Monday October 1, 2012

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

ARLINGTON -- Upwards of two dozen Norman Rockwell models reunited in Arlington over the weekend to swap stories behind the iconic images. Although well-worn tales, the models say they still like to share and remember life growing up with Rockwell.

"I'll tell the same stories to hundreds of people," said Paul Adams, who modeled in the year before the famous American painter and illustrator moved from the area. "People love to hear it ... and I don't mind telling them about it."

Upwards of 300 people from the area modeled for Rockwell while he lived on River Road in Arlington, from 1939 to 1953. About 60 remain and received invitations Saturday. Adams said his family was referred by family friend and folk artist Grandma Moses, after Rockwell sought black children to pose for photographs. (The photos served as the basis for illustrations appearing on calendars, Hallmark cards, and covers of The Saturday Evening Post and the boy scout publication Boys' Life, among others.)

Adams received the standard $5 rate for modeling, "a lot (of money) for a child" at the time, and Rockwell also paid for the taxi ride from Cambridge, N.Y., to Vermont. "It was a good time we had in West Arlington," recalled Adams.

"They're old memories, but it's a good memory."

Another model and the weekend reunion's organizer, Don Trachte Jr., said he enjoyed the anecdotal stories. Preserving that record is an aspect with each reunion, he acknowledged, "capturing the anecdotal stories ... capturing the little details never heard before."

A previous reunion of models took place in Arlington in 2010. (Others have taken place in Stockbridge, Mass., where Rockwell moved and later died.)

This past Saturday brought many area residents to meet and talk with the models at the Norman Rockwell Exhibition. The space includes memorabilia and an extensive collection of Saturday Evening Post prints.

The exhibit's new owner, Craig Lampani, said he took over this past June from Richie and Pattie Mears, who purchased the collection from Joy Henrichson of the longstanding Norman Rockwell Exhibit at the Arlington Gallery, the church adjacent to Stewart's on Route 7A. (The exhibit moved to its current location next to the Sugar Shack in 2008.)

Describing a "tremendous energy" resulting from this weekend's reunion, Lampani said his hope was to grow and develop the Rockwell collection to include not just Rockwell but also other contemporary area artists.

Trachte said he discovered this weekend that the Post illustration "The Trumpeter," featuring model Tom Paquin, included a Moses-designed fabric.

Mary Whalen, who posed as a girl in braids with a black eye waiting next to the principal's office (the black eye was transposed from another model), said she grew up with and knew many of the reuniting models.

Whalen pointed to a book written by Rockwell neighbor and model James "Buddy" Edgerton, "The Unknown Rockwell," for providing a true account of the illustrator's time in Arlington.

"It really gave a glimpse of who Norman Rockwell was," she said, as well as the "rich experience between the Rockwells and Edgertons."

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