Except for most of 1983, I lived in the state of Vermont from 1976 until 1990. That’s age 6 until 20. And so when people ask me where I’m from I tell them “I grew up in Vermont.” It’s easier than saying “I lived in three different places until 1976, had a year in Pennsylvania in the 1980’s and then went back for a year.”
The state tends to be fairly progressive and left-leaning – likely the source of my own beliefs despite growing up in a conservative family. It’s quite rural, and at least when I lived there the cow population was larger than the human population.
In some ways it was culturally isolated. I had never seen a bagel until the late 1980’s. About the same time I had my first Indian food and Thai food. It would still be some years before I could try Vietnamese food or Chinese food that wasn’t chicken chow mein. For most of the time I was in school, nearly every kid was white and most had lived their entire lives in the area. On the other hand, despite the isolation it was very socially progressive and open. This is the state that brought everyone Bernie Sanders, after all.
Economically it was fairly divided. Many people worked in farming, manufacturing or service industries and so they were relatively poor. An entirely separate group of people had relocated from out of state either temporarily in their vacation homes or permanently. These folks, often from places like Boston or New York City were sometimes derisively called “Flatlanders” referring to the fact that while Vermont is very mountainous, city folks like them are from places without mountains. And, it was implied, without common sense. Hardly any of their kids would end up going to our school. There were other communities where more wealthy families lived.
With such a small population the state has lots of natural beauty with mountains, streams, lakes, and lots of forests. To this day billboards are banned there so driving on the highway is free of that sort of irritation.
Winters can be fairly harsh there with lots of cold and snow though with climate change it seems that they aren’t as severe as when I was a kid. With all that snow, skiing is a fairly big industry. That said, when people ask me today “So, you grew up in Vermont? You must like to ski!” I have to tell them that most of the people I knew couldn’t afford the equipment or lift tickets (admission) to do it. Skiing was mostly something that flatlanders did. That was no problem for us, though. A $10-20 sled and a snowy hill was enough to give us days and days of winter fun.
In the early spring maple syrup production starts for those who have a good sized maple forest and sugar house. Many of us, though, marked the change of season by the arrival of “mud season” – winter snow melt plus dirt roads means lots of sticky mud.
One thing that I didn’t really notice much until I left was that there’s a fairly distinctive regional accent there. It is becoming less common as people spend more time watching national television and all regional accents start to disappear but it’s still there for many folks, particularly older residents.
I go back every now and again and particularly enjoy cycling there. While the hills can take a little effort to climb, the drivers are very courteous and the scenery is amazing. Below you’ll find some photos from various trips back.
Vermont is still very much a dairy farming state, and the Tunbridge World’s Fair is an opportunity for kids who are growing up on farms to show off their livestock. You can also find everything from prize-winning vegetables and fruits to pies to hand-made quilts. Of course like any other fair you can find rides and food as well.
Back in the 80’s I was a “professional musician” playing saxophone with this band. I could earn $50-80 in a summer playing concerts and marching. My job as a cashier might’ve paid just as much in a few days but I didn’t have nearly as much fun there as I did here.
For more about Vermont, visit the Go Ride a Bike page. You can read about a visit where I took Daegan to see the forest near where I lived here. Better yet, why not add it to your next vacation itinerary?