Briefly very happy communards



From Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary,'' in

'This being summer in Vermont, my thoughts turn to the Hippies’ attempts at communal life in Vermont in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, during part of which time I was a college student in Hanover, N.H., just across the Connecticut River from the Green Mountain State.

 I just read Peter Simon’s amusing if  sometimes melancholic  article in The Boston Globe’s  July 22 magazine headlined “The beginning (and bittersweet end) of two hippie communes in Vermont’’. Because of its beauty, (then) cheap real estate and (exaggerated) reputation for tolerance for counter-culture types, the Green Mountain State was a magnet for hippies – real or just playing at it. For a few years, from about 1967 to about 1974, there were communes all over the state. Most of these young people were college students, dropouts or recent graduates.

In the end, these communes were doomed by their chaotic social and work systems, internal feuds and  at some, lack of indoor plumbing. They were often a mess. Such quasi-communism doesn’t work well, perhaps especially so for the middle-class and well-off kids experimenting with group living. They’re used to lots of personal space and creature comforts.

Mr. Simon writes:

“Within 2½ years, the dream was over. The hard realities of life on the farm, the menial labor, and our dwindling levels of tolerance for one another proved to be too much for this naive group of city dwellers.’’

Still, the experience seems central in their lives. 75 now mostly elderly people showed up at a 50th reunion of the residents of one of the communes – “Total Loss Farm,’’ in Guilford. The other commune was  the nearby “Tree Frog Farm,’’ where life was more comfortable than at Total Loss because the rich Mr. Simon (his father was a New York book-publishing executive) and a partner paid the bills.  In any case, tight bonds of friendship were forged in those long-ago days at the two communes.

On my visits to a couple of such Vermont farm communes in the summers I found that residents were generally sweet-natured (some simply because they were stoned), if grimy. I’d be invited to stay for the night but an air-conditioned motel room was more alluring.  Still, the vegetables produced in the short growing seasons were delicious.

I look back fondly at the ridiculous exuberance of that time, and the lush greenery.