Looking back with Scott & Marge Munger of Brandon


MARGE & SCOTT Munger literally helped build Brandon. From the 1970s through the 1980s, they built homes all over town, ultimately concentrating on the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood just up the hill from downtown.

BRANDON—The views from the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood in Brandon are spectacular.  Just up the hill from downtown, the summit looks out over the Champlain Valley to the west and the Green Mountains to the east.  It’s no surprise, then, that local builders were eager to turn the site into a neighborhood of trim single-family homes.  Scott and Marge Munger were among those who developed the area, building many of the homes in the enclave.  And they still live in the house they built up there 39 years ago.  They recently sat with The Reporter at their home to reflect on their lives in Brandon.

Scott turns 96 this year and has lived most of his life in Brandon.  Born here in 1928, he grew up on lower Carver Street, the sixth of twelve children, of whom five (including Scott) are still alive.  His father worked for the Vermont Marble Company and his mother kept house.  She passed away when Scott was 13 and the youngest child only 2.

When he was a kid during the Depression, he used to walk along the railroad tracks collecting bits of coal he’d sell to buy movie tickets. And despite living relatively close to downtown Brandon, his address on Carver Street was deemed outside the Brandon school zone and he attended elementary school at the Forest Dale School (now part of the Neshobe Elementary School campus).  

“I didn’t like school,” Scott said.  “I was shy, but I managed to get on the Honor Roll when I could do my own thing.”  Yet even at that young age, Scott’s ambition was to join the Marines.

“When I was a kid, I said, ‘If I ever get old enough, I’m gonna be a Marine,” Scott recalled.

So, he enlisted in the Marines in 1945, at age 17.

The Second World War had ended, but the U.S. still had Marines stationed in China.  Scott was sent there to serve.  His unit returned to San Francisco in 1948. While Scott and a buddy went off to enjoy a few days the city, the rest of their unit signed up to be reservists and ultimately ended up being sent to Korea, where many of them met their fate.  Scott’s escapade in ‘Frisco likely saved his life.  

Back in Brandon, Scott wanted to be a trucker but was just shy of the minimum age of 21.  So, he would sneak rides with licensed truckers who worked for Dutton Trucking Company, learning the ropes by hauling apples and other produce from Shoreham down to New York City.

After a year at Dutton, he moved to Goddard Trucking, which was based in the Castelton/Fair Haven area.  He spent 6 years there, trucking produce, marble, and milk all up and down the east coast, as far south as Washington, D.C.  

While he enjoyed the work, there was at least one person in his life who did not: Marge.

They first met around 1960, when Marge’s cousin married Scott’s brother.  Scott had come to help his brother finish putting up sheetrock in his brother’s camp on Fern Lake.  Marge was not impressed.

“I didn’t care for him at all,” she laughed.  “I didn’t like him.”

That all changed after a card game in 1961, when Scott was called in to be a fourth player.

They’ve been married 59 years now.

Marge grew up in Rutland but had always been fond of Brandon.  She spent a lot of time here as a child and her family has roots in the area: both Swinington Road and Delorm Road in Leicester are named after branches of her family.

“I fell in love with Brandon when I was young,” Marge recalled.  “I’d think, ‘I hope someday I can live here.’”

Marge and Scott married in 1965 and settled in Brandon.  One of the conditions of the marriage, however, was that Scott give up his long-distance trucking.

“I told him I wasn’t going to marry someone who was gone all the time,” Marge said.

SCOTT AND MARGE Munger (middle and far right) on their wedding day in 1965. Scott had been a long-distance trucker before he and Marge got serious. She put a stop to that. “I told him I wasn’t going to marry someone who was gone all the time,” Marge said.

So, Scott got a job hauling wood chips every day from East Middlebury to the International Paper mill in Ticonderoga, New York.  After 7 or 8 years on that route, Scott began work with Eddie Wheeler, a builder who taught Scott the profession that would change the direction of his and Marge’s life: building houses.

“I was a quick study,” Scott said. 

Scott and Marge built themselves a house on Town Farm Road, where they lived for 10 years.  Then in the early 1970s, they built themselves one in Forrestbrook, where they stayed for a few years.  

“For a while we kept moving because people kept buying the houses we built for ourselves,” Marge said.  “I was working as a secretary for Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance in Rutland, but we needed the money, so we kept selling the houses we finished even though we were living in them.”

Eventually they bought some land from Bill Peck on Mt. Pleasant and began building homes up there, including the one they still live in.

“We’ve been up here for 45 years,” Marge said. Ultimately, they built 10 houses in the neighborhood that was known as “Snob Knob” back in the day.

“A lot of out-of-staters bought the houses up here,” Marge said.  “The neighborhood had a reputation because of that.  But we’re just common folk.  It took about 10 years before families with kids started moving in and replacing the retirees.”

“And we’ve never had a complaint,” said Scott in reference to the quality houses he built.

Though it’s been a while since they’ve built any houses, they keep up with the local market, which continues to astonish them.  Houses on Mt. Pleasant have sold for more than $500K in recent years.

“We borrowed $15K to build our first house in 1973 and sold it for $32K,” said Marge.  “The most we ever got for one of our houses was $82K for a house on Mt. Pleasant in the 1980s.”

And Scott recalls being able to rent a house for $25/month when he worked for Dutton, making 50¢ per hour.

So much has changed in Brandon over the course of the Mungers’ lifetimes.  

“It used to be a quiet little village,” Marge recalled, reminiscing about coming into town on Saturday night to “trade” (shop).

“There’s a lot more traffic,” said Scott.  “It used to be one car for every house.  Now you see two or three cars in a driveway.”

Neither one is crazy about the new traffic lights or the smaller size of Central Park after Segment 6.  And Marge misses the lush tree canopy on Park Street, which has diminished as the majestic maples that were planted in the 1800s have died off.

The Mungers recalled local characters such as Edgar Paul, who would chastise people on Center Street if they parked badly, and Shirley Farr, whose family built what is now the Lilac Inn on Park Street. Miss Farr was so particular about her street that she would send workers to repair and paint any houses she found wanting.

There was Desi Louras, who ran a candy and magazine shop on Center Street and would warn people that the store “wasn’t a library” if they lingered too long over a comic book.

“She’d chew you out if you dared pay with a $20,” laughed Marge.  “And when she did make change, she’d give it to you quickly and hope you wouldn’t count it.”

Sid Rosen could get you anything you needed—“He’d find it for you,” said Scott—and was landlord to many.

“He didn’t keep his properties in the best condition,” said Marge. “But he provided housing for a lot of lower-income people.”

Those folks have gone, but their memory remains alive in conversation with those, like the Mungers, who remember Brandon in those years.

“It’s part of life,” said Marge.  “You’ve gotta expect change.”

In the meantime, even after all these decades, Scott and Marge still live among the houses they built that became homes for so many Brandon families.  And they’re still dazzled by the sunsets at the house they built on Sunset Drive.

“We still marvel at the beauty,” said Marge.

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