Vermont’s Naked Summer of 1937
Sometimes it feels like the internet hasn’t come to Vermont. News of what happens here, including odd historical fads, never leave the boundaries of this great state. No trend was more unusual than Vermont’s Summer of 1937. A summer marked by high temperatures, low rainfall, and nudity. Record scratch! Yes, 1937 was the year Vermont went nude.
Vermonters are not accustomed to southern style heat so when average temps rose above ninety and stayed there for the first time in its history, clothes came off. The trend began in of all places a church; St. Catherine of Alexandria nestled in the hills Rutland Vermont in 1937, led by a Reverand Jonathan Branchad, third cousin of the city’s mayor. During Sunday service on a 97-degree day, he convinced his congregation the best way to beat the heat was to remove their clothes and go out into town united by God in the manner they entered the world.
By Monday, Rutland’s roofers, farmers, and even bank tellers were all going nude in praise of a God who had treated them to such extreme heat. The nudist trend spread extended north until just about everyone in Vermont was enjoying the breeze a bit more than anywhere else in the country. The folks in New York and New Hampshire wanted no part of this and banned the nude Vermonters from their stores and restaurants.
Finding evidence of Vermont’s naked summer is not easy, you’ll need to travel to remote parts of the state or dig through bins of your Aunt Edna’s old photos. I found a photo in the locker room at SV National Golf Club from the 1937 Vermont Open tournament when nearly all the golfers played sans clothing. In the photo the players posed naked except for strategically placed golf clubs and trophies. The tournament winner, Cy Swanton, liked the idea so much he tried in again in 1938 but missed the cut.
The trend ended in August when a cold front dropped the temperature 40 degrees. Governor Aiken decried in his famous speech, “Alright Vermonters, God is telling you the fun is over put your damn clothes back on.” There was a plaque in the rectory at St. Catherine’s church marking the fad but the plaque was taken down in the 70s after Reverand Jonathan Branchad outed as a bit of a perv.