Sounds of Vermont: Route 7

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(Host) For 135.3 miles – from Pownal to Highgate – U.S. Route 7 slices up the western side of Vermont. It’s Vermont’s hard-working north-south highway, carrying commuters, truckers, farmers and tourists.

For our series, Sounds of Vermont, VPR’s John Van Hoesen samples the Sounds of Route 7.

(Sound of the USS Bennington bell ringing.)

(Van Hoesen) Standing by the ship’s bell in front of the Bennington town office, Town Manger Stuart Hurd glances up and down Route 7. The intersection with Route 9 is the focal point for downtown. Thousands of vehicles meet at the four corners every day. (A truck passes, horn toots.)

(Hurd) “It probably was a route that existed way back into the Revolutionary war times. It is named the Ethan Allen Highway, so it has been a major route along the western side of what is now Vermont for a long, long time.”

(Guitar music introduces Norman Rockwell video, “Norman Rockwell, the early years “)

(Van Hoesen) While Bennington’s business district is getting busy, a slower pace envelopes “Historic 7-A” in Arlington, where artist Norman Rockwell once lived. Mary Immen Hall provides the history at the Norman Rockwell Gallery.

(Hall) “As a teenager in 1948, he asked me to pose along with his family and Grandma Moses in this Saturday evening post cover, ‘Christmas Homecoming’. I’m over here in the corner.

(Van Hoesen) Roll down the windows as you drive through Rutland. The bells of the Grace Church reach out to Route 7. (Sound of the church bells.) Or listen in at Main Street Park, where Jim Cassarino is conducting the concert under the brilliant white lightbulbs on the bandstand. (Sound of band playing “A Chorus Line”.)

(Cassarino) “We’re the oldest municipal supported band in the country and we’re considered a treasure in Rutland City. Being here on Route 7, the beautiful park, the beautiful homes, it’s very Norman Rockwell.”

(“A Chorus Line” concludes with applause.)

(Van Hoesen) Off the shoulders of the road, corn is rustling in the fields. The latest crop is announced in the roadsigns at Woods Market Garden in Brandon, where John Satz samples the current variety.

(Satz, husking corn) “Oh it’s looking good, it looks like it’s ready to eat, John. (Bites into corn) That is good, very tasty. For us, we retail all of our produce at the farm stand. In this part of the county, Route 7 is the road you have to take. (Sound of cars passing.)

(Van Hoesen) A few miles up the road, a guitarist who goes by the name of Ray Sunshine is singing a Route 7 lament in the park in Brandon.

(Guitarist strumming and singing) “I’m broken down in Brandon again, my car’s not runnin’ and I’m back on my feet .”

(Woman ordering at A&W) “Three medium root beers, two small, small lemonade and a root beer shake .”

(Van Hoesen) Happy days in Middlebury, at the A&W drive-in restaurant. Jane and Gill Laroche of Salisbury are sipping root beers in their 1956 Oldsmobile. A 1950s romance bloomed right here.

(Laroche) “He gave me my diamond ring here at the A&W. Isn’t that crazy? He picked me up and we came down here for root beer and all the sudden he comes out with this ring .”

(Van Hoesen) (Sound of cars passing.) On to South Burlington and Shelburne Road. It’s hot, traffic is thick, and tempers rise. Commuters, truck drivers, and locals converge on a wide expanse of black pavement.

(Sound of traffic, truck horn, then brakes squealing.)

(Van Hoesen) But the road narrows and things thin out quickly north of Winooski. In Milton, the Grange Hall parking lot is full. Someone inside has just won a game of Bingo:

N-41 G-56 “
“We have a bingo 18, 20, 27, 41, 43, 48, 49, 56

(Van Hoesen) Ahead on the highway, night settles over an active downtown and park in Saint Albans. And pressing north, the landscape flattens out. Nature takes over the sound of the highway. (Sound of crickets.)

Highgate and the Canadian border. A roadsign concludes the journey with a simple declaration: End 7 . (Motorcycle accelerates and drives off into distance.)

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Van Hoesen, on Route 7.

(Host) “Sounds of Vermont” explores everyday sounds and what they mean to us. Suggest a Vermont sound for a future story by visiting our Sounds of Vermont feedback page.

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