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As 'Mad Men' Winds Down, Ossining Historian Behind Town Details, Reflects

Norm MacDonald of the Ossining Historical Society helped ensure the accuracy of 'Mad Men.'
Norm MacDonald of the Ossining Historical Society helped ensure the accuracy of 'Mad Men.' Photo Credit: Jeanne Muchnick

OSSINING, N.Y. -- Norm MacDonald, curator of the Ossining Historical Society , still wonders if he gave the right information about the color of Ossining's street signs in the 1960s years ago when the researchers of "Mad Men" first called him.

It would be one of about 150 queries he got from the Los Angeles-based AMC folks who grilled him on everything from the price of real estate in 1964 to what kind of paneling was in the courtrooms.

"They were very nice," he said. "It was fun," though he admitted he often had to look up the information rather than answer on the spot. He said the calls started nine years ago and continued for close to three years.

He later found out Creator Matthew Weiner was a stickler for being exact. He was also told Weiner long admired author John Cheever's stories about the suburbs and so picked Ossining for his series. In the early part of the show, the Drapers lived on the fictional Bullet Park Road, a nod to Cheever novel, "Bullet Park."

The street is modeled after Ossining's Farm Road. When they asked about schools, Brookside was selected even though MacDonald told them the school didn't connect with Farm Road.

Over the years he sent them numerous photographs and three years' worth of the town's archived newspaper, The Citizen Register. At one point he invited Weiner to one of the Historial Society's annual dinners, though Weiner declined. "He sent a very generous check," said MacDonald.

The calls lessened over the years, when someone starting asking him about Rye. "I told them I couldn't help there," said MacDonald.

He did, however, tell them green for the color of Ossining's 1960s street signs way back when but later got to worrying maybe it was black. "I don't know if they ever used it," he said. After all, the longtime Ossining resident who now resides in Bronxville doesn't watch the show.

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