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Wry Observations on Dry Politics October 19, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Life Balance, People.
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After my grandfather retired, he ran for the State Legislature in Vermont and served a few terms as Town Representative for Hartland.   While serving, he peppered letters to my dad with wry observations on otherwise dry politics.

Margaret & Walter at my parents' wedding, 1955

Margaret & Walter at my parents’ wedding, 1955

1956

8/5 ~ Hartland: “The date is closed for filing for Town Rep.  No one else filed as far as I know.  I ought to be able to win I guess.  To lose, I would have to fall on my face or die.”

9/13 ~ Results of primary on 9/11.  “The total vote was 155. Senator Aiken received 145. Representative Prouty received 144. Walter Hatch received 140. I had expected to win but had expected there might be more who would not vote for me.”

11/7 ~ Results of election. “Hartland had a big turn-out to vote. Some 75% of the clerk’s list. The total vote cast was 595. I got 452 out of a possible 500. That needs explaining. Max Rogers only had 500 Representative ballots printed. The last 95 could not vote on Town Representative. So politics is over for a bit.”

Damon Hall ~ Hartland Vermont

1957

1/1 ~ New Year’s Greetings with exuberant good wishes and details of his new suit for Montpelier.  “I have bought a new suit in reddish brown gray.  It is said to look well with gray hair, a little thin, you know, on top.”

1/12 ~ Montpelier:  “I am now officially a member of the Honorable General Assembly.” Details of 1st week.  “As ever, your “Honorable Dad.”

6/13 ~ Montpelier: “We are nearly through with our work in the House except for such bills as come from the Senate.  They are behind us with their work again this year.”

1958

9/2 ~ “Politics are getting hotter.  I still have no contest, but the Senate race and Lt. Governor are interesting.”

9/10 ~ Hartland: “Dear Richard & Barb, etc.  The “etc.” is also important.  I have been watching the TV for two or three evenings.  Last night was the VT and NH Primaries.  Of course, I had to sit up for that.  The vote was light I would say.  Too bad people don’t take more interest.  I think they would sit up and think some if they lost the right.  It was quiet here in Hartland.  No contests.  Out of a total of 214 ballots, I got 203.  Of course, these are Primaries.  As you know, the real election is in November.”

11/6 ~ Hartland: “I will write to give you the results of the election. With a total vote cast of 384, I had 352. Stafford (Rep.) for governor got 260 while the Democrat candidate polled 111. Since no one was running against me, I got quite a few votes from Democrat voters. State wide, we have a democrat for the lone Representative to Congress for the first time since before the Civil War.”

Governor Robert Theodore Stafford (in Public Domain)

1959

1/16 ~ Hartland:  “We are off to a flying start in Legislation activity.  Robert Stafford is our Governor.  I worked for his election so was satisfied.  On Thursday, the retiring Governor gave his farewell address before a formal Joint Assembly with the Supreme Court in attendance in robes, etc.  After lunch, we met again in like manner to hear Gov. Stafford’s address.  Committee assignments were read Thursday. I am on the State and Courts Expense Committee.  I do not know all the types of bills we have to process.  The Chairman is a man named Lawrence.  I liked his reports in the last session but did not get to know him then.  Today I read over a part of the Attorney General’s Report.  It is a 200 page book giving opinions of the past 2 years and cases he tried, etc.  I figured I better know something of his thoughts because we will have to work with him in our committee quite a lot.”

5/24 ~ “Legislature is in its last days but may last a week or possibly two.  It is a split session and I expect to work some in October or November getting some bills ready for Jan. 12 1960 when the final part of this session will meet and eventually close.”

9/6 ~ Hartland: “I have to be in Montpelier the 21st for as long as committee meetings last thereafter.  I am quite interested in the outcome of the coming visits between Russia and the U.S.  I expect both lies and bluster mixed in with honey ~ for peace.”

12/13 ~ “It is 10 minutes walk to the dome. Ray Heyser, the House Speaker, was in town and ate dinner with 6 or 7 of us. After dinner, Ray cornered me and grinned and said, “How are you getting on, Walter? How do you like the committee I put you on?” I told him I hoped I was doing all right. He went off with a wicked gleam in his eye. And so we go. ”

Vermont State House, circa 1870

1960

1/31 ~ Hartland:  “The third week of the session is over and we are getting on quite well.  The first big bill #386 passed the house and senate and is back in the house with minor amendments. The second #392 which dealt with consolidation of departments is through 2nd reading.  There was an attempt made to amend it to death.  We upset the amendment and I did some of the talking against it.  I orated in my best form that:

“No one should as a public servant be appointed for life. We want no Kingdom of Education!  Let me point out: an indefinite appointment may perpetuate a poor policy equally as a good. I hope you see fit to defeat the amendment.”

Very dramatic.  And with those short and simple words, I sat.  Well I have rambled on and I hope you can get at least some of the picture of what happens as you make a law.  We have got a good committee if I do say it and we were all happy Friday night but trying hard not to appear smug.”

8/26 ~ Hartland:  “Louis Springer is filed to run for Representative also, so we are in a contest.  It is friendly so far.  I encouraged him to file and let the voters decide it Sept. 11.”

My grandparents' home in Hartland Vermont, circa 1972

My grandparents’ home in Hartland Vermont, circa 1972

9/13 ~ Hartland: “We vote today. News later.” “8 PM ~ I just returned from the hall. I seem to have won in the Town Representative count: 133 to 118 for Springer. Unless someone files by petition, I will have to work in Montpelier again this Winter.”

11/14 ~ Hartland:  “I was disappointed when Nixon lost and by so little. However, we have to live and not wring our hands.  Here in town, Stafford won over Meyers and Keyser is governor.  Hartland had a big vote out ~ 644 (72%). My vote was 558 as I had no one running against me.  We went to Montpelier and got a place to stay engaged.”

1961

1/4 ~ Montpelier: “Here we are again “under the Dome.” Tomorrow is Governor’s Ball. We may go and watch awhile. And so it goes.”

State House, Montpelier Vermont (in Public Domain)

1/11 ~ Montpelier: “Roy Lawrence read Committee appointments this morning. Evo is chairman of State and Court and I am Vice Chairman. You can see I will soon be Governor or something. Probably something.”

3/19 ~ “Our committee has requests in various bills for pay raises of $2,100,000 per year.  Revenue is off just now so I fear we will have to use a knife and pare them down some.  Not so pleasant to do.”

7/10 ~ Hartland: The 200 Year Celebration.  “Margaret is mailing a parcel for Nancy. And tomorrow back to the snake pit.”

7/25 ~ Montpelier: “I thought we would close the session this week but the senate is stalling (11 to 2 for lunch today). I visited the Senate afternoon session. It ran exactly 20 minutes. It was a stall session. Most people in both houses are disgusted but it is not easy to force the Senate leaders.”

7/31 ~ Montpelier: “We are really on our final week. I shall be glad to be out of it. A few people are cleaning out their desks as far as possible ready to leave tomorrow.”

1962

7/27 ~ Pavilion Hotel, Montpelier: “I am called to a Special Session to consider 4 matters.  It was nice to see everyone and I have had some good visits.  I talked with the Governor a few minutes.  I presume I will be up here into next week.  It depends on the Senate.  It is a lot of in fighting done with a smiling face.  I have kept a lot of notes on what I have learned in various ways.  It is as interesting as “Advise and Consent.” ”

Pavilion Hotel, Montpelier VT (in Public Domain)

8/7 ~ Montpelier: “We are still tied in a reapportionment deadlock with the Senate. It is a power play. The cost is about $25,000 per week while it lasts. I expect you are back home. We had a nice visit at the lake.”

8/15 ~ Hartland: “The Special Session of the Vermont Legislature has passed into history. It was an interesting session and I expect my last.”

1963

1/12 ~ Hartland: “I have been watching the start of the 1963 Session in the papers. I don’t feel too much of an itch to be there. I believe I am getting lazy.”

Aah . . . that’s better!

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Comments»

1. ashokbhatia - October 19, 2014

Very apt observations which would survive the onslaught of time.

nrhatch - October 19, 2014

The stall tactics had a familiar ring. Some things are slow to change.

2. Silver in the Barn - October 19, 2014

Reading your grandfather’s words is always a treat. I like his wry (perfect description, Nancy) observation that he thinks we might pay more attention to elections were we to lose the right. Yup. “Lies and bluster.” I’m assuming he is talking about the Khruschev-Kennedy meetings. Sounds like he had things pretty well figured out.

nrhatch - October 19, 2014

Yes. His letters have more depth and substance on matters of politics/economics/legislation than appears here. I just skimmed the surface with these blurbs. He was well read on communism, Kennedy, McCarthy, Cuba, etc..

And he was a realist ~> “However, we have to live and not wring our hands.”

Silver in the Barn - October 19, 2014

Yes, exactly right. We owe it to ourselves to be aware but not let it consume us. He was such a sensible, intelligent man. I so enjoy his letters, Nancy. I feel I would have liked him very much.

nrhatch - October 19, 2014

I would love to sit down and chat with his 65-year-old self now that I have a few more miles on me!

The same goes for my other grandparents. I did appreciate them at the time I knew them, but I would love to gain a wider perspective by talking to them NOW as they were THEN.

3. Rainee - October 19, 2014

Interesting post Nancy. It seems the writing gene runs in the family 🙂

nrhatch - October 19, 2014

Thanks, Rainee. My grandfather, like many Vermonters, tended toward brevity. If something could be answered with a “yes” or a “no,” he rarely amplified.

4. Val Boyko - October 19, 2014

Clarity of thought and dry humor definitely runs in the family 🙂
I enjoyed this post! Thank you for the insight!

nrhatch - October 19, 2014

Thanks, Val. It’s hard to paint details and facets of his political career using such a broad brush. He did value brevity, though . . . so maybe he’ll forgive me for omitting the details of sessions/ bills/ political maneuvering he shared in his letters to my dad.

I may still share his 6-point Litmus Test for a Communist. :mrgreen:

Val Boyko - October 19, 2014

Now that would be very interesting!!

nrhatch - October 19, 2014

I checked and found he was quoting a speaker at an American Legion dinner:

At the American Legion’s Mid Winter Conference, Col. John W. White shared his thoughts on communism. “A Communist is 6 things:

1. Dissatisfied person, out of fix with the things about him.
2. Revolutionist ~ War, if necessary. Violence for change.
3. Materialist ~ no religion, as such.
4. Socialist ~ strong central government to run everything.
5. World Government.
6. Believes Russia is the logical leader in the movement.”

5. valleygrail - October 19, 2014

I love little windows that give us views into the past. Letter writing has become a lost art; you have real treasures in his letters.

nrhatch - October 19, 2014

I’ve enjoyed reading and summarizing these letters (which also included some letters from other relatives), but I didn’t keep them all. There were far too many letters, notes, and cards for most people to wade through or get anything out of. So I tried to find the right balance between sentimentality and practicality.

During the process of reading them, I culled the towering pile from 6-7″ in height down to about 2″ ~ now the letters are sorted by date and stored in a single 3-ring binder where they are readable and retrievable.

I also prepared a summary of sorts to send to my brothers and sister for inclusion with dad’s autobiography.

valleygrail - October 19, 2014

That was brilliant! Generations to come will be so grateful.

nrhatch - October 19, 2014

It’s too bad we don’t have an Old Homestead for reunions where all this stuff could be kept in the Family Library for current and future generations.

As it is, my older brother (in NJ) has my great-grandfather’s letters home from the Civil War, most of the Genealogy Research, and my grandfather’s “autobiography.”

I have letters from my dad written home from the tail end of WWII, these letters to my dad from my grandfather, a whole shelf of my parents’ photo albums, mom’s autobiography, etc..

My younger brother (in CO) has mom. 😛

6. Jill Weatherholt - October 19, 2014

How blessed you are to have these letters, Nancy. I have a few letters from my grandmother, but what you have is an entire treasure chest. Thank you so much for sharing these with us and the photos!

nrhatch - October 19, 2014

It’s been fun working with them, Jill.

I’m doing my best to maintain an appropriate balance between (a) understanding a bit more of the past / family history and (b) living in the present.

I don’t want to get swept away by years of “water over the dam.”

7. Behind the Story - October 19, 2014

The media dramatizes the work of politics. But for many of our public servants, getting elected and then serving is a lot of hard, sometimes tedious work.

A case in point: Your grandfather says, “Today I read over a part of the Attorney General’s Report. It is a 200 page book giving opinions of the past 2 years and cases he tried, etc. I figured I better know something of his thoughts because we will have to work with him in our committee quite a lot.”

And that’s just preliminary work.

Your family must be grateful for all the effort you’ve made working with your grandfather’s letters.

nrhatch - October 19, 2014

My grandfather did work hard to get up to speed on issues while serving. He enjoyed the experience, but was happy to walk away after serving 3 terms. Much the way I felt about practicing law ~ great experience but 13 years was long enough.

8. Don - October 20, 2014

You’ve got politics flowing in the blood Nancy. Always a treat to read from the letters you post.

nrhatch - October 20, 2014

My only “political campaign” ~> I ran for Student Council in High School. Does that count? 😛

Glad you enjoyed. I’ll be sharing a few more of his wry dry and sly insights in coming weeks.

9. William D'Andrea - October 20, 2014

It’s good to know that your grandfather was an honorable man, who actually respected his constituents. Unfortunately we now live in a time when those in the most powerful positions have no regard for we the people, and treat us like despised conquered enemies, who they are despoiling.

Fortunately, two weeks from tomorrow, we responsible citizens will be going to the polls, where hopefully, if enough of us show up, we can begin to correct those problems.

nrhatch - October 20, 2014

When I look at the Sample Ballot we received, I see “more of the same” next to each candidate’s name. “Much needed change” is not going to come from the Democrats or the Republicans. :/

William D'Andrea - October 21, 2014

Unfortunately, those are the only real choices we’ve got. The best thing to do then, is vote for whoever you think will do the least amount of damage.

nrhatch - October 21, 2014

I refuse to vote for Republican and Democratic Party candidates ~ all that does is keep the status quo status quo.

I vote Green or Libertarian or Contrarian instead.

William D'Andrea - October 23, 2014

I myself am registered as Independent; not a member of any Party, as are most people in this Country.
Here in New York State, there are about a dozen minority party lines on the ballot, but most of them display the names of the Republican or Democratic Candidates.

10. Three Well Beings - October 21, 2014

Your grandfather sounded like a man of good solid character and he seems to have been held in high regard. I continue to be impressed that the male members of your family were such good communicators. And that these letters have all been saved is just wonderful. What a strong legacy, Nancy!

nrhatch - October 21, 2014

My great-grandfather and his brother also wrote a slew of letters home from the Civil War. My grandfather and father cataloged those letter. We are a family of prolific (or, um, verbose) communicators.

11. jannatwrites - October 21, 2014

Well, if Arizona had some candidates with your grandfather’s qualities, I believe I might be more excited about elections 🙂

nrhatch - October 21, 2014

Same here. The governor’s race here is between two abysmal candidates ~ Charlie Crist and Rik Scott. Both have been Governor before. Neither deserve to be elected again.

12. anotherday2paradise - October 21, 2014

Fascinating to read your grandfather’s thoughts, Nancy. What a family heirloom those letters are. 🙂

nrhatch - October 21, 2014

It’s been a delight, Sylvia.

Now they’re organized by date, culled down to a manageable number, and stored in a 3-ring binder with a summary, A bit more user friendly than the massive pile I waded through.

13. Sun Temples and Druids | Spirit Lights The Way - June 17, 2015

[…] Other Side of Retirement * How NOT To Cook A Turkey * Pragmatic Thoughts on Life & Death * Wry Observations on Dry Politics * Flying Squirrels & Other Silly Bits * Quaint Colloquialisms * DIY Projects, Work Bees, & […]


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