November 27, 2022

By Arthur H. Gunther III

     You walked out the door not as a different person but with an added layer, as if you had visited a kindly elder who told you what you did not know. You had more chops.

     That was often the experience in the small hometown library, the Finkelstein, in the childhood village of a certain time in Spring Valley, N.Y., then with a population of 4,500. It was eons ago, and while time brings the memory of Hallmark moments that were less so in fact, there can be no denying this quite small library was an oasis as we grew.

     In use, it was really one big room with an equally beautiful downstairs that seemed for meetings and storage only. The Finkelstein was a 1941 family gift to the village and its people, especially the children. The library’s architecture, inside and out, was classic Jeffersonian, quite elegant and welcoming. You felt invited and dressed up even if you didn’t have a nickel in your pocket.

     But you did have a library card issued by Ellen Heitman, longtime librarian, and that was your passport to this oasis of imagination.

     Rainy days, hot summer ones, boring days, school term paper days and the ones when a walk to the Finkelstein and the promise of seclusion in an utterly quiet room, perhaps seated on the window bench looking toward the Ramapo mountains meant respite in the tugs and pushes of growing up.

     You could always count on adding to your being, your soul, after visiting the library and its books. The Finkelstein was a small place but with many windows and doors opening to endless vistas.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman.