Pilot Proud: Keeping historic rural neighborhoods connected through ‘chicken dinner’ news
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Fetcher brothers, Bill and Jay, who grew up on their family’s cattle ranch just south of Clark, had praise for the historic Steamboat Pilot for the newspaper’s devotion to consistently publishing small stories written by rural correspondents, primarily women, scattered all across Routt County.
In an era when friends might not see one another all summer until the County Fair arrived, that kind of small town news was treasured.
“I think of how the paper reached out to local communities and had reporters in all of them,” Jay said. “In summers, we got the local gossip in Clark with the ‘Clark Callings’ column, We were always eager to read it to get what the rumors were. We also had Clara Henry at Hahns Peak in the summer.”
To be clear, the columnists didn’t deal in hard-hitting journalism, except perhaps when they reported on traffic mishaps.
Typical news items in Clark read like this:
“Mr. and Mrs. Glen Johnson and Mar. and Mrs. Orval Bedell sponsored a dance at Clark Friday night. The highlight was a ‘spot dance’ with prizes.”
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“Mr. and Mrs. Fuller enjoyed the high school play Friday night while waiting for daughter Charlene to arrive on the bus to begin her vacation at home.”
Jay especially enjoyed the fact that the newspaper also provided columns to small 4-H clubs scattered in every corner of the country. Those columns, though often routine, connected youngsters in the 4-H clubs who spent the year learning home crafts and raising animals to exhibit at the Routt County Fair in August.
For example, in March 30, 1950, Busy Fingers 4-H Club President Violet Ray called the meeting to order and reported everyone brought baby pictures of himself or herself.
No matter how little real-news value the columns had, the Pilot consistently published rural news from Yampa, Phippsburg, Dunckley, Sidney and beyond.
Way down in South Routt County, Vern Seamen wrote a quirky column he called “Eyeball News.”
Closer to Steamboat, Virginia Andrews wrote a well-read column called “Farm Folks,” which took in a broader area of the county. And Jean Wren wrote her local history column, “The Way it Was,” for more than 30 years.
However, rural readers had at least one vice.
“And everyone enjoyed the police report to see who crashed and who got hurt,” Bill confessed.
Tom Ross retired from the Steamboat Pilot & Today in 2018 after 36 years in the newspaper business. He continues to write a regular column for the paper.
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