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Voices, Spring-Summer 2016:
Follow the links on the Table of Contents to see excerpts of articles and read columns.
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Volume 42

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Sesame Flyers International [excerpt]
by Molly Garfinkel

10 The Dream of America / El Sueño de América: Separation & Sacrifice in the Lives of North Country Latino Immigrants [excerpt]
Photos by Lisa Catalfamo-Flores

17 Remembering Bill Nicolaisen (1927–2016)
by Libby Tucker

21 Recovering the Stories of Chinese Immigrants in the Spa City [excerpt]
by Yiyun “Evian” Pan

30 New York Heritage: A Digital Archives [excerpt]
by Susan D’Entremont

36 Camp Woodland Memories Inspire A Poem
by Mickey Vandow

41 Critical Thinking, Wisdom, and Paying Homage to the Human Experience
by Amy St. Clair

44 Seasons in Schuylerville, New York
by Jeromy McFarren

Departments and Columns

7 Upstate: Hail Fredonia, Pinch Gut, and Minerva! Place Names in New York State
by Dan Berggren

8 Downstate: A People Who Live by the Word
by Steve Zeitlin

16 Good Spirits: Ghosts Moving Furniture
by Libby Tucker

27 Voices of New York: Dan Berggren—Fresh Territory

34 ALN8BAL8MO: A Native Voice—Ray Tehanetorens Fadden: He Saw Between the Trees
by Joseph Bruchac

38 Artist Spotlight: Enikö Farkas

46 From the Waterfront: Rebuilding after Sandy
by Nancy Solomon

Cover: Family in Mexico with photos of their relative, away from home, working in the US. See the photo essay, “Dream of America.” Photo by Lisa Catalfamo-Flores.

Ellen McHale
From the Spring-Summer 2016 issue of Voices:

As the New York Folklore Society approaches its 75th anniversary (1944–2019), we are mindful of our history, while looking forward to new horizons. NYFS Board President Tom van Buren stated in his recent member letter that the New York Folklore Society was founded in 1944, “to serve the folklore community, whether in academia, in applied or public sector work, among folk artists themselves, and any and all persons with interest in the subject and its related fields.” Your membership supports Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore, as well as the many programs of the Society. We hope to expand our membership in 2016. If you haven’t yet renewed, please do so. If you are not yet a member, please consider joining!

We have much to report. On February 28, we convened local and national leaders for panel presentations and townhall-style dialogue, on the topic of “Democratizing the (Folk) Arts Nonprofit Workplace.” This forum about inclusive governance and decision- making was introduced and moderated by its organizer, folklorist Eileen Condon, the NYFS New York City Representative. The forum was supported in part by funding from the Technical Assistance Consultancy Program of the American Folklore Society. View video of this forum on our website. .

Our conference, Crisis of Place: Preserving Folk and Vernacular Architecture in New York was a tremendous success, attracting vernacular historians, architects, folklorists, and geographers to the Rose Auditorium of The Cooper Union in New York City on April 2. Panel presentations highlighted both graduate student work, as well as the important work of community advocates and public folklorists. Andrew Dolkart of Columbia University and Michael Ann Williams of Western Kentucky University shared the keynote presentation.

During the 2016 Annual Meeting on April 2, 2016, we welcomed two new members to the Board of Directors. Julie Tay is the founder and executive director of Mencius Society for the Arts, which focuses on Chinese classical and folk cultural arts. Also joining the Board is Wilfredo Morel, a sculptor and gallery owner, community arts activist, and Director of Hispanic Health for Hudson River Health Care in Peekskill. Our board members are elected by the NYFS membership. Next year, with the newly approved bylaws change, we will be able to deliver a ballot and other materials to our members via email or other electronic means, providing greater membership participation in the Society’s decision-making.

Finally, I am pleased to report that the Society is partnering with the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) for a folk arts survey of a large part of Central and Western New York State, helping to extend our reach to and understanding of the folk arts in New York. Following the groundbreaking work of the Folk Arts Program of NYSCA, many areas of the state have received support for traditional arts activities. This project will seek to specifically document traditions in new areas, with Central New York and Southwestern New York being particularly targeted. Hannah Davis, our NYFS Upstate Representative, will begin her work in May 2016, and will be “on the ground” throughout the rest of the 2016 calendar year.

Ellen McHale, PhD
Executive Director
New York Folklore Society

Todd DeGarmo
From the Spring–Summer 2016 issue of Voices:

There is a fishing fly called “Shushan Postmaster.” Like all handmade fishing flies, it is a mix of natural and artificial materials. In this case, bits of turkey tail, red hen hackle, red squirrel hair, black thread, yellow floss, and narrow gold tinsel tied on a hook—when done, looking like something fish would eat.

I’ve been told that this fly has its origins in my adopted hometown. Teasing out the layered backstories of the simplest of objects is an occupational hazard of mine, so you can imagine my delight when I recently had the opportunity to learn the whole story behind this tied fly.

About a year and a half ago, a scheduled exhibition for my gallery at work was postponed unexpectedly due to a family crisis, giving me only a few months to find a replacement. After an initial thought of panic, I mused that this could be an opportunity to pursue something that had been in the back of my mind for some time: to research and develop an exhibition on the Battenkill watershed, a region that I’ve called home for almost 30 years.

The Battenkill flows some 59 miles from Vermont through upstate New York’s southern Washington County to the Hudson River, north of Albany but south of the Adirondacks. It became my mission to find both art and artifact to tell the stories of creativity inspired by the waters of this iconic river. Designed to be multidisciplinary, ”Battenkill Inspired” would showcase the work of living artists, as well as look at the river’s cultural history. The search led me to paintings by local artists, wooden covered bridges built to cross the river, the many industries that once drew power from its flow, the lure of Dionondehowa Falls and its pleasure park and the electricity generated for a trolley system, the world-class trout fishing with its own original fly patterns and personalities, the decorated rafts of the 1960s–1970s for a timed float and competition, and current efforts to preserve this valuable resource.

It was a mad scramble to pull this off, but worth the effort. Some 50 artists, individuals, and organizations participated. The exhibition featured paintings and prints, photography and magazine cover art, postcards and maps, hand-tied fishing flies, hunting and decorative decoys, a boat, jewelry, dolls, sculptures, a bridge model, and artifacts from the many mills.

People loved the exhibition. It resonated with our patrons, because the layered stories were connected to the art and artifacts.

The story of the Shushan Postmaster was one of many stories told. The fly is named for Al Prindle, the postmaster of the hamlet of Shushan, 1935–1947, who, after retiring, liked nothing better than to fish the Battenkill. He became a fishing buddy and good friend of Lew Oatman (1902–1958), a retired banker who bought a home on the Battenkill. Oatman, who had been a trout fisherman all his life, upon retirement devoted his time to fishing, making trout flies, and writing articles on the art of trout fishing. He became known as the pioneer of the streamer fly patterns, studying the baitfish (or young fries) in the Battenkill and imitating them by creating 17 new innovative patterns, with names like Battenkill Shiner, Golden Darter, and Trout Perch. In 1953, Oatman honored his friendship with Al Prindle with a new streamer fly pattern called the “Shushan Postmaster,” and an article of the same name was published in Esquire magazine in March 1956.

Al Prindle was also immortalized by Norman Rockwell (1894–1978), the painter/illustrator famous for The Saturday Evening Post cover illustrations of everyday life scenarios that he created for more than four decades.

Rockwell lived upriver in Arlington, Vermont, from 1939 to 1953, and encouraged other successful artists to follow him there. For a time, a little bevy of artists lived along the Battenkill, including: Mead Schaeffer (1898–1980), credited with 46 covers for The Saturday Evening Post and called by his editors, “a fisherman who also happened to paint,” and John Atherton (1900–1952), a world-renowned artist/illustrator and one of the great American fly fishermen of the 20th century, who wrote and illustrated the fishing classic, The Fly and The Fish (1952).

Not a fisherman, Rockwell would hire local folks to be his models, photographing and then painting them into his pieces. Shushan Postmaster Al Prindle was among his subjects, often paired with another Shushan resident, Alva Roberson—famously depicted in the series, “Four Seasons” that is often reproduced on calendars. Al Prindle was also the subject Rockwell’s painting, “Fishing Lesson,” also called “Catching the Big One,” that was featured as The Saturday Evening Post cover on August 3, 1929.

Unfortunately, the people behind this story are long gone, but in my search I did meet Herbert Eriksson (b. 1925), a link to them all. As a young man, Eriksson moved from Shushan to New York City to learn architectural drawing and estimating. He also picked up photography, taking photos of bank interiors and conference rooms for contractors to use for advertising purposes.

Back in Shushan on the weekends in the 1950s, Eriksson photographed friends, including Lew Oatman and Al Prindle. Some were used in Oatman’s 1956 Esquire article, showing the Shushan postmaster casting in midstream, walking into the hamlet, and fishing by the covered bridge. There is also a picture of a fine catch of trout and of Prindle and Oatman at home comparing notes.

Eriksson retired to Shushan in 1988. He made the shift to digital photography and computer printing, laughing as he observed, “I had to put a window in my darkroom.” Now in his 90s, he graciously provided these and many more photographs of Lew Oatman, Al Prindle, and the Shushan Postmaster for the exhibition “Battenkill Inspired.”

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






Spring–Summer 2016, Volume 42:1–2

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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