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<v Speaker>She was shoved into it and <v Speaker>uh she felt totally inadequate when she was first faced with <v Speaker>it. <v Speaker>When you were, she might say, when you were a little boy, do you <v Speaker>remember ever hearing any poem or any <v Speaker>song that had the expression The King's Fair Daughters <v Speaker>or 6 Maidens in White? <v Speaker>I was working at the time, but I was home for lunch when she came and <v Speaker>uh she made the recording by a desk record. <v Speaker>And she sat on my living room floor and my father sat in there ready to sing the song, <v Speaker>and she pulled the threads off from the record <v Speaker>as he sang. <v Speaker>I learned this from my father. <v Speaker>And was he a civil war-. <v Speaker>A civil war veteran. <v Speaker>Yes. <v Speaker>I may not be able to sing all of it.
<v Speaker>[singing] I am dying, comrads dying, <v Speaker>far away from friends and home. <v Speaker>In this rebel den I'm lying <v Speaker>[inaudible singing] all alone. <v Speaker>[singing continues in background] It's difficult to underestimate what Helen Hartnett's <v Speaker>Flanders did. Um this remarkable woman at a time <v Speaker>in 1930 when people were starting to fear that the traditional arts in <v Speaker>New England and Vermont are going to die out. <v Speaker>This woman took it upon herself to spend the next 30 years of her life <v Speaker>going through this area, collecting traditional folk songs, traditional ballads, <v Speaker>anything that she could find the traditional arts. <v Speaker>Collecting these and in the process accumulating some 9000 different items, <v Speaker>whether in collected form or in transcribed form. <v Speaker>That's some significant collection by what I think is a remarkable woman.
<v Speaker>[singing] <v Speaker>Yes. <v Speaker>I think this is a unique collection, largely because of the time <v Speaker>in which it was collected. <v Speaker>The uh the great cultural change that has taken place after World <v Speaker>War 2 had not taken place when Mrs. Landers was was actively working with <v Speaker>Miss [Almy]. And she was able to hit the <v Speaker>back edge, as it were, of a tradition that had gone on pretty much unruffled <v Speaker>for hundreds of years, both in Europe, and then moved over and adjusted itself <v Speaker>to our climate here and and continued on uninterrupted. <v Speaker>After World War Two uh the people who were singing these songs, who were <v Speaker>interested in these songs, and the value of these songs to the people began t- to <v Speaker>dissipate as the people moved away, moved into the cities, uh were overcome with <v Speaker>radio, with television, with movies and all kinds of <v Speaker>extracurricular entertainment.
<v Speaker>Uh it was in 1930 that the um Committee on Traditions and Ideals of the Vermont <v Speaker>Commission on Country Life had asked her to record these folk <v Speaker>songs or to try to find as many as she could, thinking that <v Speaker>there wouldn't be very many. <v Speaker>It was clear after that 1 year collection from which her 1st book is <v Speaker>is a result of that 1st year of collection. <v Speaker>It was clear that there were many, many, many more folk songs that existed out there. <v Speaker>From then on it was uh she took it upon her own self. <v Speaker>It was her own responsibility to go ahead and collect as many as she could find. <v Speaker>Mrs. Flanders daughter, um Elizabeth Flanders, later, Elizabeth Ballard <v Speaker>was a person who did a number of the transcriptions for the first important books, <v Speaker>publications that came out of Mrs. Flanders work and also did some collection, <v Speaker>too and in the 1930s, in the early 1940s. <v Speaker>In addition, of course, to retaining an interest in the Flanders collection up to the <v Speaker>very present. <v Speaker>There are many different types of folk
<v Speaker>songs. And I think we have <v Speaker>to go back to this time <v Speaker>when folk songs were never sung to a [guitar]. <v Speaker>And nobody would have the have the crust <v Speaker>to say they were gonna write a folk song. <v Speaker>As a musicologist, I feel that it's necessary to make a distinction between <v Speaker>a folk song and a popular song. <v Speaker>Bob Dylan or Peter, Paul and Mary or some of the other so-called folk groups <v Speaker>are groups who write popular songs. <v Speaker>It's impossible to compose a folk song. <v Speaker>A folk song is a general term, takes in child ballads, takes into play <v Speaker>party thing it takes in fiddle tunes. <v Speaker>It takes in all sorts and kinds of all sorts and kinds of things. <v Speaker>So long as it's sung, it's by the folk. It's a focus on the child ballad, however, <v Speaker>is a canon of 305 particular songs
<v Speaker>that were selected after a good deal of thought and search by Professor <v Speaker>Child at Harvard many years ago and published in 5 volumes. <v Speaker>At the beginning of the 20th century, it was discovered that these ballads <v Speaker>were not only in England and Scotland, but were in the United States as well. <v Speaker>Um the importance of Mrs. Flanders to all of this is that she's 1 of the 1st <v Speaker>of the scholars, um 1 of the 1st of the collectors <v Speaker>to find that the child ballads also existed in New England. <v Speaker>At the point that she started collecting in 1930, it was not a clear cut case <v Speaker>of the child ballads existing in Professor Child's backyard. <v Speaker>As it were, ironically enough, some of the child ballads probably are <v Speaker>familiar to you in some form or another. <v Speaker>Um Barbree Allen the story of Barbree Allen is 1 that many people know and some <v Speaker>guys or another, Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy? <v Speaker>Billy Boy is a folk tune that is probably derived
<v Speaker>from 1 of the child ballads, Robinhood Ballads. <v Speaker>There are a whole series of of ballads the child collected that have <v Speaker>to do with Robinhood, the legend of Robinhood that we know is passed down to us <v Speaker>in large extent in the child ballads. <v Speaker>Um others that possibly, you know, would be ones like Lord Bateman or Edward <v Speaker>or Farmer's [First Wife]. <v Speaker>[inaudible recording] He learned this ballad from a small boy. <v Speaker>This is recorded September 9, 1945. <v Speaker>[singing]
<v Speaker>The Flanders collection is a collection that could be <v Speaker>um 1 could talk about a number of divisions in the collection. <v Speaker>The thing that's probably most obvious to people who would w- walk into the special <v Speaker>collections room, Middlebury College Library would be the books, some very <v Speaker>old books, uh some old music books and old tune books. <v Speaker>Hymn books would be the things you probably see 1st. <v Speaker>The most important part of the collection would be found in 2 <v Speaker>things. 1 would be the field recordings that Mrs. Flanders made, <v Speaker>1st on wax cylinder recordings later on disc, <v Speaker>both acetate and aluminum and very in in the 1950s, she moved <v Speaker>to tape finally. <v Speaker>This 1st recording machine was nothing less than <v Speaker>the Edison type uh dictaphone, <v Speaker>which had cylindrical records of wax,
<v Speaker>and you could plug it into the ignition of <v Speaker>your car or carry batteries around with you if <v Speaker>the house in which you were going to record did not have <v Speaker>electricity, as many houses in those days did not. <v Speaker>Mrs. Flanders not only collected recorded ballads, but also made transcriptions <v Speaker>of those in addition to finding text and incorporating those <v Speaker>into the collection. This represents a resource that modern day folk <v Speaker>singers can use. <v Speaker>Phillips Berry told her that to <v Speaker>the uh child ballads were always the most exciting <v Speaker>discovery. <v Speaker>But there are things that happened around here that had songs <v Speaker>made about them. <v Speaker>I [inaudible] Fidrych, for instance. <v Speaker>[singing]
<v Speaker>As a matter of fact, Margaret MacArthur, the folk singer, very often comes up to the <v Speaker>Flanders collection, goes to the transcriptions, decides which 1s <v Speaker>she likes, sets them to tunes and records them or performs them around the state and <v Speaker>elsewhere. <v Speaker>The Hartford wreck was a very important wreck, not only to Vermont, but the whole <v Speaker>U.S., because after that happened, they changed the rules. <v Speaker>And the the insurance companies insisted that railroad trains <v Speaker>no longer have little coal stoves in them and swinging kerosene <v Speaker>lanterns because when the train went off onto the ice there in White River <v Speaker>on White River, I should say, it wouldn't have been such a terrible accident <v Speaker>if if these the kerosene hadn't mixed with the coal and caused a terrible fire. <v Speaker>Everyone in White River within earshot, of course, immediately went to help, but the fire <v Speaker>made it too late for a lot of people. <v Speaker>Another thing you have to understand about this era was
<v Speaker>that some of the people were dying off without <v Speaker>having transmitted these songs to their children <v Speaker>and grandchildren. <v Speaker>And the question is, why was this the 1st <v Speaker>generation not to? <v Speaker>The answer is radio. <v Speaker>The uh radio is such an exciting thing <v Speaker>for people in the early 20s <v Speaker>that uh it got to be after awhile <v Speaker>that anything that you didn't hear on radio <v Speaker>wasn't worth hearing. <v Speaker>And so the old folks got pretty <v Speaker>secretive about knowing any songs that weren't on <v Speaker>radio. And the oldest
<v Speaker>of them, my mother or George Brown, got <v Speaker>just in time. <v Speaker>Another part of her success, I'm sure, was the fact that she was <v Speaker>a very um determined person, that is she set a course <v Speaker>of action and she followed through. <v Speaker>She charmed people right and left. <v Speaker>She uh she was a very attractive person physically and uh <v Speaker>in personality. Most often people would say, oh, well, I don't have <v Speaker>anything. And she'd say, do you mind if I come <v Speaker>and uh ask some questions? <v Speaker>No. But I don't think you'll get much. <v Speaker>And then in a family of Myra Daniels <v Speaker>and Elmer George, they were brother and sister, <v Speaker>and uh they had gotten their <v Speaker>songs from the same source.
<v Speaker>But living in different towns and <v Speaker>seeing each other, not quite all the time, the songs <v Speaker>had changed in their minds. <v Speaker>[singing]
<v Speaker>The part of the collection that I'm most proud of is the um the <v Speaker>field recordings. And that to me is the treasure of the collection. <v Speaker>That it's impossible to duplicate that. <v Speaker>Um if she hadn't done that, it would be forever gone. <v Speaker>Everything else in the collection, it would be possible to get some way or another. <v Speaker>But those field recordings are unique. They're invaluable. <v Speaker>[singing]
<v Speaker>Old Dan Tucker, which is a song that was in the 1 of the first of the minstrel hits, uh <v Speaker>is a song that that surfaces a number of different times in the Flanders <v Speaker>collection. Granny Fish is um someone that <v Speaker>that sang a a large number of ballads. <v Speaker>I think Granny Fish had been someone that that uh folk collectors <v Speaker>had known about for performances before Mrs. Flanders found her. <v Speaker>She lived um in New Hampshire, is just across the river, but apparently <v Speaker>could sing for hours and hours and hours. <v Speaker>And also, as a person who loved to perform, she wasn't one of these that you had to to <v Speaker>really get loosened up before she would sing. <v Speaker>She would start singing and sing and sing and sing. [singing]
<v Speaker>She just loved the singing. <v Speaker>She loved to sing by the hour. <v Speaker>I know she did. <v Speaker>It was when I was like say teenager or in my younger <v Speaker>days. That is when it was an enjoyment to me because <v Speaker>uh we didn't have a radio till I was [finally] ready to get married. <v Speaker>We didn't even have lights in the house. <v Speaker>That was her enjoyment, too, to sing to us <v Speaker>by the hour. This is what she done. <v Speaker>And I never remember going to bed at night when she didn't sing to me. <v Speaker>I remember this [singing]. <v Speaker>There
<v Speaker>was a lot of neighbors [singing] and the thought of them was much different than they <v Speaker>[reside] very friendly and we'd so we always was <v Speaker>like a big gang was there at the house and she was always singin' to 'em. <v Speaker>But I think the way life is today, I don't know how much the growing up ones come <v Speaker>or would ever even bother. <v Speaker>Because life is much different. [singing] <v Speaker>
<v Speaker> <v Speaker> <v Speaker>This is Carrie [inaudible] and Mrs. Nelly [Denman]. <v Speaker>Uh [Burrows] sing [along] what they learned in school. <v Speaker>This was recorded for the finest ballad collection. <v Speaker>Middlebury College. Middlebury, Vermont, July 28, 1945.
<v Speaker>Children's songs, I think it's safe to say in many, many cases <v Speaker>are the last residual hang out <v Speaker>or stand out of a much more involved a much longer or much <v Speaker>more realistic song. <v Speaker>Then they have it becomes comic, the career of a ballad seems to <v Speaker>be or a folk song seems to be tragic, melodramatic, comic <v Speaker>and out and gets down to the kids and they use these things <v Speaker>to play games where they're counting out rhymes and so on and uh children's <v Speaker>songs are usually I think songs were much more serious at 1 time. <v Speaker>Some of them have overtones uh of politics <v Speaker>and uh revolution and things of this [nature]. <v Speaker>[singing]
<v Speaker>[music playing] The producers of this program would like to thank the following people <v Speaker>for their participation. <v Speaker>Beatrice Barton, Ines Barton, Ethel George Lewis, <v Speaker>Gertrude Larken Roberts and Nancy Fish Smith, all of whom are relatives <v Speaker>of the musicians who performed for Mrs. Flanders. <v Speaker>And we thank Elizabeth Flanders Ballard, Fran Byrne Flanders, Margaret <v Speaker>McArthur and Carole Moody. <v Speaker>Thanks also to Jennifer Quinn of Middlebury College for her invaluable assistance <v Speaker>in helping to choose the musical material for this program, as well as to <v Speaker>musicologist Dr. Dale Cockrell, folklorist Dr. Horace Beck <v Speaker>and Director of Public Affairs Ron Neith. <v Speaker>All of Middlebury College. <v Speaker>Remote recording engineer for this program was Sam Sanders. <v Speaker>The mixing engineer was Joshua Landis. <v Speaker>This program was produced by Dorothy Ganon and F. <v Speaker>Grimes with Research and assistance by Tony Marsteller and funds <v Speaker>provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.
A Hand-Me-Down Harvest
'Cause Life is Much Diff'r'nt
Producing Organization
Vermont Public Radio
Contributing Organization
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Episode Description
This episode discusses the work of Helen Hartness Flanders, a woman who took it upon herself to travel throughout New England and document as many traditional folk songs and ballads as she could to preserve a time in history that was being erased by the usage of radios. The program allows the listener to hear many songs that Flanders recorded. The program explains the difference between popular and traditional folk. They discuss the importance of folk songs and children's ballads.
Series Description
"The series A HAND-ME-DOWN HARVEST is a culmination of efforts begun in VPR in 1978 when it became known to us that a truly remarkable collection of folklore was archived at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt. Having only the year before been transcribed by the Library of Congress, this extraordinary collection was largely unknown even within scholarly circles and had never been widely distributed to the general public. Properly referred to as the Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection, it consists of 250 wax cylinders, 1500 discs and 55 tapes, as well as letters, field notes and photos of people interviews by Mrs. Flanders in New England, beginning in 1930 at the request of the Committee of Traditions and Ideals of the Vermont Commission on Country Life and continuing as Mrs. Flanders['] life work until her death in the 1950's. In 1979 we received a grant from the NEA for the purpose of studying the collection and producing a one-hour pilot program which was broadcast locally in 1980 and nationally as part of the NPR 'Options' series in 1981. Then, in cooperation with Vermont State Folklorist, Jane Beck of the Vermont Council on the Arts, we applied for a second grant from the NEA for the purpose of [remixing] the pilot into two half-hour programs and for the development of six new [segments] designed to test whether elements of the material collected by Mrs. Flanders were still a viable part of the social fabric today. 4,000 staff hours, 18,000 miles of travel and 74 miles of recording tape later, our production team, headed by Producer Ev Grimes, has demonstrated that the heritage documented originally by Mrs. Flanders is alive and flourishing in our region. This series combines archival and contemporary material in a rich tapestry of voices, songs, stories, beliefs and traditions. Recorded actualities effectively span 50 years. The series offers an unusual opportunity to participate in traditions which can be traced back literally hundreds of years. It echoes with ancestral voices which continue to enrich our lives today."--1984 Peabody Awards entry form
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Producing Organization: Vermont Public Radio
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Chicago: “A Hand-Me-Down Harvest; 'Cause Life is Much Diff'r'nt,” 1984, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 28, 2022,
MLA: “A Hand-Me-Down Harvest; 'Cause Life is Much Diff'r'nt.” 1984. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 28, 2022. <>.
APA: A Hand-Me-Down Harvest; 'Cause Life is Much Diff'r'nt. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from