I never tire of watching Charles Kuralt's On The Road, and I guess I am not alone. Acorn Media have just issued their second DVD box set compilation of On The Road material, and it is every bit as good as the first.
On The Road With Charles Kuralt began as a segment on The CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite in 1967. Although nobody stated it at the time, the heartwarming vignettes Kuralt filed were a necessary antidote to the violence raging in the streets in the late '60s. The feature became so popular that Kuralt was given his own On The Road program, which aired for 20 years.
The three DVDs that comprise Acorn's On The Road With Charles Kuralt Set 2 contain a total of 86 pieces, broken up into 18 episodes. The various episodes were originally compiled for broadcast on The Travel Channel. At over six hours of material, this may seem a bit much even for an avowed Kuralt fan such as myself. But the variety and tone of each make for a very satisfying viewing experience.
Set 2 contains a large amount of material from the earliest years of the program. One segment caught my eye in a most unintentional way. Titled "Christmas Toys" Kuralt contrasts toys from the 1920s and '30s with contemporary ones. The intent is to show how much more imaginative and reflective of a quieter age the earlier ones were. But for me, looking at this 40-year-old piece of film, I was as enamored of every one of those toys.
While a large portion of the material is dated, there is no denying the impact the stories have. There is the profile of Jerry, proprietor of Jerry's Deli in Chicago, who abuses his customers to no end in a hilarious way. Other pieces that stood out include the last barber pole manufacturer in the U.S., the man who drives a 40-horse stagecoach, and one on the sod houses of Nebraska.
There are such a wide range of items exhibited in this set that it would be pointless to try and discuss them all. But there is one that stands above all the others for me. It began during Ronald Reagan's trip to Moscow, which Kuralt was attending as a journalist. An older Russian man burst in to the press area wanting to speak to someone from the United States. He relayed an incredible story to Kuralt about his time spent in a German POW camp, next to the American prisoners.
The Russians were treated much more harshly than the Americans, and were dying of starvation. A small group of US soldiers conspired to give them some of their rations, which this man credits for saving his life. Over 40 years later, he still remembered the soldier's names, and gave them to Kuralt. The resulting reunion was incredibly moving.
On The Road With Charles Kuralt Set 2 is definitely as good as the first set was, and is highly recommended.