This past spring, Perkins Center for the Arts held a fundraiser called A Toast to the Past: Celebrating Evergreen Lawn's Centennial. At this fundraiser, one of the items in the silent auction was A Day in the Life of a Folklorist. The following is a recounting of the experience of the winner of that auction item, 18 year old Zachery Finio.
October 25, 2011 - Field Day with Tom Carroll
We left Collingswood early in the morning and headed south to meet with two glassblowers; one had his studio within a shop where he sold his wares, the other’s studio was outside his home. Each showed us the furnaces and talked about the craft.
Our next stop was a Hindu Temple. We sat outside for awhile, unsure of whether it would be intrusive for us to enter. A teacher from the Temple invited us inside. We took off our shoes and talked with him for some time. A young man spoke to us as we were leaving, and gave us each an apple.
Then Tom took me to visit a collector who had old, unusual tools in his shed, and rare glass was displayed throughout his home.
As we drove along, Tom noticed an older man sitting in a field. Tom said, “I’ve never seen anyone here before, let’s go talk to him.” We stopped at the side of the road and approached the man. At first he seemed timid and unprepared for discussion. Tom asked some questions about the man’s farm and the surrounding community. He explained about his folk life interests and recognized the farmer’s Jamaican accent. At this point, the farmer relaxed, he and Tom began to talk about Jamaican food and cooking. In a short time the farmer was showing us his vegetables - banana-size Jamaican okra and some peppers that he warned us were “very hot” - we tasted an English star pepper that was tangy/sweet. As we left, Tom and the farmer planned to meet again to talk more about the farm.
Tom has an amazing way of putting people at ease and expressing his interest genuinely. It’s like seeing an artist take a blank piece of paper and draw an image - Tom starts up a conversation and a story emerges.
Our day ended at the edge of the Delaware River, talking with some local fishermen. I’ve lived in Southern New Jersey my whole life; in this one day I learned what folklore is and realized its significance in connecting us to one another.