March 13, 2017

By Arthur Henry Gunther III

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

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

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

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via