Biographical / Historical
Robert Dike Blair (1919-2009) was born in New Castle, PA to George Dike Blair Jr. and Hazel (Singluff) Blair. He attended The Hill School, followed by Williams College (graduating in 1940 with a B.A.). In 1942, Blair married Reba Blizzard, of Harrisburg Pa. The couple had three children: Ann, Susan, and Kate. Before opening The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury, Blair worked for Doubleday Book Shops in order to gain experience in bookselling. He opened the Vermont Book Shop in 1949, adding a record department, making it Vermont's first "Book and Record Store." In 1951, under the imprint, "Vermont Books," Blair published "Four Ducks on a Pond," written by Alice Brainerd Nelson, after which followed the publication of a dozen books by additional authors. From 1970-1984, he was a director and officer of the American Bookseller's Association. One of Blair's favorite hobbies was magic, and he attended magicians' yearly conventions.
The Vermont Book Shop/Vermont Books: Dike Blair opened The Vermont Book Shop in 1949 in an old brick house at 5 College Street in Middlebury, VT, but moved a few years later to 38 Main Street. The Shop became widely known for its broad selection of books and knowledgeable staff. Blair was a Director and Officer of the American Booksellers Association for eleven years, and for a time owned branch stores in Waitsfield and South Burlington. Rovert Frost was a good customer of the bookstore. Blair retired in 1993, and The Boston Globe ran a 16" story headed, "Vermont's Favorite Bookseller Stepping Down." The Shop was bought by John and Laura Scott, who had vacationed from New Jersey to Middlebury for some years before making the purchase. The Shop was then sold to Becky and Chris Dayton.
Alice Brainerd Nelson is the daughter of President Ezra Brainerd of Middlebury College. She graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, and then joined the staff of Berkeley Playhouse. She adapted a popular melodrama for the Playhouse, a bombastic temperance lesson originally produced by P.T. Barnum, titled "The Drunkard, or Ten Nights in a Barroom." She returned to Middlebury following the death of her husband, Alan Nelson, the head of the MacMillan Company. Joseph Battell, in Ellen, or the Whisperings of The Old Pine, used Alice Brainerd as his model for little Ellen in the text as well as the photographic illustrations. Nelson's book, "Four Ducks on a Pond," was the first book published by Vermont Books in 1951.
Margaret Steel Hard (1886-1974) was the owner and operator of the Johnny Appleseed Bookshop and the author of "Footloose in Vermont," "A Memory of Vermont," and "This is Kate." She co-authored with her husband, "This is Vermont," an informal guidebook of the state. Hard was born in Manchester, VT in 1886. She was raised in Pennsylvania and New York, and was a graduate of Columbia University's Teacher's College. She taught at the Chapin School in Manhattan, and married Walter Hard in 1911. They had two children, Ruth and Walter Hard Jr. (who became the editor of Vermont Life).
Walter Hard (1882-1966) was born in Manchester, VT. He attended Williams College, and planned on majoring in journalism, but the untimely death of his father brought him back to Manchester before he graduated from college. Hard ran his father's drug store for thirty years, before becoming the owner of Johnny Appleseed Book Store in 1935. By 1930, Hard had produced his first collection of poems, "Some Vermonters," and his column regularly appeared in the Rutland Herald, Boston Transcript, Boston Glove, New York Herald Tribune, and the Chicago Tribune. Much of Hard's work was concerned with Vermont living and people and land of Vermont.
William Hazlett Upson (1891-1975) was an American author, best known for a series of short stories featuring Alexander Botts, a salesman for the Earthworm Tractor Company. In 1936, the series was adapted into the film Earthworm Tractors, starring Joe E. Brown. Upson attended Cornell University, graduating in 1914. He married Marjorie Alexander Wright in 1923. The couple had two children and resided in the Middlebury, VT area from 1928 until Upson's death.
Victor E. Reichert (1897-1990) was rabbit of the Rockdale Avenue Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio from 1938-1962. Reichert was a longtime friend of American poet Robert Frost. In 1946, Reichert invited Frost to present a sermon, and played a large role in awarding Frost an honorary Doctorate at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Reichert's book of poems, Tower of David (1964), was dedicated to Frost, and sold at the Vermont Book Shop.
Vrest Orton (1897-1986) was an author and founder of the Vermont Country Store (Weston, VT). Orton was born in Vermont, and as a young man, traveled the United States, hitchhiking and walking to Mexico. He eventually settled in New York, where he worked for H.L. Mencken on The American Mercury and published "Dreiserana" (1929), about Theodore Dreiser. Orton's other books include "Vermont Afternoons With Robert Frost," "And So Goes Vermont," and "Cooking With Whole Grains," which he wrote with his wife, Mildred Ellen Wilcox. Orton founded The Colophon, a bibliophiles' magazine, as well as the Stephen Daye Press in Brattleboro, VT. He was also one of the founders of Vermont Life magazine.
John Nassivera (1950-) is an American author, playwright, and professor. Nassivera was born in Glens Falls, NY, and recieved his B.A. from Boston University and his ph.D. in Comparative Literature from McGill University. Nassivera returned to New York to teach at Columbia University. He is co-founder of the Dorset Theater Festival in Vermont, and has produced a number of plays with Broadway and off-Broadway producer Edgar Lansbury, including Nassivera's play, All the Queen's Men.