The waiting room of Dr. Donald E. Campbell's office is familiar -- as familiar as the Norman Rockwell print hanging on one pale green wall.
In 40 years of general practice in this tiny, well-heeled town, Campbell has delivered babies, set broken bones, tucked his stethoscope up to beating hearts and answered the fearful questions of people he has known for all their lifetimes. It is a career not remarkable for any small-town practitioner.
Except that in the 1950s Campbell's neighbor, Norman Rockwell, would often slip across the street to the white clapboard house and office and use him as a model for his illustrations.
The Saturday Evening Post cover framed on the wall is of Campbell's own office and it is Campbell who stands at the sink preparing the injection for a little boy.
He is one of dozens of Stockbridge residents who posed for the illustrator, who lived here from 1953 until his death in 1978 at the age of 84. Like Campbell, many of Rockwell's models not only looked their part, but lived it as well.
They were real children of the 1950s who played baseball in empty lots and real parents who tucked them in at night. A kindly policeman modeled for the kindly policeman and a dedicated coach on one Post cover was really the football coach for years at nearby Williams College. The couple who modeled as a couple signing their marriage license in 1955 had obtained their own license just weeks before.
"We were very much in love," says Joan Mahoney of Pittsfield, who posed with her husband Moe Mahoney in Stockbridge's old Town Clerk's office on Main Street. "And we're more in love today than we were then."
These are models who laugh at Rockwell critics who dismiss the illustrations as too ideal, and therefore unreal.
"Oh, I am real enough," said Campbell, good-naturedly waving his hand as if to dismiss those who question the existence of dedicated family doctors. "I cut a tumor off an old hound dog when I was 14 and have been practicing medicine ever since.
"No, you don't see many general practitioners anymore and I think you've lost a lot of the warmth between a doctor and patients he has treated for years," says Campbell, now 71, in an office that has changed remarkably little since Rockwell painted it. His face has changed remarkably little, too, still broad and pleasant under hair that has almost always been white.
"I generally use my neighbors because they look like real models and professional models don't," Rockwell once said. And this old New England town was the perfect culling ground for Rockwell.On a main street called Main Street, children fly on bicycles to Nejaime's Market, where they buy ice-cream cones at the old-fashioned soda fountain, squirming on too-high stools. Nejaime's is a microcosm of Stockbridge, warm and inviting with wooden floors and clerks in stiff white aprons. Spaghetti-o's crowd next to jars of homemade jams on the well-stocked shelves.
On the sidewalk out front is Stockbridge's version of a passive solar collector -- an elderly pointer dog sprawled unflinching in a patch of warm sunshine. Overhead, on the second story above Nejaime's, is an architecturally incongruous picture window. Rockwell had it built when he had his studio up there in the mid-1950s so he could look out on the passive dogs and children and bicycles of Main Street.
"Oh, I see Norman Rockwell scenes everywhere," says town librarian Pauline Pierce. "We joke about it all the time."
In the basement of the town public library is a musty history room that could be America's attic, filled with old books, clothes, letters, household goods and farm tools.
From a file drawer, Pierce pulls a portfolio of faded press clippings on Rockwell and the people he painted. Dozens and dozens of clips from local newspapers in the 1950s and '60s begin something like, "Several local residents can be seen on the cover of this month's Saturday Evening Post." In most cases their names and addresses can still be found in the 1984 Stockbridge phone book.
"I modeled for him," volunteers Pierce, shyly. "He was so meticulous about details, I helped research for him sometimes. He would come in, too, to say he needed little boys or girls as models and did I know of any."
The boy about to receive a shot from Campbell in Rockwell's March 1958 Saturday Evening Post cover is Ed Locke, now 34 years old and living in Stockbridge. Rockwell chose him as a model one afternoon after carefully scrutinizing each student's face at Stockbridge Plain School as the children were eating lunch in the cafeteria.
Locke's was an idyllic childhood, marred only by the fact that his bare bottom was depicted on the cover of a major magazine, much to the delight of his classmates.
"I can still recall the hoots when the teacher held up that magazine," said Locke recently over coffee at a Friendly's restaurant in the neighboring town of Lee. "I was reminded of it every time I came up to bat in baseball."
Here his voice rises to the falsetto, singsong taunt of a nasty 8-year-old: "Eddie drops his pants for five dollars."
Locke chuckles and shakes his head. Then says in consipiracy, "Not true -- it was $10."
His curly hair, escaping from under a work cap, is blond and gray, but the face still has the wide blue eyes that can be seen in Rockwell's illustrations.
"His illustrations were real," said Locke, whose father worked in a local paper mill and whose mother taught at a local school.
Locke left his little home town to attend a series of colleges, where he majored in black history. His was the only white face, then covered with a beard and framed by shoulder-length hair, in many classrooms. He marched against George Wallace and watched high school friends march off to Vietnam while he held his own draft card with a high number.
He came back to Stockbridge almost 10 years ago, alienated from his parents, although he made his peace with them before their deaths.
He is cleanshaven now, married to an elementary school classmate and working in the area installing refrigeration systems.
"Met her at a local gin mill," he says of his wife, his second. "I never noticed her at school but she looked pretty good at the gin mill."
Behind him, a restaurant booth is filled with little children, one wearing a Care Bear sweatshirt and another in a Celtics knit hat. "It's harder for kids today to grow up," says Locke, as the children drip chocolate ice cream on the table top and smear it with their water glasses. "They are exposed to so much more than we were."
Locke also was the model for the little runaway, treated to a soda by a kindly police officer before being carted home, in a September 1958 Post cover. The kindly police officer was Dick Clemens, a Massachusetts state trooper at the time, since retired from the force and now a security manager for General Electric in Pittsfield.
"Yes, I can truthfully say that I did," says Clemens, when asked if he ever brought home errant children. He slips easily into the clipped tones of a Sgt. Joe Friday. "At that time I was out on road patrol. We had routine investigations that involved young people of various types."
Locke and Clemens knew each other even before they posed for Rockwell's camera at a Howard Johnson's in Pittsfield. Locke remembers being allowed to play in Clemens' squad car, where he worked the siren and flashing lights to his 8-year-old heart's content.
They met again more than a decade later in a community college course during the height of tense relations between police and youth.
"He had to come up and reintroduce himself because I couldn't recognize him under all that hair, I think an earring too," says Clemens of the second meeting. "We had a long talk, some basic philosophic differences, but he is a fine boy."
Locke's classmate Scotty Ingram also was the model for many a Rockwell illustration. The whole Ingram family posed, as a matter of fact. In a mid-1950s calendar illustration for the Boy Scouts of America, Scotty stands in awe as his real-life mother and father proudly adjust a new Boy Scout uniform on his real-life older brother Ken.
"We've always been a close family," says Evelyn Ingram, 58, who lives here with her husband Donald. On the flocked wallpaper of her country kitchen are copies of Rockwell illustrations: her holding a baby, her husband teaching her son to bat a baseball, Scotty looking devastated at finding a Santa suit in his father's bureau drawer.
Both her sons were Boy Scouts and played Little League. She was a member of the PTA who stayed home while her husband spent long days working as an engineer at a chemical plant in Canaan, Conn. He commuted every day so his sons could grow up in Stockbridge.
On hot summer days, she says, the boys would set up a lemonade stand on the seventh hole of Stockbridge's municipal golf course at the edge of their yard, bicycling furiously into town to buy more sugar and lemons as thirsty golfers, including Campbell, drained the boys' ice-cold pitchers.
Mrs. Ingram has scrapbooks of her son Scotty, but instead of faded photographs they contain reprints of Rockwell's illustrations. Rockwell appeared at her front door one day, pipe in hand, to say he was interested in drawing a boy playing baseball and understood she had a son who was in Little League.
"Sweetest man you could ever meet," she says. "I always got him confused with illustrator Rockwell Kent, but then before you knew it we were all associated with Rockwell. It took no great talent -- we were just here and had the look he wanted."
Scotty Ingram, now 34, was used by Rockwell for dozens of illustrations for magazines, greeting cards, commemorative coins and ceramic plates. So influential was Rockwell in Ingram's life that he wrote a book about his experiences as a model and now operates a company in St. Louis that sells ceramics and prints of Rockwell illustrations.
His mother is less immersed in Rockwell but was willing to sit down for an afternoon in her colonial house to ponder the idea that she may have represented the perfect wife and mother. Her house is the kind that is aspired to, large and filled with fine furniture on a spacious tree-shaded lot.
"He selected people who personified what he was looking for, but I don't think he was ever looking for perfection, he had more depth than that," she says.
She had wanted to be a fashion designer, an impractical and radical idea to her parents in the late 1940s. So instead she married at the age of 26 and she and her husband moved from New York to Stockbridge because they thought it was a good place to raise children.
"That's what you did then, everyone got married and started a family," she says. "My God, if we knew it would cost $12,000 to put our son through college then maybe we would have thought twice. But you just didn't think twice then."
She says she has no regrets.
"I think of Scotty and his wife, who works, and how they have to put their baby in day care," she says, reaching for a gilt-framed photo of a little grandson with familiar-looking curly hair and chubby cheeks. "Right from the beginning they put him in day care, but it works out well.
"We didn't know in my day we had a choice to work," she says. "Now most women don't seem to have a choice either. They have to work, oh, to afford a house, say, like this."
Of Rockwell, she adds, "I'm sure if he was painting today, he could find real families and get the look he wants" -- perhaps a scene of children and mothers and teachers in day care, a snapshot of modern life that could be made more poignant by Rockwell's hand.
Late one afternoon, I biked to the cemetery across from Campbell's and down the street from Rockwell's first Stockbridge home. His grave is simple, but he is said to have been a most simple man not prone to shows of grandeur.
He sold his first cover to The Saturday Evening Post at age 22 and painted another 322 before the magazine folded in 1963. He moved with his second wife, a schoolteacher, from his native New York City to Arlington, Vt., where through the late 1930s and war years he painted some of his most evocative illustrations of American life, using his neighbors as models. In 1953 he settled in Stockbridge and, when his wife died, married another schoolteacher. He continued painting, painting, painting, waking up at ungodly hours, occasionally riding his bike around Stockbridge for refreshment and spending days, weeks and months to get his work right.
When the turbulent 1960s arrived he veered at times from the homey illustrations of the past to paint meaningful scenes of the civil rights movement.
He slowed until his pace was almost nonexistent and died shortly after the town staged a parade in his honor and marched past his house in floats that depicted the illustrations that townies had modeled for.
"I hear they got some poor little boy to pose for the doctor's shot," says Locke.