Bill Horne Workshop on "Improbable Community" - interview

Workshop with Bill Horne at William B. Ogden Library, September 14, 2018


ZOOM0004 67:38 Bill Horne Edited JW                                                                                                            9/14/18

[Tea/Workshop with Author of Improbable Community: Camp Woodland and the American Democratic Ideal]


discussion about book discussion forum


Here's Bill Horne, author of Improbable Community.

0:00:56 Jim Haggerty

recording announcement

0:01:13 Bill Horne

I'm Bill Horne, [. . .] as I was announced, and I'm so glad that you've come here. [. . .] Ira McIntosh is going to join me for live music, and if we could start off with a Grant Rogers song, that would be great. Are you ready for that?


setting up

0:01:41 Ira McIntosh

Well, I'm happy to be here and I'm happy to see some of the folks who were here when I was here awhile ago honoring Grant Rogers. [. . .] It's a privilege for me to get to participate in [. . .] this presentation of this book. [. . .] I'm blessed to have had a chance to read it and [. . .] I couldn't stop, and I'm halfway through it again. It's really a wonderful book. [. . .] So, here we are [in] Grant Rogers' hometown, and Grant Rogers played a very important part in Camp Woodland. [. . .] What Grant Rogers song should I start with?

0:02:20 Bill Horne

Whatever inspires you.

Audience request for “Bessie the Heifer”

0:02:26 Ira McIntosh

[. . .] Grant was so well known for performing that song, and everybody loved it, that that song is just completely connected with Grant Rogers. [. . .] A lot of people around here think that he wrote that song; he didn't. He learned that song from a recording by Little Jimmy Dickens. Little Jimmy Dickens played that song on the Grand Ole Opry in the 1920s, but I grew up on a dairy farm and I had some heifers of my own, so...


music starts:  “Bessie the Heifer”


music ends


0:05:12 Bill Horne

Here's a little story to go along with that. For awhile I lived in the south and I met a fellow who played the guitar, and he sang that song, and I said, oh I know that song. He said, first of all you're the only northerner I ever met who knows "Bessie the Heifer," and secondly, when I sort of repeated what I heard, he said, well, we sing it, "in the afternoon she gives homogenized and in the evening, pasteurized." He said, southern cows are faster that way.

0:05:39 Bill Horne

[. . .] I have the cover of the book partly because the photo on the cover is [. . .] such a typical scene of what Camp Woodland was doing.



0:06:19 Bill Horne

This is a very typical picture of Camp Woodland. It's Norman Studer, in the center, meeting with a local neighbor of Camp Woodland [and] obviously talking about some nature or facts of her life as growing up on  a farm, and what it was like to live there bringing city kids here. [. . .] Norman is the translator. He's the one who grew up in a rural environment in Ohio in a Mennonite community on a farm, and [. . .] his passion was to bring these two cultures together. This is part of what [. . .] inspired Camp Woodland, so this picture represents very symbolically what Camp Woodland was about.

0:07:00 question

And where was it [. . .]? Where was Camp Woodland? Oh, you're going to tell us.

0:07:08 Bill Horne

[. . .] Camp Woodland was located 90 miles north of New York City near the village of Phoenicia along the Esopus Creek. [. . .] You can see from [. . .] this [. . .] from Google, but it's [a] topographical map. You can see the Esopus Creek on the right, the camp buildings on [the] plateau of Mount Garfield, with most of the buildings there at a higher level, some down below the Woodland Creek, and there are playing fields and various things. There's a little pond that you can see sort of in the center. That's where Camp Woodland was, and one of the things we did in Camp Woodland was when you were in the younger group you would climb over the top of the mountain and down the other side to a farm where Amasa Herdman had his farm, and he would welcome Camp Woodlanders there. [. . .] We just got to know all of our neighbors, and he would take the campers on a hay ride, and they'd bounce around in his barn on his hay. So, this gives you a setting of where Camp Woodland was.

0:08:11 Bill Horne

Now the camp, in addition to having all of these programs, it was also a normal camp where we [. . .] played baseball, went swimming,  did a lot of hiking. We went all around the Catskills [and did] all sort[s] of hiking, but the facilities at Camp Woodland were, how should I say, meager. [. . .] The camp did not have a lot of money, it just sort of managed to get by. This was the swimming pool that we had at camp, and one of the mothers when she came up on visiting day said to her daughter, you mean everyone at camp swims in that small pool? Yea, but the point was that campers were so involved with the camp, the programs were so inspiring, that the fact that the facilities were meager did not really make any difference. We just really loved being there and we accepted the [. . .] basic facilities that the camp had.

0:09:05 Bill Horne

The mountain in the background is Homer Mountain. This is on the plateau of Garfield where you're looking across the Woodland Creek and you can see just a slight clearing on the upper mid left of the photo. [. . .] That's the Simpson Memorial Ski Slope when it was still in existence as a ski slope. So, you can sort of get a sense, if you know where that ski slope is in around Phoenicia. What Norman's inspiration was, was that he wanted the [. . .] Catskill community to become part of camp and the campers to become part of the community. [. . .] That was part of this program of collecting folklore,      [. . .] going out and meeting people. [. . .] I can tell you, as a camper, it had a tremendous impact on kids to meet people from a different environment and different setting, telling about their lives, their ancestors, what passions they had for things, [. . .] where they lived. [. . .] Music conveyed a lot also because it was folk music, but a particular type of folk music that [. . .] talked about how people lived, what was important to them, and this was conveyed in this music in a very powerful way.

0:10:26 Bill Horne

I was a camper there from 1950 to 1960, so it was my second home. [. . .] Camp Woodland started in 1939 and [. . .] was always at that location. It lasted through 1962, so 24, some 23 or 24 summers. [. . .] Most of those years they had what was called a Folk Festival of the Catskills which was [. . .] an event that took place toward the end of the camp season in August when all of the campers would come together with a lot of local performers and do a program that involved a mixture of both. [. . .] Grant Rogers was a participant in that for at least 10 summers, probably 13 from 1950 onward.

0:11:12 question

Where were you from?

0:11:14 Bill Horne

I was from Queens, New York.

 0:11:17 comment

You've lost your accent.

0:11:19 question

[. . .] You came up and spent the whole summer there?

0:11:21 Bill Horne

Eight weeks. That was a time when camp was eight weeks long, July first, August twenty-sixth was always it. I received an email from a former camper recently on [. . .] August twenty-sixth saying, this is the day, and I said, yes. So, we all, we all remember.

0:11:39 Jim Haggerty

How old were you when you first came?

0:11:41 Bill Horne

I started when I was seven until 17. The camp had a junior camp that had campers as young as five and it was run by a woman, Sara Abelson, who was an educator for younger kids. [. . .] She made this such    [. . .] an accepting, warm environment that I've spoken with people who went there as five years olds--which is fairly young to be away from your home--and they remember [being] just brought in [and] bonded into the camp, and feeling like this is where home was for the summer. [. . .] I mean, it was so sensitive to what kids' needs were at that age.

0:12:19 question

How did you happen to know about it?

0:12:24 Bill Horne

My mother. The camp came from political radical circles. My mother was a political radical and my father was a businessman, so I had this tension in my family to deal with, but my mother knew about it from our family physician, pediatrician, who was a camp physician for that summer in 1950. So, I sort of got started that way and then they couldn't keep me away.

0:12:47 Bill Horne

So, we went out into the mountains [. . .] visiting people in their homes. In the early years, it was through the camp in these two wooden station wagons. They were great to ride in. They creaked all the time and you were in there with a group of eight or nine kids bouncing around, going to various locales. This was the method of meeting people. [. . .] This is a schematic map that's actually from the camp's yearbook, it's annual yearbook, from 1945 showing where the camp went for that summer, who they visited, [. . .] what was motivating them in terms of interests in history and things. [. . .] You can see the Ashokan Reservoir, Camp Woodland is in the top center near Phoenicia, and it's an insert inside of that that goes in further into the Western Catskills, in towards the [. . .] reservoir [which] was at least being built at that time, it didn't exist where we visited people in xxxx. [I'll] talk a little bit about that later, and people who are old timers who talked about rafting on the Delaware River and who are dealing with the fact that this little town was going to be under 200 feet of water in a year or two, and [. . .] how people were trying to preserve their history and their culture, and dealing with the feelings of losing that. [. . .] Camp Woodland was involved with preserving that.  This gives you a sense of where we went.

0:14:25 Bill Horne

This is Norman Studer, probably around 1960, a little bit older than when he first started camp. He's with Bessie Jones, who's one of the music teachers at Camp Woodland. She was from the Sea Islands of Georgia and brought that culture to camp as well. Camp was very inclusive. It had the Catskill Mountain culture, but it had culture from other areas and other groups as well. [. . .] Bessie Jones was one of those, so, this gives you the sense of how inclusive and how varied some of the influences of camp woodland were.

0:15:01 Bill Horne 

[. . .] The person playing the fiddle in the center of this is Grant Rogers, and this is what a Sunday meeting at camp would have looked like. [There was] a meeting every Sunday morning. The whole camp would gather. Norman Studer is in the far background, there on the left standing in front of a microphone, and Grant is playing the fiddle. He came to these meetings at least once a summer  because he would come to the folk festival [. . .] when we had that, and then he'd come to these Sunday meetings and play the fiddle and various things. [. . .] I'm going to give you a sense of what [he played]. I'm going to play for you one of the songs that he sang there sometimes. [. . .] I'll have to [. . .] cut the playing short because it's longer and I want to get through a fair amount.[. . .] Ira, [. . .] anytime you want to stand up and sing, or think you have anything to add, please. We're doing this by ear, [. . .] so please feel free  to interrupt anytime you want to and add. [. . .]

0:16:04 Ira

This is Grant singing.  [Horne plays recording of Norman Studer introducing Grant Rogers]


music starts  ["Sweet Betsy from Pike"]


music ends

0:17:48 Bill Horne

It gives you a piece of what some of the singing was, and as I mentioned, Norman [. . .] grew up on a farm in a town called Whitehouse, Ohio, a very small farming town. It had a large Mennonite population. He was [. . .] one of nine kids, I think. He had three brothers, six sisters, and for whatever reason he felt restless. He didn't feel at home or felt like he needed to go beyond that, so he did something that [. . .] is extraordinary for a Mennonite; he enlisted in the Navy during World War I. Fortunately for his family, he enlisted late enough that he didn't get any fighting in, but he was on a cargo ship that carried grain to Europe after the war was over. Because of that he then went to college at Oberlin after he came back from the war, which also is very unusual for his family. He was the only one of his nine siblings to go to college, and Oberlin is a very progressive school. He got involved in political culture there, and in 1924 the presidential election included a third party candidate, the senator from Wisconsin,  [ . . .] Robert LaFolette. [. . . ]Norman was so impressed with the speech that LaFolette gave that he started working with his campaign and visited all of the college campuses in Ohio as a LaFolette volunteer.

0:19:25 Bill Horne

So, after that, [. . .] because of his involvement in this political movement, I don't know the exact details, [. . .] he moved to New York City and was involved in a [. . .] left wing publication. [He] eventually went back to school at Columbia, finished his undergraduate degree, and studied with John Dewey at Columbia in an education program. [He] got really immersed in the John Dewey style of education which is based on education by experience, doing things, and that's part of what infused Camp Woodland's style of doing things was you learned by doing. You go out and meet people, and you do what they're doing, and you learn the skills. It was a very hands on, a very involving kind of educational experience.

0:20:10 Bill Horne

So, when he finished at Columbia [. . .] he got a job teaching at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Manhattan which was in Greenwich Village. It was a progressive school. He was there for about 10 years and became a principal of a downtown community school, which was another progressive school which he sort of led. [. . .] All of those in existence before then really gave it its direction and outlook, and he was there for 20 years plus, doing Camp Woodland at the same time. As I told his daughter, Joan, he was a busy guy. He was running a school, he was doing the camp, and doing all of this. [. . .] He never rested. He was always, always, doing something.

0:20:55 Jim Haggerty

Bill, [. . .] it wasn't political kind of camp, right?

0:20:58 Bill Horne

The camp was not political. I mean, we had people of lots of different backgrounds and lots of different opinions. [What] the camp was doing was it was racially integrated, it had people from all backgrounds there which was very unusual considering in the 1930s baseball was still segregated, so, it was a forward leader in progressive ideas and bringing people together. [. . .] The idea of bringing in all these city kids with different backgrounds, together with the traditional community in the Catskills and making this work, and people sort of learning from each other which was what we did, and it's part of the [. . .] approach of Camp Woodland which is what made it so unique.

0:21:40 Jim Haggerty

I'd say your book is pretty timely today.

0:21:41 Bill Horne

Yea, well, yea, you know, it is. I mean, that's a long discussion, no doubt, I think so.  

0:21:50 question

[. . .] The parents and the camp helped to integrate some of the bed and breakfasts and inns around…?

0:22:03 Bill Horne

Yea, what happened in the late 1940s [was] they discovered parents coming up for visiting day, a lot of the black, African American parents, couldn't stay in most of the places.  So, they developed a list; these are the places where you can stay, and by promoting this and having business go the way of some of these innkeepers, they expanded this group of two in 1950 to probably 40 by the 1960s. So, it was done in a quiet, respectful way, but bringing people along in this more open culture. [. . .]

0:22:37 comment

I thought that was a most poignant part in the book, just to hear such a peaceful way of getting people to integrate instead of protests, and I thought that was just so clever at the time for them to do that. Just make lists, and obviously [. . .] money talks, but it's not by being mean or nasty about it, just: ok.

0:23:03 Bill Horne

That was the whole style of Camp Woodland, to bring people along, to say, hey, come join us. [. . .] That was Pete Seeger who came to the camp every summer, that was his style also, not to turn people away, but to bring people on board, say, come join us. Come do this together.

[. . .]

0:23:25 comment

[. . .] I was interested that he was one of the first people that did African Studies and brought that into his educational program.

0:23:35 Bill Horne

Right in downtown community school in the Little Red Schoolhouse, [. . .] Norman was probably in his thirties and was inspired to do [. . .] African American Studies as part of the class. [. . .] The classes in this progressive school [. . .] had African Americans, and they would have their stories told as part of the class experience, and what they [. . .] experienced. [. . .] They would go to the Schaumburg Library in Harlem as one of their trips and get more information there, so, it was a way of bringing the dignity of everyone's culture together. I think [. . .] Norman['s] [. . .] idea in education was building people up to make people stronger, to give them dignity, and I think that pervades his life, Camp Woodland, and The Little Red Schoolhouse [and] his classes there.

0:24:32 Jim Haggerty

Perhaps he got some of that from his Mennonite traditions [and he didn't] totally reject it.

0:24:39 Bill Horne

No, I think he used that as a basis. It was very accepting. It was a religious tradition that valued people, and I think he just sort of generalized that in a way.

0:24:55 comment

I think it's so great that you wrote this book and gave this man credit for what he's done because he was a progressive man and did wonderful things back then, and I'm glad he's not forgotten. Thank you.

0:25:17 Bill Horne

Camp Woodland's first [meeting with] Grant Rogers, when they were scouring this part of the Catskills to learn about Boney Quillen and rafting on the Delaware, all these historical things, and they encountered Grant's mother, Ethyl Rogers, and through Ethyl they got to meet Grant . They got him involved in the    [. . .] camp and he brought his whole group of singers and fiddlers along with him. [. . .] Ira was pointing out to me that his brother [Murray] was at a folk festival, and there was another performer who came along with Grant, so it was nice to see that he brought this whole group into the camp community. [. . .] Other locals did that as well, [. . .] and we'll get to some of those, but they were so impressed with camp that they would bring their neighbors along, or get their neighbors to contribute work implements to the folk museum at Camp Woodland [which] was getting built.

0:26:10 Bill Horne

Let's do another little bit of Grant's singing, or performing. Here's one [that] was very popular at Camp Woodland. You'll hear Norman Studer talk a little bit and then you'll hear Grant perform his fiddle tune, "The Chicken Reel." [. . .] He made it sound like there was an actual chicken. There's talk in here about laying the egg. I'm not sure what he's referring to, but [. . .] you can figure it out more than I can.


recording begins: ”The Chicken Reel”


recording ends

0:27:55 Bill Horne

[. . .] Here's Grant at a folk festival. This one's on the Simpson Memorial Ski Slope, which was used from 1954 on, and they used to do it at the American Legion Hall in Chichester some of the time. They did it at [. . .] one of the meeting halls in Phoenicia one year. So, they moved around, but this was really the final home and the most, the most permanent one. [. . .] Grant is on the left with the fiddle, and Ira, let me know, [. . .] what was his brother's name?

0:28:28 Ira McIntosh

Over on the right with the guitar, that's Grant's brother, Murray Rogers, and in between, on the banjo, is Marvin Atwell. [. . .] Marvin Atwell performed with a lot of local musicians. He was tenor banjo virtuoso and he played a lot with Ernie Sager and the Coss Brothers, too.

0:28:50 Bill Horne

[. . .] To give women their due, [. . .] there's a woman [. . .] whose name I don't know back behind Grant, you can just see her holding an accordion.

0:29:03 Ira McIntosh

I don't remember her name, but the woman next to her, behind Grant, who we can't see, that's Sylvia xxxxx.

0:29:07 Bill Horne

Oh, wow, yea. See the xxx was someone who lived in the Sampsonville area who's probably the person on the cover of the book. That's my guess, given where the picture is and who you're seeing. [. . .] She talked about her life growing up on a farm and how she worked from the time of eight raising babies and bringing in crops and so forth. [. . .] She had a really strong [. . .] work ethic. [. . .] I think she had a pump outside, she didn't have running water. She really lived a basic life, but loved coming to camp and sharing her [. . .] thoughts about life and her experiences.

0:29:54 Bill Horne

Some of this [. . .] is a long excerpt. I'm going to have to play around, but I want you to hear it. Brings up a theme that I want to bring up a little later about the building of reservoirs in this area, the displacement of local residents, and the impact that it had on the Catskill community.


music starts [Recording of Norman Studer introducing Grant Rogers.  Grant sings "Down By the Railroad Track," as requested by Woodland Campers.]


music ends

0:35:28 Ira McIntosh

Should I play one of Grant's reservoir songs?

0:35:30 Bill Horne

Yea, yea, why don't you do that.

0:35:34 Ira McIntosh

I remember Grant teaching me this song, and he called it his "Second Dam Song." So, [. . .] he must have written another [. . .] Cannonsville Reservoir song, but wherever his "First Dam Song" is, I'm not familiar with. So, here's Grant's "Second Dam Song."


music starts ["Cannonsville Dam"]


music ends

0:37:56 Ira McIntosh

[. . .] That shows Grant's gift for being able to put a story [. . .] into a compelling song because of all of the, [. . .] I've collected dozens of songs over the years from the building of most of New York City's reservoirs, and that's the only one that tries to tell both sides of the story. How it was necessary [. . .] for countless thousands of people to have that water, but at the same time, Grant understood the perspective of all of his friends and neighbors that, you know, it was forcing them to scatter where some of them would never see each other anymore. Still, he was able to see and help his neighbors understand why it was important.

0:38:42 comment

I like the part in the book where the secret society met, of the men who didn't think it was such a great idea [and] went and pissed in the waters.

0:38:55 Bill Horne

[. . .] I completely understand that sentiment. [. . .] I [. . .] came to the Catskills to hike [. . .] around 2010 or so, and I was in a group with [. . .] Joe Simpson, I think was his name, who is the son of the owner of the Simpson Memorial Ski Slope, [and] he's the one who told me that story.

0:39:32 Bill Horne

This is another photo of Grant. It gives you a sense of the intensity of, the passion for playing fiddle. Grant learned his songs very early on. He started out as a really young kid, seven years old. He said they would stand them on a chair and he'd play along with the adults, even if he didn't do it as well, he would play along, and he got sort of immersed in this whole learning process as a really young kid. The best way to learn things is really early. Grant says as he developed along and wanted to become more proficient he learned from a local fiddler who was renowned to be really good, named Sherman Yorks, who [. . .] worked in the lumber camps around here. [. . .] Sherman apparently had a lost leg in a lumbering accident and had a peg leg, and the story was that, maybe it's just a folk tale, but it's a great story about [. . .] what they thought about his fiddling. What [. . .] they said when they took off his leg, they put on the peg leg, that he didn't get an anesthesia, but he played the fiddle [. . .] while they did it.

0:40:36 comment

I hope that's folklore.

0:40:40 Bill Horne

But, it's a great story. [. . .] This is [. . .] from the early 1960s. Grant and Norman's on the left, Pete Seeger's in the middle. This is Pete's Rainbow Quest TV program, where he had various folk singers come around from around the country. Grant appeared there, did this Cannonsville Dam song, did some others, and had the exposure. He also recorded some [. . .] records during this period, so he got more    [. . .] out there, more known, during this period of time.

0:41:18 Bill Horne

Pete Seeger, this was probably in his twenties here, early [. . .] on with Camp Woodland, and this is later. [. . .] Kids are taking notes and interviewing him for the camp newspaper.

0:31:36 comment

This is before he was blacklisted.

0:41:37 Bill Horne

No, this is after he was blacklisted, actually. Part of the story was, and part of it, I think, is not only did he appreciate what Camp Woodland was doing with music, and bringing people along, and recognizing [. . .] people of music, if you want to put it that way, he also, when he was blacklisted, the only job he could get was at the downtown community school where Norman was the director. So, he appreciated the fact that Norman brought him along and gave him a salary. There are stories, some Camp Woodlanders who studied banjo with Pete in New York City, he would have lessons in his house, and [. . .] he would teach them banjo and they'd pay him a quarter, a whole little group, you know, so, it wasn't just one quarter, but it was fascinating.

0:42:29 Bill Horne

One of the things that [. . .] Camp Woodland brought to this was they had, [. . .] probably around 1962, they had a counselor for the campers, and you'll hear the campers talking to Pete about him.

0:42:40 comment

He first stopped by Camp Woodland probably in his very early twenties. He was not known as a folk singer at that time. I mean, of course he sang folk songs because, you know, [. . .] his mom and dad taught them to him even from the time he was tiny, but he was traveling with some friends doing a puppet show. Stopped at Camp Woodland and did a puppet show in return for a meal and a place to stay, and at a square dance he wound up falling in love with the construction counselor's daughter, and [. . .] that was Toshi. He married Toshi and [. . .] they were together for 70 years. [. . .]

[. . .]

0:43:32 comment

They were touring the Catskills to help farmers get higher prices for their milk and he wanted to organize a boycott up there. I don't know the exact details, but he was organizing farmers back in the 1930s to do better. There was an activist between the two.

0:43:50 Bill Horne

So, this will give you another bit of history, here. [. . .] The campers [are] talking to a counselor they wanted Pete to meet.


recording starts


recording ends

0:44:09 Bill Horne

Ok, here's Hector singing to Pete Seeger.


recording starts  [“Guantanamera”]


recording ends

0:46:18 Bill Horne

Yes, and they found out later that Marti, who wrote the words to the song, actually wrote them in Haines Falls. He was up here recuperating from some illness and had come up to the Catskills, so, it has even more of a local connection.

0:46:38 Bill Horne

Ok, switching [themes now]. This is, a little bit, taking the theme of the reservoirs. [. . .] Camp Woodland was scouring this area back when reservoirs were being built, and they went into the town of Arena, which is where the Pepacton Reservoir is now, and they [. . .] would stop people on the road and [say], we're looking for people who [. . .] have memories of history and things, and they got directed to Orson Slack who lived in Arena. Now, Orson wasn't a folk singer, but was someone who brought a lot of knowledge of the local culture, and he was a rafter on the Delaware River as a [. . .] young kid in his teens. [. . .] So, he became very involved with camp. He would live there [. . .] for a few days, meet the campers, talk about his experiences, and show them how to make tools and instruction. [. . .] He became a very important figure in camp. He was a kind of patriarch, and brought this knowledge, and gentility, and this dignity that he had about his life with him that people could really absorb.

0:47:45 Bill Horne

There's a poem that he wrote, to give you a sense of his connection to the Catskills.


recording starts


recording ends

0:48:13 Bill Horne

Man of the Catskills. So, he had a carpentry shop in Arena. [. . .] This is where Camp Woodland met him, at this carpentry shop, and [. . .] all of these scenes that you'll see in the next few photos are places that are now under water. [. . .] So, they went to Slack's carpentry shop and talked to him, and learned about him, and brought him to Camp Woodland. There's a group of campers going into the shop, and they're inside and one of the campers is sitting in one of the chairs that he made. He was a carpenter. [. . .] The campers can see this from the windows of his shop, they could see the Delaware River where rafts were made back in the 1800s and early 1900s and rafted down the Delaware to [. . .] Philadelphia, to Trenton, various places where a lot of lumber was delivered from the Catskills during this time period. [. . .] He described how the rafts were made during the winter and then when the spring flushes came they would get them going. They would meet down in Hancock where the river widened and put these rafts, these smaller rafts, together into larger ones and move down the river.

0:49:31 comment

The village of Arena, where Orson Slack's shop was, is one of the few communities that were flooded by New York City's reservoirs where you could still occasionally go and walk around. When the Pepacton Reservoir drops, Arena is [. . .] pretty high, and so, the water often goes down below Arena when the reservoir gets low, and you can still see the streets, and the sidewalks, and the railroad. [. . .] The utility poles are just cut off a couple of inches above the sidewalks, and they're, you know, kind of silty, but you can still walk around in Arena. I don’t know which place was Orson Slack's shop, but I've wondered and imagined walking around Arena [. . .].

0:50:17 Bill Horne

One of the great resources [is] to talk about what it was like as a 16 year old to go rafting on these rafts down the Delaware. It was quite an adventure. [. . .] Adventuresome kids really wanted to do that, at times, but here's Orson describing a little bit of it.


recording starts 


recording ends

0:51:50 Bill Horne

This is a larger raft in the wider part of the lower Delaware. It really had quite an industry going. This went on for 50 or 75 years. [. . .] Here's Orson at camp teaching kids about some [. . .] aspect of carpentry. [. . .] The man on the left, in that chair, is George Edwards who was at camp the same time. [He was a] source of a lot of folk music. The camp liked him. The last person I want to talk about is Mike Todd who [. . .] also lived in this area, a little further down in Dry Brook near Margaretville, and he was someone that [came] along, again, by chance. Some counselors were hitchhiking and they were talking  [. . .] to the driver what camp was like, and [the driver said] there's a fellow named Mike Todd who you would really like to learn about, or meet. He knows a lot of woodcraft and so on, and they met him, and Mike became very close to camp. He lived at camp for four or five summers, a month at a time, and shared his [. . .] knowledge of woodcraft. He was a bear hunter. He had a lot of bear hunting stories, and Norton Studer wrote a poem about Mike after he died, and I think it captures a lot of what was going on at Camp Woodland.

0:53:19 Ira McIntosh

Before we hear Norton Studer's poem, there's a recording from Camp Woodland, and I haven't been able to find my copy of it in years, but fortunately [. . .] SUNY Albany has an archive of things from Camp Woodland, and I know I can get another copy of it there. Norman recorded Mike Todd at Camp Woodland telling stories about going bear hunting up the Millbrook with my grandfather, Charlie McIntosh, and, yea, I've been trying to dig it up to play it for my son, Charlie McIntosh, but I know I can always go up to SUNY Albany and get another copy.

0:53:58 Bill Horne

Here's Norman's part of Norman's poem about Mike.


recording starts


recording ends

0:55:02 Bill Horne

This is a photo of Mike Todd whose first visit to camp [was] in 1952. He's with another [. . .] local person that Camp Woodland got to know, Will Landemark, who was from the Rondout Reservoir area. [. . .] I don't know what the occasion was, but this is the earliest photo of Mike at camp. It's a very typical photo of how he was dressed, with the hat and his long sleeved shirts in the summer, I guess it keeps off the flies and protects you, then you have these long boots up to his knees that Norman referenced. Mike was a forest ranger. This is from an article about him in one of the hunting magazines. [It] shows him with his forest binoculars and the fire tower. [. . .] He was noted for being a great rock climb tourist where he toured the Catskills. So, he would come to visit him, and one of the stories he found was that someone visited him and had stayed up there in the tower around Mike for a few days, and after he left Mike said someone told him that was the president of Columbia University who was staying with you, and Mike says, boy, he knew more than God.

0:56:20 Bill Horne

Hunting dogs. Here's a little hunting story, I don't think this is one with your grandfather, but it's one when Mike was young and early on [. . .].


recording starts  [Mike Todd tells a bear story]


recording ends

0:58:33 Bill Horne

This is Mike [. . .] teaching campers various wood skills. [. . .] One last bit [about] Mike, [he] was also a player of the harmonica and bars of wooden maple sticks that he did with the harmonica. A brief play of his playing those.


recording starts  [Todd plays harmonica]


recording ends

1:00:00 Bill Horne

[. . .] The last one is a little bit more of Norman's poem about Mike.


recording starts


recording ends

1:01:14 Bill Horne

Closing song for us?

1:01:15 Ira McIntosh

I'd be glad to. I was thinking when I saw the picture of George Edwards to [. . .] sing a song that [. . .] George Edwards brought to camp. It was written by his father, but I'm thinking since we're here in Grant Rogers' hometown I may as well sing another Grant Rogers' song. [. . .] I'm going to try a song that [. . .] I believe Grant wrote after his time at Camp Woodland, or during some of his time at Camp Woodland. It's a song about Slide Mountain, the highest peak in the Catskills, and [. . .] Woodland Valley flows off of the northeast slopes of Slide Mountain. [. . .] It was a an important place for campers, you know, going on hikes there, and I'm sure Grant heard a lot about it, and so this [. . .] song really shows Grant's ability to [. . .] create a good story and set it to verse.


music starts ["Slide Mountain"]


music ends

1:05:33 Ira

Thank you once again. It's [. . .] an honor for me to be able to participate in this, and I especially want to thank Bill. It's so nice to hear that [. . .] so many people who [. . .] maybe didn't even know Norman or Camp Woodland [. . .] are finding special things in this book. [. . .] It's particularly special for me because Norman and his wife, Hannah, were [. . .] pretty important in my childhood and [. . .] I feel very lucky to have known them, and I'm sure they gave me different ways of looking at the world that I might otherwise have found, but I know them so much better since [. . .] I've been able to read this book. It's really given me a bigger perspective on them and I really appreciate it, Bill.

1:06:24 Bill Horne

[. . .] Thank you all for coming. Any questions or things you want to ask would be fine.

1:06:32 question

This was obviously a very important part of your life. (Bill: Yes.) How would you say that it affected you?

1:06:40 Bill Horne

Well, very profoundly. [. . .] I mean, [. . .] partly because [. . .] one of the reasons I became a lawyer and worked in civil rights law was because of Camp Woodland and its values, but also not only what I did, it's the way I think about the world, about bringing people together, valuing people, wanting to build people up, and its educational perspective on things. So, I think it was very profound in that effect, in values of [. . .] how to approach people [. . .] that are different from me. [. . .] I'm not alone in that. I think so many Camp Woodlanders would say the same thing.

1:07:22 Jim Haggerty

Any other questions? Well, let's give a big hand. We really enjoyed this.