April 2, 2023

Gunther photo

By Arthur H. Gunther III


The daily birth of a newspaper is a wondrous thing, with news, commentary, photographs, the who, what, where, when, why and how of information light and heavy and everywhere in between. Each edition is from sweat and muscle and emotion held back in required detachment. It is Damon Runyonesque in the effort, reporting on the characters that are people. It is “Front Page” in the newsroom scramble to ready the press run.

It succeeds daily. It fails daily. It is fuller at times, less so on other days. But in all, a daily newspaper, so many now dying on the vine, replaced by word bites and sound bites and gossip and falsehood and layered opinion on social media, is information, without which there is darkness and the threat of it dying in a cesspool of special interest and downright deliberate destruction of values.

A long time ago, yet the passage of years is no matter, the former Rockland Journal-News in a village begun in the 1800s but continuing still, in Nyack, N.Y., there was a reporter, Diana Hurley, an original Pomona, N.Y., resident who was part of the challenging generation that saw John F. Kennedy killed and with him youthful hope and optimism.

The generals’ war, the military-industrial complex war that was Vietnam, was taking more and more youth for canon fodder without defined purpose, and Americans at home were confusing the warriors with the generals and  government. Many mocked those military fortunate enough to return, unfortunate though to come back with nightmares and a veterans system that seemed – seems still – to consider them less of a solider, sailor or Marine for surviving and having any residual injury or mental condition. PTSD was their shame, the idiots who profit from war told those men and women who responded to the call for duty.

In that time, in the late 1960s and very early 1970s, The Journal-News reported on the war, too often on the burials of young men in their hometown cemeteries. Such news was in the daily birth of a local newspaper, even death.

Diana Hurley was one of those who reported, and though in her early 20s and one of the youth affected by the national pall after JFK, and though she opposed the war and though she saw the reasoning of the war protestors who left Woodstock to put flowers in National Guard rifle barrels, Diana was a reporter of facts. Unlike the mixed “news” that all too often appears today as fact layered with opinion, she kept her views out of the typewriter. She was not without flaws, as with all of us, but she tried her best – and succeeded.

Diana covered rightist pro-war protests against students at the community college, wrote of barbers who would not cut long hair on males, told readers of worries that the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a peace group in Upper Nyack, might be bombed.

Like so many of my colleagues at a small community newspaper, Diana reported for the readers facts observed and researched. She left commentary for Norm Baker and Grant Jobson on the editorial page.

Diana would go beyond 53 Hudson Ave. in Nyack, move to New England and work at other than newspapers. And she would pass away much too soon.

Her soul is pooled with others of the ink-stained profession who together gave daily birth to information that has saved and can and must continue to save democracy. Her legacy – their legacy – is so important now in this deliberately assaulted time.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



March 26, 2023 

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     In a world of super haba-daba lattes, designer donuts at $4.50 and your name written on the coffee container that you must pick up at another counter, it was reaffirming when this morning I reached for the salt shaker.  It was plain Joe, plain Jane, really the best in the house. No-frills day for me.

     Commodity shortages, staff shortages, greed and a sometime philosophy that making less of a product, charging more and having people wait so long for a car or anything now has the consumer bowing in appreciation. But today, at least, I will have none of it.

     I realized that when I opened a kitchen cabinet and reached for the salt. Not the white stuff in a fancy container and marked sea salt from the Aegeans.  Instead, I grabbed a highly recognized, classic salt shaker, the one just about all of us had on our mothers’ kitchen tables, the one filled with iodized table salt from the blue Morton’s container that displays a young girl under an umbrella. From our youth as well.

     In an instant, despite the fact that salt can raise your blood pressure, I was in a sea of calm, not with sea salt, no pun intended.

     I venture that it was the overwhelming simplicity of the salt shaker and its reference to simpler times for me anyway that I was calmed.

       Enjoyed those breakfast eggs, I must tell you, salt and pepper and nostalgia.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther @yahoo.com for contact.



March 19, 2023

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     There is indisputable evidence that despite each older generation claiming  the young are going to hell in a hand basket, the truth is otherwise. Always has been. 

     Greed is in every generation. Some bad politicians are as well. Some “leaders” fail. Some dictate in horror. There are wars for profit, to feed racism, to dominate. 

     We seem to make progress at certain points in history – barbarism continues but is less; justice is served by the Nuremberg trials; minorities and others do approach equality. 

      But horrors also march on – in nations, in the environment, in communities, in individuals.

     Yet, as with spring and the crocuses that bloom even in the red-bloodied fields of war, there are the sterling people who sacrifice life, limb and comfort to help others, to give hope. Many of these saviors of humankind are young, with fierce determination, a true sense of right and wrong, fighters against injustice.

     It is the hope that such youth, often fighting against the odds, will continue in adulthood and seniorhood to keep the lamp lit.

     There are more good people than not in this world though the thugs who seek fortune, power and ego-boosts bully their way onto the stage.

     Remember, it is not just the performers at a concert but the people who write the  music, open the curtains, bring you to your seats and even make sure the “stars” can do the gig.

     Optimism is on the bill for me. I see it in the smiles, the frowns and the eyes of the young, however close the world is again heading to hell in a hand basket.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



March 12, 2023

By Arthur H. Gunther III


In a very simple time when things were still complicated for grown-ups of course, country children of the 1940s and ’50s found diversion in rustling through the woods, playing hide and seek with other kids and going on small errands with dad or mom.

Absent the video games, cell phones, Twitter, Facebook, HDTV, ballet school, karate lessons and all the other appointments now penciled in the datebook of a youngster, if you were staring at the wall as a 7-year-old, and dad was warming up the 1949 Studebaker Commander (once red, then repainted green), he might beckon you to hop in and travel a few miles to the Spring Valley (New York) Post Office so he could retrieve mail from Box 74.

You weren’t tall enough to see in the small box, set in a long row of decorative brass containers with combination locks. In a year or too, you could actually open the box yourself, anticipating mail as you walked home from school.

But for now, dad went to get what was there, and you would hang around the Art Deco lobby, standing on a grand marble floor and looking up at a Social Realism mural, courtesy of the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Postmaster Jim Farley Post Office rebuilding projects of the Great Depression.

The Spring Valley branch on Madison Avenue was and is a most solid structure, meant to convey the ability of a nation to rebuild itself and to endure. And the inside was deliberately set as a small palace, with wonderful hissing steam heat that warmed you on the coldest of February days. The government could help take care of you, you see, and the mural of laborers, farmers and industrial smokestacks billowing the white smoke of progress underscored this “we-can-do-it” recovery.

A “socialism” view, though it was lost on the 7-year-old in 1949. He was there, escaping boredom with his dad, and he liked getting his fingers warm at the radiator. He also wanted his own mail, so the routine was to head over to the huge wire basket where people threw junk mail that arrived even in those days, and without messing about too much, take out a sealed letter and hold it, then open it, a grown-up thing to do.

The trip home was usually uneventful. Dad might stop for a loaf of Sunshine bread at Mager’s store, the motor and heater left running as he ran in and out. Soon you would be back in the quiet of the house, no TV to watch, and you might seek imagination in adjacent woods, within earshot of mom calling you home for supper at about 5:15.

Like I said, a simple time.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay is adapted from an earlier one. ahgunther@yahoo.com




March 6, 2023

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     On an early morning run in the Northeast, about 6, before the suburban/urban beings start their engines and rev up for the endless trips to shopping strips, the time is mine, and I relish the nearly empty roads and the rising sun on dew that recalls the wet blankets of our former farms, now sprouting development.

     It is both a blessing and a bit of a downer that I was born and raised as third generation in what was once country, hearing neighborhood roosters in morning call and the clang of bottles in the milkman’s metal carrier. Those sounds were the alarm clocks of the day, now replaced by remote-start F250s warming seats and steering wheels on the long, long streets of bi-levels and colonials.

      It makes you wish for the past, which is the  albatross of one born under the Scorpio sign. But it is also a respectful nod to quieter times, even more silent in my father’s day in my land, more so in my grandfather’s.

     Yet “progress” cannot be denied for it offers opportunity for others to escape greater environmental confinement and have their moment, too. I must not be fully selfish.

     But in freedom of speech and since I do not mince words, “progress” should not be “paving paradise and putting up a parking lot.” Joni Mitchell sang the song of hurried growth to us. We have not listened.

     It is all in the planning, which is simply the barricade against greed growth that fills in floodplains and increases housing density, all the while under the false promise of more tax ratables and lower rents/home prices because of greater supply. Ain’t gonna happen; never did. Instead, costs rise and the parking lot gets bigger.

     So, in the early morning I will get up and go on the coffee run, left alone in my memories of a rural time, thank you.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



February 26, 2023

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     The daughter of a Rockland Journal-News colleague from long ago when the community newspaper still existed at 53 Hudson Ave., Nyack, N.Y., recently sent me an unidentified photograph of her as a very young child, taken in the newsroom. Her mother is gone now, but this discovered picture has her wondering about it, and so her mom.

     Since I was there, in the same newsroom, toiling in the daily birth of news, she wanted to know if I could provide information about the photo.

     Sure. It was taken by the late Andy Dickerman, a fellow photog who usually roamed the city room and snapped pictures of everyone and anyone. I was able to tell the daughter, who was cleaning out her mother’s Cape Cod home, who the lensman was and who the reporter was in the photo.

     Very small thing, of course, and happy to provide the information. Yet for the daughter of my late colleague, a precious gift, for filling in the details helps her write the book of her life and so connect with the memory of her mom as she heals from her loss.

     Humanity seems to provide these moments of small but important reassurance. That also restates individual worth for the receiver as well as the giver.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com



February 19, 2023

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     There was always anticipation in the 1939 Dodge my father drove to the ferries at Weehawken to begin our rare visits to New York City. A country boy living just 18 miles away, a walk in the fields was the usual day, not shivering on the boat to 42nd Street, though I could have sat warm inside rather than choose the bow where the ferry would slide into its slip, bobbing up and down, me all the while thinking someone could fall between the dock and the boat.

     Once the scissor gates of The Weekhawken were pulled across, my parents, brother and grandparents pushed our way through the crowd and came to Midtown. The tall buildings made canyons of shade and light, the latter gray in winter’s coal burning and urban pollution.

It was an arrival, far from the rural landscape but not scary. Thrilling in the moment, for the sounds of traffic and car horns offered a foreign rhythm to this occasional visitor. It was a score that you could not ignore, one that accompanied your fast pace on the crowded streets. There wasn’t time to stop and think as there was in my country fields.

     The trip was for the benefit of parents and grandparents whose forebears began immigrant lives there in the various decades of the 19th century. Revisiting for shopping gave them a chance to touch roots and remember their past.

     The day in Gotham also included the Horn & Hardart self-service Automat, the wonder of all eating wonders before fast-food unseasoned the palette. Or we might walk upstairs above shops to a Chinese restaurant, its consommé superb and later sweet tea in a no-handle green cup just right for a fellow in gabardine pants that made the legs even colder in the canyon winds of New York City.

     The day done, the return ferry taken, my brother Craig and I would fall asleep in the old Dodge, arriving safe and sound back in the Quiet Land. The annual city visit was over.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman, reachable at ahgunther@yahoo.com



Art Gunther/2022

February 12, 2023

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     There is mystery in Gotham, the generic word for any city, ancient or modern. Tall buildings dwarfing others, alleyways in daylight darkness, corners in street lamp shadow, anonymous individuals plugged into crowds on sidewalks almost never left untrod. Urban life is its own mojo, unique to the particular location but common to all.

     The country boy is amazed though overwhelmed by sight and sound, cacophony never heard in the fields and wood. The suburban knows Gotham for she/he was probably born there, raised there. Tolerating the commute to live in reduced hassle, the city’s rhythm is not forgotten, and when it plays again crossing the river’s bridge it is a golden oldie. 

     The visitor from afar is mesmerized, in awe, hot for the museums, the cafe, the streets. Voyeurs looking at people who don’t look up at their city’s tall buildings, caught in the bustle that is a Gothamite’s being.

     City life – abstract, an action painting, a still life, a palette mix.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman, ahgunther@yahoo.com



February 5, 2023

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     James Joyce, the writer who had to leave Dublin to narrate its soul, is remembered for more than classic works like “Dubliner” and Ulysses.” His story and character quotes are almost unbelievable pull-outs from the recesses of our minds.

     “Shut your eyes and see.” How many of us, tripping over our words so fast they spill from overworked mouths never close our eyes to see truth?

     “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.” Life is a circle, my friend, not always a merry-go-round, and the roundabout journey surely can bring you home again.

     “History,” Stephen said, “is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” The past – our own, the world’s – is forever ours, the bad dreams too.

     “He wanted to cry quietly but not for himself: for the words, so beautiful and sad, like music.” Writing is rhythm, sometimes a tune, sometimes an opera, Broadway musical, hip hop, Detroit, cultural definition. And then there is music in our own voice.

     “Life is too short to read a bad book.” Not only a book, but an article, a social media post. Twitter.

     “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.” Don’t we all at times?

     “I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.” Life is the sum of it all, and before its end, the way stops also define.

     “But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.” No existence should be without romance.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman reachable at ahgunther@yahoo.com



January 29, 2023 

By Arthur H. Gunther III


     Despite the rotation, a doorknob has stillness. You may have gone on a trip, and the handle has not been turned. You will do so, and the great feeling of home will hit, no matter how fine the journey has been. Maybe this isn’t your house, but you are soon to see relatives or friends. Happily. The still knob awaits your hand.

     (Of course there are many reasons for approaching a door and not all happy or welcome, but let’s not dwell on those times.)

     The photograph of a mid-1850’s composite doorknob here was taken by me at the Edward Hopper House in Nyack, N.Y., where the famed American painter was born in 1882. How many times he must have turned it, his family before him since the house was built in 1858, and how many visitors have touched it after volunteers restored the house in the early 1970s. The home is now a museum and study center.

     Edward could not have reached this marbled knob in his childhood bedroom until a few years after birth, but once he began turning at the door, it opened to a lifetime of painting and images that endure, that captivate, that throw you into stories which the viewer has to write. 

     Turning the doorknob was not always easy for the painter. It was still for many long moments as Hopper grew his vision over decades before connecting with an audience.

     We all face still doorknobs one time or another.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman reachable at ahgunther.com