WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just a short walk from the fortress that is now the White House, isolated from what its present inhabitant apparently fears is the terrorism of public opinion, are the words of a flawed but arguably great president and eloquent speech-maker, Franklin D. Roosevelt, carved in the granite of his immense and hallowed memorial.


December 11, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYACK, N.Y. — It has been a long time since I haunted Main Street as a shopper in this forever charming village north of New York City, a place never to be confused with Gotham. It has its own vibe — it’s not the city nor suburbia, which have their own great haunts.
Once, my parents shopped here, back when there was no suburbia nearby and downtowns were meccas with a bunch of shoe stores, several pharmacies, two five and dimes, hat shops, dress shops, a bakery, meat stores, small supermarkets and a soda fountain to relax in after hours of shopping.
But “progress” came, with strip shopping and malls and loads of cars on the roads. Downtowns could not compete.
Now, as online shopping threatens to similarly retire what progress wrought, a gentle walk through a village like Nyack takes you deja vu all over again. Some stores are back, some never left, like Koblin’s, a famed pharmacy.
I was in search of holiday cards and a watch battery. Found all four at Koblin’s and then went up Main to Herb Lack Paints, a hardware store, to buy an electrical switch that the big-box outlets have, too, but which was so much easier to pick up by just walking a few steps from one village store to another.
Herb Lack was once owned under another name, and as I gave the present people my money, I noticed I was standing above the same counter where so many years ago I had a key made to the front door of the original Journal-News at 53 Hudson where I would work for 42 years.
There was a warm feeling doing this Nyack walk, recalling when my parents shopped here with my brother and me in tow. I also remember others flooding the streets of Nyack, including a special friend who always did her Christmas shopping there with a stop at the old catacorner card store at Main and Midland. Then there is the present long-distance  correspondent who would leave rural Congers to weekend shop in the big village of Nyack.
I am guilty of not shopping enough in the Nyacks of my life, instead rushing off to the big mall or now online. I assisted in their decline and/or downsizing.
But the Nyacks are there, and is it ever so peaceful and fulfilling to mosey about.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


December 4, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I have a friend in Colorado, a former Rocklander, one whose family roots go back to before the Revolution, who would walk into a room with sun trying to pop its buttons through a brilliantly lit window shade and focus just on that, even if the sky were otherwise falling. She is an optimist, and our emails, a daily feature since 2005, add the yin to my often pessimistic yang. Thank you, friend.
It is good and necessary to have such balance if life isn’t to take you into dark tunnels with no light in sight. Such a journey seems before the Republic now in too many ways. Arising again is more national meanness, prejudice, ignorance and deliberate falsehood meant to divert our attention away from the path upon which the founders set us.
We have often stumbled and fallen for long periods on that journey — slavery, civil war, the Great Depression, inequality, greed — but the innate goodness of the general populace and the mojo set forth in our Constitution have given us the courage to get up over and over and keep walking.
But now we are in a long, deep tunnel, with the pied piper leading us God knows where, playing a tune meant to rouse our fears, to suspect each other, to distrust humanity itself.
The piper’s notes are simple, deceptive, and we harken our ears to the tune because in all of us there is ability to hate. Most of us awake from such stupor, of course, but by then the damage may be done. (Witness the Hitler years.)
Somewhere in that dark tunnel is a stage to which we are all brought, and a dim spot light focuses on the juggler, but behind the curtain unfolds the real event, the dismantling of the republic, its heralded institutions, its natural progressivism, its enlightening goodness, our better self.

Now, my Colorado friend, a former teacher who obviously still instructs, would surely see beyond the curtain, beyond the false Wizard of Oz, to a brilliantly lit window and the sun behind it popping its buttons. Others would see the dark.

I pray optimism wins this one.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


November 27, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Doors can hold fascination because they are portals and keys to the ordinary things we do each day, like leaving the house or coming home and because they are metaphors for life, such as leaving a job or coming into a new situation. No matter what, if the door closes, so does something else. If it opens, so does something else.
A door can also be likened to emotion. A stuck door, one you struggle with as you open it, can trigger reflection about ongoing difficulty at work, or in a relationship. A door that always closes smoothly may be an analogy for a friend or loved one who is
A series of doors can be a road map for a busy day, with each door closing symbolic of yet another task completed. If they all stick, maybe you should go back to bed.
Then there is the hallway, before the door, after it. Is it long? Is it bright or dark? What color is it, and does that sometimes set the day’s mood? Are there family pictures that remind you of what’s important?
How about the lock? Do you recall other doors in your youth with similar locks and how they clicked when a parent turned the
Is the door knob shiny or loose or antique? How reassuring is it to grasp it, and is that a metaphor for any other anchor in your life?
Bet some of you won’t just sail through the next door you see.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.



By Arthur Henry Gunther III

Since printing began and the first sheets of paper brought information to the masses, newspapers could count on people buying enough copies to keep the profession going; to support advertisers; to hold circulation stable; most of all to protect democracy by reporting and commenting on the news. Now there are too few readers, and the republic is in jeopardy.
The Computer Age and the Internet, the smart phone, video games and the many morphings of television all snatch concentration away from people, who seem busier than ever with seemingly endless schedules. There are fewer lunches spent with a newspaper; fewer evenings after dinner in an easy chair with the editorial page and columnists; fewer open pages of The Daily This or That spread across the kitchen table.
The constantly-on computer and its search engines are the prime information sources now. In just seconds, news is read in headlines and short paragraphs, barely digested. Photographs and other images steal viewer time, reducing the brain’s word count. And “fake news” spreads like the plague it us.
Yet, the Computer Age, with its great but flawed ability to offer “facts” and commentary so quickly; to spread such information around the globe; and to keep it in reference form that eventually can expose the wrong-doers does present an opportunity to add to individual knowledge and so empower us to self-educate. And since education leads to questioning, the hope is that the Internet’s ever more vast store of words, data and images will make our younger people in particular more like the newspaper readers of other years — those who question, those who think.
What we all must do, whether we are the kind who grew up with three newspapers a day in the house seven days a week or if we are online perusers of news, is to support information delivery. Buy newspapers. Read them. Call up the Internet but truly seek information and understand it, and then question. The “who, what, when, where, why and how” must be satisfied. And if there is no “why” or “how,” if any key word in the pursuit of a free and open press is missing, we must let the media know and demand answers.
Otherwise, the free press will lose the ammunition it needs to keep us safe from individuals and groups seeking to control information for their own anti-democratic purposes. What a terrible, creeping danger that is today.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. Reach him at or 845 548 7378.



September 13, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

All professions have shop talk, but that rhythm is more likely to play in tune not in the daily grind but after the job, most often in retirement. Such was the conversation the other night at an arts gathering at the Edward Hopper House in Nyack, N.Y.
The birthplace of the famed American realist painter offers “First Friday” shows for member artists in conjunction with other art exhibits in Nyack each month, and I am the wine re-filler, the fellow who opens new stock and makes sure there isn’t a dry glass in the house.
That can involve enough downtime that my feet fall asleep, but also moments when I am drawn into conversation, some of it polite, some political, some “Oh, how are you? Have not seen you for awhile.” And some about the arts or the artist Hopper.
Occasionally there will be shop talk if people I knew in the newspaper profession pop in. I will sometimes meet other scribes or editors, or in the recent moment, photographers. (I was a staff lensman for more than six years and continued that role on and off for 35 more.)
Pulling the cork on a sauvignon blanc, up walked Laurie Peek, a well-entrenched social documentary photog back in the New York City of the 1970s and ’80s. Then came Colette Fournier, a retired newspaper lenswoman.
Before we knew it, and oblivious to the crowd, we were sharing stories about camera mishaps, long sessions in the old “wet” darkrooms with their chemicals and the goose-pimply feeling of seeing a print come to life in a tray of developer.
Though the wine kept getting popped, and no one was neglected, we three, like anyone who share common work habits, became deeply immersed in our common language.
How satisfying it was to realize you can rarely, but still actually, find your comrades and communicate. Reinvigorating the bond was like meeting an old friend so special that while life continues well enough without contact, reacquaintance, however short, is locking into a special frequency.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


November 5, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYC — A parent has the right to “kvell,” even if you are not of the Jewish faith. I am not, but having been raised in a community of so many delightful descendants of Abraham, I picked up a few words and phrases that come in handy since they are so expressive.
I use “kvell” today because when you have a 46-year-old son who achieves a 2:41 finish in the New York City Marathon, coming in 131st of many thousands of males, you have to say something that underscores the moment.
Yet my son Arthur 4th would prefer silence since he is humble, even if his daily training — he has run almost every day since eighth grade — his persistence and his dedication make him a remarkable runner.
Arthur trains while juggling a job as a school teacher, husband, co-parent of two energetic kids, and without complaint. He loves running, just as Bob Hudson, his high school coach, instilled in him. And continues to do. (In fact, Coach drove Arthur to the city to begin the race procedure at 4:30 a.m.)
Every entrant in the marathon is a winner. Just enduring a 26.2-mile run through all the boroughs is a feat beyond the normal challenge. Yes, some are the top finishers. Some suffer more than others. But we must kvell for every one, especially in a time of deliberate national divide.
The marathon is a league of nations, a race of many peoples. Emotion expressed by participants and those cheering them on Sunday made America shine. We can all kvell for that.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.



October 28, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

After weeks of little rain, this part of the greater patch — slightly upstate New York — is at this writing getting very wet, the bath due to a storm with its sights set more on Long Island and Cape Cod than Rockland County. Still, like the cozy coat you pull out for fall’s first chill, the sudden appearance of the wet changes the dial. All I could think of was soup.
It’s a bit of the fortunate that there is a change of seasons here, so the coat becomes reinforcement that you can get cozy in the chill, leaving behind long summer days and the fun, yes, but anticipating autumn color and the wonderful smell of fallen leaves.
Rain, especially if it has not thrown a kiss your way in too long a spell, gets the juices going for soup, whether you make it from scratch, pay way too much in a specialty store or simply open a can and have at it. When you have been missing something of a while, discerning is not usually top of agenda.
On such a day as this in my fourth-grade years, my mother, if she wasn’t concocting a red Irish stew, which was really soup with vegetables and her German noodles, had Campbell’s tomato with pepper steaming from the bowl as my brother and I came in soaking wet from the home-built huts in the backyard, our prairie.
Many a good meal begins with soup. It is the civilized way of eating, much like the proper introduction to a home via an inviting foyer: there is pause to anticipate what is next.
So, the day, this one at least, calls for the hottest of soup, simple fare that feeds so well that you could get complex about it.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.




As one of the many volunteers in the Rockland Interfaith Breakfast Program and as a strong supporter of the overnight/outreach program Helping Hands-Safe Haven, I was asked to write the following.

By Arthur H. Gunther III

It is 1940, and the Great Depression is persisting after 11 years. At Maud Gunther’s Spring Valley, N.Y., home, not far from the downtown railroad tracks where the homeless slept even then, my grandmother is on her back porch, handing out sandwiches to hobos and other hungry people, made from the meager scraps she, her husband and son must share. But Arthur Sr. has a job. Many do not. Maud does her bit, as do quite a few Valleyites in that sad national time.
At night on any of those dark days, my grandparents sit in the dining room and listen to the radio, that after Arthur Sr.  has read The Rockland Journal-News, the New York Journal-American and the Daily News. Each of those information sources offer the same stories about unique, even groundbreaking relief efforts by the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration as well as continuing political opposition in Congress and elsewhere. The poor, the down and out, the homeless are always grist for the political mill. Full bellies pontificate over the hungry.
Radio news says the opposition holds fast to its belief that lesser government involvement is best, that people can pull themselves up if only the economy is rebuilt — an old argument that never gets settled because greed intervenes. People still go without. In Spring Valley. In the nation.
One 1940 presidential contender, Robert Taft, states: “Let no one say that a sound fiscal policy is too hardboiled toward the more unfortunate among our people. It is the poor who will be cared for by a solvent government. …”
America has always had “solvent” government, but the poor, the needy, remain underserved and continue to be part of a false news, “welfare-queen” debate that is really ignorance perpetuated by the judgmental and the greedy. So, even in the best of times, the poor and others in need have been put on a meager budget line. Criticism of the unfortunate,  ignorance as to circumstance and outright refusal to accept that any of us could fall into sad situations are as firmly set in the national fabric as are the often heroic kindness and charity of so many. The needy are always an abstraction, always blamed for their misfortune. They are made sinners for that.
I wish those who contend that free will, gumption and grit alone make you thrive would serve meals any week day of the year, holidays included, in the Rockland Interfaith Breakfast Program at United Church in Spring Valley. Or assist with the Helping Hands-Safe Haven seasonal overnight offering. Then they would witness the debilitating effects of joblessness, depression, substance abuse, domestic abuse and health issues. And just plain bad luck.
RIBP served 18,633 breakfasts in 2016; Helping Hands provided 5,260 meals and overnight accommodations. None of these efforts would have been possible without volunteers, some 3,000 hours given. And not one of us, beyond normal individual human prejudice, openly judged anyone. We were not part of the historical debate between “gumption” and charity, one that continues even in a county as affluent as Rockland.
I am now Maud Gunther, deliberately serving the needy for 15 years in her village, my hometown, my father’s childhood community, the neighborhood of my friends, teachers, mentors. Like all the volunteers, I am paying my own good fortune forward. Privileged to do so.
On Tuesday mornings in the RIBP, we can rustle up a breakfast of sausage better prepared than in some upscale restaurants, slow-cooked for three hours in apple juice, brown sugar, honey and spices. Pancakes are made with eggs, brown sugar, honey and a bit of strong coffee. Chicken soup is simmered for two hours with my Irish mother’s recipe of black pepper and parsley. Total cost? About $2 a serving. In a restaurant, $16, at least.
I am no exception. There are better cooks, including professionals, who work free and offer chicken and other dishes that would pull in $20 a serving in an ordinary eatery.
Lunches, free to all, include freshly made sandwiches, fruit, a treat or two. Juice and coffee, cereal, oatmeal are available at breakfast. All prepared by volunteers.
And the volunteers do more than ready food, serve it and clean up. They bring in donated clothing. They buy clothing. Volunteers purchase food now and then, and kitchen items. If an individual client has a certain need, they are assisted out of pocket.
All this in the RIBP program. Then there is the Helping Hands-Safe Haven volunteer effort that besides all-year counseling and social services, offers seasonal overnight protection from the cold and bad weather, with space long donated by various religious institutions. (Rockland will soon partner on an overnight warming center and other services, thanks to recognition of the great need by the county Legislature and County Executive Ed Day.)
Again, we do not argue whether individuals deserve what we do. Nor do we pat ourselves on the back. We are just people filling a need as best we can. Some of us also do it for the churches and synagogues and mosques we belong to. Others offer service for the religion that is called humanity.
Society has an obligation to attend to the needy, perhaps asking questions later. But only later. We sometimes see babies and other  young children at breakfast, and you can ask nothing of them.
I hope whoever reads this, most especially anyone who continues the forever debate between requiring individuals to tough it out or asking society to meet obvious need, will take away two important points:
* RIBP, Helping Hands-Safe Haven and the other giving groups in Rockland do not ask questions. We do not vet the needy. We serve the needy, as religious belief and human decency command.
* We are cost-effective, probably spending  at least one-quarter what government or private services would require.
Finally, we have many volunteers, but we need more. We operate on a shoestring budget, and while Helping Hands and RIBP are uber-efficient, we still require funding to cover such unglamorous expenses as rent, insurance, salaries for our tiny non-volunteer staff and supplies.
Consider becoming part of the Helping Hands family through the donation of your time, your talent or your treasure.
(You can contact Helping Hands Director Ya’el Williams:


The writer is a retired newspaperman.


October 16, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

A very long time ago, I bought a nozzle for a garden hose so that I could water new shrubs at a new house. There was then just one child, who at almost three would turn the spray on me. That hose, with that nozzle, took a goodly portion of the free funds for a young family in a home in the ever more-taxed suburbs. But in a way, the nozzle has earned its weight in gold.
Over the decades, with greater income and savings, the temptation to buy a bigger and better nozzle was met over and over. I now have a drawer full of super-duper sprayers than can shoot water 20 feet, or give me 10 spray patterns, or save water. Together they probably have cost 30 times the price of the original, small, old-fashioned, solid-brass piece.
Some have held up reasonably well, though most are machined poorly, made cheaply in overseas factories where tolerances are not exact. But they look good, and that is probably why I bought them.
I had the money in my pocket, you see, and why not buy into the marketing theory that you simply must have the latest gadget?
Yet I always return to the 1973 brass nozzle. Either a new-fangled sprayer breaks down, or its lack of machined tolerance makes me not tolerate it, or it leaks, or I simply yearn for a simpler time when I could depend on an inexpensive, uncomplicated, design-proven nozzle to do the trick.
Besides, that sprayer was aimed at me by not one, but two sons. They washed their first cars with it. Hiking boots and running shoes were freed of mud. And these days, the guys and their progeny visit the old man, who can be found watering the now-big shrubbery with brass nozzle No. 1. It is an old friend, and I hold it in a tight handshake.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


October 9, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYACK, N.Y. — It was easy, at this fund-raiser aiming to protect and restore a 200-year-old village house, to imagine social gatherings in the 1930s-‘50s at which Helen Hayes and Charles MacArthur held court. Easy to picture, leaning against the 1800’s living room molding.
Lawrence Olivier might have done that, or later Marlon Brando, or Debbie Reynolds at “Pretty Penny,” the Broadway house costing just that when the famous movie and stage actress bought it with her husband Charles MacArthur, the newspaperman and playwright.
Fund-raisers — most social gatherings — don’t offer interest, maybe because I had to cover so many for the original Journal-News, but this one was a must. It was sponsored by to help rescue Nyack’s oldest remaining Dutch sandstone house, a few streets south from the Hayes mansion. Saving history is always worth the trip.
But back to the Hayes/MacArthur home, offered for the day’s fund-raiser by its present owner, art dealer/map collector Graham Arader.
It is now restored, in part according to the tastes of actress Rosie O’Donnell, who once lived here. When I was in the house about 1967 to photograph Miss Hayes for The Journal-News, the still-stately architecture needed a tune-up. She had been living there alone, but with a secretary, for decades after the passing of her daughter Mary and husband. Their son, Charles, had moved on to acting.
Yet you barely noticed the loose windows and the need for paint in the  mansion because Helen Hayes overtook the scene. She was a true theatrical presence as well as a genuinely charming Nyacker often seen walking into town.
The day I took her photograph for a feature story, I was asked to sit on a couch and wait. A little while after, Miss Hayes came slowly down her elegant staircase, a huge portrait of her as Victoria Regina on the wall. She literally paused for a second, and the shot was better than any photograph I could take. While a more-standard picture was published, I have never forgotten how stage-worthy the moment was.
It also reinforced a sense of history — a noted actress, a famous playwright choosing to live and participate in a old house in a Hudson River town where industry long flourished, in part because of movers and shakers like John Green. (The man was a powerhouse, helping to build commerce from Nyack’s riverfront to Suffern and beyond via the original Nyack Turnpike.)
The fund-raiser to save his home on lower Main Street, which, hopefully will become a community gathering
place along a waterfront that must always be open to the people, was appropriately held in another historic Nyack house, itself just north of the Edward Hopper House, the home of America’s foremost realist artist.
Soon, the Green House will be dwarfed off Main and Gedney streets by even more modern-day “progress” — townhouses for those who can afford them. Yet, as the house is rescued, a herculean effort to be sure, it will increasingly be recognized as an anchor to the past, of growth in its time, too, but also of community involvement, 200 years ago, now and in the future.
Playwright MacArthur could have written such drama. Actress Hayes could have played the part. Now the stage is set for this rescue. Visit

The writer is a retired newspaperman.,



October1-2, 2017

By Arthur Henry Gunther III

Once, so very long ago, almost in another age but I know it still must relate to the accumulation of living, just part of me, you see, gave someone a small birthday present.
It was the first gift for a new someone, and I thought it out, not wanting to go overboard and push the relationship into uncomfortable territory. Yet I wanted the present to be both meaningful — an expression of deepening interest — and also classy, since the person was surely that.
I ended up at a small corner jewelry store in Westwood, N.J., still there after five decades, staring into the show window on Center Avenue. That was easier for a shy fellow than going to the counter and looking at offerings from the sales person, almost all of which a 20 year old without a job could not afford.
Happily, I did see what I thought was the just-right gift in the show window, and five minutes later, with the equivalent of what some day would be a week’s salary from my first job gladly exchanged for what was a then-popular scarab bracelet, I went home and kept the present until the October birthday.
As these things go, the person I was then, not the fellow I am now, gave the bracelet to the person she was then, and it was appreciated. I don’t think I pushed the relationship to where it was uncomfortable, being jewelry and all, but I am not sure.
This was my first romantic gesture for anyone, and though I have never absorbed the etiquette on that, I just went ahead.
So much growth since then — me, her, people in our separate spheres, the world.
Yet as surely as fall comes each year, and it is a favored season, an older fellow now usually remembers the bright stones of the scarab bracelet, which signify creation and renewal, according to Egyptian thought.
Sounds right. A pleasant memory.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. or


“Talking Skyscrapers”


September 25, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The area where I live is just north of this famous, at times infamous, metropolis, enough distance in my youth to have enjoyed a life apart —rural countryside, building huts in the woods, traipsing through fruit orchards, riding with companion on a summer night, car windows open, crickets joining the conversation. Yet we were close to Manhattan, too, and its four borough cousins to occasionally visit. It was an adventure every time.
It may seem silly now, having visited enough European and U.S. cities and in the process maturing in perspective and becoming less hayseed, that New York City once seemed so busy, so in a rush, ever so full of construction sounds that I had to flee after a day visit. In my youth, once my father crossed the Hudson River via the George Washington Bridge, we again heard the crickets, and that resumed  the reassuring purring of what was still not the suburbs.
Of course, it all depends on perspective. A Gothamite, returning to Yorkville or Chelsea or Hell’s Kitchen from my old, quiet Spring Valley would be reassured by the vibrance of the city.
(I was told the story of a city fellow, visiting the sticks for a high school graduation, who could not sleep through the night at his sister’s house and had to take a midnight bus back to New York. It was just too quiet.)
In truth, all cities are fascinating, and there is so much great diversity, food choices, history, and, most important, interesting characters within. So many different neighborhoods.
My own heritage includes city dwellers on both sides of the family, and all the sides before that, back to Prussian, Irish and English immigrants. Wish I could have heard their stories.
Ruralness long ago left my hometown, replaced by suburbia. The crickets have been drowned out by traffic noise, incessant lawn machines and leaf-blowers. Gotham is just as close geographically as it ever was, but it can take triple the old time to get there, given overgrowth and underwhelming transit planning. The suburbs are painted more and more with the city mix anyway, so there is not so much a need to visit.
But in my dreams, my parents pile my brother and I in the old green Studebaker, and we jump over the Hudson into Midtown, eat at a Chinese restaurant and walk in Times Square. It is thrilling, as always, yet the return ride, over the bridge and into country darkness and the sound of the crickets, is reassuring. It is my music. In my dreams anyway.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


September 18, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYACK, N.Y. — This Hudson River village has a park with a usual name, Memorial, just like the one I played in as a kid in another community, though this also was an occasional spot for imaginary doings when my parents shopped here on long-ago Saturdays.
This Saturday past, after checking out Nyack’s “first” community fun fair in the park (though, truthfully, so many gatherings have happened there over many decades), I began to leave, deliberately taking the same circular steps to the original park area off Piermont Avenue.
I try to use these steps because my brother Craig and I played on them, and I don’t see much of him these days, so it is a touchstone.
But there is another such pull to the past. You cannot climb the steps — or run up them as I once did — without passing the listing of 10 names, young men from Nyack who perished in the “War to End All Wars,” the “Great War,” World War I.
What sadness came to this river village nearly 100 years ago, loss and tragedy repeated in every community, and then in World War II and other conflict since.
When I was a youngster hopping on those Nyack steps, I probably did not read those 10 names, for the young do not notice such memorials. Yet I did play among the 10 large trees planted on the old greenhouse grounds that make up the upper section of Nyack Memorial Park. Those trees stand tall against the Hudson just as the 10 lost men who left Nyack for France did on the western front.
So, a day in Nyack, of frivolity, fun, children eating snow cones, lots of purring in a true, long-diverse community. Leaving that enjoyment, so reaffirming in these national days of mistrust and even hate, I could not pass those 10 names and 10 trees without nodding in respect to men, once boys, who played where we all felt good.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.



Der Einfluss,’ acrylic on wood panel.

September 4, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

In German, “Einfluss” means “influence,” and so that is how a recent painting gained its name. I was intrigued by a photograph taken by a Deutsche designer and decided to do my interpretation via acrylics and wood. She deserved some credit, and the German title was it.
I am not sure if I could have gotten through life this far or if I can move along the future path without influence. Pig-headedness aside and allowing for the many times when I’m nfluence has been ignored, there is little accomplishment without someone else’s input.
My favorite teachers, and even the one or two who were not on the list, continue to influence me many decades later. For example, when I add numbers and carry the ones, I cannot escape the influence of Miss Margulies, my arithmetic teacher. When I write, which I am driven to do, it is always another weekly composition for Mr. Gram.
My newspaper photography career was influenced by Andy Dickerman, Al Witt and Warren Inglese.
Today, an interest in local history is influenced by masters like Wilfred Talman, Craig Long and Win Perry.
My family, living and gone, influence my actions. The nation and its leaders or, sadly, at times non-leaders, influence a strong belief in the Founders’ vision and the utter necessity to see it further unfold, certainly not to see such promise wither.
Acquaintances of old, such as childhood friends, have their continuing influence, even if they do not know it.
Truth is, the nerve synapses do not work on their own in this body of mine. Each past encounter, many a conversation, a learned lesson, failure, a fleeting glance, a lingering touch, a kiss, a handshake, an act of charity, a heroic moment, all this and so much more are the directional signs in life.
It is gratifying to be under the influence.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


August 28, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Received a chatty, welcome letter from a special friend whom I have not seen since 2006, and before that the early 1990s, and before that 1981 and 1966. Might seem odd that there was a letter at all since what sort of friendship meets on just four occasions in 50 years?

Yet friendships are not defined by physical presence. The best of them have to do with the elemental, where touchstones are again stepped upon, as children do crossing a stream. You grow, and there are important things to do, you live your life, but things are still tucked away in the closet.

In such friendships, there does not have to be deep emotion involved or a sharing of private lives — the real living that counts with the significant people in your existence. Such friendship, with a rare letter, or note or comment, is like recalling a teacher long ago, or the walk you took downtown to the bus.

There are many similar seconds or even minutes in life, and reconnection is reassurance that you have lived and that it has been worthwhile. And you do not have to dwell in or on the past to appreciate that. Most can manage a smile in quick reflective thought on seemingly unimportant events.

The friend’s letter was prompted by my own, simply to keep in touch with two people who share with me  a common upbringing in what was once a rural place. So, chatty stuff, not earth-shattering news — this and that about each other’s family, reports that despite the usual afflictions of getting older there is good health.

Like I said, it was crossing the stream again, hopping on those old rocks. Reassurance.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.



August 21, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYACK, N.Y. — As a former trustee and now volunteer at the Edward Hopper House Art Center in the birthplace home of the famed American realist painter, I have heard noises here in the early morning quiet of a Federalist/Queen Anne structure that gives off warm vibes.
It could not be otherwise, I figure, since young Edward, from an early age, was encouraged to draw. His parents even sent him to art schools after Edward’s 1900 graduation from Nyack High School, a rarity in an age when middle-class families sought professional careers in the medical and legal professions for their offspring.
So, the house at 58 North Broadway, now number 82, must have been with enough family purring. Mother Elizabeth and sister Marion also drew, and father Garrett, a dry goods merchant in town, would rather keep the quiet and read and read.
I have done handyman work at the Hopper homestead for about 10 years, literally following in the footsteps of many volunteers who in the 1970s saved the then rundown house from possible demolition. They tore up floors, restored the wide-plank pine boards, fixed sash, poured a basement floor, rewired, added a bathroom and restored and enhanced the gardens. Then they offered it as an art center to showcase artists of all persuasion.
Today, the mission continues, with archival material from Edward’s Nyack years, more art installations and plans to showcase the house as interest in Hopper’s iconic work continues. Hopper House receives visitors from around the world. (
Continuing my handyman work early last Sunday, installing electrical service and computer cables, I was drilling holes in a closet in the “new” master bedroom added about 1882 to the 1858 home when I again heard creaking noises, footstep-like sounds. And, again, they did not bother me, and I did not bother the ghosts.
I tolerate ghosts, have seen them in Rockland and at the old North Church in Boston, and have never felt threatened. I usually say something aloud, such as “Hi, hope you can leave this place and join happy eternity,” figuring a ghost is in this world because he/she still has an earthy connection that must be released.
Back at my handyman duties, snaking cable from the upstairs bedroom to a downstairs office, I had to drill a half-inch hole in the closet floor. The first one was off the mark, so I did another a foot away.
Eventually, the cables were in, but I was left with an extra hole and knew I needed a plug. Just as I banged the last nail, the very piece I longed for came popping out of nowhere in the closet. Fit like a glove.
I guess Edward, or someone at Hopper House, was my ghost-assistant. Thank you.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. or


By Arthur H. Gunther III

If, at the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month of each year, from 1918 on when “The War to End All Wars” was over, you would begin to toll a bell 20 times a minute for the 37,468,904 total in casualties, it would take more than 30,000 years to somberly do so.

Today, on the August anniversary of Great Britain’s 1914 declaration of war against Germany, and also in the month that the United States said it would not get involved, but eventually did, the dead, the wounded, those with “shell shock” must not be recalled simply as numbers.
Why didn’t this First World War prevent all others? In one of the costliest battles of the 1914-1918 conflict, the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916, the British suffered 60,000 casualties on the first day. When it was all over and just six miles gained for the Brits, there were 1,219,000 dead and wounded. And that does not include the emotionally afflicted, people who in World War II we would term suffering from “battle fatigue” and now, as the wars continue, “post-traumatic stress syndrome.”
War does not end because greed is always with us — greed of nations, individuals, the military-industrial complex that profits so well. War does not end because of power and false pride by nations who are really little children taking affront in what begins as a playground insult and escalates into utter horror, as happened when the dominoes toppled in 1914. The entangling alliances of that time over Belgian neutrality and world trade, culture, ethnicity, old hatreds  were the excuses to rally patriotism.
Soon enough, the voices of the eager volunteers became the shrill cries of the brave as they went over the top, and as quickly, the deep stillness of the forever graveyard. War is folly, and in the end it creates little that could not have been gained by compromise and common sense, long before madmen such as Hitler have a foothold that can only be broken by war.
In “All Quiet On the Western Front,” the famous post-war novel by  Erich Maria Remarque,  which details his fellow German soldiers’ physical and mental harm during the war and  the isolation and detachment from ordinary life when back home,  the character “Kropp” says, “”It’s queer, when one thinks about it … we are here to protect our Fatherland. And the French are over there to protect their fatherland. Now who’s in the right?”
And, “We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action; but also we distinguished the false from the true, we had suddenly learned to see. And we saw that there was nothing of their world left.”
Now, more than 100 years later, the long trenches of the Marne, Passchendale, Verdun, so many other battlefields, still echo in history with their artillery fire, machine guns, death and madness, for war never disappears. The great still is indeed today’s all quiet on the western front, 2014, but the battles are stirring elsewhere. Is the Korean Penninsula next?
On this anniversary of the beginning of a war meant to end it all, and, coincidentally the 53-year mark of America’s accelerated effort in Vietnam, a nation with whom we now trade, the bells must continue to toll, for nations are ruled by men, too often by the folly of such.
As in “All Quiet …”:  “While they (the pontificating teachers and politicos) continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and dying. While they taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger.”

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.



August 7, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

One of the givens in growing up in the semi-rural county of Rockland, New York, in my 1950s years was that we were surrounded by diversity. It had always been that way, since the Dutch days and before that those of the various, mostly intinerant Native-American tribes.
A major 1600s landowners was a free black man. There were early settlements of Irish, Jewish Orthodox and Latino. Since the county is so close to the port of New York, a mix of peoples was inevitable.
So, as a young fellow, it never seemed strange that an old man with a yarmulke sitting in Tiny’s Diner in Spring Valley would ask for a “glass tea,” a Lower East Side expression.
Nor would my brother and I, then living in nearby Tallman, even question why the limping fellow who ran the Sunoco station on Route 59 would be called “Mr. One-a-Minoot,” pronounced that way in his Italian dialect.
This nice man sold 10-cent Dixie Cup ice cream, the ones with Hollywood movie star pictures on the inside covers. They were half-vanilla, half-chocolate, or strawberry/vanilla, and you devoured the treat with a spoon that you licked down to the bare wood.
“Mr. One-a-Minoot” was always busy, handling the gas pumps, working in the small garage and selling ice cream to first- and second-graders like my brother and me. But he was never rushed, never grouchy. He didn’t talk to us, but he was kind, simply saying, “one-a-minoot,” so that he could get us the Dixie Cups.
The given that was diversity in my place and time extended to ethnicity. I do not recall anyone in school saying he or she was “Italian,” or “Irish” or “Puerto Rican” or whatever. We were all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, of course, in joint celebration, but since there was so much diversity, since it was common from birth, we just did not single out people as this or that. Guess it was just a simpler time.

“Mr. One-a-Minoot” remains a favorite character from my childhood, not because he was of Italian descent but because he was a nice man who sold us a Dixie Cup treat, asking us to wait a second so he could get the ice cream.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


July 31, 2017

By Arthur Henry Gunther III

Not all eulogies are truthfully written, because there is a natural spin to comments made about the departed, much like the wailing of a relative or two at a wake for someone they actually disliked in life. The good-form factor seems to kick in, in the balance we seek as decent people.
Truth is, though, there is something positive to say about almost all of us: “He wasn’t so bad, after all. I miss him.” The average person on this earth, given individual circumstances — hardship, wealth, emotional makeup, health concerns — does pretty good overall as a human being and deserves a final tribute as well as the recollections that continue in those who remember long after.
What of the people who deserve no eulogy, such as a Hitler? Nothing good can be said about such a person, who might not even be human but of a devil, the actual Devil, if you will. History is written after such a man or woman, noting the violent death of millions whose eulogies cannot be uttered for there are too many dead at once. The collective eulogy later emerges as a holocaust memorial.
It is custom to be grand in expression after a public figure dies, such as a U.S. president. His administration may have been controversial, the achievements relatively small, the public support generally unenthusiastic. But he was president, and there has been dignity in that office for a long time, despite politics.
So, the military parade takes place, there is a laying-in at the presidential library and heartfelt speeches are made by those who saw fewer warts than others as well as more restrained comment by those who noted some achievement that could be mentioned at passing.
Not unlike those relatives at the wake who disliked the deceased in life, but on balance, followedgood form and found something to applaud.
We do not know what future eulogies will be said for particular leaders when that moment is necessary. The answer may be that again there will be none for an individual, but many for the victims.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


July 24, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

One of the customs of an old-style newspaper hot metal composing room — where printing type was cast in lead by brilliantly designed mechanical marvels called Linotypes and then placed in page forms called chases so that the process could continue to the presses and then your delivered newspaper — was men helping men put on their aprons.
Handling type was messy, with ink from the proofing machine and the lead itself covering everything. The blue, dungaree-type apron was a barrier.
Now, if the composing room of old were run by industrious women, there would have been no need to tie each other’s aprons. The 5-8 ladies I am privileged to toil with in a food program do not tie others’ apron strings, instead quickly fastening their own coverings with well-practiced, behind-the-back moves seemingly natural to the beautiful species.
For some reason, perhaps so much of it being tradition, the male printers were apron-helpless. They would hang the apron around their necks, turn to the nearest fellow and make a circular move with their hands to indicate the strings needed to be tied. It would be done.
Then it would be into the work day and men talking of sports or women or politics. At shift’s end, there was no similar call for untying aprons, just an individual loosening, a grab of the lunch box and a nod to co-workers, “See you tomorrow.”
That next day would bring the repeated bonding of tying each other’s apron strings.
So, it was no wonder that my late Journal-News co-worker and printer George “Weep” Chalsen would ask me or fellow food program worker Al Witt to tie his apron when we met,  not in the composing room but the kitchen. Both very hot places.
It was yet another fraternity, you see.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


July 17, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Manhattan — It is said that the Statue of Liberty beckons  the “ huddled masses,” but this past Saturday in New York City, the great spectrum of people came to midtown instead. The area, from Grand Central at 42nd St. on the East Side to the 50s and Seventh Avenue on the West Side was just an explosion off humanity. Good weather and renewed interest in both Gotham and urbanity probably caused the adventure.

Fine for NYC, since tourist/visitor dollars help pay the bills, though I hope some of that money goes to dangerous areas in all the boroughs where crime, schools and humanity sometimes on the edge need much better attention.

Even in midtown it would have been nice to see the walking police officer so visible when I was an occasional visitor as a kid decades ago. Spotted not one in a 30-block walk over four hours. Visibility can dispel both civilian and police fears.

We visited the Museum of Modern Art, always a draw, and a great way to uplift the spirits in a troubling world. Yes, you may not “get” a 48-inch white canvas with a black border — why that is called “art” — but you can appreciate the opportunity to reflect. It’s better than sitting on a park bench kicking dirt.

You cannot visit Manhattan and expect to stand in place on a busy sidewalk, or you will be run over. Everyone is in a rush, choreographed by the street/avenue intersection lights. Many people, many smart phone-lookers, many stylishly dressed, weaving in and out of the ever-present scaffolding indicative of a still-growing city, sidestepping the homeless and those who at least live on the streets dayside.

As a country boy and lifelong observer of anything that moves and a lot that does not, I feel apart from — but still connected to — the fast-movers on the sidewalks, looking at many, wondering what their thoughts are, where they are going, where they came from. Glance away for a second, and there is yet another tapestry to ponder.

A museum of the streets, literally.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.



July 10, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III


College is not for every one, and even for the collegiate, there may be a best time to go. It’s an individual moment, and getting there can be tough.
I was there, once, actually several times before the degree was conferred several years into actual work — newspapering — that I was suited to and in which I achieved some success.
In those 1960s days, you could sign on at a newspaper and begin schlepping as a copyboy, coffee gofer, office chair repair guy, whatever the minions of the newsroom wanted you to do. Some almost adopted you, calling you “kid,” and tossing you an extra 15 cents for java of your own. Others barely tolerated you, or so that seemed, but their gruff way was the teaching method. They, too, had been the copyboy.
If the newsroom liked you, if they saw a spark of talent — and they actually looked for that, for you must grow a new crop — they begin your training.
The “rim,” where the page layout editors sat in the old, non-digital days, would throw you a small story and ask you to write a headline of a certain point size that would fit the column width. The “slotman,” the rim’s chief editor, would look it over, maybe grunt, and if he liked it, would bundle it with the hard copy of the story and send both to be set in type, using a pneumatic tube system to the composing room.
The photography department might bring you into the darkroom and have you mix chemicals or wind exposed film on developing reels and then show you how to make prints.
You might get sent out with a reporter to watch him or her cover a story, or you might go with the photogs. You would never forget the adrenalin of that first fire or political demonstration, and you would feel empowered that the press gained access, albeit sometimes under duress, to accident and other scenes. You felt that you were helping get out the information that the people have the right to know.
Then you would go back to being a copyboy until that day came and you saw another eager fellow or gal walk through the newsroom door and learn your job. You had been promoted, thrown into the hurly-burly of newspapering as a reporter or photog or desk editor.
I made it to all three positions, as well as engraver and layout man, night city editor, editorial page editor, columnist. Also did my time in circulation and as general office fix-it guy.
These days many newspaper positions are gone as papers decline, or they have been absorbed into multitask, digital-driven jobs. The same zeal and search for information is there, though.
What is missing on most papers is the copyboy. You might need a masters in journalism these days just to get in the door. I had only a high school diploma through I obtained a college degree some years later, never telling the front office. What was the point? I already “held” a bachelors in on-the-job newspapering and would go on to get a seat-of-the-pants masters and maybe a Ph.D., thanks to the people who taught me, including the readers.
I was a lucky fellow to come through the newsroom door when I did.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.



July 4th Weekend, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYACK, N.Y. — You would expect July Fourth weekend — and the gathering in public area that comes with that — to be boisterous, noisy, of course, celebratory. It is all that in this village along the Hudson River just north of New York City, but this year there is an even stronger reason why America celebrates its birthday so heartily: the people who are here.
More than ever, there is a veritable league of nations in Memorial Park, partly because Rockland County, so close to the port of New York and diverse even before its 1798 founding, is becoming more so. Sitting near me in the park were women dressed in Islamic headwear, Orthodox Jews, people from India wearing red, white and blue shirts and saris, African Americans whose families have helped build Nyack for centuries, and men, women and children of so many national backgrounds that I cannot gather the total count of different countries.
And all here on July Fourth weekend, a distinctly American holiday that is probably new or certainly newish to many in the park. Some come from countries where no celebration is allowed save bowing to the national leader.
It is usual practice to recall America’s history on July Fourth and for politicians in particular to make note of how immigrants built the country after the almost suicidal chances taken by those at Lexington and Concord, by our Founders, by Washington and by the citizen-soldier. It is reaffirming to hear our narrative, even if over and over, even if we must accept the flowery praise of some of our speakers.
Yet nothing gives truth to the story like people — free people with many different faces — enjoying July Fourth fireworks on a majestic river, picnic at hand, family and friends there. That this is allowed — yes, allowed — is the greatness of America. It is our blessing. It is our hope. It is our present and our future, built on our past.
After this holiday weekend, government national, state, local will go back to “work.” Today we question what work is being done and how democracy can thrive through special interest, without common sense and with greed. We are a nation in trouble, in a troubling world. A downer if you mull on it. When I do, I switch the senses back to the Nyacks of America, where on July Fourth weekend the people’s faces give a different perspective.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ( Essay adapted from July 2013.


June 26, 2017

By Arthur Henry Gunther III

With Paris under recent attack in a discordant world in which bad people exploit differences and legitimate need, in a beautiful city of proud and diverse citizenry, there is a constant hum that cannot be quieted. It is reassuring in the punctuation of bombs and terrorism, in France and in too many other world sites.
It has been a few years since a visit to the Louvre, the national art museum on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1er Arrondissement, the First District.
A former fortress and palace, the Musée du Louvre opened in 1793 after the National Assembly of the Revolution decided that it should contain masterpieces. That it has and does, despite wars, depressions and the whims of humankind that try to depress the arts. The Louvre itself has benefited from strife, including receiving looted art in the Napoleon era, losing some to the British Museum after Waterloo.
Yet for the visitor trying to escape officialdom and the oft-sorry consequences, the importance of the Louvre or any place of art as to the constancy of culture, history and genius — the better side of life —  is priceless. It is akin to the flag still flying after bombardment.
When I visited in 2012, on a rainy day in which The Inverted Pyramid, the famous 1993 glass addition, was covered with drops that gave an Impressionist’s view of people and place, September 2001 had passed, though the wounds did– have — not, but the terrorism of 2017 was yet to come.
Yet Paris, its people and its famous Musée had already long endured war and the other follies of humankind. Displayed on the Louvre walls and sculpture platforms were proof that not everything is about horror, that the tread of culture cannot be ripped apart.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

If you are fortunate, before you grow up but as you so quickly grow up, you’ll get to spend a few years with a patient, somewhat quiet, a bit odd grandfather like I did, who had a knack for fixing almost anything with a pocketknife or a squirt of oil from the old-style cans, made of metal with a long spout. You thumbed the bottom, which was made of spring steel, and out came the oil. My grandfather could handle so many household problems with basic tools that it became a metaphor for building confidence.

To this day, the sound of the popped can brings me to a place where I did not pay bills, where I was fed without cooking for myself, where I was chauffered in my parents’ car, where I was tucked in at night, where the sunrise and chilled air of spring promised a good day of day-dreaming and hope for the future.

My grandfather did not say much, perhaps because he was raised in a time when you sat at the table with parents and simply ate, speaking only when spoken too. That he came from a Prussian family probably enforced the discipline. Yet he talked a bit at his own table, and certainly went beyond his usual word-thrifty ways when he took time to explain carpentry to me, or a fix for a leaking faucet or to tell me my bike needed oiling. Even if it did not, I would ask him to do so, having ridden the three miles from my home to his for that reason and others.

Out to the garage he would go, an old, wooden structure with “novelty” siding, the floorboards of which had absorbed so many car leakings that the warming sun produced a woodsy, oil smell which in time would no longer be an odor but a tug at great and warm memory whenever I come upon a similar scent.

So out to the garage my grandfather went, grabbing the copper oiling can from a shelf in the corner, just below markings my father made in the garage when he was my age. The bike would be oiled, as my dad’s bicycle had been, and I would be off on the same streets he rode upon.

That ride home would mostly include a look for friends, or a stop at the small downtown A&P for a plum or two or three at 19 cents a pound, or some thoughts about where I would be in a few years, driving a car, not a bike.

I did not usually think about my grandfather on that ride because I foolishly took him, my grandmother, their fine home and everything then existing for granted. I never thought that all could go away.

Now I know better, which is not a better thing. It is simply reality, so nicely interrupted when I again hear the spring sound from my own oiling can.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.


June 12, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — If music is a leveler, the proof is here. This city of mixed heritage, constant politeness and high temperatures seems to sing its way through the day and evening with song. There is music everywhere.
This traveler, however reluctant, did finally make it back to where a son and family live, had a truly good time with two grandchildren and managed to make quite a few electrical repairs. In all the doings, there seemed to be music.
When I went to hardware stores or big-box retailers, I heard country tunes. There were Mexican-style tunes in restaurants. The Alamo was festive with mariachi. Cars stopped at lights vibrated with a mix of music.
It could be the heat that drives the rhythm, for you don’t think about the weather as much when the radio is on.
It could be the rich mix of Spanish, German, Czech and cowboy that has all these differences communicating in a common element.
It could be the easy smiles of so many here and a slower pace of life that actually allows them to think about noticing other people that gets the daily jukebox jumping.
For certain, folk here go about their lives just like anywhere else. They work if they have a job. They eat in public places. There are families in the dog parks. There is romance. There is seriousness. There is sadness, too, and newspaper stories about bad things.
Yet when the day dawns, and I head for 6 a.m. coffee at the Valero mart, already you hear the tune-up for the daily rhythm.
Each city, each region, each nation, each town, even the smallest village, has its music, more audible, more vigorously expressed in some than others. Or more delicate or classical in some.
You might have to bend an ear to listen, but the melody and, more deeply, the lyrics, are to be discovered.
Sure plugged in at old San Antone.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


June 5, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

If you could see a person’s emotions, thoughts, likes and dislikes, even the soul, you would be looking at an abstract painting, for the elements of each reveal existence.
Line, form and color are the abstract, however jumbled some or even many may term the painting, but if you would look closely, each of those are not only suited to the totality of the work but the colors, even their shades, the shape the painting takes and the lines that form it define the theme, the essence, the motor that runs. You then have a name, an identity, for the painting, whether it is from the artist or what you prefer to call it.
Same with people. The individual can be part of a group, type, region, country, and so the picture of the person fits a general look, something you might well expect. Yet no two pictures truly are alike, however similar. The shape, the line, the hue of the individual constructs the man, the woman, the child.
And if you care to study the human “painting,” you will see emotion reflected, not only in the present but what has drawn lines in the individual’s experience. Good times, not so good, joy, elation, sadness, etc., are there.
Even the form of someone can be shaped by living, so very recognizable by those who care to look. The coloration is its own thing, and the rainbows of life itself are visible.
Some viewers criticize abstract paintings, even offering the view that a child might easily do one. But, first, a child’s imagination and creativity can be near-genius, for it has not yet learned the world’s restraint. Second, the best of the abstracts are from within, and there the gift of wonder, questioning and willingness to take a chance reside.
Abstracts contain the elements — the foundation — of all paintings, even well-executed portraits, landscapes and realism such as Edward Hopper’s American view.
And so it is with humanity. We are each an abstract that shapes us from birth to passing.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

No Memorial Day, USA or elsewhere, is without heartfelt words and tribute, parades, wreaths, re-mourning. What is always missing, though, are the voices of the fallen. Would that we could hear them. What would they say?

“Mom, I was as scared as you, but I could not show that with you there. So I never really said ‘goodbye’. …”

“Dad, you told me about your ‘war stories,’ and I figured we’d swap them when I came back. …”

“Mary (any sweetheart’s name), I was crying inside when you were showing tears, and we both felt that we had been pulled from our door to the future so that I could enter another, for a time only, but. …”

“Mr. Singer (any teacher’s name), I know you expected me to be the same distracted fellow day-dreaming in the back row, but I was really awake that final day, and I remembered you telling me to pay attention. It helped my pals in the squad, the ones who say urvived. …”

“Mayor Jones (any public official), I know there are speeches every Memorial Day, and parades and gun salutes and tears and then the barbecues, fireworks, leisure. Understand that all this is fine with me. I’d be there, too, if I could. But also believe that the man who fell next to me, the ‘enemy,’ isn’t one for me any longer, and he has mourners, too. …”

“I read the ‘Red Badge of Courage’ in Miss Rouy’s literature course and could not understand then the fine line between courage, the chance of it, the millisecond for choice, and the instant when cowardice could win. I thought it was black and white but now understand it is not really so, that military training and society’s expectation may of necessity set it up as clear choice, but in the moment of decision, there is fear, opportunity and the possibility of both heroism and cowardice. There is much more humanity to it. …”

And it is for humanity that I am ‘gone,’ the hope of it anyway. I am not truly ‘gone,’ of course, since I have not died in vain. The sacrifices of any of us, dead or living, is for betterment, for that continual ‘thirst’ for the world’s life and its great possibilities. Otherwise, why did you all lose me? …”

The writer is a retired newspaperman. He can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.


“On a Hill,” acrylic on wood

May 22, 2017

By Arthur Henry Gunther III

Every child, kid, needs a place to get lost. You can’t always be with parents or siblings or even friends. There has to be your own spot, be it imaginary, through reading or day-dreaming, or actual.
I day-dreamed enough to be spotted by more than one teacher and surely would have absorbed more in class if my mind did not wander. But if thoughts didn’t take the road less traveled, I would not be writing this or any other piece that ended up paying the bills and fulfilling me.
In my youth, there was also a real spot where I could get lost and be with myself, actually several. The key place was a large tree in an apple orchard near my second-grade home in Tallman, N.Y.
Very rural this hamlet was, with light traffic, a number of farms and many areas in which to play when your mother expects you to leave the house on a Saturday morning so she could clean.
The big tree in the orchard was high on a hill, and it was majestic, so tall. Though surrounded by apple trees, they were not competition. The big tree seemed their elder, even if not of the same species. It commanded respect.
For me, the large tree was a friend. I trusted that it would always be there, be majestic, be available to lean against while I day-dreamed.
It was where I could get lost.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.



May 15, 2017

By Arthur Henry Gunther III

In the Rockland County, N.Y. of my late 1940s into 1950s youth, taking the same, long bicycle ride twice but a month apart often meant witnessing a disappearing landscape. This was post-World War II suburbia, and rural land so close to New York City was honey to speculators and builders.
Hurly-burly construction in a vacuum of sound planning brought too much growth too quickly, eventually nailing the boards on true downtown village shops in favor of endless highway strips, but that’s not the point of this essay. Rather, it’s all about apples. Peaches too. A few pears. Orchards lost to Huggy Bear Estates and similar housing development.
Those old bike trips, and many walks, too, would take me past the generations-old orchards of the Concklin, Davies, Brown and so many other families. No spring was without early fruit tree buds, virginal white, pink, too. It was a sight to behold but music, too, as the birds returned. Their notes were so hopeful as the whistling winds of winter morphed into the stillness of anticipation toward eventual harvest.
When the bees came to pollinate, nature and its cycles were really ready to perform.
In my prejudiced opinion, Rockland apples were the best tasting, and the varieties still grown by the two or so farms left make your mouth water long before you chomp on them.
As with many moments, a very simple experience like passing a blossoming fruit orchard can reset tempo, restore balance. I have walked in the canopy of nature in the confusion of the early teen years. When love was lost. When I had career concerns, family worries. Each time, the renewal that is the rebirth of an orchard served as a free counseling session, within, yes, alone, yes, but nevertheless introspective and with questions answered.
Nice place to grow up — where an orchard blooms.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


May 8, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

My grandmother was used to seeing road-worn men in old but once-pressed suit jackets at her back porch in Spring Valley, N.Y. They were there during the 1930s Great Depression, hobos off the Erie line looking for a bit of work and the sandwich to follow.
Nana never had a job for them — my father and grandfather took care of 14 Ternure Ave., but she never turned away eyes in hunger. She had little enough food though my grandfather managed to keep his job as foreman for Briarcraft, a smoking pipe factory.
Some of the men would tell my grandmother about themselves, though most were shy and reticent, and as she said, well-mannered, perhaps recalling their own mothers or wives left behind. These men were not shiftless, but down-on-their-luck fellows who lost jobs, some good ones, in that catayclismic time when unemployment in 1933 meant 11 million jobless, almost 25 percent. Businessmen, farmers, even ex-industrialists road the freight rails, alone or in the comradeship that always gathers in calamity.
The Erie had a freight yard in Spring Valley where coal, lumber and feed were unloaded for the area. The hobos got off there, with some spending nights in the woods off Lawrence Street just as the homeless do today.
So many decades later, a few streets closer to the Erie rails, now the MTA Pascack Valley Line, a non-government program offers sandwiches to go, too, after a sit-down breakfast. Lots of volunteer grandmas there, a few grandpas, and no one asks questions. But they do listen to humanity, just as Nana did.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


May 1, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I needed a large circular template for a painting, and since neccesity is the mother of invention, I glanced across the basement and saw an old 33 rpm vinyl record, and the roughly 12-inch disc did the trick. It was a bit of irony that the record had been shelved into a dusty pile by the iPad music app I listen to at high volume when I work.
There is great convenience in using the music app since I quickly hear tunes from Buddy Holly to Johnny Cash to Glenn Miller to the Beatles, etc., but as I put the old Johnny Mathis record back into its sleeve, I felt a tinge of guilt that the voice impressed in the vinyl had long ago been silenced. Not Mathis, just the recorded version I have.
I also realized that 100 years ago, when wind-up Victrolas were playing scratchy 78 rpm records made of shellac resin, listeners would have been overjoyed to have almost unbreakable, longer-playing 33 rpm vinyl that, if cared for, offered few scratchy sounds.
Yet even that would be relative since just a few years before 1917, parlors had Edison music players with tunes recorded on even scratchier cylinders. Before that, there were player pianos with music notes delivered by perforated paper or metallic rolls. Before that, whoever was playing an instrument. And in between the iPad and the 33 rpm record were tapes and various cassettes.
Such has been the progress that guarantees we can always hear the music.
Still, as noted, a wisp of nostalgia that in the ever-faster pace of our time, the iPad app just pops on while not long ago, we carefully pulled a vinyl record out of its jacket, blew off the dust, gently placed it on the console record player and sat down to listen.
Almost more civilized.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.

Rescuing the suburbs

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I live in Rockland County, N.Y., a semi-rural land when I was young but now a New York City suburb that is graying with older housing stock, demands for more urban-like density, rising infrastructure costs and other threats to the quality of life. It is the typical U.S. suburb, sometimes a worrisome place with a future uncertain in an economy that may never again see a vibrant middle class. The middle class thirsted for the burbs, kept it going but today cannot afford it. Suggestions follow for Rockland as it faces the years ahead; perhaps they are applicable elsewhere.

Rockland municipalities must act now on joint planning issues if taxes, diversity and quality of life are to be best managed in the fast graying of suburbia. Some of the county’s post-World War II housing is among the nation’s oldest, and there should be common thought as to how to keep development stable as well as to renew it.

Towns and villages should come together, with the county leading, to devise shared standards for future growth and regrowth. What happens in one town or village affects the others, especially in infrastructure such as water supply and sewers, density, drainage, traffic and the county tax load.

Rockland’s cost of living is well above the national average, and its budget, which zoomed from about $489 million in 2001 to $674 million in 2017, is not sustainable. Those costs are directly attributable to population changes, including aging out and poorly planned density growth, as well as unfunded state mandates that should be protested jointly by all municipalities.

Economic and quality-of-life pressures will continue to push residents from the county, some taking with them a sense of history and dedicated community involvement that may not necessarily be replaced. The worry is that we will urbanize in anonymity, with 60-70-year-old housing not renewed, with some areas grossly neglected as the cost of home ownership rises.

Municipalities must prepare now to obtain the best outlook. Towns and villages, with the county in the lead, should form the “Rockland Outlook Consortium” to:

* Set common zoning standards for housing density, recognizing that much of the county developed after World War II has 1/3-acre or 1/4-acre housing plots with 1,600-1,800 square-foot homes. Redevelopment at greater density will invite a population increase that cannot be afforded by municipalities and school districts. The architecture will also overwhelm and green space will dwindle. There must be a planning balance if suburbia is to survive and redevelop with quality of living.
* Require sufficient drainage ponds and storm sewering with a look at what happens downstream. For example, irresponsible growth in Ramapo along the Pascack Brook affects homes in Orangetown, even in New Jersey. Residents elsewhere should not suffer flooding and remediation costs because Ramapo has licensed overgrowth. There must be a better look at the effect of development or regrowth in one municipality versus the quality of life in other communities.
* Seek balance in growth/regrowth. From its beginning, Rockland has been diverse, and that enriches our lives and our history. There must be housing for all incomes, but much better planned and in a mix. We must guard against decaying neighborhoods, leaning on unscrupulous landlords who take single-family homes and illegally convert them to boarding houses.
* Work with the Rockland fire coordinator and volunteer fire departments to require landlord-paid, six-month re-inspections of all multi-tenant housing for housing and fire code violations. Building inspectors must be much more pro-active, and the courts must jail repeat slumlords. Property appearance codes must be better written and enforced.
* Discourage suburban shopping, rezoning areas to prevent such  development. Instead, we must renew village downtowns and hamlet centers, with sufficient parking and walkable areas. Existing strip-shopping owners should be made to clean up their acts, with litter, poor paving and neglected storefronts rehabilitated.
* School districts should work even more fervently to support one another so that we do not have the imbalance that now exists — East Ramapo students without enough teachers and courses while just next door the Clarkstown School District offers relative educational riches. We should all be ashamed of such inequity in Rockland. Albany aid formulas, income-based school taxation and mandate relief must be the continuing agenda, and the better-off Rockland districts must help their brothers in the fight.
Rockland County will continue into this century, but with what future? Are we to face unsupportable deficits? Stressed schools and disenfranchised children? Run-down, unsafe housing? An imbalance of housing density that favors some and shuts out others? Perhaps a “Rockland Outlook Consortium” that agrees on common planning standards and even shames wayward municipalities can begin to steer our troubled ship off the rocks.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who lives in Blauvelt, N.Y. Contact him at


April 16, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III
When my son Arthur IV bought his small Upper Nyack, N.Y.,  house from Leroy Buckout, the owner explained that he long ago had adopted a way to deal with the lack of closets, not uncommon in a 1929 home. “When I buy a shirt, I get rid of another,” he suggested.
I figure old Norman Baker did the same thing. He was the longtime editor of the original Journal-News in Rockland County, N.Y., and his work shirt never varied. It was white, or the off-white that many washings bring, and Norm always had the sleeves rolled to just above the elbow.
That was at first practical, since newspapering in his 1920s into the later 1960s included daily time in hot-metal composing rooms filled with lead type, high heat and some grime.
But there was another reason. Norm did not wear short-sleeve shirts. Maybe he didn’t have closet room. Perhaps he didn’t like them. Or — and this is my best guess — the editor was a practical man, and he figured a long-sleeve dress shirt became seasonal when you rolled the sleeves.
Norm also used copy editing pencils to the limit, writing headlines with some that were three-inches short. He penciled those “heds” on half sheets of copy paper that the printers cut from left-over newsprint.
And as you would guess, the editor’s cigarettes were smoked to the stubs. (In my old Hudson Avenue, Nyack, office, maybe three of us, out of 50, did not smoke. The way individuals held their cigs, lit them, inhaled, stubbed them out offered study in habit, almost an encyclopedic entry.)
Norm Baker also didn’t say much. His sort of teaching was by example. A copy boy could watch and learn. For me anyway, it was the best lesson.
Maybe that is why, decades later, I still recall Norm, my hiring boss, in his white shirt, sleeves rolled.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


April 10, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Some time ago, at a table of friends and family through marriage, the talk was of newspapers — media in general, actually — and how you “can’t believe what you read, what you hear, maybe even what you see.” One person in particular, a good man who has shared and enhanced important moments, was the most vocal, practically considering the messenger an enemy. I kept quiet — as a newspaperman I was used to disdain, some of it deserved. The relative seemed not to care that I was in the fraternity, almost as if he were excusing me. “Oh, not you, Art,” he was saying by not saying it, by the absence of directed comment.
Retired now, the unspoken oath that includes “who, what, where, when, why and how” is not forgotten though the daily deadline clock no longer ticks. I am always looking for a story, a photograph, something to comment on, if only to myself. In this era of so-called “fake news,” I wish there were a gig, just to emphasize that while bias and deliberate editorializing and misinformation have always been there, so has the real deal, the guy or gal with a nose for news gathered in competence and delivered straight up. Those people quench our thirst for information.
News-gathering is full of characters, mostly suspicious, rejecting authority, irreverent. They can be unlikable, even irritating until you understand that it takes someone out of the regular rhythm of life to describe life, to show the warts, the horror but also the beauty. Especially life that can become jingoistic, pushed by the slogans of those with an agenda, who promise the moon to folk who will in the end receive hypocrisy.
If you must, hate the journalist, the commentator, the one who delivers information you do not want to hear. Distrust all messengers, yes. Digest news with a grain of salt, yes. Those are requirements of the educated reader, listener, viewer, because even the most balanced, neutral media toiler gets things wrong and can be influenced by bias.
But also pray for the information gatherers. The best of these save the world by spotlighting greed, inhumanity and evil and also restore faith while reporting on individual heroism and goodness.
Fake news is weed. It’s always been invasive. But then there is the hardy crop that feeds humanity. Water it.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


April 3, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

In Nyack, N.Y., just a few hundred yards from the great historic river named the Hudson, the shores of which will soon be joined by two new bridges to replace one just 62 years old, stands a small barn so classic in shape and so reminiscent of who and what built the nation that it makes you purr, the world’s troubles be damned.
Those new spans across the river named for Hendrik, an explorer without GPS who by default continued New World exploration and so helped fuel the endless frontier that was once America, should not be necessary. The Brooklyn Bridge, just miles south on the East River takeoff, was earnestly erected in 1883 and remains in heavy use — people, vehicles, trains. The 1955 Tappan Zee Bridge is falling down, and millions have been spent each year to prop it up.
The crossing will be allowed to collapse later this year when the first new span opens to the exaggeration of politicoes and much fanfare, just like in 1955. But no one will speak of the first and poorly built structure and why it has withered while great-great-grandpa still stands talk with no evident arthritis.
And so, back to the Nyack barn, old school, too, maybe 1883 as well. Surely not 1955.
It stands, still.
The first Tappan Zee Bridge cost $81 million, or about $800 million today. The Brooklyn Bridge — $15.5 million in 1883, $386 million in 2017. The TZB replacements? An estimated $3.9 billion. Yes, “billion.” And that does not include inevitable renovation and widening of the Rockland County Thruway lanes, now a bottleneck that will not see relief with two wider crossings.
The barn? Not sure what it cost back when. Probably a few hundred dollars in locally harvested and milled pine plus the labor of willing neighbors in a picnic raising.
Like I said, the barn makes me purr. Not sure about the new bridges at Nyack. Or the old one.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.


March 27, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

When we come across the Jacob Riis photographs of late-1800’s lower New York City poverty, in his book “How the Other Half Lives,” most of us feel sad yet grateful for our family’s escape, if forebears had lived, say, in Irish Five Points, as some of mine did. Those terrible tenement conditions, the utter poverty, alcoholism, crime, domestic abuse, official disdain and abandonment are difficult to take. But then,
we flip the history book shut and conveniently say to ourselves, “Well, that was a long time ago.”
Forgotten, those troubles, until you come to 2017 and the great eye-opening that social media provides, despite half-baked “news” and the ego-pushing of self-aggrandizement.
Last week, I happened upon a post by Briton Ella Murtha, who posted emotionally searing photographs of poverty-stricken areas of Newcastle, in the north of England, during the controversial Margaret Thatcher years of the early 1980s.
The images, brilliantly captured by her mother Tish, are as heart-rending as those taken by Riis about 100 years before.
(The personal irony for me was that some of my family lived in Hartlepool, near Newcastle, before they moved to other poverty at Five Points in Old New York.)
When Jacob Riis documented dismissed humanity so long ago, the hope was that society would pay attention. That has happened to a degree in the United States, but only in spurts. Appalachian poverty continues, many decades after President Lyndon Johnson visited in 1964 in his “War on Poverty.” The rural South, inner-cities, old farm areas and even parts of promising suburbs remain in decay, with worsening expected as the middle class declines and the government of the people, by the people, for the people once again hardens its heart.
In the Thatcher England of the 1980s, the prime minister’s “Free Market Philosophy” was supposed to trickle down opportunity to the masses so they could pull themselves up by the bootstraps, but as with Reaganomics in the U.S., greed intercepted the pass. Now, at home, President Trump may deflate the ball entirely.
Just as Riis spotlighted failure in humanity, the late Tish Murtha told Parliament in a 1981 address, “Hidden in a smokescreen of cynical double-talk and pious moralising, the shape of the future is nevertheless clearly discernable. Cuts in social spending, including unemployment benefits, mean that the conditions under which they must endure their enforced idleness will rapidly deteriorate to become an intolerable burden, the consequences of which will be enormous. Society
has withdrawn its contract from these young people, can they now be expected to live by its rules?”

In her Facebook post, Tish’s daughter Ella added, “My mam was extremely sensitive to people and their emotions and really, really cared. That is what I see when I look at her work, and that is what I hope people see and feel when they look at them. They are incredibly powerful and evocative, and I hope that the images remain with people long after they have looked at them. Even the least empathic person must be able to see the truth in them.”
Here is Ella Murtha’s link to another episode in, yes, “dismissed humanity”:

Powerful photo series captures unemployed youths of Thatcher’s Britain

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This essay may be reproduced.



March 20, 2017

By Arthur Henry Gunther III

One of the benefits of social media (and there are significant downsides) is that much information is presented, all of it requiring prudent review. But so deep are the vaults that many looksees are self-educating, even the “fake news.”
Included in the social media explosion is Pinterest, an image-sharing site that links you to information about photos or paintings or drawings. In turn, that brings you to other images and more info. You can go down many streets and then turn to alleys and to more paths. It can be fascinating and enlightening.
It can also be a history lesson, and in that, an eraser for prejudice like the sort that is being re-enabled in the “Whom do you hate today?” rhetoric from some D.C. officials who need their own educating.
Scanning through Pinterest, I came across many photographs of immigrants at Castle Garden in New York City, but also paintings done on site in this pre-Ellis Island
arrival center. One piece, a 1884 painting by Charles Frederic Ulrich, stood out.
“In the Land of Promise” is remarkable. Eight million people passed through Castle Garden between 1855 and 1890, including my Irish and Prussian forebears, and Ulrich’s art clearly demonstrates the exhaustion of a long and perilous sea journey but also the hope upon arrival. There is no greater evidence of that than a mother nursing her baby. What opportunity she passes to the child, in the sustenance of her milk and in the determination that the infant succeed in this new land.
There are various faces from different lands in this nearly 131-year-old painting, probably not a terrorist among them though surely some ne’r-do-wells, just like in the general U.S population. There are also sick people, as diseases were common in the crowded, noisy conditions of Castle Garden, as in New York City itself.
This painting is America itself. How many such people built the society we have today? How many died in America’s wars? How many invented things and saved lives? How many married our ancestors? How many are woven into our national fabric? How many are related to officials today who have turned their backs on their heritage?
John Lyons, my English grandfather, a merchant seaman from England’s north,
saw promise here and so, in difficult times in his native land, took refuge, contributed to a degree and caused no trouble. He was also illegal to his passing, which was not right. But he was no terrorist, no criminal of any sort, just slow on the paperwork.
I shudder to think what his fate would be today. Or my own. Or that of any of the people in Charles Ulrich’s magnificent “American” painting.
We are better people than this.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


March 13, 2017

By Arthur Henry Gunther III

My week just past had two “JR” moments, and the thought of that had me smiling. In a time when simplicity and common sense, just the basic black and white of things, seem to be obscured by grayness, slowness and complexity, the get-it-done, no-big deal method was refreshing.

First, I was called to United Church in my old hometown of Spring Valley, N.Y., which fit the “JR” angle, as I will explain. The church hosts a food program ongoing since 1985, and these days, as well as being the Tuesday cook, I am also the handyman.
The call was for the ice-maker, indispensable if you serve up to 100 or so souls each weekday. “No ice,” said the caller. So I drove the five miles from Blauvelt, in comparison to the one mile It took to walk to a Boy Scout program in the same church when I was a boy. Same look, same feeling, this 1865 structure decades apart.
I was at the ice maker for just 15 seconds when I saw that the electrical circuit was shut off. Perhaps that happened as a protective measure since water and electricity do not mix.
Anyway, a quick reset, and the machine began freezing water for ice cubes. A “JR” moment, and steps away from the inspiration, as I will tell you.
Later last week, I got another telephone call, this time from the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, home of the famed American realist painter. “No lights,” said the caller. This time I immediately surmised a “JR” moment since the art center just had its floors refinished, and the crew probably tripped circuit breakers using their high-powered equipment.
Sure enough, there were switches to be reset. The staff had tried that but were fooled because the electrical installer had placed the breakers upside down, and “on” seemed to be “off”. Another “JR” moment.
Now, what is this all about. What is “JR”?
Well, “who” is the accurate question. JR, John Romaine, was a radio and TV shop co-owner and repairman, with his store, “Ro-Field Appliances,” located just across the way from United Church.
He would often get calls, first at the Main Street shop and then at his Hillcrest home, from customers who swore that they were watching TV, and the set “just stopped working.” Mr. Romaine would tell the client that he would be right over, and soon he would be heading off in his light green Ford station wagon. A few minutes later, he would replug the TV, and the mystified customer would either feel silly or suddenly remember that the spouse was vacuuming and pulled out the power cord. A “JR” moment.

What made the homeowner’s day was that John Romaine never charged for such a call. It didn’t seem right to do so, and that simple, uncomplicated, common-sense act made an impression. Just get the job done — no fuss, no theater, no drama, no big deal, no charge.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via



March 6, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I wrote “The Column Rule” as a weekly– at times semi-weekly — newspaper essay for 25 years, principally because I had the opportunity, and there was never a dearth of subjects in my countryfied suburb of Rockland County, N.Y. The column had readership, touched some people, informed others and otherwise justified the use of daily newspaper space. The editors would have spiked it if it didn’t do the job.
Yet “The Column Rule” wasn’t exceptional, did not win vaulted awards, and true be told, there were better writers.
But I had the perch, and I tried to deliver a piece of nostalgia or insight or thanks in a way that was conversational, as if you were in a car with me on an evening ride and I later wrote of not just my thoughts but yours, too. Sometimes I can finish another’s sentence, but that’s just my equipment. You have yours.
It was a privilege penning essays in the original Journal-News, and it was humbling to be among their columnists from 1850 through the paper’s absorption in 1997 by a Westchester County-based big newspaper chain subsidiary.
True community newspapering depends on voices, be they eloquent, rough-hewn, brash or with delivery in silk. Informative and fact-based the voices must be to keep away the cancer of fake news. And the media voices must not only include staff columns and editorials — the paper’s voice — but letters, the people’s voice.
I write all this now because not only does it seem topical post-2016 but as a way of thanking the various Journal-News editors and loyal readers back then.
Since my “early” retirement in 2006, I have continued writing a weekly essay online, simply because I am driven to do so. It is an indulgence that I hope does not prove me ego-centered or boorish. After all,
as always, the reader can ignore. I will always stop the car and let you out.
The audience is far less these days, but I pray that I still have a few folk taking that car ride with me, for however more miles there may be. Thank you for the company.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


By Arthur H. Gunther III

There was a moment when the day was better spent riding on roads through state parks or hiking trails than focusing on the timepiece that ticks away your life. Call it education.

Not all learning happens in school, though you feel guilty if responsibility nevertheless calls for hitting the books at a specified time and you are not participating. It can be confusing. When your peers are doing it according to Hoyle, you seem the time-waster.
Yet the search for creativity, for the you in yourself, must also fling you down paths that include the potholes of criticism, even shouts of irresponsibility. It’s best to keep stepping ahead, to stay the course.
As long as you are not lying on the couch, numbed by a TV soap, as long as you are soaking up what will become the tools of your trade, you are giving yourself an education.
The late famed educator Jesse Stuart, a product of Appalachia, though he obtained a traditional college degree, absorbed most of his understanding of people, particularly children, by teaching at rural schoolhouses, often walking miles to his job.
Stuart understood Kentucky, poor people, tough times, especially during the Great Depression, and what makes the individual great in this troubled and imperfect world. He was a booster of individual spirit and the can-do nature inherent in everyone.
He knew the path to education begins with footsteps in your unique environment. A famous line of his is “A farmer singing at the plow,” part of a sonnet written as Stuart was with the soil.
This once poet laureate of Kentucky listened to his muse. Whether the path is traditional or begins with a hike in the woods, schooling happens.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via



“Beach,” acrylic on canvas, AHG 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Waterside — it’s an endless frontier, a blank canvas, with the sea’s waves your personal brushes. If a calm, still lake, that’s meditation.
In retirement, people move to homes near water perhaps because the turmoil of life — jobs, raising family, paying bills, etc. — is largely finished, and now, when you look out a window, no longer is it at the car warming up for the daily ride to work but at the infinity of water. It is an unknown, and in that uncertainty, there can be the certainty of some peace.
If a beach visitor just for the day, sitting on a blanket over sand, a strong, comforting sun after a cold winter, the water at a short distance, you may never put your toes in, choosing instead to immerse yourself in a novel or short story. Somehow reading is different at the beach. Imagination meets endless frontier.
Children have their own reaction to water and beaches. It’s a playground, of course, with material for castles and water for splashing and swimming. A day trip is also a family escape for them from the routine, and that can make the return to the ordinary reassuring, even reinvigorating. A sister may still bug her brother, but there might actually be warmth in that, and it, along with the water and beach, will be recalled fondly many years later.
There are always walkers near water, perhaps lost in thought, maybe de-stressing, maybe plotting the next move in life. It is an endless horizon that you look toward from water’s edge.
How many decisions have been made, how many romances left, how many lost ones recalled at waterside? And how much added strength did one bring with them as they turned from the tide and walked back into the world?

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


February 13, 2017

By Arthur Henry Gunther III

Some say all Americans should declare they are Muslims, so that the re-energized prejudice, meanness and even hatred of 2017 can be nipped before there is horror. If enough Germans had stood with fellow but Jewish citizens, millions would have lived. There is a time for extra courage, and it may be now.
The first step is to address ignorance. The second is to recognize legitimate hurting.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the ordinary German who felt ignored by a post-World War I government unable to halt inflation, who could no longer see pride in rich history under the weight and judgment of over-bearing Allied reparations, was ripe for a mesmerizing huckster who promised comfort and glory. Such salesmen need a hook, and for Hitler it was the Jew and sufficient but not majority historical anti-Semitism. With that, he captured about 43 percent of the 1933 national vote. Not enough, but Hitler further inflamed through orchestrated prejudice and nationalism and worked a governing deal with a second party. After that, claiming “national security,” he quickly secured passing of an Enabling Act that gave him dictatorial powers.
So, the people, with legitimate concern about their welfare, found themselves tied in destiny to a crazy person. They got more than they bargained for.
The lesson in this for citizens of any county this is that you must beware false messiahs. The lesson for government is that you cannot ignore people’s welfare. Truly principled leaders like the Roosevelts, Eisenhower, JFK and, to an extent Reagan, knew that.
This past American election revealed the ignored hardship of unemployed coal miners and factory workers, of a declining middle class, of the ever-richer 1 percent. Americans are hurting, and they have been cast aside by both major parties. As such, they are ripe for renewed bigotry, fueled by false leaders who will redirect blame onto scapecoats.
As with the Nazified Germans, good people will do wrong, be complicit in inhumanity. Unless there is commonsense, massive opposition. But has the German lesson been learned?

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


February 7, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Tea may be for reading leaves, but there is more to the brew. There are reasons why the Irish, the English, the Chinese, Indians and those of so many cultures not only enjoy their tea but are tethered to it, for it is a port in a storm, a safe harbor, a comfort zone.
Coffee is the daily energizer, the adrenalin that gets you moving. The world drinks java and builds its cities, its progress. But it comes home to a nice cup of tea — to accept that things just are, that’s all. Tea dillutes worries.
From the earliest moment, I was raised on tea. My Irish-descendant mother, daughter of an Englishman, gave my brother and me tea with milk and sugar at every supper. It might also be the chaser after very hot, delicious tomato soup on a very cold day.
Some dinner dates I had back when saw the meal end with tea for her, as if to emphasize the finery of the moment. One time the lady noted that tea calmed her enough so that she was less likely to drop the cup, a sometime thing. A nice memory.
The English have their afternoon tea, which is charming, especially if you happen to be in Betty’s Tea Room in York where the real reason for before-dinner tea is revealed: delicious cake, pastries, clotted cream.
There probably isn’t an English mystery program — and the Brits offer the best — that doesn’t have tea respite, even in the midst of a murder probe.
And there isn’t an Irish novel, short story or poem that doesn’t have a side order of tea. No cream, mind you. And no watered-down fat-free milk. It is a fine line between the door to the Irish soul and that second sip of tea.
When I was quite young and the family splurged on a very rare dinner out, it might be inexpensive Chinese. Always had the sweet tea, in a cup with no handles, a tradition after the wonderful consomme.
I am not familiar with Indian tea traditions or that of other cultures, but the certainty is that life, in whatever expression, cannot be separate from the brew wherever tea is had.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.



January 30, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III
Couches are for more than potatoes, of course, though in my working years it seemed I never tarried long enough on one
before falling asleep. These days a comfy sofa — davenport, chesterfield, divan by other names — near a fireplace on a coldish night, with something to read or to watch or even an iPad with which to fiddle is something of a treat. Kinda makes a nice ending of the day. A little red wine doesn’t hurt.
In other of life’s seasons, junior and sis might have been expected to sit on the aunt’s couch with hands folded and lips sealed as the adults chatted away. An ordeal perhaps worsened by those torturous plastic seat covers once so in vogue. A hot day might have you sticking closer than Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy, with the same suction release when you got up.
We had a sleeper sofa when I was a kid, because, until the family bought a house, we rented in four places, and usually there was just one bedroom. So, after TV, the cushions would come off the sleeper, the unit folded out and a bed made for my parents. Worked OK except when you got your fingers stuck in the folding mechanism.
In the short span of the teen, young adult years, your girlfriend, if you had one, might invite you over. You might be planted on the living room sofa with her closely seated to your right. Heart racing, you stole kisses in between her mom coming in from the kitchen.
The married, child-raising season might have found you horsing around with wee monsters who grew up so quickly. Their toys were always under the couch, and your age showed as the joints began to creak, looking for something.
Now, with time on my hands, the family dispersed, the old divan offers a memory station where thoughts of this or that, on sofa or not, can play out in day-dreaming. Or night.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


January 22, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I  do not know at which point you realize there is less road in front of you than behind, but for me it came on the supermarket line just the other day. I was the only Caucasian in a four-person queue, and I suddenly thought that if I do make it upstairs, and the jury may well deliberate on that, probably I will be a minority on the bus. And since there is no priority seating in the after life, whatever prejudices I may still carry, whatever relative wealth I may possess, whatever position I may have attained get me nowhere. But if you are on the bus, you are on the bus.
In that short moment on the “express line” at the supermarket, which it isn’t and that tests my great, annoying impatience, I understood the folly of earth, that possessions, status, money, awards are so very temporal. Now the man who was in front of me may be rich though a recognized minority. The lady behind me, also a minority, may be as close to a saint as this mortal coil allows. We may all be on the bus together, or some like us, and we all have to go through the checkpoint.
While whites still comprise the largest percentage of the world’s population, about 19 to 26 percent, according to various estimates, and about 75 percent in the United States if you include Hispanic whites, both percentages are declining. (The U.S. is expected to have minority whites by about 2050, if you accept some estimates.)
I do not know the percentages in Heaven. Maybe God is a black, Jewish woman, and we are all her little, happy babies. Perhaps we keep coming back to earth to live various existences in different eras, as males, females, transgender, as black, white, Asian, whatever. As rich, poor, good people, not so good. As religious this or not. And then when we get back upstairs, a bit more perfected, perhaps we continue those lives and all those relationships, spouses, lovers, friends included, all at once, however we chose to be in the moment. If it’s Heaven, it’s possible.
Now all this passed through the mind of an impatient man called me, on a supermarket line where I was the only white. Made me realize there is no superiority on earth and certainly not in Heaven. If only we fools, political and otherwise, understood that down here.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via

Modern-day Königssee


January 16, 2016


By Arthur H. Gunther III

The first photograph above this column is a 2016 shot I took of the Austrian Alps from the Königssee, Germany’s third deepest lake and with water so clear that only electric boats are allowed. What we saw was beautiful, with snow still in the mountains in summer. Uber-peaceful. The next photo is also set at the Königssee, but instead of beauty and tourist delight, we see malevolence — Adolf Hitler, visiting from his nearby Wolf’s Lair at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria. How quickly the quiet can leave us.
The saying is that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but the hope is society has enough memory that there will be no new Hitlers and that the would-be ones and the nearly there types are extinguished.
The difficulty arises in recognizing who is who, for evil can come masked as promise — promise of better living for the masses. Yet if the “masses” are then defined narrowly, in prejudice, as neighbor is pitted against neighbor, soon you have walls of fear, distrust, hatred as privilege takes hold.
Then no Königssee, no beautiful lake or national park or national monument would ever be tranquil and inviting. You cannot enjoy the scenery if you must constantly look over your shoulder.
America, like Germany today, is God-given awesome, with saints and sinners but largely with the majority of ordinary good people in between. Germany was not beautiful during the Third Reich, and America has been horribly ugly in its moments — Native American resettlement, lynchings, the Civil War, Japanese-American resettlement, the near-depression of 2008 caused by some greedy banks and some Wall Street interests.
Now it is 2017, and we must know our history, here in America, out in the world. We must be vigilant even as promises of gold for all are made. The greatest promise is, as ever, to end injustice, be that economic, social, ethnic, religious, lack of opportunity.
So the dilemma in 2017: false promise or actual? Who will ply the boats on our own American Königssees? The people or the devil’s handyman?

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via



January 9, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYACK, N.Y. — One of the givens of a Hudson River village like this is that in snow it is particularly beautiful, especially with lights on the water. But, as with all delights, karma makes you pay. I did so this weekend, gladly.
We had a five- or so inch snowfall, light enough to cover faults as meteorological makeup, but also so sticky that it took extra well to sidewalks and steps. Since one of the tasks assigned me in retirement is to shovel the walks and steps at the Edward Hopper House Art Center at 82 North Broadway, I showed up at my own appointed time (a true post-career benefit) and did the job.
Not as good as my grandfather required on his corner sidewalks at Ternure and Summit in Spring Valley, but safe enough for the many walkers who also add to Nyack’s downtown character.
With the work finished, and leaning on my shovel, it was easy to become the fellow stage left who observes the play not from the audience but from a special perspective behind the curtain. In other words, I was invisible, hidden from the street action, back next to an 1858 porch where the artist Edward and his friends and so many since probably have hidden in hide and seek, perhaps to observe the daily parade, as I was doing.
A woman with a dog walked by, then a fellow with a dog, then a teen with a dog. There may be a dog for each household in this village, and isn’t that part of a downtown, too?
Kids were already beginning to use their sleds, and how many —  so many thousands of times — has that happened in a community that has super hills leading to the river?
There were runners, too, actually only one that I saw, and this fellow relishes jogging along in the snow. My son Arthur IV was not surprised to run into me, since I am aways in this special Nyack, and he knew I would be at stage left, observing.
All this happened on a snow-after morning, January 8, 2017, about 8 a.m. A delight to notice once again in a village in America.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be emailed at



January 2, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

“The Front Page,” a reverent bow to the once more-irreverent news profession, written by Nyackers Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and recently revived on Broadway, could have been staged in the 1930s-1970s city room of the original Rockland Journal-News just blocks away from Hecht and MacArthur in this Hudson River, N.Y., village.
Irreverence was key in that newsroom. Few reporters took big-deal politicos at their word without questioning. Public relations types didn’t last. Scribes went after small-town news, which is just like big-town — same misfeasance, malfeasance, graft, crime, along with the good news of humanity.
The best newspaper people I knew in my 42 years on the job were oddball characters, largely in cheap dress, smoking all the time, drinking too much, scribbling notes on unpaid parking tickets, constantly asking questions. Then, when they got back to the office or called into rewrite, crusty editors (but always brothers in ink) would ask questions of them. Nobody trusted anyone until the presses rolled with the daily birth.
And it was all done under the big city room clock that had its sweep hand in double time as the inevitable deadline loomed.
My paper was no big city daily. In the earlier days, about 10 reporters, four photographers, four desk people, a sports staff, features desk, too, and a city editor, managing editor and executive editor who wrote opinion and who made sure the people’s voice got in as well.
There were always green kids on staff, some of whom really blossomed and then went on to the big dailies. Some long-serving reporters, editors and others were so rich with local experience that their effort was as good as on any big-city sheet, even better.
Hecht and MacArthur, two former Chicago scribes, wrote about big-city reporters in The Front Page,” but the newspaper tribe offered its own well-tested stiffs on shift at 53 Hudson Avenue, too. I don’t know if, when old Charlie bid Helen Hayes, his actress wife, a good night and took a long drink at the St. George bar, whether he came across the street to the Journal-News, but if he did, the city room would be more than familiar.
Today, with far fewer newspaper readers, loss of the cash cow that is classified advertising, media downsizing and the meddling invasion of corporate businessmen into the workings of the newsroom, it’s difficult to get the job done. There seems little tolerance for irreverence and utterly no front-office understanding of its necessity. The best news-gathering comes when you leave the irreverent ones to do the reverent work of asking the who, what, why, where, when, how.

Know well, readers, that newspapermen and newspaperwomen are born to the trade, that poor pay, downsizing, corporate snafu, reader loss and their indifference and the wounds from the many arrows shot at the messenger will not kill the driven spirit.

So, hail and hearty to the few who are left to report, to comment, to shield democracy. Perhaps if the nation had had more of them and if they had been left to their jobs, accomplished in the old-fashioned sniffing way, we might have had good, not bad, reporting in the presidential campaign. All too few asked the who, what, why, where, when, how.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via



December 26, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Rita-Eileen Glynn Smith, a former Rockland County, N.Y., resident, notes on Facebook that she owns her great aunt’s Singer sewing machine, complete with accessories and the equally famous oil can. She has history in her possession, the nation’s, that of the earlier emerging middle class, too.
Rita may recall that in her favored haunt of Nyack there was a factory — Willcox & Gibbs — which also manufactured various types of sewing machines. The site has long been closed, and the building was torn down just a week or so ago for luxury middle-class rental housing, which is more than symbolic because from that industrial site many a village family built the foundation for either their or their offspring’s life in the then growing American middle class.
The same can be said of those thousands of souls who ran Singer, Willcox & Gibbs and other brands of sewing machines in the New York City garment industry. Many a Rockland family traces its journey to suburbia from the Lower East Side.
Isaac Singer’s home model enabled cottage industry as families did job work in the house, their savings accumulating, then used the money for their children’s upward mobility as well as subsistence survival in the Great Depression.
Eventually, many homes had sewing machines, and creative moms fashioned family clothing from patterns bought or cut from sizing on dress dummies.
Today, the old Singer and other machines are collector items though the modern replacements and even some of the older ones are in great enough use. Gone, though, is the dream that building machines and then having others operate them would not only open the factory door to work, but the door in the home to an outside “staircase” where someone in the family would climb his or her way to teacher, doctor, lawyer, store owner, business person. And that the father, too, could pass his factory job to a son, who would then build his own stair of dreams.
Like I said, Singers are collector items.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


My son, Arthur Henry Gunther IV, inhabits this space each holiday season. Here is his 2016 story.


By Arthur Henry Gunther IV
​     It had been a strange year. One of those years where cynics seemed to stand up a little straighter, like some kind of posture I told you so. One of those years that provoked visceral reactions of all kinds. It was sickening to watch people suddenly emboldened with the idea that they had permission to give in to all manner of baser instincts. It was so easy to hate, to stop trying to evolve. It was all a bit sad.
​     Which was the state of mind that Ezra found himself in as he drove north on the day before Christmas. There wasn’t much light left and Ezra was happy just to be alone for a few minutes, to be just driving. He was one of those drivers that rarely drove in silence. Ezra always had the radio playing, whether it was music or the news. Since the election, though, Ezra had steered clear of the radio. The news was just that and the music too much a minefield of uneven songs and traffic and weather. Even the stations playing Christmas music offered little comfort. Luckily, his car still had a tape deck. The last month and a half he had taken to rifling through a box of unlabeled tapes he had made in the late 1990s and listening to nothing else as he drove. It had been so long since he had heard the tapes that the songs that played were always a surprise. Plus there was no news, no traffic and weather together, nothing to avoid. Maybe it was age, or Ezra’s innate tendency toward wistfulness, but the songs on the tapes seemed filled with some kind of sincerity that lately seemed in rare supply. It was strangely comforting.
​     As Ezra hit the Bear Mountain traffic circle and prepared to enter the lane to cross the bridge, something in him hesitated. He found himself instead veering right and heading toward the parking lot in front of the inn. It was always hard to just drive by Bear Mountain without stopping and he had left too early anyway. There was probably just enough daylight left for a walk by the lake. Turning into the parking lot, Ezra shut off the car, grabbed his coat and scarf, and began walking.
​     Walking with a notion of purpose, Ezra passed the inn on the right and followed the path down to the lake. Glancing to his left, he was surprised to see a thin layer of ice at the top of the water. There was no one around as far as he could see. The ice rink was already closed for the night and most people were probably on their way to wherever they had to be on Christmas Eve. The silence and stillness were a refreshing combination. Heartened and warming up with the effort of his walk, Ezra turned toward the path that led to the zoo and descended down the steps under the tunnel to the other side. Ezra was happy to see that the gate to the zoo was still open. Hopefully the bears were awake.
​Thinking himself alone, Ezra put his head down and quickened his pace, only to be startled by a young voice speaking out in front of him. Looking up, Ezra saw a group of ten or so girls gathered around the Walt Whitman statue that greeted each visitor to the zoo. There seemed to be two adult women accompanying them. The voice that had woken Ezra out of his stupor belonged to a girl, maybe nine years old, who stood atop the rock which Walt Whitman stood on.
​     The girl cleared her throat and spoke forcefully, “Keep your face toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you!”
​     Jumping down from the rock, the girl was quickly replaced by another. Speaking aloud in a similar voice, she announced, “Happiness; Not in another place, but this place; not in another hour, but this hour!”
​     Ezra recognized the words as belonging to Whitman. One of the adults saw him listening and came to his side.
​“Are you one of the dads?”
​     “Um, I’m not sure what you mean.”
​“One of the Girl Scout dads? We’ll be wrapping up soon.”
​     “Oh, no, I was just walking by.”
​The woman seemed to sense Ezra’s confusion. “The girls each year choose a poet to study. This year they chose Whitman. We thought it would be fun to come up here and read the words from his perch. Right at the great man’s side. You’re welcome to listen as long as you like.”
​     She walked away and the speeches went on.
​     “Either define the moment, or the moment will define you!”
​     “Re-examine all that you have been told. Dismiss that which insults your soul!”
​     Ezra wasn’t sure if it was his current state of mind, or the sight and sound of these powerful young voices atop Whitman’s rock, side by side with the great statue, but the stupor that had held him the last two months seemed to lift with each reading.
​     The last girl climbed up. She was the smallest of them all. Though her face barely emerged from her coat and hat, her voice boomed out with authority, “The strongest and sweetest song remains to be sung!” The girl followed these words with a giant smile and bow. She was ushered down from the rock with a series of raucous rounds of clapping.
​Ezra stood frozen for a second, then lifted his head up and began walking back in the direction he came. He’d see the bears another time.
​With the echo of the young girls’ voices speaking Walt Whitman’s words filling his head, Ezra climbed back in his car and turned the ignition. The tape that he had been listening to before immediately came on. It was a song he hadn’t heard in years. Another song from the 90s that he had forgotten. The smile that had started to grow on Ezra’s face grew larger and more determined as the female voice on the radio sang, “Up up up up up up up, points the spire of the steeple. God’s work isn’t done by God. It’s done by people.” With that, Ezra drove on.

The writer is an elementary school teacher in the South Orangetown, N.Y., School District. He can be reached at



December 12, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

It was not surprising that my childhood friend, Rose Marie Strippoli, appeared calm in    announcing via Facebook that her beloved cat, Maggie, had passed after 18.5 years. I recall an earlier serenity under stress.
Living then — spring 1952 — in south Spring Valley, N.Y., I had just learned to ride a bike, and I took my maroon job down the Old Nyack Turnpike to Harold Rickle’s house on Central Avenue. Up the hill lived Rose Marie and her mom, a nurse.
Harold, Rose Marie, another young person and I soon found ourselves playing hide and seek, which was always an adventure at Harold’s house since it was two-family, and he either lived upstairs or downstairs depending on the tenant’s preference. This visit, he was below.
I hid behind his family’s large refrigerator, the original electric type that had its round condenser on top so that the square machine looked like a robot.
Running outside, I saw someone spot me, so I moved toward the back door. Just as I went to open it, the other young person, a girl who was the cousin of either Rose Marie or Harold, pushed aside the door in a hurry to escape someone else.
My right hand went clear through single-pane glass, and I began spurting blood at the wrist. These were the days before 911 and EMTs, and since there were no adults about — all were at work — it was up to third-graders to figure out what to do next.
In stepped fine Rose Marie, calm as can be. She took me by the hand and walked me up to her house, found her nurse mom and had her look at the wound. Rose Marie’s mother cleaned the wrist, realized it needed stitches, and knowing that my grandfather worked down the street as a foreman at the Briarcraft smoking pipe factory, called over, and my gramps took control.
We went downtown to a doctor, who injected painkiller and stitched the wound.
My grandfather went back to work, the kids I was playing with were relieved, and I learned how to ride a bike home with one hand (I told my gramps that I was just fine.)
I have never forgotten how masterfully calm Rose Marie was, and how that helped defuse  my situation. The memory was recalled after reading her Facebook post about Maggie.
It could not have been easy for her to lose her cat after so many years, but Rose Marie handles crisis well, thank you.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via



December 5, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     It was a crisp fall morning, and the third-grader had 15 cents in his corduroy pants pocket, a rarity since it was usually empty except for the tissue his mom stuffed there. The kid was always sniffling.

     Feeling rich on the nearly two-mile walk from his home off the Old Nyack Turnpike though he knew that White’s grocery store in Spring Valley, N.Y., would soon claim the coins, the boy thought a bit on what it must be like to be grown and carry money, as he assumed his parents did.

     Of course, that brought him to all manner of big boy, even man thought. Would he drive a car like his dad? Would he work in a small factory like his mom? Would he drive in the high school victory parade down Main Street after a football game?

     The hike from his home nearly finished and with both the South Main Street School and White’s next door in view, the young fellow stopped twisting the dime over the nickel and vice-versa and hurried into the grocery store so he could buy a tin of cloves before he was late for class.

     Ed White was a kindly man who once lived in the house the boy’s grandfather now owned and who later had a store in nearby Hillcrest. The fellow asked for cloves, and Mr. White used his long pole with a special fitting to tip the white Bernice brand off a high shelf and into his hands.

     The boy swapped the cash for the tin and hurried to his first-floor classroom where Miss Amy Rouy would later bring out 30 or so bright, large lemons and colored ribbon.

   She gave each of us a lemon and showed how to stick the cloves into a lemon and then thread a ribbon through the top.

    We were then to bring the spiced lemons home to our families and hang them somewhere in the bath. I think my mom had it there for a month, bringing a sweet fragrance to the room.

     The boy had come to school with his parents’ cash, which he figured was in his future, too, and went home with a present for his family, nicely arranged by a thoughtful teacher.

     Today, so many decades later, the boy now usually a man, keeps the half-full Bernice tin in his own family’s spice cabinet, reopening the can once in a great while to recapture a memory with as strong a flavor as the original.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


November 21, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

“All the News That’s Fit to Print” has long been the masthead motto of the New York Times. The intention and obligation of that phrase to help keep a society free cannot be underestimated. It also is in sharp contrast to today’s social media postings that are half-baked or even deliberately false. Now, misinformation lay as nails ready to halt a progressive journey in humanity. Disinformation surely influenced the presidential election.
I worked 42 years as a newspaperman for a hometown-based sheet that while it did not always have the trained talent or born-with-talent and the financial resources to cover all the news in full balance with the “who, what, why, where, when, how” given, it did a mighty decent job of giving birth daily to a full news report, including stories that uncovered political wrongdoing as well as details of PTA events and local sports. While we were occasionally blessed with brilliant writers, editors, photographers and other staff worthy of Pulitzer papers, the regular home team did a more than credible job of presenting news despite our humble roots.
That has been the story across America fir centuries. Until now. Today print journalism has lost most of its circulation and so its advertising revenue. Bean counters looking for maximum profit have severely cut jobs. The daily report is difficult to present, and that means government local and above can more easily act in secret.
Into the vacuum has come word bites through Twitter, Facebook and other social media that is usually not fact-checked nor researched, that is often written from prejudice by people with an ax to grind. Even more seriously, some of the information is deliberately false, planted to sway people. Propaganda.
It has always been buyer beware when reading any news story or report, to take things with a grain of salt, especially with some city tabloids, but by and large, you could depend on the news being accurate.
We will all have to be vigilant in the years ahead as more newspapers fold, doing our own research and questioning everything.
The hope is that enough papers will remain and be willing and able to report “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”
Perhaps it is time for a national newspaper entirely well-funded by public donation, just in case.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via



November 14, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     The most important thing about trying to do good is that you have to do it in silence, which means no horn tooting, certainly, but also no emotional self-rejection if, occasionally, the person you help could care less. It happens — people in need, just like the volunteer, come with baggage.
     Most who take a helping hand are grateful beyond necessity. Most are there when it could be you in their place. There are many storylines on the waiting line — it isn’t just the irresponsibility thing, sometimes not even close.
     So, you just have to put the hand out, perhaps not because you know God wants it but because even if there is no higher being, assisting someone is the right thing to do. It is civilized.
     If the experience goes as expected, someone’s stomach gets food, the body has donated clothes, soap, etc., and a listening ear plugs one soul into another and shows caring, the strongest nutrient. The volunteer is rewarded by the nature of the act, though maybe the client or guest should be paid because there isn’t one volunteer who hasn’t stumbled somewhere in life. So service is a gift, a re-balancing.
    Volunteerism creates family, and though you and those served must avoid the emotional depths of such relationship, simply because the giving and receiving would not work out as well, you cannot fail to shed a tear and have your heart sink when a school-aged child shows up for breakfast with a homeless parent or one out of work. And you cannot quickly lift the heavy weight of your heart when you learn a 40-year-old troubled soul is found dead on village railroad tracks, as happened last week in my food program.
     Many of us did not know his name until we read the story. I recall Silvano Vasquez-Martinez by the scar on his face, his frequent smile, his chatter with those program ladies who knew his name.
     Silvano, who had no known address, was pronounced dead at the scene on the commuter train tracks not far from Dutch Lane in the Village of Spring Valley, N.Y. Many others have died at this spot or nearby, some drunk, some possibly suicidal, most taking a fatal shortcut to a work shape-up area because the road leading there is too long and dangerous itself. In a ritzier section of Rockland County, sidewalks might be built.
     Each time there is one of these deaths, volunteers pray for the departed and hope help is found for the addicted, the mentally ill, the depressed, the homeless, the forgotten or, as most we serve, those who are simply down on their luck.
     All of that is a challenge for the new and as yet unknown government now forming in Washington, as it has been since the hopeful republic was born. Those on the local scene can only try their best on a given day, doing some good because it is right to do so. Collectively, throughout the nation, volunteers can barely touch the tiniest corner of the bigger picture. If social responsibility is to be met as humanity matures, and maturing was the Founders’ wish, too, others must assist.
     It is, once again, a time to be civilized.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


November 7, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     For a third grader on Nov. 5, 1952, the day after President Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected, the ordinary was still in place, in my neck of the woods anyway. We boys were wearing winter corduroys, and the girls still had to freeze in their skirts. We were learning cursive writing, and some of us day-dreamed, looking out the same South Main Street School windows our parents had. At 7:15, waiting in the hallway before class, lunch was hours off, but the thought of hot soup, school spaghetti and the great desserts made by the grandmother-like cafeteria ladies had our stomachs growling.

     The day before we were off so the school could be used for voting, and Monday had been spent in the usual fashion: studying American colonial history and reading in the morning, arithmetic in the afternoon. Our teachers that day, as was the case since September, even in the third grade, had told us about the election, and how a famous military figure of humble origin and ways might become a peacetime president, or the job might go to a distinguished statesman, Adlai Stevenson. Either way, the idea was that the seat in the White House Oval Office was very special, and it ought to be filled by someone with character. America was a leader of the free world, and this was the dangerous moment of the Cold War and the Atomic Age, and we kids knew all about that, having practiced our air raid drills monthly. 

     I cannot say that most students thought much about the presidential election of 1952, however historic it would become, helping usher in the growth of a solid middle class and no war for the United States during the two terms of the Ike administration. Like I said, it was the time of the ordinary for us, and that meant playing in the woods in our huts, or the girls doing whatever they did together, walking to school in the rain and sitting next to the hot radiators to dry off, catching “Captain Video and His Video Rangers” on the new 13-inch RCA TV before supper and then sitting with parents as they watched John Cameron Swaze tell us all about Eisenhower, at least what he could mention in the short 15-minute broadcast.

     Life seemed good, for us anyway. We were lucky. And we also held hope for our future. Our parents had jobs, they were beginning to buy homes in the emerging economy, and for many families, the thought of college-bound children was a growing possibility. We were removed from the Great Depression, from war.

    Great expectation was evident, what we were taught should be rising enthusiasm. And, somehow, our teachers were relating that  to the presidency, the person at the top. We had strong respect for that individual, for the office.

     That was the gist of politics and the nation and the future for third graders in Spring Valley, N.Y., on the early fall morning of Nov. 5, 1952. Now we have the new dawn of Nov. 9, 2016. What will today’s young — the nation’s future — come to see?

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via




October 31, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     For this writer, there is an early Tuesday morning ritual, about 3:30, when a coffee break allows brief respite from volunteer cooking duties in my childhood village of Spring Valley, N.Y. Been doing this for awhile, but now an added twist is like dessert with the java.

    Not long ago, I came across an old photo, posted on social media, of the then Dutch Reformed Church gym/gathering room. Taken in 1937, it shows Spring Valley students seated at long tables during religious instruction classes.
     There were perhaps 50 students, high school, I would guess, and they are the combined Protestant teaching pupils for religious ed. St. Joseph up the street had the Roman Catholics.
     “Release time” was a new activity in New York State, and it was secured largely through the efforts of the Rev. Dr. Alfred Wyckoff, the longtime pastor of the Dutch Reformed, now United Church. The idea was to continue religious instruction for secular students beyond Sunday School.
     The gym photo was probably taken as release time began in the village and throughout New York State.
     Back to my Tuesday morning ritual. When I grab my coffee from the commercial Bunn machine, a device so well U.S.-designed and built that it has lasted for decades, I head for the gym, but not without looking at the 1937 photo.
     I choose a student, look at her or him, and then sit exactly where the person was 79 years ago. I then have a breakfast companion of sorts, and I try to relate to the student’s world of 1937. 
It was my father’s time, and he had to know every one of these students in what was then such a small village. These were sons and daughters of shopkeepers still in business when I was growing up. And their own kids went to school with me.
     It was the Great Depression, with World War II just two years off. How many of these students served, died, were wounded? Where did their lives take them? Are any with us now?
     There is so much promise in these smiling, hopeful faces. Did that happen? In the decades since the 1937 photo, so much has changed in the world, in Spring Valley, in everything.
     But on quiet Tuesday mornings when initially I am all alone, when my childhood village is mine again, when I can hear the footsteps of my brother in Memorial Park, when I can feel the excitement of youth as the football game ended at the old high school and a spontaneous parade began on Main Street, I can also go home again by having coffee with Valleyites from 1937.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


October 24, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III
Americans are stressed by a presidential election that is removed from the vaulted experience most of us were taught to expect. Though there have been many rancorous contests and too many unqualified Oval Office candidates (and presidents), 2016 is a special disaster that has pulled us into a swamp of prejudice and misdirection and which has us mired in quicksand looking for some hero to bring us to safe land. The American people are good people, but too many are wearing ugly faces today.
So much has failed in the United States, since at least John Kennedy’s death when youthful hope in particular fell into disillusionment. The great rise of a vibrant middle class after World War II began to lose steam as Europe, Japan and full Asia repaired their economies and improved material output. American business did not sufficiently retool, trade policy was inadequate, vital investment money was lost to the tragic, needless Vietnam War, and national government became so large, so remote that whatever hope future generations had that the American Dream would continue from the Eisenhower years increasingly became clouded by special interests and, frankly, incompetence.
Advances in human caring and dignity, in neighbor helping neighbor that president Johnson that began in his Great Society programs were initially threatened by the cost of the Asian war and then by government itself, which is historically unwieldy and inefficient. Sometimes it can do nothing right because it falls over itself.
Nixon gave us more government distrust, and Reagan promised that if we delivered big business and the one percenters tax and regulatory breaks, they would build us all a reinvigorated middle class.
Did not happen.

Deregulation has not increased competition and lowered prices while offering choice; Wall Street has become even more greedy; tax write-offs are taken by big business even as they move jobs offshore; there has been little reinvestment in jobs and new technology; and special-interest power has grown astronomically, aided by a high court that believes “free speech” is the interests’ right, even if big money, hidden big money, stifles the little man’s voice.
Both parties have enabled all this in one way or another, either deliberately or by failing to compromise, by not agreeing on needed reinvestment, by not seeking common sense on government regulation, by throwing money at well-intentioned solutions that never fully result. Most of all by not representing the people.
No wonder there is distressing Election 2016. No wonder there are the disenfranchised, the distrusting. No wonder many believe our government cannot solve any problem.
A revolution is ahead, and God may it be peaceful. This nation, begun as a republic, is now an oligarchy, the Founders’ intent of equality, freedom from dictatorship and the fulfilled promise of growing prosperity sullied by greed and misdirection.
Election 2016 will not be the one we need to get back to basics. We await a Lincoln to stir us to moral goodness; a Teddy Roosevelt to remind us that Republican big business requires regulation for shared prosperity; a Franklin Roosevelt to show us anew that inherent in growing as a progressive nation is recognizing that we must care for our neighbor and that government is part of that in a country built by diversity and challenged by varied need; and we require a George Washington, who declined a second term, even a lifelong presidency, to underscore that we are all plain citizens, not special interests. There is a time to serve and a moment to leave.
It’s revolution, or we will fall as Rome did.
But that is not yet here, and we must first face this presidential contest, which will either turn the tide back to at least the semblance of hope, or it will take us deeper into the dark waters of the ignorant hateful who have been raised and enabled in shameful ugliness by both parties’ neglect and failure.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This may be reproduced.


October 17, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Bob Dylan, this deeply gifted soul, poetically defined lives and direction so far back. Fan or not, we might hear again what he had to say, especially in this world and nation nearly gone mad. He did warn.
Garnering the Nobel Prize for Literature should be no surprise despite the controversy over the award since his lyrics have usually been poetic, descriptive, emotion-tugging and prophetic. The best of our writers — on paper, in lyrics — are those who hear our rhythm before we do and then play it for us. That Dylan has also accompanied his telling lyrics with melody has not only been a bonus but emotional reinforcement. A song lingers — it can tug you toward your soul and back again when there is need.
So, there is literature here, though not everyone sees it that way, and some would have the prestigious Nobel go to traditional writers only, not songsters. That is an argument, even if Bob Dylan spoke from depth.
Those who write well, who are the poets of a time, usually have mentors, and for Dylan initially it was Woody Guthrie, the social realism singer/writer, and Hank Williams, the country music great who
played into emotion as if he were singing his lyrics in the key of humanity, which he was. Other heroes were to appear for Dylan as his own verbal maturity and ability to touch people grew while the world pushed itself in so many directions, many disturbing, many lingering still, many worse.
Bob Dylan’s time, the 1960s-on, coincided with the resurgence of folk music, but that relative innocence, however beautifully played, was quickly overwhelmed by the death of young and promising John F. Kennedy, growing youthful disillusionment and ever-deeper disconnect with the Vietnam War. It was no accident that Dylan went to acoustic guitar at the now-famous 1965 Newport Jazz Festival, leaving folk singing’s strumming ways. The world was changing, as Dylan told us in the 1964 “The Times They Are a-Changing’ “. It was now the moment for amplification.
Disillusionment, a disconnect, the Vietnam War, Nixon’s resignation, crooks in government, trickle-down economics with a closed faucet, special interests with octopus tentacles everywhere, September 11, terrorism, wars, wars and now a presidential election more like a TV reality show — all somehow seem predictive in Bob Dylan’s lyrics or in the thinking/writing/reaction he spotlighted through his work.
So few listened even for argument’s sake.
Now, no writer can be appointed chief guru, an omnipotent. But a good writer fosters discussion even if you do not like the messenger or what he or she says.
Dylan has surely done that. Consider what he lyricized in “The Times They Are a-Changing:”

“Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no telling who that it’s naming
For the loser now will be later to win
Cause the times they are a-changing.
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s the battle outside raging
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changing.”
Such words are literature of note.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This essay may be reproduced.



October 10, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

A tall, gaunt man with the cares of the world deeply set in the lines of his craggy face walked into the big room and sat in the back as two presidential candidates “debated” in the current contest.
The man was black, though not recognizable as such. His dress was also black and old style. A few in the audience
glanced at him, but he drew no particular focus.
The candidates continued to insult each other, both ignoring the moderator, who seemingly had lost control of what was never a debate, for the traditional time rules, statements and responses were not part of the exercise. Instead, each candidate followed rehearsal to challenge the opponent on personal style or nonsensical matters rather than the weighty issues the next U.S. president would face. It was bad entertainment that should have had the country booing.
The black man in the black clothing was intent, with a puzzled look. He saw “Republican” under one candidate’s name and wondered how the party he knew as anti-slavery, human rights-centered, as a champion of individual freedom could now be represented by someone who would build a wall to block immigrants, who insulted individuals over gender and appearance, who called for restricting the right of people to walk freely without being stopped could be on the ticket.
Equally, the tall fellow, so uncomfortable in his seat, peered at the Democratic candidate and was puzzled why a key characteristic of that party had failed to disappear when it was obvious the Republicans had gone in for a new suit of clothes. The mysterious man remembered the Democrats of his time as speaking broadly and with great flair about social and other “progress” but hardly ever acting on it. He added, though, that he always found the Democrats willing to compromise, and that great and beneficial change was possible working with the party.
By now, readers must know that the tall, gaunt fellow in the black suit was our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.
* Why was he attending the 2016 presidential “debate?” Well, he’s been in the room at every one, going back to the 1960 Richard Nixon/John Kennedy exercise.
* Why was he black? Abe Lincoln said there is every color in Heaven, and he chooses who he is, even who she is, even his religious beliefs, for that is the real Heaven.
* Why did the Great Emancipator comment on the Trump/Clinton debate? He said that a history lesson was in order, that we citizenry have forgotten too much, or that we never learned.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This essay may be reproduced.


October 2, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I once knew of — I didn’t get to know — a witty, young woman of strong intelligence, humming work ethic, high standards and deep lust for living. By all accounts, she has gone on to the exact life she sought from early on, perhaps with a bit of luck and surely in part because of the people she deliberately chose to be in her journey.
There was an exactness that set all her ducks in a row, though she claimed never to do that or to reason things out logically. The destination was there, admitted or not, but better for her to let wind take her on an unplanned ride.
And there were those rides and whatever fulfillment or happiness or achieved experimentation that they enabled. When the train pulled into the last station, though, waiting on the platform was an individual and then people who helped her build an intentioned life.
As I said, I didn’t get to know this woman, but I knew of her and was witness to the earlier scene, not what came later. Almost like reading a novel and spending time with a character who then goes on to other living in a sequel.
So, an unfinished story because I didn’t read more chapters. Yet even the preface can tell you something. You may not get to know the writer or her book, but even a snippet of literature can add to interest and revelation.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


September 26, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

A long silence in the car, but it was not the dulling sort that makes you fidget and wish for time to fly because you are this and she is that and you no longer meet on common ground. Nor was the still moment the one that brings dreadful, souring stomach pain on that longest ride home after romance officially ends. No, it was the silence of best and enduring friendship, that which is as wonderfully normal and accepted by two as readily and in the same trust as the waterfall of words between them when that happens.
Friends come rarely to some, in droves to others, and any friendship has its degrees of depth and also its degrees of separation, that commonality that ties humanity together. The best gift of friendship is mutual trust.
In my life, the friends I have kept dear are no longer seen, but the moments that were are now on film in my memory, and I can roll them anytime the mood prompts. Conversations, a particular gesture, a laugh, revealing eyes that ask questions however unanswered, a scrunched nose — all can be revisited.
And the doors that were opened in those friendships, the ones you might never have walked through otherwise, are as unlocked as ever.
What an expanded person you can be after the being that you were wore the thoughts of another in a car ride, on a couch, somewhere in friendship. And, perhaps, vice-versa.
The only sadness is that you and/or the other may not realize what happened until time had taken you elsewhere. Yet you are still better for it, though regretful that your thanks was not originally spoken, and now it cannot be heard.
Maybe it is, in the silence that true friendship continues even in physical absence.

   The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via the


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Curiosity, we are warned, killed the cat, but the naysayers never tell you about the nine lives. There are other chances.

In the University of Higher Education that is life, you can earn a doctorate via Curiosity 101, 201, 301, 401. Curiosity was a welcome push for Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein, who thought out of the box, who often applied barely basic skills of learning to journey, as Buzz Lightyear says in “Toy Story:” “To Infinity and Beyond.”

Einstein did poorly in school arithmetic and early math. Had he been the traditionalist, had he earned his gold star in calculus, he might have ended up a fine professor of that discipline instead of spending 10 years daydreaming about gravity and the speed of light and whether a fellow saw himself in a mirror the same way traveling through space as he would moored to earth. His e=mc squared formula might not have been written. And the world would be different, perhaps vastly less dangerous but also behind the times electronically, mathematically, in space travel, etc. The peaceful things.

Tom Edison endlessly tinkered in his lab, trying this and that out of curiosity more than straight applied science. Had he followed strict dictum, he and his people might have given up. If they had let curiosity kill the cat the first time out on light bulb filaments, there would have been no ninth life, no pushed inquisitiveness that found carbonized thread as the winner. And then there was light, literally.

Edward Hopper, the famed American realist painter whose works of solitude and intensity of emotion are so especially defining to the world right now, spent long months in utter curiosity, going to 1930s movies, peering out his Washington Square studio window, looking away from the sea at South Truro, Mass., walking Gotham’s streets and reaching into his mind’s file cabinet for human and architectural sketches squirreled away on so many trips of curiosity. From here and there, Hopper took what he needed, and when the time was right, he brushed in strokes of interpretation that make us shiver decades later.

So, I say to all of you, especially the young yet not spoiled by too many limiting rules: Go for it – be curious, day-dream, move to a different, unique place in your mind. Be independent, dare to “go to infinity and beyond.” This America, in particular, needs your innovation right now.

  The writer of this reprinted column is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via



September 11, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

In Germany, where the two world wars largely of that nation’s doing are old history to the present generation, there is still reminder of sadness in the town platz memorials to the dead and in the rebuilt cities. Yet there is also the deliberate mindset, “die vergessenen,” rationalization that there must be the forgotten.
It is explained that remembering the fallen, say on a national Memorial Day, would mean getting into the confusion of determining who fought for Hitler (or Kaiser Wilhelm) and who went off to war for family. Instead of such a day, the once-militaristic Germans largely focus on their present belief that war is a terrible thing, and both world conflicts buried too many — countrymen, enemies, blind followers of evil. It is a lesson learned through terrible moments and the obliteration of those in the Holocaust and those on the battlefield and those who suffocated at home in the allied bombing fires of Dresden and other cities when the full might of the war industry was brought to bear.
All nations — there are no exceptions — have pushed the “wrong wars,” as if there could be “right” ones, though the Allies’ response, 1939-1945, was necessary, even allowing that joint-nation action in the 1920s and 1930s might have stopped Hitler, Japan, Italy.
After tragedy — world war, the utter waste of young, even heroic life and the snuffing of promise in such needless battle as in Vietnam and now the conflicts of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria — the thought is “never again.” Yet the keepers of that memorial flame are usually politicians, “leaders” who too often are misdirected by special interest or jingoism. Many offer patriotic salute on patriotic days, but it’s back to work in 24 hours, and unlike the heavy blanket of remorse and regret and guilt that is now the fate of a country like Germany, too many politicians in too many countries are ready to war again.
There are always reasons offered — “justification” — for such re-energizing of the war machine, even in nations that contend they are the peacekeepers.
On this day in America, the 15th anniversary of September 11, 2001, there are no forgotten individuals. Every victim of the terrible tragedies must be mourned forever, be they ordinary citizens or firefighters, police, volunteers. Every one who died that day or after through developed illness is a heroic victim of inhumanity. Unlike those wrong individuals who sided with the Nazis, these people must not be forgotten. But the Germans, the non-Nazi Wehrmacht forced into war, must no longer be die vergessenen. Nor must the Viet Cong fighting for their nation. Nor must any person who became a victim of the leaders’ evil that is inherent in war.
As Dwight D. Eisenhower, the great war general but also the great peace-keeper of the 1950s said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
After war, after a terrorist attack, the horrible ones should not be given the dignity of being recalled. But those who suffered should never become the forgotten. Honoring them means to truly believe in “never again” by helping those who are in great need. To fail to do so is to bring more terrorism, more war.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This essay may be reproduced.


Sept. 5, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

This is crazy time in America, though if you subscribe to the thought that things happen for a reason, maybe we will learn why. But Labor Day is supposed to be free of deep thinking, so I guess any of that should be on hold.
It’s a time for relaxation — beer, picnics, the beach, if the weather doesn’t Interfere on the American eastern seaboard. But even in the wet there can be celebration as friends, family get together. And, personally, I can have a beer just as well inside, so long as it’s strong.
On this day, please note that the American worker is quite productive, often the most producing fellow/gal of any nation. And that is true even as the U.S. has lost its factory blue collar stiff to the necessity of moving others elsewhere up the ladder but also to the bottomless, mindless greed of the 1 percent. Re-investment, re-tooling, re-training could have made for contemporary-era jobs and even more money for the people who, like all of us, can’t take the cash with them. Still could.
The American worker, and that surely includes some of the best of them — our immigrants in an always-immigrant U.S. — generally works on common sense because, well, they would not be productive without that. Profits are not made just by the suits in the front office, but largely by the sweat of the common worker.
And this democracy would not have endured without the American worker, for despite the idiocy of some political campaigns and all too many sub-standard candidates, the system has worked as the ordinary fellow/gal has chosen enough achievers.
So, on this Labor Day 2016, cheers for the American worker. As the walls that some would build — such as the metaphorical special-interest barrier protecting ever-deeper pots of gold — come closer to reality, U.S. labor will have to be on the job ready to tear them down and craft a river of common sense instead.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


August 28, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

If you go up the Hudson River a bit from my area in Rockland County, N.Y., say about 30 miles to Beacon, there remains a quiet that has largely left the busy suburbs, parts of which have become hybrid urban and have taken on that rhythm, loud at times. Just as coming closer to the sea brings whiffs of salt air, moving north here connects you to a fresh breeze, a more rural New York. And with fall approaching, however far off it seems in now oppressive heat and high humidity, a car ride to Beacon and thereabouts gives you hope that the door is opening on a more pleasant time and slower pace. The suburbs seem more civilized absent the high temperatures.
When I was a young fellow, Beacon and that part of the Hudson River Valley were a frequent draw. I seemed to be riding in my car in endless fashion, and sometimes a companion and I would have long conversations as we took the car ferry to Newburgh or stopped to travel the inclined railway to the top of Mt. Beacon.

Cursed with an elephant-like memory and a penchant for observing so many insignificant things, I recall most conversations with most people, to the point I can detail even clothing (a red and white gingham blouse and green culotte skirt, for example). An almost useless ability.
What was not without merit, though, was the breadth and depth of talk, even on seemingly meaningless subjects. Words are never lost between people — they go into the subconscious, and they are pulled out for reference, in other relationships, perhaps as fond memory, as regret, maybe as thanks that growth and experience and happiness followed beyond a certain time.
Yes, the quiet of Beacon, which exists but is a metaphor for anyone’s experience, anywhere, in whatever time.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


By Arthur H. Gunther III

We’ve got this Irish lass in the food program, you see, and wouldn’t you know that the gal from down Dublin way just has to have her tea first thing before the servin’ of the breakfast.
It’s a right fine thing to do that, to have the lady’s tea, Barry’s from Ireland itself, ready for her because it’s a certainty Olive will give her best after the drinkin’.
When you’re Irish, and I’ve a bit of it myself, the offer of tea, the right sort, not mucked up by heavy cream or that watered-down 1 percent, is like filling the pockets with the language coins in James Joyce’s writings. Throughout the day, you reach for a coin, the right word, the right phrase to meet the daily battles. Having tea gives you the same assurances. It is its own daily poetry.
Mention an emotion — for the Irish, for the English, for any serious tea drinker — and you will see the pot being readied and hear the call, “Let’s have some tea.”
The world’s problems, your own woes, money worries, Mrs. Murphy’s loss, the daughter’s left her boyfriend, the arthritis is bad, there’s a new priest in town, wasn’t Siobhan so happy? These are in the drinking of the tea. Life’s poetry.
So Olive must have her tea. She really wouldn’t be Irish without it.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


August 15, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

On a Sunday morning when I had finished my own 6 o’clock coffee and was headed over the mountain to downtown Nyack, N.Y., I saw this fellow and his dog, the mtan maybe 60, the collie 5-6. Both had left their pick-up on Clausland Mt. Road and were bent for one of the trails in this park area, once an artillery range for the World War I National Guard deliberately named Camp Bluefields since it wasn’t then PC to say Camp Blauvelt, after the Dutch-German hamlet where it was located.
The fellow looked awfully happy, serene even, and his dog caught the rhythm. You saw it in their synchronized walk. The man had a container of java in his hand. You could tell he and the faithful companion, or maybe it was the collie and his faithful companion, were in for a quiet, contemplative Sunday morning respite, away from the week’s rigors and worries. Didn’t take more than a glance to see their story. Calmed me, too.
Arriving in Nyack, I parked the car and got my own second helping of coffee at the Broadway shop and then headed to the observation pier built in Memorial Park to peer at the two new bridges being built across the Hudson River. It was a respite for me, but I was not alone. Any park has its regulars, and they were there again on this weekend morning — the older couple in their sedan looking at the water; two fishermen; more men and dogs, some women and dogs, too; a police officer on a coffee break; a young skate-boarder; and a woman, perhaps 20, scanning a smart phone but taking long moments to gaze into the distance. Not sure if her romantic life was involved, though that seemed to be the energy.
So, short respites for maybe 20 people in just two locations over a few miles on a Sunday morning in one smallish American hamlet and nearby village. If this were an American symphony by Aaron Copland, it would be notes on the common man, common woman and the rhythm of the downtime, the respite.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


August 15, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

On a Sunday morning when I had finished my own 6 o’clock coffee and was headed over the mountain to downtown Nyack, N.Y., I saw this fellow and his dog, the man maybe 60, the collie 5-6. Both had left their pick-up on Clausland Mt. Road and were bent for one of the trails in this park area, once an artillery range for the World War I National Guard deliberately named Camp Bluefields since it wasn’t then PC to say Camp Blauvelt, after the Dutch-German hamlet where it was located.
The fellow looked awfully happy, serene even, and his dog caught the rhythm. You saw it in their synchronized walk. The man had a container of java in his hand. You could tell he and the faithful companion, or maybe it was the collie and his faithful companion, were in for a quiet, contemplative Sunday morning respite, away from the week’s rigors and worries. Didn’t take more than a glance to see their story. Calmed me, too.
Arriving in Nyack, I parked the car and got my own second helping of coffee at the Broadway shop and then headed to the observation pier built in Memorial Park to peer at the two new bridges being built across the Hudson River. It was a respite for me, but I was not alone. Any park has its regulars, and they were there again on this weekend morning — the older couple in their sedan looking at the water; two fishermen; more men and dogs, some women and dogs, too; a police officer on a coffee break; a young skate-boarder; and a woman, perhaps 20, scanning a smart phone but taking long moments to gaze into the distance. Not sure if her romantic life was involved, though that seemed to be the energy.
So, short respites for maybe 20 people in just two locations over a few miles on a Sunday morning in one smallish American hamlet and nearby village. If this were an American symphony by Aaron Copland, it would be notes on the common man, common woman and the rhythm of the downtime, the respite.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via

WAKING UP ON NOV. 8, 2016, NOV. 9, TOO …

August 8, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

    Now retired, I wrote hundreds of newspaper editorials endorsing candidates — local, state, national, These  days I often cast another in my mind to make an election choice. And so it is with the presidential contest.


If U.S. presidents could be chosen directly by the electorate after party nomination, not via the now-flawed, remote-from-the-people Electoral College, and in a process where only public funds are used for campaigning, then the issues, the candidate’s platform, might be clearly set forth free of special interest and the voters might better know their choice. The nation eventually must reform that process, but this year it again has to choose based on hope that beyond the typical, even tired, promises, there is a potential leader who will helm an America in trouble, yet one that still can chase its frontier.  In the least, the country must be held intact.

The Founders knew from the start that the road would be rocky, that the grasp on “democracy” would always be tentative, but that inspired argument, leaders with vision and the innate desire for humankind to be free could save the day and keep the process going. That the nation would for so long chase a frontier — the West, then industrial, scientific, social progress — reinforced the firm belief that these United States of America were on to something big. That mission must continue, for America, for the leader of the free world.

Yet today, with a threatened middle class; with the “one percent” obscenely rich and not paying it forward; with almost a majority of minority children in poverty;  with unequal educational opportunity; with little investment in what should be a Marshall Plan, both for the unfulfilled recovery of the near-depression of 2008 and the deficit caused by the loss of jobs to other countries; with a national government seemingly unable to serve; and a people so absent of hope that some of them believe a one-liner huckster with a dubious foundation could be the leader of a restored reich — empire — the stakes are about as high as they can get in a presidential election.

Donald Trump, a businessman draped in many bankruptcies, contractor complaints and failed enterprise, a reality TV star who appeals to emotion, not reason, is offering his greatest P.T. Barnum scheme — convincing a hurting electorate that he is their rescuer. He offers no plan, hiding beyond one-liners such as “Make America Great Again,” and  his nation would be male, white, well-armed, defending a wall against immigrants whom he blames for admitted economic ill. Adolf Hitler told hurting Germans that Jews were to blame for their country’s post-World War I collapse; now we have a modern-day fuhrer — leader — who targets other scapegoats.

The thought that Trump could hold the nuclear button in his hand is frightening. This is a man who plans by instinct, not reasoning, who is highly susceptible to “advisers” and toadies. Almost all his one-liner “solutions” would prove unconstitutional, and Trump would be in legal challenge from day one, hoping, of course, that he could pack the Supreme Court, perhaps a modern-day version of the set-up burning of the Reichstag that allowed Hitler to rule as dictator.

Donald Trump, who began his presidential quest as a lark and who never expected to ride the crest of a populist wave to the nomination, is a danger to the nation, to the world. He capitalizes on legitimate job loss, economic fear, a failed immigration policy and obviously stalled, out-of-touch government. But like Hitler, his reich would not be for all. Trump would not continue the Founders’ path but would  instead take us down a dark path into a hell. He must not win the presidency.

Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential candidate in a nation still with frontier, probably wants the office first, and then she will worry about solutions later. But she is no dangerous non-thinker like Donald Trump. At worse, she would continue Democratic centrist policies, which were successful in her husband Bill’s administration though not the most complete for a changing, challenged America. At best, she might reinvigorate the national will.

The albatross about her neck includes distrust connected with Whitewater, improper use of an email server as secretary of state and ties to the same special-interest Wall Street that, after nearly destroying the economy in 2008 has profited from taxpayer-reconstructed ash and worker suffering while middle-class backs ail from more arthritis. Clinton is not free from special interests, and her policy solutions seem as wonkish, as dense, as the failed health-care proposal she offered in the 1990s.

A revolution appears ahead for America, hopefully non-violent, but sea change anyway unless the middle class is reenergized, unless there is hope for our children, our grandchildren, unless leaders realize domestic neglect is also terrorism. Where are the great funds for that battle?

The next president may well not be the one we need, but she must be the one who holds the United States intact until that new Washington, that new Lincoln, that new Franklin Roosevelt appears. Donald Trump would undermine our democracy; Hillary Clinton would preserve it. She must win.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.



By Arthur H. Gunther III

I am a self-discovered “painter” of limited ability, but there is satisfaction nonetheless, especially in a retirement where no longer are there the now-cherished deadlines of my newspaper past. It is more than something to do, for I assign myself, and I hit the job just like I was once paid to do. Molting’s not my thing.

There are unexpected benefits to this activity. Much — just about all — of newspaper writing and photography is keyed to observation — of people, of things, events. The human animal is endlessly fascinating and interesting, even the sadness and the darker side.

If you were a clockmaker and you could take apart a sophisticated piece to see the relationship between gears and springs, that would get your goose bumps rising. So it is, too, with those who have yet another chance to observe humanity, etc. And you get paid to do it?

In retirement, for some anyway, the bent continues, and you keep observing if only for yourself.

Painting is a way of observing. There are colors, which are shades of emotion. There is form, and what is the world without that? There is line, which is basically direction, where the mood is going, where it came from. And all this is from creation, though observed by the painter, and as with the writer, recorded.

The viewer then reacts, and his/her own buttons get pushed, or not, accordingly. How deep the touch is, is not unlike friends who connect deeply or, in the opposite, mere, short-time acquaintances who are passers-by. If there is real movement, a deep touch, then, as in life, lovers are found.

When my own work is seen, I stand stage left and watch the reaction: “Hmm…,” staring, “Aah,” indifference, maybe ho-hum, a range of emotion perhaps.

And then there is what the individual sees in a painting. One person may notice structure in an abstract, form that goes  beyond its shape, which presents the elements, the parts of something taken apart, never reassembled in original form. That can be existence itself.

An individual can look at a realism piece and see beyond what the painter did or thought he/she did, if the painter gave it thought above intuitive at all. Painting, like writing, for me anyway,  is dipping into a stream of consciousness and taking out the fish you catch. A minute later, it’s different fish or none at all.

It may be with that way when someone looks at your work, say a realistic piece. A while back, I painted my take of a detail of the 1858 cellar door and its lock set at Hopper House in Nyack, N.Y., the birthplace of Edward Hopper, the foremost American realism painter (1882-1967). It sold to a fine, original Nyacker who, with her mother and husband, have long volunteered at what is now a preserved historic house, art center and museum. The connection in the painting was obvious to her, and it was reward enough.

That’s one view. Since I usually photograph and copy paintings onto canvas, I sent one of “Lock at Hopper House” to a fond friend and mentioned its origin.

Her immediate take, she wrote me, was that the wood grain, the lines and the setting reminded her of her childhood home. She has strong  memories of that time, so another connection was made from what one human creates and another relates to. Rewarding, again.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via



July 25, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

With all the sadness in the land over the deliberate targeting and killing of police officers as well as the harming of citizens by law enforcement, I will tell you of two local encounters that perhaps simplify but also articulate the issues today.
Last week, at about 2:30 a.m. in the once small village where I grew up, where my dad did, too, where my family knew many, and they knew us, where in my generation and before, we especially knew the local police since the officers came from among us, and we saw these men every day and every night walking on Main Street; in this village now grown so large and in these times beset with poverty, crime, irresponsible, even gouging landlords and a government seemingly incapable of dealing with matters; in this community at 2:30 a.m the police came knocking at my door.
Not my house, no, but the building where I am a volunteer cook in a free morning breakfast program. The officer at first startled me because I am alone in the old church at that time, and someone has to rap on a basement-style window to draw attention. “Police,” said the officer. “Let me in.”  I went up to the door and opened it. The fellow entered cautiously and said the police like to check on the building from time to time. In fact, the church had recently requested that though I had seen an officer only once in my 15 years at the building at that hour of the morning. But OK. Nice to be looked after.
The officer did not come down the stairs but instead asked me who I was, my birth date, my cell phone number. The fellow was polite and efficient, professional I guess you would call it, a bit more polished than the gruff but friendly neighborhood cop I met so long ago in this same village of my youth — when  I was in seventh grade and was stopped on Main Street because the movie got out late and it was just pass the then 9 p.m. curfew. Gruff but friendly like a family member. That “beat” officer, a now almost disappeared job description, who walked Main Street until midnight and checked every storefront lock by hand, simply told me to keep heading home. A human encounter with no posturing on either side. Mutual respect.
Now I want to contrast the helpful attitudes of the officer of my youth and the fellow who came to the church at 2:30 a.m. last week with a village cop who perhaps should be in another line of work. (And doesn’t that happen in all jobs?)
About a year ago, one of the food program participants telephoned police because he was having words with another guy. The food program did not call — we rarely have such need — and, frankly, there was no dispute that required the police.
But they were called, and so they responded. I went outside when I saw the officer, told him that there was no problem, that a participant had called, not the food program. The officer not only ignored me twice and did not answer but instead deliberately, it seemed, stared straight into my eyes with a look of contempt that I had not seen in years. Then he walked away. It was not professional; it was bizarre.
Why didn’t this officer, who is employed by the citizenry to protect and serve, answer a polite fellow? Worse, did he think, from the way a volunteer cook like me dresses for a few hours at a greasy flattop grill, that I was among the homeless and so, in his view, not deserving respect? How awful.
So, tales of two very different encounters with village police — one where the officers were clearly doing their job, one where the public was disrespected, not served.
If I were the police chief in this village, I would require all officers to walk street beats and interact with this mostly minority community, though it must be added that officers do know the homeless street regulars.
In this village, in communities across the nation, a line has been drawn between the police and the people they must serve. There are suspicions on both sides, suspicions that could — would — end if the police quickly returned to interact with their communities and not disappear from the streets to dark-window patrol SUVs that increasingly look like military vehicles. Why the beat cop went away  is a mystery, but it was the beginning of “us vs. them.” To have had the neighborhood officer in the patrol vehicle and not on the street at a time of rising racial tension in America, when cities were being abandoned, when immigration woes mounted, was a strike against humanity, one that continues. If anything, law enforcement needed — need — to be in the community, to understand people, to be part of the brotherhood of humankind.
The recent targeted killings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge were the work of two deranged people who had sophisticated military weapons and killer-instinct training. They may have used the present hyped anti-police atmosphere as rationale, but they were sick people, not the average citizen with legitimate concerns about policing. The shootings were terrible acts toward 99 percent good people doing a dangerous job under difficult conditions.
However, harm, including death, inflicted on citizens by some police, such as in traffic stops, is equally troubling since obvious racial prejudice is involved as well as distrust of individuals and community, not unlike the distrust of the officer who stared this writer down when he was trying to be helpful.
God bless the police, who serve us because we cannot police ourselves. Heaven protect them. They do such good — saving lives, delivering babies, etc. But get out into the community, officers. Leave the SUVs. Walk a beat again. Talk to the black man, the Hispanic, the immigrant, the kid looking for trouble. Talk to everyone, especially those you may feel uneasy about,  and your prejudices will lessen, your work made easier by people who want to show respect but only if earned by politeness and genuinely honest engagement and caring, even heroism like that of the two New York City officers who last week sped off with what they thought was a bomb, to protect the public. Get out among the people and do good service, as did that cop who sent me home after curfew time.
Stop militarizing yourselves, which is not allowed constitutionally anyway since a police force cannot be paramilitary.  Stop being so insular in a brotherhood that you forget your brothers and sisters in the community. Realize you are citizens, too. Realize most people are good, friendly, giving.
Maybe then this wall of mutual suspicion will fall. Maybe then more of us — more police, too — will be safe.

   The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.


July 18, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Just before the pre-suburban explosion of the 1950s in my part of lower New York State, in a fruit orchard area fittingly off Cherry Lane, a young fellow, second grader, had just left a dream world adjacent to his backyard, a former polo field and then still a riding track for stabled horses. The kid would easily pretend it was the Wild West, what with the rustic fences and all, and his cap pistol reaffirmed that in noise. There weren’t many other children about, and a Saturday afternoon had to unwind somehow.

The youngster was almost home when he came upon a bow saw, a sturdy, oddly shaped wooden contraption with a cable at the top to tighten the blade. He picked it up and found an old piece of wood that he set between two rocks. And then, with ease, though the second grader was obviously without teenager strength, he cut the wood.

That one piece of log was followed by another, then others until the boy and his younger brother had enough to build the first of several huts in their lives, with cracks filled by using the winter straw found in the many fields before Progress came to town.

The hut building became a weekend past-time for a while, and it added to the western scene the old polo field afforded. It kept the boys out of the house, out of their mother’s way, forged confidence in their ability to do things on their own, to keep occupied, to take imaginary trips. And it cost nothing.

Once, that young boy’s backyard and the old bow saw were a metaphor for the seemingly endless American frontier, whether that be the West or advances in science, in better living conditions, in improving the way humans treat one another, in growing the Founders’ democracy.

These were just two boys of many thousands, with opportunity that cost little or nothing except sweat and drive and imagination. They made enough mistakes after their “frontier” days, yes, and it was the grace of many and the beyond that truly pushed them forward. But it began in imagination. For many thousands of others, too.

Today, in a confused, lost America, there seems no frontier, and even if one were in sight, the typical college debt of $50,000 is a millstone as the fellow or gal tries to move ahead.

Perhaps the nation needs some old-fashioned bow saws and weekends in which the young can dream and have a real chance that the dream will be realized. Time for our youth now seems overbooked or stolen by the negativity of rundown neighborhoods, and the bow saws cost too much, the old factories having closed and the saws made by huge, profitable conglomerates on other shores.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at



July 11, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Equal time for Hillary in an unequal presidential race, in a time of sad national inequality.

The last mildly satirical column suggested The Donald doesn’t want the presidency, that he never thought his sales job would connect, that he’ll give up the nation’s highest office after a round of golf at Trump White House. He sealed the deal, and that was what counted.

This week the satire, however grave the national moment, is aimed at Hillary Clinton, who does want to sit again in the Oval Office, with Bill bringing the morning java.

I met Hillary once, in 2000 at a Journal News combined Editorial Board session when she was running for the U.S. Senate from New York though a native Chicagoan.

We each asked questions of Hillary, and mine was where she saw herself in 20 years — would she be a respected, revered figure, a career senator who could make things happen for the public good? It was a naive query, immediately realized, for the soon-to-be senator-elect quickly and forcefully answered that she would be influential but gave no term of service.

The Senate and long service to the country in that body were not her end goal. Indeed, Hillary resigned in January 2009 to become Obama’s secretary of state, having lost her own first try for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Now there is no sin in wanting to be president and in crafting a long-term bid, but there has to be a candidate platform, too, one that is not, in these times especially, jingoistic, same-old and not tied to Wall Street or other big money no matter how much you protest that it is not. Seeking the highest office is not enough. A true plan of action to restore hope in America is a must. That means solid jobs, guaranteed educational equality, including college tuition, sensible immigration, ending frightening, utter racism and assuring freedom from want, from fear, freedom of speech and religion. There has to be a second revolution, really, a return trip to the Founders’ ideals, which have been taking so long to implement, inch by inch, but which now so dangerously have been forgotten in a rising sea of ignorance, prejudice, hate and deliberate falsehood. There are those who manipulate the people, who try to hijack national policy by lies, falsehood.

Donald Trump is not the person to unite us, to stop shootings, to celebrate the possibilities of America. He may not have wanted the job, but if he gets it, he may forge ahead as a bull running over the pages of our Constitution. And while Hillary is focused on getting back the White House keys, she has so far offered no creative, forceful, dynamic agenda that would approach the greatness of America. Yet she is not the fuzzy brain of her presumed opponent. A clear though unwelcome choice awaits America.

The presidency is the seat held by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt in grave and challenging times, and it cannot go to a fellow who wants to close the deal more than guide the world’s most influential nation. But there is failure, too, in granting what is now a king’s lifestyle to someone who may simply want the White House keys back and who may obfuscate to win.

November 2016 could bring the most important vote ever in this still-emerging democratic experiment. Do we pick a man who so far spouts racist and scary, non-sensical slogans and offers shallow understanding about how the system works, who may leave reasoning and conclusions to un-elected  others before he signs off on a deal? Or do  we choose a woman who may basically want a sandwich made at 2 a.m. by the White House kitchen? Where is either candidate’s assured and fully detailed investment in the presidency, that vaulted office we came to revere through our social studies classes and via actual leaders who set forward agendas? Whom are we voting for?

I do not know if we Americans have ever been informed enough or savvy enough to choose a president based on both revealed and perceived character, but we must finally try to do that. The democracy depends on it. The world does. Your children do.

Today’s entrenched government, with its long-seated “leaders” puppeted by big money, has let the jobs disappear, the middle class decline and added massive military and other debt. It threatens our grandchildren with 1900s living standards. It offers nothing sensible on immigration policy in a nation built by immigrants. It will not quiet horrible racism and prejudice. The times utterly require a shake-up akin to peaceful revolution.

The same common-man despair and fear, manipulated in ignorance, led to Brexit. It must not become Amerexit, for the only way to better the world is to spread the wealth, to share opportunity,  but absolutely not by going backward in once forward-looking countries, not by neglecting anyone, not the former factory worker, not those welcomed by the Lady in the Harbor. That betterment could come — in America, in Britain, in the Third World and in nations where terrorism thrives on a loss of hope — but only IF greed shares the money.  It will take a U.S. president and other national and world leaders of caliber not seen in decades to do that. This does not seem to be this election.

Maybe the run-up to November will give us a clue. Maybe. You cannot just want to close a deal. And you cannot just wish to sit behind the Rutherford B. Hayes Oval Office desk (interestingly Queen Victoria’s gift from pre-European Union Great Britain).

In 2016, there has to be a plan to save the nation and in that the world.  We have not seen that plan. Someone, some day will be  — we hope — our “real” president, an individual who finally understands what has been developing in America since 1776.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.



July 4, 2016, weekend

By Arthur H. Gunther

So, “The Donald” won the presidency, and now we all wear red baseball-style caps with  the imperial slogan (“Let’s Make America Great Again”), purchased exclusively through the Trump Store.

Seriously, if the former TV reality star, casino operator,  office space builder and bankruptcy court attendee wanted to sell hats, to “make the deal,” to get his Trump moniker out there once again, any number of us ordinary folk would have lent him the start-up cash. No need to fly to all those places, play golf in Scotland and invent new catch phrases that stir emotions, not brain cells. Trump could have stayed in his gold Manhattan Tower and raked in the moola and spotlight. Done deal.

That probably was his initial intention, but events carried him away. People, enough of them anyway, liked his red hats and the slogan. It fit on the cap, didn’t have too many words to pronounce and no big ones, just right for the times. And who would object to the saying? Americans naturally believe ‘America is Great,’ so adding “Again” is like the second orgasm. “Hoo-rah!” America underlined. Senses satisfied, no need to explain, to question, to prove the validity of the statement.  Feel good.

The Donald then began selling so many red hats that he had to make sure they were made in the USA, not in Mexico, perhaps by Mexicans who hopped over the border, yes, but the label read “USA,” so no mention of Mexican complicity. He even had to wear a red cap every day, though it mussed his swept-to-the-right hair comb.

Things simply got out of hand. The people, his people anyway, wanted more slogans, maybe for wall plaques or bumper stickers. Or dare we say, tattoos? Trump had them ready. He even proclaimed one in Belgium. “Belgium is a Beautiful Place,” he said. Um, yeah. Sure is. Who can argue? Not much to think about there.

Somehow, The Donald offered enough slogans to win the presidency, and the people in red hats were pleased. The first Cabinet meeting began with a common chant, red hats removed in reverence: “Make America Great Again.” Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, now Minister of the Red Hats, was tasked to come up with the next emotionally satisfying but blank-headed slogan. The masses need that, to keep from thinking. Even non-thinkers understand the mojo.

The Donald, in red hat hitting golf balls on the green at Trump White House a few days after the inauguration but utterly bored with the job, which he never wanted, was heard to offer a non-slogan thought: “Did I have to sell all these caps? I could have avoided this real work and still made the deal. I never needed the presidency to do it.

“Eureeka!” the sloganeer extraordinaire  exclaimed. “I  have it! In 10 days I will proclaim that all hats will be brown, carrying the quote ‘America IS Great Again.’ I will close the deal. Then I will resign and go home to my Tower. Hey, Chris, clear the George Washington Bridge!”

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


June 27, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Photographers, the inspired ones, the gifted, are observers who emphasize the essence of their subject, who snap the shutter as reporters of an expression, an event, an emotion, yes, but who, because of an innate sense of knowing the right angle to set the composition and how to get the subject involved (or not), tell in pictures what others say with words. Such an artist was Bill Cunningham, the legendary  New York Times “street photographer,” who for decades caught Gotham’s fashions on the sidewalk and pavement as well as social, philanthropic and fashion events.
Cunningham, who passed last week at 87, still toiling for his paper, was not a trained photographer, for the gift is not always tied to degree, but a man who left Harvard to make ladies’ hats and to work at an exclusive dress shop in Manhattan. He may not have known it, but he was preparing for his later photographic career.  Knowing line, form, the cut of a stylish garment is very much like the photography that captures the motors and the souls of the living. It is the essential that was sought, and it is there to be seen by the right observer, for we all are of one design or another, with particular line, form, the cut of the jib.
Bill Cunningham offered two weekly photo columns, “Evening Hours,” which reported on New York’s social scene, and “On the Street,” which was perhaps his best work. He had a certain charming, non-invasive way of seeing the running motor — the reason to be — of the woman or fellow stepping off the curb into the busyness of a city.
While clicking away on the street beat, Cunningham became a trend-spotter and so probably set the tone for fashion editors and fashion houses. He was the messenger, noting and reporting on the self-made fashions of stylish New Yorkers that would set a trend, or which already had.
The Times may well not continue “Evening Hours” and “On the Street” because, just as you cannot replace a columnist of a particular style with a fellow instructed to be a clone, Bill Cunningham’s  photography was inimitable, unique to himself.

   The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


June 19, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Father’s Day is a time for special reverence, especially when your dad is gone. It’s almost easier then, sad to say, because you don’t readily recall the difficult moments. All children have them with their fathers. All fathers have them with their children. Maybe even more so if there is a son.
My own Dad, gone a little more than a year now, is terribly missed, for while we often got under each other’s skin, he always had my back, and I, somehow, became the responsible son, enough so that he began to think of me as being like his own father. There aren’t enough tears of gratitude for that sort of full circle. In the final years there was a mutually satisfying dialogue and companionship. It was a road that seemed destined, and I am grateful. Yet even if we had not turned to the same path, there was one moment in my life that made my father my Dad.
Think of your own father, be it the dad of a son, now man, or a girl, now woman. What was the special thing he did that made you forget his justifiable admonitions as well as his warts?
Someone I once had the pleasure of talking at length with about all manner of things — to the point that the conversations were both quite satisfying and most revealing of her character — found her father to be a constant light in her life. He was gifted with a responsible, achieving, quite loving daughter who constantly made him proud. And she had a father who made sacrifices for her. He did many things, but one special moment came when this camera buff sold equipment that must have been difficult to come by so that he could build his daughter a playhouse in the backyard. Her father was her Dad in that moment and many others.
In my own life, the moment came in the second grade, one-third completed in Nanuet, N.Y., where we had moved just a year earlier and the rest of the school year in nearby Tallman. This fellow — me — did not adjust well and was held back in June. My father, who was not a shouter or an in-your-face fellow, politely but forcefully pleaded with school officials to give me a break. He knew his son was capable of the work required.
Yet those were different days, and the school officials did not reconsider. Years later, my mother would tell me what my father did. In that moment, my father became my Dad.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


June 13, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

The terrible news that a gunman walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and destroyed 50 people, leaving 53 others hospitalized in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history has to bring national tears and renewed debate on selling automatic weapons so freely that sick minds can become executioners.
Whether that happens is as uncertain as the outcome of this presidential election in which so far basic civics history seems lost to the ages, and so few know our Founders’ actions and desires — how did we get here? What does the nation stand for?
It is certainly not intolerance of people based on sexual orientation. If we do try to learn and understand our history and the great journey this democracy-in-training embarked upon almost 240 years ago, we can see that we have come so very far. While it  will never be far enough for crazed, sick gunmen,  it can be more than far enough for national empathy and increased tolerance. Fifty people dead, and that means 50 funerals, hundreds of relatives and friends in lifelong mourning, cheated of friendship, companionship, love. The nation, the world without 50 achieving souls. And such a very deep wound to the national body. What shame we have.
Yet we have progressed against intolerance, however unsteady the footing may be in this election where jingoism, platitudes, sentences without depth, irrationality all fuel the fires of prejudice. How many more Orlandos can be born of this?
Or does this democracy-in-training, this national body of advancing humanity turn the tide? Can we pull the trigger against the bullies in the darkened alleys?

   The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This essay may be reproduced.


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June 6, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NÜRNBERG, Germany — This once-again beautiful city in the center of Deutschland, removed for more than 70 years now from World War II bombing and almost complete devastation, is both typically German and Bavarian: There is the no-nonsense, can-do, will-do national work ethic and the good and smiling personality of the region. A recent visit while seeing family made me wonder how ever there could have been such disaster here, but also reaffirmed the salvation of humanity in what became the judgment at Nuremberg. Perhaps this visit was a lesson for America today.
Nürnberg, just 110 miles from Adolf Hitler’s populist-energized beginning in Munich, was the “unofficial” capital of the Holy Roman Empire, a once vital trade center and the prime site of the German Renaissance. Its rich history centers not only on culture but on law and legislature, fitting for its role in 1945. The city went to the dark in the huge, mass-emotional Nazi rallies so well captured in Leni Riefenstahl’s  brilliant but chilling 1935 propaganda film “Triumph of the Will.”
Allied carpet bombing took out much of Nuremberg in the war, including most of the medieval city. Yet the Palace of Justice, the Justizpalast, survived, and it was chosen by the Allies for the now-famous Nuremberg Trials. In 1945 and 1946, German officials accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity stood before an international tribunal. Courtroom 600 is still used, fittingly, for murder cases. It was also appropriate that the Justizpalast
was chosen since Nuremberg was where the Nazi Party passed law stripping Jews of their citizenship.
Today, a visit to Nürnberg brings so little of the past to mind. Much of the city has long been restored, though not all of the medieval section. There are public squares where regional produce is sold, restaurants, stories, museums, offices, homes and all that makes for a vibrant community. Life is worth living in this beautiful center, and visiting it and its fine people made me once again proud of my German heritage while also remaining cognizant of its mistakes.
But then we came home, to my country, to an election period unlike no other I have seen. It appeared comical at first, especially with the media (and I am of the media), mining so much of the bizarre but letting the substance slide. Until now. Hope it is not too late.
You cannot return from Nürnberg, from re-watching “Triumph des Willens” — “Triumph of the Will” — without a chill in this U.S. presidential election. The ability to rouse a mass audience using slogans and prejudice and fear, all based on very real concerns (Germany, 1930s: economic woes worsened by war reparations, unemployment; America, 2016: dwindling middle class, poor immigration policy, rich getting richer, all costs rising).
Of such conditions are demagogues born — political “leaders” who rally through false claims, simple promises and argument based on emotion not reason.
Of such times humanity can once again turn into the dark.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This essay may be reproduced.


May 30, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

When my double Great-Grandfather Robert Wilhelm Guenther left Appomattox and then his mustering-out as a Union soldier in June 1865, he accomplished the greatest feat of his four-year “career” — he survived.
So many of his comrades did not — in the First and Second Battles of Bull Run, the defense of Washington, D.C., Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and other fights for the independent light and heavy artillery of the three New York State regiments records seem to have Robert serving in, 1861-1865.
Except for an uncle — Winfield — who lost three fingers in the Battle of the Huertgen Forest in World War II, my direct line of Gunthers has not suffered harm or the ultimate sacrifice in any war since the family left Prussia about 1850. That means we do not have that certain mourning so deep within, especially on Memorial Day.
I — we in the family — can and do show added respect on Veterans Day for Uncle Winnie, yes, but the true Memorial Day has been left to those Spring Valley, N.Y., and other families we grew up with whose thoughts surely moved away from the annual parades, the flags, the political speeches, the decorated bicycles kids used to ride.
We have all seen the gold stars moms and dads hung in their front windows when a child — and the grownup is always a child, even in death in war — does not ever, ever, come home. But back in the heart he (she) is, tucked in emotionally even if the physical can never happen again in that upstairs bedroom.
We all know that no mother ever feels the same again, no father, no sibling. Communities may regain their daily rhythm. World War II and other honor rolls may be removed and permanent memorials placed in public parks. New young are born, parents pass on, the village changes. There are more Memorial Day parades, and, sadly, more mothers, especially mothers whose pangs of loss are as acute, more so actually, than that in childbirth and directly tied, forever now, to that life-altering moment.
So, this Memorial Day is not for recalling Civil War or other war survivors. That respect comes on Veterans Day. This is Memorial Day, and we who still stand, we who have no family connection to ultimate sacrifice, must find a moment of silence before the barbecue is lit, the pool attacked, the time off from work happens.


May 23, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

A shiny new hotel has opened in Nyack, N.Y., a Hudson River village that for decades was the work home of newspaper stiffs like me. I hope The Time Nyack enjoys success, but I wish today’s media had added color to press reports of its opening.
Though Nyack now has three hotels/motels — The Time, the West Gate Inn and Super 8 Nyack — it once boasted the St. George on Burd Street, up just a bit from the docks and the ferry to Tarrytown. The longtime hotel, one of a number in what was once a summer resort town, was next to one of the homes of the Nyack Evening Journal, precursor of the original Journal-News in Rockland County, N.Y., for which I toiled 1964-2006, and catacorner to The Nyack Star, an early 1900s competitor. Therein lie many of the stories born of the old St. George.
Once there was a ritual in newspapers that brought scribes, compositors, printers, editors, photogs, even the lowly copy boys who often later proved the genius of the profession to the brass rail for a drink or two or maybe too much. Long before the Hi-Ho tavern offered “high mass” after deadline for we stiffs, often at no or little cost, there was the St. George. You didn’t have far to go from the office.
Competing newspapermen and women shared war stories (there are tales like that even in the sticks). These ink-stained wretches also likely explained the plots of the novels most of them were meaning to write but never would.
An assortment of Damon Runyonesque characters, not unlike those at Dorothy Parker’s famed Algonquin Round Table in 1920s New York City,  would hit the bar at the St. George over its many decades, especially in the 1900s until about 1940. Two such people were Charlie MacArthur, Helen Hayes’ husband, who lived up on Broadway, and Ben Hecht, his fellow Chicago newspaper pal from Upper Nyack. These two had already written the bible play of the profession — “The Front Page” (1928) — and staged the Broadway production (later there were famous movie versions) at the old Nyack Women’s Institute, now part of Nyack College. Pals forged in the brotherhood of the street beat, they bought houses not far from one another in MacArthur’s hometown and now lie for eternity at Oak Hill Cemetery. One can only guess at their many conversations off the St. George rail.
At least one president slept at the St. George, and it was the stepping-off point for  local Suffragettes lobbying Albany. During World War I, before American entry, part of the St. George hosted a passport factory and spy ring for the Germans, according to a piece by John Patrick Schutz in the January 2, 2011, online Nyack News&Views.

Reported Schutz: “The German high command realized it needed spies in the USA. They also needed to find a way to get thousands of experienced sailors and officers back from Hoboken and onto German naval vessels. German and Austrian nationals and ex-pats formed a spy ring with offices in Chelsea using the engine rooms of the impounded liners in Hoboken to make fire bombs and germ-warfare canisters of tetanus, meningitis and hoof-and-mouth disease. The communications branch of the spy ring and a faked U.S. passport factory were located in the St. George Hotel in Nyack. And who was the head of this very sophisticated ring? Johann Heinrich Count von Bernstorff, no less than the German Ambassador to the United States.”
Wonder if any of my fellow ink-stained wretches picked up on that story, or were the drinks too many?
When I walk in Nyack these days, I am always pulled to Burd Street, to the echoes of the St. George, as much as I am to 53 Hudson Ave, where the great presses churned at deadline in the birth of another daily edition. Lucky stiffs, we.

  The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This essay may be reproduced.


May 16, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Weiden, Germany — On a recent walk here in the centuries-old farmland of this Bavarian region while visiting family, I came upon a war memorial, a bit worn and not as cared for as when it was dedicated perhaps 20 years ago. Such remembrances often suffer that fate because life moves on, and the “now” is for the living.

Every town in every nation has a war memorial, if only in the books of the churches, synagogues, mosques or in family Bibles. Somehow, lists are made, notations entered, prayers said, heads bowed, and then daily tasks take over. Life moves on.

And it has in Weiden, a small, prosperous community in prosperous Bavaria, not far from Munich or the large World War II Wehrmacht and First World War Bavarian Army training bases, some held — still — by the U.S. military. Neatly kept homes surround the platz or town square with its ancient buildings, people go about their work matter-of-factly, and there is a hum that contents. Residents enjoy strolling in the square, shopping, eating. The sounds of war are so very distant now, and generations are removed from its horror.

Who can argue against that? Certainly the war dead would have wanted such living, having sacrificed for it.

Yet on my quiet walk, which is the best walk, passing winter straw in fields just like those in my boyhood in Rockland County, N.Y., listening for the freight train so easily heard in the stillness, looking at barns that survived bombing, the Weiden war memorial seemed at once out of place. It seemed an intrusion in that bucolic scene. But quick guilt took over, and I walked to a block of stone on which appeared the  names of the men — young mostly — of Der Erste Weltkrieg (First World War). I read the many names with reverence, as you must do, and then looked at an even bigger column of  names from the Der Zweite Weltkrieg, the second world war.  It was then that I stood without any movement, for a very long moment. I stared at one family name, a family which had lost three men in 1914-1918 and then seven in 1939-1945. Ten gone. One family.

Walking back to my son’s temporary home in Weiden (his wife is a U.S. Army physician posted to the base at Grafenwohr), I glanced at a very old farmstead and wondered if one of those first three German men had dressed field horses with plowing harness or had wrestled with each other in the hay. Did their fathers or sons or uncles do the same just before 1939? Had any of them seen the winter straw or heard the far-off train whistles in those quiet moments of boyhood?

And in America, in any small town, in Rockland County, in France, England, Allied nations, Axis countries, did those young people whose names now stand out on war memorials do any of the things you do in peaceful times? And what of the civilian casualties, especially those in the Holocaust?

  “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”

– General Dwight D. Eisenhower

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Even if people once in our lives have left us or we them, or if circumstances — changes — took them away, there is certainty in familiar shadows, a feeling more than apparition actually, that besides you is the person long gone.

You may be walking down a childhood street where you haven’t been for quite a while, looking at old, tan-colored sidewalks you are sure you trod, as did your parents, grandparents, friends, classmates, so many others. If you are not on the smartphone and perhaps just a little bit into a daydream, you will see her, or him or them on those sidewalks — familiar shadows. Perhaps you then have a chuckle or a recalled conversation or the faint memory of a happening way back. Nice visit.

Maybe you are in a public building — a theater — or on a playing field, and you glance up at the scoreboard or screen and remember a familiar place and its people. In that instant, decades can be removed, and you can almost hear the sounds of that time, smell it, feel it and recall those you knew.

Familiar shadows come to us in dreams, of course, almost as when you lived with those people. Old banter, even argument, certainly feelings can take place as if the subconscious was the real deal, not waking life.

You can be talking to someone today, when, without tip-off, a familiar person appears in thought or as shadow on that part of that particular couch.

Surely in our increasingly busy lives when sound bites and word bites are the staccato background for multiple tasking, there isn’t much time to chill, to hang out with familiar shadows. But here’s the thing: Sometimes they don’t give you a choice, and they just pull you away. Such moments can be heartwarming, reaffirming.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at As always, this essay may be reproduced.


Rose Queen of Hale, Leoni Topping with consort Denby. "She was driven through the village in an open top classic car. Seventy children followed behind in an open top bus and Rosebuds travelled in a trailer."
Rose Queen of Hale, Leoni Topping with consort Denby.
“She was driven through the village in an
open top classic car. Seventy children
followed behind in an open top bus and
Rosebuds travelled in a trailer.”

May 1, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Americans share a “document of intent” with our British cousins. For our former royal mother country, it is the 1215 Magna Carta, which actually was reissued, modified and was more relevant to the rights of 13th century barons than those of the common man. The American version is the combined 1776 Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, all of which are closer to protection of the ordinary citizen than the Carta but really not written for the inclusive common man and certainly not in that time for women. Yet the “intent” of each of these shared-roots documents, British and American, have come to be popularized as the mission statement for democracy. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt put it in his 1941 Inaugural Address, “The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history . . . It was written in Magna Carta.”

The translation today is that democracy derives from the people, even if in 1215 and 1776 the people were not the ordinary folk. If democracy works  — and America is still trying to get it right despite this scary presidential election — then the people rule in equality or at least move closer to that goal, “ordinary democracy.”

There is an Englishman I know who passionately believes in such democracy and who has published a book to celebrate it. It is by gifted photographer Si Barber and is titled “Queens of Lesser Realms, English Folk & Carnival Royalty.”

(“Sometimes secular, sometimes affiliated with the church or local industry, the carnival queen has been a feature of English rural life since the Medieval times, their appearance often marking the high point of summer, just before the harvest and the highlight of the agricultural year,” as the press release for the book notes.)

Si, a lensman who prefers to work in film not digital format, a challenge in itself, has proven to be an astute observer of humanity.  He has covered 12,000 miles of England to find “Queens of lesser realms by virtue of their nobility, wisdom and courage,”  and in doing so has celebrated community spirit and, so, what the common man and woman does and does so well. (Sounds like the modern interpretation of the Magna Carta.)

The author notes that the book was “curated in the 90th year of the birth of Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second. …” It is a “photographic gazetteer concerning certain notable persons of the English carnival & traditional festival, their associates & celebrant.”

Here we view many pretty women, such as the “Queen of Long Itchington, Elisha Thorne Bowmaster,” a carnival royal in 2014 with crown, the British flag and gay balloons. There is “The Coronation of Queen Aimee Bridgett of Newark,” who rides in a float. And “May Princess of Skegby, Jasmine Hannant,” representing a village where residents have organized a fair to re-ignite lost community spirit.

There is even an “Arthritis Gala Queen” (Shannon-Chelsey Kennedy), who stands proud amidst the red, white and blue. Barber, who has added witty and affectionate captions to each photograph, notes, “You can choose to blame your circumstances on fate or bad luck or bad choices. Or you can fight back.”

There are 100 well-shot, un-posed images in fine reproduction in this book, with locations such as Sutton on Sea in Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Kent, Essex and Greater London. The book is already in the British Library and is sure to be future reference since it documents disappearing tradition and related charity.

Barber, who hails from King’s Lynn, Norfolk, has put together images of what may be a vanishing England as “Queens of Lesser Realms” announces the “survival of local ‘royalty’ ” amid the “distractions of the iPhone.” The book is the result of a more than three-year journey across 42 English counties to find the “participants in the ancient and often overlooked rituals of English country life.”

When you look at the images of these women, children and some men in Barber’s book, you will not see the proclaimed English royalty, no more than traveling across America will you meet just the rich and powerful. The essence of a democracy is in its people, its truly ordinary folk who are actually extraordinary in their existence.

Si Barber has chosen to celebrate the real value of the Magna Carta, its evolved “intent,”  by hailing English county tradition. Long live the queens and kings of that realm!

(“Queens of Lesser Realms” is published by Eye Ludicrous, ISBN 978-1-78280-737-7. Contact Si at


The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This essay may be reproduced.


‘Sláinte’ to the Irish

April 24, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

No man, no woman, no child is free as their god intended if their history, their inheritance, their rightful destiny are lassoed by another master. That was the Irish in the British occupation from the 12th century, in the 1800 Act of Union that merged the nation with Great Britain, in the great sadness and death of the 1916 Easter Rising 100 years ago today.

The heavens have granted gifts to the Irish in their innate love of literature, in their poetic expression, in their ability to see humor even as their wit tells truths that bite the soul. A smile for every tear.

There is loss in every Irish family today, as in generations before. The bagpipes never play just in the gaiety of a wedding but are a constant funeral dirge for those lost in oppression forever-long after.

In just three weeks’ time, it will have been an exact century, on May 15, when leaders of the Easter Rising were executed. More than 3,000 suspected of participating in the rebellion were arrested, many sent to England and prison without trial. Such punishment ended Irish complacency, led to the Irish Parliament of January 1919 in Dublin and the declaration of Ireland’s independence. More rebellion followed, there was a 1921 cease-fire, and the Irish Free State, a self-governing nation of the British Commonwealth was established.

The fully independent Republic of Ireland, the 26 counties in the south and west, was formally established on Easter Monday, April 18, 1949. Ireland’s six northern counties, including the Protestants populated by the British, opted out of the Free State and remained with the United Kingdom. The partition still smarts.

History can offer the whys and wherefores of occupation of one land by another but can never justify suppression of the natural being of a certain people. We Americans tried that in our shameful treatment of the only people who do not need a Green Card, the Native Americans. You can argue that no manifest destiny, no birth and progress of the great American republic, would have happened without supression, yet however you rationalize it, a debt is still due those original Americans who languish on sub-standard reservations.

The Irish stood up — initially just some of them but then a majority of the people — in a courageous act of rebellion 100 years ago today, and families were immediately torn asunder. Some will never forget, never forgive. Debts are still to be paid for forced assimilation, even if it did not work.

What can be said today as the unfinished story continues is “sláinte” (good health) to the Irish in the name of humanity and in the name of my mother, an Irish lass.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


April 18, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Having just returned from a family trip to Germany and Austria, and immediately thrown as an American into the country I cherish, the horizon has been expanded that I cannot fully come back. One half the mindset is elsewhere.

I realized this even before I left Weiden, near Nuremberg in Bavaria, where I was staying. On a walk into the dairy and farm country that surrounds, I was cast back to my youth in the once rural county of Rockland, New York State. The landscape was so very familiar, and as I did when a child, a solitary walk took me to a spot near the rise over a meadow not unlike what I saw at age 8 near my grandfather’s house in Spring Valley. The utter quiet, the smell of just-turned soil ready for spring planting and the great horizon that is analogous to your own future journey in life were delicious. Peaceful. Reaffirming. There was an immediate bond with this part of Germany and the nation of my Gunther forebears.

While ingesting the landscape I looked at what was in two pants pockets — in the right front pocket, a few Euros, distinctly shaped money that is now the currency in much of  Europe and the equally few U.S. dollars I still carried in my back pocket. The dollars seemed odd, out of place, which they were. Before my trip, I saw dollars as the supreme way to pay bills, have security, more than get along in America. Here in Weiden, the Euros were that means. Returning to the U.S., I took out both my dollars and Euros and put the European currency aside as a souvenir and placed the dollars in my right front pocket. Yet the money now feels different.

It is American all right. So is what remains of the landscape in now suburban Rockland. But having taken a journey abroad; having meet truly wonderful people,  so  industrious and non-nonsense yet quite fun-loving; having seen the growing diversity in Munich and Salzburg and Nuremberg; having dealt with efficient and quite helpful shopkeepers; having lived a bit as a German does, I can no longer just pull the dollar out of my pocket and think as an American.

There is so much more going on in the world than my cherished  birth nation. Germany, for example, is largely off the power grid, producing powder by wind and solar. Its new homes are highly insulated, many made of fireproof concrete. The electrical and plumbing systems are built for 100 years. Drivers must pay a few thousand dollars to train for the roads, and they are very good on the highway, driving fast, as allowed, but giving way, signaling, etc. If I were to visit other nations, there would be much to learn as well, much for our own nation to consider, perhaps adopt.

Our America is a nation of immigrants, so many from Europe, and we have both protected and served as a democratic example for the world. But we are not the beginning and the end, and we should be humble about receiving from other peoples as well.

   The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

MUNICH, Germany — The fifth-generation descendant of a Prussian family that had an umlaut over the “u” in Gunther has returned to a sort of fatherland. I arrived here Friday to visit my son and daughter in law, who is a U.S. Army physician in Bavaria. To get to Germany, the plane from Newark, N.J., had to fly over the final resting places in Brooklyn and Long Island of several Gunthers, including Ferdinand, my great-great-grandfather and my family’s first arrival in the New World. Then in Germany, which now includes Prussia, there are the graves of his forebears. Heady stuff, to think of all those people in one’s DNA.

Once here, in Munich, the Bavarian city rebuilt 65 percent after heavy World War II bombing, I could see my late father’s face on many a street and my grandfather even more. Neither ever visited Germany, and the language was almost lost on my grandfather and beyond.

In my childhood, German recipes, such as for potato salad and “Fastnact kuggles,”  hot, lard-dipped dough covered with powdered sugar, continued, and there were references to the family past. Yet with Ferninand arriving about 1858 with his brothers, all of whom served in the U.S. Civil War, that was long ago.

I did not take German in high school, though Miss Grasser, the German language teacher, stopped me in the hall and asked why not. I really had little interest in the German family heritage, or the Irish/English ancestry either. Few of us care abiut the past as children and young adults. It would take decades for such curiosity to stir, and by then so many of the principals had died. Whom to ask?

Now, by fate, my second son and family live in the old fatherland, and I have had genealogical interest for a few years now. Perhaps as we grow older, we want to touch the past much as a child grabs a parent’s hand, so that it is easier to walk into the final future.

Here in Munich, with my son speaking pretty good German, with the grandchildren getting such fine exposure to other cultures (this is a mixed city), I have been stirred by the kindness, the friendliness, the exactness, the industry, the confidence of the Germans and others.

If it were not for my family, I would not have visited Germany. I would have continued to believe that the land is about big beer steins and laden hosen, when, of course, there is so much more beyond the stereotypes, themselves exaggerated.

No one country, no one culture, makes the world, and getting past your mindset, your own community, not only fiills you with understanding but also appreciation.

I now feel blessed by those Germans I have so far met and by the fate that gave me such ancestry and those forebears who built a life in the New World. A fresh perspective, surely.


The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via











By Arthur H. Gunther III

All periods in history have their idiosyncrasies, stylized to the individual, the mojo of the moment, the then-current trends, the arts, the music, whether there are wars or economic difficulties or actual progress of the species. If we live long enough to take the local and the express through several eras, it’s especially interesting to recall some in our own past.

For example, I was in an ordinary restaurant the other day, ordinary because they don’t let me in fancy ones for lack of palate, and I asked for water. It came in a tumbler with a straw added from the waitress’ apron. If I were in that same eatery say in 1948, my father would have asked for my water, and a fellow with a pitcher and a white towel hung over his arm would have begun pouring, first near the lip of the glass, then raising the pitcher about 12 inches as he filled the tumbler in an up-and-down option, full stream never missing the glass. Pretty cool, whether showing off for the six year old or just post-war restaurant style.

In 1955, you might have found a teenager with rolled-up cuffs on her jeans in a hallway closet, on a telephone with her boyfriend, her legs halfway up the wall as her head rested on the floor, on her ponytail. Her brother would be outside, nudging her. No smartphone clued to hand, 24/7.

(I knew a fellow  who took calls for his home-run business from a phone atop a radio console in the living room. Cigarette in one hand, phone in the other, he leaned on the radio and crossed his legs for support. A stylized 1960s on-telephone-before-cellphone action. It sure fit the character of the man.)

In the 1970s we had a bookish reporter at the original Journal-News in downtown Nyack, N.Y., who could not write his town board story until he had two donuts, a coffee and a glass of water. He laid out the bakery supply and the liquid all in a row, and as he began to organize his notes, he took a bite out of donut #1, then from #2, then a sip of coffee followed by a bit of water. He did this until he was finished with everything, and then he wrote his piece. Left us to report for a wrestling magazine. His idiosyncratic approach was for himself, not an era, though newspapers attract odd balls — like another reporter who had to sit in his car covered by a blanket to think things through before he could put a story to bed.

We also employed a lady scribe who went on to become president of a national press association, who came in at 2 one morning to drop off copy. Fine, we could edit, place it in a page and make deadline. But her delivery was unusual: She was in a frilly nightgown and quite-fluffy slippers, and she said she had to run because her boyfriend was waiting. Uh-huh. I never said a word. It was usual to expect the unusual at 53 Hudson Ave.

If any of us look back at any time or place or individual in our lives, or if we peer at today’s generation, we will see idiosyncrasies — stylized behavior — that gives us a laugh or at least makes the reflection interesting in the continually passing scene.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via

‘THE DONALD,’ at a theater near you


March 28, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Why is “The Donald” popular? This one sentence tells us why. When the media, and that includes some of my colleagues, enables a showman, a magician, an entertainer, then the person becomes all of that and more so. Trump, the likely Republican Party presidential candidate for God’s sake, was re-crafted by the tabloids and supermarket sheets and then the big boys. Lights, camera, action. All the while, as momentum has built, few have asked “Why this man?”

“The Donald,” not long ago a casino operator, a TV reality host, a New York City commercial deal maker, a “I think I can, I think I can” fellow, greatly boosts media rankings and fills the cash bucket. One hundred serious running mates with earned credentials, concrete proposals and solutions for a nation lost because the lights went out long ago in D.C., could not have gotten press attention. It’s far more sound-bite interesting to focus on an unusual hair style than on who can best handle the red nuclear button.

Where are the journalistic questions for The Donald? This man, certainly savvy in the art of the deal, expected interrogation. Who runs for the highest political office in the land, the world, without being asked “why?” But as soon as the media turned the strobes and videographer lights on Trump and left shadows on the other candidates, The Donald knew he didn’t have to answer anything. Instead, throw out the citizen protester, put the light on him, and make the crowd cheer. And the questions go unanswered.

The media has not been serious, not often enough anyway. Not deeply enough. Not in enough credible newspapers still being published. Not on TV news programs that are no longer Walter Cronkite but are entertainment shows.

Instead, a few serious questions pop up on Facebook, Twitter, in other social media, but also the inane. Short words, short sentences, word bites where once there was thoughtful treatise. The Donald answers in like kind, say in reference to a candidate’s wife: “I’ll spill the beans (on her).” In the time it took to write that sentence, how many more middle-class jobs were lost? How many more foreclosures? How much more lead in the water? How many millions donated in hidden political contribution for favors yet to be paid?

The Donald gets free publicity, billions from media fascinated by entertainment, not substance. He didn’t have to spend a dime. Could Abe Lincoln compete with Trump?

Every showman from P.T. Barnum on, and that includes the devil’s own like Hitler, knew that you tell the people just so much. You hit the emotional buttons: “The present government is failing you.” (How? why? when? No details.) “There is no national pride. No chicken in most pots. Law and disorder. Those immigrants are taking your soup, your future. The shiftless are wasting your taxes.” Just enough “fact,” and that distorted, is offered. The crowd, with the best seats for the faithful, begin their chant. “Yes, yes, yes!” And the showman raises his hands and implores, “I can’t hear you! Blow the ceiling off!” So the crowd has its orgasm, but the new “leader” leaves the most satisfied.

It’s an old routine, but it’s not slapstick vaudeville. It is the race for the presidency of the most influential nation in the world, a country that is supposed to be a continuing experiment in democracy, one that constantly is to recognize its faults, its prejudices, its inequality, and the people then move to correct, to educate themselves, to mature further.

The Donald wants to halt the train, clear the tracks of what only he will decide as undesirable and then move on to the station. But who will be chosen to go with him? And will there be enough gold plumbing for all?

This all sounds like a bad movie. Title it “The Donald.”

  The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This essay may be reproduced.




March 21, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

They buried Risa last week, a woman of just 57 years, 30 or so homeless. A strongly independent individual, her cancer came quickly and thoroughly, but it could not easily quiet her voice. That was a fight.
We at the Rockland Interfaith Breakfast Program in Spring Valley, N.Y., most especially the women who ladle out the hot soup, prepare the sandwiches and offer donated and bought items to those who come daily, knew Risa by her arrival. Articulate, she was also of determined opinion. She said what was on her mind, usually politely but firmly. A presence, surely.
It seemed that her choice was to live on the streets. That may be easy to dismiss for some of us. “Get a job.” “Call Social Services.” “Go home to family.” These are easy sentences, but there are not in the homeless vocabulary. They may try those words, but somehow, and it is an easy somehow, things fall apart. For some, mental illness, for others, addiction, and for so many, the fierce, accumulated, defensive independence that comes from living “outside,” under a bridge, in a spot all your own. And on your own. Your own boss. Independence donned as if an overcoat.
While there is not one among the homeless who would refuse a safe, private, heated, lit place, there is nobility in refusal, in foregoing any government-run, community-style, unsafe shelter that is too often akin to hell in its dismissive, costly bureaucracy. It’s often the one defiant choice the homeless can make. It is a dignity of sorts.
Risa took advantage of what was offered — the breakfast program, the annual Christmas dinner of the First Baptist Church in Spring Valley (though she was born a Jew) and Helping Hands and Safe Haven, the nonprofit overnight sheltering that despite being underfunded, manages to operate in donated church and synagogue space for the cold months.
Risa could be angry, and aren’t we all at times? You could hear it in her voice, especially on a bad day. She could and did make her self known. And how many of us do not? “I am me” must be said.
When Risa was diagnosed some months ago, the greatest of her dignity came to pass, for she showed courage in her acceptance. We don’t all do that. Her final time, in a caring hospice, visited by her friends of the street and the ladies who served her food and gave her clothing, brought the increasing light of a door opening to a big, luxurious room — more than that, a mansion and its gardens where she would no longer be homeless, nor troubled by anything. Down here, we will miss her presence, her voice.

   The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced. 



March 14, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

One good-natured joke as we approach St. Patrick’s Day is that if you want to read in Heaven, saddle up to an Irishman or woman for the titles, but if you wish to concentrate, hide behind a tree, for the wee leprechauns in the Irish soul will have your mentor gabbing and gabbing and telling jokes. Now, if you have green in yourself as well, you can always write a tale about it all.

The really wonderful thing about America is its diversity and what each group, and the morphed individual, offers. Included in this diversity are the only original inhabitants, the Native Americans. All the rest of us technically hold Green Cards or are the descendants of those forced into slavery.

Our diversity continues into the country’s fourth century, for the nation has never been a true melting pot, except where cultures have blended through marriage, close neighborhoods and succeeding generations that are U.S.-born. Ethnic traditions thrive even 100 or so years after the first immigrant ancestor in a particular family arrives, and that is to the good since who wants everyone to be the same, and there is much to learn from cultures we do not know firsthand.

That is, of course, if prejudice is overcome, if there is room at the table for all. Another word for prejudice — “preconceived opinion” — is ignorance. The irony is that some of the so-called “educated” among us cash in on prejudice by stewing a pot of bubbling fear over lost jobs, social service costs, discontent, all societal ills, jealously and the special type of ignorance that is socially learned. The rabble-rousers make mischief for their own ends and well use crowd psychology to do so. History is full of such example. Watch the faces at Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies or in “Triumph of the Will,” his mesmerizing propaganda film. Pied pipers walking straight to hell. (Hmm … remove a particular vowel and consonant from that first film title word and you get? …)

Now a fine day for all the good Irish coming up March 17, my late, sainted Irish mom’s birthday, you see. “May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back.” And another Irish blessing, meant for all of us, green or not: “… and bless each door that opens wide to stranger as to kin. …” Room at the table, you see, like upstairs in Heaven, reading a book with an Irishman or not.

  The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via This essay may be reproduced.  


March 7, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

In my youth, in Spring Valley, N.Y., we school kids were all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and at Christmas time, we sang songs for both the holiday and Hanukkah. But beyond these events, there was no one pointing to another and saying, “Here’s the Italian kid,” or asking “What are you?” At least my time in the 1950s never had us believing we were anything but Valleyites in a community where most of our parents and grandparents were also from the village, had gone to the same schools, etc. Heck, we didn’t even think of ourselves as New Yorkers.

None of us thought about being American either, since that was taken for granted. We didn’t feel a need to shout it. The few kids who were immigrants were American to us as well, or at least we didn’t make an issue about it. They were here. They were American. It was just a different time, place, I suppose.

Now some decades later, and here I am thinking about genealogy, probably because I am about to visit my second son Andrew and his wife Patricia and the two grandkids, all in Germany because my daughter in law is an Army doctor posted there. Reluctant traveler though I am, I want to see the family, and it seems the pull of an ancestral land is getting stronger.

Like all of us except our Native Americans, to whom we owe so much (and the debt is yet to be paid), my forebears came from other lands. The surname is Prussian, but the family area that my ancestors left in 1848 or so has been in German, Russian and Polish hands, so I probably have those  DNA in me, too. My mother was of almost pure Irish descent, though her father was English with possible Irish parents.

The trip to Germany is a connection  to part of my family history. It is not a tracing I thought of when I was a teen when I could have asked living relatives about the past. Most of the Gunther family photographs from the later 1800s have disappeared in various moves, and my mother had none, being orphaned by her mom’s passing at age 32 and subsequent separation from her father.

It is a human thing to feel some pride that you are going to visit one of the lands of your ancestors, though in this case Germany’s history — its Nazi times and all that horror — cannot be dismissed. But I will see  a country far different, and there was much in its past to be proud of, of course.

While I wish I had asked questions about genealogy when I could still speak to now-gone family, it was a blessing in the years at the South Main Street, North Main Street and other Valley schools that none of us thought we were anything but Valleyites, and by extension Americans. No rah-rah, no flag-waving, just acceptance. It was a gift, that time.

  The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


Barn Emerging From Oklahoma Prairie


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Each person’s creative process is suited to the individual. For example, if I write a column, I may have an idea on the spot or one a longtime before, squirreled away until it has stewed enough to be further seasoned, prepared, delivered, and, hopefully, digested. I never think about what’s in the pot until I add the flavors because if I write an essay in my head, say on a car ride, when I do sit down to type, the creative moment will have been lost.

It’s the same thing with a painting. When I do one, the idea is not explored ahead of time beyond the basic concept. I may think color, line, form, but I do not make the piece in my head, for, again, the creativity will have happened there and what follows will be a photocopy.

In both writing and painting, I try to tell a story or make an observation that unfolds as I write or paint. It’s like dipping into a stream of running thought, grabbing this or that word, this or that color to build the piece.

I mention the process because of what I hope I am trying to get across today. A painting I finished last week — “Barn Emerging from Oklahoma Prairie” — began on a 24×24 plywood sheet as a red field. I then had an image in mind of a working barn, perhaps for horses, similar to one behind my parents’ rented house in Tallman, N.Y., in late 1949. My brother and I would run off after supper and look at the horses, chickens and ducks, pretending that the big field next to the barn was the Wild West and that we were cowboys. Of course, that image is in our heads forever and informs our continued living, just as images do for all of us.

So, with a barn image in mind and a red field, I began to paint the piece, adding the colors I wanted straight from the tubes and mixing others until a mood developed, and a story began. With the painting left untouched for a time and then a return to it (which is unlike my writing), and that process repeated, the painting was layered with colors, or chapters as it were, and  I then used razor blades to scrape parts of the wood panel, probably to show what had been, just as we do in our lives.

Eventually, I was finished, and I realized I had painted — “written” — the story of an empty barn in the Oklahoma dust bowl of the Great Depression. I see the Okies’ anger, resentment, but I notice their pride, too,  in the land, in that fine building, in the color of the prairie.

Perhaps such a barn is still there, decades beyond the Depression, after a terrible, second war in the world, after so many other battles, recessions, job losses, national and international ups and downs and numerous presidents and other leaders.

The painting then became optimistic, for like the Okies, I think that no matter what the “depression,” be it economic or as today, a paucity of sound political thought, reverence for what has so far been achieved and greed rather than deliberate, responsible investment in all our children’s future, there will be a barn to come home too, a place for the horses again, for the goodness is in the people themselves.

May that be our nation’s destiny.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.


February 22, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Not sure how the man born on this date, Feb. 22 in 1732, would have fared in the recent tumultuous presidential primary voting or if the “father of our country” would have been elected in November 2016. Such are the dynamic shifts following the waves of exasperation, distrust, ignorance and yearning for direction, for a leader this time around.

George Washington was the right person for his time, our country’s first presidency. He did not want the job, was determined to serve but then to move on, feared he would be the new royalty. His great sense of balance and calm leadership — shown on the battlefield — stabilized the footing for the office of the president of the United Stares. He was a blessing, meant to be.

For decades in most American schools, students looked up at a blackboard above which was cursive writing and to the left and right of which were portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, respectively the father of the nation and the successor parent who put the house together knowing that if divided, it would not stand.

The great respect given these two elected leaders was assumed in those old classrooms. Now, even as cursive writing seems lost in the current of ignorant history, the standards set by Washington and Lincoln in their fatherly, guiding service are chapters never read by too many in the electorate, who would cock an ear only to jingoism and P.T. Barnum hawking.

Presidential elections have been toward the gutter before just as they have soared in articulation, common sense and goose pimples. Most have been ordinary, and maybe that’s what Anerica is often about — being ordinary in its particular time. Ordinary enough for the average person to earn a living, raise a family with expectations that betterment will come for the children, assurance that the clocks are wound and the fields planted and harvested, and that a general purring exists, like the cat curled up on the sofa who stretches his paws in assured and trusting comfort.

But today is a scary time, and we the people know not what is to happen come November, nor in the months before, and, most assuredly, in the four years, or eight, afterward.

So many had watershed hopes in 2008, but so very quickly they were dashed in a concerted effort to deny a leader  his chance to do better for the nation. Special interests, the financial and ideological roots of which are so hidden and sanctioned by the High Court, attacked the current president from the start, and though accomplishment was obtained, certainly over the destruction of the previous eight years of war, favoritism for the 1 percent and the groundwork for a near depression, what could have been a heralding of singing angels became articulation echoing against a shrill singalong of lies.

Today,  George Washington would have been 284, born in His Majesty’s American colonies, but his bones long lie in soil almost not secured in a revolution, almost torn asunder by a civil war, almost disturbed by decades of political dissent but for so many generations revered as the eternal resting place of the best example of the American presidency.

Would that all of today’s presidential candidates met at Mount Vernon and vowed to learn that fact and respect it going forward, wherever that may be.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


February 14, 2015

By Arthur H. Gunther III

If we could count the number of valentines not sent on this day in seasons past, they might amount to many unanswered letters. For that is what a valentine is, a response.

Perhaps beyond the teacher-inspired handmade cards that you were to bring home to your mom in the lower grades, you never let her know again your response to her concerns, care, love for you.

Maybe you meant to put together more of those cut-out 5&10-cent-store hearts and cupids that classmates assembled. But you neglected to send one to her or him, an unanswered response to that person’s interests.

Then there was the dating time, and you were ignorant of not only what was expected but what a well-chosen card and a few simple but truly meant words could mean to the other person. Responses ignored.

In marriage, there can also be ignorance or forgetting, but the need to reinforce, to repeat affection and gratefulness and so many other gathered emotions does not disappear even in the regular day-to-day accomplishment. Responses are necessary, reaffirmation of giving.

Lost opportunity, that, when emotion, in whatever form — a card, words, a deep look in the eyes, a touch in passing — does not happen. They are the valentines that should have been sent.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who be reached at



February 8, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

Any good farmer knows that if you don’t plant the best seed in cultivated soil and nurture growth against nature and other adversity, the pickings will prove slim. Simple truth, but the basics are often overlooked. There is also the true story of a prize-winning corn grower who shared his special seed with his neighbors. Why? Because corn is pollinated, and he did not want his own fine crop reduced in quality. Practicality is the farmer’s suit.

If Will Rogers were still with us and offering his homespun take on politics, and, specifically, this year’s “presidential” campaign — if you can call it that — he would most likely use farming references, among other commonplace themes. His genius was in explaining the profound with simple examples.

Perhaps one of his analogies today would be the fact that when most politicians, particularly leaders, move on, they make lots of money. Both Clintons are an example, so are the Bushes. Speech fees, serving on corporation or other boards, and sheer star power bring in big bucks. Rogers might offer in contrast the last will and testament of the great optimist, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the “Magnificent Yankee,” who bequeathed the bulk of his estate, some $250,000, to the Government of the United States.

He did so because he believed in the institution, the fundamentals of which he helped secure but also because he knew that such seed money, however small in comparison to even a Great Depression-era national budget, would make all the crops grow with more vigor and strength. So, he  was a farmer of sorts.

Another Rogers example, if he had lived, would be Harry S Truman, who upon leaving office and arriving by train — not a presidential jet — to his wife’s Independence, Missouri, house, was told by Bess to “take the valises up into the attic, Harry.” The president, who assumed the reins in World War II and managed into the Cold War, knew his power ended with President Eisenhower’s oath. Truman so greatly respected American history that he understood you had to humble yourself once out of office. There was no royalty, and, besides, even the grandeur of the White House is supposed to end for the individual with the term of office.

The former president also refused to join boards for he would not trade on the presidency. His poor economic situation (ex-presidents had no pensions or Secret Service aides in 1952) ended only with publication of his first book.

None of us know, and Will Rogers would not have been able to forecast either, where the 2016 presidential race will go and how it will end. Will there be yet another potential leader who sounds good, makes promises but either cannot govern or is blocked from that by the growing special interests? Will there be a non-thinker, a platitude-offering person in the Oval Office, with the red nuclear button at bedside?

Will the new president be so very well-intentioned, even bright, but kept from reality by the great ring of advisers, aides, generals and others who have his ear when no ordinary person can get the people’s words (“commonsense”) across?

The farmer knows there are fields to be cultivated, not only his, and that against adversity of all sorts the best seed must be planted, and for all. Holmes and Truman were American “farmers” who saw public service as a privilege, a trust. Anyone now on the stump willing to get behind a plow?

    The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at 


February 1, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

The scene was a stage set of sorts, and as with all theater, the place, the people, even the time were of less relative importance than the happening. And it was that, a telling moment.

I was at an elementary school concert of third-through-fifth-grade chorus and orchestra as a grandparent doing family duty but also pleased as punch that I could be in a setting of young schoolchildren. There is such magic there — imagination, wide eyes, inquisitiveness — that comes naturally to kids. They are so much like the characters in the many books and stories, fabled and otherwise, that they are bathed in from infancy. That blanket of warmth and security gradually slips to the floor as they step into bigger shoes, and we are all the poorer for that. Would that our adult world had the characteristics of childhood even as it has its realism and responsibility.

Children grow up so fast that in a millisecond they seem your elders, and you are learning from them. Of course, if we look and listen, they are doing that anyway in the age group.

As a grandparent, you get to observe more than the regular child, who is anything but. There is no “regular” child, of course, just the assortment of the shy, the outgoing, the talkative, the joiners, the daydreamers. So watching these varied types perform in a concert reinforce what you have always known but perhaps have not thought about for some time: There is hope for the future. We were all the irregular child in some way, and others — adults — had hopes for us that for most materialized.

Being the grandparent makes you look at the one you particularly know, and to see my grandson in the school setting, surrounded by peers, in a group dynamic, gave me further clues about who he is and where he will go. There is reinforcing hope there, too.

Such a personal story was turning its pages, too, for the woman next to me and  the fellow on the other side. And for other grandparents. For great-grandparents. For older and younger siblings.

And there was a script for teachers as well, trying to get the job done, certainly, after so much rehearsal and following an already exhausting school day. Their efforts seemed magical in their enthusiasm. I do not know how a teacher musters that each and every day. What an under-appreciated group.

So, the setting, the place, the time, the kids, the full principals, is not important here. Life, the living of it all, is. The world may be a mess, as it usually is. The job market is shrinking. The presidential race is P.T. Barnum. Maybe the world itself is going to hell in a hand basket, which my own grandparents thought in the 1950s. And theirs believed in the 1920s.

But in that Nyack, N.Y., school auditorium, in the compelling moment when you see children open up in a concert as if the spring daffodils had just popped, you cannot help but have goosebumps.

Maybe we should all go to school concerts more often.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


Stairs in Winter/photo/Jan. 2009

January 25, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

The news clip said that New York City and its suburbs were “paralyzed” by the snowstorm, which dumped two inches per hour and which totaled more than in the famous Blizzard of 1888. OK, but the date was not Jan. 23, 2016, but Dec. 26, 1947. Life, it seems, is deja vu.

Yet there are differences between the two snow events, and I use that phrase because it is part of the contrast. In 1947, the few media outlets delivering live news would never have reported on a  “snow event,” just a snowstorm. Language often gets inflated when you hype something. And weather is a most-hyped event in this age of instant news via smartphone, tablet, computer and ever-repeated TV segments.

Yes, the snowstorm that hit my area in lower New York State was big enough, though on my mailbox indicator, it was slightly more involved than average. I have lived at my Blauvelt address since 1973, and we have had a few storms that almost buried the mailbox, which is about 3.5 feet off the ground. This system came up about 1/3 the way. And while some had high winds, we did not. A big storm, but not the biggest.

From all the hype the four days before, you would have thought the earth was heading out of orbit. There were Facebook pictures of empty shelves in supermarkets. Governors were warning they would close roads, which they did (states south of New York, never ready for a big snowstorm since they are rare, ran into trouble. Even the president’s motorcade was held up in the D.C. snow.)

The 1947 newsreel indicated that millions of dollars were spent or never realized in cleanup costs and lost business. And, of course, there were associated injuries, even deaths in the storm. Truly sad. But in 1947, there was little hype about the coming snow. It came quickly, the day after Christmas, and common sense got everyone as prepared as they cared to be. Kids enjoyed the extra holiday present (including my brother and I, then living in Sloatsburg, N.Y.).

But I don’t think bread flew off the store shelves or gas stations had lines with motorists fueling up as if rationing would soon begin.

It’s now a faster-paced world, and “news” has the shelf life of a few seconds. Hype seems the only way to get people’s attention.

It’s paternal pride, but I think my son Arthur IV had the best take on the 2016 “snow event.” Interviewed by FIOS One (Verizon) TV News while he was running in the storm on Broadway in Nyack, he was quoted: “This is New York. It is supposed to snow.”

Yes, and no one had to hype that.

 The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Literally, if you think about it, re-tying one’s shoes can pause your life just enough to alter things. It’s the same argument that if you had left the house one minute later, you might never have seen her face. Write your own story, but you see what I mean.

Now, is this fate? Karma? Heavenly direction? Just dumb luck (or the reverse)? And if you don’t think about  it  — any one act slowing or moving ahead your life’s clock — how will you know the difference?

Do not mean to get philosophical here, but surely we can all recall a delay or speed-up (you left the house early because you awakened early) that made that particular day different. And then maybe you took that day and made some more of the same because you liked it so much. And that changed your life.

This isn’t to say free will doesn’t have play, that you are not the master of your fate. We largely are, though what we consciously plan may never come to past. However, we must move on,  roll with the punches (or be grateful that we were forced to smell the roses). It’s the adaptation that largely involves our free will.

So, how did all this thinking arise? Did I have too much wine? No,  I really did re-tie my shoes this morning. My usual laziness has me just slipping my large feet into already tied shoes, but this time they needed a re-tie. So I did that. It made my day.

Not the re-tie. I wasn’t in the best mood — down a bit — and I was simply plodding through routine when I noticed this father carrying his young daughter through the local home improvement store. The child had the most wondrous face — so very bright, lit up, cheerful, inquisitive. And in her hair she had an equally wondrous artificial flower.

My mood changed. The little girl did the trick. And had I not re-tied my shoes, well, darn, I would not have seen, would not have been in the moment.

   The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via