Remembering Alf, By Michael Perkins

(Michael Perkins and I have dedicated The Pocket Guide to Woodstock to Alf Evers, the beloved historian who wrote Woodstock: History of an American Town, The Catskills, and many articles that have brought our past back to life. A folklorist as well as a historian, he knew how to tell a story, which makes his books not only encyclopedic but endlessly entertaining. Two fine obituaries appear on-line from the New York Folklore Society and Ed Sanders. Here Michael Perkins shares thoughts about his old friend.)

Anyone who writes about the history of Woodstock must consult Alf Evers’s weighty and authoritative tome about the town. Alf spent a long life forgetting more about Woodstock than those of us who labor in his shadows will ever know.

I met Alf in the Seventies, when I asked him to join the Woodstock Guild’s Advisory Board. Even then, Alf was revered as the memory—and soul—of Woodstock. Alf and I led tours of Brydcliffe together. In those days, White Pines, the home of Byrdcliffe’s founder, was decaying. We explored it together. Alf could answer any question you might have, fully and patiently.

We worked together on the 1987 Bicentennial committee, which threw a huge two week party for the town. Once, we were scheduled to appear on Kingston television to publicized the Bicentennial. He picked me up in his VW bug and drove us to the studio. I asked him what he thought about the possibility of stopping the forces of development. “Unfortunately, only a Depression,” he answered.

His last hurrah was a series of celebrations held up in a natural amphitheater behind his home. He was honored with an award at the Woodstock Library when he was almost a century old. The library was packed. He had achieved a legendary status.

Will Nixon and I drew on his book for our Pocket Guide to Woodstock. It is dedicated to him.

I was pleased to read just recently when I opened my copy of The Catskills that he had signed it to “My friend, Michael.”

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The Mother Grouse Blog is produced by Will Nixon, author of My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse and Love in the City of Grudges available on-line.

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