Over the Hill

Setting the clock forward is more fun when it's decorated with Norman Rockwell artwork

Phil Dirkx
Phil Dirkx jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A little over a week ago, while resetting our clocks for daylight savings time, I dropped our pretty blue-and-white china kitchen clock. It shattered.

So there I was at bedtime with no kitchen clock. Luckily, I had a spare clock in my office. Printed on that clock’s face is a picture that was painted by the late Norman Rockwell.

It’s a picture of the interior of a 1940s-era diner. It shows the lunch counter, with chrome-trimmed, round, backless stools. It shows a little boy and a big policeman sitting side by side on two stools. It shows the amused counterman standing behind the counter, dressed in white.

The boy’s legs dangle. They’re too short to reach the footrest. A long stick lies on the floor nearby. Tied to one end of it is a red bandana bulging with the boy’s belongings. The little boy eyes the uniformed policeman warily. The officer looks back in a good-natured, serious way.

We don’t know what happened earlier or later, so we’re free to make up the rest of their story ourselves.

In one possible version, the adventure-seeking boy got a mile from home and decided he needed refreshments, so he entered the diner. Then the counterman notified the police.

Another story could be that the officer was riding his motorcycle when he saw the little boy alone, and stopped to check. He invited the boy into the diner to chat and to make sure the boy returned home safely.

But now getting back to reality and my house, I put a new battery in the replacement clock, set it for the correct time and noticed I was in a good mood.

Norman Rockwell pictures often do that to me. To me, they seem slightly unrealistic in a positive way. They make me think we humans can actually do things to help each other if we really try.

Just look how Norman Rockwell helped America win World War II. He painted four pictures that helped us Americans understand why we were fighting that terrible war. The paintings were titled the “Four Freedoms.” They included the Freedom of Speech, the Freedom of Worship, the Freedom from Want and the Freedom from Fear.

The Freedom of Speech picture showed a man standing up from the audience at a public meeting and voicing his opinion. The Freedom of Worship picture showed the profiles of six men and women as they prayed. The Freedom from Want picture shows a big family smiling as Grandma puts onto the table a platter containing a big roasted turkey, while Grandpa stands by waiting to carve. The Freedom from Fear picture shows a man and woman checking on their two sleeping children.

Rockwell had predicted he could paint the pictures in two months. He actually took seven.

The Saturday Evening Post reported getting millions of request for Four Freedoms reprints. More millions were distributed with war bond drives. Others were put out as large posters in the United States and abroad.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to the Tribune. He has live in Paso Robles more than 50 years. His column appears here every other week. Reach him at 805-238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.