Notes from a Vagabond

Remembering ‘Uncle Walt’

By Steve Fox

Friday night word came out that Walter Cronkite passed away. For those of you who may not remember him, he was not a news anchor, he was THE news anchor.

He came across avuncular and trustworthy. My mother called him “Uncle Walt” and the name suited him well. At our house, we got our news from him every night at 5:30 p.m. That’s when news was only a half an hour. Imagine only thirty minutes of news at the end of the day, and yet we managed to stay up on all of the current events.

That is thanks to “Uncle Walt.” He managed to get this out and I mean news, not commentary that passes as news, in a short concise manner. When there was commentary, they told you it was commentary. I have a lot of respect for Walter Cronkite in that regard. I don’t remember him slanting the news.

Walter Cronkite may have been the first and last of his kind. He was the first anchorman, and he did the job well. After his retirement, nobody else had what he had. No one was able to capture the trust of the American people. Walter Cronkite may have been the first and probably the last of the great anchormen.

So, it is kind of ironic that Walter Cronkite died so near the anniversary of the first walk on the moon. One of the big stories he covered was the space program. I remember spending many hours in front of the television captivated by what was going on. I remember watching Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra as they brought the moon shots to us through the use of live video, live audio and animation.

One of the few times I remember Cronkite interjecting personal feelings into a story was during his coverage of the Apollo program. You just knew by the way he talked that he was excited about the program, and his enthusiasm was infectious. I remember the wonder and awe of it all. I couldn’t imagine what it was like being in space but, like any other boy of that era, I wanted to find out.

Another thing I remember is Walter Cronkite’s sign off. It was comforting hearing that every night coming from the same person, and in tribute to Walter Cronkite I will end this column the way he ended his broad cast. “And that’s the way it is, Wednesday July 22, 2009.”