The Unknown Rockwell by James “Buddy” Edgerton and Nan O’Brien
Interesting as a slice-of-life memoir of a rural Vermont childhood spanning the 30s, 40s, and 50s. I never knew or had much interest in Norman Rockwell, so the links to the famous guy were just part of the picture for me. I had to Google the images of many of the illustrations to which the author referred, not being at all familiar with them – then I discovered that many are included among the photos in the book’s middle.
For background, this is the memoir of someone who grew up next door to the Rockwell family in Arlington, Vermont. It’s written as a recollection in vignettes by “Buddy” Edgerton as an old man, with assistance from a writer. Some of the vignettes were rather dull. “That’s just the way he was” as the tag line, describing Norman, got a little old by the end. Edgerton tries to make you feel that his life really was a Rockwell painting come to life; not just because he, his family, and his neighbors were models for so many pictures, but because life really was like that. I found myself buying it; then I remembered facts like the fact that Buddy, the Boy Scout model for so many illustrations, was never a Boy Scout. What other things are left out of the story, perhaps uncomfortable things? Vermonters don’t talk about uncomfortable things – that was made very clear.
But I love memoirs, and this one will make me look twice next time I see an old Vermonter or read one’s obituary.