Yankee Classic: Why We Still Love Rockwell
With something hawkish peeping from her buttony eyes, our tour guide at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, makes sure that none of us strays off the carpet and onto the no-man’s-land of shiny tile, where we would be too close to the illustration of the Boy Scout and grandfatherly war veteran that was painted by “America’s most beloved artist” in 1924.
“Now what do you think the older man is telling the Boy Scout?” the tour guide demands of our group of strangers. In the picture the grandfather wears a blue military uniform, holds a map on his knee, sits beside a drum, and gestures to the wide-eyed boy.
“He’s telling him about his exploits in the Civil War,” a gray-haired man says.
“Most people guess that,” the tour guide says, “but you’re wrong.” Now we all feel stupid, so we all look at our feet and wait to be told what we’re seeing, and you feel really stupid when you have to be told what you’re seeing in a Norman Rockwell illustration.
Finally the tour guide says, “The caption to this was, ‘If your wisdom teeth could talk, they’d say use Colgate’s.’ It was an ad for Colgate’s Dental Cream.”
“Toothpaste?” a young man about 19 says. He’s wearing fat-tongued Nikes, stylishly untied. His blonde girlfriend seems equally puzzled.
“Norman did work for magazines, card companies, insurance companies, tire companies, liquor and tobacco companies,” the tour guide says.
“I thought he was an artist,” the young man says.