The Newport Daily Express
By Joan Witzmann
September 21, 1995

Dean Presented Posters Depicting Country Stores


At a press conference held here last weekend, Governor Howard Dean stood on the porch of the Florence Cilley General Store at President Calvin Coolidge's birthplace to accept a framed poster depicting thirty country stores throughout the state. For many months, artist Carol Wallace and writer Jean Sands, both of Connecticut, traveled the State of Vermont sketching and writing about the stores they both grew to love.

"Every store had a personality of its own," said Wallace, "and Jean and I wanted to help preserve their memory." "The stores are a way of life," Sands added. "And we're doing what we can to promote interest in saving them." The poster, with individual drawings of each store, surrounds a collage of items found there. On the back, a description of the store is given.

Site administrator in Plymouth, William Jenney, said, "There could not be a more appropriate backdrop for this presentation. Plymouth Notch is generally regarded as the best-preserved Presidential birthplace in the nation. It's also regarded as a wonderful example of a pristine early 20th century village. This town has remained the same for almost a hundred years - little has been altered - so, Calvin Coolidge would recognize it were he to come back. This general store was originally owned by the President's father. He set up housekeeping in 1868, and, of course, this is where the future president was born four years later on July 4. As with country stores throughout the state, today, this store was the hub of the village in those days."

Accepting the poster for the State, Dean said, "This is a wonderful occasion for Vermont. In my line of work, driving the back roads, meeting Vermonters, I find that country stores are the places where you find out what's going on. I've stopped at many, and they really are beautiful and they really are Vermont. They're not just places for tourists. They're places, which are functioning community centers. It's a wonderful part of Vermont and I would like to say that this poster is a wonderful way of preserving the stores in everyone's memory.

"But, the truth is, I hope the country stores themselves will be preserved in everybody's memory because they will be preserved in everybody's daily life, not just for this generation but for generations that haven't been born yet." I'd like to see Vermont stay the way it is, with the same kind of values. As we grow and the world changes, we will, too, but if we keep our rural landscape and our rural country stores, we'll keep the cells of our community. And the community is what makes Vermont different from other states. We have a strong sense of who we are and of who our neighbors are. Really, that's what country stores are all about."

Copies of the poster are available at country stores throughout the state and have also been archived by the Vermont Historical Society. The signed, framed number one Artist's Proof, presented at the ceremony, will hang in the State House.

The press conference concluded with the announcement of the newly formed Heritage Tourism Task Force co-chaired by Jenney and Tordis Isselhardt of Bennington.

Said Isselhardt, "We have a common theme that you all spoke about today. These are not just stories, they are places. And that is what it is about: Vermont - it is a real place. People come to enjoy, understand, and get the feel of what it's like. Vermont is still a place where you can do that; it has coherence. And we hope to preserve this.