A Son Remembers Andy Rooney
The sometimes kooky, loving life of a dad who liked to watch houses burn down.
Andy Rooney delivered his first 60 Minutes commentary on July 2, 1978, railing against the media tradition of tallying highway deaths during holiday weekends. But Rooney, who died Nov. 4 at 92 of complications following surgery, worked at CBS for nearly 60 years and spent 30 years of his career behind the camera. He always considered himself a writer first. Rooney grew up in Albany, N.Y., was drafted into the Army in 1941 and won a Bronze Star for his reporting under fire at the Battle of Saint-Lo. Here, former ABC News correspondent Brian Rooney remembers his dad.
One year, on the night before Halloween, my father lined up his four children in the kitchen, handed us each a partial bar of soap, and said, "Get out and soap some windows."
He thought being a kid should be fun and a little reckless. We lived in a small town in Connecticut with lots of hills where he taught us how to ride a Flexible Flyer down streets hard-packed with snow. It didn't seem to trouble him that we had to dodge cars while doing it.
He took us winter camping, without a tent. We made an igloo out of snow and went to sleep inside until the weather warmed, rain fell and it started to melt. I woke in the middle of the night to see him standing over the campfire, trying to dry our wet clothes.
We had a long toboggan that he hitched with a rope to the bumper of the family station wagon and dragged us all over town in a snowstorm. He drove with his head out the window looking back at us, and we'd shout, "Faster, faster!!"
He gave me my first pocketknife and taught me how to use a power saw. He said, "It doesn't seem right, but it's safer when your fingers are closer to the blade."
We had a volunteer fire department, and whenever a horn went off down at the fire station, he packed us all in the car and drove us across town to watch somebody's house burn down. He felt it was a civic duty.
My father was a man of his times. He did not hug you or tell you, "I love you." He didn't tell us we were wonderful. But if you had to get up at 6 a.m. to drive 300 miles, he'd get up at 5 and make you fresh popovers before you left.
Brian Rooney is one of Andy Rooney's four children and his only son. His sister Emily hosts Greater Boston, a PBS public affairs program.