By the mid-1970’s Vermont is changing, a huge influx of folks from down country starts to have an effect on everyday culture. The rise of food cooperatives is only one sign, there are lots of others. For instance, when we first come to Randolph people are throwing out their old wood stoves and installing electric heaters, they load the stoves in the back of a pickup and dump them over a bank to rust away to nothing. When Karl and I buy our wood cook stove at a Masonic auction in Brookfield we only pay $10.50, and we would have paid even less but we accidentally bid against each other. The man standing next to Karl nudges him and says, I know the Masons need the money but yer bidding against your wife, pointing me out on the other side of the crowded room. But Vermonters who grow up having to cut wood and pile it up and feed the stoves all winter are happy to register for clean electric heat, at least until they look at the bill, and so wood stoves are a dime a dozen when the out-of-staters first come along bringing their homesteading ethos with them.
Nobody in town ever heard of bagels or bean sprouts, there is not a single black family and only a handful of Jews, I think they started out driving a wagon from town to town collecting scrap metal before settling down here. Most everyone is friendly, generous spirited, you can choose from a hardworking farmer, a tradesman or factory worker, a schoolteacher or lawyer, all of them just getting by. If there are any rich people you’d never know it. The only grand mansions are the former homes of 19th century plutocrats, local boys made good, those benefactors are the reason Randolph has a Victorian music hall and library and funeral home.
The hospital is small and old fashioned, the ruby velvet curtains in the hall are tattered, but there is a thriving hardware store, a movie theater with folding wooden seats, a drugstore, a bookstore, three luncheonettes and one restaurant, a general store, a supermarket, an appliance store whose motto is emblazoned over the door “Everything for the kitchen but the girl,” two department stores, one woman’s clothing store, a bar, a television repair and sales shop, a feed store, a car parts store, two banks, a newspaper/smoke shop, a barber shop and beauty parlor, a sewing supplies store, a car repair place, five gas stations, several insurance and real estate offices, and a thrift store. On the outskirts is a drive-in movie, a bowling alley, more gas stations, another bar, and a junk yard. A couple of town constables drive around looking for trouble, one of them yells at Karl and me for kissing on the library steps.
All the stores are locally owned, the supermarket is the exception since the owner lives in Burlington. You can buy everything you need right at home. When we arrive in Randolph we meet people who have never traveled farther than White River Junction 20 minutes down the road. They think we are exotic creatures and I guess we are, I bring a chickpea casserole to the Town Meeting Day potluck and the ladies say politely that they are sure it is very healthy. I heap potato salad on my plate. It sure is delicious.