Today, we are looking in on a talented local Massachusetts artist, Irena Roman. Her situation is the same as thousands and thousands of artists around the United States and the world. We used to call them “Sunday Painters”.
These are the people who spend some of their few waking hours painting daubs good or not good, but always enthusiastically done. Today we are looking at a talented lady from Scituate, Massachusetts. She was brought to my attention by John Hamwey a long-time friend with artistic disposition who popped up just the other day, re-establishing a contact that had frayed as contacts will.
Would I like to see the picture that Irena Roman had painted of him and without false modesty hey presto there it was. Immediately the theme of the exhibit was obvious. It was about older people who are called senior citizens. A designation most of them in this boat disdain.
We are after all citizens and that is good enough. So, Irena decided to do an exhibit on a number of older folks who resolved in advanced age to adopt a second career. These people are a phenomenon of today’s generation. Fifty years ago most of them would have been dead instead of picking second careers or even third.
The picture that follow are in the nature of jubilation. My Latin professor at Harvard, Mason Hammond used to say as he descended the steps at Memorial Church celebrating the life of one of his older colleague, now under ground, croaked “I survived another bullet!”
You get this feeling from Irena’s subject. They are glad and just a little surprised to be above ground, covorting the sunshine. Look at the four pictures I have selected from her exhibit in Duxbury, Massachusetts. It is called Irena Roman: Second Wind: Journeys of Re-Invention.
One of Irena Roman’s painting at the Art complex in Duxbury, Massachusetts.
John Hamwey, with his picture at the Art Complex in Duxbury, Massachusetts.
“Colin 2017”, a transparent watercolor by Scituate artist Irena Roman at The Duxbury Art Complex Museum.
“Marj”, a transparent watercolor 2016 by Irena Roman
And that is the point, Re invention. The artist gives her subjects the permission to re-invent. Irena’s pictures are a small joy. Her sculler goes out to meditate on the water not to complaint she no longer has Olympic form and speed. She had to re-invent so did John Hamwey, for over 20 years John worked with me on all the graphics pertaining to my books, articles, and ads. Then one day he decided to re-invent himself.
Irena painted him at the moment of happiness, not that he had lost but that he has re-invented.
I can only hope that Irena’s students and new-viewers take the time to see what she has accomplished in small measure; the true hallmark of the water colorist and those connoisseurs who love them.
Pictures by Irena Roman (64) Second Wind: Journeys of Re-Invention can be seen at The Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, Massachusetts February 25 - May 13, 2018
Irena Roman, the artist.
For the music I have selected Joni Mitchell - Songs to aging Children Come (1969)
"Songs to aging children come
Aging children, I am one."
About the Author: Harvard educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is the author of more than 63 books and more than a thousand articles. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and have been an avid art-collector. His valuable red-drawing room is world famous. You may find more information about him at www.drjeffreylant.com
By- Dr. Jeffrey Lant
I have been researching for some items I need for my next article. And as it often happens, I have discovered another story as interesting as the original. Getting off the track is almost a certainty.
In this case it concerns an organization that no longer exists, and a peerage which is now extinct, and me quite possibly the only person still alive who could tell the tale. The organization in question was the Primrose League founded in 1883.
The Primrose League was a Conservative organization that met monthly in the House of Lords. Each month a well-known, usually aspiring politician came in black tie with a fulsome dinner speech in his pocket. The result was sure to be a rollicking evening and an illustration of why the British talk about being drunk as a lord for the good supply of that on hand.
I was the only American to be a member and never missed a monthly dinner or my chance to meet any number of peers and MPs. The members befriended me and overlooked the fact that I was a student at Harvard on the route of where Paul Revere galloped towards Concord. Let bygones be bygones.
One of the people I knew best was John Buchan, second Lord Tweedsmuir. His father had written the best-selling book, Thirty Nine Steps in 1915 and became Canada’s first Governor General in 1935.
Johnnie was born in 1911 and had a distinguished career. He was a colonial administrator and naturalist, but also a true-life adventurer. He has been described as a "brilliant fisherman and naturalist, a gallant soldier and fine writer of English, an explorer, colonial administrator and man of business.”
Dinners with him were always fun. The whiskeys flowed and so did the stories. I think he liked me because I had the mandatory awe-struck glint in my eye that Americans retain for members of the Royal family and glamorous peers of the realm. As a trustee of the Primrose League, he was expected to attend all the meetings and events sponsored by the organization and to make appropriate remarks.
This included an outing we made annually to Benjamin Disraeli’s home, Hughenden Manor where we placed a wreath of Primroses festooned with these three words, “His Favorite Flower.”
I knew a secret about this wreath that I learned in Windsor Castle where I was then working in the Royal Archives. Even Lord Tweedsmuir didn’t know. It was generally thought that the wreath and flowers were placed by Queen Victoria in memory of her favorite Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. However, they were actually placed in honor of her husband Prince Albert. Hence “His Favorite Flower.” How could it be anyone but Albert?
John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir
Tweedsmuir laughed, gave me a swig of whiskey and laughed again. He didn’t mind the inaccuracy so long he didn’t have to talk about it in public. He minded that quite a lot because our excursions to Disraeli’s home were 99% women who liked to fuss over him, after all he was a Lord of the Realm. I was a good shield.
The Primrose League exists no longer and there are no more dinner in House of Lords no matter how much they love the UK. Started by Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston Churchill’s mother, it was kept going largely because of Evelyn Hawley, CBE. She worked hard for this decoration and she wore it daily. Then after 45 years of loyalty, she stopped and the Primrose League did too.
Now it is all gone, all except for me. I miss the comradery, the deep belly laughs that came so often, and the chance to meet even the highest Cabinet members and quiz them affably.
Johnie is gone, and there is no heir. Who places the wreath at Hughenden now?
by Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author's program note. Her name was Phoebe H. Dutcher, and she occupied the exalted elected office of Recorder of Deeds in DuPage County, Illinois circa 1960. As such she was an important part of the Republican Party apparatus in what was arguably one of the two most important counties (the other being Cook) in the key state of Illinois, the state that (in the event) determined who would become "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the next President of the United States..."
Phoebe and my grandfather Walt Lauing were political pals. Grampie, a blunt, plain-spoken man of Hanoverian provenance was a pillar of the GOP, knew all the wheels therein, had them all visit the house he built out of good Midwestern flagstones, about the only thing as tenacious and unyielding as he was. His habits were exemplary; his word was his bond; and he never watered his liquor for himself or any man he respected and befriended, especially if that fortunate one was a Republican.
On this basis his construction company prospered... and, bit by bit, he used some of its profits to build his network, keep the GOP green and flush, whilst keeping the free-spending socialist Democrats (tinged mit Communists no less) at bay, especially his arch nemesis Richard J. Daley, his honor of Chicagoland (mayor 1955-1976), the master of every political chicanery, including his legendary talent for voting the dead and voting them often, thereby sending John F. Kennedy to the Oval Office; one of the greatest swindles of all time and a matter of unending chagrin and the bluest of language from Grandpapa.
All that was ever required to see Grampie emerge as Hoch Deutsch, Gott Mit Uns was to whisper in his ear that well and fully hated name; an explosion was guaranteed, and of course knowing the means of producing it ensured that I, his oldest grandchild and the only one with political interests, would provoke it, but only after I had tormented his ridiculously coddled and slothful cat enough and needed something to amuse me.
Perhaps he thought the red leather autograph book he gave me in anticipation of a steady stream of Republican worthies would give me something to do and save Tommie from torment. It didn't, for I was capable even then of multi-tasking as was soon apparent to all, angelic smile and demeanor always ready for covert action.
Thus did Phoebe H. Dutcher, whom I recall as a jolly soul not above a tasty toddy of my grandfather's practised invention, visit the house where to visit meant autographing my book. She was in fact the first to do so and was promptly followed by Samuel Wittwer (soon-to-be unsuccessful) candidate for the Senate, then Congressman Elmer G. Hoffman, a man of consequence in Downers Grove, the safest of safe seats, a man whose true opinions on the issues confronting Fortress America were as pat, predictable, and pedestrian as a guaranteed lifetime position in Washington could ensure. His visit to the kitchen of Victoria Burgess Lauing was an event... and of course I had a prominent position and in due course an expansive autograph in my notable album.
Higher... and higher.
By now you may imagine that I loved my autograph book; more and more as each person of significance bent low over it, glad to sign, glad to have their importance recognized and confirmed by my respectful request and awe, for they were all entitled to that. This was particularly true with the next panjandrum who was, we knew, a great man indeed because hardly a day went by when his name (and photo too) were not found in Grampie's newspaper, the "Chicago Tribune".
The fine folks at "The Trib" knew their business, he averred over and over again; he followed their editorial line with punctilious and total regard. The fact that in 1948 they announced to the world that Dewey defeated Truman, the biggest media blooper in the annals of the Great Republic, was a fact never, ever to be mentioned... or even thought.
The man whose photo and stirring deeds were featured every day was, of course, William G. Stratton, now running for his third term as governor of the land of Lincoln. My grandfather was just as excited as I was when he told me that I as chairman of the Puffer Elementary School Republican Party would be greeting him and offering the remarks and sentiments thought de rigueur for such occasions. It was an honor to do this, as good as a telegram from on high that my future political career was a cinch, as good as launched.
It was late October of the year; Stratton, tired, gray, shop worn was running with the full burden of nearly eight years of governing on his care-worn shoulders. He was running on empty, but he was a seasoned pol and he knew the game. The helicopter containing the great man came into view, the entire Puffer School contingent was out, squealing students, teachers, administrators, our friends and neighbors, the most fervent Republicans...
And, of course, my grandfather who had helped build the school, not just as director of the project but with his own tough leathered hands and cunning fingers, laying bricks like a connoisseur. He was a man who believed in the virtues of work and spent a long lifetime displaying them. How proud he must have been when the most important citizen in the state, the most important Republican motioned to me that I was to come aboard.
"Local lad flies high" declared the Downers Grove Reporter newspaper, the "lad" a play on my middle name, Ladd. Stratton said, "Hold on, boy" and told me to smile and wave. Just 13 years old, I knew this was living, although I may not yet have understood its cost, why so many like Stratton give up so much to grasp the greasy poll, so ephemeral and unpredictable, so exciting and addictive.
"Smile and wave," yeah, I could do that... and I did. I was flying high indeed with higher still to go. It turned out to be the only autograph I ever got off the ground... and was certainly the last time he was asked to sign anything other than an admission of guilt. For Governor Stratton was crushed by the restless and determined electorate and shortly thereafter found himself in federal prison on a fistful of charges, autographs derided, degraded, disdained. Had Grampie known this I wouldn't have been allowed to get in that helicopter and imagine a possible future. Thus, knowing the future is not always a good thing.
Richard Milhous Nixon.
If you were alive and of voting age in 1960, would you have voted for Nixon or Kennedy? 97% of you would now say Kennedy, especially given the fact that I am writing this 50 years after President Kennedy's assassination, his name, election and administration being much in the news. Of course you would voted for Kennedy; any other action would have been disloyal, disrespectful. But the first rule of history is that you must be willing and able to give up your clairvoyance and make your decisions and judgements solely based on the facts then known, incomplete though they were.
And so... "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the next president of these United States... Richard Milhous Nixon"... since 1946 servant of the people as Congressman, Senator from California and since 1953 Vice President to that most popular of presidents, Dwight David Eisenhower.
Nixon had oodles of relevant experience. Kennedy didn't. Nixon was a prodigious worker. Kennedy was a party boy. Nixon was a devoted family man in love with a good woman. Kennedy was a scandal waiting to happen, in flagrante delicto a very real possibility. Nixon was plodding and cautious; the kind of guy to do your taxes. Kennedy was reckless, cute, fun on a date and.... very ill, dying in office a very real possibility, a fact virtually unknown.
The reasons went for Nixon... but Kennedy had an incomparable asset, his father Joseph P. Kennedy, a man of the deepest pockets and an axe to grind, the ultimate mick on the make. And this trumped everything...
That's why my mother invited me to sit down at the kitchen table one day after the November 1960 election. She hand wrote her letter to Hannah Nixon, the Vice President's mother, while I addressed my loyal sentiments to him. That started the process that showed me off to the world, the photo pictured above running in the Trib, an adamant Republican paper, a strong Nixon advocate. They ran my story with alacrity and pugnacious loyalty.
My smile was incandescent, Nixon's signed campaign poster on the wall, a signed family portrait in hand, his message warm, honest and personal; the kind of letter almost no politician writes today; a small measure of our declension as a nation and our rampant political malignities, sharp, toxic, rancorous, all-consuming, pointless.
Had Nixon shown more of this, allowed himself to show more, how different the history of the Great Republic would have been... for Kennedy's margin was tiny, his victory the result of Daley's frauds and Nixon's unwillingness to call him on them, so sparing the Great Republic from shocking insights into the electoral process.
I have often wondered if Nixon ever regretted this civic-spirited decision. Certainly no Kennedy with Papa Joe at hand would have done that. The Kennedys played politics the old-fashioned way, as the blood sport it was, vengeful, manor houses burnt at midnight, the howls of menacing banshees carried in the wind, a warning to lesser men; the single word "Remember" their charge for life, branded on every Irish heart, no mercy given, nothing forgiven, nothing forgotten. The presidency was worth all this and more...
Against this immemorial rage and fierce determination, Nixon hurled his inadequate weapons of fair play, integrity, the decency of his Quaker heritage; a campaign he refused to get dirty. Oh, yes, and one resounding, upbeat American melody, "Buckle Down, Winsocki". You can find it in any search engine.
It was the parody of a typical collegiate gridiron tune, go-team-go, rah-rah-rah. Written for the 1941 Broadway show "One Step Forward" by Chris Hillman and Bill Wildes the Nixon camp altered the words to "We can win with Nixon/ If we buckle down." But this wasn't good enough to carry the day, not nearly good enough. Thus did events take their course, for good and ill.
My parents took me to a huge Nixon rally very near election day. The special guest was Mrs. (Pat) Nixon. To warm up the crowd on this typical Illinois fall day, the grayest of atmospheres, helpers handed out sheets with the updated "Buckle down, Winsocki" lyrics. It was sung rapturously by the partisans, the only time I ever heard the tune and felt the certainty of victory. I recall it all so clearly. No, sometimes it is not a good thing to know the future...
Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Harvard educated, started writing for publication at age 5. Since then, he has published over 1,000 articles and 63 books, and counting.