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ss2015cvr-180Voices 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. 41, Fall-Winter 2015


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 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

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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