Sunday, September 27, 2015

KEY TO A MEMORY



By Arthur H. Gunther III
“Less is More” is often a clever marketing move to make you believe the downsized product you pay dearly for actually delivers as promised. The real truth may be that the deal is a three-card Monty ploy.
For example, the coffee bags I pull apart in a local food program are marked 11.5 ounces, not the 16 ounces on the tins I would open for my mother some — quite a few — years ago. Yet the TV ad blitz would have you believe that though there is less coffee, the “vacuum packing,” or the “flavor roasting” or perhaps the deep search on foot into the Andes for the “just-right” beans means that you don’t need  a pound of coffee. About 28 percent less is OK. Just buy four-ounce cups.
Well, it’s buyer beware anyway,  and in this ever-more-jaundiced age of un-stellar politicos, we don’t believe much anyway.
The coffee I take out of the plastic bags is missing more than product. There’s no strong coffee fragrance, that intoxicating aroma released when you used a special key to open the old tins. The key was soldered to the bottom of the can. You pried it loose and pulled up the sealing tag on the lid of the coffee tin, inserted it into the key and twisted — and twisted — until you had the top off. When you first began the twist, not only did the aroma erupt, but it came forth with a big “swoosh!”
You may have been just 10 or 12 and not yet a coffee drinker, but it was like having that morning java,  the best shot of the day.
The argument would be made that most of us are now too busy  to pull off a key and slowly release a tin lid. There is no cellphone “app” for that on our smartphones, and maybe all that scrolled-up metal is  a sharp hazard for the recyclers.
But back when a parent came home from the weekly shopping, and a somewhat bored youngster looked forward to not only the weekly ration of lemon cookies but the finding of a tin key and the opening of a hefty one-pound can of Maxwell House coffee, complete with a whoosh! and aroma, there was on need for an app for anything.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via ahgunther@yahoo.com.

Monday, September 21, 2015

AGE OF LETTERS

By Arthur H. Gunther III
Envelopes — legal sized or not — may be an anachronism in the digital world, in this morphing time of Tweets, Facebook posts and cell phone text shorthand, but using them can prompt memories that probably will not happen if you hit the smartphone in 20 years.
For example, I cannot fold a letter, a piece of paper, to place in a legal-sized envelope without recalling a near magical trick by someone I was in touch with years ago. She was one of the responsible “Distributive Education” students when high schools once actually had Business Departments and prepared legions of secretaries, bookkeepers and office managers for commercial work. (Imagine that most useful approach to post-high school life?)
Part of the course of instruction was to write various types of business letters, and I am certain that went just fine, for this classmate was quite good at whatever she turned her hand to. But she offered an added twist, one which I cannot duplicate no matter how many times I try.
Magically, as noted, the lady could fold a letter, a single or multi-layered effort, exactly along two lines so that the top and bottom of the paper(s) met exactly. Then it could be put in the envelope, as neatly presented as was the final, flawless typing, with proper grammar and spelling. It was all part of the package, this precision.
Once, writing letters was a social grace, a courting effort, a vacation must, a keep-in-touch activity that linked people across town, the nation, the world. Can you imagine the emotions at play if we could read any sampling? Actually, we have, when PBS or someone finds letters sent home from soldiers in the Civil War, or Woodrow Wilson’s love notes (he was quite a writer) or various other missives from the famous, from ordinary people.
No one is saving the Tweets, though.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via ahgunther@yahoo.com

Monday, September 14, 2015

A GIFT FROM TWO

By Arthur H. Gunther III
ahgunther@yahoo.com

     When I was 21 and had not yet set the sail of life’s direction, perhaps even adrift for a time in calm waters but in a dinghy with rapids in view, I took a part-time job as a “flyboy,” the person who catches newspapers as they come off the fly or end point of the press. It wasn’t a difficult thing, but you had to pay attention, and that was just right for the young fellow I was.
    There were two flyboys, one on either side of the conveyor, and “Chet” would grab 25 or 50 papers, and then I would get the next batch. On most days, the count was 50 for The Journal-News, a daily in Rockland County, N.Y., light enough for one person to lift and then swing around and deposit on a handcart. On the heavier advertising days of Wednesday, maybe Thursday, too, the count was 25 because of the thicker papers. After the handcarts were filled, others would take the papers to be bundled at wrapping stations. The bundles would go to carriers for delivery to newsboys.
      Eventually, early on in what would become my 42-year newspaper career, and just before I became a copy boy and spent the rest of my time in the newsroom, I also ran the bundling machine, delivered papers to the boys and girls who were our afternoon team and even hand-delivered to homes and business.
     (One day, when I was a copy boy and had managed to get a story and photograph printed as an enterprise effort — which is how you then rose in the news business — I wrote the story, engraved the photo, delivered my copy to Composing to be set in type, went to Circulation, bundled papers, took the bundles and delivered them, a great experience. In a small way, I handled the “baby” — the story and photo, the publication, the delivery — from beginning to end, a privilege.)
     As a flyboy, and more important as someone trying to find himself, which we all must do, the gods paired me with Chet, who had been installation manager for the New York Telephone Co. in Rockland but who, according to old company rules, had to retire at 65. Yet he felt young, had a family in Nyack and wanted to work. So he took a humbling, part-time job, this man of great experience who directed so many. The contrast between him and me could not have been greater.
     Chet was a kindly sort, a gifted asset for his co-worker, and he offered life encouragement as well as a work ethic and both modesty and confidence. There could have been no better schooling for me at that point. Together with “Art,” another Telephone company retiree from Nyack who worked various jobs in Circulation, these two gave me a chance at aspiration.
     A gift for which I am continually grateful.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com.

Monday, September 7, 2015

NO 'LABOR' FROM 'LEADERS'

By Arthur H. Gunther III
thecolumnrule.com
EVERYWHERE, USA -- How is labor supposed to rest on this noted day when there are so few middle-class jobs? The many unemployed already have nothing but downtime. How did a rich, progressive, innovative, democratic, promising nation, always one with a frontier to conquer, become stuck in high joblessness and its growing disease, low expectation? Where will our children’s children be on Labor Day 2055? Where are many Americans today?
This nation, conceived in liberty, should not by the odds presented have won its war against the well-trained and equipped British; it came close to returning to the king in 1812; it could have been destroyed by our worst conflict -- brother against brother in the Civil War; it could have collapsed economically in the later-1800s depressions; it could have lost its identity in the great immigrations, if Old World prejudices had lingered; it could have withered and collapsed in the Great Depression; and it could have been permanently misdirected in the civil rights crisis, the Vietnam War, Watergate and Sept. 11.
But our citizens' bearings remained set. We continued our optimism, inventiveness, innovation, charity and move toward equality.
Not so government, which has lost its way. Today, the presidency and the Congress are isolated from we the people, reacting largely to the monied interests required for re-election, encumbered by procedure and lobbies that keep the executive and legislative branches apart from the American mainstream -- its pain and suffering, its hopes and desires.
On this Labor Day 2015, the sweat of many millions of our men and women, our forebears, are now the tears in the eyes of the jobless, in the eyes of parents who fear for their children’s future. Yet we retain our great energy and patriotism and native can-do American spirit ready to tackle the next frontier, if only, if only, if only that would be set by our leaders.
Where are they?

The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com This essay may be reproduced.