gear.

"She made quite an impression on any number of us, number one because of her spark," Kramer said.

She described Richards as adventurous explorer who was always curious, "albeit feisty."

One standout memory for Kramer was when a group of friends went to the airport to meet Richards on her way home from two years in the Peace Corps in Sri Lanka. Richards was in her 70s at the time.

"She was an incredible inspiration," Kramer said. "She was always looking for something new."

Richards loved to host dinners, Kramer said, and the conversation was always lively.

"She challenged us to consider all sides of an issue, whether based on her observations or her ability to entice us to consider other perspectives."

At one of Richards' dinner they called the White House, Kramer recalled, determined to give their input on a compelling issue of the day.

Richards was a risk-taker, Kramer said, and with that came being scrutinized and at times being a polarizing figure.

"She was a magnet for controversy," she said, "But she was pretty comfortable in her own skin."

Ross will speak at Tuesday's event, along with advertising representative Deb Proper, another colleague and friend of Richards. 

The book's re-release, said Kramer, is a testament to Richard's "legacy, commitment and work ethic in sustaining the history and heritage of our community."

Richards' friends and family are also encouraged to attend and will be invited to share their memories. 

The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Butcherknife Brewing at 2875 Elk River Road. It’s free and open to the community.

A limited number of copies of "Steamboat Round the Bend" will be on sale for $19.95, and those who purchase one will be treated to a free craft beer. The book is also available online and at the Tread of Pioneers of Museum.

If you go:

What: Celebration of re-release of “Steamboat Round the Bend”

When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21

Where: Butcherknife Brewing Co., 2875 Elk River Road

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