The farmer and the state rep

  • George Carleton, center, surrounded by the author’s great-grandmother, grandmother and great uncle and aunt. Contributed photo/JOE R. PARZYCH

  • Contributed photo/JOE R. PARZYCH—

  • Contributed photo/JOE R. PARZYCH—

  • Contributed photo/JOE R. PARZYCH—

  • Contributed photo/JOE R. PARZYCH—

For the Recorder
Published: 4/21/2021 8:53:45 AM

In the old days, it was common for farmers to run as legislators. Back then, you didn’t need a college degree to run for state, federal or local office — just a high school diploma or GED diploma.

My great-grandfather, George Carleton, the father of my late grandmother Edna Carleton Parzych, of Gill, was a state representative for Vermont in the 1920s and 1930s.

He was also a part-time farmer who managed a farm and worked in a saw mill.

He traveled to Montpelier, Vermont every day while he was state representative. He was an activist during the Great Depression who supported farmers and agricultural and factory workers when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, from 1933 to 1945. Roosevelt came up with great ideas during the Great Depression and World War II like the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps program and the Agricultural Act.

Back then, people grew up in large families and worked on farms or at mills or other manual labor jobs. In some cases, farmers couldn’t afford a farm tractor and instead used horses to plow the fields, or made a sacrifice by converting their car — perhaps a Ford Model T — into a tractor. Others couldn’t afford cars or a tractor or livestock, so they walked to work. It was a time when some people didn’t have a radio or phone or electricity and some did.

When my great-grandfather wasn’t working as a state rep, he worked on his farm, driving his tractor or using his horse to plow the fields for his crops. He raised cows so he could sell milk to local markets and also sold meat and vegetables. Most farmers wanted to land a contract with Birds Eye Vegetables. It would have been a great idea at the time to rent or lease the land to other farmers to afford taxes.

It was common at the time for farmers to run for politics in Vermont so agricultural districts would have a voice for farmers in need — someone who could pass bills to support them. Banks were closing during the 1930s and people were afraid to put their life savings in the bank or lose their farms to the bank.

Before the war years, my great-grandfather took on a third job as a mill worker in a sawmill, cutting logs and so forth.

On the weekends or his day off, our family would get together to have cookouts outside and have fun times.

They would put the car radio on to listen to music or once in a while go to the movies to see a film for 25 cents. My grandmother, Edna, recalled that the first movie she saw was Disney’s 1937 “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” the first full-color animation film.

The photograph above was taken after a cookout while George was in his rocking chair, enjoying the day outside with my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my great-aunt and uncle. One of Edna’s older brothers was in the Army during World War I and re-enlisted in the Navy during combat in World War II.

He also worked on the family farm.

Years later, my dad, Joe M. Parzych, emailed the state of Vermont and found information on his grandfather, George. He was born sometime in the late 1800s and died in 1945. There was a painting of him made when he was state representative.

This photo is the only one the family has of him. It reminds me of a Norman Rockwell illustration of old-time New England.

My maternal great-grandmother married another farmer, Cyrus Hale from Bernardston.

He grew crops, raised cows, and sold meat and dairy to many local places.

They lived on Huckle Hill Road in Bernardston. He died back in the 1960s.

A lot has changed since my grandfather served as state representative. Farms look a lot different, now. But one thing is the same as it’s ever been: Local farms need the public’s support. Please support your local farms.

Joe R. Parzych grew up in Gill and lives in Greenfield. He has been a freelance photojournalist since the days of the 35mm film camera and darkrooms. Check out his work on Facebook by searching “Joe R. Parzych photography.” Contact him at Joerparzych@gmail.com




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