Posted by Myron Barnstone, Edited by Joel Bowers on April 13, 2016
National Guard March, Portland, Maine 1940
Because my friends Steve and Ken came from middle class families where their parents had been to good universities and were active in the intellectual activities in the community, by visiting their homes and spending time with their parents, I got an enormous amount of encouragement from them to pursue my art. It was a profoundly influential experience for me. It gave me a view of possibilities that were not forthcoming at all: a broader view. It wasn’t that, in any way, my parents had neglected my brother and I. They did everything they could; made every sacrifice imaginable. It wasn’t until years later that I realized how much in the way of sacrifice they made to make sure their sons had the opportunities that they didn’t have. They were incredibly generous and concerned for their children.
Lenny, my younger brother, became an engineer. He went to Trexler Engineering School and then while he was there, he got married to the daughter of the director of a hospital in New Jersey. I believe that his father-in-law bankrolled him through Cornell. He not only got a Masters but a PhD. When he graduated from school, he became a chemical engineer with Exxon and traveled all over the world. He spent time in England, France, and visiting Exxon’s refineries around the globe. He had a wonderful career.
I guess Lenny was in his mid-sixties, maybe younger, and he contracted cancer. It went through him like a plague. I’m sure it didn’t strike him or his wife as such, but it went through him pretty quickly. All he cared about during the whole thing was that he had, in fact, made sure that his wife and family would be well cared for. And they were and have been ever since. He was a very generous and caring man; a very sweet person.
When I finished high school, I went to a commercial art school: The New England School of Art in Boston. I was sitting in a drawing class one period when one of the instructors, JWS Cox, stood behind me and watched me draw. He said, “You know Myron,” (he said it very quietly), “you’ve got no business here. Get yourself to a fine arts school. This isn’t for you.” I took his advice and went to study art in Boston.
Boston is a perfectly wonderful town, a college town with a famous Symphony Hall, great museums and parks. Grand tree lined avenues, famous art galleries, the docks with marvelous seafood restaurants, and a great China Town. The two years I spend there were delightful. My apartment was just across Beacon Street from the Fisher Business School for girls.
The next year, I had decided that an education was more expensive than I wanted to pay off over the next fifty years or that my parents could afford. So I joined something called the United States Air Force.