127 – Saving Grace
Cover illustration for the Saturday Evening Post (November 24, 1951)
Oil on canvas
[NARRATOR] Readers of the Saturday Evening Post flooded the magazine with their suggestions for cover subjects. This is one of the only times Rockwell used one. A Pennsylvania woman wrote, saying she had seen a Mennonite family praying in a diner. The result was this image from 1951, called “Saying Grace.”
Some might think that Rockwell’s message here is to promote prayer. But he was much more interested in the reaction of the crowd.
[KNUTSON] You have characters from a variety of different backgrounds … all watching this grandmother, and presumably her grandson, praying before a meal in a somewhat dilapidated restaurant. And nobody is looking on critically. They are all looking on the scene with a sense of tolerance–that this is not something they would do, but it’s okay with them.
There is a real, positive sense of hope in this image. That no matter how different you are … that tolerance is going to get us all through. I think there is something quite lovely about that.
[NARRATOR] Saturday Evening Post readers once voted this their favorite Rockwell image.
[WOMAN READING HER LETTER] Dear Mr. Rockwell, I must tell you something I saw one day recently. I was having lunch, and there was a family who sat down and said grace, right there in the busy restaurantI was so surprised to see this in the middle of Philadelphia….
[NARRATOR] When you have my kind of job, people are always writing to the magazine thinking that they have good ideas for covers. Usually they don’t. But this lady who wrote in–she had something, and I used her idea.
[NARRATOR] I made the people a grandmother and her little grandson. Look out the window. They’re at the train station—it’s not a fancy place. This cover came out for Thanksgiving. Maybe they missed their train and this is their Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe they say grace before every meal no matter where they are — but, that’s not the thing that interested me the most.
Look at the other people in the diner. Did you ever see somebody do something that you thought was really strange? Did you point or laugh? C’mon — admit it. The people here aren’t making fun of the lady and her grandson. They’re just — curious. They know that they might not want to pray in a diner, but they respect somebody who does. That’s what’s called “tolerance”– not giving somebody else a hard time, just because they’re different.
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