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<v Speaker>This is Laura Britton of uh Putney, Vermont. <v Speaker>Now [scenes] for the Flanders ballad collection Middleburry College, Middleburry Vermont. <v Speaker>It's difficult really to appreciate what Helen Hartness Flanders did <v Speaker>when she first began collecting in 1930. <v Speaker>Few people thought that there there were more than a handful of traditional ballads <v Speaker>left in Vermont. She quite quickly came to realize <v Speaker>that there was much, much more out there than these than these few ballads. <v Speaker>In fact, uh there may be 100s, perhaps even 1000s of items of traditional <v Speaker>music, not only in Vermont after awhile, but also in others of the New England <v Speaker>states. <v Speaker>Eventually, she came to collect some 9000 different items of traditional <v Speaker>music, some of it in a recorded form and some of it in a written form. <v Speaker>That collection is the 1 which is now the Helen Hartness Flanders ballad collection. <v Speaker>It's it's unique. There's nothing like that anywhere in the United States. <v Speaker>In no place can you find a collection of that magnitude nor of that importance.
<v Speaker>[music] <v Speaker>To call it the Flanders ballad collection is in some ways inaccurate. <v Speaker>As a matter of fact, there is a great deal more in the collection than simple ballads. <v Speaker>For example, a number of fiddle tunes and <v Speaker>um Mrs. Flanders made a lot of recordings, discs, so forth, <v Speaker>of important fiddlers from Vermont. <v Speaker>Among the most significant of those would be names like Elmer Barton, [inaudible] <v Speaker>Vermont. A number of different recordings by Elmer Barton. <v Speaker>Uh, Uncle Elmer and my father used to get together.
<v Speaker>They both played fiddle, played jigs and reels. <v Speaker>And my Aunt Edith, who was my father's and my uncle <v Speaker>Elmer's sister. She played chords on the piano and back before I remember, <v Speaker>they used to play for kids and young kids. They called them up around this area. <v Speaker>It was like barn dances, something like a barn dance or something like that. <v Speaker>An' so they used to play for those up around Curtis Pond up around there. <v Speaker>Mr. Elmer Barton of [inaudible] Vermont now plays to the Flanders Ballad Collection, <v Speaker>Middlebury College, Vermont, and old fiddle tune. <v Speaker>And he doesn't know what we call the name. <v Speaker>This is recorded August 13, 1945. <v Speaker>[music playing]
<v Speaker>He used to come and visit us a lot. He and his family lived when they lived in Quechee, <v Speaker>so I say he was quite a storyteller, so he likes to tell things, ya know. <v Speaker>Talk about 'em. So us kids all kinda sat <v Speaker>around and ya know [laughs], that sort of thing. <v Speaker>He was interesting. He he had traveled quite a lot. <v Speaker>So I say he got acquainted with Mrs. Flanders because she <v Speaker>or she got in touch with him. I think because he she had heard that he did <v Speaker>play fiddle, violin. <v Speaker>So I never met her. <v Speaker>I already remember what he told us about her. <v Speaker>He told me she was a very nice person. <v Speaker>And and uh she invited him to her house <v Speaker>for dinner. I think him and maybe some others, too. <v Speaker>I don't remember that. But anyway, said she had a very nice home with a lot of <v Speaker>lots of nice furniture and things. She was very nice person. <v Speaker>And she wasn't really um she made him feel at home.
<v Speaker>But still, he was a little bit nervous about going to such an elegant dinner, <v Speaker>you know, with lots of silver and all that sort of things. <v Speaker>So he [laughs] he was quite nervous about that. <v Speaker>He said he was sure he tried to watch her to see what she did [laughs] ya know he was <v Speaker>sure he'd make some kind of a [laughs] uh faux pas that would embarrass <v Speaker>him. But I don't think he did. [music plays] <v Speaker>[inaudible] Oh, I did that. <v Speaker>Oh, it's [inaudible].
<v Speaker>Did I really play that? <v Speaker>[inaudible] He plays awful fast. <v Speaker>And and there while on the violin [inaudible]. <v Speaker> <v Speaker>They say they've played their fill. <v Speaker>Real fast music. <v Speaker>Haven't played too many slow pieces. <v Speaker>[laughing] That was another thing they like my father, you say you like to make the <v Speaker>violin talk [laughing]. [music continues]
<v Speaker>Mr. Titus now is going to sing. <v Speaker>Jones' [inaudible]. <v Speaker>A [inaudible] is [our] neighbors of years ago used <v Speaker>to congregate at some particular farmhouse and [inaudible], <v Speaker>they would be some [parren] with [parren] machines. <v Speaker>Others would be parren with knives. <v Speaker>Others would be stringin' with a twine string and a [inaudbile] needle. <v Speaker>And uh then they'd hang the apples up to dry. <v Speaker>That was what we used to call a [parren bee]. [singing]
<v Speaker>Folk songs can serve a number of different functions. <v Speaker>Uh 1 of the most important functions I think they can serve is an educational 1. <v Speaker>Before the days of television, before th- the time the newspapers were readily <v Speaker>available to everyone. Folk songs, folk ballads probably <v Speaker>uh helped people determine how they were going to live their lives. <v Speaker>It's a nice, painless way to to build behavior patterns <v Speaker>and er to teach behavior patterns. <v Speaker>You can have a folk ballad that's about murder. <v Speaker>Killing one's brothers. And inevitably, the person who kills one's <v Speaker>brothers comes in for an ill end zone and <v Speaker>a very young child learning that is going to somehow soak up the <v Speaker>um the sense that this is not something that 1 does on and on and on. <v Speaker>It's a teaching device to very large extent. <v Speaker>[singing]
<v Speaker>Very few of the 200 songs that Granny Fish sang were Helen Hartness <v Speaker>Flanders were sacred songs. <v Speaker>But another singer, Tom Armstrong, had forsaken worldly songs, <v Speaker>he hadn't sung a worldly song for over 40 years, so he contributed a good many <v Speaker>religious songs to the collection at Middlebury. <v Speaker>Mrs. Flanders heard him singing on the Springfield radio station, singing <v Speaker>religious songs unaccompanied in the manner of the folk, and she <v Speaker>followed through to find that he was visiting his sister, Mrs. Wilson, in Springfield. <v Speaker>She went over to Mrs. Wilson's house and he sang for her <v Speaker>along with his sister. <v Speaker>Several songs, including the duet, very beautiful duet, Brightest and Best, <v Speaker>which was uh a shape note song sung by the <v Speaker>and taught by the early singing masters here in New England.
<v Speaker>[singing]
<v Speaker> <v Speaker>Hymns and sacred music. <v Speaker>Music of this sort. Music that was captured by Mrs. <v Speaker>Flanders and the collection is still being performed. <v Speaker>This is music still very much alive, we suspect, although <v Speaker>we don't really know. But we suspect that many of the ballads that Mrs. Flanders <v Speaker>found are no longer being performed by the folk. <v Speaker>That that generation has died out. And it seems that they probably didn't pass <v Speaker>these treasures on to the next generation. <v Speaker>There are a number of different sorts of music that's in the Flanders <v Speaker>collection that still is very much in the oral tradition. <v Speaker>I think 1st of all, probably of fiddling tunes and country dances and so <v Speaker>forth. Uh as an example, Ed Larkin <v Speaker>did a number of performances for the Flanders Collection in the 1930s in the 1st decade <v Speaker>of collection. Ed Larkin passed on to
<v Speaker>his sons and daughters, a love for fiddling, contra dancing <v Speaker>and so forth. If 1 were to attend the Tonbridge Fair or Celebration <v Speaker>Northeast at Dartmouth or a number of other festivals and celebrations <v Speaker>of the traditional arts in New England, 1 very possibly would have a chance <v Speaker>to see the Ed Larkin dancers performing the old dances, the old contra dances. <v Speaker>Among those performers would be Gertrude Roberts. <v Speaker>Ed Larkin's daughter lives in Chelsea, Vermont. <v Speaker>Still interested, still involved in the performing institutional arts, Vermont. <v Speaker>The- the contra dances are the forerunners of the square dance. <v Speaker>They were the 1s that came over from the mother country, Europe particular. <v Speaker>Although there were some added to them <v Speaker>uh when they got here, like uh Boston Fancy, you know, that relates to Boston, <v Speaker>Massachusetts. <v Speaker>But uh a lot of the tunes were originated in the mother country
<v Speaker>and brought here. <v Speaker>Contra means the women on 1 side and the men on the other facing each other. <v Speaker>And then what they call now the square dances. <v Speaker>In olden times, we'll call the c- drills. <v Speaker>They formed on 4 couples in the set. <v Speaker>Just the same. But the changes are different. <v Speaker>Uh there's not as much turning, there's not as much pushing. <v Speaker>It's done more graceful. [music plays] <v Speaker>And they used to have what they called kitchen ?junkets?
<v Speaker>And they'd be held in different people's homes. <v Speaker>And he played, called the changes, managed <v Speaker>to ?slow? ?all along?. <v Speaker>He didn't sing the changes, but he rang them out down through the hall. <v Speaker>And 1 time when I made a change just a little bit too quick, he sashayed the center. <v Speaker>He rung my name out down through the hall [laughs]. <v Speaker>But he'd play for all probably 3 [pause] <v Speaker>con- uh these contra dancers and they called him Kitchen ?Junkets? <v Speaker>at homes a week. <v Speaker>He owned a small farm. <v Speaker>He had a saw mill, ?inaudible? A jack of quite a lot of trades, <v Speaker>but his music stuck with him above all. <v Speaker>He'd have to go to some of these dances and be in a hurry. <v Speaker>Gotta get his cows milked and get to that dance and he'd say to me, Gertrude, <v Speaker>you have that washtub ready back on the farm ya know, they didn't have these ?inaudible? <v Speaker>tubs [laughs]. He says, you have that washtub ready my water in it, my
<v Speaker>soap, my clothes all laid out [laughs] when I come in from the barn so <v Speaker>I can get ready and get to that dance. <v Speaker>And I always hadda tie his necktie. [music plays]
<v Speaker>Ah I remember 1 time he used to like to have me go to the dances with him <v Speaker>because we had to drive the sleigh in the wintertime. <v Speaker>There was no automobile at this time. <v Speaker>We were headed for north Randolph to play for a dance and we <v Speaker>left uh real early 'cause we had to be there by I don't have ?that? <v Speaker>date. Maybe 9. <v Speaker>And it was in the winter time and it was drifted terrible on the roads, <v Speaker>but to prepare for the trip, you take the old fashion free stones <v Speaker>and put onto the stove and heat them all through during the day. <v Speaker>And then you'd wrap them up in newspapers and you'd have those at your feet <v Speaker>and 1 in your lap for your hands. <v Speaker>And then you'd have uh lap rope over your knees and down <v Speaker>under the lap rope we had uh ol' lantern and that lantern <v Speaker>would be turned down low, but it would still give off heat <v Speaker>for ya.
<v Speaker>And we were going over the hill to East Randolph and it was drifted so bad <v Speaker>we had to go out into the field and we got out in the field and something caught <v Speaker>the runner on the sleigh and dumped us, ?free stones?, lantern, and all right <v Speaker>out into the snow. <v Speaker>Well we picked up our things and got back into it, started on, <v Speaker>got dumped out again. <v Speaker>We finally made it over North Randolph. <v Speaker>He played for the dance and then coming home, he always wanted me to drive the horse <v Speaker>because he needed to sleep. <v Speaker>We finally got back down onto 110 route 110 <v Speaker>and uh found where we turned. It was Harry Flynt's ?farm? <v Speaker>and they were out to the barn doing their chores. <v Speaker>And it was 7:00 in the morning when we arrived there. <v Speaker>We got home. Dad did his chores. <v Speaker>Went to bed. I went to bed. I didn't get up to 4:00 that afternoon. <v Speaker>That was just 1 experience. [music plays]
<v Speaker>Uh this is uh. <v Speaker>What is your first name? <v Speaker>This is <v Speaker>?inaudible? of ?inaudible? Vermont. Now sings for the Flanders ballad collection in <v Speaker>Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont, a ballad called Mary of the Wild Moore <v Speaker>?inaudible? <v Speaker>To my mind the most important <v Speaker>thing she did was to be on the spot at a time <v Speaker>when these things were dying out and was successful in uh <v Speaker>getting so many of them. <v Speaker>Mrs. Flanders was, 1st of all, foremost and above everything, a remarkable <v Speaker>person. <v Speaker>I was in 1930 that the um Committee on Traditions and Ideals of the <v Speaker>Vermont Commission on Country Life had asked her to record <v Speaker>these folk songs or to try to find as many as she could thinking <v Speaker>that there wouldn't be very many.
<v Speaker>It was clear after that 1 year of collection from which her 1st book, is is <v Speaker>a result of that 1st year of collection. It was clear that there were many, many, many <v Speaker>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>I think she was remarkable for her tenacity. <v Speaker>Um she must have been a highly, highly disciplined person, <v Speaker>a person who had a vision of something and was going to <v Speaker>do it and did it in the best New England tradition. <v Speaker>She and this is a bit more difficult for me to get a hol- a handle on, but she must have <v Speaker>been a person who is also quite charming and personable. <v Speaker>In listening to the tapes once again, she gets remarkable things out of out of her <v Speaker>consultants. And if you can imagine, put yourself in a situation <v Speaker>of of going up to a farmhouse or going up to a house somewhere in the hills <v Speaker>of Vermont, knocking on their front door and within an hour getting them to sing
<v Speaker>songs that they've never sung for foreigners before fo- for anyone outside of their <v Speaker>immediate family. That's a fairly remarkable talent and it's <v Speaker>1 that she seemed to have in spades. <v Speaker>Um, she also had a keen sensitivity for the words. <v Speaker>She was a published poet, published several volumes of poetry in her life. <v Speaker>And because of that. And since folk ballads basically are poetry, she seems to have been <v Speaker>able to recognize what was particularly valuable, particularly beautiful. <v Speaker>All of these things taken together, um make for a remarkable <v Speaker>collector. And that's precisely what she was. <v Speaker>Maybe 1 of the most remarkable collectors in the United States ever of materials <v Speaker>like these. <v Speaker>Learned it of a schoolteacher. [different speaker]: ?inaudible? <v Speaker>?inaudible? Go ahead, John. <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 Burne 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
Down't Jones's Parin' Bee
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 program continues to discuss the collections of Helen Hartness Flanders. Despite being referred to as a collection of ballads, the collection has other genres of folk music as well. They discuss fiddle tunes by Elmer Barton that appear within the collection. They also discuss the purpose of folk music, which they argue was a tool for education. Then, they discuss contra and square dancing from that time period. Gertrude Roberts talks about her father Ed Larkin and his contributions to that scene.
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; Down't Jones's Parin' Bee,” 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; Down't Jones's Parin' Bee.” 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; Down't Jones's Parin' Bee. 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