ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Norman, You Rock (well)!

Updated on May 30, 2013

Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms Plates--Frame 1 of 2

Freedom of Worship; Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Worship; Freedom of Speech | Source

Where Norman Rockwell Lived and Painted for a Season

A markerArlington, VT -
Arlington, VT, USA
get directions

To everything...

I love small town America.

Cities have their unique appeal, but any attraction or affinity I have for urban life is always at a distance. I get too close, and I see ugly.

Not so with small towns. The closer I get, the more I want to be intimately drawn in.

The German Shepherd barking at me as I invade his territory in front of the picket fence doesn't phase me. He, too, is a puzzle piece that fits nicely into this rustic mosaic of old school charm that slowly and reluctantly succumbs to town hall councilmen clamoring for gentrification. Urban sprawl is a modern day reality. Thankfully, there's always enough resistance from the baby boomers to keep things in check.

In 1939, Norman Rockwell decided to leave the city with his wife, Mary, and their three boys. The family settled down in the small town of Arlington, Vermont. Rockwell's paintings began to reflect small town life in America. Arguably, he produced some of his most distinguished and noteworthy creations during this period.

1943 was a banner year for Norman Rockwell. Inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt's memorable and rousing address to Congress, Rockwell painstakingly created the Four Freedoms paintings.

Not long after, reproductions of the paintings appeared in four consecutive issues of the Saturday Evening Post along with brilliant essays by contemporary writers. Just about every family in the country subscribed to the Post, it seemed, and Rockwell's true-to-life Americana renderings proved extremely popular. The four paintings--Freedom of Speech; Freedom of Worship; Freedom from Want; and Freedom from Fear--aroused the spirit of national patriotism, rugged individualism, commitment to family, and the pioneer adherence to religious tolerance.

Rockwell's works toured across the country in a rousing exhibition that was jointly sponsored by the U.S. Treasury Department and the Saturday Evening Post.The accompanying sale of war bonds raised more than $130 million for the war effort.

1 man with vision, aplomb, and artistic genius...

$130 million dollars...

Norman Rockwell's Four Freedom Plates--Frame 2 of 2

Freedom from Want; Freedom from Fear
Freedom from Want; Freedom from Fear | Source

Regarding Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms paintings, which of the following might be true for you?

See results

...there is a season...

Fast forward seventy years...

The scene is my upstairs bedroom/office.

The phone rings, and the seasoned voice of a man who's seen all of seventy years resonates over the line.

He asks me if I still have the pair of frames containing the four Rockwell plates for sale.

Somewhat startled because the large frames had been stashed away in our small computer room for the longest time, along with several boxes of eBay inventory--let's call it what it is: clutter!--I respond in an uneven voice, one that is obviously pregnant with question marks, "Uh...yes! Yes, I still have them."

Thus begins a half-hour-long conversation. I discover that his wife had been taking a computer class and somehow got wind of an advertisement I'd posted online for these two magnificent framed sets of Norman Rockwell plates.

During our phone exchange, I get the distinct impression that this is no fly-by-night customer and that he's serious about purchasing these frames. I've never put these up on the official eBay site because of my inexperience with shipping heavy items. I thus posted them on the local Craigslist as well as eBay Classifieds, hoping that I could avoid the hassle of shipping by selling the framed set of plates to a nearby resident. Over time, with no nibbles, I had reduced the price drastically to the point where any potential sale would render a rather nominal profit margin.

At this point in the process, my wife would be glad just to get rid of the large items, so call me a motivated seller.

But, ironically, on the line with me is a customer from clear across the country...specifically, from the very area where Rockwell and his family had lived for several years.

The intrigue of it all rises within me. Of course, I'm always excited about a possible sale, but I'm sensing that there's something more to this.

I raise a vital point about shipping. "You know, sir," I hesitantly begin, "I honestly have no idea how to go about shipping heavy items like these, and I would have to check with local shipping vendors before I could provide you with a quote."

"Oh, yes, I totally understand," the gentleman replies. "In my work, I do a lot of cross-country shipping, and I am well acquainted with how expensive it can be."

Wow! He didn't even skip a beat. This guy's for real!

Long story short, I tell him that I will take the two frames downtown and get some estimates and then get back to him.

So that's what I do. Ultimately, after doing some research and in-person interviews, I decide to go with the Postal Express outfit in Walla Walla. It's definitely a reputable business and, in recent local newspaper polls, has received glowing raves from the country populace.

The packaging cost is reasonable, but the shipping, as expected, is simply ridiculous! Still, I am a man of my word and promptly call the customer back.

"As we discussed, Gene," I begin, "the price of the two-frame set of four Rockwell plates is $60."

"That's right," he replies.

"Well...I knew the packaging and shipping costs would be pretty high, but I was still pretty shocked at the estimate they gave me."

I wait for some kind of reaction but receive nothing.

So I continue.

"The labor and packaging costs amount to a little over $50..."

Again, I pause. A couple of heartbeats this time. Again, nothing.

"...But the shipping cost via UPS ground comes to $140!"

No sighs. No blustering. No forced air through pinched lips.

The news doesn't phase this laid back New Englander. Instead, Gene tells me that this amount is a ballpark figure that he'd anticipated.

Yeah, but a total cost of $250? The ballpark must be Yankee Stadium!

Model Rose Hoyt

Norman Rockwell's Freedom to Worship--Rose Hoyt was the model for the woman on the left holding the rosary.
Norman Rockwell's Freedom to Worship--Rose Hoyt was the model for the woman on the left holding the rosary. | Source

Rose Hoyt in Another Freedom Painting

Norman Rockwell's Freedom of Worship Painting--Young Rose Hoyt is at the left, peeking from behind the elderly gentleman.
Norman Rockwell's Freedom of Worship Painting--Young Rose Hoyt is at the left, peeking from behind the elderly gentleman. | Source

...and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

My curiosity is boiling over at this time, and so I ask Gene about the special significance that these Rockwell plates have for him.

He politely explains that he has two sons. He and his wife already have in their possession one set of four of these commemorative plates reserved for one son. But they had been looking high and low for a second set for their second son.

Our framed plates were thus an attractive and timely set for Gene and his wife.

He goes on to share with me that his mother, Rose Hoyt, as was the case with many of the residents of Arlington, Vermont, had been a model for several of Norman Rockwell's paintings. Indeed, her face and braided hairstyle appear on the FREEDOM OF WORSHIP plate. In the painting, she is second from the left and holding rosary beads.

Rockwell also commissioned Rose to pose for his FREEDOM OF SPEECH painting. That's Rose to the far left, peeking from behind an elderly gentleman.

As a young boy, Gene himself was used in a couple of paintings. But he humbly dwells on this for just a heartbeat, his attention focused squarely on the wonderful memories of his mother.

I couldn't help but empathetically share in the moment as I thought of my own mother, soon to be 80 years of age. Gene's mother had long since passed on, but here I was, reveling with this loving and grateful son in a moment of extreme tribute to his beloved mother, forever immortalized in Norman Rockwell's paintings.

Interesting Tidbits About Rose Willis Hoyt

  • Along with her husband, Cyril, Rose Hoyt raised 10 children--eight boys and two girls!
  • A skilled seamstress, Rose made all of her children's clothing by hand.
  • Rose baked all the bread for her family. Her children never saw or tasted store-bought bread until they went to school; when they did, they unanimously preferred their mother's bread.
  • Norman Rockwell noticed Rose at square dances and other activities in town. Rose accepted his invitation to pose for his paintings. As a result, she ended up in more than 20 of his paintings.
  • Here's an interesting anecdote: Rose was asked by Rockwell to hold rosary beads while posing for the Freedom of Worship painting. When Rose told Rockwell that she was Episcopalian, he asked her, "Would you be a Catholic for today?" She good-naturedly agreed and earned $5 that day.

Epilogue

I have sold over ten thousand items online, mostly on eBay, over the last dozen or so years. While each sale has been a cause for celebration, I can count on one hand the transactions that are indelibly etched into my soul.

Truly, this is one of them.

It confirms for me on several levels why it is that I do what I do. Happily, every aspect of this transaction went smoothly. But even more importantly, I am blessed to have contributed in some small way to a loving son's commemoration of a simpler and happier time in American history, a beloved tribute to his dear mother, and the sweet nostalgia with which a great artist graced his hometown.

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, whonu!

    How awesome that you have a great interest in and are moved by Rockwell and his work! Ever since I was a little boy, I have been inspired by his wonderful talent and love for all things Americana! Thanks for stopping by and leaving such gracious comments. Aloha!

    Joe

  • whonunuwho profile image

    whonunuwho 3 years ago from United States

    Rockwell has been an inspiration of mine for many years, as I am an artist and the same love of life and his subjects are my subjects. Thank you for sharing this wonderful hub and tribute to a great painter and humanitarian. whonu

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Good morning, Jo Goldsmith!

    Yes, Norman is an icon in both the contemporary art and publishing worlds. He was THE cover illustrator for Saturday Evening Post for years, so much so that he and the magazine were practically synonymous. He is to the art of mid-20th Century USA what billybuc is to HubPages today. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Aloha, and have a fantastic week!

    Joe

  • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

    Jo_Goldsmith11 3 years ago

    This is a fascinating, interesting and beautiful written article.

    I have always wanted to own a Norman Rockwell. Some of the scenery here in Kentucky, could be used for one of his paintings. The beautiful mountains covered in snow during winter. Thank you for sharing this, as I have not realised or experienced that much of the man's creativity.

    Once again, you are impressive. voted up +++ shared & tweeted. Aloha! :)

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 3 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    No matter what the reason, Liz, it's always nice when you stop by for a visit. Welcome back anytime! Can't wait to hear about your upcoming "adventure" in St. Petersburg! Aloha!

    Joe

  • Radcliff profile image

    Liz Davis 3 years ago from Hudson, FL

    Isn't that amazing?! Wow. There are so many different ways that we connect, even over many miles and generations. Thank you for sharing this awesome story. I really just visited to see your eBay ads. LOL

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @JayeWisdom

    You know, I simply can't recall how long it's been since we talked, Jaye! LOL! You said it all--"When an object is meaningful, its value is measured in more than money."

    Isn't that the way we feel about family? And about the coolest writers on the planet that we meet and get to know better here on HP? Amen to that, my friend!

    I'm busily working--in between responding to emails and messages and packaging eBay items--on a hub about my walking. On the first of each month for this entire year, I do a little special update on how far I've walked for the year, along with any weight loss, and simply wax creative...meandering in my writing like the way I walk. I never know exactly what I'm going to say because it's an impromptu exercise in writing that I challenge myself to do every now and then. Anyway, I apologize for not getting back to your comments sooner! I am one who truly appreciates those who extend themselves, and in that department, you're a cut above! Aloha, my friend!

    Joe

  • JayeWisdom profile image

    Jaye Denman 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

    Terrific human interest story, Joe. When a potential customer really wants something that is difficult to find, price is not usually an object.

    I understand this because in the past (when I had more money) I paid a lot for three beautiful Art Deco chandeliers. I gave one to a family member for a special occasion, but still enjoy the other two even though I probably paid too much for them. What can I say? They captured my heart. If (when) I part with them, it will be to pass them on to members of my family who will enjoy them as much as I have.

    When an object is meaningful, its value is measured in more than money.

    Voted Up+++

    Jaye

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @KoffeeKlatch Gals

    Yeah, the human interest stories that come along every now and then are simply awesome to write about. Since eBay is a niche I enjoy writing about, anyway, I figure one way to help or even perhaps motivate people is to pull back the curtain and share behind the scenes stories. I write truthfully about these experiences, and yet I'm always the first one to be surprised at how real life can sometimes trump the wildest fiction. I also don't work hard at being funny, but something magical happens in the process and these things come to mind that I just refuse to pass up. Sometimes, I have to censor myself, but that's part of the fun, too. Thanks for your lovely and perceptive comments. So good to be on the same (hub)page with you!

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Haze 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

    You are such a wonderful storyteller. I was facinated all the way through. How wonderful that the happenstance of occurrances made it possible for the family of one of the people in the pictures to obtain them Up and awesome.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @mary615

    Mary, I know your frustration with these Rockwell plates, and I feel for you. I wonder all the time about why plates are struggling on eBay. I myself don't know the answer to this question, but have you looked on Amazon to see if they might be doing better on that venue?

    The fact that you are passing these heirlooms on to your adult children is very commendable. Sometimes, the value of items comes back full circle. You just never know--your gift to your children might just be a long term windfall for them.

    Thank you for reading my article and generously sharing your input. Aloha, Mary!

  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

    I have always been a fan of Norman Rockwell. I have collected many of his plates. Now that I am downsizing my house, I have looked on eBay to find a fair value, and I am so disappointed to find they have lost value over the years. I'll just let my kids have them to enjoy.

    I enjoyed reading your story , thanks for sharing.

    Voted UP, etc.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @Hawaiian Scribe

    Aloha, Stephanie!

    I could kick myself! A few days ago, I was sitting in the Starbucks at Waikoloa Village, just five feet or so away from shelves filled with this particular Hawaii mug...the one with the surfboard, shark, and stuffed turtle. It's like $6.99 or so. Anyway, I thought about picking one up, but then I thought, I'll just buy one in Hilo. Surely, they're available in Hilo! No such luck! How can two towns on the same island be so different? Ha-ha!

    Anyway, since you're thinking about getting started on eBay (and I'm honored to have contributed a small push in that direction, Stephanie), do yourself a huge favor and buy one, two, or as many of the mugs I've described above. After I left the Big Island, my mom and sister--bless their hearts--looked for this mug in Hilo...no luck. Mom found one at the Honolulu airport and bought it for me...but it was actually two dollars more (understandably, the airport shops jack the price up). Anyway, check for yourself on eBay, but these $6.99 mugs were selling for $29.99...maybe more...just a week or so ago. Even considering the expenses, you can make $15 - $18 profit per mug. And the cool thing is that these mugs are sold only in Hawaii, thus keeping your competition down. Had I known what I know now, I would've bought a dozen of these mugs and sell them with one multiple listing from my sister's eBay site and split the profit with her (since she and her husband would end up doing the packaging and shipping). Keep me posted if you decide to do this after researching eBay for updates on this mug.

    Now, back to the Rockwell story. So I told Gene Hoyt, the man who bought the framed plates from me, that I wrote for HP. Just today, I called his wife and told her that I needed their email so I could send them a link to the story. She was ecstatic, and that gave me such a good feeling! This is why I love my niche-marriage of eBay and HubPages. Thanks for being a loyal supporter, Stephanie. I wish you the very best. Remember, don't ever hesitate to shoot me a line if you ever have any questions regarding selling on eBay. Aloha!

  • Hawaiian Scribe profile image

    Stephanie Launiu 4 years ago from Hawai'i

    What a wonderful story! Did you know you have inspired me to begin on eBay? I'm taking baby steps. Haven't listed anything yet. I'm in the "hunting" stage and having so much fun I may never get anything listed. I love Norman Rockwell and enjoyed reading your very inspired hub. Aloha, Stephanie

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @mperrottet

    Wow! I am so touched by your kind words. Thank you so very much for moving me to wax nostalgic along with you about a beautiful bygone era. Although Kaua'i is geographically distant from New Jersey, my town of Kapa'a had two theaters, Pono and Roxy. Those theaters, sadly, no longer exist, to the best of my knowledge. We identify with each other in regards to the memory of these small town "dinosaurs" nevertheless being alive and well. : ) Unlike the fortunate people of Arlington, Vermont, however, we didn't have the likes of Norman Rockwell gracing our respective communities with his presence and artistic talent. It's up to us, then, to paint the pictures and share the stories with our literary best. Thank you so very much, my friend, for taking the time to share in this experience. Aloha from SE Washington state!

    Joe

  • mperrottet profile image

    Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

    What a fascinating story, so well written! I grew up in a small town in New Jersey, when each little town had its own movie theater and shops. Rockwell really captured that era. The same little town now struggles to keep any stores on its Main Street in business, since everything is urban sprawl and shopping centers. I loved this hub - voted up and interesting, and will share.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @rajan jolly

    Thank you for your loyal support, my friend. Yes, indeed, you are spot on with your observation that I was delighted to have encountered someone, through my eBay work, who had actually shared time and space with a famous artist...and whose mother had been contracted over twenty times to model for Rockwell's paintings. This amazing connectivity is what fuels my passion for both eBay and HubPages. Thank you for sharing in this experience, Rajan!

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

    I can very well imagine why this sale touched you so. To be associated personally with a part of history in whatever small way is indeed an experience of a lifetime.

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful story. It is a very captivating read.

    Voted up, interesting and awesome my friend and passing it on.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @Mommymay

    Excellent points that you raise, Heather...a sound reminder to me and a great life lesson to share with our fellow writers and readers, eBayers or not, that it's very important to discover and value the other person's story. I've always been about connecting with others, and I try to encourage that both in my writing for HubPages as well as in my eBay work. Every now and then, as was the case with Gene Hoyt, I'm blessed with the seed for an interesting article to share. Thank you so much for intuitively recognizing and understanding the amazing stories between the lines.

    Good to be back home, and good to hear from you once again. Today is April 1st, so Game On! I'll work on an article about it today and this evening. Aloha!

  • Mommymay profile image

    Heather May 4 years ago from Ohio

    That is amazing and maybe one of my favorite ebay/item articles that you have done! It shows the other side of the transaction...for us..it is l about the turn and flip and for our buyers...it could be about a piece of family history. This shows that even though the buying and selling world is vast - the true world, filled with stories and people, is definitely small. Congrats on finding the right HOME for your Rockwell plates. I am certain they are no longer "clutter" and now family heirlooms!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @Elias Zanetti

    Thank you, Elias, for stopping by to read my hub and share your kind comments. I pray that you are doing well and look forward to your next article. In the meantime, Έχετε μια υπέροχη εβδομάδα, και μπορεί ο καλός Λόρδος ντους άφθονη χάρη Του επάνω σας και η δική σας!.

    Aloha from southeast Washington state!

    Joe

  • Elias Zanetti profile image

    Elias Zanetti 4 years ago from Athens, Greece

    Great story and a beautiful way of telling it! I only knew of Rockwell's paintings with children and the like. Overall, a great artist.

    Nice hub!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @kashmir56

    Hi, Tom!

    Happy Easter! In my line of work, it's always cause for celebration to land a sale. But this one was very special because of Gene Hoyt's fond reminiscences about Norman Rockwell's work and how his mom was featured in over twenty of the artist's paintings. As bad as I am with geography, I don't imagine Vermont is too far away from Massachusetts, so I'm guessing this hub may have underscored many reasons why New England is such a great place to live. Thanks for graciously sharing in this experience, Tom! Aloha!

  • kashmir56 profile image

    Thomas Silvia 4 years ago from Massachusetts

    Hi my friend hope you are enjoying a wonderful Easter. Thanks for sharing you journeys with us, i always enjoy reading about those great finds you make and great sales you have made on eBay .

    Vote up and more !!!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @bdegiulio

    Happy and Blessed Easter to you and yours as well, Bill! Honestly, I'd completely overlooked the timing of this hub, so I'm very grateful to you for pointing out its appropriateness for an Easter connection. I know in my heart that when I'm able to share this Hub and its accompanying comments with Gene Hoyt and his family, they will be immensely blessed. Have a wonderful day, my friend, and a great week ahead! And may we always have a Risen Hope in our hearts!

  • bdegiulio profile image

    Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

    Joe, what a beautiful story and on how appropriate on Easter morning. I loved this story and couldn't wait to see if it had a happy ending. This is very, very well written and interesting. I imagine that this is one sale and story that you will not soon forget. Great job. Will vote up and share around. Have a wonderful Easter .

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @wetnosedogs

    Good morning, my Alabama friend! Thank you so very much for reading and sharing this account of a son's tribute to his mother and the wonderful work of one of America's artistic geniuses. The appeal of Norman Rockwell is that he featured the core of American character--its everyday people. And that is what we have going on here in this literary community of HubPages--everyday people doing their everyday best...people like you and me and all the others who paint this giant slice of Americana, one Hub at a time. I'm glad you stopped by and shared your wonderful input. Have a great week ahead, and I'll pretend that I'm taking your furry friends on my walk tomorrow morning!

  • wetnosedogs profile image

    wetnosedogs 4 years ago from Alabama

    What an awesome hub to wake up to.

    It is fantastic that Norman Rockwell is still great in our memories and that someone living gathers up the strength to call about these paintings. And such great history.

    Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful story.

    (And hoping you will seriously do a hub on taxes and such, thanks to Karen H.'s hub)

    Happy Easter to you and your family.

    I am sharing this hub.

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @xstatic

    Hi, Jim! Thank you for your kind words and warm "welcome back!" Had a great time on the Big Island with family and friends. Went to a ballpark in Hilo where two of my grand-nephews played against each other in a 6-8-year-old coach-pitched game. I was walking back to the rental van to check on my itinerary when I noticed a local woman in the distance wearing a green sweatshirt with a yellow "O". I immediately surmised that she probably had a son or daughter attending the U of Oregon. The thought-association naturally brought you to mind. The moral of the story? Once one is bitten by the Hub bug, you can't go anywhere without encountering something Hubbable! LOL!

  • xstatic profile image

    Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

    Joe, this is a wonderful hub you have written about a great experience. I am glad you shared it with us and will share it with others myself. I had noticed it had been a while since you published a hub. I am glad all is well.

    Amost midnight here, just got home from a stage performance of Westside Story, done by a touring company here. Great singing and dancing.

    Walk on, Rock(well) on too!

Click to Rate This Article