The 5L (Liberty, Literature, Leaves, Lobster, and Love) Tour
Linda and I stumbled around the Berkshires in search of another literary great, Norman Rockwell, and discovered Stockbridge, a delightful little village on the Housatonic River. (Didn’t the CSA submarine H. L. Hunley sink the USS Housatonic in 1864 in Charleston harbor?) Less than 2,500 people live there, and all of them gather in May in one of the last active New England open town meetings to select their councilmen and set the budget for their police, fire, public works, and library.
A plaque in the town square names some of their famous citizens:
• Joseph Choate, who helped break up the Tweed Ring;
• Jonathan Edwards, who sent hordes of evangelicals as missionaries around the world;
• Erik Erikson, psychologist who created the term “identity crisis;”
• Reinhold Niebuhr, theologian who said, “The sin of pride created evil;”
• James Taylor, who wrote “ Fire and Rain” about his mental breakdown in North Carolina then recovered with “Carolina on My Mind;” and
• Norman Rockwell, who drew more magazine covers that any other person.
Since I grew up with Rockwell’s illustrations in Boys Life and Popular Science, and Linda discovered his work in Tom Sawyer books, we had to check out the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge that has the greatest collection of his art anywhere.
Rockwell settled in Stockbridge in 1957 and turned a dilapidated barn into his studio. He directed in his will that it become a museum housing his works. The museum was founded in 1969, nine years before Rockwell died of emphysema ( I always remember him with a pipe in his mouth.), and one year after he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Jimmy Carter.
The Rockwell museum collection includes most of his 700 drawings, his business and personal correspondence, and thousands of photographs he used to create his illustrations. A separate building, his studio, contains his materials and equipment, and his personal library. I particularly enjoyed the statuary on the grounds, robotic creatures somewhat resembling the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.
Next week: Herman Melville pondered here!