Lynne Ireland, November 11, 2020

Title

Lynne Ireland, November 11, 2020

Subject

American Folk Culture
Bicentennial of the American Revolution
Cooperstown Graduate Program
Cooperstown, New York
Field trips
Fieldwork
Food
Foodways
Nebraska
The Farmers' Museum

Description

Lynne Ireland graduated from the Cooperstown Graduate Program in 1975 with her Master’s in American Folk Culture History Museum Studies. Ms. Ireland was born in Fremont, Nebraska in 1953. Before attending the Cooperstown Graduate Program, she attended Nebraska Wesleyan University from 1971 to 1974. After attending the Cooperstown Graduate Program from 1974 to 1975, she continued additional coursework at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 1977 to 1978. Among her classmates at Cooperstown, she was one of four students from the west of the Mississippi.

Among the topics we discussed, one regarded the environmental differences of living in a mountainous area filled with vegetation, and how “dark” it was compared to the open spaces and flatland of the Great Plains of Nebraska. Another topic was the lack of diversity of her graduating class at Cooperstown; but because she specifically mentioned the make-up of the class. Perhaps the most revealing part of the interview was the description of her demanding studies at the Cooperstown Graduate Program, and as difficult as she thought they were, including having to be creative and inventive for her classes, the experience was nonetheless very important. She experienced conducting research, studying, and doing fieldwork, specifically at The Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, and also the various school trips where they visited diverse historical locations that directly helped her in her focus of study.

Ms. Ireland felt that the hands-on experience of the program correlated to the cause of her success in her professional career. She chose to pursue it in Nebraska. As a professional, she directly used her knowledge and applied it to the various jobs and successfully brought with her a diverse and alternative view of the history in her community and state.

The interview occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic, and, as a result, I interviewed Ms. Ireland remotely via Zoom. Ms. Ireland was at home, in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is now retired, her latest employment being the Deputy Director at the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Creator

Antonella Mastroianni

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2020-11-11

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
61.6mB
image/jpeg
86KB

Language

en-US

Identifier

20-011

Interviewer

Antonella Mastroianni

Interviewee

Lynne Ireland

Transcription

LI = Lynne Ireland
AM = Antonella Mastroianni

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

AM:
So here we are; this is Antonella Mastroianni interviewing Ms. Lynne Ireland, remotely on the Zoom videoconference platform. Ms. Ireland is at her home in Lincoln, Nebraska and I am in Cooperstown, New York. It is Wednesday, November 11th of 2020. This interview is being conducted for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Oral History Project, which is a part of the Research and Fieldwork course. Can you state your full name for me?

LI:
Yes, my full name is Lynne Marie Ireland.

AM:
Can you start by telling me where and when did you study for your undergrad career?

LI:
I went to Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln, Nebraska and I was there from 1971 to 1974.

AM:
What did you study?

LI:
My major was French with a minor in American Studies.

AM:
When searching for graduate schools, how did you come across CGP?

LI:
Well, it’s such a different world now than it was because there was a lot heavier reliance on word of mouth and I studied with a professor at Wesleyan who taught a folklore class, Roger Welsch, and he had gone to the Folklore Institute at Indiana University and he was vaguely enthused about that program, but it was much more academic in its orientation and he knew of the Cooperstown Graduate Program as well as, I think Penn was another program that he suggested that I look at. There was a fellow student, John Carter, who also was interested in pursuing graduate studies but we both pursued the Cooperstown Program because it was regarded as the most heavily relying on experiential learning, which we were really interested in doing and it was also regarded as very competitive so it seemed like, oh gosh, this will be really great if we can get into this program and [phone vibrations] so it was based on those personal recommendations. Sorry, of course now my phone is going off, sorry.

AM:
No, you’re absolutely fine.

LI:
Nobody ever calls me. I live like a hermit but now here we are. Anyway, so I applied and was fortunate enough to be accepted. In all honesty there weren’t that sort of Internet resources available. I mean, one could go to the library and look up catalogs from institutions of higher learning. Or you could write and request information. But, in this particular case, it was definitely the world-of-mouth recommendation that prompted me to apply.

AM:
So, the deciding factor for coming to CGP was that the competitiveness of the program?

LI:
No, I would say actually it was the fact that it offered such an intense learning environment with both programs in American Folk Culture and Historical Museum Studies. At that time, the conservation program was also at Cooperstown, so it was clear that it was going to be a really unique learning environment. A very small learning environment, much smaller than the university I went to, which was not huge, I mean it was a small liberal arts school, but to go from 1500 students to 30 students is sort of a switch and clearly being in a completely different region of the country was going to be a great opportunity as well. But the fact that it was competitive and had high academic ratings and standards didn’t hurt a bit.

[TRACK 1, 04:46]

AM:
So, what was your CGP interview like?

LI:
[Laughter] Oh, my CGP interview. The joke is that both John Carter and I got in on the sympathy vote simply because we had this really remarkable trip to Cooperstown for the interview by Greyhound Bus. We had spent about 27 hours on a bus to get from Lincoln, Nebraska to Cooperstown, including some really great stops like the Chicago Bus Depot at 2:00AM. I mean, it was just, it was really, how shall we say, a learning experience? And when we got to Buffalo, we had to switch from Greyhound to some New York State carrier, and now I’m not going to be able to remember the name of the bus company but at any rate, we switched buses and somehow in the switch we got on the bus, but our luggage didn’t. So, we got to Cooperstown, finally about 10:00 o’clock at night and discovered that the only thing we had with us was the stuff that was in our backpacks and mercifully there were students who were hosting us, who loaned us toothbrushes, and you know, did that sort of thing, but the next day we both got to go to our interviews wearing the same clothing that we had worn on the bus for 27 hours. So [laughter] I think that story helped us convey in a very vivid way, sort of our interest and commitment. You know, we were willing to suffer for the opportunity, but it was of course intimidating because here was this room full of men and some of them were quite august. I mean, Louis Jones was on the committee too, and there he is with this big beard and brilliant and Bruce Buckley was the director of the program at that time and they were cordial and they were very kind, but they also asked hard questions. Mercifully, I can’t remember any of them, but I think basically what they were trying to ascertain was something about individual student interest, personality, background; because I think they were clearly in a small program, trying to ensure that they created a mix that was going to be positive for everybody and that the serial killers didn’t get in.

AM:
Do you remember what you wanted to focus on when you arrived to CGP? And did you stick with that?

LI:
Well, yeah, pretty much. It’s different now in a way because the program doesn’t have, I don’t believe, as strong an emphasis on folk and traditional culture as it did, and it’s much more oriented to museum and historical organization, aspects, and functions and that’s good. I mean I think that’s realistic, but what I was interested in was learning much more about folk and traditional cultures. I’m particularly interested in foodways, so that was a real area of interest for me. I also was interested in women’s history and particularly domestic pursuits and the role of women as economic partners because certainly, even though I didn’t grow up in rural Nebraska, Nebraska is an agricultural state primarily, and throughout its history since statehood, women have been an incredibly important but sort of unregarded part of the economic mix. Of course, the women of the tribal people who we managed to pretty effectively push out were incredibly critical parts of those households in those groups’ economic activity. You know there wasn’t much of an opportunity, I didn’t have much background in that, but I did have a sensitivity that led me to be interested in looking at women’s approaches. So, I was really pleased because for the semester projects that we got to do, we were allowed to refine and focus our interests, our requirements, along with our areas of interest. For example, I took Langdon Wright’s Colonial American History class and I said to him, well, this is an experiential program and so instead of doing an academic research paper, I’m interested in researching colonial foodways. And, for my project presentation I will cook dinner for the class using colonial recipes and he bought it. I mean he was a foodie too, so that was kind of fun. I managed somehow to pull that off. I think maybe one of the reasons I got an A in that class may have to do with the fact that I found a recipe for and concocted this totally lethal fish house punch. So, by the time the evening was over, everybody was so inebriated; it was one of those great recipes that starts off seeming sort of innocuous, I mean because the base was brewed tea, but then of course it had brandy and you know 1,001 things added to it and it was sweet, so it went down very easily and needless to say, people enjoyed it a lot. [Laughter]. That was really gratifying to be able to do that because I clearly could bang out a paper on a typewriter. I had proven that I could do that, and I wasn’t the world’s greatest academic researcher, but I could find my way around resources. But this was a different way of having to be responsible for my own learning in terms of doing the research and then figuring out how to translate that into replication of the dishes. I also, in the folk technology class, got to work on a project. I’m very interested in calligraphy. At that time, that class was based a lot on information on Diderot’s Encyclopedia, which has all of these wonderful illustrations of many of the processes and manufactories of the 18th century. Because I was interested in calligraphy, I kind of honed in on the chapters that dealt with that, and so I was able to do a project in which I essentially tried to follow the instructions in Diderot’s Encyclopedia for how to letter and that also involved cutting quills. Of course, at that point in time there weren’t steel manufactured pens and so there I was fortunate because The Farmers’ Museum had a ready supply of waterfowl so I was able to beg feathers off of people who ran the farm. Then I spent a whole lot of time trying to figure out how to use a knife well enough to carve a quill in a way that was effective in terms of holding ink and yet, depositing ink, not in big blobs; and I nearly cut my thumb off, so I mean it was [laughter] not quite, I didn’t actually have to go to the emergency room but there was this terrible sort of moment of truth when I was trying to put the finishing touches on a quill where the knife slipped and that was not a pretty picture. But, fortunately, I didn’t bleed all my final project. Both of those experiences helped inform my understanding of how to engage people with the past, and of course this was in the mid ‘70s and so the whole notion of quote unquote living history was this new shiny cool thing. There were not many open-air museums in the country at that time. The Farmers’ Museums was one of the few but the notion of figuring out how to incorporate those experiential slice of life activities for people at historic sites seemed like a way to connect visitors that hadn’t been done much. And, of course, the American Revolution Bicentennial was just around the corner. I mean, I was in Cooperstown in ’74 and ’75 and everybody was yipped up about the Bicentennial and I think the data shows that that resulted in a huge explosion of creation of historical organizations and societies and people trying to do stuff so it was certainly not something that just Cooperstown alone was doing, or that I, as a student alone, was interested in. It was part of a much broader movement to try to find ways to preserve and amplify a lot of alternate technologies or traditional technologies, rather than simply the industrial mechanical stuff that most Americans know or relied on, or that were increasingly taking over. I mean, this was way before Walmart, but even then, there was still that tension between local producers and the growing hegemony of big corporations.

[TRACK 1, 17:49]

AM:
You mentioned The Farmers’ Museum, did you spend a lot time there and if so, what did you do when you were there?

LI:
Well, I didn’t actually work there, although some of my colleagues in the class did, but we had to work on a student project to revise one of the permanent exhibits that was at that time, in the barn and it was entitled the Farmer’s Year. I don’t know if that still even exists, or if there’s anything that tries to interpret the sort of 19th-century farm experience, but it had many remarkable artifacts in it, but it also was a pretty typical and pretty static museum exhibition, and so part of what we were trying to do was figure out ways that we could enliven it and create more experiential, hands-on kinds of opportunities for visitors but also just to broaden the research. We ended up going to the library at Cornell, which has huge deep resources for agriculture and trying to find out more about what people were growing and raising and marketing and that sort of thing. It was a group project, so each one of us had to focus in an area. I spent a lot of time on butchering, which was pretty interesting, but in all honesty I’m not sure that any of the work that we did as students actually ended up on the wall anywhere. As I recall, I think we had to do sort of maybe little mockups or something saying, well here’s how this would look, but it didn’t go as far as us actually de-installing the exhibit that was there and figuring out how to do the installation on this one. But, in that whole process we got taught a lot of the, what was then, state-of-the-art exhibition technology, including doing silk screens for labels. The other thing that was a useful skill orientation in the whole program was that every project in every class had to involve a photographic component and this is back in the Pleistocene, so of course, this is with actual cameras, SLRs with film, so we had to learn how to develop both black and white and color slide film. There was a dark room in the basement of what was then called the White House. I don’t know if it’s still there or not, but that was sort of the home base for the program and with thirty people trying to juggle for space in that dark room that was sort of a challenge, and then you also were never really sure whether somebody else had screwed up the chemistry or not. There was more than one evening when blood curdling screams could be heard coming out of the dark room as somebody took the lid off the canister expecting to see a whole roll of film with wonderful images and seeing a whole roll of blanks, so that was pretty intriguing.

[TRACK 1, 22:18]

AM:
What kind of fieldwork did you do as a student, aside from this?

LI:
We did the kind of interview project that you’re doing now, but it was community based so we had to set up and do interviews with people in Otsego County. We also did a number of short fields trips where we went to farmsteads or mills or warehouses or architectural examples from the 18th and 19th century and looked at not only construction and technology but also spatial relationships and really learning how to read an environment and draw some conclusions about the culture from analyzing the sort of three-dimensional reality on the ground, so that was really useful. Then, at the end of the program, so this would have been the spring of 1975, the history museum students were going to go on a field trip and the folk culture students were going to go on an extended field trip so the folk students got together and said okay, well, where should we go? And we created this laundry list of all of the open-air museums and other places that we wanted to go, and we ended up going on this insane field trip. We rented a Winnebago which at that time, a Winnebago was sort of a new thing. So, a bunch of people rode in the Winnebago RV and then a couple of us who had cars drove our cars along, but we left Cooperstown one day and in one day drove from there to Columbus, Ohio to visit the Ohio Village and we spent four hours there and then we drove from there to Noblesville, Indiana to go to Conner Prairie and then we spent most of the next day at Conner Prairie. Of course, we all had our sleeping bags and stuff, so people were letting us sleep on floors and garages or whatever. Anyway, then we went to Conner Prairie, we drove from there in the afternoon to Bowling Green Kentucky that night. Western Kentucky University at that time had a really strong folklore program so we hung out there and they showed us a whole bunch of stuff and then we drove from there to Nashville and that night we went to the Grand Ole Opry. Then the next day we drove to Charleston, Western Virginia and stopped at Pleasant Hill, which is a Shaker museum and then we went from there to the Blue Ridge Institute at Roanoke and then we stopped the next day at Landis Valley in Pennsylvania; so we went from Roanoke to Landis Valley and we went to the Hopewell Village site, which is an archaeological site, and then we spent a whole day at Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation, which was a new, at that time, sort of experimental, just opening up open-air museum outside of Philadelphia and we got to do a whole bunch of stuff there. It’s the one time in my life I’ve tried to cut grain with a scythe, it’s like really [hard]. You have to have tremendous upper body strength to do that. Anyway, and then we drove from there, from Philadelphia, back to Cooperstown, so in like eight days we went to ten states. We left on the 27th of May and we got back on June 4th so it was like complete sensory overload but once our agenda and itinerary got communicated there was this insurrection, because some of the museum students mutinied and said we don’t want to go on the museum field trip, we want to join your field trip so it made us feel like we had put together a really remarkable opportunity, since other people were begging to be included. And, by the time we got back, people were still speaking to each other so that’s [good]. Sleeping in an RV with strangers? Maybe not the best, although, I think that was the other thing that was remarkable and unexpected about the Cooperstown experience because I expected because the program was so small to become really familiar with people, I didn’t quite have a full understanding what that meant. We all had study carrels in the library where we could sort of hang out and keep materials and do our research and pull stuff from the shelves and hopefully nobody would steal them. Anyway, we got to the point or at least I got to the point that if I was sitting in my carrel, I could tell who was walking in the aisles, by their footsteps. You get to the place where you recognize the gait or you know a certain person, wears combat boots or whatever. So that wasn’t the big surprise, but I have to say I really wasn’t expecting to get to the place where I recognized people that I couldn’t see, not only by the sound of their gait, but by their smell. But we had a number of students who had real interest in food and cooked certain kinds of food all the time. We had one colleague who wasn’t South Asian, but he loved Indian food, so he always smelled like curry and then we had another student who smoked like a chimney, tobacco, and at the time the faculty could smoke in class too, it’s just crazy how we all didn’t end up dead is beyond me, but so there was this one guy who smelled like a tobacco barn, so the minute he hit the floor you knew he was up there. And that just illustrates sort of the level of personal intensity the program offered that I certainly didn’t anticipate.

[TRACK 1, 30:25]

AM:
Could you go into a little bit about this building? Can you describe it for me and the layout?

LI:
Oh, the White House?

AM:
Yeah.

LI:
Um, yeah, because the place where we had our carrels was, at that time the library building, so that was the brick building. That’s where the interviews had taken place and all that. I don’t know whether that’s an archives now; it’s terrible to say but I haven’t been back to Cooperstown in a long time. But, the White House was a two-story or maybe two-and-a-half story, maybe there was an attic, I don’t know, frame building, big front porch, and it had been a farm house so there were two ways to get in it, you could go up the front steps to the front porch and go into the formal entrance of the house or like most farm houses life comes and goes by the back door, and there was a back door on the side that entered into kind of a mud porch area and then a big kitchen that had a big, long, I don’t know, eight foot, ten foot table in it and all the student mailboxes were there. There was a refrigerator where you could put your lunch. There was a functional stove there, it was sort of the student lounge if you will. People were always coming and going there. At the front of the house, to the left, was probably what had been the parlor, and that was actually a classroom, that was converted into a classroom, so it had some sort of seating that I don’t really recall and sort of bad lighting for audiovisual presentations. It seemed like we were always trying to tape stuff up onto the windows and stuff to get it dark enough so that people could show slides and that sort of thing. And of course, slides and just a little bit of video, but slides were the visual medium of that era. And then there was a smaller parlor on the right side of the main hallway, and it had a piano in it and some more casual furniture, and you know people would bang on the piano and sing. And then on the second floor there were the offices for the graduate program so the woman that essentially ran the program, Dottie, oh gosh now I’m not gonna be able to think about her last name, at any rate her office was up there and some of the faculty offices were up there. It had this very odd combination of domestic and academic feel to it. But very quickly it sort of came to be home away from home. It’s like where everybody, everybody, stopped in. I mean, there was a lot of gathering there and at the time I was in school, there were a lot of people in the program who were real involved in, what I guess now we would call roots music, and so there were lots of spontaneous musical performances or somebody would be sitting in the lounge, wanging on a guitar and the next thing you know somebody would drag out a banjo and people would start singing and stuff. There was always something entertaining going on.

[TRACK 1, 34:50]

AM:
Could you talk about how your time at CGP shaped your career?

LI:
Sure. I was really strongly committed to coming back to Nebraska so there were opportunities that I could have pursued for internships or employment in the East that I rejected because I wanted to come back to Nebraska. This place was not only home, but it’s a really intriguing environment. The Great Plains is not an easy place to love but it kinda gets under your skin and to be in Cooperstown actually that year was sort of challenging to me because the dark was so intense. I’m used to an environment in which of course it gets dark at night but between broad expanses of ground and clouds in the sky and stuff, there’s lots of reflective possibilities and man, I lived out in the country. I lived five miles from town in a converted hay barn that had been adapted for apartments so there were four students in the program who lived in these four sort of efficiency apartments there. Five miles on a twisty dark, dark road, but dark like I had never seen it before, because obviously you’ve got intense amounts of vegetation, even if the moon is out, you’re only going to see it in little dribs and drabs or little flickers here and there and so that was something that I didn’t expect to learn that I did; that there were variations of dark, I thought it was either dark or it was dark, but there is dark and there’s dark dark. Anyway, I wanted to come back to Nebraska. Cooperstown, in some ways gave me a bit of an advantage because I was regarded as somebody who had gone East to graduate school, you know gone somewhere else and there is always that thing if you go somewhere else then somehow you have more cachet than somebody who just sticks around. But, in terms of actually influencing my career, the Cooperstown Program’s emphasis on, well, most fundamentally on curiosity, on just saying, who did all this? How did this happen? Where did this come from? And the whole notion that the answer to those questions, the answers are not only in written sources of documentation but are in the oral tradition or in artifacts themselves. The whole notion that material culture can convey important information or can raise more questions was something that I carried with me. So, when I came back, I did a year-long internship with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, which administered nine state historical parks and my internship was designed to try to implement presentations of folk and traditional arts or crafts at those sites and a bunch of these were military sites so it certainly didn’t have the emphasis on female activity that I had hoped for, but it certainly was a different experience for the all-male superintendents of those historic sites who were basically used to cleaning out the parking lot, unlocking the doors, pointing people to the words on the wall. In some cases, maybe they gave a tour, but it was a standard you walk around with me and I’ll tell you everything I know kind of tour. So, it represented a real change for them and that wasn’t always easy or really well accepted but we had a really terrific Bicentennial Fourth of July in 1976 at one of those historic sites that was a great success and involved many, many people. The whole community got behind it and there were probably 1,000 people there, when the closest town, the biggest town is 1,000 people in the whole area, that was really terrific. So, trying to figure out how to move from the static to the dynamic in terms of historic interpretation, I think, really informed what I wanted to try to do, and then I got a job the next year with some federal funding with the Nebraska State Historical Society and also tried to do folk arts related programming there. As fate would have it, when that money ran out, interestingly enough, the organization’s interest in pursuing that kind of programming ran out and I got moved into a more traditional, curatorial, historic house kind of role but we still did what we could to try to illuminate untold stories. For the first time in the historic house, we looked at domestic servitude, for example, and talked about what hired girls’ lives were like. I have to say too that the whole experience of looking at buildings and thinking about buildings and thinking about construction is something that I carry with me, even to this day. Since I worked for the State Historical Society, I had the opportunity to go to many, many, many, many, Nebraska communities. I can’t swear I’ve been to every single one, but I’ve been to a ton. But, because of the training I received at Cooperstown those towns that previously had all looked the same to me actually were revealed in their own uniqueness. I also worked with Roger Welsch and my friend John Carter and a couple of our other friends on dismantling and moving and reconstructing a couple of log houses. I don’t know, would I have taken that on if I had never gone to Cooperstown? I don’t know. I mean, did the Cooperstown experience directly inform my ability to do that? Well, it helped me identify notches; I knew what kind of notches were holding these cabins together, so I’m grateful that at The Farmers’ Museum I was able to see people do the stuff that kind of inspired me to try to implement to enliven historical interpretation back where I lived. Wow, so how’s that for a really long rambling answer? Phew.

[TRACK 1, 44:24]

AM:
So, you kind of touched on it, but what training like what exact training would you say did CGP prepare you for with administration?

LI:
Actually, not very much. Not very much. In terms of, and that’s to Gretchen’s [Sorin] credit and to the evolution of the program too. Particularly because the Folk Culture program was more oriented to either academic research or public programming. Sort of that whole notion of okay here’s how to create a budget and here’s how to administer personnel and here’s how to implement these things was not something that really was talked about very much, and so, in all honesty most of my training related to administration was either the result of my experience working in state government, sort of doing it by the seat of my pants, or I was able to attend annual meetings of groups like AASLH [American Association for State and Local History], AAM [American Association of Museums, now the American Alliance of Museums], and then eventually went to Museum Management Institute, which is a summer administration program that was run by the Getty. I think it still exists, maybe the Getty? I think it’s called the Getty Leadership Institute, and what was remarkable about that program was that they brought in people from the Darden School, Harvard Business School, and they really did this sort of MBA from the perspective of museums kind of training. I know it’s sort of ironic because in my work teaching in the Museum Studies Graduate Program at the University of Nebraska, I taught museum administration and my colleague Hugh Genoways and I browbeat our students into doing a ton of research that we were then able to turn into a textbook and I don’t mean any disrespect to Cooperstown but that trajectory was not set for me at Cooperstown. That path unfolded for me because of the opportunities that existed for me in my home institution, and the fact that I didn’t want to move. I had kids, I didn’t want to relocate my family, you know? I mean, I think my path could have gone in a different direction, but sort of the only way to really be able to make changes and influence how an organization is going, it seems to me is if you understand how the money works and if you understand the organizational dynamics and if you’re willing to, when an opportunity presents itself, say okay, well I’m not really all that thrilled about signing off on payment vouchers but if that’s what I have to do to be able to help move this organization in the direction I think it needs to go then maybe that’s what I need to do. But I don’t know I think it’s really different for you guys now. I think you have a much much more appropriate and helpful, frankly, emphasis on that, because the fact of the matter is that anybody who works in a museum or historical organization is engaged in leadership. I mean, if you define leadership as taking action to make something happen, to make something different you know? I mean, the person who’s emptying the trash is exercising leadership in that way. But the fact that you all are coming out of that program with a whole bunch more understanding of the workings of organizations and not just the number crunching part of it but the organizational psychology and how people in groups work together and how that can be effectively marshaled in a direction that the organization wants to go and that’s just huge, and I have a great respect for y’all trying to tackle that stuff because it’s not, you know, it’s not the most dramatic, well it actually is, sometimes, it’s very dramatic, but it’s certainly not the most appealing, I’ll put it that way, it ain’t sexy.

[TRACK 1, 49:59]

AM:
You kind of mentioned this earlier, but I would love if you could go into more depth with it. How did Cooperstown shape your love of food?

LI:
Well for one thing, I just got to experience some stuff, regional food that wasn’t available to me. I mean it’s kind of hard to imagine now because anybody can get just about anything they want to eat anyplace and if they can’t they can order it and have it delivered in terms of ingredients or whatever else. But the whole fruit growing culture around Cooperstown was really different. I don’t know if the Fly Creek Cider Mill is still in existence or not, but anyway, that was a great place to go and experience something different. I don’t know if it was the bar there. Somewhere in Fly Creek there was a place that on Friday nights had steamed clams for like a buck a dozen or something and so groups of us would go out there and eat steamers and drink beer, those who drank beer drank beer, and that was certainly something sort of like, an access to fresh clams in Nebraska, non-existent now. There was Schneider’s Bakery- I don’t know if it still exists, or not- in the Fall, they would make like these apple cider donuts that were just like unbelievable. There was a liquor store in town that did wine tastings and that exposed me to an incredible variety of wine that I had not experienced here, especially New York State wines, but also stuff from California. They had different people who came in and did different stuff, but of course it was great from a graduate student’s perspective because like for a couple of bucks you could get all the cheese and crackers and five different wines or whatever. In the Spring, when the sap started to rise and people started sugaring, it seemed like there was a variety of organizations that would have fundraising pancake feeds. So, you would go to wherever and, oh boy, now I’m not going to be able to remember the name of the place, but we went to this one place every week in February. It was the local Volunteer Fire Department that was doing the fundraiser, but they were cooperating with the maple sugar, maple syrup operation so they had all of the equipment, of course, for the syrup collection and stuff was out of their big barn, so that’s where the volunteer firefighters set up their tables and their griddles and that sort of thing. But, to get to that part, you had to walk through this pathway of all of these open flat tanks where sap was being boiled down, so the whole place just was like filled with maple steam and maple flavor. There were these great big groaning plates of pancakes and sausages and cinnamon rolls and maple syrup in gallon jugs, and it was real maple syrup. It’s like holy cow, you know, not hard to get now, but I’m not sure, I’m not really sure that I ever had real maple syrup until I was twenty years old and in Cooperstown, so there was lots of region specific opportunity. And, then if we would go to any of the larger cities then of course there were ethnic groceries and stuff too, so like a huge amount of exposure to Italian stuff, for example, that I would never, like never, never had pesto before I went to Cooperstown, so yeah…no I know, I know, I know, but you know [Laughter].

[TRACK 1, 55:32]

AM:
So aside from the fundraisers and the bakery, can you tell some of the things that you and your classmates did for fun?

LI:
Oh, you mean besides drinking way too much alcohol? There were a lot of parties and as I say, a lot of people with musical talent so the parties often ended up going until the wee hours of the morning with people singing and hollering and as I say, drinking too much. At the time I was there the Tunnicliff Inn had a bar in the basement that was kind of the Cooperstown bar, I mean not all night but sort of at the end of the day sort of happy hour, and I don’t remember whether they offered happy hour specials or not, but a really high proportion of the students would go there after class and enjoy a beverage or two and somehow we were able to go back to the library and study until the library closed at 10:00 PM which I sort of don’t understand how. Now it’s sort of like gosh if I have two drinks I’m done for the night, but at any rate, people would organize fieldtrips. We had some folks who were really good at cross country skiing and snowshoeing, so they got a bunch of us who had not experienced those things, out into the woods, or in one case we went to Vermont to Sugar Bush to cross country ski. Of course, when ice fishing season hit on the [Otsego] Lake, a number of people would go visit Minor Wine Thomas, who was on the faculty then, and he had his shack that was always highly distinctive because it had a flagpole with a Confederate flag coming out of it, because he was from Virginia. Again it’s just one of those fascinating sort of glimpses backwards at how oblivious we were. I was just thinking about that today, and Minor Wine would be there and he’d have bourbon whiskey and you’d go out there and talk and maybe somebody would catch a fish, but that would only be a few students at a time. But the extent of which we were completely thoughtless you know, like everybody thought, oh isn’t that funny that Minor Wine’s got the stars and bars above it, so now we know where to go, and so I’m just sort of embarrassed to say it never occurred to any of us what that must’ve looked like to Gretchen [Sorin]. She was the one African American student in our class, you know? And you know we were just oblivious. But we laughed a lot anyway, and she did too, I mean everybody was included in these get-togethers. In kind of a surprising way. I mean it was, it was really rare for just two or four people to get together and do something, it seemed like we were kind of joined at the hip and maybe part of that is because so many of the houses where activities took place had five or six students living there anyway. Five or six people invite five or six other people and then suddenly you’ve got the whole program there. We also took advantage of other vaguely historical related activities in the region. So, for example there was a horse pulling contest that we went to where people were doing demonstrations with draft teams and that turned into quite the adventure because the keys to the car got locked in the trunk and we were seventy-five miles away from Cooperstown. That was pretty fun. Anyway, and we tried to visit museums and historic sites and think about them to. There was somebody who moved to town and created kind of an upscale bakery. This person really could bake well and so she was cranking out croissants and brioche and French bread and that sort of thing and so it became kind of a game on Sunday mornings, which is when she did her real specialty items, to figure out who could get there first, you know, to get in line, because the line literally went clear down the block. People were so thrilled at the opportunity to eat something different. Let’s see, canoeing, either on the [Otsego] Lake or on the [Susquehanna] River, hiking, lots of outdoor stuff. And actually, there was a movie theater so we would go to movies frequently, just because there were three TV channels. You couldn’t stream anything. Actually, John Carter and I, and then two other students were from the West, and the movie Jeremiah Johnson came to the movie theater with Robert Redford playing the mountain man. We went to see it one night and the four of us Westerners went to see it, and one was from Wyoming, one was from Colorado, and then the two of us from Nebraska, and we were so thrilled to see Western vistas again that we went to see that movie the next three nights in a row. I mean, it was just crazy, so by the time that week was over, I practically could recite every line from that movie. I mean, not that there’s a lot of gripping dialogue, it’s mostly about death and dismemberment and agony, and that sort of thing, but I guess that’s just illustrative of the extent to which sometimes movies were a lifesaver, a way of getting someplace else, because I think that movie hit also in February where you know the roads are bad, you can’t really go anywhere and even if you could go someplace, what could you do when you got there?

AM:
One last question if that’s okay…

LI:
Oh, sure.

[TRACK 1, 01:03:27]

AM:
Could you talk about the demographic and the dynamic of your classmates?

LI:
Sure. We had an interesting range of people in terms of age. I was twenty when the year began but I had my 21st birthday like two weeks after classes started, but I was the youngest person in the class and the oldest person, boy, I think it was John Carnahan and he might have been forty. So, there were a number of folks who had just completed their undergraduate work and then just were a real variety of people who had either done graduate work elsewhere or had worked in historical organizations or museums who were coming to Cooperstown to get its unique perspective on the world and we had extremely limited racial diversity. Gretchen was the African American student, and we had no Asian students in my class, no Native students. Boy, I’m not even sure that there was anybody who was Hispanic Latino. We had probably three or four people who had families so there were people who came with a spouse and children, maybe five or six, so that brought an interesting dynamic to the mix. We had two or three people who were maybe not practicing but were Jewish and so that brought a little bit of diversity, just because you know somebody would actually mention that it was, you know, Rosh Hashanah, or whatever. We didn’t seem to have a whole lot of people who were sort of spiritually oriented though; not a lot of church goers in the group, as I recall. Some people were descended of fairly recent immigrants to the U.S. so the girl that lived across the hall from me, she was the first-generation Portuguese, and she was from Massachusetts where people were in the fishing industry. We also had a couple of people who were, sort of, very well off, privileged and who were exotic creatures to me because they sort of represented my stereotype of what somebody of means on the East Coast of the United States would do, so. “I went to William and Mary, you know, my sister’s engaged, and the announcement has appeared in Town and Country,” you know sort of that jive. And we had a couple of people who were the first people in their families ever to get a college degree or go to graduate school, so the geographic diversity wasn’t really all that great either, like I said there were four of us from west of the Mississippi River and not many people from the South either so. Yeah, I think there was a real effort to try to connect us to stuff that was going on at Oneonta, to bring in speakers that offered different perspectives, but again, it’s a world that has opened up greatly, and I’m so glad for you all there because I’m sure you’ve got a very different make up.

AM:
Well, thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. This has been absolutely fantastic, and I really appreciate it. But yeah, so thank you.

LI:
Okay, you’re sure welcome, and sorry that I didn’t give you the short answer to anything, but it’s sort of amazing the stuff that pops in your head as you ramble along, so I appreciate your patience and hope this is of some use to you.

AM:
Absolutely, thank you so much.

LI:
And I will get the photo release to you and a headshot shortly.

AM:
Thank you… I’m going to end the recording.

Duration

01:09:34 - Track 1

Bit Rate/Frequency

117kbps

Time Summary

Track 1, 04:46 - CGP Interview
Track 1, 17:49 - The Famers' Museum
Track 1, 22:!8 - Fieldwork as a student
Track 1, 49:59 - Food

Files

Lynne Ireland Headshot.jpg

Citation

Antonella Mastroianni, “Lynne Ireland, November 11, 2020,” CGP Community Stories, accessed April 14, 2021, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/430.