Walter Cronkite

Sadly, we hear the news that Walter Cronkite is gravely ill. Well, not so sadly really, since he appears to have had a great life and in living that life, managed to get quite old. So good for him.

I have one Cronkite story (below the fold) and only one, and I’ll tell it to you below. I also just want to mention that my generation grew up with Cronkite as the guy who told us the news, truthfully, and in a straight forward manner. Cronkite told my family (and I only barely remember this) that Jack Kennedy was dead, and (this I remember) Jack’s brother, and MLK. He told us about what was going on in Viet Nam every night, and where my memory and love for the guy is strongest, he kept us apprises, as top news story, about every detail of the space program. Astronaut Lovell once made the famous statement “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Well, it was Cronkite telling the world “Apollo has a problem” that I remember.


So, my Walter Cronkite story:

This was told to me by a woman who at the time was my house mate. We were house sitting for a couple who were famous evolutionary psychologists when she told me this story. Her background was fairly upper crust (though she herself was a totally cool person). Her parents had a summer home in one off those regions of New England where only the wealthiest could afford to live, on a special island off the coast, in a special neighborhood of that special island far enough away from the fisherfolk to not smell them but close enough to bask in their quaintness.

The particular neighborhood had been incorporated at some point a century or two ago in such a way that a relatively low key (i.e. not publically known about unless you lived there) political entity existed that was much like a modern condo association. Except these were privately owned homes … mansions … on privately owned land. Nonetheless, certain decisions that might be made by residents had to be approved by all of the residents, and one of these decisions was who a particular home would be sold to.

This was, I was told by my house mate, to keep out the riff raff, mainly, nouveau riche, or heaven forbid, people with brown skin or connections to certain foreign countries, undesirable ethnicities, or industries such as the theater.

So one day the lineage that lived in one of the mansions went extinct, or went broke, or whatever, and the mansion went up for sale.

And, as you may have guessed by now, Walter Cronkite came along with the hope of buying the mansion.

Now, this happened shortly after Cronkite retired from being CBS Evening News anchor, so his reputation was well established as one of the Great Americans. And he’s white and so is his wife. And even though the news business seems more and more like entertainment these days, the truth is that in this days it was not seen that way, and there would be no way to categorize Walter Cronkite as “Theater people.” So really, there is no way, one would expect, that Walter Cronkite and his wife would be refused the right to purchase this summer home in this special neighborhood on this special island.

But, nonetheless, the neighborhood board refused to allow Cronkite purchase of the home.

Why? Because he had a maid with an Hispanic surname. A live in maid. I believe she was Puerto Rican. And you know what they say … let in one Puerto Rican and the next thing you know the dogs are speaking ins Spanglish.


  1. #1 Bruce
    June 19, 2009

    So he bought in Edgartown instead?

  2. #2 greg laden
    June 19, 2009

    Nice guess, but no, not that island. You’ll never guess.

  3. #3 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    June 19, 2009

    Where I grew up, we didn’t get CBS until cable was strung, so even though I saw pictures of Cronkite in newspapers I never watched him on the news. We were NBC People, my family. We watched Huntley-Brinkley and then Chancellor.

    I hope he pulls out of this and lives a bit longer, I really do.

  4. #4 Dan J
    June 19, 2009

    My earliest television memories are of the moon shots, and Walter Cronkite. Momentous occasions like that don’t come along very often, and the news definitely doesn’t have the same feel to it.

  5. #5 dean
    June 19, 2009

    I remember many of the same Cronkite moments as you, Greg, and I remember when he said that he didn’t think we could win in Viet Nam. What is the latest news on him?

  6. #6 Gerry L
    June 19, 2009

    Just before Nixon resigned, he traveled to Moscow. On his way back to the States, Air Force One stopped briefly at Loring AFB in Maine, where I was stationed. We were invited to attend a presidential speech on the flight line. I said, “If Uncle Walt will be there, maybe I’ll go.” I found out that he would not be there, so I stayed in the dorm — about a mile away — and watched on TV.

  7. #7 greg laden
    June 20, 2009

    I just posted … actually, I wrote and “posted” this an hour ago but forgot to hit the “publish button” … better news about Cronkite.