William Obanhein

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William J. Obanhein (October 19, 1924 – September 11, 1994), sometimes better known as Officer Obie, was the chief of police for the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He was a member of the police force there for 34 years, 1951 to 1985, allegedly[who?] being forced into retirement in 1985 for hitting another officer during the course of an argument. He is fairly well known for his appearances in popular culture.

Obanhein was the "Officer Obie" mentioned in Arlo Guthrie's 1967 talking blues song "Alice's Restaurant." He played himself in the 1969 movie of the same name,[1] telling Newsweek magazine (September 29, 1969, where his photo appears) that making himself look like a fool was preferable to having somebody else make him look like a fool.

Obanhein posed for Norman Rockwell (himself a resident of Stockbridge) for a handful of sketches, including the 1959 black-and-white sketch "Policeman With Boys," which was used in nationwide advertisements for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).[2] He is sometimes mistaken (including on Guthrie's own Web site) for the officer who posed for Rockwell's more widely known painting "The Runaway", which appeared on a 1958 cover of The Saturday Evening Post; this was not Obanhein but Massachusetts state trooper Richard Clemens.[3]


  1. ^ Doyle, Patrick (November 26, 2014). Arlo Guthrie looks back on 50 years of Alice's Restaurant. Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
  2. ^ Berry, Lois. "Norman Rockwell – A Sense of Déjà vu" Accessed March 1, 2009.
  3. ^ Boyd, Jim. "Rockwell Illustration 'The Runaway' Turns 50", TheBostonChannel.com / WCVB-TV, September 19, 2008.

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