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MIGRANTS: The Handy Clan of Vermont – a Lebanese immigrant story

Tonight, as I was writing, I was looking for a term that connoted “a wandering peddler” — hopefully from some foreign culture. Wandering myself through the Internet, I came upon a wondrous piece of journalism.

It’s the story of the Handy Clan of Vermont — a vast group of now politically powerful extended families who descend from two Lebanese immigrants, Maronite Christians, a century ago who became “back peddlers,” selling what they could carry on their backs through what had to be some forbidding geographic and cultural landscape.

That morphed into an ice company, then several ice companies. More people arrived. The families expanded and intermarried.

“By the 1930s, Peter Handy was known as “the ice king of Vermont,” says the writer, Ken Picard, of Seven Days. (Hats off to him and the newspaper.)

Eventually, the Handys transitioned and by the 1950s owned a bunch of drive-in movie theaters across Vermont. (I love this story!)

Now they’re in all kinds of businesses: hotels, motels, Burger Kings, car repair. Their descendants have names like Larry, Floyd and Earl.

(Btw, Handy may have originally been El Hindi or some version of that.)

Along the way, the Clan learned valuable lessons that almost any immigrant group learns. First: get into politics.

Apparently, the Handy Clan is now a central part in any Vermont political campaign.

As they should be.

Photo: Rev. Elias ElHindi and Solomon Hindi 

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