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fw2015-cvr-150Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society.

Dedicated to publishing the content of folklore in the words and images
of its creators and practitioners!

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Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore features articles, stories, interviews, reminiscences, essays, folk poetry and music, photographs and artwork from people in all parts of New York State. Voices is the Society’s membership magazine. The magazine also publishes peer-reviewed, research-based articles, written in an accessible style, on topics related to traditional art and life, including ethnic culture. Join NYFS today to receive this new membership magazine!

Voices features articles, stories, interviews, reminiscences, essays, folk poetry and music, photographs, and artwork drawn from people in all parts of New York State, folklorists and non-folklorists alike. The magazine also publishes peer-reviewed, research-based articles, written in an accessible style, on topics related to traditional art and life, including ethnic culture. Informative columns on subjects such as legal issues, photography, sound and video recording, archiving, ethics, and the nature of traditional art and life appear on a regular basis.
Look inside ⇓
VOICES, Vol. 42, Spring–Summer 2016


What always strikes me about Voices is its clarity and openness, both in design and content. It’s inviting, lively, and readable and has plenty of variety. It presents artists and communities with respect and sensitivity, yet one learns too about what folklorists do and who they are. Voices gives a picture of New York State and its people that cannot be found elsewhere.
Anna Lomax Wood, Director, Association for Cultural Equity

LISTEN to New York Folklore Society’s executive director, Ellen McHale interviewed by Steve Black for his radio show, “Periodical Radio,” about Voices.
Download MP3

⇐LOOK INSIDE back issues of Voices

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

The taxpayers are hollering, and the state’s contribution to this wonderful little magazine has been drastically cut. Those of us who read it all the way through have to all chip in.
—Pete Seeger, musician and activist, Beacon, New York

VISIT our online gallery bookstore to purchase back issues.


Meet Todd DeGarmo, Voices Acquisitions Editor
Todd DeGarmo

Todd DeGarmo is the acquisitions editor for Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore, leading an editorial team which includes Ellen McHale as executive editor, Patricia Mason as copy editor, and Laurie Longfield as Voices’ manager. Todd took over this editorship from Dr. Eileen Condon who served as acquisitions editor from 2007–2012.

Todd is the founding director of the Center for Folklife, History and Cultural Programs at the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls, NY. Todd is a former board member and past president of the New York Folklore Society. He brings a wealth of knowledge and prior experience to the position of acquisitions editor, including a knowledge of Japanese culture, Adirondack studies, tourism, and architectural studies.

Send Your Story to Voices!
Did you know that Voices publishes creative writing, including creative fiction (such as short stories), creative nonfiction (such as memoirs and life/work stories), and poetry? We also publish artistic and ethnographic photography and artwork, in addition to research-based articles on New York State folk arts and artists. If you are one of New York’s many traditional artists or working in a traditional occupation—including fishing, boat building, traditional healing, instrument making, firefighting, and nursing, to name a few—please consider sharing your life or work story with the readers of Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore. Check out our new column heading First Person, which spotlights folk artists and folk arts workers, giving creative people space in each issue to share their life stories in their own words. First Person allows people to share the reasons they have spent a lifetime supporting or recreating New York’s diverse traditions, passing them down through generations—whether it’s gardening, carving, roots music, village dancing, egg decorating, weaving, quilting, fiddling, traditional singing, basketry, ethnic foodways, traditional calligraphy, or home altar building. Email the acquisitions editor of Voices, at nyfs@nyfolklore.org.

Check our submission guidelines for authors.

Send your letter to the editor here

Folklorists are writers. We write every day: monographs and scholarly articles, field notes, festival and event brochures, exhibit texts, grant applications, final reports, press releases, proposals. In fact, I would say that time spent writing is more than fifty percent of any folklorist’s annual cycle of work. The essentials of folklore—the ethnographic material—are fundamental to a great story. As any fieldworker can attest, entering into the personal experience of another individual is expansive and illuminating. The everyday becomes novel when viewed from the viewpoint of the uninitiated. The job of the folklorist is to translate that experience to those who may not get the opportunity to go through it themselves and to help the reader to find meaning in the experience.
Ellen McHale, PhD, Executive Director, NYFS

What is Folklife?
The everyday and intimate creativity that all of us share and pass on to the next generation:

The traditional songs we sing, listen and dance to

Fairy tales, stories, ghost tales and personal histories

Riddles, proverbs, figures of speech, jokes and special ways of speaking

Our childhood games and rhymes

The way we celebrate life
  – from birthing our babies to honoring our dead

The entire range of our personal and collective beliefs
  – religious, medical, magical, and social

Our handed-down recipes and everyday mealtime traditions

The way we decorate our world
  – from patchwork patterns on our quilts to plastic flamingoes in our yards, to tattoos on our bodies

The crafts we create by hand
  – crocheted afghans, wooden spoons, cane bottoms on chairs

Patterns and traditions of work
  – from factory to office cubicle

The many creative ways we express ourselves as members of our family, our community, our geographical region, our ethnic group, our religious congregation, or our occupational group

Folklife is part of everyone’s life. It is as constant as a ballad, as changeable as fashion trends. It is as intimate as a lullaby, and as public as a parade.

In the end ... we are all folk.
American Folklife Center
Library of Congress, Washington, DC

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