OCT 1993 INTERVIEW
(Interview funded by a grant from the Vermont Folklife Center)
INTERVIEWER: So what was your father’s occupation?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, when I was – first of my recollection – we had a little farm. I was born in Orwell. We moved away from there when I was six, I think. We had a little farm – I don’t remember the name of the road it was on. It was out past the Sunset Lake Road, down on the old Reynolds’ farm. And he had about six or seven milkers. And, of course, back then you could almost live on the income of six-seven cows, which is a lot different than it is today. And he also always was a lumberjack. So he’d get his chores done and cut, you know, and he’d go cut four-foot wood for neighbors and different people.
INTERVIEWER: Cut right around that area, then?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, well, within walking or buggy distance because we never had a car back then. And, of course, my father, I never can recall life without the sound of a fiddle because Dad was a fiddle player and he helped supplement our income by playin’ for dances, too.
INTERVIEWER: Did you know Cecil Bartholomew. Maybe his first name isn’t Cecil – in Benson. And he ran a sawmill, and he’s still alive. He could be 90.
ROLAND SWINTON: Is he a fiddle player?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I’ll bet Dad knew him, you know, when we lived in Orwell. As I said, we moved away from Orwell when I was about six. We came to New York state and Dad found employment over here in the lumber woods.
INTERVIEWER: Did you move here to Chilson?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, the first move we made was into Pottersville. That’s where I started school. And we moved several different times – all within a 50-mile radius right here, you know, wherever the work was Dad had.
INTERVIEWER: Were the lumber camps still going or was he just working for them?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, he never….well, he did. He stayed on the Boris. That was in later years. I was in my teens then. And they had a big lumber camp in there.
INTERVIEWER: Where’s that?
ROLAND SWINTON: On the Boris – I can’t remember the name. I think it was Vinchaprine[?], and they had this huge lumber camp where they’d cut pulp all winter, you know, and they’d stockpile it on the Boris River. And the water got high in the Spring, that’s back when they used to river drive. Of course, the water would get high enough, and they’d break this wood loose, it floated clear to their destination, you know?
INTERVIEWER: So was he involved in the driving?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, no. He was in the woods, lumberin’.
INTERVIEWER: It was early chainsaw type stuff, or what did they use.
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I would say that’s just about the birth of the chainsaw, yeah. ‘Cause I know they were still cutting the cross cuts and bushmens back then.
INTERVIEWER: I can remember some of those – well, seeing photographs of some of those first chainsaws – they were huge.
ROLAND SWINTON: Of course, when I got to be in my teens and go into the woods with Dad, I remember the first chainsaw we got was a two-man mall – beautiful saw but it weighed 112 pounds. Two-man saw, boy, it would cut.
INTERVIEWER: See any of those around any more?
ROLAND SWINTON: No – just in the antique shows or somethin’.
INTERVIEWER: I’ve never seen any, you know, in person…that would be something to see some of those things. So, did he play – when he was at these lumber camps….
ROLAND SWINTON: I don’t recall. I think probably he might’ve took his fiddle in, because they had no entertainment in there unless, you know, somebody’d sing or play guitar, fiddle maybe. Yeah, I think he did, if I think back right.
INTERVIEWER: The jobs that he played – say, when you were over in Orwell, were they mostly square dances at Grange Halls?
ROLAND SWINTON: All, yeah – down in the, I think it was Orwell, maybe the school. I don’t know. Town Hall, maybe, Saturday nights. Mother played piano. Back them we had one of those pump organs, you know, at home. And I can remember, you know, them sitting down before they’d go to the dance, practicin’. But, you know, back then, INTERVIEWER, there was a lot of harmony in the world back then because they used to have what they call kitchen hops. A lot of those. Of course, they were scattered about the neighborhood, you know. They’d be at the Burkes one night and at the Downeys another night, you know, and even down home. But most of your old farmhouses back then, you had – they were constructed different than your northern homes and your cottages today. They had, you know, maybe two or three rooms with just archways. One would be a parlor, a livin’ room, and they’d clean all that furniture out and you had quite a dance hall, you know?
INTERVIEWER: They were more connected.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. Be able to get three or four set in a farmhouse playin’ and dancin’. Well, those were beautiful days. You know, the children weren’t left out. They’d take one of the bedrooms and of course, they’d put a little cloth across the big bed in case of an accident, you know. And we’d sleep right cross ways the bed and there might be ten of us on that bed, you know, hearin’ that music. And finally we’d all go to sleep.
INTERVIEWER: But did you participate – when can you remember, at any age did you start participating in the dances at all? Did you guys dance?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I started square dancing – I remember the first time I ever square danced, my Aunt Neland, that’s Dad’s oldest brother’s wife. She got me on the dance floor I remember just like it was last night, you know? How nervous I was, you know, but after I got a taste of it, that was beautiful – square dancin’.
INTERVIEWER: When your father went off to play, did he have – what was the band, just your mother?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, usually just the organ, the fiddle and somebody callin’. There was a young – well, I say young – he’s dead and gone now – but in comparison to Dad’s age, he was probably, oh, 10-15 years his junior, you know? And his name was Buster, ah, well, I was goin’ to tell you – Frasier, Buster Frasier. He lived right down in Orwell. He played a five-string banjo. And he called. So I think the three of those were the main….
INTERVIEWER: That was the band.
ROLAND SWINTON: …the backbone of the band, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Who – would organizations hire them or was it like just – would they set up the dance themselves?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I think…
INTERVIEWER: ….like rent the hall?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, the townspeople, I think, you know, like maybe the Orwell Chamber of Commerce if they had one or somethin’ back then would get these dances goin’. The Grange, of course they had Grange back then, too. But I really don’t ever recall my father getting involved in dance hall jobs, you know, until – well, of course, Prohibition broke and they started havin’ dances at places that sold alcohol. The boosted the morale quite a lot of dancing, you know? And Dad played a lot of that in later years – most of his playing was at big dance halls.
INTERVIEWER: When he did get to that stage, when he did play at the dance halls, were they mostly square dances?
ROLAND SWINTON: Um-hum, generally. They had, of course, back then juke boxes – it was the birth of the juke box, too – and for round dancing, they’d take intermission and put the Nickolodeon on, you know, and if they wanted to round dance, they’d dance to that. But Dad was strictly an old-time fiddler.
INTERVIEWER: What kind of – what were some of the – did they have square dances and did they do circle dances, or was there just square dances? Were there a variety of dances that they did?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, no, Dad – type of dances he played for were mostly what we call square dance, although they did have, which would be considered in the line of line dance is your Virginia Reel. I remember them dancing….I remember the three tunes Dad used to play, you know, for the makeup music for that Virginia Reel.
INTERVIEWER: He did like a medley of three tunes.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, he played that. His first one was Irish Wash Woman for the take off. And then for the reel he’d play White Cockade. And then when they went into the march, he played, which I don’t know the name of the march, but it goes dah-dah-dah-dah, you know? Tramp, Tramp, I always called it. There’s a name for it. So he used to run those three and come back into the Irish Wash Woman to lead again, you know?
INTERVIEWER: And waltzes? Did they do waltzes?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, Dad could play a few. Played Over the Waves, did a nice job on that. And some of the older type – Black Velvet, maybe. I think he played that one. He didn’t play a numeral amount of them and neither do I. I’m not a waltz man.
INTERVIEWER: How about polkas? Did they do polkas at those things?
ROLAND SWINTON: I don’t recall as Dad played many polkas.
INTERVIEWER: It was mostly square dances and a few waltzes thrown in.
ROLAND SWINTON: That’s about the size of it.
INTERVIEWER: And what else? Any refreshments? Any – at the Grange type thing – was it like a potluck situation?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, you’re testin’ my memory pretty well. I don’t – I assume, yeah, probably – especially maybe in the fall they had cider and doughnuts and what-have-ya, but I was pretty young, you know, to remember. I remember the music well enough. One thing I was tellin’ somebody the other day, they used to play right through daylight, you know.
INTERVIEWER: At some of the dances?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. At some of the neighbors’ kitchen hops, you know? I don’t know, I can’t explain how I felt, you know, my brother – he was three and a half years older than I was - but we had a big buffalo robe and the cutter, you know, in the winter time. It had a linin’ in there and it was just as warm as toast. Dad would go up and get that all set up for us and we’d go out and get into the cutter and in the mornin’ the sun would be comin’ up. They’d dance all night long. Hear that squeak of those runners on the snow and what have you – the horse trottin’ along, you know? Beautiful – beautiful era, you know? …Same with the old horse and buggy in the summer, you know? Great.
INTERVIEWER: So did the fiddle go under the buffalo robe?
ROLAND SWINTON: I imagine probably that was pretty well protected. Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: When he came over to this side of the lake, did he link up with people to play music with?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I recall some kitchen hops on this side and he met, you know, new musicians, yeah. My Uncle Lester and my Uncle Wallace – that’s my mother’s two brothers, younger brothers – my Uncle Lester’s still living – and he played, still plays. a nice guitar. Uncle Wally played a five-string. So for a time they had a band. There was Dad and his two brother-in-laws, and they had a fellow from Adirondack doing the calling. His name was Dee Cordaway – very good caller. And they used to play at Loon Lake Pavilion. It set right over the lake on piers. I remember them playin’ there.
INTERVIEWER: Loon Lake below Pottersville?
ROLAND SWINTON: I was about, oh, eight then I guess, ten, a couple year after we moved over here.
INTERVIEWER: Was there quite a bit of summer business for your father in that line of work – square dance stuff?
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, I don’t – he played the year-round, so I think it was incorporated with, you know, the local people and summer people. Of course, they had – about a mile beyond there – they had a big summer resort they called Loon Lake Colony. And back then, instead of havin’ hotels, they had a lot of cabins, you know, out through the woods. And they had it on weekend. There, of course, they had good name bands, you know – grass bands and what-have-ya’ for dancin’.
INTERVIEWER: Like swing bands or big, big band type stuff?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. But that didn’t infringe on the square dancin’ that much.
INTERVIEWER: Did they play over at any of those – speaking of all the resorts, I mean, there was a lot of them back then
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, yeah, a pile of ‘em, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Did they hire bands like that?
ROLAND SWINTON: Let’s see. I was only about eight. I couldn’t truthfully say that he played a lot with that type of…mostly it was for the local, you know, restaurants and whatever – dance halls that they had.
INTERVIEWER: How far did he venture out? I mean, from home to play a job – his radius?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, it was…back then, INTERVIEWER, it’s not like today because I remember, even right here, when after I was married that on a Saturday night, if you wanted a variety of square dancin’ you could go to four or five different square dances before closin’ time, you know? Dance a couple sets at each one. We had a lot of square dancin’ back then but that was the year just before Elvis Presley. He’s the one that did it! He was an artist in his own but….boy, I’ll tell ya’, he took the young people. They forgot all about square dancin’.
INTERVIEWER: So it was more of a, like when your father played at a square dance, it would be, say, people in their twenties, early twenties, up to – say, in a bar room type situation, it would be like people in their twenties all the way up to….
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, sure.
INTERVIEWER: ….yeah, it would be a really wide spectrum of age there.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. Of course, back then – I don’t think it was much different than it is today – I think the drinkin’ age then was 21 so…At most places, they weren’t as strict as…for, you know, teenagers being exposed to….’cause I used to go with my parents, you know, share some cream soda and what-have-ya’.
INTERVIEWER: And go to the dance.
ROLAND SWINTON: And go to the dance. Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: That’s funny because nowdays, you know, there’s no – they used to do it at the Stony Creek Inn. But there’s not a place that I know of that you can go and square dance where they serve, you know…in a bar room type situation, there really isn’t.
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, actually, that’s about the only….they still square dance down there.
INTERVIEWER: Do they?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, yeah. That’s the only area that I know that is striving to keep square dance music alive. Of course, I belong to, you know, the Champlain Valley Fiddlers and I belong to the Adirondack Fiddler Association, and they’re promoting, you know, because every one of the meetings we have a little session of square dancin’. Different fiddlers get up, different callers. So we’re tryin’ to keep it alive, you know?
INTERVIEWER: Did your father go back over to Vermont once you moved over here, and played over there?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, not to my knowledge. He worked back over there for a while but we never moved back. In fact, Dad was – during his era of working, he was a great apple man, too, you know? He worked….in fact, I was born at Genani’s Orchard right there in Orwell, which was the biggest orchard I think around at that time. And he was foreman, you know, orchard keeper. In fact there’s some trees over there today that he planted. Still up on the mountain there, on the side hill, yeah. ‘Cause he planted that whole south orchard and of course, they’re old, old trees today, but….And then he went back over, as I say, I guess I was in my early teens and every fall he was foreman for LaPine in Shoreham. So he’d break away from his lumbering, you know, every fall.
INTERVIEWER: So what years was that, when you were in your teens, you say?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, that would’ve been back in – from forty….oh, I think Dad was 13 years there at LaPines, so probably from ’40 through early 50′s, you know. He was foreman there.
INTERVIEWER: Where’s that orchard in Orwell that you’re talking about?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, you go – as you get off Route 22A – and going to Orwell Village, you go right through by the store, you take your second right past the store. Don’t know the name of the street. I think you go up by the church. I think there’s a Catholic church up there. Go right on over the little hill, out across the flats, and the first big place you come to is a big red brick building. That used to be Genani’s Orchard. It’s changed hands – I don’t know, probably a half dozen times since then. It was Atwoods, and it went by the name of Crescent Orchards for a while. Well, I was born right in that end – the corner window towards the road – the room I was born in.
INTERVIEWER: Was it a midwife?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. All Mom’s kids were born at home. She had four boys and two of us made it. One was stillborn and the other one only lived – he was born in New York state, though. That was the oldest. That would’ve been Grant, Jr. but he had a heart condition.
INTERVIEWER: So how many kids survived?
ROLAND SWINTON: Just my brother and I.
INTERVIEWER: Just two?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. And he was quite a musician. He played a nice guitar. He had a bad car accident and messed his arm all up. Used to play a good fiddle. But after that, he couldn’t get his arm up to hold the fiddle. Used to play it on his knee, inside out.
INTERVIEWER: He played the mandolin, too?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, he plucked on that, and played a little steel.
INTERVIEWER: Was he older than you?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, three and a half.
INTERVIEWER: When did you start? How did you start?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, we were living in Loon Lake at the time. I remember that and Dad had specifically told me, of course, he was, you know, workin’ for….he didn’t have much time to really set down and tell me the important things about a fiddle. And he didn’t want me injurin’ his fiddle because it was part of his livelihood. I got on the good side of Mom, you know, and she’d say, “Well, now you put that right back just the way you found it,” you know? And I would. And I’d sit on the edge of the bed – she wouldn’t let me carry the fiddle around or anything – and I got to where I could fiddle Old Black Joe. That was the first tune I ever played. And, tryin’ to think of the names of the others….I got about three tunes that I played pretty good, you know? And it went on like this for quite a while, and what-have-you, and one night, Dad went in to take his fiddle over and check it over. It was on a Saturday night before he went to the dance, you know? Boy, I heard him beller, and I said, “Uh-oh, there’s somethin’ wrong.” I forgot to let the bow down. And Dad knew he always let that bow down. So he hollered to Mom, he said, “Who’s been in – who’s had my fiddle,” or somethin’ like that. “What are you talkin’ about?” And he said, “This bow is strung up.” I had to string it right up real tight, of course. So I didn’t want Mom to get in trouble so I took the…well, he was pretty mad but, I think it was the next day – he didn’t say anything that night – but the next day he said, “How long you been foolin’ with the fiddle,” or somethin’ like that. I said, “I gotta be honest with ya,” I said, “I’ve been tryin’ to play a tune or two,” I said, “I got Old Black Joe so you could recognize it,” or somethin’ like that. Finally he looked at me and he said, “Let me hear it.” And from that day on, you know, he saw that I had the interest. He took time to teach me how to care for a violin.
INTERVIEWER: How old were you then?
ROLAND SWINTON: I guess I was about ten – nine or ten.
INTERVIEWER: That’s a common – what you say about one fiddle and the kid trying to get the fiddle – or not being able to have the fiddle. That’s a….because it was the only one, or whatever. I’ve heard that.
ROLAND SWINTON: You know, the valuation of a fiddle, I think, surpasses ten to one, back in those days compared to today because you can pick up, you know, old fiddles and fix ‘em up today. But they just weren’t around back then. There wasn’t that many. If you run across a fiddle that was half way decent, now a man could get his price for it. They weren’t near as many circulated, you know?
INTERVIEWER: So you started playing and then your father helped you. He started teaching you…
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, yeah. He never really taught me an awful lot because everybody, as you know, has got their own style and regardless of how hard you try, you know, it’s an awful thing to use the word `envy-ism,’ but, you know, there’s fiddlers out there that – I’m tellin’ ya – like ol’ Kenny Baker and what-have-ya’ – I’d never, never begin to master some stuff that he does. I just envy him being able to do that so easy, ya know? But Dad, he more or less taught me – he was never….he learned, you know, through strictly by ear – trial and error. So he didn’t know the proper way to hold a violin, didn’t know the proper way to hold a bow. But I guess he more or less let me know whatever was comfortable to go with it, you know? And Dad had just an old-time way of playin’ a fiddle. There was no pose or anything.
INTERVIEWER: Just good old-time fiddlin’.
ROLAND SWINTON: Just old-time fiddlin’ yeah. He wrapped his [---?] which you’re not supposed to do and all that stuff – same as I do.
INTERVIEWER: How did he learn how to play?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, Dad started actually about the same age that I did. He told me there was an old fella….
INTERVIEWER: This was in Vermont?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, no. Wait a minute – could a been – coulda been. See, Dad was born up in North Granville and I don’t ever recall him tellin’ what age he was when they came over here.
INTERVIEWER: North Randolph?
ROLAND SWINTON: Granville. North Granville. That’s up on – oh, way up above Hancock – up through the valley there. I don’t know the name of the route. Route….
ROLAND SWINTON: I don’t know. Somethin’ like that. It was up through the valley there. Beautiful up in that country. But, anyway, he had heard this old-time fiddler and he loved fiddle music, you know? And his first violin was a tin violin. And back then there used to be numerable things – he used to have this red rose saave and cloverine saave – used to be able to sell and get a prize for sellin’ so many cases of it – 12-packs of it. And he got his first fiddle by sellin’ saave.
INTERVIEWER: So that’s a hand lotion they put for like farmers?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, for chapped hands. I remember I sold cloverine saave. That was still in the market when I was young. But, anyway, he got this fiddle and he just trial and errored it and got to where he could fiddle a few tunes. And his first violin – I think it was my grandmother, his mother – said, “Well, I think you’re good enough to own a half-way decent violin.” So she kept her eyes opened and she bought a second-hand violin for him. And he had that violin right up through til….It all come to pieces. I don’t know what happened, whether the weather got to it or what. And he had it glued by a fiddler repairman down in Warrensburg. We were livin’ in Chestertown at the time. It never would hold. He tried two or three times. That fiddle would come all apart. And finally he give up. He swapped it for a fiddle down at the Warrensburg Hotel. It was a fiddle up on the back bar hangin’ up there and a For Sale sign on it. And Dad said, “I got one here that needs repair and I’ll give ya so much difference.” And Dad swears to this day that he saw that fiddle – INTERVIEWERmy Hanlin – bought a fiddle from somebody up at Stony Creek or somewhere up that way and there’s some chips or marks on it. And Dad said, “I know that’s the fiddle that I swapped for the….” INTERVIEWERmy Hanlin, as far as I know, has got Dad’s first fiddle today. It’s one of his fiddles. INTERVIEWERmy’s got quite a few fiddles. That was down at Lanpher’s that Dad saw it.
INTERVIEWER: He recognized it.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, ’cause he told INTERVIEWER, he said, “You turn that over and it’s got somethin’ – a markin’ somewhere,” and turned it over and INTERVIEWER said, “Well, I guess you know what you’re talkin’ about.” ‘Cause it had that…he dropped it or somethin’ or somethin’ had happened and that mark was on the back. That’s not….of course, Warrensburg is only 11 miles out of Stony Creek so it very well could be the same fiddle, you know, whenever somebody picks it up.
INTERVIEWER: So he started playing at a young age. He taught himself, basically, then?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: How about – as far as radio – if your father picked up any tunes off the radio or on records?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I can’t remember when phonographs – of course, they always had the old 78s – what they called the old rubber records – but as far as self-recording, you know, that came into being – well, I was in my teens, it got fairly popular, you know? And then they weren’t really practical back then, I remember. The first recording machines – you had to be right with ‘em and they were recorded with a needle cut into a disk, you know? But you had to be right there, I remember, with a little brush and keep all the little shavings out of the way or it would mess up your recording. But then it just exhilarated, you know, and I got….a few years after that, they came out with the tape players and, oh, gracious….the 8-track – that was a great thing at one time. And now that’s memories, you know? But as we were speakin’ the other day, you know, I marvel at the great musicians we had, you know, the great old fiddlers and what-have-ya and they didn’t have that to fall back on, you know? They just had to remember that. They’d hear it, they’d have to go home and try it. Maybe go back and hear it again, you know? And it was all learnt by memory. But today, what to heck, you know, anybody’s that got the drive to learn fiddle music, you got all the help in the world. You get these tape players, even this machine I’m recording over – you can play it half speed and you can really steal anything you want with one of those things. So you had to hand it to the old musicians that really turned out professional for achieving what they did, you know, because they did it on their own.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think that’s the cause of why there’s so many variations, you know how people play the tunes differently, or a little different phrasing, you know? But you can tell it’s the same tune, for instance.
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I think I related to you the other day a statement my father made once and I never realized it until, you know, he really came out with that statement. We were down at Lanpher’s. And I think it was Jerry Potter, one of the fiddlers we had in this North part of the country. I thought the world of Jerry. He’s passed on, but I think it was St. Anne’s Reel he played and someone had played St. Anne’s Reel – a fairly big fiddler, too – maybe three or four fiddlers ahead of him. And Jerry got up and, of course he had his tunes all picked and St. Anne’s Reel was one of ‘em. I happened to say to dad, “I don’t think there’s anybody, when you get down to it, that ever played St. Anne’s Reel that satisfied me any better than Jerry Potter.” But I said to dad, I said, “Boy, he certainly fiddled that a lot different than so-and-so did.” And dad said, “Yeah, isn’t that wonderful, son.” I looked at him and I said, “What do you mean, Dad, being wonderful,” or something like that. “Well,” he said, “if everybody played it the same,” he said, “you’d get awful sick of listenin’ to it, wouldn’t ya?” You know? So, it really shocked me to realization, that’s what fiddlin’ is all about. You know, the different way different fiddlers play a certain tune, and their style; it’s entirely different than somebody else. And Lord knows there’s a lot of fiddlers, a lot of different styles, and a lot of good fiddlers, you know?
INTERVIEWER: Did they have any contests that you remember going to as a kid, or that your father went to?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, yeah, my father used to participate in quite a few of ‘em. Back then it was quite a thing – fiddlin’ contests, you know? But, I don’t know, I didn’t have the same feeling towards contests, I don’t believe, that my father had. He liked to participate ‘em. Dad usually made out pretty good, you know? And nine times out of ten he’d walk off with second anyway, and lots of time, first. But I don’t…I just don’t feel comfortable, you know? A lot of good fiddlers I’ve seen get up there – if it had been me as a judge, they would’ve won – and they didn’t even get recognized, you know? So I don’t think it, in all fairness, gives justice to the fiddlers, you know? Because it all depends on the judges – what type of music and what type of style they like, you know? If you don’t fiddle their style, you don’t get it, so…
INTERVIEWER: Well, it’s a good excuse to get together, anyway, maybe.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, well, maybe that’s true. I participated in two fiddle contests. I’ll be truthful. That’s where I went – the one in Griffin. I was in…in fact, I didn’t go down there to join the contest or anything of a sort. But I was in town, I had the fiddle with me, and run into someone I knew down there. He said, “Well, I suppose you’re down here for the fiddlin’ contest.” I said, “Fiddlin’ contest? Where is it?”
“At the high school.”
INTERVIEWER: Where was that?
ROLAND SWINTON: In Lake George, and I’m talkin’ back 30…30 years ago or better – 35 maybe. And I went over with no intention to….I didn’t even take the fiddle in. And I paid, you know, admission at the door to go in and listen. And, finally, a couple of the fiddlers saw me, you know, “Well, get your fiddle in here.” They insisted I sign up. I said, “I don’t have anybody to back me up,” and Winn happened to be standin’ there. He was backing somebody up that night. And Winn said, “Well, if you don’t mind,” he said, “I’ll help you out if you want,” and he introduced himself and vice versa. So he said, “Come on down the hall,” he said. So, by golly, I went down the hall and he polished off three tunes and went to play. Got up there and I took second place that night.
INTERVIEWER: Is that right?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. And Don Perkins took first place. And I always credited Winn to winnin’ it because, boy, he’s a good backup man. Awful easy to play with, you know, he’s got good time. That was back when I was a little better fiddler than I am now.
INTERVIEWER: I don’t know about that. I doubt it. But as far as the records, did your father have any like 78s that he learned any music off from?
ROLAND SWINTON: No….oh, he never recorded any…
INTERVIEWER: No, he didn’t record any, but did he learn….did you have like….
ROLAND SWINTON: I couldn’t tell ya….I don’t think so…
INTERVIEWER: …an old Victrola that he learned….
ROLAND SWINTON: Coulda had, but I don’t recall him ever….’cause actually I don’t think Dad woulda had the time, you know – get home from work, get the chores done, and he’s ready to go to a square dance or something, and just pick up the fiddle and maybe him and Mother would sit down and play a couple at home, and take off.
INTERVIEWER: Was he learning, you know, if you can recall, like, you know, throughout his life, was he learning new tunes?
ROLAND SWINTON: I know what you’re referring to but as I saw, it seems to me, anything Dad played, he played ‘em forever. I don’t recall – he probably did, you know.
INTERVIEWER: You’re probably learning tunes all the while.
ROLAND SWINTON: The trouble is I’m tryin’ to learn too many. Take one in the front and then throw one out the back, and I can’t remember my old ones once I learn a new one, you know. It’s challenging. I like it. Of course, as I say, I….getting back to the subject of the old-timers learning without the help of….you see I just got a video here of Kenny Baker, and you’d have to be completely tone deaf not to be able to play somethin’ with him because it shows ya how to do it, you know? And, especially with the tape players you’ve got today and this machine I’ve got here – it turns it down. You can pick up anything if you just take your time. Maybe not as good as they do it, but you know what they’re doing anyway.
INTERVIEWER: Getting back to records and things, and other fiddlers in the area when you were growing up, were there any other fiddlers or musicians that you learned from – anything that you can name?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I could…if my mind doesn’t fail me, I could go back, you know, of course some of my father’s idols, you know, like Guy Lapel. Guy Lapel.
INTERVIEWER: Where was he from?
ROLAND SWINTON: He was from North Creek – out that way. Well, originally,I think they were from Long Lake or Tupper Lake, somewhere up in that way and they moved down this way. And Guy had to make his….he had quite a good sized family, and he had to make his living by playing. But he was very, very talented. He played – he learned by note, you know? He said, as I remember talkin’ with Guy when I was a child, and he said, “My boy….” I think it was before I started playin’ fiddle. And I think I was kind of askin’ him if I was too young to try to play a fiddle, when he said, when he started playin’ fiddle, he said, “It seemed like I’d been playin’ fiddle forever because I can remember my feet wouldn’t touch the first rung on the chair, tryin’ to keep time with my toe.” And he said, “I was probably four and a half, five years old.” But he was a marvelous musician.
INTERVIEWER: What kind of music – was he French-Canadian?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, he was a Frenchman. He played…if I remember right, his style was very close to Don Messner and that type of fiddlin’ – New Brunswick style. But Guy was a crippled man. He had one leg four or five inches shorter because he had a huge lift on his shoe, I remember. So he could not do a day’s work, but he fed that family with his fiddle. And speaking of the past, you know, and what have you, and entering your present, I played for a benefit here just about two weeks ago out to Minerva – well, it’s Humsterville actually – but Minerva High School for the Ambulance Squad. And the Adirondack Fiddlers donated what fiddlers wanted to come up and help. We put on a good show. It was about a three-hour show. So when I got up to the mike – you know, being in that locality and what have you – I had square danced in Minerva High School 55 years – that night that I was there, because I was about ten years old – used to go to square dances there. And the standing old fiddler back then was Guy Lapel.
INTERVIEWER: So he had come all the way down from….
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, he lived in North Creek…probably six, eight miles from the school. So I said at that time, there was a great – greatest fiddler player I think I’ve ever known. I said he used to fiddle and he was right from this locality. And I said Guy Lapel. And immediately someone come up to the foot of the stage and got my attention. They said, “His widow and his son are right here in the crowd.” Well, it was quite a reunion, you know? ‘Cause Eddy, I’d went to school with. And I mentioned over the mike, I said, “There’s three boys that I went to school with – Eddy and INTERVIEWERmy and Louie.” Louie’s passed on but, you know, it’s marvelous…and there’s so much that I could say about being associated with the music world, you know? I’ve met so many nice people. It just seems that anybody that’s got music, they’re not bad, you know? They’re nice people. I’ve met a lot of very close friends, a lot of nice people in my lifetime.
INTERVIEWER: Guy Lapel…do you remember any tunes that he played that really stick out in your mind?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, yes, I do, because you heard me speak of Jerry Potter a little. Guy Lapel was his tutor. And he played a lot along the style of Guy Lapel and he played a lot of Guy’s tunes, you know? Shelburne Reel and Shelburne Rotary and Jack Pine and all those…Guy played all those pieces, and Guy was a great man on waltzes, round dance. He knew music.
INTERVIEWER: He learned by note, in other words, he knew how to read music. Is that what you’re saying?
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, yes, fluently. He had mastered it to the stage where he could, you know, read it…go through it once and he’s got it memorized and he could play it right by memory, note for note.
INTERVIEWER: He kind of started off learning by ear it sounds like.
ROLAND SWINTON: No, he started by note, ’cause he said when his teacher set him in a chair, his feet wouldn’t touch the first rung…rung on a chair.
INTERVIEWER: That’s kind of more unusual than most full-time musicians.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. Well, he was tutored. He had his chance to learn it by note and he did.
INTERVIEWER: As you were growing up, is there any music that you listened to that – say, when you were young and were trying to learn some tunes – did you use any records or…
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, of course my father was a great inspiration. I can’t deny that, although Dad and I played two different styles, because I – at that time radio was getting pretty strong. WWVA…and of course, on several Canadian stations, you know, I never can recall when I was going to school Mother didn’t have a Canadian station on and fiddle music in the mornin’. I mean, maybe two fiddle tunes and then maybe somebody would sing a song. But she knew where the call letters were and she’d be on those…of course, we listened to Don Messner for years and years and years three days a week.
INTERVIEWER: What was that, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation or do you remember?
ROLAND SWINTON: I don’t know, it was out of Prince Edward Island. Yeah, it would be Canadian, sure. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4:30 til 5.
INTERVIEWER: And that was a live show?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, a live show – Don Messner and the Islanders. So there was a great inspiration. I’ve played a lot of tunes that Don Messner played. In fact I had, I guess close to 20 – 33 records of his, you know. Back when WIPS – a new radio station came in down here about 30 years ago – I was foolish enough to tell ‘em, I said, “I got some good records if you want to use ‘em.” I took ‘em down. They did. They played ‘em for, you know, quite a spell. I went to get ‘em, nobody knew where they were, so I lost all those records. But as I say, it was a big help – radio back then. But then shortly after that, of course, as I say, I could get a tape player and you could get tapes, you know of your favorite artists. So I can’t take the credit for learnin’ them the hard way….hard to learn, but…
INTERVIEWER: Like the recordings – Don Messner – was there any other, like, old-time fiddlers that you might’ve….
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, sure.
INTERVIEWER: …other records that you bought – that you had access to?
ROLAND SWINTON: I couldn’t begin to tell ya’. Tommy Jackson, he was…now there’s a different style – he’s a southern fiddler. Same as Kenny Baker here. And, Buddy Durham. There was a lot of fiddlers – Stolman and…
INTERVIEWER: Were the records available in stores right in Ti?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, you could get ‘em. Well, some of ‘em I got locally, but then again, you know, you go to Rutland, the big record shop, you could get about anything you wanted. ‘Cause when I come back from the fair and things, I used to stop at the record store. So…and then again, there’s a case of…I used to take the 33′s – I used to take the 33′s and I’d put ‘em on your record player, your disc player, and you’d hit that lever to 16 and it would throw you back just a little better than half, and it wasn’t so far off but you’d, you know. And I cheated a lot like that. You get it playin’ half speed, you could…it’s the same thing you could do with this machine here, you know? It slows it right down. You can pick the notes right out pretty good. So I did that a lot.
INTERVIEWER: Is there a group of tunes that you did learn from your father that you still play today?
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, I played a lot of Dad’s stuff, you know? Sit down and I could probably think of twenty….
INTERVIEWER: You could probably play them better than you can remember the names of them.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, right, some of ‘em I play I don’t know the name of them. Dad never did. Dad never knew the names of a lot of the tunes he played but he had special tunes like you don’t hear every day. Used to have Hounds Over the Brook and White Cacade, all those old tunes – not too many fiddlers that today.
INTERVIEWER: I never heard that Hounds Over the Brook.
ROLAND SWINTON: Tryin’ to think of some of the others…Top the Old Cork Road – played that one. Quite a few that’s along the jig kind – quite a few of those.
INTERVIEWER: He played a lot of jigs as far as in the number of tunes that he played. Is that a good percentage?
ROLAND SWINTON: Of course they – I think back, and they tried to focus on getting a reel, a horn pipe and a jig, you know, to a set. At least two reels in a jig just to break up the tempo, you know? And so he was good on reels, jigs and horn pipes.
INTERVIEWER: What are some of the tunes – like, you said you started with maybe Old Black Joe.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: What are some of the other tunes that you can remember starting off on that you…
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, anything that was simple. You know, like Dolly Nelly Grey or something that had just your three-chord change to it. I didn’t get too far out in left field as far as sharps and flats are concerned, but…of course, Wabash Cannonball, that was pretty new back when I was a kid. That was a great dance tune, and it didn’t take ‘em long to put that to square dancin’. And Red River Valley…
INTERVIEWER: Speaking of that type of tune, those are singing calls, right?
ROLAND SWINTON: Mostly.
INTERVIEWER: Were they…I always wondered when they came into popularity – that type of call – because that’s a real…they’re really popular to this day.
ROLAND SWINTON: I know what you’re referring to. As far back as I can remember square dancin’ – we had song calls. Before then it’s mostly all straight change – more serious, you know, more serious square dancing. But today, of course, your modern dancers, your swing dancers are mostly all sung, you know? The modern square dancin’ – the Texas style…
INTERVIEWER: The club type, is that what you’re talking about?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. I notice that there’s no…well, they more or less carry the tune that they’re calling to, you know? Some of them they have straight calls to a change.
INTERVIEWER: When you say straight change, is that like a patter call? Is that what you mean?
ROLAND SWINTON: You lost me. A straight change is like a calling without carrying the melody like duck and dive six or any of those calls that you don’t follow the melody when you’re calling…that’s what I call straight change.
INTERVIEWER: And that type of call, was there a specific tune that went with that dance, or was there…
ROLAND SWINTON: Lots of times. Lots of times the call would fit in with that range of notes or whatever that’s in a – what do you call it – a bar? And where you couldn’t do it with another tune, they were like do-dah, you know, there’s…. do-dah – we call it do-dahs, Camp Town Races, I guess – there’s a specific all that goes with that and you couldn’t use it with the, in other words, Little Brown Jug, because it wouldn’t come out right, you know, with the tempo on it. So as I say, a lot of tunes had their specific call that would go better with ‘em. Of course, you take a reel, you can call almost anything to it, you know? Duck and dive or ducks to the oysters or…
INTERVIEWER: And that was the kind of calling and dancing that your father….
ROLAND SWINTON: Mostly.
INTERVIEWER: …then the singing calls kind of came in there at some point.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, they worked their way in.
INTERVIEWER: I wonder where they kind of came from, where they originated…
ROLAND SWINTON: Have no idea. Somebody got the idea and said, “This works,” you know? They they started puttin’ calls to it anything, you know, you could sing.
INTERVIEWER: Because as you say, like the Wabash Cannonball, like that was a popular song, I don’t know what date….
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, that came out, let’s see, Roy Akoff wrote that song. He was right in his prime back then. I’d say Roy was in his late 20s maybe when he wrote that song ’cause I was just a kid. I remember when it hit the juke box. That was great.
INTERVIEWER: So like late 30s or 40s – some time in there.
ROLAND SWINTON: That was a great tune, boy.
INTERVIEWER: That’s interesting because like at any dance that I’ve played for, you know, around Vermont and New York State, those calls are the ones that people want, you know? Those singing calls like the ones that Steve….
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, you know, even back before square dancin’ really too, its beatin’ you know, and they give up to rock ‘n roll and stuff, the teenage life – change – it had a big change back then. Because I remember when I was a teenager, that’s all we had in mind was square dancin’. We used to go out there to Glendale.
INTERVIEWER: Where’s Glendale?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, that’s in Pottersville. The building is still there. We called it Glendale Park. And I had seen 20 set on that one – it was a roller skating rink, you know. They roller skated there during the day, and then at night they’d have their square dances – Saturday nights. I’ve seen 20 sets on that floor. And, INTERVIEWER, back then, when the caller said four more couple, if you didn’t get off your sitdown and get onto that floor with your partner and get set in a set, you know, you might set it out because there wouldn’t be any room left on the floor. That’s how popular square dancing was back then. There used to be a caller back then – great caller – couldn’t carry a tune in a bushel basket. Now that’s the type of caller he was. He didn’t do any of these song calls. If he did, he talked ‘em because he couldn’t sing. He just was tone deaf. But, a fine, fine caller. Time was perfect. His name was Art Ingram, and he called several different groups that used to…in fact, my father used to fiddle there and he called at Dad’s fiddlin’ a lot. And then Guy played down there. And there used to be another old gentleman out there in Humsterville – fine, fine fiddler. He was an old man and his name was Hed Levry.
INTERVIEWER: How about Cecil Butler? Do you remember that?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yes, from up on the Hoffman Round, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: That name rings a….I remember that name. I never met the fellow. What about Harry Starks? Do you remember Harry playing over there at all?
ROLAND SWINTON: You know, I could have, but you know, you just take…back then, you know, well, “I wonder where he’s from,” and that’s all that mattered to you, unless you went up and got acquainted with him. I met a lot of musicians I can remember but I knew that name, you know. To this day I say, “I wonder who that fellow who did the fiddlin’ was?” But I got…well, you were with me when we went up to the Maple Sugar Fest there in….I had the privilege of meeting a man that I hadn’t seen I was 13 years old at Swim Cots. There’s an example, you know, of…he played at the Grange Hall. That’s when I lived up near north Ti – possibly 5-600 feet down the road from the house. And every Friday night, you know, they had several different groups that used to play the Bronco Busters and…
INTERVIEWER: Were the Bronco Busters from Vermont?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, they were from St. Albans. In fact, there’s one of the living Bronco Busters left. I had the privilege of meeting him. He still sings, still entertains. Jaffit – Cliff Jaffit.
INTERVIEWER: The banjo player?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, he plays bass. He’s a man probably eight-six, seven years old now. Well, anyway, getting back to my story…this Slim Patch played with a group, and the fiddler that played with the Bronco Busters, his name was Sheriff. I remember him – a fine fiddle player. And I got a lot from him, too, but when Slim fiddled, he had a certain style. Gosh, I loved his fiddlin’ – especially, he played Out Jumped the Devil and that was, you know, quite jumpy music back then. And I learned Out Jumped the Devil from Slim. I used to go down – I didn’t square dance much – I’d stay right by that stage, you know, and absorbed everything I could absorb. I’ve seen nights, you know, he’d be playing and I’d go down there and I’d hear him do somethin’, you know, and I kind of mellowed away up there. In the minute he got done playin’ I’d run all the way home. Sometimes I might make three or four trips a night – grab that fiddle and tried to get what he did – and come back and get somethin’ more. And I was tellin’ Slim about that that night we went up there, and it really was impressive. He said, “My God, boy,” he says, “I never realized,” he said, “I was havin’ that impression on you.” And I said, “Well, you did.” I remember I told the people there when I got up….
INTERVIEWER: That’s right…
INTERVIEWER: So we were talking about the apple cider…
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, this has made me think of it….a friend of mine down to the village here – we called him half-pint, Basile lad – a little fella, about yea tall. He made a barrel of cider and I guess some old-timers told him how to cure it, you know, you put raisins and other stuff in it. Well, I guess it was real good in its prime, you know, but he kind of got it so strong, you know, he was gonna dump the barrel out so this friend of mine down next door here, we used to tip a few together, you know. He told me, he said, “Brownie’s gonna dump this barrel of cider.” So Ronnie told him, he said, “If you want some, bring some jugs down,” but he said, “it’s a little bit too strong for what I want.” Well, I admit it probably went better on baked beans, you know. But we went down and got, I don’t know, it must have been a half dozen gallon jugs of that, you know? Boy, you talk about egg nog – that made awful good egg nog. Set us right on our ear – good stuff.
INTERVIEWER: Did a lot people put up their own hard cider?
ROLAND SWINTON: You know, a few years, what I say, back when times were a little different than they are now, a lot of people made their own home brew over this way. Boy, some of ‘em made good stuff, too, yeah. I made a few batches, but I was a hit and miss. Sometimes it’d be good – real good – and then other times, it wouldn’t be too tasty. Your conditions have to be just right. You gotta keep it a certain temperature, you know, to have it work off right.
INTERVIEWER: How about hard liquor, was there any moonshining?
ROLAND SWINTON: I don’t ever recall nobody ever getting into the white lightnin’ or anything like that.
INTERVIEWER: During Prohibition, was that before your time?
ROLAND SWINTON: I can remember the tail end of it. But I was just a little whippersnapper then. Dad used to make his own cider and home brew.
INTERVIEWER: Because there’s a lot of stories about, you know – I remember over in Schroon Lake there was a couple of houses there – north of where 74 comes into 9 there – north, upon the right, people always said that those houses there were owned by people who used to bootleg whiskey from Canada back in those days.
ROLAND SWINTON: I remember….see, when I was about six, we moved over from Vermont when I was about six, I guess. The first place we moved to was over to Philbil[?] Lake, Schroon Lake, you know, Pottersville.
INTERVIEWER: From Vermont, that’s where you went?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, yeah, back to Pottersville. And I remember they made a raid at one time out on the River Road. That’s a back road – it goes out from down below Chestertown. There was a barn where they had a still, ya know, and they had a big mash pit there…I remember seein’ that mash pit.
INTERVIEWER: They were making the liquor right there?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, they were makin’ the liquor there. But that’s the only episode I ever remember of the liquor makin’. My brother and I, I remember, we used to go along the River Road there. There was an old fella by the name of Hill, and I guess – we didn’t realize what he was doin’ but he give us 3 cents a bottle, you know, for those pint bottles. Three cents back then, you know, boy. Sometimes we’d pick up 10-15 bottles, chances are we sold the same bottle back to him two or three times, ….you know he’d stop, buy a bottle, throw it out the window.
INTERVIEWER: He was making home brew?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, liquor, or whatever he put in clean bottles. But I wasn’t aware – we weren’t aware what he was doin’ with ‘em.
INTERVIEWER: Did you know – I was going to ask you last week and I forgot – about a fiddler that I met one time. I don’t know if you knew him, that lived up in Crown Point that had a finger missing. Or he lived up….
ROLAND SWINTON: Dick Rice?
INTERVIEWER: I don’t know – I never knew his name. I met him one time somewhere – I can’t remember.
ROLAND SWINTON: He was a fine, fine – he still fiddles pretty good.
INTERVIEWER: Is he still around?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, he doesn’t fiddle, you know, in public any more but he used to play for dances a lot. His father was one of the greatest fiddle players in this north country – ol’ John Rice. Had a great reputation. Oh, there’s some great fiddle players up around that country. See, they were all from – oh, there was ol’ John Rice, Lyman McGinnis – there was another good old fiddle player. Some of the McGinnis boys, his sons and offspring – they still fiddle.
INTERVIEWER: Where was Lyman Rice from?
ROLAND SWINTON: Lyman McGinnis?
INTERVIEWER: Or Rice, John Rice?
ROLAND SWINTON: He was from back up Crown Point. And he lived up on what they called the White Church Road, I think. And farther over the mountain, as you go up there, that’s the old Cuck Hill Region – that’s where McGinnis, then there was another old fiddle player – Dwayne Lang. He was a good fiddle player, a big, tall fella.
INTERVIEWER: Some of their kids picked it up or whatever?
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, yeah, they still play. Ronnie McGinnis. His brother, I don’t know his brother’s name but they both fiddle. Ronnie played locally here for quite a while in different groups.
INTERVIEWER: Does he go to any of the fiddle meets?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, not at all. He more or less just played with local group, you know. The McGinnis family, I guess they still do, they had – what was the name of their group – they played up here in Moriah just recently – Sundays, they’d have jam sessions up to the place they call the Old Mine. They used to play in there quite a lot.
INTERVIEWER: What about over in Ironville? Was there any music?
ROLAND SWINTON: Not to my knowledge. I used to play in Ironville years ago for square dances up to the Grange. But most of the musicians were from Ti and Crown Point. I don’t remember any local – of course, Ironville’s not that big of a place anyways. It’s just spread out. There’s not really a settlement of any size there.
INTERVIEWER: What was the whole thing about Ironville? I mean, I know there’s a museum now.
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, there’s a little history to Ironville. In fact, Henfield Foundation – they claimed the birthrights to the electro magnet, you know, which is the introductory to the electric motor. Without the electric magnet, you couldn’t have perfected the motor. And the man – I don’t know the name – but the man that perfected this magnet, he found by winding a coil of wire around a center object, it would magnetize it. And it was invented to pick up iron ore with…And he was from Vergennes originally.
INTERVIEWER: Is Penfield – is that like a family name?
ROLAND SWINTON: I think it’s – Penfield is connected with a family. Probably maybe someone that was pretty well up in the mining industry. But anyway the perfected this magnet to pick the iron ore up and then from there it was – the electric motor was improvised because by changing the phases on your – you could circulate a rotor, you know? So they take the credit for the industrial electronic age.
INTERVIEWER: Was the mine – was there a mine there?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, Hamlinville. See, Hamlinville was a mining – where the mines were. So Ironville was where all your business is handled and whatever.
INTERVIEWER: So were those mines in operation when you were growing up?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, no, no. No, they went out before I was born. The old rail beds and everything are down through there yet. I’ve been all through that mining territory. I used to lumber up through there, you know, for American Wire and Steel. They bought all that property. Oh, it’s quite a history up in there – industry.
INTERVIEWER: What about Moriah – up there, the mine there, what…
ROLAND SWINTON: That was Mineville.
INTERVIEWER: Mineville. What went on there?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, that was Republic Steel that was in there. That was a big, big industry at one time. I mean, they used to hire 800 miers, you know? In fact, that earth up there, you know, if you could get a cross section of it, there’s nothin’ but honey comb, you know? They claim that there’s chafts that – from the main chaft up there in Ironville – that go way out through and under the lake into Vermont, you know? Down, you know, mile – mile and a half – down. And that’s filled all with water now. Everthing.
INTERVIEWER: Do people go down and explore around in there?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, as I say, it’s filled. When Republic Steel pulled out, there was plenty of ore left, but it cost so much to get it that they could import it from Norway cheaper than they could mine it.
INTERVIEWER: So when did that go out?
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, gosh, probably goin’ on 30 years since they mined up there.
INTERVIEWER: I haven’t seen it in a while but I used to see that hill…
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, it’s still there – Talin Pile.
INTERVIEWER: Talin, yeah.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, you can see it from Vermont quite plain there in several places.
INTERVIEWER: Was there any music that you knew about or songs that came from the mining tradition?
ROLAND SWINTON: Gracious, well, probably back it played a part because there’s all nationalities used to work in those mines. A lot of Hungarian people worked in the mines and Polish people. In fact, especially up around Mineville and Moriah, you have a lot of Polish and Hungarian names today which, you know, probably their grandfathers came over to work in the mines. And I think they contribute a lot to, what might I say, infiltrating their folk music in with ours and probably a lot of our tunes that we play today are – well, they had to come from somewhere. Of course, your Polish people were great for polka music.
INTERVIEWER: I always wondered driving up through there what the story was – I never knew what actually went on up there. Did they have functions up there for the company or anything?
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, I played – yeah, I played for dances up there at the Town Hall in Mineville. We used to have dances up there. In fact, my father played for dances up there. Yeah. But they liked their square dancin’ years ago.
INTERVIEWER: How about at Tahall’s?
ROLAND SWINTON: Tahall’s? No, never. I’ve been in there several times but I never played in there.
INTERVIEWER: How about on the lake, was there any boats that – I know they had that Ticonderoga…
ROLAND SWINTON: We used to have three boats at one time. In fact, Ticonderoga, Mohigan, and – what was the other one – Minnie Ha-Ha? Minnie Ha-Ha I think was the name of it. They used to have square dancin’ right on the boat. Heard Dad talk about that, yeah. In fact, the pilot of the Mohigan, I’m quite certain, his name was Dunn. And he was a very good friend of my father’s and I can remember Dad tellin’ about, you know, playin’ aboard the boat years ago.
INTERVIEWER: I wonder what year they went out.
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, my God, before my day.
INTERVIEWER: Have you ever been up to the Shelburne Museum where they have the Ticonderoga?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, I’ve never – I was always gonna stop there but never been to the place.
INTERVIEWER: It’s quite a thing to walk on it on dry land but it must have been really amazing when it was in the water.
ROLAND SWINTON: Um-hum – quite a thing the way they moved that inland like that on the railroad track – one piece.
INTERVIEWER: That must have been something square dancing out on Lake Champlain.
ROLAND SWINTON: You know, at one time I had a book here and I lent it to someone – I don’t know even who it was. It disgusts me because it was a nice book. There was 16 steam ships on Lake Champlain all goin’ at the same time. You know, different size but there was some great stories in that about the old steamboats.
INTERVIEWER: Are you passing any of your tunes onto any fiddlers, like through your organization?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I would say yes because of this little Sarah I was tellin’ about – Sarah McCulavitch – I guess is the way you pronounce her last name. In fact, she was very – when she first came up, you know – now she can teach me a thing or two, you know? It’s one of those cases but she was very infactuated with a lot of the tunes that I played, you know? And I’d get over in a corner with her, you know, and I’ll be darned the next month she’d come back and she’d say, “I think I’ve got it,” and she’d go over and, “Is this the way it goes?” you know? And I may have to straighten her out to my way of playin’, ya know? Maybe she had it right and I didn’t! But, so I say, yes, I can feel contented that I think I’ve contributed a little bit to the youngsters, you know? And, again, there’s, you know, older fiddle players that doesn’t really know how a tune goes, and I think I may have straightened them out maybe on a note or two, you know? But then again I don’t think I play, out of all the tunes I play, I don’t think I ever played one of ‘em that’s the way it was written, you know? You do your own thing. You know how it is.
INTERVIEWER: Are there any other young kids in the clubs other than…
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, but I can’t – I got some names up here – I can’t remember their names is my trouble.
INTERVIEWER: I wonder how they’re getting interested in it.
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, some of it is through other youngsters, you know, “if they can do it, maybe I can,” you know? And, like Sarah, she’s a great inspiration for younger people ’cause she’s only – what is she now – 11? Ten or eleven…You know, there’s Terry – she was Terry White. She’s Terry Reed now, and she’s got a young son….don’t remember the last name.
INTERVIEWER: Does she still play, Terry White?
ROLAND SWINTON: Reed. Yeah, yeah, she’s a fantastic fiddle player. Nathan. Nathan Reed, now he’s only, I’d say about nine, ten years old. Fine little fiddle player. Of course, he’s got the best tutors. Fiddles a lot like his mother. And I just tryin’ to think of that other young lad. He’s right around the same age. He’s from North River. Good little fiddle player, good little fiddle player. And he can’t be over….well, I’d have to search for it….he can’t be over ten years old. He was there last week….
INTERVIEWER: Are there any in the Champlain Valley Club?
ROLAND SWINTON: You know, I haven’t been to one of their meetings ’cause their meeting day follows the same days as Dick and Carol’s. I more or less – not that I’m complaining about Champlain Valley, but the backup at Dick and Carol’s, they’re quite professional. It’s so much easier to play with good backup. And sometimes it’s catch and catch-can, you know, with Champlain Valley because they don’t have, you know, an orchestra organized to back ya up. But there’s a lot of good fiddlers in the Champlain Valley.
INTERVIEWER: Was there ever any other dancing other than the square dancing….clogging….?
ROLAND SWINTON: Clog dance?
INTERVIEWER: ….any buck dancing?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, they used to years ago. I had an uncle, my father’s brother, he was noted for his clog dancing. Well, there used to be some colored gentleman that used to drop into Glendale when I was a kid, and they’d get out there and my uncle would always make it a point – he was gonna dance ‘em off the floor, ya know? And they’d gather and sometimes dance for an hour – as long as the music would play! But I’ll tell ya, some of those colored gentlemen, mister, could really dance. They came up, worked summers, you know at Skyroom Manor and summer places.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever get to play over there at the Skyroom Manor?
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, no, they did it before my dad. I used to caddy there. I caddied there when I was about nine, ten years old. In fact, shortly after that, they went out of business. It’s unbelievable, you know, the place that that was. There’s nothin’ there now. It was one of the better golf courses in the United States, you know, at one time. Oh, yeah, it was a great golf course.
INTERVIEWER: Right to seed, didn’t it?
ROLAND SWINTON: I guess it did. Right where some of the greens were – pine in there now – it’s two foot on the stump. Unbelievable.
INTERVIEWER: But at a, just a regular square dance, would people be off to the side who weren’t necessarily square dancing?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, not too often, you know, everybody’s pretty well into it, you know, back then. ‘Cause myself, I learnt to square dance when I was – oh, God, I couldn’t have been over seven, eight years old. And most kids were, you know, learned the same way – they learned early. No, as I think I told ya here last week, I remember Glendale, you know? That was the big place back then. I mean, there was square dances all over the countryside, you know, small taverns would have square dances. But Glendale was the big spot. And I had counted, personally, I counted 20 set on one floor, ya know? And ol’ Art Ingram usually did the calling there. He’d holler, four more couple, mister. You’d want to get to your feet. You see, all the way around the hall – the hall was – well, it had to be a hundred foot long maybe – and 50, 40, 50 foot wide; there’d be benches all the way around. And, of course, a lot of the people would be milling around, too, but your benches were pretty well filled. But when he’d holler four more couple, if you didn’t get your feet – your partner and out there, you might end up standin’ the square dance out because the floor would be filled. But it’s unbelieveable that square dancing ever took the backslide that it did. Didn’t seem as though it could ever die, you know, bein’ as strong as that. Well, it hasn’t died, but it’s certainly taken a back seat.
INTERVIEWER: Do they do any square dancing in Ticonderoga?
ROLAND SWINTON: Not for, you know, not advertised dances or anything. But we have, like up here at the Chelsen, we get together durin’ the winter, maybe every other week – firemen and their wives will come up, you know. We’ll get up to the old Community House up here in Chelsen and we’ll have dances. We don’t have a caller. Only myself that can call, and I can’t call and fiddle….What happened is, Lynn Williams down here, he plays a good five string, plays a good mandolin. And he’s come right along on pickin’ tunes on a guitar, too. So does the lead work and I do the callin’ without the fiddle. I always said the old fiddle makes a square dance but as long as you’ve got the tune, you can call to it, you know?
INTERVIEWER: You gotta make do. What’s the whole story about Chelsen here?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I don’t know the – really – living here, I really don’t know the history of it. I do know that the first family who lived here is Chelsen. Their name was Chelsen because the old cemetery up here has got several stones back into the 1800s with Chelsen. It was settled probably shortly after Ticonderoga, you know, they kind of branched out. I got a….I’ll get it for you – some literature of a letter an old lady wrote coming up Lake George way back when Ti was just in its birth. She was tellin’ about this country up here, you know? At that time, it used to be quite wild, you know – wolves. Quite thickly populated with wolves. In fact, the first settlement wasn’t called Fort Ticonderoga. I don’t know what it was called but. Then it got the name Ticonderoga from somewhere.
INTERVIEWER: Was there a village – maybe you don’t know this – before the Revolutionary War, was the village there or did it come after?
ROLAND SWINTON: I don’t think it was, no. The first settlement was at the foot of the, what we call the Upper Falls here in Ticonderoga – a little settlement right to the foot, then it just, of course, there’s a village just at the foot of the falls but it’s spread out so now, you know? But that was – then there used to be, during the war, our street – they call the Portage now – was taken from, you know, the war period, because that Portage means – it’s where they used to carry their boats, their canoes and what-have-ya, up to Portage to go from the crick, out of Lake Champlain, into Lake George. So that’s how it got its name, the Portage. But I’m ashamed that I don’t know more about my history here.
INTERVIEWER: Was the fort always like a tourist attraction or did that happen alter?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, you know, the original fort – I got a picture of it here in the book after everything was over, you know, the war and the use of the fort was no more. In fact, a lot of the houses, the old houses and the old cellar holes that have got stones, used to go down there with stone bolts and wagons, you know, and load on stone and tear the fort down to build their cellars. Now back then there was no value – no historical value. They didn’t consider that. And at the time that Tall got it….
INTERVIEWER: What time was that? Do you remember?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I’d say it was…
INTERVIEWER: One of the questions that I had after I left last week was how many of your kids are playing music…
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, seems everybody connected with music asks me that question…I got two or three of ‘em that like guitar pretty well, but I’ve got just one and he didn’t take up the fiddle until just about 6 r 8 months ago. He had his debut down to Lanpher’s there, Fiddle Town, month before last, and standin’ ovation. He’s comin’ good! Of course, they all know he’s my son.
INTERVIEWER: Which one is that?
ROLAND SWINTON: Leslie. And he started out on five-string – does a nice job on a five-string. He’s learnin’ all the time. Then he got…wanted to play the fiddle and he bought a – it’s a nice fiddle, nice lookin’ fiddle – it’s a Japanese made fiddle. And he got some of these learner’s tapes, you know, and he’s doin’ a good job.
INTERVIEWER: Are you helping him along any?
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, yeah. Yeah, he comes up here and he tapes some of my stuff. Does me good when I can hear him doin’ somethin’, you know?
INTERVIEWER: Is he interested in tunes your father played, for instance?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah…In fact, he played….I can’t tell ya what the name of it is now, but he played a tune down to Lanpher’s there last month that I had never heard before, and it’s a good one. It’s Irish background to it, you know? It’s comin’ good.
INTERVIEWER: Any other?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, Dean, he’s got – I think he’s got about every string instrument that was ever made standin’ in the corner down there, but he just plays a little bit of each, you know? Plays a little five-string, picks mandolin a little bit, but never got into it seriously. And, Jeffrey, of course, he’s my rhythm boy. He’s good on guitar.
INTERVIEWER: Any of the girls?
ROLAND SWINTON: The baby, Shelley. She sawed on a fiddle, but it wasn’t interesting enough for her, I guess. But she got to where she could play us a few tunes You could recognize them pretty well. And the daughter I lost, daughter Margo, she was piano. She was self-taught. She did quite a lot of stuff on the piano.
INTERVIEWER: Did she back you with a piano?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, she could chord, yeah. But she’d hear a tone, you know, and she’s set over there and she’s goin’ to school and she’d come home and she’d – first thing you know she’d have it with the bass and what have you, so it sounded it pretty good. But they’re the only ones that really tried much, I guess.
INTERVIEWER: When you were growing up learning the fiddle, was there other people, you friends and things, that were also learning like traditional music or the fiddle music or whatever that you could play with? Your contemporaries, so to speak?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I don’t recall any, you know, like, schoolmates or anything that played the fiddle back when I did. I did have a neighbor when I lived up north – Ticonderoga here – I was in first year high, I think. But he played. He was….played the fiddle in the school band, you know. He didn’t play any…if he played Turkey in the Straw, it was a high-class style, you know? But he just did it while he was in school. He never furthered himself.
INTERVIEWER: But any other – like banjo or other than your brother around the area that you may have gotten together with to play any music?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, we formed a group. I was sixteen. In fact, the first summer – the first dance work I ever did, we formed a group. Two boys out of Vermont. One was my cousin and the other lived near him over there. Linus Matot, he played accordion. He did a nice job chording, you know, and did a lot of the lead work for round dancing. And Dick Himan. He was from Shoreham. He played drums. And my brother played guitar. I did the fiddle work. And we had a lad here from North Ti that did the calling. Paul Crossman, his name was. And we called ourselves the Knights of Rhythm, I remember back then, you know? And we had….I guess, we must have done a good job because we used to get awful crowds down here at the K of C Hall.
INTERVIEWER: Did you play in Ti and maybe some in Vermont?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, yeah. We played over in the Shoreham High School. Used to play for dances over there. Of course, Linus and Dick were right from Shoreham. And I think we did a couple jobs up to the Grange Hall in Bridport. Finally, matrimony kind of broke it up…
INTERVIEWER: When you were…at that age or whenever you started playing, did you perform with your father at all or go with him to any jobs?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. Of course, my brother used to play, way back when he was only 14, 15 years old, did the guitar work. Played with mom and dad at square dances. And, of course, I learned the guitar through my brother and times he couldn’t go, I’d fill in on the guitar, you know? So we did have more or less a family group, a band.
INTERVIEWER: That must have been fun.
ROLAND SWINTON: It was. Nice memories. Yeah, my mother had a pretty good reputation as far as rhythm piano – chord piano, you know, chording piano, she had awful good time. And they made good music, boy.
INTERVIEWER: Did you play the fiddle at all in that combination. Ever? No?
ROLAND SWINTON: No. We were talkin’ last week there…I didn’t really get good enough to play to a square dance until, you know, I was – after I was 16 maybe – 15, 16. I started gettin’ serious to fiddle for dances.
INTERVIEWER: Did they ever do double fiddles at these square dances very often?
ROLAND SWINTON: No. No. I’ve witnessed a lot of double fiddling, you know, especially in later years at these fiddle downs and what have ya. But I remember – this wasn’t double fiddling, but there used to be a group that played out to….I was about 16, 17 and I worked in the fall in apple orchards in Vermont – boarded with my aunt’s over there. We used to go to the dances up at the Grange Hall at Bridport. They had a group – fine, fine group – they were terrific – Preble’s Night Hawks was their name. And they had a fiddle player, but the one that really impressed me – they had a guy who played tenor sax and clarinet, you know, he’d alternate. And he’d either take that tenor sax or the clarinet and he’d play double with the fiddle – play second. Boy, you couldn’t keep your feet still. He was a wizard. I don’t even know his name. I don’t remember.
INTERVIEWER: But they were playing square dance numbers mostly.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. Well, they played, you know, years ago, there used to be three squares and three rounds. So they had nice round dance music also. But they were a fine group.
INTERVIEWER: Did you….perform at all just with your brother for any other functions other than, like, square dances? Was there any other, like, social gatherings that you might have performed at?
ROLAND SWINTON: No. Not outside of, you know, kitchen jammin’ or what have you. We used to get together with some friends in later years and we did that right down through out whole life when we could get together, you know. And we’ve had a lot of fun. A lot of good times. Met a lot of good musicians through my brother and what have ya.
INTERVIEWER: Last week we were talking about different fiddle players that impressed you. I was wondering if there were any other fiddlers around that you learned from or inspired you.
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, my God, INTERVIEWER, I could….I think back, there’s been inspirations every time you turn a corner for me in fiddlin’ because as I say, I always had a statement people could never understand. I’ve heard a lot of fiddlers, you know, and a lot of people would say, “Well, he’s not much of a fiddler,” or what have you, but I don’t like to hear that because regardless, if the person is trying, and if you want to pay attention, if you’re listening to him, if you don’t come away from there with somethin’ you heard that you hadn’t heard before and he does it over and over, it’s his style, I’d be surprised. Because I’ve heard a lot of what they say, not so good a fiddler, but you come away with something. You learn something from ‘em. But…well, from the time I started the fiddle, of course, my father was my first inspiration, but every time you turn a corner, you’re running into another artist, you know, in the fiddler line, and I could mention….let me think…get my little brain aworkin’ here….
INTERVIEWER: Was there any…I’ll just interject this…was there anybody – any Canadian fiddlers that would come down and play in Vermont, you know, like Don….
ROLAND SWINTON: Most of my witnessing of Canadian fiddling was on the radio. We didn’t…we used to get…of course, a lot of those were probably their folks were Canadian born but a lot of the musicians used to come down from St. Albans and what have you, to the square dances here in North Ti. They used to play the Bronco Busters and there’s a…Slim Cotts, he used to come down and ol’ Sheriff. And they…well, they could have been inspired by Canadian-style fiddling, you know, because they had their own special time. But…of course, I used to listen to ol’ Don Messner. There’s a great fiddler – Prince Edward Island. But as I say, down through the years, I’ve met some fine, fine fiddle players and got very closely associated with ‘em through square dances and what have you. And….oh, there’s – I mentioned Guy Lapel. He’s one of my great idols – a fine, fine fiddle player. He was from out North Creek way and some of his, you might say, students like Jerry Potter. He learned through Guy Lapel. Fine fiddle player. But I’ve got a list of our fiddle players, you know, in our association and there’s a lot of those people that are fine fiddle players A lot of them have gone on, too.
INTERVIEWER: Is Norm Williams still…
ROLAND SWINTON: Norm still fiddles. In fact, we played…oh, what was the name of that – Harrisburg Lake. Never been up in there before. Run into him, oh, about, just about a little over a month ago. And he’s still fiddlin’ like a storm.
INTERVIEWER: I always enjoyed his…
ROLAND SWINTON: But there was a lot of nice ol’ fiddlers, of course, Earl Darfler, you remember him?
INTERVIEWER: Yes, yep.
ROLAND SWINTON: He was from down….
INTERVIEWER: With a crew cut, yeah.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. Chewed a toothpick. He died. He’s gone. And, oh, there’s….I think about nine fiddle players since I joined the Adirondack Fiddlers that have passed on. Nine or ten.
INTERVIEWER: What about Ken Bonner? Did you ever have any….
ROLAND SWINTON: Ken was a fine fiddler.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever play with him?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yes. He used to be the MC of our association, you know, for years. He was a showman. He was a….had his distinctive style of fiddlin’. Awful good time.
INTERVIEWER: He had that yell.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, I guess he could yell. I guess he could yell. Carried right on a conversation and fiddle. I couldn’t do that.
INTERVIEWER: One thing that really impressed me about Ken Bonner when I saw him one time – it was a fiddle get-together. It was over at some campground in Chestertown. I think I was living over in Schroon Lake, and I had gone down there and Ken shows up in this, like, a little step van, you know? And he drags out his barbecue….right there. He was getting comfortable because he was going to stay there, you know, and play music. He dragged out his barbecue things and gets the barbecue goin’, you know?
ROLAND SWINTON: It sounds just like him.
INTERVIEWER: And he’s…he’s got everything just set up, you know, nice and people are startin’ to come by and he starts to play some music.
ROLAND SWINTON: I got a tape here. If I can find it, we’ll play it for you someday. It’s an interview with Ken Bonner. And he plays – there must be a dozen tunes on that that he made up, you know? He did. He made up a lot of tunes. He made up a couple nice waltzes. Pretty.
INTERVIEWER: Like Rollin’ Off a Log Backwards.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. Like Fallin’ Off a Log Backwards….I was tellin’ ya’ – he could fiddle and talk and never miss a note but I can’t. I gotta concentrate on what I’m doin’. We were down to Lanpher’s one Sunday there, playin’ at the fiddle down. Ken was up doin’ his numbers, you know, on stage. I don’t know who the gentleman was, but I know his first name was Tom, and Ken was fiddlin’ away, you know, and he’s right in front of the mike there, of course, and he looks over and this gentleman comes through the door. “Tom!” he hollers. He says, “Hi ya, Tom!” And the fellow says, “Hi, Ken.” He says, “You play fiddle, Tom?” Tom says, “No.” He says, “Too bad!” and he kept on right on fiddlin’. And that really tickled me. “Too bad!”
INTERVIEWER: He was fun. He was the only fiddler that I can remember from Lanpher’s….actually sang a few – or he would call….
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, and he’d sing a bar of a song. Ivan Hicks’ father – I got a tape of him. And he was a good ol’ fiddler. Curtis Hicks.
INTERVIEWER: He’s a what – Canadian…
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, he’s passed. He was a New Brunswick style – he passed on in ’83, I think it was. And he’d fiddle along and he’d sing a bar, you know? And….I’ll have to play some of those tapes for ya’….And, as I say, let me think and I could name probably 50 different great fiddle players I’ve met in my lifetime. But we have still in this locality some awful good fiddlers – Don Perkins – fine, fine fiddler.
INTERVIEWER: He was related to Ken Bonner in some way, isn’t he?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, no…adopted son of Ken. Ken thought the world of him. And he plays a lot of Ken’s tunes, you know, that Ken made up – Shatagay Waltz and…well, whoever the party that was used to fiddle that Ken Bonner was inspired by that taught him how to play fiddle. He made up a tune about him and I can’t think what his name was. It’s a catchy tun, too. It’s a good one. And then there’s – Tulu Bernard, of course, you know him?
INTERVIEWER: Oh, he’s from Plattsburgh?
ROLAND SWINTON: A little Frenchman from Plattsburgh.
INTERVIEWER: I have seen him, once I think.
ROLAND SWINTON: Good fiddler, good showman, Whoo!
INTERVIEWER: Ken had kind of his own style, didn’t he? It was a little different.
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, yeah. Nobody in the world I ever saw who bowed – get so much out of one bow as he could, you know? He just – seems as though his bow never changed – he’s just goin’ – sawin’ right back and forth and he was gettin’ all kinds of time and changes out of that fiddle – never changin’ a bow. My brother marveled at that. He said, “How does he do all that with only one draw of the bow, you know?” But it’s the way he learned.
INTERVIEWER: He was from way up in the St. Lawrence Valley there somewhere.
ROLAND SWINTON: I don’t know where he originally did come from but he settled over here in Stony Creek. Then he moved out Osiola way when he died. In fact he married a girl from out that way. Then of course, well, speakin’ of local talent, there’s Harry Starks. He was, I considered, a fine fiddle player – a lot of tones, a lot of tones.
INTERVIEWER: Getting back to Donnie Perkins, does he make his living nowdays playing the fiddle?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, he – of course, he supplements his living pretty well with it because he does a lot of work but he – I guess he’s assistant manager of Ceasar’s Pizza in Plattsburgh. ‘Cause every time we go up and see my grandchildren, we go up there. Usually get together and have a nice talk.
INTERVIEWER: Was Harry, do you know, was he ever like a professional musician? Did he make his living playing music?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I don’t know what Harry did do for a living outside of music. I know he did a pile of square dance jobs, you know? In fact he was one of the last ones in this locality that was quite busy playin’ for square dances.
INTERVIEWER: He had told me one time, years ago, that he did play at Glendale Park some. Because I said I had lived over here….I wonder how many – probably not too many – fiddlers made their livings from the music in this area. Would you say?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, I wouldn’t think so because practically all the fiddlers I knew of, you know, had their day jobs. Like my father, of course, it supplemented a lot of income for him through his life but he couldn’t – I don’t think he could’ve made a livin’ back then playin’ for dances. Of coruse, he used to play for five-six dollars a night, you know, back then. But that was as much as you’d make for a day’s pay, of course. Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Did your father learn from…did his father play? Do you know the history going back beyond him?
ROLAND SWINTON: I don’t know what ever inspired my father to play ’cause I think my grandfather – I think Dad said he played a harmonica, but he was a blacksmith. But, no, Dad got the inspiration – as I was tellin’ ya the last interview we had, he sold cloverine saave or somethin’ and got this tin fiddle. And then my grandmother realized he had talent, you know, and she said, “Well, it’s about time,” after he’d sawed on that for a couple of years, she invested and got him a wooden fiddle.
INTERVIEWER: You were saying some of his – your uncles and what-not – played, too?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, well, they…I think they all had music but I had an Uncle Elwyn, he used to….Dad played him how to play the piano in one night because his piano player didn’t show up. Or called and said he wouldn’t be able to make it. This was back – maybe before I was born. I don’t know. He set Uncle Elwyn down – that’s his youngest brother – to a piano and he taught him three major chords. I think it was the three major chords in D, and he played all the tunes in D that night, you know? Then Uncle Elwyn progressed to where he learned other chords, and he was pretty good. Pounded the piano, I remember that, boy. You could hear it! And Uncle Ray, he used to play a nice harmonica. Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: And that was it for music in your father’s….
ROLAND SWINTON: That’s about it.
INTERVIEWER: How about your mother’s family?
ROLAND SWINTON: She had a younger brother – her youngest brother – very musically inclined. Uncle Les was a great guitar player. In fact he used to play when he was in the service with – when he’d come around, you know, what do you call it, USO or whatever, with this Eddie Peabody. Remember hearin’ that name? He was a great five-string – modern-type music back then – only he played with a five-string and a tenor. Eddie Peabody – oh, he was terrific.
INTERVIEWER: Was he from around this area?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, no, no. He used to be on radio back when I was a kid. And very prominently known and so when he’d come to the – he’d entertain for the service men, you know, he’d get Uncle Les to back him up. Uncle Les knew all the chords. And he tried the fiddle and he said, “I’d like to get a hold of the fellow’s neck that invented the bow.” He never could master the bow. But he had more fingering on a fiddle – if he could’ve only mastered the bow.
INTERVIEWER: Did he live in Vermont?
ROLAND SWINTON: He was born in Orwell. In fact, most all Mom’s family was born in Orwell, and they all migrated into…I don’t know why but years went by and they all moved to Indian Lake. In fact, the whole family – grampa and grandma and all the children bought property up there and built. They just liked it up there. Mother has three living sisters up there yet left. They’re all in their eighties. I used to play for dances at Indian Lake for quite a lot. Yeah, back, oh, 25 years ago, I think. They still kept square dancin’ goin’. Used to play at the Farrell’s Hotel, played up at the school up there a few times. But it’s pretty well died out now, I guess.
INTERVIEWER: You still perform some now, don’t you a bit?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, it’s mostly for, you know, we have – I got a lady up on the hill here, she’s quite active with the elderly. She’s 74 years old. But she’ll get down to maybe the old folks complexes we have in town, you know, and make a booking for us and we’ll go down and play a few tunes – in the nursing home. Then they have – one side of the hospital has been turned over now to – well, they’re not really sick patients but they need attention, so the older folks are on one side of the hospital. We go there once in a while. And senior citizens – we played in Ti, Putnam, Hague. But I enjoy that. I just love it.
INTERVIEWER: And events in the summertime that you like to go play at these days – firemen….that kind of stuff?
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, yeah, yeah. That’s all I do now, INTERVIEWER, is, you know….charity work. I’ve given up playin’ for profit.
INTERVIEWER: Are you part Indian? Did you tell me that at one time?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, there’s my great-grandmother. Am I?
INTERVIEWER: Well, I would say so.
ROLAND SWINTON: She was half Iroquois. And then my grandmother – fifth, sixth removed grandmother – David ROLAND SWINTON’s wife – he was the first ROLAND SWINTON that ever come this far. He was an English solider. And after the war, he stayed right here. He met a….
INTERVIEWER: In Vermont, you’re talking about?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, he stayed in this locality. He’s buried right up here in North Ticonderoga. He was buried in 1836. And he married a lady from….my oldest recorded grandmother, Polly Lewis, from Bridport. Oh, we figure, you see, he was taken captive in Saratoga and after the war, he was pardoned, and we assumed that Grandfather David was headed back for Canada, you know, from British soil. He got back acrossed and he got as far as Crown Point maybe. And back then there’s a history a sail ferry went across there, and he mighta went over into Bridport, got acquainted with my Grandmother Polly, and he started the ROLAND SWINTON clan. Quite interesting.
INTERVIEWER: Iroquois Indian? Do you know if she was from this area?
ROLAND SWINTON: I don’t have any recollection of the history of the tribes here. I do know that this is prominently Iroquois country through here, and…
….Crown Point, you know, you’ve been up there to the barracks…
ROLAND SWINTON: Now that’s just about the way it was when they left it. They never, never restored it that much. They left it as it was. It’s all open.
INTERVIEWER: That’s kind of got an eerie feeling around there, doesn’t it?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. It does, but you know it’s….I don’t know, something about Fort Ti, you know, I go down there, knowing what I know about it, you don’t get the feeling of the past too much, you know? They do have a lot of artifacts, though. They’ve got a lot of…a lot of, you know, muskets and mortar, cannons, and that stuff, that are original, you know?
INTERVIEWER: You played music over there at all?
ROLAND SWINTON: I played down there, yeah. I don’t know whether you’re acquainted with Chris Loyer?
ROLAND SWINTON: Fine lad. He’s a good boy. Well, he kind of narrated the Down in the Fields, Down Below the Fort, you know? He wanted some heritage music a few years ago, you know…a lot us give him a hand, and we had a nice outing there last year, I think it was. There was Lynn and myself, Marion Covell.
INTERVIEWER: Who’s Marion Covell?
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, she’s an old homesteader up here on the hill. Her father was a great fiddle player. The Covell family was noted for fiddlers. Yeah, ol’ INTERVIEWER Covell and George Covell. In fact, George Covell, her father, was considered what you could say a…he could read music, yeah, self-taught – considered what you could say a professional at one time. He played in a lot of great events years ago. And Bill Covell and INTERVIEWER Covell – they were, let’s see – Bill Covell, I think, was cousin to INTERVIEWER and George, and INTERVIEWER and George were right and left hand fiddlers. But ol’ Bill Covell, he was kind of a renegade type, I guess – never did hold a job, you know, or anything. His livelihood was from playin’ mostly. Quite a drinker back then.
INTERVIEWER: Any other, like, along this road, 74 that goes over the Schroon Lake, any other musicians along the road?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, of course, there’s the Bevins family up here. They had their own group, quite well known – Chelsen Hill Gang. And all fine musicians.
INTERVIEWER: Now is Clarence originally from Chelsen?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, from this locality. I think he was born in Crown…I’m now sure, but I think he was born in Crown Point but he never drifted too far away, only when he was in the service ’cause he had a stretch in the service. He bought a place up here on the Berry Pond Road and he swapped that with a fellow by the name of Willie Smith for this piece of land he’s got up here in Chelsen. And he’s been settled there since I’ve known him. And I’ve known Clarence for 40 years or better.
INTERVIEWER: He’s into bluegrass music pretty heavily.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: How did he get off on that bent, so to speak?
ROLAND SWINTON: I don’t know…he just, of course, ol’ Roy Akoff and all those were his inspirers, you know. In fact, I’ve gotta tell ya’…of course, Clarence used to take a drink, along with the rest of us when we was all up to John Hall’s, up here on the corner. That’s when he used to have a bar room where you turn on the Putts Pond Road. We used to have some terrific jam sessions in there, boy….good times, good times – a bunch of local yokies, you know, gettin’ together there. So we’d been playing for a while, and finally – it was on a Saturday night – John says…had one of those old radios and he brought it out and he said, “Let’ see if we can get down wheelin’ or somethin’ like that.” Brought the radio out – boy, it come in crystal clear that night. And ol’ Roy Akoff was on. Of course, back then, everything was broadcasted live, you know? And Clarence, you know, he’d….he’d get quite inspired over those things, you know, and he says, “You know, I’m gonna go home,” he said, “and I’m gonna call him.”
“Yeah,” we said, “sure.” You know, that boy went home. He called WWVA – Grand Ol’ Opry, I guess you’d call it, whatever it was – he got the site anyway, and he said, “Is there any possible way I could speak to Roy Akoff?” And the fellow he was talkin’ with said, “Yeah, he’s right on backstage right now.” And it wasn’t – Clarence said it wasn’t a matter of seconds and Roy answered the phone. And Clarence says to him, “Roy,” he said, “this is probably quite irregular, you gettin’ a call like this, but,” he said, “I’m from way up North in New York state,” and he said, “I just got home. We’ve all been listenin’ to ya down at a little pub on the corner down here and we wanna compliment you for your find entertainment that we receive up in the North Country.” Well, he said that ol’ Roy was so tickled, and talked to him on the phone…
INTERVIEWER: I wonder if that would be possible in this day and age.
ROLAND SWINTON: I doubt it now. Of course, this was probably 30-35 year ago. But he was quite pleased that he got through to Roy Akoff.
INTERVIEWER: Clarence moved down South, didn’t he, for a while?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, he bought a…he went down to Virginia… bought a little plot of land down there. I think – did they have a trailer or did they have a home on there – I don’t know. It didn’t take him long. There was elements down there he wasn’t used to, you know, they had insects, I guess there was some kind of jiggers that they didn’t have up here. Drove him crazy. And I guess they talk about Southern hospitality, I guess he was in an area where it wasn’t quite so hospitable, you know? He had a couple neighbors that didn’t like the Yankees movin’ in or whatever, so he sold out and come back home. But he said he had a lot of nice friends down there – a lot of nice people.
INTERVIEWER: Where was he in Virginia, do you remember?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, it wasn’t too far from…wherever….the birthplace of the Waltons there.
INTERVIEWER: Charlotte – Charlottesville?
ROLAND SWINTON: Charlottesville, that’s it. In fact, he was on Charlottesville Radio. You want to hear the way things come around, you know? There was a gentleman that came into this house and he was a good friend of my father-in-law during my second marriage. He was a great hunter, you know – coon hunter. And he was…he had a place down in Charlottesville. He was originally from Virginia, but he came up here as an liquor salesman or somethin’ and he retired. And he used to come up to my father-in-law’s and stay there and they’d go coon huntin’ you know, and they had great coon dogs and the whole words. Well, he came over here one day with Charlie. We were havin’ coffee here, and I told him – don’t know how we ever got on the subject – of course, Charlie, my father-in-law, was quite a country music lover, you know – we got to talkin’ about….I mentioned Chelsen Hill Gang, you know? And this…I can’t think of his name….Smith, his last name was Smith. So he says to me, “Chelsen Hill Gang, there’s a coincidence,” he said like that. I said, “What’s that?” He said, “We had a group,” he said, “that played on Charlottestown or Charlottesville Radio down there,” he said, “by the name of the Chelsen Hill Gang.” And it all clicked. And I said, “Well, you’re probably talkin’ about the same group.” He said, “Well, how could they be on down there?” I said, “Well, he owned the place down there,” and I said, “he had his….” so I got on the phone and I called him. Well, he and this Smith guy got to talkin’ and they only lived, you know, a few miles apart down there….Yeah, he said, “We had a Chelsen Hill Gang that played down there.” Same group.
INTERVIEWER: That’s a nice area. I’ve been there…
ROLAND SWINTON: I guess there’s all kinds of music down there…
INTERVIEWER: It’s similar, I found anyway, the land is similar to here…
ROLAND SWINTON: Rolling…
INTERVIEWER: Rolling hills and…the mountains are, you know, there. Very similar. Of course, the weather is different, or warmer all the while.
ROLAND SWINTON: I guess they had a…I guess there were poisonous ones, but they had an awful big snake down in that country, Clarence said. I guess this certain snake wasn’t poisonous but, boy, he said, you’d see one that would grow seven, eight-foot long…
INTERVIEWER: Headin’ back north in a hurry.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: But his kids learned some music down there, didn’t they?
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, great, great…yeah, I think David, the youngest one that plays the dobro….he was…he had to be inspired either by records or tapes or music from…because dobro is not a natural instrument up here. But he is, if I’m any judge of music, he’s professional. I mean, he’s got everything right down pat.
INTERVIEWER: Is he playing? Does he play professionally right now?
ROLAND SWINTON: He…he’s played with professional groups – quite a few of ‘em but he don’t wanna leave Chelsen…He loves it here. He’s been on the road. He’s been in Texas and California. He went with a group here, in fact, he played with the Charlie….you know what I mean….Charlie… country gentleman – he played with them for a while.
INTERVIEWER: And he started at a young age, right?
ROLAND SWINTON: Young…the first instrument – the dobro he ever had Clarence built it out of a Spanish – took a regular Spanish guitar – and he had a pan cover and he got the idea….he saw how the resonator was built, you know, and he got a funnel or somethin’ – he went ahead and he made a dobro for that boy to practice on. And he got to where he could play, you know, a few tunes like the Wabash Cannonball like Roy Akoff’s style and what have ya’ and finally he got good enough and Dad said, “You’re gonna have a dobro.” He had this gentleman out….Clarence could tell ya who he is….he builds all sorts of instruments. He built him a dobro – a beautiful dobro. Of course, I imagine, you get the kit with the resonator and all that stuff. But then he got…quite inspired by the great dobro players…can’t think of their names right now. There’s two dobro players that he speaks of quite often.
INTERVIEWER: Jery Douglas.
ROLAND SWINTON: Douglas, Douglas – Jerry Douglas, yeah. Then this old fellow that plays with…the old-timers, there….
INTERVIEWER: Kenny Baker, the guy who plays with Kenny Baker?
ROLAND SWINTON: Kenny Baker.
INTERVIEWER: Josh Graves.
ROLAND SWINTON: Josh Graves! Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, I don’t know of any – that dobro – that’s pretty amazing that he picked it up so proficiently because like you say, there aren’t players around.
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, I’ll tell ya, you take he and his brother, INTERVIEWER – fine, fine mandolin picker – and you get those two into a group, mister, and if they can’t dress it up, nobody can. Because they work together, you know, INTERVIEWER and his brother, of course, they’ve worked out a lot of licks together. Why, they’ll pull some great stuff, mister. Some great stuff.
INTERVIEWER: Does the fellow from Ludlow – do you know who I’m speaking of – the dobro player – he’s from Ludlow, Vermont, isn’t he…
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, INTERVIEWER, INTERVIEWER….can’t think of his last name. He plays with Smoky Green.
ROLAND SWINTON: He plays the old – the old style, you know, the Roy Akoff style. He’s a good musician. Darn good.
INTERVIEWER: There’s only one other guy that you might know that I can think of who plays a dobro, up in Plattsburgh – Junior Barber
ROLAND SWINTON: Junior Barber….he’s about half way between – is it INTERVIEWER or Fred?
INTERVIEWER: Over in Ludlow?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: I don’t know his name. Never caught his name, I just knew he lived over in Ludlow. I think it’s INTERVIEWER.
ROLAND SWINTON: I’d say Junie was about half way between him and David ’cause David’s got all that fancy Douglas stuff, you know? But Junie is a good dobro player. He played in quite a few groups around here.
INTERVIEWER: The fellow over in Ludlow plays a little bit more old-time style you were saying.
ROLAND SWINTON: Really. Right.
INTERVIEWER: I’d have to listen to….haven’t heard that much to pick out the difference.
ROLAND SWINTON: Good dobro. Yeah, Junie’s playing with the Gibson Brothers now. There’s a fine group.
INTERVIEWER: They’re from up Plattsburgh way?
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, talented boy.
INTERVIEWER: One guy plays the bass?
ROLAND SWINTON: Um-hum. The other plays flat down. Beautiful, beautiful harmony. Really got some great voices there. Well, I’ll tell ya’, we’re gonna have ‘em back for a sponsored show, you know, for the Champlain Valley Bluegrass. When we do it, I’ll let you know. It would be right up at your Tradin’ Post. Usually that’s where we hold our shows. So it’ll probably be in the early Spring. I’ll give you a ring.
INTERVIEWER: You feel like playin’ a few tunes? How do you feel today for that? Want some more cider?
ROLAND SWINTON: I don’t know. Maybe.
INTERVIEWER: If you want….I was gonna ask you, at these square dances, like, what was the…was there always a piano or did some bands not have a piano? They played with the guitar or whatever kind of background?
SWITON: Well, when I first…of course, going way back when my first introductory to square dancin’, of course, was the old kitchen hops. There was either an old pump organ and the fiddle. And, ya know, I don’t recall too many guitars back then, but once in a while there’d be a tenor banjo maybe. And there was a gentleman in Orwell that played a five-string – more or less a claw hammer type – but he could play square dance tunes so you could recognize them. Frasier – Buster Frasier was his name. But…until I got to going to well-known square dances like Glendale – we were talking about – you wouldn’t run into the organized orchestras, you know, square dance orchestras that you…they were more or less, as you say, just a piano and fiddle. That’s about all you needed actually. Then you got your, of course, before your electric bass, you had your standup basses would come in and guitar and rounded out your group pretty full.
INTERVIEWER: Was the banjo – did they kick the melody out on that or…
ROLAND SWINTON: Oh, yeah, yeah, especially on the five-string. Five-string…tenor was more or less rhythm – more rhythm than….although there were some good tenor players that could play the melody but I think five-string would carry the melody more than the tenor would, you know, on an average. I had an uncle that played five-string, and he played, as I say, a lot like the hammer or…
INTERVIEWER: Claw hammer?
ROLAND SWINTON: …claw hammer, yeah. Frailing – frailing type…
INTERVIEWER: That’s funny because the banjo – you didn’t see a lot of banjo. Not everybody – it wasn’t as popular as the fiddle for people around this country.
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, banjo is one of your most youngest instruments, anyway. Banjo didn’t come into being until 1800′s, wasn’t it, when it really took a hold. Of course, the fiddle’s been in circulation since the 14th century, I guess, or a family of it, you know? I’ve got a lot of interesting….I got a book. I call it my fiddlers bible. If I want to know anything about the fiddle, it’s usually in that book. It tells you what the fiddle derived from, you know? It was originally a bow instrument but it only had three strings. And Reba….
ROLAND SWINTON: Reebach was the first name of ‘em. Then it – I imagine it’s just like everything….well, evolves today, you know, like you got five-string fiddles now, you know? And like I was saying, I always…never did anything with it, but I always had it in mind to make a dobro fiddle.
INTERVIEWER: This year.
ROLAND SWINTON: I think it would be quite a unique sound, you know, with a bow – a bow and a strong. But I don’t know as it would be too loud but maybe if you miked it or electrified it, it would give it a unique sound.
INTERVIEWER: Have you seen these fiddles, these electric fiddles, that have hardly any body at all? Have you seen those?
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, they disgust me. They had one on, I think it was Hee Haw – fiddlestick, they called it. All it was – it looked like a broom handle with strings on it and you got – sounded just as wholesome as a full body fiddle. Of course, it’s all electrified. They do anything with electronics today. In fact, I just stopped to a gentleman’s place down there – you know him – Ernie Brown, plays piano. He brought a brand new Roland. Just the way my first name’s spelled, Roland piano. And it’s the closest thing I’d ever heard in my life. I always said I didn’t like electronic pianos because you couldn’t get the piano sound. Let me tell you, if you’ve got your back turned, you’ll think twice. It’s so true to the sound, you know. I mean that thing will do anything. Program that thing and he’s got a full band right there if he wants it. Does his own backup. My, God, what a beautiful sound. Paid eight hundred and some odd dollars for it. And I thought it was quite a buy. He said it was the demonstrator and he got a buy. It was fourteen somethin’. But he’s not satisfied. Said next Spring he’s gonna go for the big one. One you put your disks in, you know, you reprogram the whole thing. Of course, he’s up on that, but I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what he’s talkin’ about. Boy, he played some nice music down there last Sunday. I stopped down there on the way down…
INTERVIEWER: Does he go to the fiddle….
ROLAND SWINTON: Sometimes. But very seldom.
INTERVIEWER: Does his brother? Is his brother still around?
ROLAND SWINTON: John?
INTERVIEWER: John. Plays the guitar?
ROLAND SWINTON: He doesn’t play anymore, though. Oh, we used to go down there and have good sessions but I don’t know. Ernie doesn’t understand it, either. Just doesn’t wanna.
INTERVIEWER: I think it’s a great way to get out and get going….Did you know – like over in Schroon Lake – Vanderwalker? Mr Vanderwalker. Maybe his name was Lee.
ROLAND SWINTON: Lee Vanderwalker? Yeah.
INTERVIEWER: He was a fiddler.
ROLAND SWINTON: But I don’t ever recall hearin’ him fiddle but I’ve heard of him. Oh, yeah.
INTERVIEWER: I did hear him play a few times.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah. You know, there was quite a few fiddle players from that area – up on the Hoffman Road, you know, there was an old gentleman up there…McKee? He was a good ol’ fiddle player. And, of course, I think I mentioned their names here some time ago to you – Guy Lapel, of course, he was fiddler of all time out there…that’s somethin’….if we weren’t on tape, I’d think of it right off….
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever play over at the Paradox?
ROLAND SWINTON: At the happy huntin’ grounds.
INTERVIEWER: Community Center, there, didn’t they have dances there in the summertime. Some…
ROLAND SWINTON: Community Center in Schroon Lake?
INTERVIEWER: In Paradox there, when you…Post Office.
ROLAND SWINTON: I never played there.
INTERVIEWER: Right around the corner from the Post Office, there’s like a red building there. Well, this was like….this must have been…probably ’47 – you was a kid….30 years ago…
ROLAND SWINTON: Then again, you’re talkin’ Paradox – there used to be a family – Cobb family – that lived in Paradox. They were all musically inclined.
INTERVIEWER: All right. I know one of them, I think. You know Dave?
ROLAND SWINTON: Dave, yeah. He’s…he would be a nephew of the older generation. See, there was…the Witchells married into the Cobb family and they were all musicials. INTERVIEWER Witchell’s one of the finest old fiddle players, mister. He died fairly young. He had emphysema. He could play anything.
INTERVIEWER: He was from Paradox?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, originally. He lived in Schroon Lake for a quite a while. When he died, he lived out in Northville, out beyond Wells, New York. But he could play anything – steel guitar, terrific leadman on a flat top or on an electric guitar. Played a little five-string, and a heck of a pedal steel man, mister. Boy, he used to pedal. And they were all, as I say, you know, all played together.
INTERVIEWER: ….Dave Cobb told me one time, I think he said it was his father who was a caller.
ROLAND SWINTON: Yeah, right.
INTERVIEWER: They did the dances down there at the….
ROLAND SWINTON: He had a son he lost in the war – George. I think his name was George. And he was very musical. He played for dances. Dave is a good entertainer. That old Dave Cobb. I like his music. Got a hundred and one songs, you know? Got a great memory.
INTERVIEWER: Did you know anything about, up here, this guy called Crazy Cretz?
ROLAND SWINTON: Doesn’t ring a bell. Crazy Cretz?
INTERVIEWER: Crazy Cretz, he was – well, he was kind of a local character. He lived….you know where that place..well, Camp Paradox, the boys’ came up there. Just on the other side of it – on the other side of the road, if you’re heading toward Schroon Lake, it would be on the left side. There’s a house up there, and he lived there. I guess he was kind of a wild man. He did a lot of carving, sculpting. He was….I don’t know that much about him, only that he was quite a character.
ROLAND SWINTON: Was he a musician?
INTERVIEWER: I don’t know….he lived there maybe in the 20s and 30s.
ROLAND SWINTON: Doesn’t ring a bell.
INTERVIEWER: There was also – some of the people tell me there was a lot of classical musicians that came down and stayed along Paradox Lake in the summertime. Did you ever have any contact with….
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, you know INTERVIEWER, you’re speaking back….
INTERVIEWER: Am I goin’ too far back?
ROLAND SWINTON: No, no, no, but I’m talking about the country square dance days. But, you know, back then, I lived at Loon Lake Colony or Loon Lake, and there used to be what they called Loon Lake Colony, just about a half a mile down the road from us. You know, back in those days, INTERVIEWER, there was a lot of bands, you know? Classical came into entertain, you know? It wasn’t just square dancin’ back in those days because, you know, when I say the upper class of people – they had their fine arts – what they called music back then. And I can remember, you could hear the band from my front porch, you know, where we lived over the lake there. We lived….3-story house. There’s a big porch and a grey top, and of course, down that lake, beautiful music would come…I’m talkin’ about wind instruments and…Then later on, they had what they call aerial bowilng over there…and I used to set up pins for that.
ROLAND SWINTON: Aerial bowling.
INTERVIEWER: How does that work?
ROLAND SWINTON: Well, they had three lanes. Three huge….or four huge telephone poles up with a cross that came on top with a……