By Arthur H. Gunther III


The painter who touches you has already made that same journey inward, for he/she takes a picture of part of the artist’s soul and renders it in form, line, color, perspective. If you get goose bumps, you get the picture.

This is a gift, which like all the special qualities any have, comes with the package at birth. Whether it is developed depends on what else happens in life – environment, family, opportunity, using free will to make the gift grow.

So, no artist, no writer, no exceptional teacher, surgeon, bus driver, trash collector, parent, citizen of the world ought ever take an ego trip and proclaim that he/she is the cat’s pajamas. You were just lucky at birth, you see, and don’t let it go to your head.

Now this does not mean everyone with a gift will open the box and take the ball and run with it. Humans are also lazy, selfish or are in hardship that dilutes the potential. So many gifts in so many people have gone unclaimed.

But when the ability is nurtured, when it is given expression, wow, can hearts pound, tears come, skin tingle and connection made. A painting that leaves you speechless or that resonates in your particular being. A novel, short story, play or poem, paintings as word pictures, expressed by the gifted ones, also recreate visits with artists’ souls.  And so you say, “Ah, that’s what I mean.”

Life can be so unfair, disheartening, troublesome, challenging while also offering great joy and goose bumps. Yet on both sides of the aisle, no matter what your emotions of the day, a painting, something written, a teacher’s great lesson, a surgeon’s saving hands, a professional’s sacrifice, a trash collector’s quiet handling of your discards in the early morning, just about anything any of us do or can do will express the gifts we all have, whatever they may be.


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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Fruit in season is like long-sought-after love that suddenly makes connection. The heavens appear, but as in many a novel and short story, consumption does you in, spoils you for the ordinary. You can love no more past this time, at least not in anticipation.

Until the next season. …

It isn’t Adam and Eve here, forbidden taste of the fruit that brings guilt and addiction. The peach in season, for example, freshly picked at maturity, never ripened as a green orb by gas in a truck or rail car from this place or that, is like the magical confluence of things out of this world when the tingle, heart patter and goose pimples of human bonding strike as lightning.

You are hooked for the moment. You do not question why this peach is so full of nature’s best taste, why the skin has a snap never arrived in the supermarket variety, which was picked weeks ago. You simply savor rich sweetness that almost makes you cry, humbles you so in the process that you thank your god or your lucky stars. You are filled with satisfaction, and that keeps the tank supplied until next year.

Once, in this region I live, called Rockland, the smallest New York county geographically outside Gotham’s five boroughs, tree-ripened peaches were the norm. But post-World War II development bulldozed most farms and some of the greatest fruit ever grown, given our particular climate and glacially derived rocky soil. Now, there are but a few farms, like the Concklins, the Davies Family, the Van Houtens. In their place is an insult: supermarkets in shopping strips on old farm land that sell peaches from states far away, perhaps wonderfully tasting in their own element, had they ripened there, but not in Rockland as gassed creatures that are so grainy inside that you must throw them away, even after you have paid $2.89 a pound in “season.” You had hoped, but. …

No, I await the homegrown, larger fruit that like the lover you recognize in the dark has its own scent. For a few weeks there is this love affair that has you coming back for more, even moving you to tears, for no man-made sweetness is comparable to a fresh peach, the skin of which produces a snap at first bite that is exquisite foreplay.

Once your time is finished, you will have to move on, for the fresh peaches are no more. But that is just fine, thank you. As with the deepest of love affairs, the sort that can be revisited in  season but never sustained in ordinary time day after day, week after week, you are satisfied so deeply that routine will never do.
You await the next rendezvous. It is worth suspended time.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This essay, which may be reproduced, first appeared in August 2006.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Back when, and “when” is whenever you or I hold a memory about a place or someone or thing, there was a country road in Pomona named McNamara, and though the signs still proclaim it, no longer is this a rural place. Nor is Pomona, named by apple farmer Nicholas Conklin in the 1700s, still wearing the robes of the goddess of fruit, for most of the trees are now 2x4s in suburban development.

There was a ritual in youth back “when” that included a summer walk from Hillcrest, a nearby Rockland County, N.Y., hamlet, to McNamara, early on before the day’s heat and humidity. It began off Eckerson Road onto State Street, to Hillcrest Avenue, across Rt .45 to Locust (sometimes it was the parallel Faist Drive) to Hempstead Road to Brick Church Road to Union to McNamara, where the hills and valleys, however light, caused young legs to stretch and the heart rate to quicken.

It was all worth it, for along McNamara, just before the old ASPCA  animal center, were wildflowers and hay-like straw, which in the increasing warmth and bathed overnight in the wet, gave off a fragrance that Nick Conklin himself  enjoyed so long ago.

For youth a bit bored by even summer recess, a walk to McNamara with or without pals brought accomplishment as well as passing the time of day. It was also ritual, and we all want that because regularity means some things in life can be put the shelf where they ought to be, and we can count on having them there and taking them down when we need to do that.

Back when McNamara still looked like it had for more than 100 years, a simple walk brought a trip to a friendly place,  made that way by familiarity. Its many changes now in suburban growth and the equally major modifications and morphing in a youth’s growth to adulthood and its  own journey toward sunset mean McNamara Road, now mostly in the Village of Hempstead, can only be a memory. But close the eyes, and a whiff of those wildflowers easily returns.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


By Arthur H. Gunther III

It was at the corner of Marion Street and First Avenue in an American town that the echoes of the past not only filled the ears with a delightful, peaceful sound but the fragrance of the moment catapulted me back decades.

On an errand run in Nyack, N.Y., a community that constantly offers so many echoes and fragrances since it was my family’s principal shopping destination on post-world War II Saturdays before suburbia began to roar and many big automobiles filled with families headed in formation to highway shopping strips and then the malls.

The old Nyack — the old American downtown anywhere — was meant for parking the car and then walking and perusing on Main Street and Broadway. Downtowns have largely disappeared now, though Nyack is still highly walkable even if the full component of stores — so many mom & pops — is not there. Restaurants, bars, yes. A hardware store, health food shop, groceries, a wonderful bookstore, clothing and lingerie places and surely varied offerings for the 2015 shopper. Yet not the downtown shopping vitality of yore. It can hardly be so in suburbia  — we never planned to save the downtowns, shame on us.

But back to the echo and fragrance at Marion and First. As I was walking to a grocery on Broadway, I saw a fellow pushing a lawnmower, the kind without a motor — gas or electric. It was an old-fashioned reel-style mower, and as the fellow gave it a slight push, the blades whirred in particular music, ending as quickly as it began until the next push. Pulling it backward, you heard the ball bearings in the wheels, another distinctive sound. Together, the push and the pull were a cadence, and that produced echoes of a much quieter time in downtown life.

Quiet at the house, on the lawn, that is. Saturday shopping was never quiet, with so many kids on Main and Broadway, in parents’ tow or in groups jabbering to one another. That was also music, with its own memorable echo.

The fragrance that day at Marion and First was the icing on the cake. Fresh-mown grass cut by a hand mower leaves the whiff of the sliced blade, not the smell of gasoline and exhaust.

The chaser to all this — the sound echo, the fragrance — was the great quiet. There was no leaf blower in the cleanup, no rattling of teeth in the cacophony. Just a fellow bending over to collect grass clippings. Serenity in itself.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Today’s social media, like Facebook, showcases much me-ism and egotism, but it can also be telling about someone’s character. And that character, in turn, is telling about the individual’s beliefs. It brings respect, even conversion.

An example:

Pope Francis’ new encyclical on climate change, while providing counterpoint to naysayers of human-caused environmental woe, is blasted as leftist and anti-“progress.” The tactic is to drown the messenger’s words by personal attack. Yet, the sincerity of the pope and his frank and deep reach into the fate of humankind on this earth, our common home, makes your ears tune in.

Pope Francis believes the overuse of fossil fuels, mindless pollution of air, land and water, and consumerism that isn’t tempered by need, all of which offer great profit, are an affront to whatever maker you believe authored this world.

Beyond the pope’s words, one could add that If you are an atheist, then the slap comes to the possibilities of this earth that are being wasted. Whether you pray to a god or not, too many of us are not thinking about the future. Our Native Americans believe that we are caretakers of the land, water, air, that we must protect and preserve and better our home for our children. They have too few on their side. Even if there were no God, humanity requires all to share the bounty and to offer it to those who follow.

There can be debate as to how to rescue the earth, how to “progress” but with responsibility and shared opportunity. The pope is urging everyone of any faith or no faith at all to “think future,” to see the economic and social effects of mindless, blind-sided growth that puts profit ahead of responsibility to all.

Now, this is argument and debate, and the climate change issue has been all that for two decades now. The pope’s words spotlight it, hopefully for the better.  If I were sitting on the fence, I would turn to Facebook, where last week you could catch a video of Pope Francis tooling down an Italian country road in a nondescript, compact car, in itself telling of his humility, when the car suddenly stops and the pontiff gets out to kiss a sick child lying on a stretcher.

Any person, especially of such high office, who in an un-orchestrated way helps comfort the afflicted is worth hearing out. Pope Francis wants us to be custodians of creation. The man was already doing that on the side of a country road. That sort of fellow bears listening to, I’d say.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

When one of my sons bought his 1929 home, a smallish but well-crafted, ideally situated place, he and his wife noticed the paucity of closets, not uncommon in houses before the 1930s. Wardrobes, often stylish and beyond-utilitarian, served instead. And, of course, people had fewer clothes.

The man they bought from offered this advice: “When I buy a shirt (which needs its own hanger), I discard one.” Yankee words, surely.

The comment comes to mind because I have just visited a fellow in New Jersey whose spouse likes to outfit him. Maybe it’s an affection thing. Maybe it’s a hands-on thing. But he’s a busy shoe repair guy and doesn’t have much interest anyway in shopping for anything. He wears t-shirts mostly, the same ones week after week, month after year, etc. Once, after his wife became tired of seeing them, she told him to go to a certain closet, which apparently he hadn’t been to in a while, or perhaps ever, and pick out seven t’s for the next week, and she would make cleaning cloths out of the old ones.

He moseyed up to the attic-area closet and found not 10 or 20 t-shirts but perhaps 100, quite a few dating back to when his weight was less. Some had sayings like “Whatever!” (1990s), ‘Like Totally!’ (1980s), even one from the 1970s, “Dyn-O-Mite!” Now this is a 46-year marriage, so you can believe that the shirts have been around this long. Why the fellow hasn’t worn them yet is a mystery as old as almost five decades. Perhaps Freud could offer an opinion.

Rather than wear the newly discovered t-shirts, the guy might sell them on eBay as collector pieces. Maybe there’s a “Reagan (or Carter) for President” one. He could also give them away to a clothing collection agency, which he plans to do.

At least he can be thankful that he doesn’t have a secret closet full of plaid pants with wildly patterned, buttoned shirts, which was the 1970s norm and which may explain why the nation, from government to society, to the economy, was going down the tubes in that decade.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


By Arthur H. Gunther III

When you are a newspaper photographer, you are like a stage or film director – you set up shots, scenes that capture, it is hoped, the essence, the nut, the who, what, when, where, why and how of an event, occurrence, etc.

That surely was the way I worked as a lensman for The Journal-News, a daily paper in Rockland County, N.Y., some years back. Today the focus is less on such set-up shots and more on capturing the moment candidly, ostensibly so you do not “manage” the moment, so you do not add artificiality or even the hint of a staged check-passing photo.

Actually, we photogs of the 1960s at The JN – Ken Muise, Andy Dickerman, Al Witt, Warren Inglese and I – never clicked away at check-passing moments, and we tried not to over-direct or stage a set-up so that it became cliché. Most of the time, we took what Al properly terms “posed candids,” which simply meant you observed a scene and maybe moved a person to keep from cutting someone else’s head off. The result was the better telling of a story, in my view.

But no matter what the approach, the shot must say something.

That’s what I was trying to do one hot summer afternoon in Nyack, N.Y., at the former Tappan Zee Playhouse, a seasonal theater off a street called Broadway.

The play was “Three Men on a Horse,” a 1930s comedy in three acts by John C. Holm and George Abbott. The director was Sam Levene, his fifth Tappan Zee appearance, Levene not only directed “Three Men On A Horse,” but reprised his original starring Broadway and film role as Patsy, a professional if not always successful gambler. Bert Parks co-starred as Erwin in the farce Levene originated on Broadway in 1935 that at the time was the longest running comedy, running 835 performances.

Levene was principally a character actor – gangster, detective, neighborhood colorful figure – of the 1930s and ’40s, a balding man with a mustache and a sharp New York City attitude and accent. He was excellent in his work, especially when he hit Broadway in the original “Guys and Dolls.”

The fine actor was directing when I walked into the cool, darkened theater for 10 or 15 minutes. I was there to do a publicity photograph for the summer stock play, soon to open. I quickly grabbed a few actors – my standard approach, for I wanted a tight close-up to dramatize the play rather than a bird’s-eye view of 10 thespians on a stage, taken from the tenth row.

I had composed many such photos and enjoyed theater publicity, for you could be a bit more creative with play shots, using natural or “available light,” and the actors were just perfect, ready with all manner of great expression, unlike most living photographic subjects. So very easy to “direct.”

Usually the director knew I was coming and would let me do my thing, recognizing that I, as a professional, was a “director,” too. He or she would step back as a “second unit” director, helping if needed.

Not Sam Levene. He was just like one of his tough film or stage characters, grabbing me by the arm and interrupting the shot. “I am the director here,” he said. “In my theater, I set up the shots.”

Well, Sam set up the shot he wanted – not unlike my own – but I worked the angle my way since I was the cameraman, not him. We used the same three actors I was already “directing,” and the photography went quickly, allowing Sam to go back to his main directing job.

I chuckled as I left the playhouse, adding Sam Levene to the long list of characters – famous and seemingly ordinary – that you meet as a news photog.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at This column originally appeared on Jan. 22, 2007. 


By Arthur H. Gunther III

I am not a teacher, but I know a good argument about education. And the children are losing it.

I live in New York where, as in many other states, the focus is on testing students and teachers because of claimed declining standards since at least the 1970s. The companies that perform these tests make money off what “reformers” say will provide benchmarks for improvement. The general consensus, if we believe statistics, my own media colleagues and often the ill-informed (especially politicians), is that kids today are undereducated, particularly in the basics of language, arithmetic, history, perhaps common sense.

And all this, if true, is because teachers are overpaid, lazy types who cannot themselves pass competency tests, or so say the critics. Of course, no such tests are required of the politicos who demand them nor of those whose own old school records might make us question their argument.

Meanwhile, too many teachers, who have chosen their careers, who perhaps were prepared a bit by teacher’s college but who really learned on the job (like we all do), do not get full respect. At least not enough of them enough of the time. Still underpaid in many areas of the nation relative to other government workers — in salary, benefits and retirement — they are criticized for being off in the summer when what is not calculated are the hours spent after school — nights, weekends — preparing lesson plans and grading tests, and, increasingly, answering parent emails.

I am prejudiced here — there are fine teachers in my family and I know other fine teachers, most of whom have retired but all of whom are recalled by former students often enough that they are lifelong instructors. I know I still make decisions based on what Mr. Gram or Miss Rouy or Mrs. Still, etc., taught me.

And I am prejudiced, too, against the shrillness and lack of understanding of much of the anti-teacher rhetoric because I know that if teachers could get through to someone like me — a real day-dreamer and challenged in other ways — then something right was going  on. Yes, this is 2015 and next year will be 2016. Social issues, economic difficulties, family dynamics, drugs, crime  — these concerns are so very evident now. That brings more challenge to teachers, but our teachers are up to it. They need support, though.

Many opinions  are offered on how to “improve” education. I was once among them as a newspaper editorialist. Missing is teacher respect: We no longer trust our teachers to win the struggle as so many once did, as so many now do, quietly, in frustration but in sure achievement, every day.

What are the answers? There are poor teachers who must go. But so should some  doctors, police officers, governors, senators, plumbers, ordinary workers in every field. Schools need money that is properly spent on students. Teachers must direct the reform, not politicians and parents. Parents must get their children ready for school not only by dressing them but giving them a proper, well-structured, loving home. There cannot be two worlds for these kids — stability in school but not at home, in the neighborhood.

We should all want to improve education. Just walk past an elementary school and see the eager, laughing kids in first grade. Soon enough, this great potential will be in the eighth, then the twelfth grade. As we all continue to argue over how to educate the children, they will grow like wild flowers. Time to tend to fertilize the soil. And the teacher, no one else, is the farmer here.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

PIERMONT, N.Y. — This Hudson River village just north of New York City is where the Normandy Day landings were staged, literally. It was from the pier here that U.S. Army soldiers and their units gathered to be taken to the large ships at New York and then across the Atlantic to England, to the Channel, to the historic World War II battles. Earlier, others had left for the North African and Italian campaigns. There is a statue of “G.I. Joe” in this community, and we are reminded every time we pass of the great sacrifices offered by the 1.1 million men who walked through Piermont 1943-45.

As a newspaperman some years ago, I was privileged to offer remarks standing next to Joe, not as tall as he, not even as humble, but in sincerity. I repeat them now in his honor, in the honor of all our veterans of all our wars and conflicts and for those who serve(d) in peacetime, too.

“We are not alone here, at this corner, on this Memorial Day. In our humble tribute, we are surrounded and saturated by the spirits of the good people who marched by in 1943, ’44 and ’45.

• The young man from Wisconsin who saw his mother’s face on a woman he did not know, sitting on her porch off Paradise Avenue as he passed. Soon enough he would be with the 36th Infantry Division at Cassino, and the images of the two women would become one, warming his soul in the cold of battle hell.

• The fellow from Camden, New Jersey, brought to Camp Shanks in the middle of the night on a troop train, who a few weeks later would ride on a transport driven to the Piermont Pier by one of the many women of the home war effort. Maybe he recalled her deft steering of the deuce and a half when he saw the Red Ball Express materiel delivery teams after the breakout at St. Lo and the race to the Rhine.

• The two brothers who last touched American soil at Piermont, one off to the U.S. II Corps at the Kasserine Pass and the other with the 45th Infantry at Ragusa, Sicily. Only one son would make it back to this good earth.

• The older man, a private anyway, who was not drafted but who joined and  became “Pop” with the 106th Infantry at the Battle of the Bulge. The calm hills over Piermont, one of his last sights of America, were in his mind in bitter cold, snowy woods of that awful blitzkrieg December.

• The fellows who shaped up at Shanks for the 32nd Field Artillery and the First Medical Battalion, units that saw a quiet U.S. sendoff and then the shouting, cataclysmic horror of D-day and D-day plus one.

• And all the men, almost all civilian soldiers, once machinists, salesmen, the unemployed, farmers, professional workers, sons and fathers, neighbors and strangers, immigrants and Native Americans and all whose forebears came to this nation free or not.

They are the spirits who once moved as humanity through this Piermont, past this spot where the inanimate but full-of-life G.I. Joe statue gives constant nod to their service, their courage, their sacrifice, their protection of one another.

This scene of continual reverence plays not only on this Memorial Day in Piermont, but on every day of the year, in every year, in every small and big town in these United States. Not one community has been left untouched in the world wars, by the Korean and Vietnam wars, and now by Iraq.

Wars are fought by the then living and endured for decades afterward by the survivors. The memorials we erect to those gone are in worthy and humble tribute and comfort the living, but it cannot end there.

What Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg must be remembered, must be repeated at each gathering such as this:

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”

Many good people, many ordinary ones made so extraordinary in calamity’s forging, marched past this little spot in Piermont on the way to war. Not all returned, and those who did had to live the lives of their buddies, too, fulfilling the promises of a safe and secure democracy, so that, as Lincoln added, “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

You hear such voice still, here in Piermont, from the one-million-plus spirits who passed through to the European Theatre of War. They will never stop speaking, in this village and in all of this America.

We must listen.”

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









By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYACK, N.Y. — This village a bit north of New York City and west of the Hudson River has long been recognized as part of the famous “Underground Railroad,” the network of secret trails, safe houses and courageous people across color who helped slaves escape in the 1800s. Now, thanks in part to activist Bill Batson, who is also an artist/writer, what has been known locally will both be recognized with a sitting place and given national publicity.

Bill, rightfully proud of his long-integrated community with such a rich heritage of families living and working together, has helped bring author Toni Morrison to Nyack as guest speaker for the dedication of a bench in Memorial Park.

The sitting place, one for reflection against a beautiful river view, is the 15th latest “Bench by the Road,” a project of the Tony Morrison Society. In 1989, the Nobel-winning author who has a home in neighboring Grand View,  described what she saw as the insufficient  placement of enslaved Africans and their descendants in our nation’s history. She would write “Beloved,” her famous novel, to detail and bring life to that history.

Specifically in Nyack, the facts show that the village played a vital role in the Underground Railroad through the efforts of conductor/safe house operator Cynthia D. Hesdra (1808-1879).

Morrison had told The World magazine that  “There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There’s no 300-foot tower, there’s no small bench by the road. … And because such a place doesn’t exist … the book had to.”

So began the benches by the road, thanks to the author, donors and volunteers like Bill Batson, who has been working on the Nyack project since 2010. The initial  bench was placed in South Carolina, at Sullivan’s Island in 2008, where slaves first set foot in the western world. Other benches are found in sites historical to slaves and their freedom journey.

In Nyack, where the latest sitting place will be dedicated Monday, May 18, with ceremonies beginning downtown at 2:30 p.m. and speaking by Morrison later in the park, the reference to Hesdra will be furthered and made deeper. A state historical marker on Main Street has long noted the Underground Railroad and the Hesdra Family, and The Historical Society of the Nyacks as well as the Historical Society of Rockland County and the local newspaper,  The Journal News, have made detailed reference to Nyack and the Underground Railroad for at least five decades.

Yet the “bench by the road” may prove to be the most significant emotional recognition. As Batson was quoted in a newspaper story, “In my mind, Cynthia Hesdra was a superhero. … (she became) a successful person who used her wealth to save other people’s lives, that’s the stuff of Marvel Comics. She’s an Avenger … This makes her history tangible, something you can touch.”

(The Nyack Public Library is offering an exhibit on Hesdra, the bench project and the Underground Railroad, and The Historical Society of the Nyacks is showing “An Underground Railroad Monument Comes to Nyack: Inspired by Toni Morrison, Honoring Cynthia Hesdra.”

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




By Arthur H. Gunther III

On a fine spring day — and we have had just a few of those in the Northeast this year since our old-fashioned, cold, snowy winter forced us into a long season of overcoats, only to shed them faster than Grant took Richmond when unusually hot periods with Georgia-like humidity blasted into town — on a fine, rare spring day, you are young again.

There is a certain whiff of innocence in a new spring. It is a fresh start, and the successive seasons haven’t had their way yet. When I was a younger fellow, I caught this fragrance, though it is more than just  a “pleasant, sweet” scent, on a road called McNamara in what was then unincorporated Ramapo township but is now the Village of Wesley Hills, N.Y. Before the great suburban subdivisions arose on Tammy Road and Sherri Lane and Remington Way, there were more hills along McNamara, covered with winter straw that fertilized spring wildflowers. The delightful quiet as you walked in the valley of the McNamara against those fragrant hills offered any young person a life of hope, for this could be a piece of Heaven itself.

In a later season, when I began to drive in the early evening of a warmer spring day, with roll-up windows down since no one had air conditioning, that same scent continued to offer the possibility of believing in the future.

Now, many springs later, with so much change in life, in the world, on the McNamara Roads we all have known, though development may be so extensive that such byways no longer seem to be peacefully rural, though the car windows may be closed, it takes just a millisecond to recall what was and a moment to stop the car, take a short walk and note yet another fine spring on a road that still leads to Heaven.

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




By Arthur H. Gunther III

It used to be that the smog from coal furnaces and smokestack industry defined cities, along with dark alleys and film noir scenes, but with the urban renaissance, things are now much more in vibrant color rather than black and white. There has always been the upbeat, of course, and it’s just perspective that is in cyclical renewal. The glass half-full or half-empty thing.

Yet one constant has always defined Gotham — our New York City — or most cities, overseas included: the tabloid newspaper. Want to see pictures and read stories about murder, mayhem, social oddities, the fellow who feeds pigeons off a tenement rooftop, the Damon Runyonesque characters who are the heartbeat of cities? Read the tabs.

While the New York Times (or the other broadsheets, of which there are fewer and fewer as readership declines in a digital age) report on government and politics, finance, social issues of import and investigative matters, it is the tabloid that takes from the fast current which is the urban stream of life.

Even today, with many immersed in smartphones or tablets, you’ll find tab readers on the subway, in city parks, at the lunch counter, eager to catch the grisly murder (New York Post: “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” or gossip/social news: “Lady is  a Trump,” another Post headline, telling readers about Donald’s Trump’s third marriage.  You don’t find those headlines in a broadsheet.

And then there’s the comical. Last week, New York City’s two remaining tabloids, the Post and the Daily News, each reported on an unusual 311 hotline complaint. (The hotline is the city’s “main source of government information and non-emergency services”.) Seems 311 has been called numerous times by apartment house dwellers who can’t sleep or otherwise enjoy quality of living because their neighbors make too much noise while having sex. Honestly, that was the substance of 311 calls, with the most complaints coming from Brooklyn and lesser numbers from Queens, the Bronx, Manhattan. None from Staten Island, though, which might bear a separate investigation.

That people might actually call a government hotline over a personal matter which  they could handle by a simple knock on the neighbor’s door perhaps speaks to classic urban anonymity and chutzpah. That tabloids report such news in a front-page story is also classic, highly so. (“This Couple Has there Loudest Sex in NYC,” the Post.)

Ah, cities never sleep (some people, obviously). Nor do the tabs. Bless ’em. They report on the slices of life that show foibles to faux pas to the fantastic to the familiar.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

When a son loses a father, there is such a flood of emotion that it will take perhaps the rest of the younger’s life to sort things out: No father-son  relationship is ever fully understood. Here you have the offshoot of the tree, which itself was an offshoot. Which branch is the stronger, the more dominant? Is there a twist to the branch, a different look, an architectural sculpting that sets it apart? All those branches, all the sons of all the fathers, spend their worldly time looking for their own light, their chance to shine, away from the father’s shadow, which can be a long cast, indeed.

When my father passed last week at 92, a relatively quick moment since he had been quite well — independent, living alone until a month before — suddenly there was no Dad to visit, no one to argue with, no one to ask about family history.

I have spent the last 20 years of my life trying to figure out who my father was. Survival of self depends on knowing where you came from, how your positives and foibles fit a pattern, how the roots nourish the tree, the branches. This has become even more  important since I have two well-grown sons, and even as I tried to fathom my Dad, they want to understand me.

In my journey with my father over these decades, I came come to know the man, the young man who he was, the economic difficulties faced in depression and wartime, early marriage and the climb to middle class in the great post-World War II opportunity.

When my father died, I was a little boy again, but my Dad was not by my side, walking away from the hospital on that long sidewalk. He was back there, gone, but my hand instinctively reached for his. For all my life, my father was present, even in our strong argument. I expected him to pass one day, and I was practical about it — assembling  legal papers, asking him about final arrangements, etc. I am now my father, the oldest of my family, and there are others who walk beside me on that sidewalk. I have responsibilities.

Yet the little boy does not want that, not completely. He would rather be in the Sloatsburg woods looking for trees at age 4, or playing with his father and brother in Spring Valley’s Memorial Park at 7. Or helping move into the Hillcrest house at 10. Or talking to him after high school graduation, the school that was his, too.

As so often evolves in father-son pairings, a son relates more to the grandfather, the very person the father himself had moments with. Perhaps that is because the grandfather carries regrets that he was not the full father — no one ever is — or maybe it is because the grandfather recalls his love/dislike relationship with his own dad.

Such are the dynamics of the man, the son, the tree, the stronger and heavier branch, who begets another branch, and that limb brings forth another.

In my Dad’s passing, in my recognition of my own mortality, in my observation of my sons who are my family tree’s branches,  I see that life continues. I see almost a plan, a blueprint of things that had to be. I look back for a moment at my now vast tree, just as you do yours, and I am at once immensely proud, grateful, sad, wistful, regretful. Most of all, I am thankful that the apple does not fall far from the tree, however unpolished at times it is.

Thank you, Dad.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

With the beginning of World War I just a bit more than 100 years ago, with the lessons of that first of two cataclysmic 20th century death-rendering events as unlearned as they are in all conflicts, there are words that still draw emotion, words from the once living, words inscribed by 20-somethings, many of whom did not survive to build their lives.

In Naours, France, near the Somme battlefields where more than a million men were killed or wounded, and where all were somehow afflicted forever, there are some 2,000, century-old inscriptions recently discovered, or perhaps found anew by others, as is the way with history.

At Naours, there is a two-mile-long complex of tunnels 100 feet or so deep with side chambers dug over the centuries,  used in the Middle Ages for shelter during invasions in northern France. The caves became a tourist attraction, and during the Great War, they were visited by soldiers, who left graffiti.

Gilles Prilaux, an archaeologist for France’s national archaeology institute, began a three-year study of the tunnels last July and found the World War I markings by British, Canadian, Australian and U.S. troops. A recent Associated Press story by Greg Keller also reported that “Photographer Jeff Gusky has tallied 1,821 individual names,” names of people who “wanted to be remembered.”

Well, yes. These are soldiers who knew they might die the next day. Here was a chance to leave an epitaph, a diary entry, a comment on it all. “It shows how soldiers form a sense of place and an understanding of their role in a harsh and hostile environment,” AP quoted historian Ross Wilson of Chichester University in Britain.

One inscription reads:  “HJ Leach. Merely a private. 13/7/16. SA Australia.” He was a 25-year-old from Adelaide who was killed in action less than a month later during the Battle of Pozieres. The AP story noted that his father would add his own inscription to a stone on Pvt. Leach’s grave in the Australian cemetery in nearby Flers: “Duty Nobly Done.”

How many more words might have been written and spoken in full lifetimes by the soon-to-be lost souls who visited the Naours caves in respite from the trenches? And what of the many who perished on other battlefields, in other wars, then and now? Do we hear them speak? Do we listen?

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


By Arthur H. Gunther III

If you combined a well-composed, British statesman-like fellow, complete with ever-present smoking pipe, and a fan who could give “da” loudest Bronx cheer at a New York Rangers hockey game, that would be Dick Yerg, the late newspaper sports editor.

Dick and I began our days at The Journal-News in Nyack, N.Y., in the earlier 1960s. I was a young photographer and he was the newly named Rockland sports chief after Joe Dineen was drafted. We worked together on many assignments, with Dick always in the field with both notebook and pipe. As a Nyack/Rockland native, he knew everyone in local sports. His father owned the village Buick dealership, and that showroom introduced Dick to even more people. Having such connections quickly paid off, with the new sports editor obtaining exclusives and adding much color to his well-written stories.

In those 1960’s and early 1970’s days, The Journal-News Sports Department was a raucous group, not beyond throwing volleyballs across the room and cheering as the radio shouted out yet another baseball or football game. Dick was the mother hen in all this, letting the kiddies play but fully expecting top work. As such, he was a beloved boss, almost unflappable, very professional.

Back when newspapers were in every home, sometimes several papers, morning and afternoon editions, the local sheet earned its bread and butter in its sports reporting. Little League games, high school football, every sport for boys and girls, in every school, in every town and community, that was news. Countless scrapbooks have been filled over the decades because of local newspaper sports departments, and Dick Yerg was among those editors directing scribes and photogs in the gathering of memories.

Newspaper writing is often at its most colorful and descriptive in sports, because the full range of emotions is played out: victory, defeat, cheers, joy, tears, sportsmanship, the buddy system, even cheating when the sport goes dark. When Dick was in charge in Nyack, and later at the sister newspapers in Westchester, this sort of “color” writing was routine, expected. What a productive moment for both reporters and readers. Now so much less in the growing disappearance of newspapers and any writing longer than a Tweet.

Though Dick retired and moved to Florida after decades in newspapering and in Nyack, he never forgot local sports and his hometown village, often posting on Facebook commentary about Nyack, Rockland, and, of course, his favorite team, the New York Rangers.

Dick Yerg: A true class act.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at

A LIFE’S JOURNEY (continuing)

By Arthur H. Gunther III

There is, of course, a cycle to life — a beginning, an end and if the gods are with you, much in between. The beginning begets most of that fill-in-the-blanks, with so many tangents formed, much like the branches of a well-rooted tree. And the apples do not fall far from the tree.

In a wink of an eye, it seems, my father, who is one of the roots of my tree, has aged, sent off to hospital with the ailments of his moment, soon to a try at rehab and then we will see. A man in his 90s, driving up to a week ago, living alone long after my mother passed, independent, cleaning his home, cooking, washing, never a complainer. An hour at OTB, the local news on TV or in the paper, short visits from his sons and my own son — that made him happy enough. Not a hermit, not a recluse, but a man of solitude, of quiet.

Then came “sudden” medical complaints — blood thinner overload, dehydration, an infection. And the worst ailment of all: utter helplessness when you cannot walk. You cannot stand. When you fall and it takes two hours to drag yourself to a phone just across the room and call someone, and that person, once so fearful of his father’s authoritative voice, hears instead a child-like plea.

You get to his home, only four miles away, but it seems to take an hour, and you find your dad wedged behind a chair. He is not hurt — doesn’t yet need medical help, doesn’t want anyone to come anyway — the independence, self-reliance still at work — so you try to get him to bed. But he is dead weight, this father once of strength, and you no longer can  lift dead weight. You drag him by the shoulders of his sweatshirt down the hall to his bed, both of you laughing at the absurdity of it all. You have not been this close physically to your father since the two of you, with your brother thrown in, wrestled in the first grade.

Once at bedside, thankfully a low one, you manage to get a leg up and to cantilever your father onto the mattress. He is pleased enough and falls asleep. But the next day, you both realize an ambulance is a must, a hospital stay inevitable. You tell 911 it is not a dire emergency, and the Orangetown police, South Orangetown Ambulance Corps and the paramedics  are superb — understanding, so professional.

Later that day, after your dad is settled in the emergency room and is awaiting admission, and you can do nothing for a time, you leave to do your Thursday duty, to walk two grandchildren home from the Upper Nyack Elementary School. Sam and Beatrice sing and skip, and even when you tell them that you had to take great-gramps to the doctor, that does not sink in, as innocent as their time can be and ought to be.

You go to their house, in a beautiful old Hudson River village where so very long ago their great-grandfather at similar age walked with his dad, and you find yourself sitting in a rocking chair, the same one your father’s father bought his wife Maud so that she could comfort infant Arthur Henry Gunther Jr., my dad.

In one day, my elderly father’s roots come full cycle, and though time is now very limited for him, and by relation and relativity for me as well, the laughter, the silliness of my dad’s great-grandchildren playing as I sat in that family chair reaffirmed that the tree continues to grow from its roots, as in the beginning, the end, as in new seasons, as in fresh apples falling not far from the tree.

Arthur H. Gunther II is a retired newspaper editor who can be reached at



By Arthur H. Gunther III

This isn’t the time of year to discuss holiday or other occasion cards, but a recent email from an artist friend in Colorado prompts a memory. She writes, “My latest ‘adapting’ kick is reworking old ready-made cards. Remember back in grade school when we would cut up cards that had been collected and slap them onto construction paper?”

Well, I do recall, as do probably many of you readers. Two of my teachers — Miss Rouy in the third and Mrs. Still in fourth, at the old South Main Street School in Spring Valley, a  village north of New York City, knew that reading, writing and arithmetic didn’t by themselves add up to a full education. Imagine, they knew this long before “Common Core” standards and teacher evaluation panels.

(Even today, when I do arithmetic in my head, which is a good brain exercise, I recall the 2 p.m. sessions when we all looked at the back of Mrs. Still’s classroom and repeated parts of the times table, hand-drawn and placed on the wall. That memorization, as well as the actual memory have helped me get through life.),

We had a regular, twice-a-week art teacher, Mr. Buttons (yes, that was his name), but Miss Rouy and Mrs. Still also got us involved in craft activities. They would bring in greeting  cards from their collections, some as old as the early 1900s, some quite elaborate with  cotton-stuffed covers made of silk. They would line up the cards on the chalkboard rails, and we students would rush to get the  best ones.

Making these cards was fun, and we enhanced our imagination and development skills. It was also a good bonding experience in the classroom. Didn’t cost the school district a dime.

Years later, I went to an installation of greeting cards at a New York City museum, with some of the cards worth many thousands of dollars. Guess Miss Rouy and Mrs. Still could have been rich. Instead, they made their students richer.

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



By Arthur H. Gunther III

Ride a bicycle and you never forget. Years, decades later, and you hop on as if you were still the eight year old though your  joints may creak more than the bicycle chain. Not that much different when you have the coldest/snowiest February in Northeast America since 1934. You get in the swing again.
Most of us weren’t around in 1934, and even if we were, it may not have been in the Northeast, but there have been enough snowy times in most lives that while recent winters have not been so harsh in my area, at least, we can recall when snow was piled high, icicles overhung our house gutters and we could not get warm enough though we might carry 15 pounds of layered clothing.
Of course, we all exaggerate, so it is common to hear many of us say, “When I was young, the storms were relentless. …” It’s as if there was a Blizzard of 1888 in each existence, though the individual may have been born in 1988. Or we say, “This is an old-fashioned winter” when all we ever saw of that was a Hallmark card, complete with sleigh, a Victorian home up a drive and an ice pond filled with skaters. Perhaps we all want to feel nostalgic even when we may well be tired of the snow. It surely is true that the first snow of the season brings the greatest childlike excitement, but like young love, the effect can be wearing if it continues too long.
For me this winter has been about the survival instinct. So back to the bicycle analogy. When the first flakes fell in February, and the road had ice beneath the snow, I drove 9-20 mph on a six-mile trip at 2 a.m., with few others on the road. If I had been 16, I probably would have hit 30-40 and tried to fishtail my car. If I were 40 with kids in the car, I would have been cautious, but confident, perhaps traveling 25 mph. But as a senior and not having driven in heavy snow all that often in the past few years, I could not immediately find my sea legs. I was on the bicycle but didn’t get balanced.
That ended quickly, right on the return trip that icy morning, when confidence returned and the “feel” of the snow road came through the tires to the brakes and to my foot. I was again at 20-25 mph, with assurance. Now, five or so storms later, I am an old hand, as if all our winters were like 2015. It’s even fun to drive a bit in the snow.
While the false bravado of youth has not returned, recognition of experience and application of commonsense sure do truss you up and make you feel as of you can tackle the winter beast.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

A photo of a dress from a London shop, blue and black, made its viral way around the Internet last week because some people saw it as white and gold, or hues that approached blue, gold, etc. It all has to do with how your eye accepts light exposure. No big deal, except that it was yet another of those games that you spot more and more on social media sites, some meant to test your inner psychology. (As in “What car are you like? Take the test!”) Heck, there was one good way back in anyone’s school days that is just as psychologically true today, just as relevant in a light-enough, non-earth-shattering way.
Take the test.
Where did you sit in class? Always near the windows? Close to the door? The third row? In the middle of any row? The last seat way in the back?
When I was in college, this time on a renewed try while working for a living, I didn’t have many moments to spare since the combined hours of traveling, sitting in class, being a newspaper photog, helping run a household, etc., kept things tight. So, it was easier to choose the same seat in every class, if I could. I’d get to the first day of class early and hit the window row half-way back. Much easier to find my place in any class in a rush. It worked for most of my courses.
In high school, often the seat you took on the first day was the one you had for the term, the teacher making up a seating chart, which might be amended if you talked to your neighbor. Somehow, the same people were always in the front row, the back one, the window side, the seat under the wall clock, the middle row, middle seat. I bet if high school reunions — elementary ones for that matter — were held in the old classrooms, some of us would gravitate to our old spots, no matter how many years have passed since we day-dreamed like me or sat up straight, hands folded on desk.
Just like the social media site psychology tests (“What color are you?”) seem to be on the mark, so, too, would your chosen seat (or the assigned one, if the teacher intervened) reveal YOU. Day-dreamer near the window? Tired fellow with pre-school-hours job in the back row? Or the one who didn’t want to be noticed? The person in the middle row, middle seat, who liked to be kept secure, surrounded by classmates? The two friends near the back, against the wall, who could talk without being noticed?
What seats are best for passing notes, flirting, getting out of class fast?
And who disliked it when the teacher had us push the desks to the side and form a circle of chairs. Did you feel vulnerable? Did you raise your hand to be noticed? Could the day-dreamer do his (her) thing in a circle? At least rows of seats added to individuality, or joining the crowd, or sharing friendship with one or two or three other students in nearby seats.
Finally, what about the teacher? Did he (she) have a favorite row to glance at, others to stare at, still others to ignore a bit?

Like I said, Psychology 101.

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


Hopper Bedroom Gini copy

Completed bedroom. Note the window light.

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     82 North Broadway, Nyack, N.Y. — When you paint in a great artist’s childhood bedroom, in space where the Hudson light seems a direct path from Heaven, off the river and straight up Second Avenue, you are humble. Humble even if you are simply covering a wall with latex, part of a sprucing-up after a fairly serious renovation.

Recently, I was the artist in an artist’s bedroom, not doing artist’s work but trying to be artistic. I am a trustee of the Edward Hopper House Art Center and, along with Lynn Saaby, Dave Sirois and Brian Levine, we of the House & Grounds Committee try to offer as much volunteer repair work as possible. Giving free labor, and, often, materials, has been the secret of success in affording maintenance of the 1858 house where Edward Hopper, the famed American realist painter, was born in 1882.

Ever since the once-deteriorating home was rescued by concerned citizenry and refurbished largely through volunteer work in the 1970s, the mantle has been passed from crew to crew to keep the iconic village structure in top shape. While these days that cannot always be accomplished with just volunteer expertise and labor, and focused fund-raising is necessary for infrastructure concerns (such as the ongoing drive to waterproof the basement), Hopper House continues to rely heavily on what labor and materials can be offered. I have been privileged to be among the volunteers, all of us taking cues from Win Perry, the Upper Nyack historian and architect, and his original 1970s restoration crew.

Those volunteers and early trustees saw to rewiring, heating, structure and wall repair, flooring and other work so that the art center could begin to offer space for artistry of all design and taste and to honor Hopper as as well as to rescue an old Nyack house. The mission continues more than four decades later.

For whatever reason, a portion of Edward’s childhood bedroom, a particularly sunny part of the house on the southeast side, was never fully repaired. A long-ago water leak had deteriorated the original horse hair plaster on wood lath, and the wall on the south side, including the fireplace surround, had been removed down to the full-size 2×4-inch balloon framing, made of locally milled wood and which runs from the basement sill to the roof line.

Over the years, the bedroom had been rented to various artists to help supplement Hopper House income, and those painters did not mind the rustic nature of the exposed wall, which included Haverstraw brick infill for mass and early insulation.

Last year, the room was taken off the rental list and opened up to visitors eager to see Edward’s bedroom, where most likely he was conceived as it was the master bedroom until just after his birth when an addition was put on the north side.

Hopper House decided then to complete the long-overdue repairs, which was to include new wall work,  period molding, improvement of the fireplace hearth and paint. I got the job, and this volunteer spent about two weeks wonderfully enjoying the tasks.

Each day, and some nights, it was inspiring to see the effect of both sunlight and moonlight in the room and to again realize that Edward, whose paintings are so very much about light, was obviously affected by constant nature in his bedroom. The birth of a great artist took place in this room, literally and figuratively.

Repair work was made easier by a large table, perhaps 4 feet by 12, which Edward built in his Washington Square, New York City, studio to dry printed black and white line drawings from copper plate etchings. (Hopper House was given the table by Edward’s neighbor after the man, a professor, retired a few years ago. He had received it from Jo Nivision, Edward’s wife and fellow painter.) I was careful not to damage the rustic oak table, and it sure came in handy.

The wall repair was quick enough, using drywall and a finish that mimics plaster. The moldings required extra work since we had to match them with what might have existed, or at least come close. I mixed this and that profile and hand-milled some pieces to achieve the desired result.

In the end, the restored wall fits the original bedroom, itself the inspiring scene of several Hopper paintings. It may not be perfect, for I am but a volunteer craftsman, but I took pains to respect the house and the artist.

No, I did not channel Edward Hopper, which might seem a temptation, especially when you are in the bedroom at 8 a.m. on a bright, sunny day and the light streams up Second Avenue through the large windows and onto the walls. But neither can you ignore the fact of his existence, his childhood and early adulthood in that room. As a writer, photographer and painter, I can call myself an artist, though that definition bears no resemblance to artist Edward Hopper. Yet if there is kinsmanship at all, it was a bit brotherly to be working in the great man’s bedroom.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who long toiled for the original Journal-News at 53 Hudson Ave., Nyack. This essay recently appeared in the newsletter of the Nyack Historical Society. It may be reprinted. 




By Arthur H. Gunther III

Here’s a story. A very human story. One that might remind you of your mom. And a cold day. And simple soup. And a complex world.

We have been having old-fashioned winter in the Northeast, not as bad in New York State as in New England, but quite cold — single digits and enough snow to double the  effect. Not too bad if you have today’s central heating, a warm car with electric seats and a climate-controlled workplace. But not so good if you are homeless or otherwise stand in line at 7 a.m. waiting for a local volunteer breakfast program to open its doors.

One recent Tuesday, during a storm that prevented five of the six volunteers from hitting super-icy roads in the wee hours so they could prepare breakfast and a bag lunch,  a line of hungry people formed outside United Church in Spring Valley, N.Y., where, since 1985, the Rockland Interfaith Breakfast Program has unfailingly served daily.

So far in 2015, an average 100 people, sometimes as high as 150, queue up to eat what the cook of the day and the other volunteers put together. Tuesdays is always pancakes (pancake flour, brown sugar, honey, vanilla, eggs, milk, coffee);  Polish sausage (two-inch pieces, baked for 2.5 hours at 220 degrees in apple juice, with seasonings, sweetness); oatmeal (also flavored and with raisins, not boiled but simmered in a boiled mixture); and soup (might be canned mixed vegetable or minestrone, seasoned and simmered for two hours). There are desserts, juice, milk, coffee as well. Then the fellows and gals take a cold bag lunch.

On the recent stormy Tuesday, only one of us was able to get in, and by luck, that was me. I could not prepare the fine lunches the ladies do (I have five girlfriends at RIBP, I am the only male Tuesdays). I also could not get desserts out, but I did do the pancakes, sausage and, most of all, the soup.

This was a soup day if ever there was one, with temps at maybe 10, with most of the homeless sheltered overnight at the church in the Helping Hands program, also run by volunteers and Ya’el, the director. But not all the homeless chose to stay inside, as is the way with independent people who harden to adversity. We also had in line men and women who hoped to shape up for whatever shoveling or other work that local contractors might offer.

So, it was very cold, the line to get in was long despite the storm, and awaiting them was nourishing, tasty food. But what was the hit of the morning? It was the soup, this time canned chicken rice simmered several hours with pepper and parsley plus other flavorings. The entire serving area was filled with the fragrance of that soup, that simple offering.

I worked the ladle, and as the people came up and received a large foam cup of very hot soup, as the steam of that hit their chins, almost to a man and woman, their noses dropped to the rim and they took in the smell of the soup. In English, in Spanish, in Creole, you heard “thank you,” but it was as if these good people were not thanking the fellow ladling the soup, or the breakfast or overnight staff, but their moms.

Just about all of us recall playing in the snow, walking home from school in February, horsing around with pals on a Saturday, and mom called us in — friends, too — for steaming tomato soup with noodles, or chicken soup with rice. Homemade, canned with seasoning and noodles added, whatever, the hot soup was proof that moms existed, for those lucky to have one. And affirmation that someone cared.

That was the look on those men and women, in a small but significant, long-serving  volunteer food program that asks no questions, makes no judgment and does some good.

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




By Arthur H. Gunther III

Sometimes a person comes along as if the moment were a conversation with a plane passenger whom you’ve just met and who will soon move on to her own destination. Yet, however short the time, there is a connection that cannot be forgotten, though it is also not something you dwell upon. It is reassurance that life isn’t just about getting through things.

That is what happened to me so long ago now, about 1970 when a newspaper colleague and I found we were often on the same assignment, she a writer, I a photographer. Town Board meetings can be long affairs, with downtime, and you shoot the breeze. Diana was an involved conversationalist, and we both began to look forward to exchanging thoughts. She listened, I listened, and the mutuality of that recognition of worth proved key to friendship. This wasn’t romance, the conversations, but the growing strength of expectation, of sharing words, was ardent in itself.

Diana could enter sentences I began, and I hers, and that had happened to me only once before. It is a gift when there is such synchronicity, when there are goose bumps from the understandings made, the reaches into another being realized. It is a purring moment, like two friendly cats comfortable with each other. You cannot invent such relationship —  it just happens.

A few months after our conversations, I would move from photography to the news desk and then on to editing and eventually editorial and column writing, and Diana would marry Al and move to New England for a very long and happy relationship. I would say we simply lost touch, though there never was any thought of keeping a connection, and except for two brief but sad greetings when her parents died some years back, I had not heard of or from Diana. Now I have.

I am told by her brother, who was my school classmate, that Diana passed Feb. 1 after a long illness which even he knew little about. Diana apparently wanted no one to suffer with her, not surprising given the breadth of her compassion for others in those long-ago conversations.

In my remembrance of her after I heard the news, I can hear the words, see the gestures, feel the human connection between two friends in a public meeting hall. You cannot underestimate having a special friendship forged in a moment, not celebrated much beyond that but somehow an eternal one. And I am eternally grateful, Diana.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Being bored is good, kids. Skip the video game, the phone, the computer and all the scheduled activity. Take a walk, sit under a tree, in a library corner. Climb a branch (safely), go down to the river, lie on on a pier, scale a snowbank. And do any of these things alone, with no friends. No mom, no dad,  no friend, no teacher.

Give yourself an hour to do nothing. Get bored. Very bored, and just when you think you are going to burst from inactivity — from not checking your phone, from not hitting the video game console button, from not jabbering away with friends, from not jumping, once again, into the family car for a trip to dance, yoga, karate, Scouts, whatever is structured, just when you are about to throw in the towel, I bet a light will come on. In your brain. In your muscles. In your heart. In your being.

Eureka! Boredom may seem as if you are running in place forever, but what it actually does is to eventually propel you like a wound-up rubber band on a toy balsa airplane propeller, soaring into the sky and them gently gliding. Boredom makes you look inside. It scavenges your brain for all those buried bits of creativity that you noticed — colors, forms, shapes, ideas, thoughts that you can build upon in your own creativity, artistry, problem-solving.

You cannot do this, take that journey, an exquisite run, if you are so focused on the selfies, the messages, the functions of your TV remote.

Let the mind wander. With no one else around, you become your own best exploring buddy. and it can be fascinating.

Even boring, repetitive tasks can stimulate creative thinking, as the hand does the routine work and your brain flies off for a moment or two.

Being bored, and finding results, can boost your esteem, add to purpose, bring motivation.

Sit on a street bench and count the cars, take an imaginary trip in one of them.

Life isn’t just about excitement or stimulation. It is about intentional boredom and where it can take you, kids.

Kids? Hey, adults, too.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

NEW YORK STATE — As this being written, a “blizzard” is clipping its way toward my section of the nation. “Blizzard” is a big word here, quite unlike in some other states. The new media loves the description because it pushes news, although if newspapers in particular had the staffs they used to, real news would be schools, government, sports and features. A “blizzard” proves convenient to fill a lonely front page.

The hope is that the storm, at present expected to dump 18-24 inches in high wind, will not take lives, harm anyone and be met with the commonsense more prevalent, perhaps, in yesteryear. Yet the hype of the last few days has had residents expecting the worst, as if we have never suffered a heavy, large snowfall.

Not many seasons ago, such storms were common here, and vehicles were ready with chains on tires, to ride on streets not cleared to the black. Schools closed if the buses, when there were any, could not get through. Businesses were open to the extent possible. Snow was part of winter, and the media made little of it, except if there was some paralysis, such as in the blizzard of 1888.

Yesterday, the stores were jammed with shoppers buying enough food and provisions for a week, when the storm should disrupt for two days only. But such is the panic fed by the hype, to fill a news-hole that should contain the who, what, where, when, why and how of the ordinary events, and the extraordinary, too.

Modern high-speed news delivery, the need to constantly update, to feed smart phones and tablets, encourages over-exertion of “news,” to make more of things than we should.

I pray the “blizzard” is less than expected, and the dangers of any storm cannot be made light of, especially for responders, but the first rule of delivering information is balance, and the second is completeness. There’s a lot of news out there that going unreported.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

It’s all about the middle class, and it’s not a selfish thing. The people in the middle historically prove to be the rescuers of both the lower and upper classes, the lower because when you have a vibrant middle class, long-term, benefit-added professional jobs are created, and that economic stability builds hope, grows compassion and renews  neighborhoods. The upper classes, well they actually make more money, for investment in enlarging the middle class and making it hum brings economic stability that multiplies. (The post-war G.I. Bill took non-high school graduates from the Great Depression and sent them to college and trade school and so brought the prosperity of the 1950s and beyond.)

Today, after decades of declining re-investment, insufficient re-tooling and a lack of smarts by American business, after years of well-intentioned but bureaucratically misapplied government over-regulation and, now, because the dictatorship of the uber-wealthy by special interest rules our nation, the American middle class, created by the Industrial Age, Progressivism, two world wars and manifest destiny, is surely disappearing. And with it, the re-nurturing of democracy that the Founders intended.

Corporate greed is sending jobs to China and elsewhere. Focusing on the bottom line instead of the future of the economy is creating a third world-like underclass that permanently will be out of work or in low-skilled jobs with no pensions and self-purchased health care.

At stake is much more than the loss of buying power. No democracy long sustains  without a healthy middle class. Small towns and suburbs will further decay, and costly, debilitating  crime and social problems will rise. Some cities will fall as well, though parts of others, like Manhattan, will be protected enclaves for the penthouse rich. Children will be lost as progress regresses for the almighty dollar.

When you have government that wisely regulates business, as did Republican Teddy Roosevelt’s administration, when there are commonsense rules to control greed, when business reinvests in the workers that make them money by providing reasonable wages;  by assuring pensions and health care; by supporting collective bargaining; by investing in infrastructure; by paying corporate taxes because that money regrows in job renewal; by fair trade practices; and, mostly, by an attitude that those who have must help those who have not, the pay-it-forward theme of human decency, then you rebuild a nation once proud of itself.

It is appropriate on this day, which honors Martin Luther King Jr., to quote the late civil rights leader: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Injustice is also cause for possible rebellion, the  “Let them Eat Cake” dismissal of the growing greedy the match that could light the fire.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYACK, N.Y. — Helen Hayes, once and for a long time the “First Lady of the American Theatre,” soon will no longer have her distinguished name on Broadway. The Helen Hayes Theatre on West 44th Street, the second to honor her since 1955, will change its marquee, the new non-profit owners selling naming rights in that wonderfully awful new tradition. Yet this grand thespian, who owned an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony, will never lose her mark in the village she called home from the 1930s to her passing in 1993 at age 92.

Actress Hayes, who called herself Charlie MacArthur’s wife in this Hudson River village, the lady who entertained World War II troops at the Camp Shanks embarkation camp in Orangeburg, the president of the Nyack Garden Club who had meetings among her beautiful backyard roses, was well sought after on stage and screen but in Nyack, the ordinary pace of life was just as much a lure.

Though the death of her daughter Mary in 1949 devastated her and put her husband, co-author of the famous “The Front Page” play about newspapermen, in never-ending sadness until his own passing in 1956, Miss Hayes made the show of her life go on, increasingly in extensive charity work. Her particular devotion to the Helen Hayes (rehabilitation) Hospital in West Haverstraw was a long-running, deeply felt effort until her death.

Often, notables are splashed in self-promoting, even outrageous and scandalous behavior on the front pages of supermarket tabloids, magazines and now in social media, Helen Hayes preferred her publicity to be her body of work, her village life in Nyack and her charity efforts.

Yet, as one theater critic wrote, Katherine Cornell (Miss Hayes’ friendly rival and also variously known as  the “First Lady of the American Theatre”) played every queen as a woman and Helen Hayes every woman as a queen.”

I can attest to that, having waited about 10 minutes on the old living room couch in Miss Hayes’”Pretty Penny” mansion before she came down the grand stairs so that I could get photographs for the old Journal-News.

This actress, who played Mary Stuart and, of course, Victoria, eventually descended the curved stairs, but slowly, almost pausing on the first landing, which was next to a large portrait of her as one of the English queens.

It was grand entrance, quite theatrical, but totally lost on a country bumpkin like me who was already thinking about his next photo assignment.

The photos were taken, and Helen Hayes was most accommodating. (I found that almost all actors I photographed took easily to the camera and especially to directions, as they knew their best poses and also were used to stage and screen nudging).

Now, so many decades later, I wish I had spent more time on that assignment, which was one of perhaps four or five that shift. I wish I had taken more shots of  the actress, even asked a polite question or two. What opportunity was lost.

Broadway will soon lose “Helen Hayes” in lights, for a second time, but the memories this lady of the boards for 80 years left the masses and the individual will continue to shine most brightly. She will always be the “First Lady of Nyack.’

(Perhaps the firm that buys naming rights to the present Helen Hayes Theatre will simply buy them in her name, keeping Miss Hayes on Broadway for years to come.)

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Small diners in my part of the world in lower New York State a few decades back were known for tasty, homemade food served by owners and their staff who seemed like family, especially for the regular customers. They were homes away from home. Actually they could be small theater for the characters within.

Each diner — Hogan’s, Tiny’s, Sparky’s, etc.,  often several in every village and town — was small enough — like an old railway dining car — that you were intimate with the other patrons but also, if you buried yourself in your newspaper, you could be by yourself. Not unlike the table at home where your siblings might be jabbering away but quiet you wanted to be lost in your thoughts. It was possible even in small spaces.

Our diners, like small-town eateries anywhere and even the intimate ones in cities back when the eateries were just that –simple — knew their customers. Those regulars would be greeted accordingly, usually with voices loud enough so that the rest of us took notice and either said hello or mentally checked off our list that another member of the “family” was in the “house.” Reassurance, again.

Diners offered further intimacy with staff, including the waitress who knew all about you, who had your order placed even before you sat down, who kept a pencil in her hair and a check pad in her apron pocket, even if she took your order by memory.

And there was the grill cook, the fellow at the “flat top,” who had home fries simmering on low heat in the back left and who used the full surface to griddle pancakes, eggs over easy, burgers, onions, without burning anything, his hands quick to open up the left-side refrigerator where he took out American cheese or reached overhead to pull bread from the Pullman loaves left by the local commercial bakery, Ramapo or Widman’s. The cook was truly intimate with the customers, some of whom would purposely sit in front of him to watch him work. One advantage was that you could fine-tune the time on your eggs. Some of these grill cooks, like others in the old diner industry, were itinerant, and they came for a few months in summer and went south in the winter. But they were as regular as a clock in showing up at the right time.

The customers were regular, too, in their often quirky ways, as in any family. One fellow I recall stirred his coffee about 15 times, after loading it up with five spoons of sugar. Then he banged the spoon on the rim of the green java cup as if to wring out the last drop. Finally, with an “ah,” he began to literally slurp the coffee. Did this each and every time. Did that routine for years. And, funny as it was, it was reassuring to the other regulars in the old diner. Reassuring to him, too.

In those days, the police chief came in, the mayor, the auto mechanic, the principal. Everyone knew each other or of one another, often going back generations. So there would be nods and small questions, like “How’s the vegetable patch this year, chief?” Overall, it made for trust, especially with the police. They were your neighbors.

Maybe the world, at least parts of the American world, especially our cities and anonymous suburbs, could use a few of the old diners, their staff, their food, their patrons. They could use reassurance from “family.”

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



Arthur H. Gunther III

       Some of us go home again by passing the house we lived in as a child. Others visit the old neighborhood. For Elaine Freed Lindenblatt, it’s a restaurant, or at least the building that remains. Not just any eatery, but the famous Red Apple Rest between Tuxedo and Harriman, New York.
Reuben Freed, Elaine’s father, opened the restaurant in the 1930s, and it operated through the 1980s on what was once the key road to the New York “Alps,” the largely Jewish summer hotels in the Catskills that gave respite and recharge to families trying to escape the summer heat in broiling Manhattan and the other boroughs.
Elaine, who knew about lox, chopped egg and many delicious, homemade foods before she learned her times table, has written a book about the Southfields restaurant and her beloved father and family: “Stop at the Red Apple” (State University of New York Press, Albany). Its 265 pages, with photographs, is at once a love letter to Reuben Freed; then applause for those who built a business from scratch and invested day and night for more than five decades; and, finally, as the sunset of the restaurant became inevitable, a historical journey about part of American culture.
The Red Apple Rest was known to every budding and successful entertainer who performed in the summer resorts but also to Route 17 travelers and locals. It was family. It was a way stop, a place to refresh, to rest your feet, to kibitz with your fellow motorists, to meet other people, to have a good nosh, and above all, to enjoy. Heading north to the Catskills had to include a long moment at the Red Apple, for it was an old friend that had to be visited to make the trip complete. A visit up, a visit on the way back. And this was true even after the Thruway was constructed in the early 1950s. Travelers would get off at Hillburn and then take 17 just to visit the Red Apple.
Elaine Freed Lindenblatt is a masterful writer. She is at once accomplished in her prose and then poetic because she releases the emotion of the family and its business that were so thoroughly enjoyed by so many for so long.
This is a book to sit with and savor in another “visit” to the Red Apple. It is beyond a family story. It is many stories, and so many are the enduring, revealing characters, so well described as are the decades and the culture in those years.
(For more information about “Stop at the Red Apple,” visit

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


For some years, my son Arthur IV, a writer too, offered a holiday story published in place of my former newspaper column. That tradition now continues on the web. 

– Arthur H. Gunther III



The year had passed quickly, always too quickly.  And here it was December.  Here it was Christmastime, once again.  Instead of simply putting up trees and hanging ornaments, instead of searching for gifts and holiday parties, there was this.  There was the old house to clean out.  Charlie hadn’t grown up there, but it was definitely home to him.  It was inevitable that one day he would have to sort through the memories that lived in all the corners and hallways of the old place.  It just seemed odd that it was happening now, at Christmastime.  It wasn’t that his grandfather didn’t celebrate the holiday.  He was always there, in the background of photos, sitting at the dinner table.  He gave out presents like everybody else.  It just wasn’t a holiday that was synonymous with the man.  Birthdays, Father’s Day, Halloween, sure, but Christmas, no.  And now this year his grandfather had no choice.  He was the focus of the season.

It wasn’t as if Charlie’s grandfather was irreligious.  He definitely exuded a sort of naturalistic morality.  It just wasn’t formalized.  His being didn’t seem to stem from any printed set of rules.  The way he went about his daily life was less about the lessons of organized religion and more an appreciation of being alive and all that it implied.  Christmas didn’t seem to hold any special place in his grandfather’s heart.  So as Charlie went through boxes in the attic and cleaned out drawers, it was easy to forget that the holiday was just a few weeks away.  Charlie supposed that he could wait.  There was really no rush, but he couldn’t bring himself to put the job on hold.  If there was one thing his grandfather was not, it was a procrastinator.

So Charlie would stop by the old house each day, his task there bookended by his job and getting ready for Christmas.  He cleaned out the basement and then stopped by the firehouse to get his tree.  He went through drawers in the bedroom and wrote out Christmas cards that same night.  He weeded through the attic only to go straight to shopping that evening.  The weeks passed and suddenly it was Christmas Eve.  Charlie had just a few odds and ends to finish in the kitchen and the job would be complete.  He unplugged the refrigerator, cleaned out the coupon drawer and took one last look around the house.  Charlie was just about to head out the door when he noticed the small picture frame that hung to the right of the staircase.  He hadn’t even noticed it.  The frame had been in place for so long that it was more like wallpaper to Charlie’s eyes by now.   It had a rather simple photograph of the outside of the house in it.  Strangely enough the frame hung in the corner where his grandparents used to put their Christmas tree, back when Charlie’s grandmother was alive.  Now that he thought about it, he was pretty sure his grandfather had not gone to the trouble of putting up a tree since.  Charlie reached up to take down the 5×7 frame.  He’d keep it.  At least he’d have a picture of the old place to remind him of the memories.  As Charlie took the frame down, he noticed the backing was bursting off the metal frame.  Before he could figure out the reason, the cardboard popped off and out spilled a pile of photographs onto the floor.  Bending down, Charlie saw that they were all the same pose, taken in the very corner of the house he now stood.  Each photograph was of a Christmas tree.  There were several with just his grandmother, looking like she was in her early twenties, right about the age when she married Charlie’s grandfather.  Then there was one of his grandmother pregnant.  What followed were pictures of his dad and later his uncle at various ages, all with his grandmother, all in front of that year’s Christmas tree.  Eventually it was simply his grandmother and the tree again … in the last one she looked about the age she was when she passed away.  There must have been 30 pictures, all told.

Charlie was stunned.  Christmas must have meant a little more to his grandfather than Charlie gave him credit for.  The man had kept all these photos right here, exactly in the place where he and his wife placed their Christmas tree every year.  Charlie wondered if his grandfather took down the frame now and then and looked through the photos, looked over the memories.  Maybe he did it every Christmas.  Charlie guessed it really didn’t matter.  For the first time that year, it felt like Christmas was here.  Charlie packed the photographs back into the frame and turned off the lights, shutting the door behind him.  It was Christmas Eve and now Charlie had one more present to take home.

The writer is a school teacher in the South Orangetown, N.Y. district. He lives in Upper Nyack, N.Y., and can be reached via


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Just months after World War II ended in August 1945, the Nuremberg trials began with impressive agreement among four of the Allied nations that those who commit atrocities in war are to be held accountable, that “following orders” is no excuse. Pity that such unanimity against horror — war is the ultimate “atrocity” — did not prevent the world conflict in the first place, the one that came after World War I, “the war to end all wars,” but such is the politics, often of convenience, among countries. Yet it can be said the Nuremberg trials of the Axis Powers participants were a moral watershed. Pity, again, though — and again for the rationale of “convenience” — that the 1945 moral purpose is now tainted by the U.S. in its deliberate sanctioning of sophisticated torture by CIA operatives and associates in the name of preventing terrorism.

That the operatives are also free of any crime since they were “following orders” is an insult to those men and women, children, Holocaust victims and civilians who lost their lives or suffered physical and emotional trauma during World War II. That horrible time owed surviving humanity a higher moral plain, and the Nuremberg trials set the stage. Pity, again, that a key actor left the stage and marched into the same shadows of rationalization to justify the end, by whatever means. Civilization is not civilized if such thinking endures. And torture is just that, be it by megalomaniacs or those “defending” democracy. There is no democracy if it is tainted.

A key principle at Nuremberg was that following orders — or even interpreting orders that results in torture and depravity —  does not wash. The Nazis were guilty of ordering, encouraging, enabling “war crimes,” or as the charter establishing the “International Military Tribunal” stated in part: “War Crimes: namely … murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war … .”

Following that reasoning, torture, which surely includes water-boarding, threats to kill detainees’ relatives and mock executions, all cited in the recent Senate report on CIA operations involving suspected terrorists since 9/11, is inhumane, is criminal.

While this is not new controversy — the U.S. Justice Department had investigated for some years and said it had insufficient evidence to convict anyone — a democracy employing such interrogation is guilty of ignoring human rights in the name of protecting same, a moral impossibility.

There will be some — many, perhaps, who conclude that avoiding future mass attacks on this soil justifies obtaining information no matter the means. Others, perhaps purists, including myself, contend that either you are a democracy and adhere to its humane principles or you are not. I do not want my flag saved by mock executions or shocking someone standing in water. I would rather fight — even die — to save that flag, with other “citizen soldiers.” Even die but keeping values intact to the finish.

To what end, this torture? The information gained is necessarily suspect given the way it was obtained.  And the $300 million or so spent in the CIA interrogations was squandered while Detroit went bankrupt, while our middle class was (is) losing jobs,  when there was so much need to assist Americans.

The Founding Fathers believed  in universal rights,  in human dignity, that the government later defined by Lincoln as that “of the people, for the people, by the people” must be directed by the people, that it cannot behave as it pleases. Our recent government has done just that, and with utter shame. What price democracy?

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




By Arthur H. Gunther III

In war, the human story trumps the “sturm und drang,” the storm and stress played out by the good guys vs. the bad guys. If not for the human element, each side might just as well blow up the other, for war is never the solution. It is inhumane.

And so it was about 70 years ago, just before a war-weary world readied as best it could for Christmas and Hanukkah or had already observed holidays of peace amidst chaos, that the last major German offensive of the War, “Unternehmen Herbstnebel,” the Ardennes campaign, now so famously called the “Battle of the Bulge, began. There would be many stories of humanity, reported and not, in the largest sustained fight on the western front, which continued for three weeks with much life lost and thousands of casualties.

Before the Bulge and after, a related American push to secure the Hurtgen Forest on the Belgian-German border also raged with exceptionally deep loss for a campaign later criticized as tactically unnecessary. It would prove to be the longest fight between U.S. and German forces in World War II.

It was in the Hurtgen where an exceptionally reaffirming story of sacrificing humanity unfolded. There, on Nov. 12, 1944, German Leutnant Friedrich Lengfeld, 23, died of severe wounds sustained while attempting to pull an American soldier out of a minefield. A plaque was set in the Huertgen military cemetery, proclaiming in both German and English: “Here in the Hürtgen Forest, on Nov. 12, 1944, Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld, a German officer, gave his life while trying to save the life of an American soldier lying severely wounded in the ‘Wilde Sau’ minefield and appealing for medical aid.” The lieutenant’s memorial is the only known one for a German soldier placed by opponents in a German military cemetery.

That an act of such compassion and bravery by Lt. Lengfeld and then, even with the great horror of the Bulge and the terror of the Hurtgen (where artillery fragments rained down on troops), that one enemy would honor the other side, reveals once again that war can never kill God’s purpose, which is, of course, humanity.

  The writer is a retired newspaperman whose Uncle, Winfield Gunther, lost three fingers to Hurtgen artillery “rain” on Feb. 10, 1945, his son’s birthday. This essay may be reproduced.



By Arthur H. Gunther III

Regrets in older life, especially when there is time on the hands that goes to the head and prompts a critical look-back at how things could have gone better, certainly can include holidays. Such as Thanksgiving.

Just about all my youthful ones were spent at our grandparents — the one set of such that we had — and what I thought at age 18 would continue forever abruptly came to a halt when they moved to Florida, a blessing for them since it was so much more affordable than burgeoning suburbia.

For my brother and I there was limbo. And I guess for my parents, too, since the “family” gathering was now reduced to just four, and though there was well-prepared holiday food, the table seemed pretty much the same as any other day of the week. Eventually, we two siblings gave our parents a break — and a gift — and encouraged them to enjoy Thanksgiving with a trip to the race track for some mild betting and mutual entertainment. My brother was off with friends anyhow, and I was independent, so no big deal. We had had 18 or so Thanksgivings of the Norman Rockwell type, and the family could chew on that for a long time, until we both had future families of our own, and other irreplaceable traditions began anew. Limbo was OK.

I had two unexpected reprieves from that, though, when I was invited to a house not far from where I lived. I went, I thoroughly enjoyed the food, especially mince pie that was homemade and which I had never tasted and haven’t since because I’d rather recall the  original flavor. The family made me quite welcome, and the day reminded me of my many Thanksgivings with my grandparents.

What was missing was my own gratefulness and lack of social grace. I brought nothing to these two occasions — no flowers, no candy, no dessert. Didn’t even think of doing that. I also did not say “thank you” to the family.

Excuses are that I was age 20 the first time, but I was 24 the next visit. I had little money the first Thanksgiving, and just a bit more the second, but something could have been arranged. And a “thank you” costs nothing but is worth its weight in gold.

Regrets. Way past my 20s now, and those I should have thanked are long gone, one way or another.

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



By Arthur H. Gunther III

Thanksgiving — the traditional American one — and any gathering in any nation among any people at any time that seeks to express individual and community gratefulness for their bounty, however small, is affirmation that we do not live by bread alone. That we can celebrate such awareness by breaking bread is further proof of thanks.

When I was a child, my family’s Thanksgiving was simple and as expected in a blue-collar household where Thursday’s holiday was followed by Friday’s work: The day had special significance. That I had just one surviving set of grandparents made the moment even more of an anchor.

The day in Spring Valley, N.Y., at my grandparents’ home, offered the fine, deep smell of slow-cooking turkey, though I never ate that, preferring American cheese, I am afraid. But I enjoyed cranberry sauce, without which there would have been no Thanksgiving, and my Nana’s well-mashed potatoes, which tasted just right, particularly so on this occasion.

The windows, single pane, were clouded by condensed water, for the house was very warm with the oven and the people. My brother and I made circles on the glass and looked up and down the quiet streets of Summit and Ternure, just as my father and his brother had done years before.

After the main course, there would be the homemade apple pie and a cake from Tancos Bakery downtown that my father had picked out for the day. Usually a lemon variety.

The dessert would come a bit later, for dishes had to be cleared and hand washed, and our stomachs were full anyway. I spent the time waiting by getting awfully comfortable in my gramps’ recliner, next to a big standard floor lamp with a bright, 100-watt bulb. The stack of Saturday Evening Post magazines awaited, and I usually got through three.

Dessert came, and while the adults had their usual conversation, I went back to the chair cocoon, happy that I had experienced yet another Thanksgiving in that wonderful 1914 house, in a very small town where my dad grew up, where I went to school, walked to school, where I had friends and where adult cares, challenges and the highs and lows and promise of all that were yet far off.

Like I said, a traditional Thanksgiving, for no matter how you celebrate the day or something like it, no matter where you are, what happened on your “thanksgiving,” especially as a child, if you were so fortunate, eventually makes the man, the woman of you.

But, first, it gave you precious childhood memory.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via

This essay may be reproduced.



By Arthur H. Gunther III

No essays this week, just pictures and the “poetry” that seems to go with each one.




Woods, solitude,
wind whispering

as nature writes

a melody

in a long,

wonderful breath



In their season,

at picking,

the best first

Then the ones

not noticed

but still worthy

The poor ones

gone begging, just
ahead of the drops

Cape Chair


Beach sand

awaiting impression,

particles of glass


Until flesh


Life stamp

before the next

leaves a mark



Asleep, dreams

from the mind’s

collected bits

On a journey

of the fanciful

Alarm sounds,

reality returns

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



f1 copy


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Look at the photograph above these words, and what do you see? Is it dawn or dusk? The answer might mean you are an optimist or a pessimist. Or perhaps you like endings better than beginnings.

This image was taken in the morning near Dennis, Cape Cod, off the King’s Highway and near the bay. The tree has survived winter storms and had lost a main trunk, but it has lived. Its fate could have been different if the tree faced the Atlantic across the island at Falmouth. Optimism.

When I shot this photograph some years ago, the brightness of that particular morning, the briskness of it, made me think fall was coming though it was still summer. I suppose that was my early-day optimism, certainly not shared by the beach-goers who would arrive two hours later in high-80s temperature. “Yes, thank you,” they would say to the sun. To me: “Go home, autumn lover.” Optimism began for the vacationers when the bright sun kissed their rental bungalow screens with the beckoning of a full day of light and heat.

On the Cape at least, the setting sun can also mean optimism, for it is the ritual there to gather waterside and clap as the bright orb sets for its nightly nap. It’s like tucking a child in bed, the parent reassured that all is right, and that the promise of growth will continue after a good rest. So, too, with a rising sun on the next new morn. Optimism.

After I made this shot, I headed off for coffee, which is another optimistic time for my mornings. The caffeine rush, the strength of the brew, the childhood recollection of working people in my hometown diner drinking java from green glass cups — all set the day right for me, from the start.

So, on Cape Cod,  in my Blauvelt, N.Y., home, or wherever you are, I hope it’s the freshness of the rising sun that gets you going.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Many personalities and almost that number in characters passed through my Editorial Page desk at the old Journal-News in Nyack, N.Y., 1978-2006. Like a farmer pleased with a bumper crop, I was always provided with a fertile field of human emotion, accomplishment, sadness and elation for commentary. To a man, to a woman, to a child, all these people’s  stories made you feel humble, for the tales of the human world are life itself, no matter the age, place or time.

So many unknown among us achieve without notice. So many suffer from this ailment or weight upon shoulders but get the job done. And so many do good, paying their own relative fortunes of whatever sort forward. Their stories are largely left untold.

Editorial pages, which may soon no longer exist, the victims of cost management in the shrinking print media, traditionally have heralded the extraordinary who die in office, who have served the people. But the journalist writing those pieces, him(her)self usually a bit jaded by the hoi polloi and more attuned to the common folk, really chew better on testimonials for the ordinary achiever whose praise would otherwise be unsung.

And, so, we come this day to two such people, presented here in appreciation and respect, not on an editorial page but at least in words. While both were Rockland County, N.Y., people upon death, each could have lived anywhere in the world for their kind are in every community.

My first person of note is Albon Platt Man IV of Palisades, a community volunteer and peace activist for most of his 95 years. Albon was a most articulate fellow, precise in speech and manner, and a stickler for correct grammar and word usage. Yet his kindly ways nudged his criticism rather than applying it hammer-like. He spent a total of 45 years in two publishing and editing jobs.

He was a local historian who helped publish books for the Historical Society of Rockland. He volunteered in many community ways, including at a home for the developmentally disabled.

Admiration for Albon Man comes easily, but for me it is anchored by his sacrifice for his beliefs. As a young man and then as a retiree, he opposed war, and he walked the talk by serving three years in prison for refusing induction into the U.S. Army.

When I was asked by the Historical Society to collect 100 of my newspaper essays and Albon and the late Associated Press writer Jules Loh edited them into a book, Albon asked me which was my favorite. “A fraternity of life and death,” I said, which was commentary on the World War II film, “Saving Private Ryan.” Though a pacifist, Albon, a man of dignity and great empathy, also understood “the fraternity of battle death,” of brothers in war but beyond it. In a way, I was talking about the ultimate peace. Albon knew. It is both the warrior and the peace-maker who can end all war and instead concentrate on the good the world can offer.

Albon Man contributed much in his own ways. I have rarely met such a principled, selfless person.

My second person of note is Jean Kathleen Sammes Gardner, a longtime Nyack resident who was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England (what a wonderfully sounding location). “Top girl” at Reigate County School, Jean volunteered in the London Civil Defense Corps, helping manage underground subway stations filled with residents during the Nazi “Blitz” bombings. Later she was in the British Women’s Auxiliary Air Force where she was a radar reader in top-secret work. She met her husband, Harvey C. Gardner, an American, and moved to Nyack in 1953.

Jean was an ardent community activist, fighting particularly for Rockland parkland and the Hudson River.

Our paths met at a stop sign of sorts in the later 1990s when I editorialized that Nyack might remove some of the large oak trees in upper Memorial Park so that the Hudson could be better seen and more directly linked to the village proper.

Jean, in a reply worthy of Winston Churchill’s bulldog stance against the Axis, quickly set me right. The trees had been there since just after World War I, when they were planted, each one of them, in memory of the men fallen in that “War to End All Wars.”

I felt humbled. I felt ashamed. I vowed to research better. And I still stand up straight when I hear Jean Gardner’s name, as if a schoolboy chastened in proper fashion.

What gifts we have on this earth when we meet such people as Albon Man and Jean Gardner.

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






By Arthur H. Gunther III

There were no Twitter moments in the information revolution of my youth, which was the transition from radio to television. Entertainer Milton Berle, newscaster John Cameron Swaze and funnyman Jackie Gleason came to life, literally, as most TV was live programming, replacing the on-air radio voices and sound effects. It was magical, this slapstick and haphazardly directed programming. Imagine, live “video” in your home. You no longer stared off into day-dreaming space listening to radio drama or comedy.

Yet that — radio — was a revolution, too, in my grandfather’s time, when small crystal radio sets without battery could pick up nighttime signals in New York from as far away as Chicago. Imagine, voices in your living room, replacing a an occasional trip into town to see the traveling vaudeville show.

And, of course, vaudeville replaced whatever entertainment came calling in the 1800s, 1700s — before.

Today’s Internet, Twitter, Facebook, other information/entertainment/social media, are the fleeting moment’s new getting-out-the-message modality, challenging or replacing TV and radio and vaudeville, the theater and whatever else that used to have us sit for a spell and actually absorb in minutes, even hours, rather than the seconds pushed by “hashtag” this and that.

Ironically, the hash sign — # — now commonly called hashtag, is used in Twitter and elsewhere as part of an information search. But in my early newspaper days, and for generations before me, a hash symbol was required at the end of each typewritten page or “take” of a story to indicate to the copy editor that more material followed. So, essentially, newspaper #s meant “more.” So do Twitter hashtags. New version of same old.

What goes around comes around, or as Yogi Berra would put it, “If you’ve seen it, then you saw it.” Radio was an extension of vaudeville made possible by Hertz, Marconi and others; television pushed information delivery thanks to people like Farnsworth and Zworykin. Then came the Internet, with Twitter, Facebook, digital newspapering. Ahead are additional ways to deliver information. Truly next is “#” — “more.”

I did not get to enjoy a vaudeville performance, so I cannot comment on how my mind would have absorbed the sights and sounds and come to any conclusions about the entertainment. I did not attend the Lincoln-Douglas debates, so I don’t know how I would have taken in that live information.

But I have been through radio, television, early and later Internet, now Twitter and Facebook. I was also a newspaperman for 42 seasons and am still one by instinct and practice. Information is my suit, ands for that reason, I am in awe of the possibilities ahead, just as my grandfather probably was in 1914 when he listened under the covers to the “nether” via  his crystal radio set. I just hope we take the time to digest — and question — all that massive information, given so quickly and often without vetting.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Whether it is worry about family finances, or county government, the state of the nation or the world, the realization that we are but specks in time can put things in perspective. Quickly, the headache that comes with self-absorption is gone, and life can exist in the greater scope of existence.

No, this is not day-dreaming gone wild or too much pre-bedtime wine but the effects of the Internet, that remarkable portal to information, which has shrunk the world and perhaps the universe, too. Another way of expanding our limited outlook.

Working the Net recently, a teaser appeared on a story about the NASA’s onboard Mars rover Curiosity Mastcam recording of what looks like a petroglyph, the stick figure which has appeared since cave days all over the world. And now on a planet far away.

Of course, it could be coincidence that the rock on Mars has an indentation which  simply looks like a petroglyph, but is it also coincidence that stick figures from continent to continent, thousands of years apart, are so very similar?

In those times, despite what 2014 smart phone users might believe, there was no Internet to spread the message, to promote copy-catting.  Not even newspapers or books or TV. No Facebook or Twitter.

So, was civilization more advanced than now? Or were we (are we still) visited by others not of this world, who left (leave) their mark? Or did we advance and then horribly put the world into a dark age from which we are still emerging, rebuilding technological greatness?

Ah, perspective. It can bring you back to earth. Or is it the other way around?

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


   On Aug. 18, I offered an essay, “It’s a two-way street,” which argued that policing is a super tough job, and the officers deserve respect while being trained to know the community. It also  expressed concern about using military equipment and what I described as para-military clothing. Joe Badalamente, a retired New York City police officer, writes an articulate response in my space today.



Thank you for your recent column about the police. Although I have been retired for nine years, your words struck a chord. Even after all that time, I still feel very much a part of “the police” in general, and the NYPD, specifically.

I spent twenty years with the NYPD, from 1985 to 2005. My field training took place in Brooklyn before I was transferred to the Central Park Precinct in July ’85, a little more than a month prior to the murder of Jennifer Levin by Robert Chambers.

Although I agree with the spirit of your argument, and again, very much appreciate any support of police, I must take issue with a couple of points. Regarding salaries, I’m not sure how you define the Northeast, but I’m pretty sure outside of the immediate New York metro area, cops aren’t pulling down anywhere near Orangetown and Clarkstown money. I’m currently working as a financial investigator at a large bank, and my 29-year-old team lead is making roughly 125k after only two years, with only an undergraduate degree from SUNY. A 20-year veteran of the NYPD at the rank of Police Officer can’t come close to this without putting in a ton of overtime; not to mention cops in hundreds of small towns from  Boston to DC. It seems living in places such as Rockland, Westchester, Bergen, Nassau and Suffolk counties skew the public’s perception of police salaries.

Perception is a great lead in for my second point: Your opinion of cop’s uniforms. In 1995, the once and future NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton brought back the department’s original dark blue uniform shirts and issued us nine-millimeter handguns. The confidence that one-two punch instilled in the rank and file was exponential. We no longer looked like bus drivers (not that I have anything against them!), nor felt so outgunned. The nine millimeter’s 16-round capacity afforded us a better chance in any potential gun battle — reloading a fresh magazine into a semi-automatic weapon takes much less time than fumbling with a speed loader, the “fast” way to reload a revolver. Numerous cops over the years and around the world have been killed while reloading during firefights.

As for the combat-style boots you mentioned, on patrol, support is the most important thing, whether trying to catch a perp or fighting with one. As for uniform pants, I’ve never seen camouflage on a city or Rockland cop, so I can’t speak to that. However, the paratrooper/cargo type pants are utilitarian, containing many more pockets than standard uniform trousers. Having spent most of my career on patrol, pockets are important; it is quite difficult to reach into the front pockets of regular uniform trousers while wearing a gun belt; the cargo-style pants’ leg pockets come in very handy for the average patrol officer to stuff their memo book, extra pens, flashlight or what have you. (I know it’s leading with my chin to those who think all cops are corrupt to go on about the importance of pockets for police, but I’ll take that chance!)

The “demilitarization” of the police is something I keep hearing and reading in wake of Ferguson. Yet, at least in the NYPD, it is the Emergency Services Unit that utilizes such equipment, and they are called in when appropriate, such as when people are rioting and looting. Patrol cops are ill equipped to deal with rock and bottles being thrown at them. Helmets are needed, as are armored vehicles when the rocks suddenly turn into Molotov cocktails. Or would people prefer numerous police officers going on sick leave with injuries caused by these projectiles?

I find it difficult not to devolve into sarcasm here, but it amazes me how everyone is an expert on police tactics now because they watch “Law & Order” and “Blue Bloods,” or the latest ill-researched blockbuster churned out by Hollywood.

You seem to imply that civilians “feel” a certain way in reaction to how a cop might be outfitted; frightened, intimidated — perhaps non-verbally bullied? Yet, society tells us how one “feels” when walking towards a group of kids whose pants are hanging below their asses, baseball caps turned sideways, toothpicks in their mouths and cursing up a storm, or seeing a bunch of bikers with ZZ Top-type beards outside a bar, or a couple of want-to-be Tony Soprano-types hanging in front of a social club in Bensonhurst is “profiling?” Aren’t you or your theoretical law-abiding citizen profiling any particular officer because he or she prefers to wear boots and paratrooper/cargo pants? Isn’t it more about your perception than about what a particular officer may or may not be trying to project?

A historical note; in the late ‘70s, leather jackets were taken from the NYPD because some felt it made them look like the Gestapo. The city even went so far as to change the names of groups of precincts from Divisions to Areas in an attempt at demilitarization. Yet crime continued to soar in and around the five boroughs through the ‘80s into the early ‘90s, until the aforementioned Bratton was brought in. Of course, the improving economy and Roe vs. Wade’s 20th anniversary dovetailed in with CompStat and the new weapons and uniform changes, all of which may or may not have had something to do with crime stats falling off a cliff. (And let us not forget how Rudy Giuliani took the credit for it all!) Lest I digress,  my main point is that the  confidence created by our being outfitted with more stylish uniforms and modern weaponry created a much more professional and potent police department, which played a major role in the drop in crime, in my not so humble opinion.

I know first-hand that no department, no officer is perfect. There are many problems in policing, including blatant racism, that interfere with how the public should be serviced. But like any other group on the planet, it is a small percentage of cops who tarnish the image of the rest. All I ask is for people to keep this in mind while consuming and digesting the so-called news.


tinted fall


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Fall — autumn sounds better — is when you are supposed to let go of summer, even if you dread winter’s coming and want to hold onto the beach, fire pits and the light as long as possible before darkness arrives. In my part of the world where we have seasons, some seem almost never to give up hope that warm, even hot weather will push into fall and provide enough memory fuel to get through at least one inevitable cold, snowy day.  If you want to feel that way, rave on, but I’d rather envision fall as the song goes, Autumn in New York,” a 1934 jazz piece by Vernon Duke for the Broadway musical “Thumbs Up!.”


Autumn in New York
Why does it seem so inviting?
Autumn in New York
It spells the thrill of first-nighting

Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds
In canyons of steel
They’re making me feel
I’m home

It’s autumn in New York
That brings the promise of new love
Autumn in New York
Is often mingled with pain

Dreamers with empty hands
May sigh for exotic lands
It’s autumn in New York
It’s good to live it again

Lovers that bless the dark
On benches in Central Park
It’s autumn in New York
It’s good to live it again

     There’s not much more I alone could write to add poetic description to God’s gift.  I wish you bon voyage in this special time, even if you still are wearing shorts.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at


Arthur H. Gunther III

I won’t vote for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the popular New Yorker seeking re-election. Nor would I for President Obama, if he were able to run anew, though I supported him twice. And I will be pleased when Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, steps down. Why no support for these three? Not because of their abilities or accomplishment, though each man in each category is subject to grades ranging from A-plus down. Both have been electable and applaudable for service. Yet these officials fail my confidence test, a right of my citizenship. And, I suspect they are the tip of the iceberg in a society that offers systemic indifference to the ordinary person.

It is a little thing, my motivation that drops these three from the nice list, but it was small things becoming bigger that led us to our American Revolution and changes for the better, or at least the hope of those, hope still being chased.

Each of these men are in highly visible, important, powerful positions where the expectation of good and full service to the citizenry is a given. The president and the New York governor ran for office as approachable people who empathized with the growing concerns of Americans without jobs, or long-lasting ones, or decently paid ones or ones that will put and keep them in the bulwark middle class that marks stable democracy.

They were cheered on, these two, and sent off to do their work. But then the doors slammed behind them, locking out the people. Handlers came in, pros they are in security, in media control, in distancing the “men of the people” from, well the people. The ordinary men and women of these great United States are held back by these handlers, who would lock down the universe to keep their man away from humanity, from regular concerns, hopes, heartache, the yin and yang of living.

How real is it for a president, a governor in office? Their lifestyle is not like most people. Yes, they see the death-bringing results of war, of natural disaster, but then they return to comfortable quarters after the handlers have arranged a trip or two.

When you write these leaders, as I did several times to Obama, Cuomo and to the appointed but still-in-the-trust-of-the-people Bharara, snail-mail letters even, as I sent off  to the governor and the U.S. attorney, cogent, well-thought-out argument that required answers from those in our employ, in our trust, the answers never came. Acknowledgment of the letters never came. And the president, whose office bragged that it would be the first to set up an e-mail response system, failed mightily, with no replies, no acknowledgement of missives.

That is bad form. It is not democratic form. It is rude and insensitive and snubbing behavior. It matters not that my questions may have been relatively small ones, not so imperative as foreign affairs and state budget woes. Communication with the people is never un-important. Little things add up and become symbolic of high-and-mighty affront that ignores the people and their concerns, their needs, most of all their dignity.

The system no longer works, and if the snubbing of the common man and woman continues, democracy is in trouble. We cannot elect high-placed people nor see grand poohbahs in important positions who are then shut behind doors and kept from public discourse.

So, I would not vote for Obama, Cuomo, Bharara or anyone who ignores we, the people, even if it is their staffs doing the insulting deed. That makes it even worse, adding to their distance from the citizenry.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

HUDSON RIVER, N.Y. — This mighty waterway, not a western route to Asia through the Northwest Passage as Hendrick Hudson hoped it would be in 1609, but to the great port of Albany and so through canals, lakes and on land to the American frontier and all the greatness and achievement of that, remains as beautiful as the explorer found it. Once assaulted by industrial discharge, its waters are these days enjoyed by boaters and those who live in expensive housing along the shore. Visitors can view the wonderful landscape, from New York City sights to the Palisades escarpment to Hook and Bear mountains, to West Point and on to Albany, enjoying many of nature’s gifts on both the eastern and western shores.

Last week, I was privileged to take a boat ride on the Hudson from Haverstraw south to the Tappan Zee Bridge at South Nyack  and back, courtesy of the Historical Society of Rockland County. I was the principal speaker on the history of the bridge, which was constructed in 1955 and which will give way to two new crossings in a few years. I offer some of that talk here for anyone interested in how a bridge was built and how that brought “progress,” not always a cherished effort.


“I said at the beginning of this talk that there were two principal players in the decades-long buildup of the Tappan Zee Bridge: the “progress” people, including land speculators, and those who sought to keep Rockland semi-rural. The preservationists lost, and many of the old ways and more than 100 other homes and the South Nyack village downtown  are gone. But the “progress” people did not win, either, since the great and continuing cost of hurried, barely planned development has brought drainage, traffic, infrastructure and quality-of-life problems. And now there is the “graying of Rockland,” with an older population, development homes needing renovation and not enough tax money for truly good living going forward. No one knows what the future will bring, especially with the continuing decline of the middle class. Who will step up to rebuild and reinvigorate Rockland?

Yet interstate travel, especially trucks, the real winner in the building of the Thruway and the Tappan Zee Bridge, will continue, and even a shiny new set of crossings across the Dutch sea from South Nyack to Tarrytown will not solve Rockland’s woes nor the growing traffic concerns and the utter need to rebuild the Thruway in Rockland. The new spans may well prove to be bridges “too far.”

The Tappan Zee Bridge is part of the New York State Thruway and now also belongs to the I-87, I-287 interstate network that leads upstate, to the west and to New England. It is the longest bridge in the State of New York, with total length of the crossing and approaches at 16,013 feet. The cantilever span is 1,212 feet, providing a maximum clearance of 138 feet  over the water. The bridge is about 25 miles north of midtown Manhattan and is one of the primary crossings of the Hudson north of New York City. It carries much of the traffic between southern New England and points west of the Hudson.

Work on the $80 million Tappan Zee — $668 million in today’s dollars — hit peak intensity by 1953. It opened to traffic on Dec. 15, 1955, and is part of what was once called the Dwight D. Eisenhower Defense Highway network. It can be used in the event of war for materiel and troop transport.

The bridge came to be because in the later 1940s New York Gov. Thomas Dewey  proposed a super highway in the German “Autobahn” style, from Suffern, at the New Jersey border, to upstate New York, to foster commerce. But it soon became apparent that the Thruway bond holders could not be paid off without a big revenue source, and so the idea of extending the road to New York City via a Hudson River crossing at South Nyack was quickly adopted, thus providing a nicely ringing “cash register.”

Trouble was that non-quality materials and a cheap design were used to construct the Tappan Zee. Since 1955, overuse has put the bridge in danger of major failure, and in October 2011, at the direction of Gov. Andrew  Cuomo, the Thruway Authority and the New York State Department of Transportation jointly proposed a replacement structure, the “Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing.” The two new spans, which will include pedestrian and biking lanes and lookouts for viewers, are now being constructed.

The “progress” legacy of the first crossing has not proven as grand as first advertised, since rapid suburban growth overtaxed local planners, zoners and the infrastructure. The new crossings will bring even more interstate travelers through geographically small Rockland, and there seems no benefit to them. The interstate network will still have major flaws in the lower Hudson Valley region, and though a poorly planned and built 1955 crossing will be replaced by wonderfully engineered safe structures, they will still connect to ill-advised interstates on both sides of the Hudson.

The first Tappan Zee was built as a “cash register,” not as a well-planned conduit for progress.” It will transfer that legacy to the new spans.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

When you are walking with young children, in this case one 7, another 5, and you have to pass the time of day as the clock seems to run awfully slow, you have to be inventive.
Kids have fertile minds, and they are not yet cast into the tight thinking cubicles of adults. They also appreciate unusual humor and like weird, even absurd thinking, for theirs is still the land of the fairy tale, of limitless imagination. A pity that they grow up.
So it was, that on Broadway in Nyack, N.Y., the other day, just past the former home of the late actress Helen Hayes, we three came upon a virtual riverbed of small, smooth stone set not in a stream but between the sidewalk and the curb. An inventive way, perhaps, for a lazy fellow to avoid mowing more lawn.
So unusual was the sight that it required immediate comment, for we three like to make such proclamation upon seeing the unusual. It was also a way to, as I wrote, pass the time.
“Why are the rocks there,” asked the little one, a female. “Yeah, did someone go to the beach and get all those stones?” the elder, a male, chimed in.  “No,” the grandfather said. Then why are they there, both young ones wanted to know.
I had to come up with an answer, and fast, and believable, though these kids either take everything I utter as absolute though strange gospel, or they tolerate my musings and make it seem they agree so as not to hurt the old man.
“How many words did you learn in first grade?” I asked the male “Ten?” “100?” Sam answered, “More than that.” Beatrice gave no comment, for though she has learned words, quite a few,actually, she has yet to glean them from spelling tests in public school (she will in a week or so).
“Well, Sam, every time you learn a word and get the spelling right in the Upper Nyack School just a short walk away, the teacher places a rock, a small stone, in this spot.”
“Oh, c’mon,” he replied, then “Really?” “True,” I said. “You know how I am always saying  that you have rocks in your head?” Well, each rock you lose makes you smarter.
I think the kids are still trying to figure this one out.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III


Police exist by the people’s command, and only by that direction,  because we cannot secure ourselves. Theirs is a dangerous, usually thankless job, and the officer’s whole being is often in the sewer of humanity. So, it takes an extraordinary individual to do the work, to be invested with such power, to always remember how it is derived, to constantly understand that it is temporary and that it should not be misused.

In return for the job’s difficulty, especially the wear and tear that accumulates mentally and physically, officers must be properly compensated, and in the Northeast anyway, they surely are, though that was not always the case. Officers also deserve the respect of the citizenry on a blanket basis. Individually, that is up to the officer. There can be no arrogance, no expletives, especially no attitude, all of which may be difficult for an officer used to being in the trenches, his/her senses assaulted by domestic incidents and difficult situations that can warp your head.

Yet that is the job, and, yes, it requires extraordinary self-control from extraordinary officers. Otherwise, don’t apply. The men and women in blue must show respect and always, always allow others their dignity. That is Job. 1.

A case in point: Bill Bratton, the New York City police commissioner,  tells citizens not to resist arrest. That sounds right if you recite from a  Police Academy training manual. But then there’s the real, mean streets where over-stressed cops see and feel the full range of human emotion so overwhelmingly each day that they need a shrink at shift’s end but also where too many citizens think they must wear ID on their backs in 2-inch type because they feel they are in the Third Reich. On the streets, the interplay is not Academy textbook, and police must show dignity and respect.   Citizens, for their part, must calm down, accept police respect when given, and just go with the flow. Hopefully, the courts will bring justice in the individual case. So, respect, yes, but it must be mutual.

Truth is, NYC police, all police,  must be respectful of each and every person, as difficult as that may be day-in, day-out. The people hire the police and grant them special temporary powers because they cannot police themselves. Security is not gestapo. The cops must, hard as that may prove in their environment, remember that they work for the people. That must be key in their training. They must not be allowed to lapse into a protective fraternity of “them against us.”

In the recent New York attempted arrest of an individual said to be selling loose cigarettes, a man with obvious physical disability who died as police pinned him down, common sense should have brought not an arrest, but an appearance ticket. If this had been 1950 NYC, a beat officer walking the streets, as is so rarely done now, would have known the man, understood the community. The situation would not have happened, at least not the way it went down. But police have disappeared from the streets, and both they and the people no longer trust each other sufficiently, at times not at all.

Commissioner Bratton would do all a great service by taking more cops off desk jobs and certainly out of darkened-glass patrol cars and put them on street patrol. If the police get to know the neighborhood and interact with the people, the way it used to be, they would realize that most citizens are decent and law-abiding.  The Berlin Wall of distrust that has risen so high would come down.

The nation must also “de-militarize” the police. They are not military, not even para-military in everyday life.  Officers should look like they always have: dressed in standard, ordinary blue, gray or brown uniforms, with regular shoes. No paratrooper boots or camouflage pants. Those outfits make police feel more powerful than they have a right to be. Bring all this post-9/11 out-of-balance security down to earth.

Policing is a super tough job, and the officers deserve respect. But only if they earn that. That sort of training must be in the manual at the Academy and reinforced every morning at patrol shape-up. And we citizens ought to shape-up each day as well, approach an officer, even in a darkened patrol car, and say hello. There is a failure to communicate.

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



Flanders, Before Blood

Flanders fields, before the bloo(painting by author)


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 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 100th anniversary of Great Britain’s declaration of war against Germany, and also the date 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, 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, 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.

      On this centennial of the beginning of a war meant to end it all, and, coincidentally the half-century 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.

Fladers, Before Blood



By Arthur H. Gunther III



Much progress in humanity, though it is often one step ahead, two back, comes from symbolism, such as the iconic nature of photographs that pull at our conscience and tell us, “We must do better.” For decades now, the mostly black and white work of Dorothea Lange, the famed social documentary photographer of the Great Depression, has been such a tug. And rightly so, for Lange, employed by the Farm Security Administration but also shooting from her soul, was gifted in capturing candid and semi-posed expressions of many trails of tears, suffering, endurance, just plain grit, survival and resurrection in that economic debacle. Yet, her work, like that of any reporter of an age, must always be subject to re-interpretation, not only to dispel myth but to add to fact, to the constant, deeper understanding that betters humanity.

Recently, I was introduced to the works of three people, one a British graphics designer/photographer who has reset Lange’s images as color true to the age, and a sister team that wrote and photographed in similar fashion during the Depression.

Neil Scott-Petrie from Cambridgeshire has produced an amazing tribute to Lange, and even more so, her social realism subjects, 1935-1939, by taking Lange’s black and white photographs and deftly and intricately adding accurate color. In doing so, he has brought realism to realism, and the viewer sees these iconic images of the huge ex-farmer migration from Oklahoma to California as if they were taken today.

Previously, when we looked at Lange’s work, while we focused with empathy on the hungry, perhaps “lost” children and distracted adults in search of work, trying to survive in a great calamity, we also saw their period clothes, the Model Ts, filling station signs, etc. That caused us to set the age apart, apart from reality other than that moment. We saw the images almost as fine art pieces, set for a museum installation. But with Scott-Petrie’s reworking of Lange’s shots, we view another time in humanity’s long struggle relative to today. And that is much to the good.

As the author notes, “This book is not about improving Dorothea Lange’s work, her images are amazing and cannot be improved. This is about showing her work in a different light, in color, bringing the real events closer to the observer, giving you a more realistic view of how things were during the migration to California … (after all) the world was not black and white.”

Indeed. I would urge Scott-Petrie to seek  wider viewing of his added perspective of Dorothea Lange’s defining reportage, perhaps in a national gallery installation in London or New York. They would be a sure hit and would add to the story of humanity in struggle, a continuing novel that sees chapters even today in the worsening immigration problem in the United States.

  (Neil Scott-Petrie’s “Dorothea Lange, color, The Migrant Experience 1935-39” may be accessed via

Lange was not the only social documentary reporter of the Great Depression. Also there were the Babb sisters, Sanora, a writer, and Dorothy, a photographer.  Joanne Dearcopp, a longtime friend of Sanora, reminds me that  Dorothy photographed migrant camps in the late 1930s and her sister wrote the novel, “Whose Names are Unknown.” Therein lie many stories. Sanora helped establish the FSA government camps for migrant workers in California, and her Dust Bowl refugee novel began there. Apparently, Random House was planning to publish this “exceptionally fine” writing but later claimed the market was saturated with the bestseller “The Grapes of Wrath,” the classic John Steinbeck novel on the same subject. In 2004, the University of Oklahoma Press published Sanora’s novel to strong appreciation and recognition that there were other incisive voices reporting on the Depression years and its social issues.

Sanora’s sister Dorothy was said to have offered literary criticism to her, and the former’s photographs, some 250 or so, provided their own exceptionally compelling reportage of Dust Bowl refugees.

Both sisters were among the young writers of their time affected by Depression conditions. As a website for the Babbs notes, “Adversity and a concern for social justice joined these young writers in an informal freemasonry of goodwill and progressive ideals that has seldom existed before or since in American literature.”

    (For more information about Sanora and Dorothy Babb, visit

In this America of today, not recovered from a recession of a few years back that almost became a depression, in a United States that must make choices that better humanity rather than harm it, choices over a dwindling middle class, immigration, health care, political direction and world responsibility, revisiting the social documentary work of Dorothea Lange through Neil Scott-Petrie’s added perspective and through the writings and photographs of the Babb sisters, makes us understand better the journey so far and reminds us of the utter responsibility we have for each other.


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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

I had a friend named Ginny, who was a fellow trustee at the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, N.Y. A very effective communicator, she was particular about doing things right, to a standard, and she spoke her mind in polite but underscored words. Ginny was outgoing, quite sociable and gathered lifelong friends wherever she lived — in New York, Boston, Chicago, elsewhere. To the individual, she was all ears, as if you were the only one she ever spoke to. She was a feisty debater, even playing the devil’s advocate when she was in argument over similar beliefs.

That all this, her lifestyle, brought smiles to Ginny’s face, especially in her last years in South Nyack, N.Y., was a blessing for her and the people she touched.

A vital part of that picture was her beautiful 1850s home on Clinton Avenue, a gracious structure not unlike Ginny’s own bearing. She bought the timeworn but well-constructed house from the Deed family, which was appropriate because it had been owned by Bob, once a journalist and then a book writer. Ginny could not live anywhere where words were not well spoken, read, written. This house was a sure fit.

In her particular ways, Ginny redid the structure so that it became her home, one that would host parties, family gatherings, trustee occasions and a local historic house tour. She

assembled just the right tradesmen, almost adopting each fellow who came into her circle. In turn, these people learned that mother wanted things done her way, and that meant realigning molding if it was off level or not mitered exactly. It meant replacing and redoing work. In the end, the house became a home and quite beautiful at that.

Ginny also depended on a few people who volunteered repair work, but she held these men and women to the same standards as the paid tradesmen. I was privileged to be in that volunteer group, installing such things as deadbolts, electrical fixtures and radiator valves.

The last time I saw Ginny Garbers was on a repair job, which by then had become an excuse for conversation and some wine, for debates on government, for talks about art and Hopper House, for quiet, mutual pause, for the slightest mention of an illness that would soon take her life.

On that last day, Ginny greeted me at the door, this beautifully restored original entrance that had opened to visitors long before automobiles and electric lights. She had a shiny brass knob in her hand, meant to replace the original, which would pull off its shank from wear. Ginny had searched far and wide for just the right knob, sending back one that was too small. The proper handle arrived, she called me, and when I got to the house, Ginny met me with a huge smile as she held the shiny knob in her hand. I set out to install it, Ginny hovering in her usual foreman’s stance. Install not once but four times, so that the feel was just right, just right for Particular Ginny.

     I did get it right, and then we sat down in her well-finished living room to conversation that ran all over the place and some red wine labeled  “Menage à Trois,” a French reference that Francophile Ginny laughed about. At some point, the usual-of-late, delicate, not prying but concerned question came up: “How is it going?” Ginny, though she kept health and other private matters in limited conversation, as was her upbringing, did mention her nighttime pain, her rejection of another chemotherapy round and wondered out loud, “I just don’t know how long …” We dropped the subject and shared more words on this and that.

It was time to leave, and Ginny, with another huge smile on her face, went to the door, took the polished brass knob in hand and grandly opened it. It was almost as if she had yet another beautiful child to glow about.

So full of life Ginny was that day, just weeks before her passing, that you could not have expected it. Maybe six months, I thought, maybe a year. I’ll be here again. But I did not return. Nor did the many friends Ginny had.

Now, the door knob, the final capping of her home, so appropriately placed at the entrance to her grand achievement, will serve to welcome other life, as Ginny Garbers would have it. Job completed, in her particular way.


But I did not return. Nor did the many friends Ginny had. Now, the door knob, the final capping of her home, so appropriately placed at the entrance to her grand achievement, will serve to welcome other life, as Ginny Garbers would have it. Job completed, in her particular way.


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



By Arthur H. Gunther III


How do you thank a son, who at 43 this very day, July 14,  is light years ahead of who you were at that time? How do you speak, father to offspring, beyond a pat on the back and saying “Happy Birthday”? Effusive emotion is a non-fitting suit for both.

Conceived in the uncertainty but — still — progression of youthful marriage, when a career with all its pulls and pushes was building, and with all the worries about this and that so much heavier than the carefree years just before, the birth nine months later of a little being never in your world changes that world, whether you are prepared or not.

That the first son we had, and then his brother, too, would bring me, especially, to greater maturity and some accomplishment in meeting needs and standards is a gift from both. One that keeps on giving.

Parents are proud of their children, as they should be. Today, expansive social media such as Facebook announces that to the entire world, and that sort of spotlight may be like endlessly watching the neighbor’s old 8mm home movies. It is far better, perhaps, to have others acknowledge, without prompting, that your children are good people.

In our case, we are fortunate not only because the sons are such, but they don’t bring attention to the fact. After all, the first requirement of living is to be a good person, and the second is not to expect applause for that.

It’s my hope that all parents out there see in their children the individuals they are, that they find their offspring secure in every way, for even with the child now well grown at 43, you recall tucking in at age two. You never stop tucking in the son, the daughter.

If the child achieves, in career, in being a good person, in expressing traits others admire, in succeeding on the job, in being a parent himself, herself, if that happens, in progressing through the years by following the standards we all should expect, then you see on that person’s annual natal day a renewed gift coming to you as well. For parents such as myself, blessed with two fellows who have surpassed expectations, saying “Happy Birthday” to each of them is our own blessing.


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








By Arthur H. Gunther III


ANY TOWN, USA — Ironically, as Americans fatten up through fast food and lifestyle, it is also slimming down to overly thin in its public look, in its parks and on its once-shaded streets, those oak- and maple-lined boulevards that looked like “Andy Hardy’s” Hollywood set. That Mickey Rooney’s village of Carvel was purely fictional does not forfeit the fact that it was as all-American as ever can be.

Once, many U.S. communities looked this way, and some, fortunately, still do or at least have semblance. Yet post-World War II suburban development helped push aside the picture of tree-lined streets leading to downtown neighborhood shopping. Developments like the typical “Huggy Bear Estates,” “The View” or “Hillside Condominiums” offer landscaped lawns and kept shrubbery but lines of well-placed trees along sidewalks and downtowns are not usually in the mix. Walkable neighborhoods rarely happen in this relative anonymity.

That’s a loss, for while Andy Hardy was a fictional character and his father the judge, girlfriend Polly Benedict  and friend Betsy Booth, played by Judy Garland, were make-believe but ideal composites of small-town Americans, these people did exist in true communities, with vibrant downtowns and tree-lined streets leading to and from them.

Suburbia took the population to development homes, and many downtowns then deteriorated. Even the oaks and maples so well laid out on the boulevards were neglected, first by a stressed tax base that deferred maintenance, then by disease and, worst of all, by the interference of some citizenry who presumed to speak for the majority.

“That tree is blocking my view of the Hudson River.” “That tree’s roots are raising my sidewalk.” “That tree might affect my utilities.” And, so, all at once six stately oaks or maples or whatever are gone in a flash, victims of professionals in bucket trucks just doing their job with a work order.

Elsewhere in both Gotham and suburbia, parks are without funding, as are shade tree commissions. In a nation that sees its upper class wealth grow exponentially by the Gordon Gekko factor, there are so very few old-style Rockefeller, Carnegie and other corporate trusts that built and saved our green space. They were parents to our downtowns, to our parks, and now there are many orphans.

Pity. Foolish. Short-sighted. America is so much more than just self-sacrificing individuals, highly productive and caring. They are the essence of the old downtown, whether they lived there or not. Every suburbia has its roots in a tree-lined small American Main Street, and when, metaphorically, those tree-lined avenues are neglected, or the parks of both suburbia and gotham are  abandoned, we become less American.

The “Andy Hardy” set is long closed. Can we be next?


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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There are many ghosts in this town, some very good, some very, very bad, and a whole mix in between. Some do almost eternal penance for their sins against the continuing and great democratic experiment, those who lusted for personal power and in greed. Other spirits are here to protect the turf, to guard the hen house, and, yes, yes, to inspire us even as we feel so down.

These are not the best of days for America’s capital, indeed the seat of all democracy worldwide. Special interests, the money lobbies, overwhelming bureaucracy and way too many rules and regulations pervert this town, our land. The people’s business be damned.

We have a Congress that does not meet well in congress. It is a torn body of its own and grossly individual aims, of far-out politics, of non-cooperation. We also have a presidency seemingly neutered, with goals well-seconded by the people, with a president elected twice in that philosophy. Yet, the power that says it is the people’s legislative body would push this president into the Potomac.

So, nothing gets done. The middle class dwindles, and the rich grow ever more distant from the responsibility to better us all, that set by the great Republican himself, Teddy Roosevelt.

In our nation, so many with higher education or not are unemployed or underemployed. And the war bells seem to be ringing again, ironically as we near the 100th anniversary of the beginning of “The War to End All Wars,” World War I. Will there by more money for battle and so little for the nation at home?

Yes, a sad, even misdirected town, distant from its people, from the Founders. Yet it is still America’s city. I know, for I felt the presence of very good ghosts who reminded me that while lobbyists’ buildings grow in size and quantity on K Street, over at the Lincoln Memorial, at night with spotlights on the likeness of humble Abe, the crowds gather in equal humility and awe. Visit the memorial in the daytime, and it will offer its message of an America never to be divided, but see it at night, a beacon of light on the Great Emancipator alone in the great darkness covering its steps, and you will realize, profoundly, why this nation was born.
And why it must not die.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

      SUBURBIA — The New York State of my lifelong existence ranks among the top 10 nationwide in hosting foreclosing properties — about 15,000 — some of them traced to  irresponsible mortgage lending by banks that quickly flipped the notes for sure profit, others to those who never could afford the homes and, sadly, more than enough to people who have lost jobs as the middle class dwindles in the Greed Era. Now many of these homes are abandoned, with no upkeep. Neighbors who take care of their houses are essentially insulted for their effort.

     While Albany is considering legislation that would force lenders to recognize their stakeholder role, it should not be necessary to remind them of their responsibility to community appearance. Nor should anyone have to wonder why there is so little enforcement of town and village property upkeep laws, whether the land/house is in foreclosure or not. It all comes down to community pride, without which aging suburbia will continue to deteriorate.

     Abandoned properties are not only unsightly, but they attract rodents, break-ins and squatters. Many towns and villages declare, as my local Orangetown community notes in its “Chapter 24c, Property Maintenance Code,” that “Properties which are not adequately maintained and repaired may serve as an attractive nuisance … (they) tend to … detract from the appearance of adjoining properties, which may lead to the progressive deterioration of a neighborhood.” Absolutely, we all have seen that happen.
Such law is fine on paper, but what happens when the law is not enforced? When a homeowner keeps unregistered junk cars in his driveway, when someone leaves litter on his land, when trash and recycling containers are not removed after pickup, when fences are falling down, when gutters are hanging  off roofs, when sidewalks are not cleared of snow or are hazardous because tree roots have pushed up the slabs — where is the municipality watchdog? And what about shopping centers where debris is not picked up, the parking lots are shabby and the building facades run down?
These are real conditions in most communities, and it seems the onus is on neighbors to be the bad guy and make a formal complaint. Instead, the municipality should be noting the neglect and notifying property owners to correct.
One way to improve property appearance is by certificate of occupancy renewal whenever a home or business is offered for sale. The community sends out an inspector after a small fee is paid to cover that, and neglect such as poor sidewalks and yard litter are corrected before the property can be listed.

     We realize building inspectors are busy enough, but while they are in their cars going about to their jobs, they can jot down the addresses of unkempt property. So can police on routine patrol. For that matter, so can the mayor, the town supervisor, the trustees, council people, any concerned citizen. We all have a financial and quality-of-life stake in how our villages and towns look.

    If owners do not correct the neglect, the municipalities should step in and do the work, adding the tab to the annual tax bill. When the property owner cannot afford repairs because of illness, job loss, etc., perhaps community service organizations can  lend a hand and take on these properties as projects.
The point is to clean up blighted homes and to enforce the law, not just have it on the books.
Think of your mother, who I hope told you to wash your hands before dinner, to pick up your toys, to not track mud into your house. Well, communities are really homes and businesses held in common by the great expectation of observing standards. There is no room for pigs to spoil it for the rest of us.

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


By Arthur H.Gunther III

     I don’t know what karma or the gods have in store for this great nation of ours, conceived in the stew that is the rights of humankind and progressed enough to have earned its mettle despite horrific mistakes. As Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Yet a particular debt is outstanding, and it must be repaid before the finish line is reached.

I write of our Native Americans, those people of spirit and great humanity who were pushed aside in the name of progress, in westward expansion, in the never-ending chase for a constant frontier. That is America’s leitmotif, its source of inspiration, its reason for being, indeed its excuse for bettering all classes, but it is also its shame. It is more than the moment to revisit what has been done to the first settlers of this land, truly the only ones who do not need a green card.

Last week, President Obama became just the third president to visit the Indian nations, his trip to Cannon Ball, N.D., where sit the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation. Sits there, too, is a 60 percent unemployment rate, 40 percent of its people in poverty, 50 percent student drop-out figure. These statistics in a USA that can pay defense contractors billions, that can write foreign nations of dubious intent a blank check.

To be fair, while this was the president’s first visit to an Indian reservation, his administration has paid more attention to Native Americans and their concerns about education, health care, jobs and respect than his predecessors. There is at least some recent dialogue on schooling, for example.

Yet how do you do more, so much more, in particular erasing the distrust built up over centuries and finally recognizing the substance of treaties signed in the 1800s? It was convenient for progress to move Native Americans to reservations. It can even be argued that it was a saner way than killing them off. But the late-1800s’ attempts to “Americanize” Indians through forced education in the white man’s way and then what continues as the almost complete rejection of their rich, cultural history and lifestyle, with prejudicial portrayals of “redskins” the usual offering all a sad part of our national history.

We non-Indians owe a debt to Native Americans — for their land, for their sacrifices, for our insults, and especially for not taking lessons from them about land and resource management, about treating people with respect, about using accumulated  wisdom. It is a debt overdue.

Some way, some day, perhaps in the setting sun of this great American democratic experiment, the long-whispered spirit that is now kept to the reservations will be spoken. That could prove our salvation in the maturing of a dream that must be fulfilled for all — not just some — in this epic journey called America, taking place on Indian land.


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



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.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

The average teacher’s pay amounts to about one cent per hour if you consider that for almost all humans, at least one educator proves to be our lifelong teacher, frequently remembered, still instructing us. Yet respect often does not come with the job, at least from government, from taxpayers, even from some parents.
Now, off the bat, there are some poor teachers, those who should never have taken the job nor kept it after failing to learn how to relate to the young and their minds. But there are also poor business people, poor law enforcement, poor clergy, poor everybody. It may be that some critics of our teachers, including one New Jersey governor, spotlight education because it is an easy hot-button issue.
In my time, the several teachers who still come to mind when I make crucial decisions, when I do math, when I read about history, when I seek to be honorable enough, were poorly paid, about $100 a week in the 1950s. Mr. Hopf supplemented teaching science  with bagging at the local A&P. Mr. Gram, the English instructor who influenced my writing, had two gabardine suits, both gray. One morning he came to school in a car with a leaking radiator. And the next day, too. A lady social studies teacher lived in a rented room for her entire 40-year career, after losing her husband of one week in the Great War.
Each of these people not only managed to teach fairly large classes of students from mostly lower- or below-middle class, blue-collar families, half of them day-dreamers. Yet as our preliminary Regents exams in the eighth grade would reveal, they instructed us well enough.  And to this day, I think of Mr. Gram when I write essays; Mr. Hopf when I read about science; the social studies teacher when I watch the History Channel. These three, and others, teach me every day, and sometimes I can still hear, and emotionally feel, the sting of a reprimand or the gentle persuasion of  “Why not try it this way?”
Because my teachers, enough of them, are lifelong, now-a-day talk of overblown salaries, inflated pensions, poor teaching and failing schools rankles. There are problems everywhere — in government, in education, in security, in society — and blame is easily placed. We are all such quick and easy critics, especially with the tweets of Twitter beckoning.
Yet I would challenge Gov. Chris Christie, the Jersey governor who frequently blasts teachers for every sin under the sun and who last week refused to fund the legally required pension payment for them and other state retirees, to teach a month in most schools.
Give him the seventh grade, where hormones block out every third word a teacher utters. Give him and other critics a first grade where 90 percent of the students are learning English as a second language. Give them an urban classroom where there are no recent textbooks and where an empty seat in the third row once held the promise of a young girl shot killed by a stray bullet in her neighborhood. Give Christie and others brilliant students, who, yes, can learn on their own, but who need to be challenged by the brightest of instructors, not enough of whom are attracted to the profession.
And then send the governor and others to a factoid session where they are instructed as to how poorly most state pension systems are run; how special interest inflates some pensions and strangles others; on the almost total elimination of private pensions, which,  is supposed to be adopted in the public sector as the Era of Greed marches along.
Were it not for at least one fine, hardworking, ever-instructive, lifelong teacher, the Jersey governor and the other critics who seek not the full story in a complex world, would not even be able to sign their names to no-funding bills for education.

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



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. …”

“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 survived. …”

“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.





By Arthur H. Gunther III


Rockland County, N.Y. — Though this suburb 20 miles north of New York City has been most diverse since the Dutch came in the 1600s, a religious  community movement strongly under way threatens the balance of planned growth and opportunity for all, including current residents.

In recent years, large Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish families have been moving, from Brooklyn principally, so that their communities can grow. Such religion-based intent surely must be respected, but so must the effect of rapid and great growth, which is creating an imbalance as housing density and numerous religious schools stress the infrastructure, municipal services and taxing ability.

Local, long-developed zoning, set forth in master plans, is being challenged through a 2000 federal law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the key provision of which is to blanket-grant religious institutions a free pass to circumvent zoning.

The law is not well-conceived, rushed into law by voice vote in both the Senate and House to fix portions of the 1993 Religious Freedom Act, which had been found unconstitutional over Congress’ enforcement powers. If there were an appeal of RLUIPA, it might well be found unconstitutional. While it was designed to protect religious groups against prejudicial local zoning, in fact it actually disenfranchises existing residents by forcing them to adopt a community environment that is negative to what they have agreed is planned development. You can’t have balanced law if it promotes one group over others, and that is what RLUIPA does.

And it avoids what should be sensible community discussion rather than law enforced from on high: How can we plan for diversity, for the inclusion of all, in a way that harms no one, that is fair to everyone, that is affordable, that continues the area’s overall vision?

While the laudatory intent of both the original RFA and RLUIPA is to battle against prejudice, to be an ally for religious groups, the law has been taken misused in Rockland.  It has forced density in a suburb where one-third acre zoning has been the average since farmers’ fields were plowed under post-World War II.

The effect has been to stress municipal resources in the Town of Ramapo, negatively affecting the expensive water supply for all of Rockland, the sewer system and town services such as police and building code enforcement. In addition, there is a growing county social services tab for the poorer religious communities. Most impacted has been the East Ramapo School District, which is now serving  far more private (religious) school students than public and which has a school board elected principally from the religious bloc that, in effect, has disenfranchised public schoolchildren through numerous cuts and management decisions.

Given rapid and continuing growth in the religious community and the subsequent legitimate need for housing, schools and services, other Rockland towns, villages and school districts can expect religious community expansion, some of which will come via RLUIPA. Government may well be scared off, coerced into abandoning long-developed, sound zoning and planning by the guillotine effect of RLUIPA:  Plaintiffs can collect attorney fees and, in some cases, receive damages for the delayed cost of construction. This is great incentive for zone busting.

The Orthodox have been a vital part of Ramapo since the 1800s. But now RLUIPA is encouraging such a great imbalance that parts of the Rockland suburb soon will no longer be recognizable as such. Housing density already has brought stressed infrastructure and higher taxes; education in East Ramapo is unequal to that offered literally next door in the other districts; building departments in Ramapo and Spring Valley, as well as volunteer firefighters, are overwhelmed by dangerous code violations that are the result of great, haphazard, ill-planned growth. There is much fallout in the rapid, imbalanced, unplanned growth.

The future promises much more of the same, and, economically that is not sustainable. Nor is it socially, with such great imbalance in community, one that fosters prejudice rather than Rockland’s traditional acceptance of diversity. Educationally, children are already disenfranchised.

RLUIPA was never meant to cause all that. It is flawed law, and either Congress should rewrite it to balance the needs of the existing community with that of religious institutions, or an appeal should be brought before the Supreme Court. Clearly, too many are deprived of the lives they want to lead

to satisfy the needs of others. There is great imbalance, and it must be addressed.


     The writer is a retired newspaperman. He can be reached at


By Arthur H. Gunther III

The world has always had potholes — that’s why it is not Heaven. And it has always had people who fix potholes as well as the many more who fail to do the assigned job.
These days in the United States, potholes — the literal type that forms on roads in freeze/thaw or the ruts in government — take forever to repair, some without any fix ever. Regulations, political priorities, a “not my job” attitude, red tape — all get in the way. Once, things were better. Not that there weren’t potholes, not that government worked, for often it has not, but once more individual pride and moxie got the job done.
An example: In Orangetown, N.Y., back in the 1950s, the highway chief was one Sterling Theis. A former mechanic and road repair guy himself who worked his way up the ladder in an old-fashioned way, he would get up at 4 every morning, have coffee and then head out in his truck. Each day he would take a different route in his town, which covers a number of hamlets and, back then, quite a few rural roads. Theis would note of every pothole or developing one that he saw, or a clogged storm drain or a missing curb section. He would jot down the location of each one.
When he got  to the DPW office, his foreman would take the expected list and, following Theis’ standing order, get the jobs done or either started that very day. No excuses, no matter the weather, the sick list, the budget.
Sterling Theis retired long ago and is now gone. His method of pro-active repair did not continue. Today, a pothole fix probably has to go out to bid.
You can extend this metaphor to any part of government’s “service to the people.” Things just do not get done these days, at least not as many, not as quickly. Perhaps there is some good reason, such as making sure the repair will last, observing environmental rules, providing jobs, etc. But mostly the slowdown is because government — ever bigger, ever more complex, ever more a “system” — falls all over itself, and along the very expensive path on which the turtle moves, bricks of gold are taken up by the favored few who work the system.
Another example: In our Washington, D.C., which is our land, our seat of government, the George Washington Monument formally opens today, May 12, 2014, after being shut for three years following a 5.8-magnitude quake in August 2011. Three years, when our involvement in the great landscape of World War II was three years, nine months. How many tanks, ships, Jeeps, training camps, rifles, bridges, etc., were built in that period?
At the Monument, more than 150 cracks have been repaired, rainwater leaks have been sealed, and the 130-year-old structure is OK to go so that we, the people, can once again visit our tribute to the Father of our Country. But why three years?
Yes, the memorial  was properly closed so that engineers could conduct an extensive analysis and restoration of the 555-foot stone obelisk that once was the tallest structure in the world. But should that have taken three years? And why $15 million for the repairs, or about $10,000 per crack? That’s a big hit for taxpayers, even with half of the tab paid by philanthropist David Rubenstein.
Once, initiative got you to the top, and that kept service to the people at a higher level, too, whether in government action or manufacturing product quality. For whatever reason, with some great exception, general no-nonsense, get-it-done, non-bureaucratic service that’s so overdue everywhere is as illusive as was the Washington Monument when it, this people’s statue, was closed to the people.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Fifty years ago, visiting the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City was like riding a train on what was supposed to be a vacation, but troubling, intruding bad news from home interrupted the anticipated gaiety you had when you boarded, and you could not concentrate fully — there was a buzz in your head. When you got off, you didn’t know where the next stop would be. You did realize, though, that you could not go home again.
The stirring of lost illusion that began with the John Kennedy assassination less than a year before was the bad news, and the bubbling over of long-contained emotion — from anger to euphoria and all the in-between that would become the 1960s civil rights movement, the Beatles, Vietnam and government distrust — would be the many stops ahead. In the years and decades after the fair, not all trains pulled into all stations, and not everyone got off at every stop.
It is odd that the previous New York City World’s Fair, the 1939-40 event also set in Flushing Meadows, Queens, was equally an uneasy citizen layover, that uncertain moment before the second war to end all wars. Then, as at the 1964-65 fair, the day’s job seemed to be distraction. In 1939, “Building the World of Tomorrow” theme would prove severely understated. In 1964, “Peace Through Understanding” became an illusive dream.
Yet there was fun and joy at both fairs, the first an escape from the lingering Great Depression and a chance for people and nations to mix, albeit in tentative fashion. The second fair included recognition that there had been post-war achievement even on the shaky ground of the Cold War. The bright, cheery pastel colors of the 1950s were still popular, American cars were bigger than ever, more suburban homes were being built, and the latest recession was over. In 1939, and in 1964, we all could have a bit of fun, for a time.
A highlight of the 1964-65 World’s Fair was the The Pietá, Michelangelo’s Renaissance sculpture that was installed on loan from the Vatican at its World’s Fair Pavilion.  Though commissioned for French Cardinal Jean de Bilheres, the famous work long ago had been moved to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.  This art, which depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion, was visited by 27 million at the fair, including Pope Paul VI.
The sculpture, so beautifully telling of a mother’s lost and earthly mourning, offered fair-goers, Christian, Catholic or not, a story of pain, of suffering but also of hope. (Just look at the way Mary holds her son.) As such it may have been the perfect “exhibit” at a world’s fair caught between the ever-greater expectancy of the 1950s and the institutional foundation shaking of the 1960s.
The 1964 fair brought us full-blown consumerism. Such fairs are 90 percent that by nature, of course, but the last Flushing Meadows event was particularly gaudy. Larger-style waffles, called “Belgian,” were a smash hit at $1 each, not the 10 cents you paid at Joe’s Diner for the ordinary but still tasty variety. A 20-ounce soda was also $1, not the 5-cent, eight-ounce vanilla cream Pop Roth’s store mixed at fountain service. 
     Prices would rise and rise after the 1964-65 fair, even at Joe’s Diner and Pop Roth’s, and the inflation as well as an emphasis on things bigger continue today. So does the entire story of consumerism, though a shrinking U.S. middle class will  change that. The Pietá is back in the Vatican, visited by millions yearly, its message even more relevant in a world where the “tomorrow” of the 1939 event happened but not as planned and where  1964’s “Peace Through Understanding” remains the slippery, illusive dream it has always been.

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


By Arthur H.Gunther III

Older folks like me have become our grandpas and grandmas in complaining that the “good, old days” are long gone, that things were always better back when. Well,  of course they were not, at least not always. Advances in medicine, social understanding and tolerance, vehicle safety and quality of life have progressed as has an awful lot more. Yet, since advancement is usually two steps forward and one back, and because we don’t always go back to fix what’s wrong in the new, yes, some things were better back when.
For example, ice cream. Eons ago, I had a bit of someone’s homemade vanilla with real June strawberries, the wild sort that grew in many backyards in my Rockland County, N.Y., area, and that was the best I ever enjoyed. Second to that was the hand-packed variety from old-fashioned ice cream parlors and stores with fountain service, such as the Wooden Indian in Nyack, N.Y., where the Traversons would take their time to scoop from large buckets into cardboard, delicatessen-type containers . They packed the ice cream so tight that the sides would bulge, and then mounded off the product so high you could not close the top and waxed paper had to be slapped on so you could bring it home.
Once home, it took a strong hand or the heat of August to get the packed ice cream out of the package. What a treat. What taste. Compare that to today’s air-injected commercial products that never seem to freeze in the kitchen ice box.
In my elementary school, the 25 cent school lunch (soup 5 cents extra) could be topped off by the occasional, maybe twice-a-month 10-cent treat, a paper cone filled with ice cream from a New Jersey firm. It was labeled “Country Club Ice Cream” and was exceptionally creamy. The paper cone was perfect since you could squeeze the last bit out of it. It, too, came mounded with a paper top. Vanilla was best. Most of the girls bought chocolate,  as they do today.
In the early 1960s, someone with limited thinking power decided to substitute some  ice cream varieties with ice milk, which, while it offered less fat, was also just what it said it was: ice. Not worth the effort.
Today, you can spend a small fortune, perhaps a year’s worth of the 10-cent Country Club treats, on one single cone, triple-decker though it may be and perhaps tasty enough because there still is good ice cream on the planet.
But few places will pack ice cream,  and almost no one, I bet, can pack it the way Ed Traverson did. And it would not have a mound on it.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Why does war often begin with a parade and end with one? At the first, youthful excitement, naivete, innocence, natural inclination and lack of experience and judgment as to horror fuel the adrenalin of patriotism as the quick steps of those who would save the world or avenge a wrong rush to enlistment. On the return march, the wounded, the hardened, the ones now in the know, step forward arm in arm with with the ghosts of the fallen, accepting the gratitude of a citizenry that can never grasp the horror of conflict. In each parade, organized first by fever and then on return by politicians, there is the constant cadence of background music for “All Quiet on the Western Front,” the 1930 American film based on a book the previous year by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of the First World War.
The novel, the film, describe the extreme mental and physical stress of the battleground and how civilian life is never the same for many, if not most veterans. The book and movie may be about an older war, the frightening technology of which is far surpassed today, but a young, as they now say “warrior,” mind was then as now a heartbeat from the mother’s womb and embrace. It is easily and perhaps irreparably damaged.  Read or see “All Quiet …” and you know today’s story for post-Iraq and Afghanistan U.S. vets.
The genuine reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, events brought a surge of young people who enlisted for the cause in a parade of honest patriotism for conflicts now recognized as both debatable and mismanaged, war that has put us into debt when we need investment for a shrinking middle class, infrastructure and quality of life. And for veterans’ care, too.
Now, a parade, the inevitable returning one, is proposed in New York City as the Afghanistan moment winds down, at least America’s part in it. Who can deny these vets their  march down Gotham’s Canyon of Heroes? Who would not feel pride and a moment of gratefulness for the men and women who went off so willingly and quickly?
But when the parade is over, as it also inevitably is, when our veterans are home alone with their nightmares, thinking of lost comrades; when so many are unable to get or hold a job; when a major national newspaper reports that one U.S. veteran commits suicide almost every hour; when brain-damaged or emotionally disturbed warriors barely exist  with seizures and drugs as long waits for woefully underfunded and bureaucracy-laden care never seem to end; when we forget our veterans except to give them a parade, how “quiet”  are we the American people?

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

We the people must declare war. Our nation has been attacked, this time not by overseas terrorists but by special interests who buy our officials and who cunningly direct growing populist rage against big government and its spending, playing on the fear foaming out of the stirred pot of a prolonged economic crisis.
Taxes are up, people’s confidence waning. The rich are richer, and no cash is trickling down. Manufacturing, once the bedrock of our economy, is silent, its machines now spinning in China. The American middle class, created by the Industrial Age, Progressivism, immigration, two world wars, suburbia and manifest destiny, is disappearing. A third world-like underclass is forming, one that permanently will be out of work.
At stake is much more than loss of buying power, a stalled economy and the threat of entrenched recession. No democracy long sustains without a healthy middle class and the hopes therein. (Recall the fall of Rome?) Those parts of cities not gentrified by the uber-wealthy and the ever-costlier suburbs will decay, and crime and social problems will increase. Education will not progress in such limited optimism and weak investment. Children’s dreams will be lost as we regress, choking our nation’s future.
Today, greed is the name of the game, aided and abetted by ever-more powerful special-interest groups, through 501C (4) political action committees and, now, two Supreme Court decisions that essentially allow big money to shout over opponents, especially the hoarse whisper of the ordinary citizen. Big money rules elections, rules what was once a serving Congress. All this is an attack on America.
Special interests – some of polarized political bent but most commerce-driven (banks, other financial houses,  military suppliers, etc.) – also influence our state legislatures, our executive branches, too.
Special interests, hiding behind a warped sense of 
“free speech,” use money to polarize politics, their paid-for words delivered in quick sound bites and e-bits meant to inflame, not inform, playing off slogans, playing off fear, based not a whit on facts. The downsizing and less-profitable media devotes too little in investigative reporting and explanatory writing to properly structure the debate and thus forge the choices that a democracy must make. Instead, we have sloganeering, innuendo, deliberate distorting of facts, pushed rumors – all to forge a simplistic agenda, such as “take government back” or “change,” behind which the real operation – greed – can operate. It’s now the bottom line, and profit is king.
We the people must declare war against the special interests that are greed’s lobbyists. No more fat wallets for any candidate or office holder. Instead, every campaign must be fully funded by the people. No other money allowed, period, set by law throughout the land. Special interests would still have voices, but they would be heard via public hearings, a true free speech tradition.  No one running for office or serving the people or retired from government would be allowed to take one penny from any special interest.
If we do this, even if it requires a constitutional amendment,  the national focus could turn to a new “Marshall Plan” for economic recovery, this time not for Europe but for America. An industrial/scientific age would begin that creates innovative work (jobs), and so another frontier that can guarantee a vibrant middle class, and with it, the wealth of the upper, yes,  and also the sustenance and dreams of the lower. But most of all it would ensure the future hopes of this nation by rebuilding the vital middle class.
Declare war, people. Tell your president, tell your Congress.

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



By Arthur H. Gunther III

There are many things a boy or girl must learn if the magic of childhood is to remain intact, as it should in this forever scary world made by adults. One certain skill is the art of burping.
I recently instructed my grandson Sam in this most necessary practice, not by direct teaching but by example. We both enjoyed carbonated beverages, seltzer actually. I let nature take its course, and in a few minutes I had bubble relief. I said nothing to Sam and just went about my business. The grandson continued watching Ninja Turtles. Not long after, Sam got up, and I heard a noticeable burp. He said nothing, so I assume the lesson has been learned and the torch passed to a new generation. Sam knows burping is natural and that it is acceptable.
What makes it acceptable is that, by example, I burped with dignity, covering my mouth. Sam saw that and got the message.
The point of the story is that Sam enjoyed his burp, as did his grandfather. This growing boy, a child of innocence and wonder, who though he soon enough will be older and then a teen and then an adult, with all the worldly weight that carries, found a moment of priceless delight without guilt, one that required no heavy instruction from the tall people — adults.
My wish is that Sam, whenever he burps, no matter when he does that, even at age 99, remembers his grandfather’s silent example.
Life does not have to be complicated, and if most of Sam’s lessons are learned as easily as burping, he may not ever leave a childhood behind. Would that we all should keep that connection.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

The first rule of old newspapering, when there were composing rooms where pages of metal type were assembled for the press, was to make a friend of a printer. Otherwise, he could do you and your career harm.
“Printers” was a general term for anyone working on the production or mechanical side of pre-computerized newspapers, including the typesetters who used large machines to cast type lines of type from lead and compositors who assembled those and other metal pieces such as artwork into a page. The printers were men took years to learn and hone their exacting craft, and they worked in composing rooms that often hit over 100 degrees because of the lead-melting machines.
If you toiled in the newsroom as a page layout fellow, or if you were an editor of any sort, you had to make a printer your friend. They not only produced the type you needed to get pages completed before deadline, a finish line by which your career was daily gauged, but they helped you read the backward type where all your errors lie. Being a friend was not always easy.
As in any profession, there are cheerful and grumpy sorts, competent and more competent, natural “teachers” and not. And, no matter our disposition, we all have good days and bad and in between, so each new session with the individual known as “printer” was yet another challenge in  helping give birth to news delivery every day.
Among the printers at my wonderful old stand, the original Journal-News of 53 Hudson Avenue in Nyack, N.Y., was “Big John” DeSevo, whose cigar was a permanent facial feature, lit or not. He was 20 years on the job when I met him, having started as a composing room gofer, then typesetter, then compositor.
I was dummying or laying-out the Local page in those days, which was the second front page, this one highlighting major local stories that did not make page 1 or go inside. It had to have a neat look, this presentation cover, with strong-enough headlines to grab readers and photographs that also caught your attention. John was my main man, the printer who did my page and saved my rear end numerous times.
He could not be bought by false praise or chitchat. If he liked you, and that usually was related to your competence, you did OK with him. If he thought you were a newsroom idiot who hadn’t so far bothered to learn reading type backward, then on John’s bad day, you could be lost. Or worse, harmed.
One morning, near the 10:15 deadline  after my own pages were put to bed — sent off to the pressroom where forms would be made and fitted to the rotary printing presses — John was called to the other side of the composing room and asked to work with Tom on an inside page, the one with obits and last-minute news. Tom was a snarly fellow, full of himself and not practiced in the news business. Whatever job he had moving up was too short to learn much, but he had risen to city editor nonetheless, or maybe because that is often how it’s done.
Well, Tom was in a rush. He simply wanted the page finished, and he told John to hurry. John did not hurry. His name was on the page, and he wasn’t going to see mistakes on 35,000 copies. So, he took his time, even with deadline a minute away.
Tom didn’t like that and elbowed Big John, who for once lost his cigar, turned a mighty red, took a deep breath into his 250- pound frame and  “pied” the page’s type, all 200 pounds, onto the floor and Tom’s shoes.
“Pied,” you ask? Well, in the great and honorable world of old composing rooms, pied type is jumbled or mixed up. That it was, sitting on the floor and enough on Tom’s shoes and now sore feet.
Tom missed deadline. And not a person in the newsroom, not one in composing ever blamed Big John, who remained with the paper until retirement decades later. Tom? He was soon gone.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

On an expectedly festive St. Patrick’s weekend that began in low spirits with three favorite draft beers out of stock at a village pub in my outer New York area, a mortal sin, my namesake hiked spirits when he ran 13th out of 3,500 in the Shamrock Marathon on Sunday. That was worth drinking to.
So is my mother, an Irish lass born on St. Patrick’s Day, the daughter of Mary Bonner and John Lyons, a longshoreman on the Brooklyn docks. Six years later Patricia would lose her mom, waking one morning to her lifeless being, a grandmother I never knew, gone at age 32.
Those days in the first quarter of the last century were not easy for many, and Mary and John had their troubles. They lost 10 of their 13 children, some to the worldwide flu pandemic, others to the raw dangers of at-home birth. Patricia survived and so did John, the first born, and William, the last. With their mother gone and a father unable or unwilling to care for them, all three were sent to orphanages.
None ever complained nor overly judged. My mother was as Irish as tea in her acceptance of misery and fate, of the dirge that is every Irish person’s accompaniment. Yet she never sang that song for her own two children, working hard for family and home and not looking back at the ghosts always chasing her. Her wit was inherited, to be sure, and she recalled enough of the old stories to pass on.
My own childhood was made festive enough on St. Patrick’s Day by the stories, the wearin’ o’ the green and the grand family birthday my father always arranged for Patricia. She had many more than Mary, until Alzheimer’s eased her from the ghosts but also from we, the living. A long, sad goodbye, that.
But this is St. Patrick’s Day, or it will soon be after this column’s posting, and so my mother’s birthday. Grand it was that her grandson Arthur 4th, in a run called the Shamrock no less, gave her a present in his fine win.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

With Daylight Savings Time officially installed, the one hour we lost from sleep over the weekend has been quickly forgotten in my parts of the Northeast, 20 miles or so from New York City. But Gotham has had nothing to do with the wonderful freshness of what soon has to be spring.
Though winter may still show itself in cold and snow, it lost some of its icy tongue in recent high 40s temperatures and must inevitably see its potency whither. Winter must move on, just as fall did. Queen of the mountain will be spring in all its fragrance, showering of color, crops beginning, longer days and the promise of renewal in body and spirit.
Years ago, even before I learned the  calendar, and certainly eons back when there were none, spring announced itself not so much by date but by a single whiff escaping winter’s breath, a distinct freshness not unlike the smell of wash your mother hung out on clotheslines, if you were lucky enough to have one who did.
Walking home from school in those days  I knew — we knew — it was spring, or the promise of it, when we carried our winter coats. We had been buttoned up morning-side, with scarf, but the sweat began flowing in the warmer sun at about 2:30 dismissal time, the warmth itself a teaser that beyond even spring is the hot summer.
My longings, thankfully, have been few in this life, but if I had to add to those unfulfilled, it would never be a lack of seasons. Though I may not always chill out over winter’s cold, and though heat and humidity are never my friends, the beauty of  a fresh snowfall, the crispness of leaves fallen and, especially, the potential that is every spring tells me I must never leave where I am.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Westwood, N.J. — Rising taxes, a dwindling middle class, O-Care debate, world events and life itself are so full of uncertainties and dilemma that we all need a day off. I got mine recently in a fabric store in this Bergen County borough. Oy, what an experience.
Time does stand still in places, and Discount Fabric King is one such oasis in hurly-burly living. The interior looks 1952; some of the fabric may be older than that though the newer styles are there, too. In fact, you could probably order any pattern in the world from the many style books thrown here and there but quickly accessible. There are bookstores like this, where tomes are piled to the ceiling but the bookseller knows where everything is. So, too, at this Jersey fabric palace.
On a recent awfully cold day, the sort we used to, have in, well, 1952, we were there to find upholstery for two old wing chairs that should be saved. While I didn’t enter the cloth discussion all that much, the trip was worth it since I like 1952 scenes; as a photog and painter I always look for color and pattern; there was steam heat that warmed us like a grandmother’s home; and as a writer the more characters I meet the better. There were two such jewels here in this comfy place.
First, the owner. Name not important. What he is is the point. Head full of fabric knowledge; easygoing, patient manner as a businessman helping guide selections, never a simple task; a fellow for whom the “deal,” the sale, is what makes the day, not the money. One way or another, behind the wonderful charm, was a fellow going for the order, and he did that easily. If he were a cat, he would have been purring as we left the store.
And then there was the counter lady, obviously long in the business. Knowledgeable, too, she looked you in the eye, kept her presence with you and still was able to say what was where, pointing with her head. When it came time to cutting fabric for a customer, she was still talking, hardly looking down as her scissors glided through, cutting the goods almost without ever closing the scissors. And the folding,  the folding! Maybe she glanced down twice as she took five yards and deftly folded over the fabric, beginning with a doubling, then another doubling and so on, pushing the accumulating pile out for another fold, ending up with a completed pile so neat that it seemed to have hospital corners.
Now, you don’t meet people like those two very often. Not nowadays. Not in fast-food places where employee turnover is as quick as the burgers eaten. Not in glossy super-duper markets. Not in banks just taken over by yet another bank. No, two well-practiced, friendly, self-educated people long on the job in a very old, non-frilly place who, once again, made me trust in humanity.
They gave me a nice day off from the cares of the world.

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


My Nyack view (preferable to Tappan Zee Bridge)                                                                AHGunther photo

By Arthur H. Gunther III

  Nyack, N.Y. — There’s a new bridge a-building across the Hudson River just 20 miles from New York City, though the original is nearing a really short but stressed 59 years. Some in these parts, a village in Rockland County, N.Y., never wanted the first crossing.
You see, growth came rapidly post-1955, so quickly that profit rather than wise planning ruled the day, then the months and years. Natural drainage areas were filled in, downtowns abandoned, endless strip shopping appeared and municipal services expanded so much that now they are cost-prohibitive, especially with no relief from the state on mandated costs such as health care and pensions.
These days the suburbs, surely this one, are graying, and seniors, so many of them, live in houses too large and few smaller properties to be had, if enough sales could be made anyway. School taxes, also with federal and state mandates, are reaching breaking point, and it is clear that income must also be a factor in the levy rather than just property wealth, often just a paper figure.
Many of our young prefer living not in suburban development with its anonymity and sameness but in walkable areas such as the once-abandoned villages. So, it’s back to the future a bit, a theme that could have been kept in place and beautifully expanded when the first post-World War II housing was constructed. Houses could have and should have risen around existing villages and hamlets, renewing the downtowns and keeping car travel down.
This time around, the new Tappan Zee Bridge will not add much to suburban development, which in this area is maxed out save for over-density building, a new worry. No, the crossing, which will continue to be fed by an under-maintained Thruway on both sides of the Hudson, will simply be a safer bridge, with walking and biking provision, but existing principally as an interstate, quite unsuitably for trucks, the freight of which would proceed more efficiently on railroads. Gotham-bound commuters and other travelers  should have that option as well. But money, big money, long ago went to the highway lobby, with drastic effect for suburban hurly-burly growth at the expense of community strengthening.
Ah, progress, which can be another way of saying, “Ouch, who pinched me and told me it was for my own good?”
As one who wished the first Tappan Zee had never been built where it was, who as native son will forever rail against bad area planning, who hopes against hope that whatever growth lies ahead will be better, I prefer to drive down Memorial Park way, in  Nyack, and stare out not at the bridge but toward a very old barge, now moored for marine life, and view even that in the abstract, as the accompanying photo shows.
Reality denial? You bet.

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


New carriage, old Central Park  (AHGunther photo).
By Arthur H. Gunther III

MANHATTAN — On a snowy Saturday that did not seem to bother hardened Gothamites and assorted visitors, a trip to the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library to see the near end of “The Armory Show at 100”  was art in itself.
The original 1913 installation at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue offered about 1,250 paintings, sculptures and decorative works by more than 300 European and American artists. The new exhibition, “The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution,” features approximately 100 masterworks from the first show, which was a watershed art event, introducing work that swung to the avant-garde and which shook up American audiences, critics and the art establishment.
1913 Armory provided the path for  baby steps toward the abstractionism that would increasingly rule into the 1970s and so affect every other art form, continuing through today.
Since the Historical Society is about, well, history, the new exhibition revisits the original from an art-historical point of view, spotlighting artists, audiences, political and economic themes, music and literature.
Radical for its time, on the doorstep of the cataclysmic Great War, the unregulated greed of the 1920s and the subsequent Great Depression, 1913 Armory offered a look at the early works of such painters as Picasso, Renoir, Duchamp, Cezanne, Bellows, Henri, Hopper, Degas, Van Gogh, Seurat, Matisse, many others and that of the 1913 co-organizer Arthur B. Davies. The theme was that times were a-changin.’ The installation of living American and foreign artists, favoring works ignored or rejected by past exhibitions, however shocking in 1913,  would embolden American artists and give them voice, independence and “artistic language” of their own. The logo for the International Exhibition of Modern Art show was “The New Spirit,” and that it was.
The present armory show, which closes Feb. 23 and is a tribute to such Historical Society officials as Brian Allen, director of the Museum Division, and
Marilyn Satin Kushner, PhD, curator and head, Department of Prints, Photographs and Architectural Collections, is set in intimate rooms reminiscent of the paneled sections of the original installation. You see up close what the fuss was all about as you look at this challenging art.
When visitors left the Historical Society Saturday, they faced even more history, literally, as snow pushed against face and a carriage could be seen in the old Central Park, not unlike that of a Saturday in 1913 or long before. That there has been both continuity in human affairs, in ordinary living, in the daily goings-on of a metropolis such as New York City while culture constantly changes and evolves gives proof that you can grow, as the 1913 Armory Show implored, but also stray grounded, as Central Park and the Historical Society show us every day.

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


Color at Tallman Mt. copy

At Tallman Mt. State Park (AH Gunther photo)


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Snow — pristine, fresh, covering all the warts of ordinary land — is a childhood delight that we don’t give away to growing older, though the demands of getting to work and to the store and to the shovel and to utter humanity and the inhumanity of that, too, make us think twice.
Yet we must fight against that tide, for in the end the child grown very old, it is hoped, again becomes the child, as if by natural cleansing there is preparation for the innocence of eternity.
When a youngster finds there is no school, that a snow day has been declared, though his/her parents may fret over child care, the youngster knows that the point isn’t escaping class, for education may well be fascinating. No, this snow day is a treat, a sudden gift, a ticket to explore.
Time to build a snowman, throw snow balls, walk to the hot chocolate shop, stay in pajamas all day, hearing the furnace turn on, adding to the warmth of a blanket on the couch.
It is a moment to daydream, to use unscheduled time for whatever, even nothing, for out of nothing often comes something.
Maybe adult-dom ought to have its snow days, too, releasing the minions from the treadmill, from encapsulated thinking, from the usual choices.
Just as long as the child and the adult never share the same day “off,” for the twain should rarely meet.

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


ImageCOLOR IN THE HILLS, a view off Bear Mountain (Arthur H. Gunther photo)

February 3, 2014

     Bear Mountain, N.Y. — You would have to be close — about 48 or so miles from New York City — to hear, even in this verdant wonderland of forestation, an urban fellow say to his four year old: “They call Bear Mountain that because it is bare on top.” Well, it is bare, but that’s not the reason for the moniker. We hayseeds know that.
     This beautiful part of the heavy mountain ranges off the Hudson River, so close to Gotham, is part of the New York State parks system and specifically in the Palisades Interstate Park network. Despite being underfunded for decades (in tougher times, libraries and parks always get the shaft), Bear Mt. State Park, its umbrella the Harriman State Park, and other New York parks in the Hudson Valley region are full of trails, famous stone structures crafted by Depression-era men, some pools, quite a few lakes and the historic Bear Mountain Inn, itself awaiting fuller restoration when the money is there. A hotel, cafe and trading post are now in place in the inn, as is a continuing gallery operated by Artists in the Parks, a non-profit collection of artists who share sale proceeds with the park system.
     For decades, at least since the inn’s construction in 1915, we locals have driven or hiked or, once upon a time, taken the West Shore Line train to Bear Mountain on weekdays, when the city crowds were back at work. No complaint about urban folks, of course — they help keep the parks going, too, and what a weekend respite, but it’s like when company goes home. You have the house to yourself once again — it is a delight.
     Bear Mountain Inn  was designed in the Adirondack Great Camps style, and it never goes out of style, literally. Even a poorly done 1970s retrofit with blonde wood, now removed, could not wither the great oaks and other dark woodwork of this monumental building.
     My hope is that the Palisades Parks Conservancy, properly formed to aid “the improvement of and activities in the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, and for the purposes of promoting and expanding the preservation of natural, historical, and cultural resources in the Park for the benefit of the public”  will some day be successful in specifically restoring Bear Mountain State Park, its parking lots, its trails, its zoo, its inn, its skating rink and many other features so that the “great masses” will continue to visit, from New York City and beyond and from local communities, too. That is what was intended so long ago in the Teddy Roosevelt-style founding of the parks.

Arthur H. Gunther is a retired newspaperman. He can be reached at This essay may be reproduced.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

A recent New York Times edition unintentionally offered proof of the growing American economic contrast in this topsy-turvy world of post-recession stall.
On its Opinion Page January 6 was a third-position editorial, “Republican Disdain for the Jobless,” which rightly castigated the GOP for not extending temporary unemployment benefits for 1.3 million. Just two pages later, on the back cover of the first section, in obvious, deliberate and expensive “paid position” advertising, was a call by the famous Bonhams auction house for a very rare and expensive automobile.
Such contrast between the rich and those who are not. Collector car prices continue to rise, almost exponentially, as Wall Street investments pay off and as corporate salaries/bonuses increase, while permanent unemployment and under-employment escalate, too, but not in the same fun way.
It is irony that with the same newspaper, the front section of The Times, January 6, 2014, a relative few but nevertheless expanding class of our people could read the classic car ad and ponder offering a bid for such needless luxury while others, also a growing number of our people, might glance in nothingness at the same ad as they wrap themselves against the overnight cold on the streets or in the ever-longer employment line.
This isn’t a liberal’s lament, for this columnist believes in the promise of individualism, even if it must be rugged. There are enough without responsibility for self, and government programs cannot prove a lifetime — sometimes generational — parent.
Yet in a more enlightened time, and that is what America is supposed to be in 2014 — it is not 1914, nor 1814 — economic, and, so, social progress must depend as much on those with resources as it does on pulling yourself up with bootstraps. Otherwise, what is the purpose of democracy? Isn’t it a progression of betterment for all?
A modest parting of the super-rich’s riches, aka a “trickle,” could begin a re-employment boom in this once middle-class-led nation. Dare we say, the rich would be even richer?
Now, you can get fancy with this argument, and so probably stall it, which seems Congress’ way these days. For example, you can say that big government costs too much and that reducing it — its reach into our lives —  would prompt investment in new or modified industry and business. Doesn’t work that way, so proclaimed  bully pulpit Republican Theodore Roosevelt, who waited and waited for a “trickle,” and when he saw no tap open, offered the “Square Deal,” anti-trust actions and improvement of urban working and living conditions to fuel a progression that made solid the nation’s emerging middle class. And the rich made even more money.
You can and should argue that big government is its own enemy, for even in good intention, large bureaucracy is ripe for overcharging, waste, corruption by special interests and most fertile for endless red tape. Involving responsible, government-checked private business is better for employment and cost control than government-run bureaucracies. (This may prove true for Obamacare, largely a private system, once the government application end of it runs better.)
The road to less government spending, and, so more money for all  taxpayers, is jobs in new-world business, technology, industry. That requires seed money, as surely as did the lift out of the Great Depression that World War II spending and then the great G.I. Bill brought to our nation. Think of how many professionals came out of the G.I. Bill, how much growth there was in the middle class. Less government regulation can be the result of greater, meaningful employment.
The popular Pope Francis says his grandmother would say that “burial shrouds have no pockets.” You cannot take your money with you, and if you are super-rich, you don’t even know your worth. Why not do good with some of it, “pay it forward” as it were? Invest in re-shoring the middle class. There would then be less of a need for government programs. And have greater faith that people will better themselves if you also invest in their dignity, their humanity. Contrast that with the greed that now exists, with “A Christmas Carol” playing all year long.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact him at This essay may be reproduced.


By Arthur H. GuntherIII

My Colorado pal writes on a subject that many of us recall — clothes drying not in a metal machine but on a line. Elaine Muise Calabro, once of Rockland County, N.Y., says she “preferred to line-dry clothes, and always did when weather allowed while the kids were young. Nowadays, many subdivisions will not allow clotheslines of any sort. Ridiculous, when we are forced to recycle, pay for ‘alternative’ renewable power sources in our bills, etc. If solar-powered heating/cooling is such a great thing, why isn’t solar-powered clothes-drying actively encouraged? …”
Her remarks recall a column I originally wrote, on July 15, 1997, for The Journal-News in Nyack, N.Y. Entitled “Stringing ideas on a line,” it went like this:

Remember the laugh your mother gave when, as a youngster, you took in the stiff-as-a-board wash from the backyard clothesline? The pants looked as if they had been in a press.
We do not see many clotheslines anymore, and my guess is that there are more busy psychiatrists and pharmacies these days partly because of that fact.
In a slower age (although my mother, who always worked as well as kept house, never had a ‘‘slow’’ day), everyone seemed to have a clothesline. In my youth, I lived in several sections of Rockland, including Sloatsburg, Tallman, Airmont, Pearl River and, mostly, Spring Valley and Hillcrest, and in each neighborhood there were many clotheslines or clothes poles, usually homemade contraptions built with whatever lumber was handy.
My mother’s line was the ubiquitous white cotton twill, drawn through two pulleys and knotted. There was a line keeper, which helped prevent sag, and, of course, the usual canvas bag full of clothespins, preferably spring-loaded. Trees served as poles.
Every Saturday morning in the 1950s, on what was everyone’s main wash day in Hillcrest, this lazy fellow would be awakened by the squeak-squeak of the pulleys as my mother hung the wash. It is a sound that, to this day, recalls the peaceful weekend lounging of a teen-ager. Lazy me rolled over and went back to sleep.
My mother would take her time hanging the wash. It almost seemed like therapy of a sort, time to get out of the house, to feel the fresh breeze, to smell a new morning and to let her mind wander. As she sorted the wash, she also seemed to sort her thoughts, and I do not doubt that it gave her a sanity boost.
At other homes, where the clotheslines might be closer together, there was over-the-line talk between neighbors, and for many this became a ritual not to be missed. Gossip was exchanged, hopes were defined, news was spread. If a photographer could have spent some time at such a clothesline gathering, he could have captured facial expressions ranging from interest to skepticism, to wonder, to joy, to sadness. But almost never boredom.
I’m told that in the old New York City neighborhoods, where buildings’ rears met in a courtyard, there would be a central pole to which were attached many pulleys carrying lines from second-story-unit windows. What gathering spots they must have been, with enough news daily to fill a weekly paper.
And, of course, everyone would know everyone else’s fashion. When you hang it all out, including your underwear, that’s not hard to miss.
My mother used to carry the wash in a straw basket, which she had for many years until it literally fell apart. When I first carried it out for her, as a little fellow, it was so heavy that I could hardly do so. By the time I was a senior in high school, it was light, and I was aware that I would not be doing the chore much longer. I wished for the old moment when it had been heavy.
You do not see many clotheslines anymore, with dryers in homes and with people too busy to take time for such labor. Life seems too quick for passing, even absent, thoughts, strung along a line ready to evaporate, as with the water in the clothes.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. This essay may be reproduced.


By Arthur H.Gunther III

“LEAN ON ME,” said the healthy pine to its brother, the roots of which were torn from the earth during Superstorm Sandy in fall 2012.   In a metaphor, how many Rockland County, N.Y., residents required help as they did without power and heat, some for weeks?
The mighty pine, a symbol of the Northeast and a non-deciduous offering to get us through sometimes harsh and colorless winters, has shallow roots, a reminder that life is fragile but enduring. That some pines grow and stand for decades is due to the closeness of their neighbors in a forest buddy system.
But Sandy was extra-mean, and this poor pine at the Nanuet School District park off Convent Road in the Town of Clarkstown had just one brother, to its left, and none to the right, making it vulnerable. It tilted in a great burst of wind and could not be righted. Nothing could “put this Humpty-Dumpty together again.”
And so the metaphor went for Rockland in the Sandy aftermath. Not all came back as they were, but in the troubles, there was certain and sure neighborly help.

The writer is a retired newspaperman who lives in Blauvelt, N.Y. Reach him at This essay may be reproduced.


For some years, my son Arthur IV, a writer too, offered a holiday story published in this space. Reprinted here is his Dec. 24, 2007, piece.

Franklin was a man of routine. Perhaps such a person had become an antiquated notion in this day and age, the very word “routine” summoning visions of safe havens and early dinners. Someone for whom risks were akin to strangers at your night door. What a shame to reduce a person to such a narrow universe. There had been a time where Franklin would have been moved to debate and argument over such labeling of his being.

He was older now and less ready to argue. So old in fact that he would rather not seek new memories for fear of crowding out the old ones which kept him warm, the ones that had made him who he still was. This was easier than it sounded. The year itself, with its familiar cycle, cooperated nicely. The ebb and flow of the seasons lent a rhythm to his days that evoked memory at every turn. Despite the changes that had settled around his town, there was still so much to remind him of his past days.

Which brings us to Christmas. Here it wasn’t so easy. Franklin himself had never been what most would call religious. He never attended a church or other religious house, even on the most popular of churchgoing days, Christmas. His wife had been another story. Molly had been a regular churchgoer, attending church every Sunday morning for the entire 55 years of their marriage. She rarely spoke of her beliefs, preferring to let the way she lived her life do the talking.

Franklin did not label himself some kind of heathen. He had plenty of belief in God. Proof was everywhere. Franklin saw God in snowstorms and surprises, laughter, nature and seeming coincidence. Franklin had seen God every day for 55 years in his wife. Church just was never a place where he sought Him. 

     Franklin’s wife had been accepting of his ways. She never asked him to attend church with her. On Christmas Eve, she may have dressed a bit nicer and left a little earlier, but she still attended alone. When Molly died a few years back, Franklin was stunned, as he knew he would be, though her passing was not unexpected. Slowly, however, he found those familiar routines and let the memory of all the sweet days before settle in more deeply than ever. In his own way, Franklin’s wife walked with him through his days.

It was on Christmas that Franklin was at a loss. He had depended more on living vicariously through Molly’s routine on that day than he had realized. Franklin first tried ignoring the holiday, but that didn’t seem right. He had never ignored religion, just celebrated it in his own way.

The second year after his wife’s passing, Franklin instead sought distraction and tried hiking in the woods, but this wasn’t much better. Before he knew it, here came the season again.

By Christmas Eve, Franklin was restless. After trying to distract himself with some of the old Christmas movies that his wife and he had always appreciated, he put on his coat and went for a walk. He decided to head toward town and maybe see if he could find a place open where he could drink hot chocolate. As he walked south on Broadway, he noticed more cars than usual parked on the side streets. People left and right were emerging from their cars dressed quite nicely. Slowly Franklin realized that these must be the extra people who always attended Christmas Mass. Without consciously making a decision, Franklin found himself following the crowds up the hill toward the church. As he crested the rise, he was taken with how the building flooded the normally quiet Tuesday night of the street with light. This was a street where Franklin rarely found himself, never having a reason to walk here. He couldn’t remember the last time he walked this way.

Franklin stopped at the corner adjacent to the church and stood still. As he contemplated whether to go inside, he suddenly was startled by the noise of a collective standing up. An organ note rang out as all the lights around him went out. His first thought was that a blackout had occurred, but then Franklin saw that inside the church candles were being distributed and lit. Candles were soon being passed around for those who stood outside on the steps, too. Franklin guessed that the church must have been filled to capacity. Thinking his decision had been made for him, he turned and was about to walk home when a little girl ran up to him with a candle. “Here you go,” she said and was quickly gone.

Franklin had forgotten to wear gloves, and his cold hands dropped the candle as quickly as it was handed to him. Bending down to pick it up, he noticed that he was standing not on a sidewalk but on a brick walkway. The bricks were all engraved with dedications. Franklin read the ones he could see illuminated by his candle: “John, with love from Elaine.” Then another: “Margaret and Stuart, 45 years” and finally: “For Franklin, thank you for your faith, always, Molly”.

Franklin was frozen in place. He read the brick again to make sure he wasn’t seeing things and then slowly stood up. He could hear the church choir start to sing as he turned to walk away. Maybe next year he would return and go inside, Franklin thought. Maybe tomorrow he would walk down this street again. For once, Franklin was glad he had changed his routine.

   Arthur H. Gunther IV, a schoolteacher, lives in Upper Nyack, N.Y., with his wife Laura, son Sam and daughter Beatrice. His e-mail is


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Nanuet, N.Y. — There’s a shopping center here that’s never been without parking vehicles since it was built in the later 1950s, a remarkable thing because such strips in suburbia — actually almost all of America — just seem to multiply, knocking one another off, their inevitable fate weed- and litter-covered lots and empty storefronts. But not the old E.J. Korvette complex.
This large discount chain of mostly Northeast stores, some with supermarkets, furniture outlets and tire centers, operated in Nanuet, a hamlet 20 miles out of New York City, for about two decades, until bankruptcy in 1980. Ever since, the site has been home to various retailers operating in divided E.J. Korvette space. That means the huge parking lot, about the size of three football fields, has always been used. And therein lies the heart of this essay.
Since the old Korvette store is a long building, it has a fire lane stretching about 60 percent of the length of the parking lot. And it is usually blocked. Maybe it’s a Clarkstown, N.Y., thing, or a Northeast habit, but the cars are ignored by the local gendarmes, at least the ones I have observed.
A run into Posa Posa pizza, or A.C. Moore or the UPS store or other shops means some irresponsible motorists leave the motor running in a lane clearly marked by the traditional yellow lines and painted curb. Newly painted.
Should there be a fire, which certainly is a possibility given the age of the old department store and the modifications made over the years, volunteer firefighters might not be be able to park their rigs, wasting valuable, life-saving moments  setting up  the “job.”
Motorists park illegally since they are not challenged, at least not often enough. I am in that center about once a week, have been for years, and there is just about always a vehicle or more in the fire lane.
Nearby, in another shopping center, the same situation. I once asked a state trooper, who was also parked in the fire lane while getting a bagel, why he didn’t  ask the fellow sitting in the car in front of him to move out of the lane. He said that it wasn’t his “jurisdiction.” Did not know that fire hazards were defined by jurisdiction.
A suggestion beyond the obvious, which is to use common sense and not park in fire lanes, and for police to enforce the law: Keep the fire lane yellow, with diagonal lines and curb in that color, but overlay with deep red markings. This would make the lane more noticeable and make the offenders stand out. It would also pay tribute to our firefighters, volunteer and hired. Red is their color.

  The writer is a retired newspaperman who lives in Blauvelt, N.Y. He is reachable directly at This essay may be reproduced.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

In this time of holiday parties, we went to see Jerry Donnellan at his West Nyack, N.Y., home. For decades now, he has been the veterans guru for Rockland County, and Jerry’s daily, weekend and evening life is centered around helping his fellow comrades. It is a God-given thing he does, and though Jerry is a local government employee, his job is to muddle through the red tape officialdom creates so that the ordinary soul receives his/her due, sometimes in an extraordinary fashion.
The holiday affair was just fine at Jerry and MariEllyn’s place, as it always is since they are humble, gracious hosts. What made this year special, though, was that Jerry told us more than half a million souls have now been afforded treatment at special veterans clinics throughout the U.S., apart from the usual veterans hospitals. Not too many years ago, there were no veterans clinics, and those who served under our flag often endured the indignity of the bureaucracy in getting an appointment and/or treatment at the vets hospitals. Not enough funding, insufficient staff, long trips  and the indifference of any large organization made our veterans wait and suffer even more. Government can sure shoot itself in the foot and then trip up its citizens.
Jerry saw the need for change, and he made his voice quite clear, calling upon a willing C. Scott Vanderhoef, the Rockland County executive, to help provide limited funding for a local clinic in New City. Almost immediately the walk-in was a success, assisting vets in getting checkups, prescriptions and care. It has proven a blessing to thousands of ex-servicemen and women.
And the idea took off, spreading nationwide from Rockland in great numbers. All without a big fuss. All without D.C. direction, all without legislation that today surely would be debated, filibustered or somehow labeled anti-American.
Jerry Donnellan saw a need, and he and Scott acted on it, homegrown-style, can-do style, the sort that won a world war in the 1940s when creative Yanks took bulls by the horn and made things work on the  battlefield even as the generals debated tactics.
Good work, fellows — those guys then and Jerry and Scott now.

   The writer is a retired newspaperman who lives in Blauvelt, N.Y. He is reachable at This essay may be reproduced.


By Arthur H. Gunther III

NYACK, N.Y. — In the birthplace village of Edward Hopper, the famed American realist artist (1882-1967), it is a simple thing to note the early morning Hudson River light that he bottled and used in all the paintings of his long career. That was his gift, and it is has been shared with generations, especially in his present renaissance in America, Europe, elsewhere. Yet we humans, and Hopper was that, too, also have the most ordinary of moments, no matter the ability. Some even suffer in the ordinary for the ability.
When the artist was studying in France and also living in Nyack and in the lower New York City neighborhood where he would spend most of his life, he received short letters — almost conversational tidbits — from a friend, Alta Hilsdale, whom he seems to have loved. But the emotion was unrequited, and reading the Hilsdale letters, 1904-1914,  is a sad experience. It is a classic relationship in which expectations are not shared and are in fact so different that you wonder how it could have lasted a decade.
But it is also a known tale, and that is why moving romance novels have been written in hoped-for explanation. Hopper did not write, not often anyway (unfortunately, we don’t have his letters to Alta). Nor did he speak much. He painted. That was his language, his expression.
Writer Beth Thompson Colleary offers Hopper fans, and actually anyone who explores human interaction, a chance to look into Hopper’s art and mind in her recently published Hilsdale letters collection, “My Dear Mr. Hopper” (Yale University Press). The book is scholarly in that it offers primary source material, and it allows the reader to enter the Hopper-Hilsdale relationship. Perhaps the last two letters are the most compelling and revealing. The first, Sept. 18, 1914, just two paragraphs long, tells the artist: “I suppose I shall have to begin to tell some of my friends that I am to be married soon to Mr. Bleecker … We are to live in Brooklyn, at 42 Sidney Place … and if you should care to come over, I would be glad to see you. Always your friend, Alta Hilsdale.”
Imagine, after 10 years, such a short and explosive letter. Hopper may have assumed a developing romance where he should not have done so, but, still, the letter is cold. The second letter, written from Brooklyn on Oct. 14, is a bit longer though still short. More a note than a letter.  It begins, “I cannot tell you how sorry I am to have made you unhappy.” And it ends with, “I thank you with all my heart for all you have done for me and offered me, and beg you to forgive me for causing you unhappiness. Most sincerely, Alta Hilsdale Bleecker.”  That last letter is probably her most emotional one in all the 10 years. (The assumption is Hopper wrote back between Sept. 18 and when she penned the letter on Oct. 14.)
Who knows how the artist handled this loss. He married painter Josephine Nivision 10 years later, and that seemingly less-than-romantic union probably informed his art, since he became most productive and, finally, sellable, with Jo at his side. And, surely, Alta is in the artistic effort, even if a painful memory.
This brings me to the point of my essay. Hopper appears to have painted just one work set in Brooklyn, where Alta moved in early marriage. Most of his works are about Manhattan or  Cape Cod, Maine and Vermont, with some western U.S. scenes. “Room in Brooklyn” (1932) is quite an emotional piece, as Hopper’s paintings are, but this one is different. Almost all Hopper women are voluptuous or at least sensual, many nude or nearly so. The woman in Brooklyn is fully clothed in a modest dress, sitting in a rocking chair and looking out the window while also apparently reading. We do not see her face, but the brown hair is set in the exact style Alta wore in an early 1900’s portrait of her, perhaps by Hopper. The Brooklyn room is sparse, with an unset table behind the woman. The view is toward what some Hopper scholars see as Hopper himself, that long row of Brick tenements, such as in “Early Sunday Morning.”  (It is repeated in many paintings.) On the floor near the woman is a shaft of light, the traditional Hopper pointer, as if he were a teacher revealing knowledge.
Is “Room in Brooklyn” a look at Alta 18 years after her last letter? Is she alone for a reason? Is she looking at Edward or the memory of him? Is she re-reading his  letter? Is she clothed as the virgin he remembers, or as a woman not fulfilled? Who knows? Hopper is a mystery that even he spent a lifetime exploring.

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


By Arthur H. Gunther III

Nearing the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, so much reflection has already been written, some by younger writers who were not alive to absorb the year 1963, the 1950s and God, what happened in the killing’s aftermath, that turbulent continuation of a decade still changing America.
Kudos to scribes who analyze and who get it right, especially if they did not feel the earth, smell the air, taste the water of the time. Yet, first-person reflection is as valuable as primary research, for setting the record, for authenticity. It’s a check on analysis after the fact. So, here goes, from someone who was there, before, during, after.
Fifty years ago, Nov. 22 was a Friday, as it is in 2013. About 12:30 p.m. I was flipping TV channels when I paused at WCBS-TV, New York. A soap opera was in progress, of no interest to a young fellow age 21, but the long thread of its story line, including every emotion there is, caught my interest and I lingered. But not for long. Quickly, on the simple black and white set, with just seven channels available through a rooftop antenna, came a bold screen with large letters shouting “CBS-TV NEWS BULLETIN.” Then the signal switched to a live newsroom, Walter Cronkite at a small desk, professional but with almost incredulous tones, reading wire service copy: “There has been an attempt on the life of President Kennedy . …” The venerable reporter and commentator did not leave his post for a day, and this America remained glued to the TV for even longer, over an increasingly somber weekend and through JFK’s burial.
So much changed on Nov. 22, 1963, when 90 minutes later, after numerous news flashes of increasingly negative tone,  Cronkite read another bulletin: “From Dallas, Texas, the flash is apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. today, Central Standard Time, 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.”
As a young man, idealistic as so many of us were in that folk-singing era when youth had infused stodgy government, when hope seemed a sure bet despite a lingering recession, the Cuban missile crisis and still-distant war drums in Vietnam, the president’s death shortened our sunny days, coinciding with the coming winter solstice. In JFK’s place was an older man, the less articulate, old-style politician Lyndon Johnson. He reassured the country as an uncle might after you lose your cool dad, and perhaps that made you get into bed, feel a bit tucked in and have some sleep. But the next morning you knew things would never, ever be the same.
And they have not been the same. Presidencies since JFK have become increasingly isolated, surrounded by necessary security to protect our national leader from nuts but in the process putting the person into a cocoon apart from the people. Elect a president and you never see him (her?) again except through the filters his advisers employ. They have his ear, these special interests of whatever bent, not the citizens who cry when their presidents are taken from them.
Ever more complex is our government today, and the super economic power concentrated in the secretive military/industrial complex that Eisenhower the old warrior warned us about is much stronger and deeply entrenched. Moneyed lobbies increasingly rule the nation.
Today no president has simple choices, for the world is so very complex. Idealism seems reserved for the political stump, not for the Oval Office.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, may he rest in peace, kept the stump with him for much of his short tenure, continuing his well-phrased speeches, strumming the rhythm of the song of hope. What success or failure or a mixture of both he might have brought to the nation – in the economy, in dealing with the Cold War, in Vietnam – can only be conjectured. Was his the last approachable presidency? That, too, is speculative.

  The writer is a retired newspaperman. Reach him at This essay may be reproduced.