October 2, 2023
By Arthur H. Gunther III
If we are fortunate, and not all are, we are anchored by early, good memories that literally define life, provide confident reference to the past and offer reassurance with a laugh or two.
For me, recognizable life – my awareness – began in a small village – Spring Valley, N.Y. – about 25 miles geographically from New York City but back in the 1940s as far removed from asphalt and tall buildings as open fields, dairy farms, fruit orchards and downtowns of a few streets can be. For many, the city life is boffo; for me, the country.
My earliest memory, which is a life anchor, is walking in our quiet village of 5,000 with my grandfather, the first Arthur, from his home at 14 Ternure to West Street and then Church Street, or we would be off to West Furman Place where there was an annual merry-go-round run by the volunteer firefighters of the Spring Valley Hook & Ladder Co.
I was just 3 and 4, and my parents and brother Craig and I were then living with Arthur Sr. and Grandmother Maud.
As with those with similar family memories, this was a cherished time because everything about my grandparents, their neat home, the quiet of the neighborhood where even grass-cutting was by the rhythmic whirr of a hand mower, and what was reassuring routine – all gave stability. Looking back, as I always do when I happen by 14 Ternure, it still does.
A funny story about that house, built around World War I by neighbor Frank E. Haera and his son, also Frank. For some years in the 1930s, Arthur Sr. rented it for $25 a month (yes, an entire house), but when better days came to the Briarcraft Smoking Pipe Co. where he was foreman, he and Maud bought 14 Ternure for about $3,000. It took five years to pay the Haeras.
Mr. Haera, a village trustee and otherwise well-involved community fellow, passed in 1946, so I do not recall him though – degrees of separation – he set up the fire company merry-go-round that we Valley kids enjoyed so much.
Mrs. Haera – Jennie – was the one I knew because she had a daily ritual of looking out her glassed-in porch window as Craig and I played on the open lawn between 14 and 10 Ternure. She kept a sharp eye so that we two young boys did not get in too much trouble.
I couldn’t pronounce “Mrs. Haera” at my young age, so I would tell my grandfather “Mrs. Ha-ha” was watching me. Actually, I think, watching over us. Her attention would be repeated as my brother and I grew up and still tossed a ball or whatever on that side lot.
As I do when I occasionally pass 14 Ternure and recall my formative times with my grandparents, I also remember Mrs. Haera – Mrs. Ha-ha.
I am grateful for both memories.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org