For 69 years, Lila Rider has been writing what she knows. And she has no plans to stop anytime soon.
As contributing writer to the Steamboat Pilot & Today for nearly seven decades, Rider has made it her business to know the business of her South Routt friends and neighbors. She’s written about the comings and goings of the South Routt community as only someone who loves the town can do.
Rider, now a resident of the Doak Walker Care Center in Steamboat Springs, is a de facto South Routt historian. There was a time when she knew everyone who lived in Phippsburg, the small town just south of Oak Creek that she called home for many decades. While her location has changed, her mission hasn’t: to write about the people and events she holds dear.
Rider was born in 1927 in Normal, Ky., and moved to Colorado with her family five
years later. A doctor had told her father that he needed clean mountain air to help his bronchial problems and gave him just six months to live. Not only did he work another 25 years and enjoy 10 years of retirement, he far outlived the doctor who gave him the grim prognosis, Rider said.
On their move from Kentucky to Clark, the family traveled through Wyoming to avoid the closed Rabbit Ears Pass. Her father, Mark M.L. Williams Jr., started work on U.S. Highway 40, until he broke his leg. For her part, Rider said she spent her time “being an ornery little kid.”
After about five years, the family moved to Phippsburg, and her father started working with the railroad. Rider said the small Phippsburg community suited her just fine, and it ended up being her home for years to come.
“There was no running water, no lights. Nothing fancy about it,” Rider recalled. “Just a little old town. Good town, though.”
It was Phippsburg where Rider began writing about town news. She submitted tidbits about the local churches as well as updates on people recovering from illness, visitors and accomplishments. She was the town crier, in print from Steamboat.
Thursday, Feb. 23, 1961
St. Martins Altar and Rosary Society will meet March 1st after Lenten Devotional services. Anyone who has Betty Crocker coupons to turn in, please turn them in to Mrs. Al Edgar or leave them in the back of the church. We are trying to get enough coupons for table service for our new kitchen. Each lady is asked to bring a dish towel to the next meeting for the kitchen.
Sunday afternoon February 19th the members of the missionary society of Phippsburg gathered at the Bulkley home to surprise Mrs. Bulkley on her birthday. A very pleasant time was spent visiting and enjoying the refreshments the ladies had to Denver last week.
Mr. and Mrs. Bud Rider spent Thursday and Friday in Walden at the Harry Shell home.
Rider initially reported only about Phippsburg news, but as writers in Yampa and Oak Creek stopped writing or passed away, she picked up the extra work.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” she said.
Rider attended school in Phippsburg, and then Yampa, until she was forced to drop out during her senior year after her mother was injured in a car accident. She was supposed to graduate in 1947. She didn’t give up on that goal, and she earned her GED with her brother in 1985.
After her mom’s accident, Rider got a job at the little restaurant next to the Phippsburg railroad yard, a job she kept off and on for the next decade or so. She then worked at hotels and restaurants as they popped up in the Phippsburg area.
“The restaurants were a part-time job,” she said.
Even now, at 83, Lila hasn’t stopped working. Her weekly reports from the Doak Walker Care Center appear every Sunday in the Pilot & Today.
Thursday, Jan. 22, 1970
Mrs. Ross, home agent, will hold a Sewing Machine Workshop Friday, January 23rd at the Phippsburg Community Hall from 1:30 to 4 p.m. If possible please bring your sewing machines so that Mrs. Ross can answer any questions you may have. She will also show some new fabrics and give tips on how to sew them. Everyone from Yampa, Oak Creek and Phippsburg is invited to attend.
Good news, thanks to Louis and Ray Iacovetto, we can again send our clothes to the cleaners. They are handling an agency at the new post office. Pick ups are on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Mrs. Ray Hames was shopping in Steamboat last Monday.
Lila married Bud Rider in 1952, and the couple continued to reside in Phippsburg, where she became an active member of the community and church groups.
“She always enjoyed doing things for town,” fellow longtime South Routt resident Sharon Ebaugh said.
She particularly liked working with children and the Phippsburg Community Club, where local ladies started a rummage sale to help pay for lights for the town.
When the schoolhouse burnt down in 1972, Rider helped lead a cleanup effort and the construction of a town park.
“She always, to me, was friendly and outgoing, and for the kids in town, she loved to do things for the kids,” Ebaugh said. “That was one of the goals, getting the park together … deciding what we wanted in the park and helping get it laid out.”
“Like everyone knows, she’s known for her sense of humor and just (one of the) strong, working P’burg folks,” Arlene Porteus said.
Thursday, July 19, 1984
On Friday, July 6, about 35 friends and neighbors of Wm (“Pinky”) Lewis held a picnic in the Phippsburg park honoring his 93rd birthday. Lots of good food, visiting and fun was had by all. Many more, Pinky.
Rider continues to report from her home at the Doak Walker Care Center, doing the same updates she has done since her early teens. She makes it her business to keep up with the friends, family and other visitors who regularly stop by the care center in Steamboat Springs. She includes updates from the weekly bridge games and is a cheerleader for the weekly bingo games.
She’s no longer part of a large family. All of her brothers and sisters have passed away. She’s been a widow longer than she was married. Neither she nor any of her siblings had children. Many of her oldest South Routt friends are no longer alive.
That doesn’t slow Rider, who keeps churning out news week after week, year after year.
“I’ve been with the Pilot for 69 years … and I met so many good people,” she said. “Of course, it’s the same thing — it’s hell if you do, hell if you don’t.”