Vt. historians recall funny stories this April Fools’ Day

On this April Fools’ Day, we take a look back in time at some of Vermont’s unique moments in history.
Published: Apr. 1, 2022 at 5:48 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 1, 2022 at 8:15 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermonters are known for being hardy and braving brutal winters, but there’s a lighter side to the state’s history. On this April Fools’ Day, we take a look back in time at some of Vermont’s unique moments in history.

“They are evergreen stories that still speak to how our communities work today,” said Steve Perkins with the Vermont Historical Society. He says Vermont’s history is sprinkled with humor only Vermonters understand.

“People who heard Danny Gore definitely still remember him. Danny represented the unincorporated area of Vermont, Avery’s Gore,” said Paul Carnahan, a librarian at the Historical Society.

Danny Gore was a Northeast Kingdom character remembered fondly by historians as a single representative from a non-existent town representing zero people. Gore, who was created by Norm Lewis, made his perennial runs for governor before hanging up the hat in 1994, claiming victory and honoring Vermont’s legislative traditions. “Like all good political humorists, he had a record, and as technology changed, he had a VHS video,” Carnahan said.

That includes a joke box sent to the Vermont Historical Society back when everyone was claiming to be catching a glimpse of a catamount. The box reads: “This box contains a live baby panther.”

“It speaks so well to the catamount craze and how iconic it is to everything from schools to craft breweries,” said Teresa Greene, the collections manager at the society.

And there’s more Vermont fun at the Vermont State Archives. It includes an entire bill written in rhymed couplet, a complaint to the court about Vermont’s weather way back in 1774, and an Ethan Allen blasphemy transcript.

“One of the things about these records is just how amusing the spirit of Vermont is,” said the archive’s Mariessa Dobrick.

Another story is about hibernation. In 1887, an article was printed in the Montpelier Argus and Patriot. It was a story of a northern Vermont town that was putting its older residents into a “hibernation” of sorts to get them through the winter. The story became lore, until 1939 when it was found and reprinted but taken too literally, prompting researchers to investigate.

Historian Mark Bushnell says it eventually was traced back to the Morse Family by Vermont Life, but the grip it has on Vermonters has stood the test of time. “And then Vermont Life gets to the heart of it in 1949, and then someone wrote about it in the ‘50s, and then someone wrote about it in the ‘70s, and then I wrote about it five years ago, and now you’re talking about it. So, it’s the wrong holiday but he sort of left an Easter egg for us to find throughout the generations,” said Bushnell.

Vt. historians recall funny stories this April Fools’ Day

Historians agree that Vermont is rich with light moments. “There is always this history of statesmen, and we have got this but the people are fun, the people know how to laugh,” said Dobrick.

“It is part of this fabric, this story of our state. It did happen. We should listen to it. We should experience it, and how does it inform us going forward,” said Perkins.

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