There are stories that never make it to the news desk. There are stories that never get published in books or magazines. But this is one story about how I met Walter Cronkite.
I was only 16 years old and working part-time as a dishwasher at the Seamen's Inn, Mystic Connecticut. It's now under new ownership and the restaurant name has been changed to Latitude 41. I was young, naive and told on occasion, "Kid, you're wet behind the ears."
My major source of transportation, to and from work was a canary yellow Schwinn Continental 10-speed bike. Schwinn brand name no longer makes bikes in the U.S., but rather has out-sourced production in overseas manufacturers, such as China, like most everything else.
That particular day, I was called in early and then asked by management to work a second shift because one of the workers called in sick. I don't know how I managed to work a 16-hour day. I remember coming home from work, always smelling of rotten food and trash. It was a disgusting job with a grandiose pay of $1.60 an hour, minimum wage.
Towards the end of grueling second shift, my back ached, my feet were hurting, and my slumbering eyes desiring to visit my pillow. One of the managers told me to go to the bar and get the last rack of unclean glasses. This would be the final run of the noisy and hot mist dishwashing machine. Then there is the final cleanup before calling it a long and tiring day and night.
I approached the bar and noticed a lone drinker at the far end. The restaurant was closing and the inebriated soul seemed to be drowning his thoughts on the last of his alcoholic beverage. I could barely believe my eyes as I retrieved the last rack of glasses. I wiped my hands on my soiled apron as if that was going to make anything cleaner.
I recognized the face, the same seen on the TV set as the CBS news anchor. He was famous and considered to be the most honest newsman in the industry. He was Walter Cronkite. I was taken back in seeing him in what appeared to be a drunken state.
He lifted his glass and winked at me. Walter Cronkite winked at me!
At this point, management pointed out their concern, "The restaurant has been closed for more than half an hour. Mr. Cronkite, you're going to have to leave!"
I turned to look over my shoulder, and saw the manager look sternly at him. I felt sorry for the man, and that he may have been too gassed to fully comprehend. Again the manager adamantly requested, "Please leave."
Walter Cronkite lifted his weary body from the bar stool and walked slowly out of the side door leading to the pathway toward the dock and his yacht. I went to the side windows and observed, concerned that he may fall into the Mystic River and drown. Now that would have been a story.
When I returned to the dishwashing machine area, the other dishwashers laughed as I relayed to them the story of Walter Cronkite winking at me. One of them quipped, "With you wearing that apron, he probably thought you to be an attractive woman." Everyone, including the cooks, broke out in laughter.
I have since revisited Latitude 41 this past summer with the memories associated to events over 40 years ago.