Road Trip!

A family on a road trip.
Rockwell’s original painting Going and Coming hangs in the Norman Rockwell Museum

After WWII ended, America was on the move. With an economy on an upswing and higher levels of disposable income, record numbers of families packed up the station wagon, loaded kids in the backseat, and hit the open highway.

Norman Rockwell celebrated the emerging trend in the August 30, 1947, Post cover Going and Coming. While seasonal or topical subjects often inspired Rockwell’s covers, in this two-panel portrait of a family en route to and from a summertime trip we find an example that’s both.

In Going, Dad confidently grips the wheel leading the expedition with Mom at his side cradling the youngest. Anticipation spills into the backseat where big brother and pooch lean into the wind, while little sister blows a bubble about to pop as her brother razzes oncoming cars. Unfazed by it all, Grandma sits stone-faced, staring straight ahead.

In Coming, the excitement has fizzled. Pop struggles to keep his eyes open. Mom, still cradling little sis, drifted off miles ago, while the boys, pooch, even the wide-eyed bubble blower are running out of steam. Unfazed by it all, Grandma sits stone-faced, staring straight ahead — did she even get out of the car?

To help readers unravel the story line, Rockwell provides clues. In the lower panel, to signify nighttime, he shows the tiniest portion of a lighted lamppost through the car window. Another clue: The pennant dangling from the door tells us the outing was to Bennington Lake, where — judging from the fishing pole sticking out the rear window and weathered rowboat lashed to the roof — Dad managed to get in some angling. Rockwell also lets us know Grandma indeed exited the car — if only for a souvenir plant.

There’s a familiar feeling to the entire scene. (We’ve all been on family outings like this.) You can almost hear the eternal refrain, “Are we there yet?”