On the Road with Charles Kuralt Essay - Critical Essays

Charles Kuralt

On the Road with Charles Kuralt

This is the second collection of vignettes of Americana adapted from Kuralt’s regular segments on the CBS EVENING NEWS and SUNDAY MORNING. The vignettes seem to be transcripts largely taken off the air. For fans of Kuralt, the book is nothing less than a series of meetings with old friends. At the same time, the absence of the video portion of the interviews is somewhat of a handicap for those new to Kuralt’s work, because their original freshness and sparkle simply cannot be transferred to the printed page.

Kuralt claims not to be a real reporter. He prefers to think of himself as a professional wanderer. He says, “I was a real reporter once, but I was not suited for it by physique or temperament.” In 1966, he suggested to Fred Friendly, president of CBS News, that he would like to roam the country looking for stories rather than cover “hard” news in places such as Vietnam. Friendly sent him to the North Pole. When Kuralt returned, he had a new boss, Richard S. Salant, who allowed him to go on the road with the stipulation that he “keep the budget low.”

In his travels through America’s heartland, Kuralt has encountered many unlikely heroes. For example, he tells of the doctor who accepts apple strudel or a jar of buttermilk as payment for his work, and of the man who repairs dozens of bicycles so that even the poorest kids in his neighborhood can ride one.

Kuralt admits to being particularly drawn to old folks. They tell him about the way things used to be, what they did when they were young, and what their grandparents taught them. Best of all, Kuralt passes that information on to us.

The stories that Kuralt relays serve to demonstrate the independence of thought and diversity of attitude of the American people. ON THE ROAD WITH CHARLES KURALT is storytelling at its best, at once surprising, amusing, enlightening, moving, and educational.