I Did Not Know That

cronkiteThe late, great Walter Cronkite was:

a. the most trusted man in America

b. the greatest news anchor of all time

c. an avid sailor

d. a Volvo endurance racer

e. all of the above


e. all of the above

Former CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite has passed away at 92. Although Cronkite was primarily known for his coverage of the JFK assassination, moon landing and the Vietnam war, he also enjoyed success in endurance racing with teammate and Volvo of Long Island dealer Art Riley.

When Riley died earlier this year at 93, his obit briefly mentions Cronkite’s involvement with the team and its successes behind the wheel of a Volvo PV444. The team campaigned and won races at Lime Rock’s “Little LeMans” in 1957, ’58 and ’61. Cronkite was the only finisher in a five-car team one year, taking a B-division win and placing third overall. The two also teamed up to compete in the Trans-Canada rally.


I did not know that.

If you want to see Uncle Walter’s drumming chops, check out this video, about halfway in:


Cronkite’s racing background was briefly mentioned last night, and I kept wondering how all the hagiographers missed it — sailing was part of the Legend.

(Best b-roll clip: Walter in the jet with all the dudes floating around him.)

@nojo: I am a complete gearhead, and I had no idea. Makes me want to buy a Volvo Amazon and head for a dirt track to find some Finns.

At least he drove with a dealer.

One thing I will always remember about Volvos is that despite their amazing strength, the Swedes never got the reliability all that great. Several family trips were ruined when my dad’s Volvo wagon broke down. I learned more about garages and automobiles than I really wanted to know.

@ManchuCandidate: My first car was a Volvo 142 – rebuilt the Strombergs (twice) myself. Bulletproof otherwise.

@nojo: A once heard a guy describe blue-water sailing as being like standing in a cold shower, tearing up $100 bills.

I have told this story before, its my one brush with greatness, I was in Manhattan one Sunday afternoon, recovering from the dizzyness I get after about 4 hours in the Metropolitan Museum (I am so Jersey), and I walked into the Mayflower Hotel, of Madam repute, just off Columbus Circle (I hope I have that right) and sat at the tiny bar to have a restorative cold beer in civilized surroundings, with the one who would become my first wife, and we sat next to an older couple, and suddenly, the older dude reads aloud, in a loud voice, he was making a statement, the New York City mandatory alcohol warning posted behind the bar, about how alcohol is evil and will kill you, and he scoffed about the silliness of it, and it was that voice, it was Walter Cronkite. And the place was empty and he and his wife, mostly his wife, began talking to us, not just a few words to placate adoring fans, just socializing with strangers as in my experience, only New Yorkers will do so quickly and readily.

And I had a small sailboat at the time, a 20 foot Ensenada sloop (partial rig sloop, to be technical), and we talked sailing, and then Mrs. Cronkite told us an actual anecdote, you know, like, a story people use for amusing people at parties, a genuine conversational anecdote, thats a degree of genuineness, you know?

And it was about how they were sailing, I think somewhere on the end of Long Island, and there was a bridge they were going under, and she says there was someone on the bridge yelling what they thought was “Hello Walter,” and waving, and they waved back, but it turned out he was yelling “Low water,” warning him the water was shallow, and then they ran aground. And we all chuckled and we probably bored him with a running aground story, but there we were, laughing and having a beer with Walter Cronkite and his wife.

And considering his level of fame in the world, that was a nice thing, I thought, he was just normal and friendly and we really were just socializing like anyone would, which I think most people in his position don’t do very often just sitting and chatting with the people next to them in the bar.

So, I, well, like him personally, and have some actual real reason to.

On top of his ending the Vietnam war and Nixon’s presidency, so great was the respect he had in this country, that when he publicly said it was over, in both cases, that was the turning point.

@ManchuCandidate: Little known fact, remember that commercial supposedly demonstrating the Volvo’s great strength, they had like a dozen of them stacked on top of each other? Volvo paid a big consumer fraud fine levied by the FTC for that commercial, they had welded massive supports into the cars to allow them to hold up.

I think maybe Volvos were so safe, because mostly very safe people bought them.

@Dodgerblue: Owning a boat in general is like periodically tearing up $100 bills. In my case, I can tell you exactly how often. Over the last 3 years, between regular maintenance, and some major repairs that were necessary, I have spent $25,000. So, at least 3 times every 2 weeks, I have had to go and throw a $100 bill in the water.

And I have a relatively small boat, I mean, from the standpoint of something that you could call a modest “yacht,” 34 feet, its 27 years old, its a trawler, diesel powered, does not go fast, so from the standpoint of the cost of using it, its very economical, it uses less fuel than a 21 foot runabout, I use at most 300 gallons per season. People who have 34 foot sport fishermen, and go fishing, will use more than that every time they go out fishing. I use from 8 to 12 gallons per hour to run my boat, most boats this size will use more like 25 to 45 gallons per hour, though they go much faster.

@Promnight: Can you rig it with sails? Like, rockin’ it old-school?

@Promnight: It’s a marvelous floater. Next chance I get, I’d like to ski the wake it produces.

@Nabisco: Whenever I get an eye exam, they ask me if I have “floaters;” I have no idea what they mean.

@Promnight: I get them–“floaters” are small translucent objects, usually elongated rather like a mote of dust, that one sees floating thru one’s vision.

Revelation #2: Cronkite was a Deadhead.

No, really — the CBS tribute featured Bob Weir.

@Mistress Cynica: When I was young, and I squeezed my eyes, I could see little round translucent things, like little bubbles. I thought that, despite what I was taught in science class, I was seeing the molecules in the air. I don’t recall seeing them lately. I was also fascinated with the fact that if I closed my eyes, at night, and squeezed my eyes a bit, put my fists into my eyes, I could see all these bright lights, like fireworks. I have not done that in years either. And if I was in bed, trying to go to sleep, and I laid down with my ear on the pillow, I could hear my pulse, but I always imagined, even visualized, that I was hearing elephants marching. I guess I played around with my perceptions a lot. I was tripping, naturally, in a way.

I also had a dream, in which I think I was imagining and trying to cope with infinity. There was this blackness, an enormous blackness, not so much a thing, but I saw it as having form, an infinite blackness, and there was this crack in it, and I walked into the crack and walked along deeper into this enormous overwhelming blackness, felt its enormous, infinite weight surrounding me, and I was filled with this incredible, painful, awesome awareness, that it was forever, went on forever, and it was nothing and everything, that it was forever, endless, this dream was very vivid, and recurred, from maybe 10 years old to 15. It frightened me. I am still frightened when I think deeply about infinity, an incomprehensible thing, forever, endlessness, when I read cosmology, and they speak of the birth of the universe, and the big bang, and the beginning, and I am always, but, “here” has to exist somewhere, “now,” has to be sometime, if there was a “time” and “place” of the beginning of the universe, that must have existed in a bigger unverse, and here is where I get frightened, If the “universe” is expanding, for example, must it not be expanding into something, vaster, infinity, infinity is such a scary concept, its well, incompatible with our understanding of finite existence.

Its mind boggling, literally, and I get scared when my mind is boggled.

@Promnight: That is such a wonderful story Prommy. Wow.

@SanFranLefty: Have you ever had anything like that dream? Anything like this thing that happens to me, even awake, whenever, I find myself even coming close to thinking about infinity, existence itself, if I am “here,” and yet the universe is infinite, I mean, where are we? It overwhelms me, If I contemplate it, or try to, or even let it sneak up on me, this will sound strange, but to me, if there is a forever, how can there be a “now?” If there is an infinity, how can there be a “here?” I read a lot of cutting edge cosmology, they all beg the question, they speak of the big bang, and its like, they just beg the question, they seem to be comforted by a beginning, the big bang, but damn, the bang had to happen somewhere, in an even bigger universe, and another beyond that, and another beyond that, endless nothing forever, endless nothing forever, with unimaginably enormous things happening in it, like the big bang and the creation and existence of “this” universe, but, doesn’t this universe have to be somewhere, in a bigger universe, and you see, this is where my mind boggles, if there is an “infinity,” how can there even be a finite? Endlessly large, endlessly small, in both directions, I know I sound like a teenager the first time he gets high, but I think thats because the impossibility of even trying to think about it, makes us learn somehow how to block it out completely, in most of life. The strangest aspects of cosmology, like the idea that the universe created us to perceive it, because it only exists, when it is perceived, but damn, we only perceive this bubble resulting from the big bang, and as I said, there is that wall that cosmologists simply ignore, the big bang had to happen somewhere, someplace, in infinity, but how can there even be one place in something endless, I am trying to of course think about something incomprehensible and express something inexpressible, but I have such a deep feeling that, well, if we exist, we must exist somewhere, somewhere in space and time, and if space and time are infinite, then, there is no such thing as any one place in space and time. No references, no beginning, no end, no way to no, then, how far from any beginning or end, no reference point, without a reference point, no way to know where you are, and within infinity, there can never, ever be any reference point, every point in space and time is indistinguishable from any other point, in the infinity of space and time. Anyway, I have just allowed my mind to be boggled, contemplating that which is impossible of logical contemplation.

We are insects, incapable of comprehending the vastness of what is, I think. We create fictions which simplify it and allow us some sanity.

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