Voices Journal Volume 2013:1-2

Edited by Todd DeGarmo

Articles In This Volume

NYFS News and Notes: Occupational Folklore: The Focus of the New York Folklore Society's 2013 Annual Conference

On March 2, 2013, New York Folklore Society hosted its annual conference at ArtsWestchester in White Plains, NY. The theme centered on occupational folklore. While the current economic crisis has drawn much attention to the need for strategic and sustainable economic development, this conference was a great opportunity to highlight folkloric aspects integral to the economic machine in New York State.

Upstate: Coming Home, Fifty Years Later!

For one long-awaited weekend, beginning May 30th, they came—from Albuquerque and Albany, Boise and Brooklyn, Wiscasset and Watertown. Those travelling farthest flew in from Alsace, the Channel Islands, and Alaska; others are as close as Potsdam, Madrid, and Canton. The 50th reunion for St. Lawrence University’s Class of 1963, my own class, was a great homecoming.

Downstate: Kindred Spirits

In my work as a folklorist, I have long realized that we are not so much studying the folks we interview and celebrate, but rather documenting their work and partnering with them. They are not our “informants,” a sorry term often used in the discipline, but our collaborators. We are not “studying them,” but learning from them. Much of my work as a folklorist involves documenting cultural forms, but much of it, too, is about connecting with kindred spirits from other walks of life, and collaborating with them to find creative ways to give out-of-the-mainstream art forms and individuals the attention they deserve.

AGUDA ACHIM: A Century of Friendship and Shared Memories of Jewish Life in the Catskills

In January 1909, Max Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, brought his family to Livingston Manor. He opened a butcher shop on Main Street,and his family thus became Livingston Manor’s first Jewish residents. In April of that same year, my grandparents, Mottel and Manya Sorkin, along with their infant daughter Leya, also settled in the village and opened a tailor shop. Other families soon followed. Livingston Manor was now on the way to becoming a multiethnic community, but not without some bumps in the road.

Hittin' The Streets With The NYC Tranzformerz

For almost four decades, b-boying, otherwise known as breaking or break dancing, has been a staple of New York City street life. B-boying is an artistic and improvisational mode of non-verbal communication and competition between individuals and groups, usually in relationship to music. It arose out of the streets of the South Bronx in the early 1970s and, at times, became an alternative to gang fighting: that is, a non-violent resolution to the problems of the street through the creative use of the body, mind, and space without weapons.

Spirit Dolls (Muñequitas) in New York Puerto Rican Homes:: Engaging with Saints and Ancestors

Forms, functions, and meanings of altars in Puerto Rican homes on the island or the US mainland are already well documented in association with Espiritismo and Santería, two forms of Caribbean religious belief and practice. Ethnographic descriptions of the roles that dolls play within these contexts of belief are less common. In the New York Puerto Rican homes in which I was welcomed between 2004 and 2007, as a participant observer in Puerto Rican Espiritismo, altars decorated with flowers, food, water offerings, and statues of the saints co-existed with mesitas and other doll displays. Mesitas are little tables, set with offerings for the dolls who sit beside them.

The Holocaust, the Catskills, and the Creative Loss of Power

The American and immigrant Jews, who had made the many hotels, bungalow colonies, and farms of Ulster and Sullivan counties their summer retreats year after year, were always looking for family, for landsmanshaftn (society of immigrants from the same town or region), for a home away from home. As a second home to generations of Jews, the Catskill Mountains became a place where a Jewish family could bond as a Jewish family—that is, they could practice the culture of Judaism without the pressure to assimilate.

The Spy Who Snubbed Me

Lake George? Ian Fleming famously wrote about places he had actually been. My antihero had been to Lake George? How much time Fleming spent here I have not been able to ascertain,but clearly, he was here. He sets The Spy Who Loved Me somewhere between Glens Falls and Lake George, in the Dreamy Pines Motor Court, where our heroine tries to hold off but is unable to escape the thugs until James Bond shows up. The “Spy” is Bond himself, not a Russian woman Bond gets mixed up with, as in the movie.

YMCA Camp Chingachgook on Lake George Celebrates its Centennial

Established in 1913, YMCA Camp Chingachgook is one of the oldest children’s camps in America and is presently celebrating 100 years of operation. Over 350,000 children have participated in Camp Chingachgook programs in the last century....Today, Chingachgook serves over 10,000 children and adults annually in year-round programs on Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains.

Good Spirits: New York's Haunted Bars

Upstate and downstate, New Yorkers can find bars with reputations for being haunted. New York City has more haunted bars than any other metropolis, but there are haunted bars all over the state. Something about bars invites ghost stories, especially when the bar is in an old building. When people drink and hear stories about the dead, strange things may happen.

Songs: The Maritime "Folksongs" of Edward Harrigan

Ned took to the sea as a teenager, first to Gulf Coast ports, later to California, where he found work as a caulker in San Francisco Bay shipyards by day, moonlighting as a singer, accompanying himself with the banjo. Eventually, and with strong support from many maritime trades workers there, he became a full-time entertainer. Back in New York as a well-established performer, Harrigan began to stretch vaudeville skits into full-length plays. They were anything but static pieces. He refined, added to, and reintroduced them frequently.

View from the Waterfront: After Sandy

Fishermen and boaters have a long history of contending with Mother Nature. Alongside them are boat builders and boatyard owners, who are entrusted with protecting their customers’ vessels, recreational and commercial alike. After Superstorm Sandy there may be some important lessons to be learned from these tradition bearers.

Voices in New York: Æ—Eva Salina Primack and Aurelia Shrenker

This 2010 CD by the duo called Æ, comprised of Eva Salina Primack and Aurelia Shrenker, is a treasure of women’s voices...The 14 tracks feature Georgian, Albanian, Greek, and Ukrainian songs, with two old-time songs from this country, “Across the Blue Mountains,” and “Wind and Rain,” as well as a Corsican song.

Play: History Buried: Baseball's All-Star Game of 1858

On July 20, 1858, nearly 10,000 fans gathered at the Fashion Race Course in Queens to watch what may have been the most important game in all of baseball history.... baseball was governed by the rules and practices of an amateur association formed only the year before. Although this body called itself the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP), in truth, the new game was an exceedingly local affair, little played outside what is today the New York metropolitan area.

Reviews: The Heart Has Reasons: Dutch Rescuers of Jewish Children during the Holocaust by Mark Klempner

The Heart Has Reasons profiles 10 rescuers with whom [the author] Klempner met, and the book’s greatest strength is that—in true folk spirit—it allows each rescuer to tell his or her own story. Klempner doesn’t filter or paraphrase anyone, and there’s no reason he should want to. After all, these are feisty, colorful individuals who defied Nazi brutality to save the lives of Jewish children. They possess unique voices, full of humor and anger and life; being able to hear each one is a privilege...

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