Photo by Jim Bemiss
William J. Obanhein
October 19, 1924
Laid to Rest:
September 11, 1994
City of Stockbridge, MA
Painting by Norman Rockwell
Picture from Newsweek
Did you ever stop and wonder where you might be were it not for Officer Obie?
After all, if it weren't for Obie, Arlo may not have written Alice's Restaurant. If Arlo never wrote Alice's Restaurant, would his career have followed the same path that it did? It's possible that it wouldn't have. And if Arlo never became "famous", this site would have probably not existed. And if this site didn't exist, you wouldn't be here right now! So who said that one person can't change the world! And we owe it all to Officer Obie...who probably had no clue of the repercussions of what he was doing at the time he arrested Arlo!
After arriving at the above conclusion of just how important Officer Obie really was, it saddened me to find very little information about the man. About the only account of Obie that I was able to unearth was the song Alice's Restaurant itself! This page is here to pay tribute to a man who changed and touched the lives of many people whom he probably never even met. So, the next time you sit down to a donut and cup of coffee, pause for just a moment...and remember Obie!
The following is paraphrased, rearranged and added to from an article by Linda Ellerbee:
We all know the story now (some of us by heart) of how Arlo was arrested by Officer Obie for littering. He had to pay a fine and pick up the garbage. Years later, when the arrest showed up on Arlo's record, he was, through the kind of bureaucratic silliness that only government can truely embrace, deemed unsuitable for military service. To paraphrase Arlo, they decided he wasn't fit to go to Vietnam and kill a bunch of people because he was a litterbug. It was a perfect story of the time.
Following the success of Alice's Restaurant the song, came Alice's Restaurant the movie in which both Arlo and Obie played themselves. Here was one cop who seemed to have a sense of humor, or at least a sense of proportion, about the late '60s version of American reality, which was not a pretty sight. If nothing else, he helped to blur the lines between "them" and "us" which was often needed at the time.
Officer Obie was a member of the Stockbridge police force for 34 years, and a model for several Norman Rockwell paintings and Saturday Evening Post covers. But, again, reality was something more, and less.
Ask the people of Stockbridge what Obie was like and you'll get answers like "Bill was a big-hearted fellow and a good cop." or "He was the patron saint of every dog in town; he never once enforced a leash law."
And then you hear that Officer Obie's life (and family) was touched by alcohol, divorce, and suicide. You learn that in 1985, he was forced into retirment after being accused of hitting another officer during a discussion about the unauthorized use of a police car. They say he was drinking at the time, but they don't say it loudly.
So which was the real Officer Obie? As with any of us, the reality of Bill Obanhein was not as easily defined; the man had parts to him. But the part most likely to be remembered is the gruf-voiced, warm man who could laugh at himself. The Officer Obie part. The Norman Rockwell part.
Other Obie Stories
From Jerry Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I met Officer Obie in 1974 on the way to Cape Cod and he was nice enough to
let me photograph him standing next to his patrol car. At the time, I had
hair down to the middle of my back and a beard, but he treated me with
kindness and even told me how to find the restaurant and the church. I was
saddened to hear of his passing.
From Steve Cuzzone (email@example.com)
I saw officer Obie around Stockbridge plenty. His son, Dave, used to hang
out on North Street in Pittsfield and I remember he was a pretty cool kid.
With the things we were doing back then I can understand why he would hang
out two towns away, his Dad being Chief of Police and all. The acorn
doesn't fall far from the tree so I can imagine the Chief was pretty cool
in his own
(If you have a personal story about Obie you'd like to share, send me feedback using the link below)