Friday, November 4, 2016

Remembering Walter Cronkite's 100th Birthday

Happy Birthday, Walter Cronkite! Today would have been the 100th birthday of “The Most Trusted Man in America.” 

By Joy Neighbors

Walter Cronkite, Jr
Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. was born November 4, 1916 in St Joseph, Missouri, the only child of Walter Leland Cronkite, Sr. and Helen Fritsche Cronkite.  Walter grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and Houston, Texas.  He attended the University of Texas but dropped out to take a news reporting position with the Houston Post.
As a WKY Reporter
Betsey Maxwell Cronkite
Cronkite began his broadcasting career at a small radio station, WKY in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  He met his wife, Mary Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Maxwell in 1936 while working for KCMO in Kansas City, Missouri.  From there he worked as a wire service reporter for the United Press (U.P.) 

U.P. Reporter during WWII
During World War II, he was an overseas correspondent for U.P.  His style caught the ear of radio news legend, Edward R. Murrow.  Murrow offered Cronkite an opportunity to move to CBS. Cronkite considered the offer but the United Press countered with the position of foreign correspondent, reopening bureaus in Amsterdam, Brussels and Moscow.  Cronkite turned Murrow down.

With Douglas Edwards and
Edward R. Murrow at CBS
It wasn’t until 1950 that he joined CBS as a television news correspondent and host of “The Morning Show, “ a position he shared with a lion puppet named Charlemagne.

Cronkite at the News Desk
Reporting for CBS
He became the anchor of the 15-minute “CBS Evening News” in April 1962.  In September 1963, the news expanded to thirty minutes, five nights a week.  Cronkite served as anchor and managing editor of the “CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite” for 19 years.  From 1967 to his retirement in 1981, the “CBS Evening News” was the ratings leader.

Cronkite receives the A.P. newsflash of Kennedy's death
One of the most powerful early memories of television journalism is of Walter Cronkite, stunned and  holding back tears when the A.P. (Associated Press) newsflash of Kenney’s death was handed to him.  Fighting to maintain his professional composure, Cronkite began “From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official: “President Kennedy died at 1 P.M. Central Standard Time – 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.”
Fighting to maintain composure
Reading the announcement, Cronkite paused, put his glasses back on and swallowed hard in order to maintain his composure.
That moment sticks in the mind, just as Roosevelt’s announcement of the bombing of Pearl Harbor did for the generation before.

Reporting from Vietnam
Cronkite also reported on the Vietnam War.  Returning from Vietnam after the TET Offensive in 1968, Cronkite told his viewers, "It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is a stalemate."  When President Lyndon Johnson heard what Cronkite had said he reportedly commented, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”  Just a few weeks later, Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection.

Cronkite at the anchor desk
Man on the Moon
Cronkite is also well remembered for his 27 hours of nonstop reporting during the Apollo 11 moon landing where he exclaimed those immortal words, “Go, Baby, Go!,” when the rocket was launched.

At the news desk
In his office at CBS
A 1972 poll announced that he was the ‘most trusted man in America,” besting the President, Vice President, members of Congress and all other journalists.

On March 6, 1981, Cronkite stepped down from the CBS anchor desk.  His leaving was due to a mandatory age retirement policy that CBS held firm to.

Guest shot on Mary Tyler Moore
After his retirement, Cronkite went on to host numerous television specials.  He appeared on several regular television shows including two news-oriented comedies, the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Murphy Brown. He was a regular on the PBS, Discovery, and A & E networks.

Cronkite always considered himself a working journalist.  His main philosophy towards news reporting was to get the story “fast, accurate and unbiased.”  His autobiography “A Reporter’s Life” was a best seller when it was released in 1996.

Cronkite died in New York City on July 17, 2009.  He was 92 years old. He was buried at Mount Moriah Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri, next to Betsey, his wife of 65 years.

On the air
As President Barrack Obama said in a statement following Cronkite’s death, "For decades, Walter Cronkite was the most trusted voice in an industry of icons, Walter set the standard by which all others have been judged. He was someone we could trust to guide us through the most important issues of the day; a voice of certainty in an uncertain world. He was family. He invited us to believe in him, and he never let us down. This country has lost an icon and a dear friend, and he will be truly missed."

"Happy Birthday ‘Uncle’ Walter!" 
And thank you for setting the standard for fair, impartial reporting, the likes of which may never be seen again.
And that’s the way it is ...

Friday, October 28, 2016

Spooky Stories Just in Time for Halloween

By Joy Neighbors

Just in time for Halloween, here are just a few ghostly tales to make your weekend "spirited."

The Chesterville Witch
Chesterville, Illinois was a quiet Amish community once located near Rockome Gardens. Buried in the former town cemetery is a marker that bears no name. What’s left of an iron fence tries to enclose the block-type stone, which many say marks the grave of a woman who was killed for being a witch.

Back at the turn of the last century, it was rumored that the Amish woman challenged her church about their views being too conservative. She believed that women should have a more active role than simply serving men. The Amish elders did not take kindly to such heresy and accused her of working with the devil. A short time later, the woman simply disappeared. Her body was later found in a nearby field.

The woman was buried in the town cemetery where an oak tree was planted on top of her grave in order to trap her spirit. Legend has it that when the tree dies, she will be free to return and take revenge on the area. For now, her ghost can be seen at times, standing near her grave.

Pere Cheney- A Ghost Town
What was once a thriving lumber town known as Pere Cheney in Michigan is now a ghost town – literally. Pere Cheney was established in 1874 after the railway placed a stop there. George Cheney built a sawmill, and lumberjacks and their families began to arrive. Three years later, the village was large enough to support two sawmills, a general store and a doctor. Pere Cheney was booming, but that was before the “bad luck” began.

In 1893, residents were hit with outbreaks of diphtheria, scarlet fever, and small pox. Next, several fires raged through the town, probably due to sparks from the mills. Others said it was the work of the witch. In 1897, another outbreak of diphtheria took a toll on the town. By 1901, the population was down to about two-dozen people. By 1917, the village land was sold at a public auction, and the last 18 residents moved away. Pere Cheney was a ghost town.

But some believed the town was cursed from the start because it was built on Native American land. Others said a local witch had placed a curse on Pere Cheney after she was banished for practicing witchcraft. Legend has it that she was hunted down in the woods, taken to the cemetery and hanged from a tree that she was then buried under. Visitors to the cemetery report they have seen her ghost standing under a tree ...

While there’s nothing to support the witch legend, no one denies that strange happenings do occur in the cemetery, where out of 90 burials only a few gravestones remain. Handprints have been discovered on vehicles after leaving the graveyard. Others have heard the sounds of children laughing and playing in the vacant cemetery. And ghostly figures, voices and floating orbs have been reported there and in the nearby woods.

The remains of the town are located a couple of miles away – the ruins of what’s left of the hopes and dreams of the townsfolk of Pere Cheney.

The Grey Lady
This is the most famous ghost story in the Hoosier State, thanks to several ghost-hunter television programs, the Willard Library “ghost-cams,” and the Willard Library Ghost Chatters, a dedicated group who keeps an eye out for this specter all year along.

Willard Library was established in 1885 by Willard Carpenter, a well-to-do Evansville businessman. The three-story Victorian Gothic-style building is the oldest public library in Indiana.

The first report of the library being haunted occurred in the winter of 1937. As the janitor was stoking the basement furnace in the early morning hours, he came face-to-face with a woman dressed in grey. When he asked what she wanted, she simply faded away. (The janitor quit the next morning.)

The Grey Lady is known to move furniture, push books off shelves, and occasionally touch patrons. Footsteps can be heard when no one is on the floor in question, and the scent of lilac or lavender perfume sometimes wafts through the air. She has been seen numerous times on the main staircase, and appears to enjoy working in the children’s section.

Who is the Grey Lady? Some claim it is Carpenter’s daughter, Louise who is unhappy that her father left his money (her inheritance) to the library. But the majority of ghost hunters claim that this is the spirit of one of the librarians who worked here years ago.

Although it’s too late to catch an evening tour this year, check out the Library Ghost Cams  and the Willard Library Ghost Cams , you might be surprised by what you see …

Friday, October 21, 2016

Mausoleums - Haunted "Homes" of the Dead

By Joy Neighbors

Haunted cemeteries are especially in vogue this time of year, but haunted mausoleums seem to be a major attraction any time. There’s something about this “house-type" structure that intrigues us, and then throw in a ghost or two, and we're hooked.

Here are four mausoleums that house more "spirit" than most.

Spring Grove Cemetery – Cincinnati, OH
Dexter Mausoleum
Edmund Dexter
This mausoleum was built in 1869 for whiskey baron, Edmund Dexter, one of Cincinnati’s wealthiest residents in the mid-1800s. When Dexter died, he was laid to rest in this Gothic Revival mausoleum, which contains 12 marble crypts where four generations of the Dexter family are buried. Besides it’s claim of being haunted, it also boasts the only two flying buttresses in Cincinnati.

It has been rumored that two large white dogs protect the mausoleum, although it isn’t known if they were once pets of the Dexter’s. Legend has it that if you sit on the steps of the mausoleum, the dogs will appear. If they believe you to be good, they will run past. If they are not sure of your intentions, they will stop and watch you. If they sense you are up to no-good, they will growl and advance. (Best to be up to only good when you visit.)

Greenwood Cemetery – Decatur, IL
Public Mausoleum
The Public Mausoleum was built in 1908 but soon ran into trouble when leaks developed due to shoddy construction. The cemetery association soon ran out of money and ghost stories began to circulate as the grounds fell into disrepair. By the 1950’s, what had once been a beautiful, rural garden-style cemetery became a magnet for negativity. People reported hearing disembodied voices, crying and screaming coming from the mausoleum. By 1957, the building was declared unsafe and was closed. Family members were notified to relocate their loved ones. One hundred bodies were never claimed – some were never identified. Eventually the cemetery association buried them in common graves across from where the mausoleum had been.

Former Location of Mausoleum
It was 1967 when the mausoleum was finally razed. Today that site is still vacant. No burials have ever been made here, and there are still reports of voices along with lights seen wandering near the common graves – perhaps a lost soul searching for their remains?

Highland Lawn Cemetery – Terre Haute, IN
Sheets Mausoleum

Martin Sheets was born in 1853 and lived into his early 70s. He saw many technological changes during that time, and one of the new-fangled inventions he found an odd use for was the telephone. Martin had one installed in the family mausoleum, just in case he was buried unconscious, but alive, and needed to summon help. It was stipulated in his will that a phone line be run from his crypt to the cemetery office. He then set up an account with Indiana Bell Telephone that kept the line paid for and active, just in case he ever needed it.

When Martin died, he was placed in the family mausoleum with his infant daughter. Several years later his wife Susan passed away. When family members found her, she was in the kitchen with the phone in her hand. They assumed she had been attempting to summon help.  But according to legend, when the mausoleum was unlocked to place Susan’s casket next to her husband, cemetery workers discovered the phone in the crypt was off the hook! Coincidence … or a call to "come home?"

Highland Lawn Cemetery – Terre Haute, IN
Heinl Mausoleum

John Heinl
And then there’s my favorite haunted mausoleum tale - that of Stiffy Green.

Terre Haute businessman John Heinl and his dog, Stiffy Green would stroll through town, visiting with the folks. Stiffy had received his name because of his stiff walking gait and green eyes, and everyone knew the pair.

On December 31, 1920, John Heinl passed away. Stiffy was inconsolable. He sat be the coffin at the funeral and followed the family to the graveyard where he took up post at the mausoleum doors, and there he remained, guarding his master in death as he had guarded him in life. Family and friends made many trips to the cemetery that winter to retrieve Stiffy and take him home, only for him to return to his master’s crypt doors.

Stiffy Green
Stiffy slowly mourned himself to death. Heinl’s wife was so touched that she paid tribute to his unwavering love and devotion by having him stuffed in the sitting position he had assumed for so long on those cold mausoleum steps.  Stiffy was then placed inside the tomb, reunited at last with his master.

But it wasn’t long before cemetery workers noticed that Stiffy mysteriously moved from one side of the tomb to the other, and back. Sightseers began to visit after dark and vandals would not leave the site alone, damaging doors and windows. Then, in 1985, thugs shot out Stiffy’s right glass eye. The family decided it was time for Stiffy be moved and the Vigo County Historical Society Museum agreed to take him. There, the Terre Haute Lions Club built a replica of the Heinl mausoleum so that Stiffy could still be “on guard.” 

But rumors spread that just at twilight on autumn evenings, you can see an elderly man and his small dog walking near the Heinl crypt, the smell the rich pipe smoke wafts though the air, and a low voice can be heard talking to his devoted companion who answers him with a happy bark as they take another stroll together.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Ferdinand Cross – Bedford Indiana Limestone Carver

By Joy Neighbors
Ferdinand Cross
Ferdinand Cross was born in Flemingville, New York to John and Sophronia Cross, a stone-carver and his wife, in December 1838.  Cross followed in his father’s footsteps and became a stone carver. Ferdinand spent several years in New York State before moving to Chicago. He moved to Bedford, Indiana “Limestone Capital of the World” in the 1880s where he started his own monument business.

Ferdinand's Carving Tools
Ferdinand took John A. Rowe on as his business partner and the two established Cross & Rowe Monumental Works. The men specialized in carving gravestones from Bedford stone. The stone was pliable and easy to work with when first quarried. Once the shape was carved, the stone was placed outside to harden in the air. Today many of these monuments can still be found in the cemeteries located throughout Lawrence and Orange counties in Indiana.
Cross Cave
In 1886, Ferdinand traveled to Orange County in search of a place to build his home and studio. He came upon a natural ravine enclosed on three sides with rock formations and a small cave completed the space. Ferdinand was delighted and set about building a home near what he now referred to as Cross’s Cave.
After relocating, Ferdinand tackled the challenge of carving people and animals in situ in the surrounding limestone cliffs. Visitors and locals alike were delighted to come across a carving of owls, eagles, monkeys, snakes and lizards nestled among the rock formations. One of his most remembered carving was a life-sized herd of cattle standing by an old well.
Cross Cave Ready For Visitors
Ferdinand and his wife Everilla welcomed guests from the French Lick Springs Hotel with what became their famous fried chicken dinners. For the price of a meal, guests could meet the artist, visit his studio and explore the cave.
Cross Monument
Ferdinand died in May 1912. As a tribute, fellow stone carvers crafted his ornate tree stone monument complete with chisels and mallet – the tools of this trade – cast aside at the bottom of the stone. Ferdinand was buried in the Sulphur Creek Cemetery.