photos and story by Dot Helling
Have you walked down Main Street, looked a familiar face in the eye and said, “hello,” only to get a blank, “I don’t know you” expression or no expression at all? I realize it’s hard to stay on track in downtown Montpelier when you’re on a tight schedule, especially in the middle of a work day with errands to do while running into folks. But rather than getting rankled or dwelling on being disappointed, I try to savor those who are engaging and friendly. So, who are some of the friendliest people in town? I have a few stand-outs on my list and I’m sure you do too.
First is our “recycle collector” Gary Bergeron. Gary has been in the self-employed shopping cart bottle and can pick up business for as long as I can remember. He’s the original. Then there’s Pinky Clark, our “man about town.” Very few things go on that “Phantom” Pinky has not laid his hands on. The same can be said about Bill Beard who has done tireless work for the needy and homeless and is always jolly and laughing.
Mornings at the Coffee Corner, and days at Cool Jewels, you can find Amy Cox. No matter how crowded the restaurant or store is, or what the mood or weather may be, Amy is friendly and smiling, provides great service and remembers your name. The same is true for Vermont State Employee Credit Union’s Montpelier branch manager, Alvah Newhall. Newhall’s greeting is always warm and embracing, be it at work or on the street. He’s a Vermont native and jewelry lover who hits all the yard sales with personality plus.
Photographer Linda Hogan is known for her exhibits of downtown subjects, including local dog personalities, architecture and window dressings. Linda is always ready for a friendly chat and snapshot. Michelle Pitzner, the crossing guard at East State and Hubbard Streets, constantly smiles while on duty and wears bright colored clothing with a wildly striped umbrella on cloudy, rainy days. On Fridays and other special days she waves greetings to passersby with a soap bubble wand.
Erich Rosenstreich is the fashionable walker turning into runner and cyclist, a favorite at First in Fitness. He recently ran the Capital City Stampede, a 10K road race. Erich has overcome more disability and misfortune than we can imagine, yet never loses his smile or his genuine greeting skills. Then there’s George Estes, the proprietor of Out Doggin It, the hot dog stand in front of Christ Church. George has one of those giant, friendly grins from ear to ear.
Don’t worry readers. There won’t be a follow-up column about the unfriendly persons in this town, and my apologies to those of you friendly folks not mentioned here. Montpelier has always had an abundant share of “friendly townies.” Sen. Bill Doyle, R-Montpelier and longtime Sergeant-At-Arms Francis Brooks also certainly belong on the friendly list. Also of notable mention are Lola Aiken who walked everywhere into her 90s, retired Fire Chief Ernie Flanders, and Jean Clark of Minuteman Press (yes, Pinky’s wife, now deceased) to name a few. Each of us can take something from the smiles on these faces and paste them onto our own, especially on long rainy and wintry Vermont days. These folks know how to be with us in the present to make every moment and every smile count.