Big Days in History

At 6:30 on Sunday evenings, CBS aired, You Are There.

The half-hour show which ran from 1953 to 1957 re-enacted and reported on historical events as if they were happening in real time.

Each episode took on a big day in history: September 22, 1776, when Nathan Hale was hung. April 3, 1882, when Jesse James was murdered. April 14-15, 1912, when the Titanic sunk. Paul Newman played Nathan Hale. James Dean played Bob Ford, Jesse James’ murderer.

A thirty-something Walter Cronkite hosted. He wore a suit with a black tie and a pocket square. A desktop microphone to his right and a script in his hands.

Mr. Cronkite handled each episode with reverence. Though he thought, “The Death of Socrates” and “Grant and Lee at Appomattox” were especially good.

And while You are There focused on the big days that fill history books, Mr. Cronkite made a case for the days that might not fill any books:

At the end of every show, he would look the camera square in the eye and ask, “What sort of day was it?” The camera would hold steady on him.

A day like all days,” Mr. Cronkite would continue in his matter-of-fact baritone, “filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times. And you were there.”

Which is the matter-of-fact truth, isn’t it? All days are big days in history.

And we are there.

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