Monday, July 20, 2009

And That's The Way It Is: Walter Cronkite and Me

I don't recall why I came into the newspaper office on a Saturday morning, but it wasn't because I was planning to meet anyone of note.

I was wearing over-sized glasses to give my eyes a break from excessive contact lens wear and a thinning orange T-shirt featuring a huge green cartoon alligator. I remember it being humid and feeling sticky.

One of my coworkers told me Walter Cronkite, the legendary CBS anchorman, was up the street signing a new book on sailing he had co-authored. I grabbed some stuff off my desk and ran up the avenue to Waldenbooks.

When I got to the table, he looked up and smiled.

"Hi, Mr. Cronkite," I said. "I apologize for not buying your new book, but I'm a just a poor reporter at the local newspaper, so I hope you understand. Would it be OK if you signed my AP Stylebook instead?"

Looking up over his reading glasses, he gave me a grandfatherly chuckle.

"Not at all," he said.

When he finished signing, he asked, "Just print journalism? No TV?"

"No TV," I answered. "Just print, sir."

"Good for you," he said as he handed back my book and smiled.

Two decades later, it's now a few days after Walter Cronkite's death at age 92, and I finally realized what the person once voted the most trusted man in America was saying to me.

He wasn't commending me on my choice of vocation. Instead, I think the old guy was dissing my appearance.

13 comments:

  1. That was a great little story... and, oh, I'm sure he wasn't dissing your appearance. It's not like he was Clark Gable... thought the mustache indicates a marked attempt to emulate. Kidding aside, his life and commitment to his craft were extraordinary and inspiring.

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  2. I think he was sizing up the competition. You actually clean up pretty well.

    Great story!

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  3. How lucky for you to have met and have an autograph from Walter Cronkite! And I, likewise, agree that he wasn't dissing your appearance but perhaps noticing the sacrifices (fashion?) you made to pursue your calling. It is a calling, right?

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  4. "Two decades later, it's now a few days after Walter Cronkite's death at age 92..."

    You were working at a newspaper when you were in your teens? Wow!

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  5. BE - I started as a freelancer a few days after I turned 18.

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  6. Ditto - Faiqa, CT Mom, P&I $ BE.

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  7. I grew up watching (or listening to) Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News, and that man was like a journalism god. How fantastic you got a brush of fame with him.

    Fist bumps from one print kid to the other, my friend.

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  8. I don't remember Cronkite all that well. I remember hearing about him and hearing his voice. That's about it.

    I did get a chuckle out of your epiphany though. No TV for YOU!!!

    blessings!

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  9. Absolutely classic.
    And to think we used to send you out when Diana Ross stopped by Woolworth's -- or was it Andre the Giant eating lunch at Boodle's? Best I ever got at GT was meeting ex-Mayor John Lindsay when he came through, which goes to show that the copy desk was no kind of life.

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  10. That is a great memory of a great journalist. I think the signed style book is so much better than a sailing book.

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  11. I always thought he was pretty cool. Sorry he is gone.
    It is cool you got to meet him.

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