Welcome to the Midway Historians Website 



Chicago television reporter John Callaway was not only one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, he was a Midway Historian three years before our group existed. One of his crowning achievements was the WTTW Channel 11 (PBS) series, "Chicago Stories." One morning in early 2001, I wrote to him proposing a long-desired Chicago Midway Airport documentary, and it was only a short while later that he wrote back, telling me that they were strongly considering it. Six weeks later, WTTW's Lucy Kinsella called me and shared, "We've accepted your proposal!" What eventually came from those initial talks was a nostalgic, educational, half-hour program produced by award-winning documentary writer/producer, Kathleen Quinn. It features Clearing historian and author Robert M. "Moose" Hill, Chicago transportation historian and former Chicago Tribune aviation staff writer David M. Young, American Airlines pilot Robert F. Zilinsky, Monarch Air Service's Sheila O’Carroll Lynch, United Airlines Capt. Elroy "Buck" Hilbert, University of Chicago's Perry Duis, Midway alumna Agnes Hincks, and me. The project was born out of a mutual love for this "Crossroads of the World."
- David Kent


Following is excerpted from John Callaway's account of his cub reporter days at Midway, from the WTTW Chicago Stories program, "Midway Airport: Crossroads of the World":  

John Callaway's Midway Musings


Chicago reporter John CallawayYes, it was thrilling watching the planes arrive and depart at Midway in its l950's heydays, but very often it was a great big pain in the neck getting to dear old Midway. I can remember how excited I was when I took my young wife and our one-year-old daughter, Ann Hampton, on our first flight out of Midway. We were headed to Pittsburgh, where my Dad would meet us and drive us back home to West Virginia. We didn't own a car in those days (l959) and so we hailed a cab not far from where we lived in the old Town and Garden Apartments in the 1400 block of North Hudson. You have to remember that this was pre-expressway Chicago. I had not allotted enough time for the trip to Midway. The cab driver made reasonably good time until we hit Ogden.

The diagonal journey southwest on Ogden Avenue toward Cicero Avenue was faster than walking, but not much. It was bumper to bumper all the way on Ogden and then, of course, when we arrived at Cicero Avenue we encountered even heavier traffic, this time the usual endless, highly toxic parade of trucks. By the time we arrived, the thrill of anticipation of flying had been dampened by the stress and fatigue of a miserably memorable cab ride. Only because of delays caused by bad weather were we able to make our flight to Pittsburgh. An ironic note: in recent years, when travel to or from Midway would be complicated by construction on the Stevenson Expressway, I often found Ogden Avenue a wonderful alternative route back to the center of the city!


But my most memorable moments at Midway occurred on my very first day as a reporter for CBS in Chicago -- the old combined radio and television news operation of WBBM. It was March 11, 1957. My first assignment was a tough one. The desk told me to take a camera crew and go out to Midway where I was to try to interview the then Attorney General of the United States, William P. Rogers (later Secretary of State in the Nixon administration). My assignment was to intercept Mr. Rogers as he deplaned at Midway and ask him questions on camera about the Justice Department's latest investigation into the Teamsters Union.


Because the interview had not been cleared in advance with the Justice Department, and because the Attorney General wouldn't know me from Adam, I was sure that my colleagues back in the newsroom had very little expectation that I actually would be able to record the interview. I shared their skepticism. I was sure the Attorney General would walk right past me and my camera crew. Well, surprise, surprise. Not only did Attorney General Rogers stop when I greeted him coming off the plane, he took the time to answer every one of my questions! And my camera crew captured the entire interview on film. Overjoyed, I quickly gave the film to the courier who rushed back to the lab near CBS to have it processed for use in that night's Fahey Flynn 10 p.m. news.


In those days, once a reporter had finished his filming of an interview, he then was expected to call into the news desk at CBS and tell them details of the story which would then be written up and given to staff announcers to read on WBBM Radio. That seems too quaint today but that's what the procedure was back then.


So I called the desk and I got the crusty old bureau chief, Mike Neigoff. I could hear the skepticism in his voice when he asked, "Did you get the interview?"


And I said, "Yes, sir! And he answered every one of my questions. And the film is on the way in with the courier."


And so Neigoff replied, "That's great kid! Congratulations! What did the Attorney General say?"


And I said, after one of the most painful pauses of my life, "I don't know, sir. I don't have a clue as to anything he said."


The problem was, of course, that I was puffed up being all dressed up and accompanied by a CBS camera crew. I was representing the House of Edward R. Murrow. I was a Big Shot Reporter for CBS. I couldn't be bothered to actually listen to the Attorney General's answers.


I remember Neigoff then asking me, "Kid, what did you learn from this experience?"


I replied, "I guess I learned that you have to listen."


"That's right, kid. You can come on in."


So it was at Midway Airport in l957 that I learned the hard way the most important lesson a reporter and interviewer can learn — when you ask a question, you'd better be prepared to listen, really listen, to the answer. Thank you and good night.


Quoted from "Midway Airport: Crossroads of the World". ©2012 WWCI


Our thanks to WTTW Television, Channel 11, Chicago for their permission to reproduce the abovementioned article.

For more information on the program, "Midway Airport: Crossroads of the World", log onto: http://www.wttw.com/main.taf?p=1,7,1,1,29 

Back to Stories Page