Guthrie Center proves worth a quick visit

New England attractions include Rockwell Museum

Posted: Friday, July 04, 2008

After spending three days in Portsmouth, N.H., we left and headed west on Highway 101. We stopped at Wilmington, Vt., and enjoyed a good potroast lunch in an old tavern that is still decorated in 1950s-60s style. From Wilmington, we drove to Bennington, Vt., and started south on Highway 7 through Vermont to Stockbridge, Mass.

Courtesy Of Don Harris
Courtesy Of Don Harris

After we arrived at Stockbridge, we drove several miles to the Norman Rockwell Museum. However, it was late in the afternoon and we had to find a room for the night. The Stockbridge inns and hotels are quite expensive. We drove 13 miles to Great Barrington, Mass., and stayed at the Travel Lodge that cost us only $64. We purchased our evening meal in a grocery store deli.

The next morning, we drove back north from Great Barrington to Housatoric and found Alice's Restaurant's Church. The church door was opened. Two men greeted us. One was a paid employee who schedules concerts and programs. Arlo Guthrie performs three times a year at the church. The money earned from Arlo's concerts and those of other musicians, writers and speakers support the Church of All Religions.

The largest fundraiser each year is "Arlo Guthrie's Historic Garbage Trail Walk To Massacree Huntington's Disease." (KTOO plays Arlo Guthrie's Historic Garbage Massacree each Thanksgiving morning while we bake pumpkin pies and roast the turkey.) The money raised goes to the fight against Huntington's disease, the disease that killed Woody Guthrie.

The walk begins at the church. The participants walk to the town dump and to the Stockbridge Police Station. The walk ends at Alice's Restaurant (now owned by someone else) where walkers are served sandwiches, drinks and cookies.

The guide gave us a tour of the Church of All Religions that includes a sanctuary and a yoga den. The Guthrie Center also provides free lunches for senior citizens. In 2006, the center had 80 guests for Thanksgiving dinner. The Guthrie Center's mission is to help others less fortunate.

From the Guthrie Center, we returned to Stockbridge and spent about two hours at the Norman Rockwell Museum. We took a guided tour of the museum. Our guide talked about Rockwell's life and his art. Rockwell was an artistic editor at a young age and worked for the Boy Scouts magazine. He is also famous for his covers for the Saturday Evening Post and other magazines. Our guide said that every one of his paintings told a story. Rockwell loved to travel. He designed ads for Pan American Airlines to encourage others to travel worldwide.

Rockwell's "Four Freedoms" are the centerpieces of the museum. The "Four Freedoms" are Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. In 1943, the Four Freedoms were on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post.

In the gift shop, we chatted with one of the clerks. She was one of Rockwell's models when she was a girl. Her father, a dentist, was a friend and also a model for Rockwell.

On the day we visited, Rockwell's studio was not open to visitors. However, we were able to look through the large windows to see the interior of the studio. The studio looked like Rockwell had just stepped outside for a few minutes. Rockwell's youngest son has a number of playful sculptures on the grounds of the museum.

We returned to Highway 7, a highway famous for many good antique shops. We had the luck of finding a restored 1941 diner, filled with mostly men and truck drivers. The waitresses and cooks looked like the stereotypical hard-working women, and the place was spotless.

When our waitress learned we were from Alaska, we had a long conversation about Alaska and her life and her kids. We enjoyed our real hamburgers. It was a great adventure.

After lunch, we stopped at several antique shops. We stopped off and on to stretch and walk a bit. We drove steadily through Connecticut. Little traffic. Fewer villages. We drove up and down mountainous areas. The rivers were filled with high water. We saw old abandoned mills. We drove on Highway 84 through New York State to Port Jervis, N.J., and crossed the border into Pennsylvania. We traveled south to the Poconos, where we spent the night.

• Alma Harris is a retired Juneau-Douglas High School English teacher who loves to travel and write.

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