Uncle Walter

I miss Walter Cronkite. But there’s a part of me that’s glad he’s not having to witness the presidential election of 2016.

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Today’s Google Doodle is Walter Cronkite. Today is the 100th anniversary of his birth. (I wrote about him in 2009 when he passed away.)

It’s difficult to explain the influence of the trusted Uncle Walter to someone too young to remember Walter Cronkite’s tenure as the CBS Evening News’ anchor. In my memory, the two most historic events of my childhood–the assassination of JFK and the moon landing–are as much about Watler Cronkite as they are about the events themselves. In my home, he narrated the Vietnam War each evening right before supper. I don’t know why we didn’t turn the TV off.

The local newspaper, Time magazine and Walter Cronkite, were my family’s consistent news media staple through the 1960s and early 70s.

When we were in our late twenties, my wife and I spent a couple of nights on Martha’s Vineyard. Knowing that Cronkite spent the month of August there, we joked constantly about what we’d say if we ran into him. I recall we agreed that it wouldn’t be anything related to the comment, “and that’s the way it is,” his nightly signoff phrase.

I’ve forgotten what we agreed it would be, but on our last night there, we were walking down a narrow alley to a restaurant and had to squeeze up against a cottage wall to let an approaching car by. As the car crept by in order not to hit us, we looked at the driver and recognized immediately it was Cronkite. Instead of having something pithy to say, all my wife and I could do was laugh at our actual encounter with the icon. I think we said something dumb like, “hey, you’re Walter Cronkite.”

I miss Walter Cronkite. But there’s a part of me that’s glad he’s not having to witness the presidential election of 2016. I’ve done all I can to ignore it.