Since the first time I became aware of artist Jaro Hess and his work, "The Land of Make Believe" map, I could sense the emotional attachment clients had to this work of art, but not the depth of those attachments. On a regular basis I have received phone calls, letters and email regarding Hess's artwork. I realized early on while reproducing Hess's work that my greatest return would be that of good Karma. Providing a reproduction of, -The Land of Make Believe" map, made people happy. The creation of positive energy, happiness, is what I value highest.
A couple of weeks ago I received a copy of a black and white photo from 1961. The client emailed me a document, providing a back story with the photo. The photo and back story are listed below.
The Land of Make Believe Map is present at school in Des Moines, Iowa in 1960. Submitter's husband sits beneath the Map.
The Romper Room Generation
The year was 1961, and my husband. Glen, was lucky enough to be chosen to be a student "star" for an entire week, on the local television show, The Romper Room. Televised on WHO TV in Des Moines, Iowa, this show was franchised, so local affiliates could produce and cast their own versions. Miss Nancy was the host in Des Moines and local children, who wanted to appear, were on waiting lists for years.The format of the show was like school, which began every day with the Pledge of Allegiance, and continued with lessons, songs. manners, and moral lessons (Do Bee and Don't Bee). The set actually represented a school room, which included a large picture of a make-believe land with roads and castles and images that fascinated him. At the end of the week, each child received an 8 x 10 glossy photograph to commemorate their visit to the show. My husband always felt lucky. as he was seated below the make-believe "map," which always intrigued him.
We came upon the black and white glossy Romper Room photo about 20 years ago. My husband recalled many memories of the week, the most significant one however, was the big picture in "Miss Nancy's" room, of castles, fairy tales, and connecting magical paths, which would keep him mesmerized for long periods of time during his five-days at Romper Room. He actually didn't remember it as a picture. but rather a story. with a map, which was never-ending. Every time he looked at the photo. he would talk about how he wished he had a copy. He remembered there used to be a poster, but now couldn't even recall the name of the image, just that he would like to find one some day.
I accepted this as a challenge and began searching for this 'memory' several years ago. As I did not know the name, it made it a little difficult, even with Google. I contacted WHO TV and talked to someone in their history department, but they had no information. I researched Romper Room archives, searched the internet for fairytale pictures, fantasy map, and every other descriptor I could think of, with no luck. Then, late last year, my oldest son was helping me with the hunt. After staring at the picture for some time, he was able to read the tiny words at the bottom of the picture in the photo: The Land of Make Believe.
Allan Rosen-Ducat So Supportive
This is all I needed. I remember the first time I found the image online; I cried. As I was searching, one person's name always seemed to be referenced: Allan Rosen-Ducat. I am so grateful that he was my resource and adviser, as he was wonderful to work with. When he heard my story and saw the picture from 1961, which I sent to him, he understood the importance and personally contacted me several times to make sure my order was exactly what I wanted.
On my husband's birthday this past February, he could not believe it when he opened the image he only vaguely recalled from his memory (and a small image in an old faded photograph). He was speechless, except for the words, "How?" were repeated several times. My only regret is I should have caught his stunned reaction on video. I had planned for the large canvas print to go in our TV room on the lower level of our home however, he has it hanging in our bedroom and leeks stares at it frequently.
One postscript to this story. All three of our sons (who are in their 20's) knew about my efforts and I would provide frequent updates. They were as excited as my husband, while he unwrapped this childhood memory on his birthday. A few weeks ago, they were all visiting. I walked into our bedroom to find them all standing in front of the picture on the wall. One was running his fingers along a path; the other was saying, "No, it is a map" and the last was asking, "Which fairy tale is this one?' Amazing how this "story-map-fairy tale" still holds the same fascination today for young adults, as it did over fifty years ago for a little boy.
Copyright 2017 Allan Rosen-Ducat © All rights reserved
Jaro Hess (1889-1977)
Jaro Hess was perhaps the most original artist of fantasy working in Grand Rapids from the 1930s through the 1960’s. His art was a rarity, created solely out of this imagination.
They were the product of an idiosyncratic and eccentricity, “according to Hess. People come to see the painting, “the artist said, “and they ask how I got such an imagination to do them. I just tell them that I studied mathematics in school and it teaches you to think abstract thoughts. They are different,” Hess savored the differences – the absurdity.