October 29, 2018
By Arthur H. Gunther III
(also on Facebook)
Quietly done, not-fussed-about, get-it-finished moments strike deep chords in the reflections of older life, or so it appears in a Halloween memory.
More than a few seasons ago in Tallman, N.Y., then a little hamlet of fruit orchards, an equally small church offered a Halloween party, and someone told my father, who was then working at both a nearby hospital and in a nursing home. He was trying to make ends meet, though my brother and I never knew it, so kept were we from the home economy by both our working parents.
In this second-grade year, excitement was had by playing in the apple and peach orchards off Cherry Lane (never saw a cherry tree there) and watching horses train at the polo club where actor Burgess Meredith kept a steed. There was no downtown to walk to, a luxury I would come to enjoy when we again moved back to nearby Spring Valley. For this part of young life, imagination had great latitude and deep encouragement in a rural setting where sitting in a tree and day-dreaming was as good as watching “Captain Video and his Video Rangers” on TV.
My brother Craig and I did manage to get together with other boys and some girls, however, and the Halloween party was to be one of them. It was a last-minute invite, an offer made by a nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital who thought it would be fun for us.
My father left the hospital and picked us up at the Airmont and Cherry Lane schools, and we both sat in the 1939 Dodge as it made its way to the small church and its basement. When we arrived, the very nice woman organizing the party opened the door, saw us and quickly came outside. It seemed neither my brother or I had costumes, which are expected at Halloween parties. My father had had no time to get them and would have been pressed financially anyway.
The church lady who dashed out to save us embarrassment just as quickly had my dad bring us right across the street where there was another kind woman, a seamstress who worked from her home. In a jiffy, this lady whipped up two creative costumes, pinned together in flourish. We were fun-ready, my brother and I.
The memory of that 1949 Halloween party is now a blur, but its circumstances and three good people — the woman at the hospital, the one in the church and the seamstress — can never be forgotten. Nor can my father’s efforts.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. firstname.lastname@example.org This column is adapted from an earlier version.