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.