People of the Times |

People of the Times

I remember seeing Robbie’s true lust for life on the edge. He brought a tape into math class of him doing a lawn dart (soaring head first with a last-second front-flip) off of one of the biggest kickers at Buttermilk. He over-rotated and went head first into the rock-hard snowpack, knocking himself out cold for a few moments. The thing about Robbie is, after something like that he would laugh it off, get up and try it again. To this day I haven’t met another person as wild and carefree as Robbie. He touched so many of us with his happy-go-lucky attitude. He loved and respected anybody and everybody. I only wish there were more people in this world like Robbie – honest, genuine, caring … one of the greatest people I’ve ever met. – Joey Hanson

Up until the mid-’80s Dean Billings’ “Pueblo” apartments on Ute Avenue were unique rammed-earth buildings, and housed a series of rogues from Tim Howe to Ron Hodge. Originally he didn’t rent to women, but he softened on that.He fought the city over many issues involving his property rights, expanding his bandit units as he saw fit. After the city inspected his white stucco buildings he sealed the doors between the rooms and made apartments. He put a second story on the rear units in one afternoon. Accomplices framed the walls in sections on the ground and Dean hung up dozens of sheets from the thrift shop on faux clotheslines. The sheets stayed up a few days and the job was done.At night he took a steel bull-prod to the tender spots on the newly paved street in front of his place, confounding the city with premature potholes.- Tim Cooney

When Ruth arrived back in the 1950s, her first job was as a physical education instructor for the Aspen School District, covering all 12 grades. We used to give her a hard time. I can remember running and jumping over the bleachers in the gym as she chased me around after a smart remark. The gym at the Red Brick School had been built in 1951 or ’52, and due to a lack of funds over the years, the roof insulation had never been covered up with a proper ceiling. After her first (and only) year of teaching, Ruth returned her salary to the school district with the caveat that they properly finish the ceiling in the gymnasium. A philanthropist from the start! – Tony Vagneur

From Port Arthur, Texas, Betty Jane Harbour came to Aspen around 1950 with her husband Jack. She built the houses that bracket the east end of Castle Creek bridge.Betty had a smile that could melt boilerplate and a foghorn of a voice. In the ’60s, during a whiteout on Aspen Mountain, Betty left the Sundeck with her ski class of 14. By the time they reached Little Nell, there were 44 terrified skiers following the sound of her voice.After Jack’s death, Betty traveled the world, hunting big game in Alaska and living in the Maharani palace in Katmandu. She trekked to Everest base camp three times – after losing a kneecap when her Norwegian Dun slipped and fell on her. Though she’d never finished high school, she enrolled at CU in Astrogeophysics just as her daughter Cyndie was finishing her master’s.Betty died while she was building her fifth house, in the mountains of northern New Mexico. She’d been living in the first and only completed part of the house – and the most important to her – the observatory tower.- Doug Franklin

(Age: 10 weeks. Birthdate: June 13, 1905)We have lived most of our lives in Aspen. Except for some time in Denver and a couple of trips to Glenwood, we don’t stray very far. Of course we sleep a lot, but in our waking hours we are training some old people to serve us. We are looking forward to learning about our town, and finding out about the famous Aspen characters who came before us: The Silver Queen, Little Nell, Little Annie, Jenny Adair, Hildur Anderson and Gretl Uhl, and Terese David, and Loey Ringquist, and Fabi Benedict, and Pussy Paepcke and Jony Larrowe and the list goes on and on …- Greg Poschman

Many of the first arrivals in the mining camp of Ute City, later named Aspen, had previously experienced the pitfalls of the stereotypical boom town; nearby Leadville often set the example of rowdiness, and maybe Aspen was deliberately different. It may have also been Aspen’s initial isolation, or the extraordinary character of those first arrivals who quickly made Aspen a “mining city” rather than a camp. Enter one Mrs. Henry Gillespie.Soon after her arrival in fall 1880 she helped establish a culture and social conscience not usually found in a male-dominated community. Mrs. Gillespie is credited with founding a Literary Society, promoting dances, having community meals and even providing a few musicals.This early sense of community had a profound impact on Aspen’s future direction. Thanks in part to Mrs. Gillespie, it was printed in out-of-state newspapers that if you could only visit one mining community in Colorado, then make it Aspen.- Larry Fredrick

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