How the Hippies Moved to Vermont — and Remade It

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    Yvonne Daley will read from her recent book, "Going Up the Country," on Saturday at the Bookstock Literary Festival in Woodstock. (Courtesy photograph) Courtesy photograph

  • Yvonne Daley, in an undated photograph from the era her book describes, the 1960s and 1970s, when young people dropping out of the mainstream made their way to Vermont. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/27/2018 12:05:13 AM
Modified: 7/27/2018 12:05:21 AM

During nearly all the stops on the current tour of Vermont for her book, Going Up the Country, journalist-historian Yvonne Daley finds herself preaching to the converted with her premise that the “hippies, dreamers, freaks and radicals” who migrated to the Green Mountain State in the 1960s and 1970s changed the state for the better, on balance.

During a rare exception to the trend, her recent reading in Londonderry, a hub among ski areas in central Vermont, stirred up some, ahem, dissenting views.

“We got into it, and it was really interesting,” Daley, 72, who lives in Rutland, said during a telephone interview this week. “It ended quite amicably.”

That live-and-let-live vibe is a big part of what has kept Daley, who will read from Going Up the Country, her sixth book, during the Bookstock Literary Festival in Woodstock this weekend, in Vermont for most of the past 50 years. The Melrose, Mass., native and her first husband left graduate school in Ohio in 1967 to move to the Green Mountains, motivated primarily by the fear and frustrations wrought by the Vietnam War and the backlash against the civil-rights movement, and by disillusionment with the suburban conformity of their upbringing in the 1950s.

They found, and often moved in with, like-minded members of their generation, and introduced themselves, gradually, to a very white, somewhat insular population of Vermonters who at first looked askance at the long hair, the fluid partnering arrangements and the unconventional clothing of the newcomers.

“I’ll always be grateful for how generous and open Vermonters were after their initial contact,” Daley said. “It didn’t take long for you to become a friend.”

The flatlanders who stuck with it (if not always with their marriages), and matched the state’s fierce work ethic, wound up integrating into the culture, while also inspiring agricultural and health-care cooperatives, green businesses and social movements that ended up radiating out into the country at large.

After living through and later documenting that evolution, as a journalist for the Rutland Herald and other publications, Daley decided several years ago that the time had come for an accounting.

“It wasn’t going to be a memoir,” she said. “I started with people I knew, and people I’d heard of. I benefited from oral histories that the historical societies had put out. I wanted to be statewide and go beyond the usual suspects.”

Among the insightful interviewees was Jeffrey Kahn, one of the founders of the Baloney Brothers commune in Sharon and, in the 1970s, of the communal house Apple Acres in Woodstock. Eventually, Kahn opened Unicorn, a gift shop in Woodstock village, renting his space from none other than Laurance Rockefeller.

“Do you really think you’re going to last here?” the book quotes Rockefeller as asking his new tenant. “I hope you know your rent is due at the beginning of each month.”

Kahn went on to buy the building from the Rockefeller estate, and to become a village trustee, supporter of the Pentangle Council for the Arts and of Woodstock’s Jewish community center.

“There were 100 other stories that didn’t get told,” Daley recalled. “My publisher at one point said, ‘We’re not writing the history of Western Civilization here.’ But I had so much to work with. A book like this is just what I like to do most, which is collecting stories.”

The storytellers include Ruth Dwyer, an Ohio native whose family moved to Thetford in the 1970s. After butting heads with liberal newcomers during her time on the town School Board, Dwyer lost two races for governor against Howard Dean. Those campaigns coincided with the conservative backlash that gained urgency after the Legislature approved a civil unions law for same-sex couples.

“I don’t like being made to feel that I’m inferior because I see moral issues differently,” the book quotes Dwyer as lamenting. “The irony is that the people who came here espousing freedom turned into the controllers. They won, we lost.”

While describing Dwyer’s world view as “a valuable lesson,” Daley hopes that the readers find in her book more examples of how the overall detente that Vermont has achieved can serve as an example for the rest of the United States.

“The conversations that have taken place after the readings have been so valuable to me in collecting more stories for my next book,” Daley said. “What has surprised me is the depth to which people want to understand how our country has become so divided.”

Yvonne Daley reads from Going Up the Country on Saturday at noon, at the Woodstock History Center as part of the annual Bookstock Literary Festival.

Author Appearances

The Canaan Meetinghouse series concludes on Thursday night at 6:30, with Lloyd Schwartz, best known to National Public Radio listeners for his commentaries about classical music on Fresh Air, reading poems from his collection Little Kisses. Joan Silber will follow by doling out doses of Improvement, the novel for which she won the 2017 National Book Circle Critics Award for fiction and the 2018 PEN/Faulkner Award. She is the author of six previous highly acclaimed books of fiction.

The Town House Forum in Strafford opens on Thursday night at 7, with readings by poets Vievee Francis and Matthew Olzmann. Francis, who teaches creative writing at Dartmouth, won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award of $100,000 in 2017 for her book Forest Primeval.

And on Aug. 9, farmers Amy Huyffer of Strafford Creamery and Shannon Varley of Strafford Village Farm talk about agriculture in the new economy.

The Joan Hutton Landis Series of readings, at BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt., resumes this Sunday afternoon with Jensen Beach reading from her short-story collection Swallowed by the Cold, set in a Swedish village on the Baltic Sea. Also, Bianca Stone, granddaughter of renowned Vermont poet Ruth Stone, shares poems from her 2018 collection The Mobius Strip Club of Grief.

David Corriveau can be reached at and at 603-727-3304.

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