Letter to the editor: Remember ‘Kennedyites,’ Lazarus
I read with great interest Greg Dennis’ column, “When the Hippies took over Vermont” (June 21, 2018), a review of a recent book by Yvonne Daley and a reminiscence of the migration of Boomers to Vermont. I came to Middlebury in 1962, but I am not a Boomer — I was already over 30. However, I taught many of them, some of whom settled here and became my friends; two in particular have made substantial contributions to the Middlebury townscape and its economy via The Marble Works Business District and Danforth Pewter. I feel a special pride in their achievements, although I can claim no credit for them.
But there was also a dark, tragic side to that era. Being free was a challenge that some Boomers could not handle and it destroyed them. Sadly, I witnessed that also.
However, my reason for writing is to offer a different take from Mr. Dennis’ narrative. He’s right, Vermont politics did indeed undergo a major change in the early 1960s, but one could argue the prime movers of that change were from an earlier generation than the Boomers. Phil Hoff was elected governor in 1962 and served three terms. He was a Kennedyite, a member of the generation described in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address as a generation “born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace.” This was the generation that served in the Second World War, and whom Tom Brokaw described as “the greatest generation.” Vermont was probably the greatest beneficiary of the Kennedy era. Short and unhappy though it was, its seeds took root and flourished here.
It is especially important for us in this Town to recall that one of the movers of that change was from Middlebury: Stan Lazarus represented Middlebury in the Vermont House along with Phil Hoff. Lazarus became the future governor’s chief political strategist, served in his administration, and became an architect of political change in the state. He was mentor to my wife, Betty, and it was under his influence and tutelage that she entered politics, and became the second woman to be elected to the Vermont House as a Democrat (Madeline Kunin was the first).
Stan was also the proprietor of Lazarus Department Store. Young families did all their shopping there, for one could always be assured of quality goods and well-fitting shoes for the children. Besides, anyone could charge in Stan’s store, and there were discounts for all. They varied, some of them as much as 100 percent, depending on one’s needs and ability to pay. It was Stan’s way of doing justice and redistributing wealth. Everything in Stan’s store was affordable.
He is surely one of Middlebury’s distinguished personages and should be counted among the Stewarts, the Swifts and the Seymours. Yet there is no memorial to him. Some years ago, I recommended that Printer’s Alley might be renamed Lazarus Lane, but there was no support for this. It would be fitting if the new park to be built on the spot where his store once stood were named Lazarus Park with a historical marker. Middlebury must not forget this kind, generous, decent, modest, unostentatious, and upright man. He was not much to look at, but his soul was beautiful and noble. And he excelled in doing good.
Editor’s note: This letter was updated to note that Madeline Kunin was the first woman elected to the Vermont House as a woman.
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