Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Small stories

by Rick Blechta

This week’s post concerns tiny ideas. These can be mere snippets of prose, maybe a little story told by a painting or drawing, or just a story title. The thing I’m getting at is that, skillfully done,  this bit of information can tell you a lot more than you expect it might.

Here’s a very good example of what I’m talking about. 

The Saturday Evening Post, a magazine of prominence in the 20th Century featured covers that told stories. Many, many of them were painted by the incomparable Norman Rockwell — but I’m not going to show you one of his. 

The artist of this cover was Dick Sargent and his painting tells a clever, humorous little story. Sargent did many Post covers starting in 1951 and into the ’60s when the magazine switched to much less expensive photographs for their covers. Since The Post published every week, there was a lot of work for illustrators. You couldn’t expect Rockwell to turn one out every week, could you? So other clever artists were hired and Sargent was among the best of them.

And now the inside story. My dad started out as a commercial artist, and one of his colleagues was Dick Sargent. The Sargents also lived near us in Westchester County (north of NYC). My dad was no longer doing commercial art by that time (he owned a photoengraving business), but my parents remained good friends with the Sargents.

My mom had a Cub Scout den (since I was a Cub Scout) and when Dick came up with the idea for this cover, he asked my mom if he could photograph the bunch of us in uniform as models. So we all went to his house, crowded inside of four sticks (standing in as the phone booth) and looking like, well, 10-year-old kids out for what should have been a fun hike. A few months later, the issue with us on the cover was on newsstands right across America. Were we proud!

In case you want to know, I’m the one on the far right (click on the image to make it larger if you want to see my 10-year-old-ness better). Dick didn’t ask me to make any particular expression other than, “Look sort of sad, Ricky.” It wasn’t a stretch for me since Stan Hedeen got to wear my brother’s hatchet on his belt — and I didn’t!


Anna said...

What a hoot! Rick, you haven't changed a bit.

Tanya said...

How amazing to have a memory of your childhood preserved on a Post cover!

Sybil Johnson said...

That is very cool.

Rick Blechta said...

To a 10-year-old it's like, "Yeah, whatever," but when the magazine came out (it was on newsstands all over the place -- even in Grand Central Station and out on 42nd Street!), I got really excited. Thank heavens my mother gave me the three copies she'd bought and hadn't just thrown out years later.

But now it's a very cool thing to have. And I really enjoy the little story it tells -- but I'm still not happy about Stan getting to have that very cool hatchet. And by the way, my big brother reminded me yesterday that it was actually his hatchet. I must have swiped it for the day, little bratty brother that I was.

Sara E Johnson said...

Priceless. And a reminder that a picture is worth...

Type M for Murder said...

Great post. What jumped out at me was that inset box "Why Prisons Fail." Fifty years later and we still ask that question.

Rick Blechta said...

Yeah. me too.

I've actually got the full issues (3). I should read it over since I have no memory of it, although I have read it in the deep, dark, distant past.

Perhaps it would make another good post.

Thanks for commenting!