June 25, 2018
By Arthur H. Gunther III
In my childhood village of Spring Valley, not far from New York City but at the time country enough to be “upstate,” there was a protective rhythm.
My father had grown up there. My grandfather arrived as a young man, and this was his community for decades. My brother and I went through elementary and high school with kids we knew from early childhood. They were the children of children my father played alongside.
The stores on Main Street changed little. The 14-cent-a-ticket movie theater was my dad’s youthful hangout, too, same price. The post office on Madison where I searched through discarded junk mail pretending I had received it was dedicated in a ceremony which my dad and his mother attended. My eighth-grade history class with Miss Christina Schopper began with an admonishment that “I hope you don’t act up like your father.” My dad just laughed when I told him.
My grandfather’s garage off Tenure and Summit had Ed White’s marriage license nailed to the wall. Ed, who had lived in the house, owned a grocery and later a hobby shop, was a village trustee, too. My brother Craig and I went to school with his sons.
The open ground off Church Street, near the old Consolidated Laundries, was overcome annually by the circus, not a carnival, but a true three-ringer. Every kid went, and we sat as we did in the public school assemblies or the elementary school at St. Joseph’s.
Newly built Memorial Park offered swings and a hop-on, self-propelled merry-go-round where Craig and I met George Dloughy before we both were in kindergarten, recalling our fun until his last days.
We kids of that time, in that village, with its long-serving stores, with teachers spanning generations, with neighbors who knew neighbors who knew neighbors for decades may not have had much materially, but the five or ten cents we occasionally carried in the pockets of the two pairs of pants or dresses our parent managed to buy for each school year got us three Bachman pretzels at Roth’s or a five-cent cherry coke at Arvanite’s.
The walk downtown to that treat, with our minds lost in thought about school, or friends or girlfriends and boyfriends or just idled in life’s ordinary but fantastic moments was beyond monetary value.
I hope everyone gets to live in or near a village, somewhere.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org