60 Years in Journalism: Among My Souvenirs

Looking into the hidden corners of a drawer the other day, I came across two pins from the past.

One was a souvenir of my high school, the Bronx High School of Science in New York City. I applied there at the urging of the guidance counselor at my junior high school, Hermann Ridder. Her goal was to get as many of her charges as might pass entrance exams into the city's selective high schools. Never mind that I had no significant aptitude for science, which I went on to demonstrate during required high school classes in biology, chemistry, and physics. I remember all too well the fluid in the chemistry lab test tube that was supposed to change color as I added ingredients, and it didn't.

Of course, I joined the staff of the student newspaper. The only colleague I remember was the staff photographer. I later learned that he became a literature professor and biographer of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Most of the other prominent students were ambitious pre-pre-meds and supremely self-confident. After graduation, I never encountered them again.

The other pin was political, bearing the name of presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. He was the governor of Illinois who won the Democratic nomination in 1952. It was my senior year in college, when the convention could be seen on 7- or 10-inch black-and-white television screens. Stevenson was a brilliant speaker with a notable sense of humor who was eminently qualified for the presidency. But he ran against the former allied supreme commander, General Dwight Eisenhower, who was supremely popular. Stevenson was renominated in 1956, and again soundly defeated. He tried for the nomination once more in 1960. The party turned instead to John F. Kennedy, who appointed Stevenson his ambassador to the United Nations.

Also from my senior year at college, I came across a scrapbook of clippings from the New York Times. In addition to my role as co-editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, I was campus correspondent for the Times. The city editor's advice at the end of the year was to go get a job on a small newspaper somewhere, then come see him again perhaps in five years time. I turned to broadcast journalism instead.

In another drawer, I came across a withered balloon that read, "The time is now. Reagan Bush."
It's probably from the balloon drop that ended the Republican convention that nominated them. I also have in a closet a Kerry sign from the Democratic convention that nominated him.

When I came back from overseas postings, I had a large collection of maps of cities all over Europe and Asia where I'd had assignments. The executive producer of the ABC Evening News put out a request, in those pre-internet days, for maps that would help his graphics staff when news broke from faraway places. I sent him my maps. I collected still more maps and tourist brochures from subsequent travels, which recently fell victim to Spring cleaning. It's all on the internet now. I donated a stack of travel magazines to a hospital library. But I still have my original copy of "Europe on Five Dollars a Day," and its inflation-adjusted successors.

I also saved years of radio and television scripts, videotapes, audio tapes, even a kinescope recording. These days, a network foreign correspondent can download the evening news at will. When I was abroad in the 1970s, ABC sent a periodic kinescope (a black-and-white film made by pointing a camera at a television screen) to the London bureau or the Tokyo bureau with a request that after screening it for the staff, it should be sent by air freight to the next bureau until it made its way slowly around the world. One of the kinescopes for which Tokyo was the last stop came home with me. Along with the scripts and tapes, it will be donated to the broadcast library of a nearby university.

From my Moscow days, there's a collection of brightly-painted clay figures called "Dymkovskaya Igrushki," characters from Russian folklore named after the village that specialized in making them. In the Soviet era, a carload would appear in a local souvenir store and, after they sold out, it might be months before another shipment. So we bought them several at a time when we could.

We also have two samovars of bright and shiny brass, used for making tea in the old days. One came from a Moscow antique store. I found the other one at a flea market in Buenos Aires when I was assigned there during Argentina's 1982 war with Great Britain over the Falkland Islands.

If there was precious little by way of handicrafts to buy in the Soviet Union, the problem in Japan was the opposite. There were so many items of porcelain and lacquer, sake sets and tea cups, ceramic ware and textiles, that we have more than we know what to do with. Since many things in Japan come in sets of five, if we wanted a dozen, we wound up buying 15. Japanese woodblock prints also decorate our walls.

We also liked to pick up ceramic items like coffee mugs or breakfast plates on our vacation travels, hand painted in local patterns. Hand-made crafts require craftspeople that make them, and rising labor costs as more countries prospered made these things ever harder to find, or to afford. Wherever you go, however, there is abundant kitsch made in China.

Finally, there are the photo albums. your correspondent with camera crews in countries from Vietnam to Germany; with President and Mrs. Bill Clinton from my frequent assignments at the White House as an economics correspondent when the senior correspondent for my network was consumed with the Monica story; with Emperor Hirohito of Japan who gave interviews to the U.S. networks before he travelled to the United States (including Disneyland) in 1975; with India's Indira Gandhi when she appeared on ABC's Sunday morning interview program, filmed in New Delhi.

The one souvenir I don't have is the radio on which my parents listened to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's fireside chats and Edward R. Murrow's wartime broadcasts. Whenever I see an ad for rebuilt antique radios, I wish we hadn't discarded ours when television came in and radios transistorized. If I hadn't been transfixed by what came out of that piece of furniture with a loudspeaker, I might never have had a career in broadcast news.Looking into the hidden corners of a drawer the other day, I came across two pins from the past.

One was a souvenir of my high school, the Bronx High School of Science in New York City. I applied there at the urging of the guidance counselor at my junior high school, Hermann Ridder. Her goal was to get as many of her charges as might pass entrance exams into the city's selective high schools. Never mind that I had no significant aptitude for science, which I went on to demonstrate during required high school classes in biology, chemistry, and physics. I remember all too well the fluid in the chemistry lab test tube that was supposed to change color as I added ingredients, and it didn't.

Of course, I joined the staff of the student newspaper. The only colleague I remember was the staff photographer. I later learned that he became a literature professor and biographer of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Most of the other prominent students were ambitious pre-pre-meds and supremely self-confident. After graduation, I never encountered them again.

The other pin was political, bearing the name of presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. He was the governor of Illinois who won the Democratic nomination in 1952. It was my senior year in college, when the convention could be seen on 7- or 10-inch black-and-white television screens. Stevenson was a brilliant speaker with a notable sense of humor who was eminently qualified for the presidency. But he ran against the former allied supreme commander, General Dwight Eisenhower, who was supremely popular. Stevenson was renominated in 1956, and again soundly defeated. He tried for the nomination once more in 1960. The party turned instead to John F. Kennedy, who appointed Stevenson his ambassador to the United Nations.

Also from my senior year at college, I came across a scrapbook of clippings from the New York Times. In addition to my role as co-editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, I was campus correspondent for the Times. The city editor's advice at the end of the year was to go get a job on a small newspaper somewhere, then come see him again perhaps in five years time. I turned to broadcast journalism instead.

In another drawer, I came across a withered balloon that read, "The time is now. Reagan Bush." It's probably from the balloon drop that ended the Republican convention that nominated them. I also have in a closet a Kerry sign from the Democratic convention that nominated him.

When I came back from overseas postings, I had a large collection of maps of cities all over Europe and Asia where I'd had assignments. The executive producer of the ABC Evening News put out a request, in those pre-internet days, for maps that would help his graphics staff when news broke from faraway places. I sent him my maps. I collected still more maps and tourist brochures from subsequent travels, which recently fell victim to Spring cleaning. It's all on the internet now. I donated a stack of travel magazines to a hospital library. But I still have my original copy of "Europe on Five Dollars a Day," and its inflation-adjusted successors.

I also saved years of radio and television scripts, videotapes, audio tapes, even a kinescope recording. These days, a network foreign correspondent can download the evening news at will. When I was abroad in the 1970s, ABC sent a periodic kinescope (a black-and-white film made by pointing a camera at a television screen) to the London bureau or the Tokyo bureau with a request that after screening it for the staff, it should be sent by air freight to the next bureau until it made its way slowly around the world. One of the kinescopes for which Tokyo was the last stop came home with me. Along with the scripts and tapes, it will be donated to the broadcast library of a nearby university.

From my Moscow days, there's a collection of brightly-painted clay figures called "Dymkovskaya Igrushki," characters from Russian folklore named after the village that specialized in making them. In the Soviet era, a carload would appear in a local souvenir store and, after they sold out, it might be months before another shipment. So we bought them several at a time when we could.

We also have two samovars of bright and shiny brass, used for making tea in the old days. One came from a Moscow antique store. I found the other one at a flea market in Buenos Aires when I was assigned there during Argentina's 1982 war with Great Britain over the Falkland Islands.

If there was precious little by way of handicrafts to buy in the Soviet Union, the problem in Japan was the opposite. There were so many items of porcelain and lacquer, sake sets and tea cups, ceramic ware and textiles, that we have more than we know what to do with. Since many things in Japan come in sets of five, if we wanted a dozen, we wound up buying 15. Japanese woodblock prints also decorate our walls.

We also liked to pick up ceramic items like coffee mugs or breakfast plates on our vacation travels, hand painted in local patterns. Hand-made crafts require craftspeople that make them, and rising labor costs as more countries prospered made these things ever harder to find, or to afford. Wherever you go, however, there is abundant kitsch made in China.

Finally, there are the photo albums. your correspondent with camera crews in countries from Vietnam to Germany; with President and Mrs. Bill Clinton from my frequent assignments at the White House as an economics correspondent when the senior correspondent for my network was consumed with the Monica story; with Emperor Hirohito of Japan who gave interviews to the U.S. networks before he travelled to the United States (including Disneyland) in 1975; with India's Indira Gandhi when she appeared on ABC's Sunday morning interview program, filmed in New Delhi.

The one souvenir I don't have is the radio on which my parents listened to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's fireside chats and Edward R. Murrow's wartime broadcasts. Whenever I see an ad for rebuilt antique radios, I wish we hadn't discarded ours when television came in and radios transistorized. If I hadn't been transfixed by what came out of that piece of furniture with a loudspeaker, I might never have had a career in broadcast news.