As a resident of Brattleboro for more than 58 years, as a neighbor of SIT Graduate Institute for over 50 years, as an SIT staff member for more than eight years, and as a customer of Hannaford's since it opened its doors on Putney Road, I would like to make some observations regarding the two-part series involving an SIT graduate student (Nov. 26 and 27 editions).
When our family moved to Brattleboro in the 1950s I had already visited the town four years earlier and thought that it would be a nice place to live. When we came to town we found it to be relatively quiet and it had activities for our children and ourselves. In the summers we swam at Memorial Park, in winter our children learned how to ski there. As a family, we often attended the annual ski jump. As in many New England towns, it was a "white" community and employment opportunities were limited. As life changed in the town, I met my first African-American colleague in my workplace at SIT, which in every respect was a very positive experience. At about the same time, Blanche Moyse introduced African-American classical music artists in her Bach Cantata concerts. The tenor, Seth McCoy, who would sing with other soloists and the Brattleboro Music Center Chorus for many years and later Wynton Marsalis, who performed several times as a trumpet soloist. I seem to remember many years when Brattleboro families hosted African-American city children for a summer in Vermont, and it was not long before African-American families found their home in Brattleboro.
When Hannaford opened its doors on Putney Road we were among its early customers and appreciated their services until we left Brattleboro recently.
Like in other New England small college towns, we also frequently observed off-campus students, and due to our long relationship with faculty members and the proximity of our home to SIT, observed the different lifestyles and manners of students. Often we observed that students seemed not to be interested in Brattleboro community events or the local culture.
As the community adjusted to changes nationwide, including the increasing crime rate, local institutions from Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and the Brattleboro Police Department, as well as local merchants, had to develop better systems to meet new challenges. In Brattleboro, I have not seen any focus on any members of the community in contrast to other communities and some urban areas. With regards to Hannaford "welcoming of all customers with warmth" was at all times automatic. Anything different would have been contrary to the spirit of the Brattleboro community.
The Reformer articles seem to indicate that the manner in which the student brought the case of beer outside was unusual and, therefore, came to the attention of the Hannaford staff. There is no indication that this was ever clarified by the student with a simple indication of a sales slip. In my years of doing business in Brattleboro, I have never felt uncomfortable for being watched because for me it was the manner in which the store staff would be able to ask me if I needed help.
By the way, students of different colors have been at SIT for 60 years and I am not aware of any similar unfortunate incidents. During my years working at SIT I have had the good fortune of working with hundreds of students from other countries of different colors and never experienced similar conflict.
Georg F. Steinmeyer was director of the pipe organ division at the Estey Organ Company. His family moved from Germany to the United States in 1995. Steinmeyer taught language skills at SIT for eight years starting in 1964. He and his wife, Hanne, now live in Vernon.