(HOST) In anticipation of Father’s Day this coming weekend, commentator Stephanie Greene is thinking about one of her favorite Flatlanders – and his enthusiastic love of Vermont.
(GREENE) My father, Stephen Greene, celebrated all things Vermont. In his Flatlander’s Boston accent, he’d extol "Vermontianer" to anyone and everyone. My parents produced maple syrup in their sugar house, raised polled Herefords and researched the state’s history and landmarks.
They also founded the Stephen Greene Press in 1956, in the basement of the Book Cellar, the bookstore they ran in Brattleboro. My father ran the acquisitions and business end of the operation; my mother was its exacting editor. They tapped a gratifying wealth of talented artists, designers, photographers and writers living in the Vermont hills. The Venison Book , "a deer cookbook", by Audrey Gorton, was SGP’s first, in 1957. It was followed the next year by Covered Bridges of the Northeast, by Richard Saunders Allen.
Gradually the SGP carved out a niche among book buyers who needed information on country living. John Caldwell’s books on cross country skiing, Jeanne Mellin’s books on Morgan horses, Sally Swift’s on riding, and Putting Food By, SGP’s best seller on food preservation were all part of that wave.
My father was forever rushing off to consult Books in Print (back when that was only in book form, pre-internet) to find if a topic had been covered. I recall his excitement when he found there were no English language books on the Finnish sauna. "Mahvelous! Puhsue it!," he cried with delight. Then he forged ahead to publish Sauna: The Finnish Bath.
My parents explored the state, always with the question in mind – had this aspect of Vermont been written about? No topic was too arcane. The Shortline Series covered local train history, Esther Swift’s monumental Vermont Place Names covered every town in loving detail.
When the SGP published Before Our Time, a photographic history of Brattleboro, it was printed and bound by the Book Press, right in town. As the finished book came off the presses, employees crowded around to read it with a sense of pride and ownership.
My dad went through an orienteering phase, inspired by the book he published on how to use a compass and map to navigate wild terrain. Quite often, when prospective authors would come to the office at Indian Flat expecting a lunch meeting – with, well, something to eat – he’s instead take them on an enthusiastic wild goose chase. They’d emerge from the woods a little bedraggled, energized – and very relieved.
During the ’60s and 70s, the SGP helped create a bit of the cachet that Vermont now enjoys. By the time the press was sold in 1978, it was producing 30 titles a year. The SGP imprint now belongs to Penguin Books.
What would Dad think of Vermont now, with its strong localvore movement, pride of place, thriving arts, its wonderful artisanal cheeses? As an early and extremely avid member of the Cheese of the Month Club, I can almost hear him cry, Mahvelous! Puhsue it!