by BETH ALTENA
When looking back on a life of accomplishments, local artist Philip Glass sees rainbows—in cookies. The long-time resident may be known for his career as an artist here. He once had a oil painting gallery in the South Squire street red kaboose now occupied by Reading Books and once painted a mural for the American Legion in honor of fallen military heroes. He designed screenprinting for t-shirts. Some people may still drink coffee from the cups he had made depicting his sketch of the Rockford dam.
It is another artistic contribution that Glass still ponders, however, and it is likely little known around town. Glass believes Keebler Rainbow Cookies are the result of a vision of rainbows that came to him during a profound time in his life.
Glass said about 20 years ago he was losing his vision to cataracts and feeling very emotional about the loss of his visual world. One day he looked up at a spectacular rainbow and it struck him that he may never see one again. “I made up a poem right there on the spot,” Glass recounts. He also imagined in that moment a cookie made with the colors of a rainbow and decided to submit his idea to Keebler Company. He sketched a drawing of a rainbow machine—which he still has today, crafted a letter to the company explaining his ideas and sent it in.
Glass said he went about his business, which included receiving surgery to restore his vision, and later received a letter from the company. Dated November 6, 1987, the letter thanked him for his input but went on to state, “Because of the obvious misunderstandings and uncertainties which often arise from the use of ideas independently conceived, our company, as many others in the food business, has a policy of not examining or considering ideas or suggestions from outside sources unless submitted without obligation of any kind on our part.” It asked Glass to re-submit his idea with an enclosed agreement and thanked him for his interest in the company.
Pursuing his cookie idea, Glass said he followed the company’s recommendation and again waited to hear from them. He received a second letter dated November 30, again thanking him for his thoughts and said the idea was one the company was already working on. Included in the envelope were two one-dollar coupons. “…we hope you will use the enclosed coupon amount toward a future Keebler purchase,” the letter ended.
“I participated in something with that company. It’s something I look back on that I did and I don’t think many people know that,” Glass stated. He said he was disappointed not to have received some recognition from Keebler and noted that rainbows continue to be inspirational to him. While on vacation out west one year he was thinking about the “Keebler” rainbow and prayed, “Do you think you could ever top that one, God?” and he said in that moment a spectacular double rainbow appeared, a sight he has never experienced before or after.
Glass shares his poem with Rockford after so many years and hopes it might help others get through low moments as it has done for him many times.
Seeing a rainbow in the sky
after a storm has just passed by,
it reminds me that all the trials we face
seem a long way away, in another place.
It may be a promise heaven-sent
when I feel disheartened, blue and spent
it is at times like these that we remember
a rainbow will shine, after rough weather
And so you see this is why I keep my visions in the sky,
looking for rainbows for me to see
to sprinkle some around for you and me
Glass said he thinks of rainbows whenever he sees the candy-topped cookies in grocery stores and has bittersweet memories of sharing his rainbow visions with others, but he isn’t sorry he did it. “I didn’t get a pot of gold out of it, that’s for sure.” But he still has his two one-dollar coupons, long expired.