[Re "The Ballad of Feather River John," June 13]: Thanks to your entertaining article on my hobo life of yesteryear, Rattlesnake Joe called (collect) from Pueblo to tell me that he, Overcoat Dan and Radio Jake would be heading east to spend the winter with us. Frisco Bob and the Hardrock Kid out in Wenatchee wondered if I could assign the royalties to some celebratory refreshment for them. I'm not sure where this will end.
Well, the old boy's callin' for his air, so I'll soon be rollin' down the main toward that Big Rock Candy Mountain.
Feather River John
More on McClaughry
[Re "The Ballad of Feather River John," June 13]: I met John McClaughry my first month as a graduate student in Washington, D.C., in September 1969. He had posted a small card on a bulletin board at Johns Hopkins University asking if anyone wanted to help Kirby, Vt., develop a town plan. I went to John's office downtown and found myself greeted by a gorilla statue with a lei hanging around its neck. I think John then was working on some programs connected to the Office of Economic Opportunity, a (gasp!) Great Society program. I ended up going to Vermont, and even though we did not complete the project, I did spend a night sleeping in John's vaunted Kirby cabin.
In 1972, John ran for lieutenant governor. He cut a TV commercial where he placed his bare feet in a bucket of water, saying something like, "You can't get anywhere in Vermont politics today without using a bucket of water." It was a knockoff of what had been a famous TV ad showing Gov. Deane Davis standing in a rowboat bailing water just as he had bailed out Vermont by passing a then-unpopular sales tax.
Whether you agree with John or not, you have to admit he has been — from gorillas to buckets to riding the rails — a colorful guy. But until I read your article, I did not know just how colorful he really is.
802 and You
With regard to dialing 1-802 [WTF: "Why Do You Sometimes Have to Dial 802 in Vermont?" June 6], there is a little bit more to the story, which is money.
For the longest time, you could dial just five digits if you were calling in your local calling area. For example, if you were calling 863-1000 from another Burlington phone, you could just dial 3-1000, and the phone system would add the 86 for you. This five-digit dialing worked in the '60s and '70s, possibly even into the '80s. In the '60s, you paid up to three cents a minute for those "local calls."
To call outside your local calling area, you had to put a 1 in front of the number and paid between 25 and 75 cents a minute.
In the late '90s, our legislature advised the Public Service Board that people were getting confused about long-distance phone calls. They recommended that people be forced to dial 1-802 when placing an in-state call outside their local calling area. Vermont was the only state to adopt that policy — and it still haunts us today.
Back in the '90s, when all of this mattered, Verizon or one of the many locally owned phone companies handled your local calls. A long-distance carrier such as AT&T, MCI or Sprint handled in- and out-of-state long-distance ones.
In 2002, Verizon finally received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to offer in-state long-distance calling in Vermont. This allowed them to bundle long-distance calling with your local landline. One of the original plans in 2002 was $43 per month; it included your phone number and unlimited free local calls and charged 10 cents a minute for long-distance calls in Vermont or out-of-state to the rest of the country. This hit AT&T/MCI quite hard, as they were happily charging 25 to 40 cents a minute for these long-distance calls.
If Vermont were smart, it would drop the requirement that we dial the 1-802 for calls outside our local calling areas. Thanks to cellphones, the concept of a local calling area no longer matters.
The animators of Yellow Submarine ["Everywhere Man: Yellow Submarine Animator Surfaces in Burlington," June 13] were multiple, but the inspiration that Heinz Edelmann, Peter Max and perhaps even Ron Campbell never acknowledge is the imagery of Friedrich Schröder Sonnenstern (1892-1982). The moment I saw Sonnenstern's disturbing cartoons, on a museum wall in Prague, I knew I was staring at the inventor of the Blue Meanies and perhaps of the Yellow Submarine itself.
If you don't believe me, google Sonnenstern's "The State Magic Ship to the Moon Spirit Driving." For other clear inspirations for the counterculture art of the late 1960s and early 1970s, look up the catalog of the 2015 Frankfurt exhibition "Artists and Prophets." Until this show and I crossed paths, I had no idea that our pothead artists were re-creating the opium-fueled new-age imagery of Wilhelmine Germany and the Weimar Republic.
E-Bikes Off the Greenway
[Re "On the Waterfront," June 6]: The Burlington Electric Department offers rebates for electric bike purchases. As a BED commissioner, I support this to reduce auto use and carbon dioxide emissions. But as a year-round cyclist, I don't believe e-bikes belong on Burlington's or any "bike path." The Burlington Greenway is much more than a transportation corridor and exercise venue; it is an uncluttered, peaceful connection to the fabulous sweep of Lake Champlain and the distant Adirondacks — a unique, nature-connected area for peaceful and slow enjoyment.
Not just cyclists, but baby-carriage pushers, toddlers, lovers, birders, tourists, runners and rollerbladers share an 11-foot width with two-way traffic. (Compare this with the bike lanes on North Avenue, which are one-way and have no pedestrians.) The smoothness of the new surface easily allows 30-plus miles per hour, which reemphasizes the speed limit question. While a fit cyclist on a racing bike can attain 20 mph, most cyclists are slower. E-bikes are legally allowed a 20 mph maximum, so they will increase the average speed considerably. (Envision closing speeds approaching 40 mph at a six-foot separation.)
"Electric assist" may be considered necessary on hills around town, but the greenway is constructed largely on an abandoned railroad bed and therefore has gentle grades. My only possible exception to "no motors" is for the handicapped. This would apply only to certain vehicles, such as motorized wheelchairs, and, crucially, to legally handicapped persons. For the rest of us, the Burlington Greenway should be people-powered.