December 28, 2015

By Arthur H. Gunther III

I am increasingly asked why I stay in my hometown, actually the county where I have lived my life, and my father before me, and my grandfather a bit and now one of our two sons and his family. My simple answer is this Rockland, the geographically smallest county in New York State, though almost over-populated, is where my roots are. To leave, even though it would bring greater economic comfort and a landscape horizon more like that I enjoyed in youth, would give me a deep ache when I awoke the next morning in a different world.

It is silly, I know, but even as a younger fellow, I did not like to travel, to take a atmosphere break. Now, nearing the year 2016, there is every reason to move on, save the nearness of family and the memories of so many places, even more so, individuals. But you can have family visit when you go, and you can take your memories of people, places, moments with you, for that’s where they reside — with you, anyway. How often do we see the old places, family, teachers, friends and those we connected with in special ways? Most are gone, times have changed, and the stage sets no longer exist. You cannot go home again, yet leaving, for me, would be unplugging. I cannot do that.

But there is reason, logical reason, to move on. The rural quiet is gone, and you still cannot get used to the rudeness of some who brought hustle, bustle and cacophony with “progress.”  The old library you once lived in daily had the rule observed: “Please Be Quiet.” There is no public funding for that place today, yet there is constant, even greedy and self-centered investment in unplanned growth.

You are still angry with the Thruway builders for bulldozing your wooded hut in 1951 (rudely so — they didn’t tell the third grader), and that un-acceptance mushroomed and was reinforced when development after development was built, strip shopping, too, and both helped shove aside downtown community life and fostered suburban isolation. Taxes rose, and still rise.

Perhaps another place would be more affordable; maybe there would be better land-use planning. The diversity must  continue, if you sought such a new place — that would be necessary since you grew up with a mixture of people. Rockland has always been proudly diverse.

So many folk you know have left for warmer climate, or cheaper areas or lifestyles easier to take as life marches on. If peace could somehow be made with myself — with the leave-taking — would I go? On an afternoon, having survived the busy roads, after having paid my tax bill and having opened the utility charges, I seem fortified to look at real estate ads. But then comes the evening, and I am comfortable in a house where long we have lived. Then comes a peaceful enough sleep with memories as a warm comforter —those people are with me — and in the morning, so very early, I drive to buy three newspapers, also my life’s blood, and the roads are nearly empty. Old Rockland is back, in a way, for a short time.

I realize the bills will get paid. And I will have new chance to complain about “progress,” as is my want. I will see everywhere the progression of life — that of my family, some gone, some here,  that of my friends, those I knew in a certain way, or who taught me, who showed me this land and why it cannot be separate from me or I from it or them.

My resolve is reinforced after the morning ride and I purr anew — until the afternoon, anyway.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via


  1. Dr.H.M.Imanuel

    Art…wonderfully written, and we all know it was truly from the heart…you, sir, are a real Rocklander, and your pride in it, hopefully represents in some small way the rest of us (former)Rocklanders.
    Thank you for your brilliance.
    Ft.Myers, Fl. & State College, Pa.

  2. Tucker J.Madawick

    Art, I admire you for staying put for all these years. I left to get to know my father in 1972 in Indianapolis, IN. Unfortunately we didn’t hit it off right away, but I liked Indiana, and was fortunate enough to meet some good people right away. I left after a year or so, going back to NY first, but it and myself had changed enough in that short time i knew i couldn’t go back, (to NY). I ended up living for a year in Tulsa OK running a race car team, couldn’t figure out OK, came back to IN. Went one more time to the left coast, the auto capitol of the world, didn’t like it either. I now call myself a Hoosier, like where live, the locals, pretty much all except for the ultra conservative politics, nothing is perfect as we all know. I really miss my family in NY but can’t go back now, having lived more than half my life here. I’m glad I made the change at good time in my life.

    1. thecolumnrule Post author

      Hey, Tucker, you made the right decision for you. I am truly happy my SVHS classmate and fine fellow has done so well. Keep racing, Hoosier!

  3. Howard Gleichenhaus

    Art, you always blow me away with your blog. I know exactly what you write about when you speak of the DNA. I was not a Rockland native. I came to Spring Valley, actually Monsey off Rt. 306 when I was already in high school. I came from the Bronx with its crowded apartment buildings and concrete. I was apprehensive at first, new kids, new surrounding, teens driving cars and all around me “green” — Beautiful soft green.
    It did not take long to settle into my new school with a graduation class of 300+, not the 1000+ at Wm. H. Taft. In month you knew almost your entire class by name. Everyone knew merchants by name too. Whether Bowns, Kaplans, Martios, Henry Kulle, Vic Peruna or the Sirota Bros, they knew who you were, you parents and siblings, and always with a smile. At the Tiger’s Den we got to spend time with teachers and get to know them in a different setting.
    Driving the back roads late in summer with the widows down (no AC back then) I still remember that smell of the blue-green algae in the lakes and ponds. Late at night the sounds of distant train whistles and a river buoys clanking on the Hudson in Nyack, and the sweet aroma of new mown hay. Watching fireworks in Memorial Park, the holiday decorations hanging over Main Street in a gentle snow when I drove home from college in Connecticut is still my Norman Rockwell vision of Spring Valley, BTM. (Before the Mall). Climbing Clausland, biking into Nyack, the car parades on game day, the orange and black Beat Tags hanging from every book bag and belt buckle in the halls of SVHS. I, even as a senior, tried out and made the varsity baseball team (where I might add, your brother was a star.)
    Yes. My DNA started in the Bronx but through genetic engineering has morphed into Rockland DNA. To this day my Florida license plate is RK-39 (same as it was in high school) with an NY tossed in (RK39-NY). Yes, I have been stopped and asked, “Are you from Rockland County.” I always answer proudly, “Yes, West Nyack via Spring Valley.” God I miss it!

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