So many men were lost during the Civil War that places were needed to shelter their widows and orphans. That’s the piece of history that made an impression on retired CBS News Sunday Morning anchor Charles Osgood when he came to Homeland Center as part of its 150th anniversary celebration.
Osgood was the keynote speaker for Homeland’s May 7 gala at the Hilton Harrisburg. Earlier in the day, he visited Homeland, entertaining residents in the main dining room by playing popular songs on the piano and sharing a few stories from his time in the news and political arenas.
Osgood opened by playing “Gallant Men,” the 1967 Top-40 hit he had co-written while announcer for the United States Army Band. The Grammy-winning recording included lyrics spoken by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Everett Dirksen, known for his mellifluous voice.
That song recalled a memory of Dirksen that Osgood shared. For 16 years, Osgood said, Dirksen and then-Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson traded the office of majority leader as their caucuses won control of the chamber. Every night, the two would sit down over bourbon to make deals and plot out the next day’s legislative agenda. Although “there was no question which one was the Democrat and which one was the Republican,” they “were prepared to help each other do the job of the Senate.”
“It’s really unthinkable now,” Osgood said. “It’s a crying shame, and I think we need to get back to those days. I have a particular fondness for bourbon, as a result.”
At the piano, Osgood played a variety of standards and old tunes, from “You Are My Sunshine” to “My Wild Irish Rose.” Taking requests, he loved playing “New York, New York,” because it recalled the city that is his home.
While working at a New York City radio station Osgood discovered that he was good at “taking something that was in the news and writing about it.” Co-worker Ted Koppel went to work for CBS News in television and suggested that they consider Osgood.
That put Osgood in the orbit of legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, who taught him that “you’re not supposed to let the audience know how you feel about the news. Of course, today, that’s all washed out.”
In his years in gathering news and conducting interviews, the main thing Osgood learned “is that I don’t know anything. Ask questions by all means, but listen. Don’t just go to the second question without really hearing.”
When it came time for Homeland residents to ask questions, some teased him. “Do you realize that you’re one of the youngest men in the room?” one asked the 84-year-old news legend.
Osgood admitted to a few ailments of aging and added that he’d be happy at Homeland.
“Senior citizens, of which I am one, should be given an opportunity to have an active and pleasant life,” he told the residents. “You’re living it.”
“You’re always welcome here!” a resident responded.
Osgood felt the home-like atmosphere that the Homeland community is proud to cultivate.
“I couldn’t imagine better friends than the staff and the people who work with you,” he told the residents. “It doesn’t seem like an institution at all. You know what it seems like? Home.”