December 25, 2017

1949. Another Christmas in West Berlin

Christmas Broadcast from Germany
Two brothers in Germany look at a Christmas tree, 1949 (Getty)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 25, 1949

It has been a busy morning here in Berlin. The custom of the country is to give gifts to everyone you do business with. The postman came around, the night watchman, the men who collect the trash, the woman whose dog plays with my dog. And the little orphans who I'm afraid have a kind of route among the Americans here; they evidently called on us because we couldn't persuade them to have anything to eat. They were full already, and took the cake and candy with them.

Then there was the usual checking on the news to do. Churches in Germany were jammed for the midnight Christmas services last night. There was a slight shortage of Christmas trees to be noted in Berlin. Protestant Bishop Dibelius, in his holiday message to the German people, stressed that the spirit of Christmas recognizes no Iron Curtain.

Then after this came the problem of preparing this broadcast. This job of doing a Christmas broadcast has been coming up annually for me for the past seven years that I've been with CBS. And it's always the same, whether you broadcast from New York, London, Moscow, Tokyo, or Berlin.

Nobody but kids really make news on Christmas, and it's the same wonderful story the world over, year after year.

So you sit yourself down to a typewriter and scratch your head and pound out something. Then you go to the studio, and there's no one but you and an engineer, the man who handles the knobs and dials and despite his boredom gets you on the air.

So on Christmas morning you get yourself down before the microphone and clear your throat and wait for your cue.

And when it's all finished, as this is just about to be, you stick the script in your pocket and you wave at the engineer—who has to work too—and say "Merry Christmas," which, after all, is the purpose of this trip to the Deutsche Post studio on Argentinische Allee in the American sector of Berlin.

So Merry Christmas, Herbert, and Merry Christmas to all working radio people everywhere. And Merry Christmas to you who are listening, too.

This is Bill Downs in Berlin. Now back to CBS in New York.