I left out a couple of personal notes out of today’s column on Walter Cronkite. It was merely a matter of running out of space. So, in the interest of full disclosure…
First of all, Cronkite was indirectly responsible for helping to put food on my family’s table while I was growing up. My father was a TV and screen writer who wrote some scripts for the Twentieth Century documentary series which was on every Sunday night in the 1950s. The show used black and white newsreel footage to major historic events—stuff like the Berlin Airlift, the bombing of Hiroshima and the fall of the Russian czar. I seem to remember one piece on the Hungarian Revolution.
You get the idea.
Anyway, Cronkite was the host and narrator of the show. (This was before the days of his anchoring the CBS Evening News.) It was sponsored by Prudential Insurance and the opening credits included a photo of the Rock of Gibraltar and very portentous theme music. My father commandeered the television set every Sunday to watch Cronkite, who with his booming, authoritative voice seemed to be as imposing and unassailable as the great rock itself.
To little kids, Cronkite, with his slicked back hair and mustache, resembled another Walter who was on every Sunday night—Walt Disney.
My father also wrote for the “You Are There” series which used modern news techniques to dramatize “breaking stories” like the Boston Massacre.
My other personal connection involves Cronkite’s wife, Betsy. Afer World War II, my father-in-law worked with her at Hallmark Cards in St. Joseph, Mo. where Cronkite was born in 1916.
My mother-in-law was also a Missourian. And she always pronounced it “Mizzura,” When questioned, she would reply, “That’s the way Walter Cronkite says it.”
And that was good enough for her.