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Voices, Fall-Winter 2015:
Follow the links on the Table of Contents to see excerpts of articles and read columns.
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Volume 41

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An Inside View of Contra Dancing in Brooklyn, 2015: Swing Your Partner and Do-Si-Do [excerpt]
by Jody Kruskal

16 Advocating for Sunday Rock (and all those other “Traditional Cultural Properties”) [excerpt]
by Varick A. Chittenden

25 A Staten Island Education [excerpt]
by Hilene Flanzbaum

30 Reflections & Vision: A Conversation with the Outgoing and Incoming New York Folklore Society Board Presidents
by Gabrielle M. Hamilton and Tom van Buren

34 A Transitional Interpretation: American Roots Music by Five Photographers [excerpt]
by Andrzej “Andre” Pilarczyk, Lawrence White, Enid Farber, Joseph Deuel, and Bryan Lasky

42 Songs to Keep—“Getting the Lore Back to the Folk” [excerpt]
by Daniel Franklin Ward, PhD

Departments and Columns

12 Upstate: Singing Along
by Dan Berggren

14 Downstate: The People’s City Report Card 2015
by Steve Zeitlin

24 Good Spirits: Mountain Magic
by Libby Tucker

33 Artist Spotlight: George A. Olsen, Jr.

41 Voices of New York: Sara Milonovich—Daisycutter

46 Good Read
Saratoga Springs–A Centennial History

Review by Chris Linendoll

46 Book Review: Legends and Lore of Sleepy Hollow and the Hudson Valley
by Frieda Toth

Cover: Gypsy and swing (contra dancing). Photo by Sam Segal. See “An Inside View of Contra Dancing in Brooklyn, 2015” by Jody Kruskal.

Ellen McHale
From the Fall-Winter 2015 issue of Voices:

This past October 2015, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) bestowed their most prestigious annual award for Folk and Traditional Arts—the National Heritage Fellowship. This year, the award was given to 11 individuals, who represented many different artistic traditions, from circus aerialist Dolly Jacobs to Cambodian ceramicist Yary Livan. Included in the 2015 class of National Heritage Fellows is New Yorker, Michael Alpert, who participated in the New York Folklore Society’s conference, “Voices of Belief,” held in Poughkeepsie in 2007. His biography, as published on the NEA website reads as follows:

Singer, multi-instrumentalist, dancer, and scholar Michael Alpert has been a key figure in the renaissance of East European Jewish music and culture worldwide since the 1970s. A native Yiddish speaker, he is one of the only Yiddish singers of his generation adept in the style of pre- WWII generations. Alpert is a celebrated innovator in Yiddish song, whose original compositions have expanded the canon. A leading teacher and scholar, his work has helped spark an international revitalization of the Yiddish cultural arts, from Yiddish folksong and dance to klezmer violin…. Moving to New York City in 1979, he was co-founder of the pioneering klezmer band Kapelye, and began intensive documentation of traditional East Europeanborn Yiddish performers…. [Alpert] is currently a Senior Research Fellow at New York City’s Center for Traditional Music and Dance.
(National Endowment for Arts/NEA National Heritage Fellowships)
Congratulations Michael!

I am also saddened to report the passing of the 2014 National Heritage Award winner, Henry Arquette. A resident of Akwesasne, Henry was a master basketmaker in the Mohawk tradition of utilitarian baskets. His baskets of pounded black ash splints (laundry, corn washing, picnic, wedding, pack, and potato baskets) were renowned for their skilled craftsmanship. Henry was much respected in his Mohawk community not only for his basketmaking, but also for his environmental advocacy and his willingness to pass on his knowledge in teaching others.

The New York Folklore Society would also like to announce a new staff position and hire. Marcia Moss has begun a position as Director of Development for the New York Folklore Society. Marcia comes to NYFS with a wealth of development experience, and she will be working with NYFS staff and board members to build a solid financial foundation for our future.

Looking forward to 2016, please plan to join us for our 2016 conference to be held April 2 at the Cooper Union, New York City. “Crisis of Place: Preserving Folk and Vernacular Architecture in New York State” will bring together folklorists, architects, historic preservationists, museum professionals, community members, and students to address a significant crisis in our understanding of everyday landscapes and the built environment: where and what is the folk and vernacular architecture of 21st-century America? The conference will feature plenaries, tours, local foodways, and more. Please watch for details!

Ellen McHale, PhD
Executive Director
New York Folklore Society

Todd DeGarmo
From the Fall–Winter 2015 issue of Voices:

“Trick or Treat!” we’d shout in unison, as our neighbor opened the door. We didn’t expect to get—or give—a “trick.” Halloween, for us, was all about the “treat.” What a great holiday! It was the one night of the year where the usual rules could be bent. At this magical time, we were encouraged to dress up in crazy costumes, to run around after dark free of adult supervision, to collect candy from the neighbors. Free candy, enough to fill your brown paper grocery bag! Every fourth-, fifth- and sixthgrade friend I knew in the last years of the 1960s ranked this holiday second only to Christmas.

Throwing eggs or making a mess of houses and yards with streams of toilet paper and shaving cream was the mischief—the “tricks” —of the older kids on Halloween. We preteens, however, were all about the costumes and candy, and generally, we knew where to avoid these “war zones,” mostly contained to the streets in the center of our small village. That left the streets in the outer neighborhoods safe for us to maximize our hauls of candy.

The evening took a bit of planning. Homemade costumes were the norm. We became bums or clowns or cowboys with funny old, oversized clothes, often stuffed with pillows. If it were a particularly cold night, or even with a trace of snow in the air, a sweatshirt or a coat would replace the pillows. We always disguised our faces. Burned wine bottle corks to blacken, and lipstick and other makeup from older sisters or moms for color. Sometimes, someone would buy a mask, but more often we’d use the beards from the church’s Christmas pageant costume box, or cut eyeholes and a mouth in an old sheet. As you got a bit older, you might even crossdress with a borrowed wig, dress, and stuffing for the right curves. This could be risky for a young guy, especially the year when an elderly neighbor remarked that this cute little “girl” didn’t dress up as much as “her” friends, “did you dear?”

Our team for the evening had to be chosen with care. We’d want a half dozen or so kids close in age. Too young would slow you up. Too old would be bossy and try to take charge. The best groupings were those siblings and neighbors who would move as a group, but be individually self-reliant. We wanted to move quickly; that is, get in and get out with the candy, covering as many houses as we could to maximize our haul.

We loved the cover of darkness. It added to the thrill. Daylight Savings Time gave us an extra hour, creating twilight in the last minutes running up to five o’clock. The streetlights would blink on in our neighborhood, but for the dark edges, we always carried flashlights—especially useful for moving across lots and backyards to streamline our progress.

The neighbors put their lights on for the “trick-or-treaters”; it was very rare for a house to be dark, unwelcoming. Candy in wrappers was the norm, and large candy bars most desired, but some folks gave out homemade cookies or candied popcorn balls. Apples were a letdown, but the pennies given by some folks were welcomed, since a large Hershey’s chocolate bar could still be bought for a nickel in the drug store downtown.

We tried to create a balance between letting the adults have their fun at guessing who we all were, and us getting the candy and moving on. The less chatter the better was our pre-agreed upon marching order. Sometimes, one of us had to reveal his identity, if the guessing went on too long— but always with smiles and politeness and lots of “thank you’s.” After all, in this small community, word would get back to your family if you were pushy or ungrateful.

We were expected home before 9 p.m. (about the time when most houses began to turn off their lights anyway). Back on the living room floor, there was the obligatory sorting and assessing of your evening’s haul of candy. Lining up the loot in order of preference: Hershey Bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers, Milky Ways, Nestlé Crunches, Tootsie Rolls. Small hard candies and lollipops were worth less unless they were Tootsie Roll Pops or Mary Janes, with their fudgy or peanut butter fillings. Of course, not everyone would rate their candies the same way in terms of preference, so the trading would begin, with the hopes of getting rid of your less desirable candy, and maximizing your favorites, especially the chocolate.

In my family, candy was not part of our regular diet. These were treats given out during the holidays, so for a kid with a sweet tooth, you could only expect storebought chocolate at Easter and Halloween, and maybe a bit at Christmas (though, mostly in homemade cookies and fudge). Much to the disdain of my siblings, I kept a stash of my Halloween candy in some kind of locked box, so I could eat just a bit at a time to make sure it lasted during the long, dry spells. They called me a pack rat.

Nowadays on Halloween, we line the porch with candlelit, carved pumpkins and give out “good candy” to the few “trick-or-treaters” that come around. I try not to spend too much time guessing their identities, but mostly they don’t seem to be in a hurry and stroll around in the dark with their smiling parents. And once we turn off the lights, I still have a stash of “good candy” to nibble on in the weeks to come.

Todd DeGarmo
Voices Acquisitions Editor
Founding Director of the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library


Sunday Rock

HIlene in the fifth grade

Lyle Lovett

Lee Knight

Fall–Winter 2015, Volume 41:3–4

Acquisitions Editor
   Todd DeGarmo
Copy Editor
   Patricia Mason
Administrative Manager
   Laurie Longfield
   Mary Beth Malmsheimer
   Eastwood Litho

Editorial Board: Varick Chittenden, Lydia Fish, Hanna Griff-Sleven, Nancy Groce, Lee Haring, Bruce Jackson, Christopher Mulé, Libby Tucker, Kay Turner, Dan Ward, Steve Zeitlin

Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore is published twice a year by the New York Folklore Society, Inc.

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