Saturday, July 18, 2009

Walter Cronkite, Rest in Peace

It was as if a friend had died or a member of my family. I am a child of the 60’s, a tumultuous time to be growing, to be coming of age. It was a time before the Internet and the news of the day came nightly at 5:30pm. I grew up in rural, southern Minnesota and although there were 3 networks on TV, the CBS station out of Mankato was the one that came in the clearest. So every night we would listen as Walter Cronkite would deliver the news of the day.

I was pretty young when President Kennedy died, 7 years old. I got the news over the loudspeaker at school. I am not sure at the time I understood clearly, but some of the adults around me were crying. I do remember that we watched it on the news that night. My mother made sure of that. It was important in her eyes that we remembered. From there, I recall other events of the world unfold nightly in my living room. The Vietnam War was a big topic of concern. One of my cousins had been drafted and was there. We were all afraid for his safety. We watched as the war came into our living room and Walter Cronkite explained it to us.

I recall bits and pieces of the 1964 presidential election. My family was very into discussing politics of the day. And it is amazing the diverse opinions considering we all got our news from the same source at 5:30pm, every evening.

By 1968 I recalled much more. Things seemed to be happening so fast that year. In April, Martin Luther King was shot. As a child of 12 years old I had never met a black man, but I was made aware of the immensity of the loss through the evening news and Walter Cronkite. And in early summer we lost another of the Kennedys when Bobby was shot on June 5th. I felt a little cheated that year as my birthday June 9th had been declared a national day of mourning. Later that summer I watched the Democratic convention in Chicago as anti-war protesters fought in the streets against the Chicago police. All of the major events of that year brought to my attention by the same man. The messenger is remembered as firmly as the events themselves, Walter Cronkite.

Those who are coming of age now cannot imagine the impact of that one man. My memories of the histories of the times are all interspersed with one thing in common, Walter Cronkite. He is as familiar to me as a member of my family. He brought the news, good and bad, nightly into my home. These days I really don’t have time to watch the news. I catch most on the internet in a much more immediate fashion. I really don’t recall the last time I watched the any network station as I am rarely home at 5:30pm. I catch the news when I can on cable or the internet. I heard the news of his death on MSNBC and was pleased to see the respect shown to him by the commentators, specifically Rachel Maddow, as she spoke with his former colleagues.

I don’t know that there will ever be a newscaster that I respect as much as Walter Cronkite. In times of sorrow and anguish, when events of the day became a cause of concern, I was informed and somehow comforted to have things explained by Walter Cronkite. He is rightly described as an icon. He came from a time when the news was just the news and not the fluff or overly sensationalized version of today. Cronkite told it straight and you really could believe him. I miss that…

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1 Comments:

Blogger Rottlady of the Ozarks said...

Hi Mary

We had similar experiences watching Walter growing up. CBS was the channel of choice in our home too. I've been watching the coverage about him and his impact on us tonight on CBS. They are going to have a special tomorrow on him that should be good.

He will be missed.

Elizabeth

July 18, 2009 at 6:30 PM  

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