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If you like Mike Wallace's story, you might also like:
Sam Donaldson,
Rudolph Giuliani,
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Mike Wallace
 
Mike Wallace
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Mike Wallace Interview

CBS News Correspondent

June 8, 2002
Dublin, Ireland

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  Mike Wallace

What kind of student was young Mike Wallace?

Mike Wallace: Myron Wallace was a good student, you know, not a superb student, but a good student and a devoted, if occasionally difficult in a mischievous kind of way, independent and a bit of a pain in the back, not to his friends, but to his family. You know, I was picked up for shoplifting at the five and ten cent store only a half a dozen times, and things of that nature.

In high school I understand you were something of a B student. Is that true? Were you interested in other things so grades weren't important to you?


Mike Wallace: Grades were important in our family. I was obviously a young, young man of inferior intellect. I really was. I was never an A student. I was a B or a B minus, which was quite comfortable. It didn't keep me from getting into the college that I wanted to get into. I guess I was interested in other things. I used to play the fiddle. I was the concertmaster in the high school orchestra and I was captain of the tennis team, and ran the half-mile. It was a gentleman's B minus.


Tell us about Brookline, Massachusetts, where you grew up.

Mike Wallace: We used to call it an O'Connor and Goldberg town. You were either Jewish or Irish. Today, which is some 80 years or more later, there are probably 30 different languages spoken. It was a wonderful town to grow up in. The school system was superb, it was very close to Boston, bordering right on Boston and it was a very pleasant. Back in 1918 when I was born, and for the next half century, the economics of Brookline were moving to upper middle class. One of my claims to fame is the fact that Jack Kennedy was born five doors away from me, about a year before me, and we went to grammar school together for a very short time before Joe Kennedy made all his money and moved up and on and the Wallaces stayed behind. We weren't friends, really. He may have left in third for fourth grade.

What person or persons inspired you growing up? Were there teachers who meant a lot to you?

Mike Wallace: Yes, Mr. Fleming. I don't know first names because we used to call them Mr. or Miss. Miss Miller, I think it was Etta Mae Miller, and Biddy Mitchell. Biddy Mitchell was a woman who taught me grammar. All of this was in grammar school. Mr. Fleming was an English teacher. He inspired me by insisting that I read and study Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I was drawn to him because of that.

What other books besides Great Expectations meant a lot to you growing up?

Mike Wallace: Well, the Tom Swift series, of course. I was a reader, of course, had to be. But I wasn't inspired all that much by books.


I wanted to be somebody, I guess. I wanted to rise above the run of the mill. Also, in high school I began to develop acne, and that made life difficult for me and that was an emotional difficulty for me growing up. I think that colored my view of life to some degree back then.


Do you think you felt a need to overcome that sort of insecurity?

Mike Wallace: Correct, the insecurity that comes with thinking, "Well, you may not be all that good to look at, so get over it, overcome it."

What was your father doing in those years? Was he a grocer then?

Mike Wallace: Yes, he was a grocer. As a matter of fact, he went bust as a grocer. Frank Wallace and Sons was the name of his company. He was one of the original wholesale grocers. Small chains of grocery stores, he was the originator of one of them. But it was a comparatively modest operation.

There's a story in the family that he and a couple of pals got a hold of the ginger market at the end of the First World War and bought a bunch of ships and went to Jamaica and got a lot of Jamaica ginger and it was being sent over to the British Isles. The ships went down in an Atlantic storm and they were insufficiently insured, and he went broke. But the kind of guy that he was, he absolutely insisted that he would not declare bankruptcy; he would pay off his debts, which eventually he did. He was that kind of fellow.

He switched to insurance, and was happy as an insurance broker after that for years and years until he died at the age of 73, a very simple, lovely man whom I adored. My mother was a very serious individual, upwardly mobile, but that was not on Dad's mind. He was just a lovely man.

He was an immigrant whose name was Friedan Wallick when he came from the old country. When he arrived in Ellis Island, they wrote down "Wallace," and Friedan changed into Frank. He was 16 years old at the time. He had a half sister in Boston who had preceded him to the United States.

Some of this is I know only for the reason that I did a profile of Gordon B. Hinckley, who was the President of the Mormon Church. As you know, the Mormons like to do genealogical histories of people. When I was doing the profile of Gordon Hinckley, he sent his operatives to the Ukraine, and suddenly I had a gift of a loose-leaf notebook with all of the history of my father's family, for three or four generations back, including the manifest of the ship that he came over on from the old country.

And your mother?

Mike Wallace: My mother was a year and a half when she arrived. They obviously did not know each other, but they came from close by. They met in Boston. Back in the '50s, I went to Moscow on an operation for Westinghouse News. I decided that I would look for the Wallick family. I found an old synagogue, and met some old people there who said, "Oh, the Wallick family went to Kazakhstan during the Second World War." And that is really all I know about my family.

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