In 1999, after a two-year relationship, Dale asked me if I might consider moving closer to him in Murfreesboro, North Carolina. At the time he owned a very small but beautiful Greek Revival home that was built-in the 1830s while I owned a 1914 house in Norfolk. I put my house on the market in 2000 and started searching for a home near Dale’s. Although the cottage I wanted was just a block away from Dale’s and in the historic district, we felt the price was too high for the work it needed. Therefore, we began looking at houses in nearby towns until I settled on a 1860 cottage in Woodland, about ten miles from Murfreesboro.
It was a decision I would never regret, but no sooner had I moved in that month of June, 2001, when Dale was offered a six month job in New York City as chief achivist for the opening of the first exhibition of the Museum of Sex. Admittedly, Dale was hesitant to take the position as I had just moved nearby but when I asked me if I was offered a wonderful but temporary job in LA would I take it, I answered, “Of course!” He left for the city sometime in late August while I accustomed myself to my commute, putting my dogs on a schedule, acting in a play, Jesus Christ Superstar (so I would not be bored), and meeting my neighbors. During the first week in September a woman from Chicago was offering a John Hassall Peter Pan poster on Ebay for an amount I could not afford. Upon reading her description I realized that she had dated it wrong,
the 1920s rather than 1910 or there about. I don’t know where I got the nerve but I wrote to the owner and after giving her correct details about the lithograph, I asked if it did not sell if I might buy it for $1500 and pay in three monthly installments of $500. The woman responded that she would try the auction one more time and if no one bid on it, she would indeed sell it to me for the price I requested. Well, you can
imagine how closely I watched that auction! Strangely, no one bid on the poster and I bought it. The following week was the attack on the World Trade Center in NYC, and though I made my monthly payments, my interest was not really on this work of art. The horror of 9/11 touched all of us in the tiny town of Woodland and drew us closer. Within a few weeks I made several close friends. At Christmas time Dale came home for a week and while we were out on the day he was to leave, the poster arrived. My neighbors, Brenda and Michael, signed for it leaving a note on my door that a LARGE package had arrived from UPS. Dale suggested that I pick up the package while he go home to pick up his suitcase. Upon his return he found me in my dining room, opening the package. “What is that?” he asked. “Oh, this is that poster I
had told you about on the phone. Don’t you recall when I called you for your advice on what I should offer the seller.” “Yes,” he answered, “But I thought it was a small poster. You bought a broadside! Didn’t you look at the size of the print?” Actually, so had I but in my excitement during the time I had made the offer, the size never registered in my mind; it was probably a one sheet lithograph, I thought. Opening the package we discovered a 10 sheet linen backed lithograph poster measuring 7 1/2 feet high and 10 feet long. Dale quickly made arrangements to stay one more day so we could hang it in my dining room, the only room in my house with a wall big enough and a ceiling high enough to properly exhibit the John Hassall Peter Pan poster. Happy endings: after ten years
together, we sold our houses in North Carolina and bought one together in 2007 in Petersburg, Virginia. While my other dogs, Mona and Blue passed away a few years ago, we acquired a mangy mutt, Homer (named after the poet, not the cartoon character), from my friend Margaret, then mayor of Woodland, seven years ago. He was left off in front of the Woodland Supermarket at the age of three months. As
for the Hassall poster, I bought it with the intention of including it in my book, Peter Pan On Stage and Screen, but alas, it was too large to be photographed properly (and much too expensive to have it professionally shot). Still, I’m glad that I own; I’m grateful to a woman in Chicago, who originally received the Hassall poster as a retirement present from the art gallery where she worked;
and I was able to spend an extra day with Dale that Christmas holiday season. Sorry if I got carried away with the length of this blog but I thought you might be interested in a little more about me as well as Peter. In the book there’s a wonderful photograph of the Napoleonic Tableau as well as well as an illustration of Orchardson’s painting.