The following are my editorial comments for the Summer Issue of Folklore Magazine. To subscribe to the magazine and to become a member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society, go here and complete this form. Also follow SHFS on Facebook. Cover Photo: Chalet staff – Cypress Hills Park. Cypress Hills. 27 August, 1948; Source: Everett Baker Slides.
Folklorist Kristin Catherwood’s presentation at the SHFS Annual General Meeting, held in Regina in June, jumpstarted within me a renewed, or possibly an entirely new, interest in ‘folklore’. As Catherwood demonstrated in her talk, folklore is not just made up of traditions passed down through oral storytelling. It is the jokes that we tell one another, the games that we played during recess as children, our family recipes, and the buildings in which we live and work.
As a historian, it is difficult for me to move away from a history-centric view of folklore. Folklore, to me, is those pieces of our cultural history that are alive in today’s society; those pieces that have survived time, evolved, and continue to shape our contemporary lives on a communal and personal level.
As I put together the summer issue of Folklore, I found myself particularly sensitive to the folkloric aspects of the stories and articles submitted to the magazine. One of the most tangible pieces of folklore passed down from generation to generation are antiques like those described by Ruth Lee-Knight in her new series of posts.
Another kind of tangible folklore are photographs. The moment a photograph is taken it is immediately separated from the time and place of its inception, to be viewed through the perspectives of changing sets of eyes. A family photograph is not just the facts surrounding it–the date, the objects and people pictured–but the stories that are built around it.
The photographs submitted by Peggy Durant show an aspect of Indigenous culture and folklore, the Sun Dance, from the point of view of white settlers. Durant states that the sun dance-goers were dressed in their ‘Sunday best.’ The ritual of wearing one’s best clothes to church on Sunday is a folkloric behaviour, a ritual passed down through generations.
Summer carries with it a special set of traditions. In my father’s family, summer, both past and present, is inextricably tied to our family cottage in Maine. The various stories of how my dad and his siblings used to boat out to Fish Hawk Island in Linekin Bay, the tales connected to the artwork and photographs in the cottage, the ping pong tournaments, etc. For many Saskatchewanians I have met similar memories and traditions are connected to what they lovingly call ‘the lake’ (a term they seem to use genericly to describe whichever of Saskatchewan’s thousands of lakes that they visit).
The experience and lasting memories of childhood are reoccurring themes in Folklore, and this issue is no different. Summer symbolically represents freedom and carefreeness, two ideals that we tend to associate with childhood. Both Bill Temple, in “Mission Lake Boyhood,” and Elsie Toupich, in “School’s Out, Lumsden’s In,” explore the blithesome and unhampered adventures of a youthful summer vacation, the shared experiences of which represent a folkloric component of a segment of North American culture.
Over the past year as editor of Folklore, I have greatly expanded my knowledge of and love for the province of Saskatchewan, its culture, and its history. What pieces of folklore define your experience and identity? What beliefs were passed down to you? What buildings in your community define its essence? Were you taught a set of traditional craftskills? Over the next year, I hope that all of you continue to share your stories with me and the readers of Folklore, thinking not only of traditional history, but also about the folkloric aspects of Saskatchewan culture.