TOWNSHEND, Vt. – Bicycle Pete was a character who earned his keep by painting shop signs, plus murals that included stars, eagles and deer on barns (we seem to remember some stars and eagles on barns along Route 7 between Manchester and Bennington around the 1960s) with accompanying advertisements. Pete had a box of paints and brushes strapped to the back of his bike and traveled up and down Route 30 and other Vermont roads painting signs. The storeowner would furnish the signboard and provide some type of overnight accommodations. Pete was once seen in Bondville during the 1960s where he and his dog were looking to camp out for the night in a local barn. The husky-type dog earned his keep by pulling the bike along according to Pete; and they both spent that particular night out behind Doug Bouten’s Bear Cub Restaurant in Winhall.
Norris Mandingo Barton, a.k.a. Bicycle Pete, was born in 1902 in Rutland where his father was a clerk. He died when Pete was 3 years old. We knew nothing further until the 1930 and 1940 census revealed that Pete was at the Brattleboro Retreat. The good news is that he was rehabilitated enough to became a self-employed, itinerant artist until the final two years of his life when he settled in Bennington.
As the Bennington Banner reported on Aug. 25, 1966, “Bicycle Pete always has a captive audience wherever he goes when he demonstrates his artistic ability with paper, scissors, and pencil. An interesting and unusual character, he has traveled extensively in the US and throughout the world. He is currently pre-occupied with the ambition of hunting and downing the infamous Vermont panther.”
Anyone with more information or a photo of Bicycle Pete is invited to contact Heidi at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re told that a photo may have appeared in a local paper such as the Manchester Journal or Manchester Guide.