Will Rogers' Weekly Articles
WA173 April 4, 1926
LIVE SLOWER AND LIVE LONGER
All I know is just what I read in the papers. And there is something that we all read in the papers every morning of our lives, no matter what paper it is we pick up, and it has generally happened right in the town that particular paper is printed in. It’s in there every morning, just like a Florida and California paper have the same headline all winter. “Big Blizzard Hits East! New
York freezing! Tremendous suffering!” That stays there on that front page from November to March, even if New York has had a heat wave. But that’s only during the winter. The one I am speaking of stares you in the face so constantly that you don’t even read the names any more.
“Four Killed and Three Wounded Yesterday by Automobiles in This Town.” Maybe it’s more; maybe it’s less, but it’s there every day. As I sit here writing this it’s Monday and I have the Chicago Tribune in front of me and here is yesterday’s toll just in: “12 Killed, 13 Hurt, By Autos in City Sunday.” “Cook County death toll goes to 169, in 1926, an increase over this time last year of 44 deaths or 34 percent.”
Now right over in the adjoining column of the same edition of the paper is the following: “Annual Auto bill of U. S. is 14 Billions of dollars per year.”
That’s billions, not millions, and it takes a smarter fellow than I am to even tell how many millions there is in ONE billion. I know our entire debt from the war that foreign Nations owed us, even if they had paid it, was only 11 billions. In another part of the paper it tells that 22 thousand met their death
last year by Auto and that we are well on our way to beat that record. Fourteen
billion dollars we paid to kill 22 thousand. About $635,000 a piece, with no charge at all for the wounded. They will run at least two or three times as many as the killed, and FOR WHAT? Why, just to get somewhere a little quicker, that is if you get there at all.
Why don’t we get in an Airship? We can get there three or four times as quick as an Automobile. No Detours. No kicking about bad roads. But no, we won’t do that. We haven’t got the nerve. Our Alibi is, “Well they haven’t perfected them yet. They will be all right in a few years. There is a lot of improvements to make in them yet.” That’s the old excuse. Aeroplanes are twice as safe now as Automobiles. The only difference is that when there is an Aeroplane Accident the Guy in there gets hurt, and not some poor fellow crossing the street that is not responsible for you hitting him at all.
The Statistics show that of those 22 thousand killed, 70 percent were foot travelers. So you see the fellow in the Auto knows that even in case of accident
his chances of being hurt is only 30 percent, while the one walking is 70 percent. It don’t take any nerve to step into a fast car and go burning ’em up down the road, and maybe have a man step out from behind or in front of his car and you bowl him over, or a child maybe darting across the road and not seeing you. But when you step off the ground and into an Aeroplane the Driver says: “If you want speed I will show you some. There is nobody we will hit. Nothing we will run into. We got a good Ship and a wide open sky. Step in. I will shoot you out to Chicago in six hours.”
Oh no. You want to burn up the Boulevard, but you haven’t got the nerve to step in that, where if anything happens it ain’t going to happen to anybody but you and the pilot. The pilot is willing. He knows his business. But old man Public is the one that has the streak of Orange up the old Spine-a-marino. Europe is using Aeroplane and flying everywhere, and in Automobile accidents they don’t have a third as many as we do, even figured on a car per car basis.
The Public over here ain’t waiting for Airships to get safer. The Public is just waiting till they can accummulate themselves some more nerve.
Now they call all these accidents PROGRESS. Well maybe it is Progress. But I tell you it certainly comes high priced. Suppose around 25 years ago when Automobiles were first invented, that a man, we will say it was Thomas A. Edison, had gone to our Government, and he had put this proposition up to them:1
“I can in 25 years time have every person in America riding
quickly from here to there. You will save all this slow travel of horse and
buggy. Shall I go ahead with it?”
“Why sure, Mr. Edison, if you can accomplish that wonderful thing, why we, the Government are heartily in accord and sympathy with you.” “But,” says Mr. Edison, “I want you to understand it fully, in order to accomplish it and when it is in operation it will kill 15 to 20 thousand a year of your women and children and men.”
“What! You want us to endorse some fiendish invention that will be the means of taking human life! Why you insult us by asking us to listen to such a plan! Why, if it wasn’t for our previous regard for you we would have you thrown into an Asylum. How dare you talk of manufacturing something that will kill more people than a war? Why, we would rather walk from one place to another the rest of our lives than be the means of taking one single child’s life.”
Now, that is what would have happened, if we had known it. But now it don’t mean anything. It’s just a matter of fact. Too bad. Well, he should have been watching. Maybe he was deaf, maybe blind or nearsighted. Well, if that’s the case, he ought not to have been allowed out. If Cholera or Smallpox or some disease killed and left affected that many, why Congress and every agency of the Government would be working and appropriating money and doing every mortal thing necessary to do something about it. But as it is, we go right on. Build ’em faster and get better roads. So we can go faster and knock over more of them. This is the age of Progress.
Live fast and die quick. That’s the Slogan. Let’s get a run for our 14 Billion
Bucks per year. We are always talking about putting something to a vote of the people. We seldom do. Our Legislatures make up our minds for us. But suppose you left it to a vote of everybody. “Do you want to keep on killing 22 thousand and maiming 50 thousand more every year, and pay for the privilege of doing it 14 Billions, besides your tremendous road tax?” Now, how do you think they would vote on that? It’s a pretty tough thing to vote to take Human life. Of course it will never come up. The Humane side of anything can’t compare with PROGRESS.
No, we will argue and fight and vote for something of far more importance, like maybe, “Should we send a Judge to the World Court to help misrule Europe?” Or perhaps, “The Long Haul or the Short Haul; shall they be made the same Price?” or “Shall the Lakes-to-the-Sea Canal go from Lake Erie or south from Lake Michigan?”
Those are the subjects that “mean the very existence of this great ommonwealth.”
Imagine taking that 14 billion (making them pay it in just the same) and in two years our National Debt would be paid and that would do away with 70 percent of our taxes, because there is where 70 percent goes is Interest on our own debt. It would be pretty near worth driving a Buggy and Team again if you knew you wasn’t killing anybody and that you lived in a Country that didn’t owe a single dime. Then we would also get the taxes of those 22 thousand. Sounds almost like a Promised Land, don’t it? Well, don’t get too enthusiastic about it, because nothing will be done about it. It would pass a National Vote, but it ain’t going to get there.
I want my friends in the Automobile business to know that I have no personal feelings against them in this suggestion. Take for instance Henry Ford. You could take every nickel he had and make him start broke in some other business tomorrow, and in 10 years he would be manufacturing nine-tenths of the World’s supply of bath tubs, or own eight-tenths of the Hot Dog stands in this Country. My plan wouldn’t disscemede him in the least. Neither would it A. R. Erskine, of the Studebaker. He would make the best wagons and Buggies.2
Or Mr. Willis, or Roy Chapin or anybody less in the Automobile business.3
There is not a man in it that couldn’t make a better living at something else.
1For Thomas A. Edison see WA 138: N 6.
2Albert Russel Erskine, American industrialist who headed Studebaker Corporation from 1915 until his death in 1933.
3John North Willys, American automobile manufacturer who served as president of Overland Automobile Company from 1910 until his death in 1936.
WA174 April 11, 1926
ROGERS’APOLOGIES TO WASHINGTON
HE’S FOUND FRENCH GOVERNMENT
All I know is just what I read in the papers. Now I have at one or two times during my life pulled some little good-natured gag about the workings of our Great Deliberative Law-Making Bodies, the Senate and the House of Representatives, and jokingly said there couldn’t be any funnier troupe anywhere.
But I want to hereby apologize to them. I have libelled them. I have been reading the papers in regard to some of the happenings over in Europe, and ours is a “Big Time” Government in comparison to theirs. Here is a word-for-word record of France’s law-making machinery last week.
MONDAY. The Chamber of Deputies met. Some guy named Caillaux was Premier.1
He opened the meeting by announcing, “We will take up the French budget, and discuss ways and means to get something into it besides words.”
Well, the entire membership arose and denounced the Premier. The Premier immediately asked for a “Vote of Confidence.” Well, the majority was against his plan of leaving money in the budget. So Mr. Caillaux stepped down and announced to them to procure another boy.
TUESDAY. Chamber of Deputies meet and decide to call on Ex-Premier Briand to lead them.2
Briand arrives, and in his opening address to the members said, “Now Country-men, I see here on the Premier’s desk a note just
addressed to the Premier. It gives no names. It is from the French Ambassador
in America. It says, ‘I have been asked by the Secretary of State to see if I could get any particular knowledge of just when you would take up negotiations
as to a debt settlement.’ Now that is the note, Gentlemen. What is your pleasure?”
“Throw Briand out! How dare he insinuate that some nation is publicly
Premier Briand replied, “Gentlemen, I think it would be advisable for me to resign. Good Day!”
WEDNESDAY. Chamber of Deputies called to order. A new man is in as Premier. Nobody knows his name, and he don’t stay in long enough for anyone to learn who he is. He arises after being introduced and thanks the Chamber for their unbounded confidence in him.
“Honored Gentlemen, I am going to be frank with you and state that something should be done to stabilize the franc. It varies like the weather report.”
Chamber arises as angry mob, and yells, “You would spoil our day! France’s franc is of far too much honor and tradition to have it dragged before the eyes of the rest of the world, Mr. What’s Your- Name! Your resignation would be about your next most acceptable move!”
The nameless Premier replied, “Gentlemen, I have no alternative but to
THURSDAY. Roll call of Chamber of Deputies. “Gentlemen, at a caucus last night it was decided to put the reigns of Government back into the hands of Ex-Premier Briand. Mr. Briand, we welcome you!”
Mr. Briand replies, “Thank you, my people, and I will try and see that your confidence in me is well founded! For I believe I know what we all want to accomplish. The League of Nations is in session at Geneva, and it is proposed
that we accept Germany in, as a full-fledged member.”
“Why you traitor! How dare you bring up such a preposterous thing! It will be absolutely necessary that we call for the Premier’s resignation. We don’t want to hurry him, but there is a pen and some paper.”
FRIDAY. Chamber assembles at the usual hour. Committee on new members announces that it has decided to reappoint Ex-Premier Caillaux. Cheers. “Hurrah for the new Premier!”
Premier Calliope arises, bows low, and replies, “Gentlemen, you do me indeed a great honor. I have here in my hand a morning paper, with a dispatch from Washington, D.C. quoting a speech made in their Senate yesterday by Senator Borah, in which he said. . .”3
“We don’t care what he said! It was something about money, and we don’t want to hear it, and furthermore it is in extreme bad taste that you bring up such an insinuation!”
Calliope replied, “I am sorry, Gentlemen. I meant no offense. I would in the light of things like to have a vote of confidence if you don’t mind.” The vote read as follows: 432 for his immediate release, and 6 for giving him time to pack up his brief case.
SATURDAY. Chamber assembles bright and early. “Everybody was blackballed for the Premier job last night but Ex-Premier Briand.”
Mr. Briand arrives amid great rejoicing. “Hurrah for Briand! He is the boy that can always pull France out! Vive Briand! Vive La France!”
Briand broadcasting, “Good Morning, Gentlemen! I am sorry I was away yesterday. But I have here on my desk a communication from America, and it is signed by Jim Reed.4
He don’t ask, Gentlemen, but he just casually insinuates they would like some settlement of what is foolishly called our debt to them. What is the feeling of the members?”
“I’ll tell you what the feeling of the members is! It’s an insult to the men of France to have one of our Premiers get up in open session and read anything about money sent over here! Your hat is hanging right by the door, Mr. Briand!”
“I’ll go, but I want it understood that when I am called back next Tuesday, that I am to have at least two days in succession. I can’t afford to work just every other day. It’s too uncertain. Or if I am to only get three days I want
them consecutive. Send over the check for these few minutes work today to the same address. I want you to know that this Premiering is none too good at its best, and I don’t think three days a week consecutive is an excessive demand.
Besides, when the franc is so uncertain in its value that it may drop enough in one day to knock you out of the next day’s pay.”
“You get out of here, Mr. Briand! How dare you bring up our franc!”
“I’ll go, but you will hear me out. I want it understood that I get paid too for a full day, even if I only last for one sentence.”
Now that was just one week in France. And this Premier guy over there, he is the Coolidge of their show. They have a President, but he is just about of as much importance as a Rotary President. So these guys that are bobbing in and out over there are the real thing. Now Congress and the Senate, even in these prohibition arguments lately, have never reached the point in humor that our old friend France has.
And say, speaking of local follies in Washington, they had quite a disappointment in the Senate. Hiram Johnston, who sits there all year in the Senate just waiting for Japan to make a move, he was just ready last week to have Secretary Kellogg send one of his ultimatums to Mexico for selling Japan
Somebody had told somebody and they had told a cousin of
Hiram’s, and the cousin had relayed to Hiram, that Japan was going to buy a farm in Mexico. So Hiram is just sitting there waiting for a Jap to show his head. So he had a resolution all ready, demanding that America send a punitive
expedition to Mexico to take the farm away from the Jap. Mexico announced that as usual somebody had been kidding Borah and Johnson. So another couple of good speeches went wrong. You know, as it is now, Mexico gets up and has to communicate with Washington every morning before breakfast to see what they will be allowed to have. If they think meat will be too violent for them, and would it make them too hard to conquer in case they strike more oil? But with all of our managing Mexico for them, and setting private morals and everything else, why France takes the prize as the champion “Cuckoo” government of all time. Washington, I apologize!
1For Joseph Caillaux see WA 147: N 6.
2Aristide Briand, veteran French politician and statesman who served as prime minister from 1909 to 1911, 1913, 1921 to 1922, 1925 to 1926, and 1929. He was also minister of foreign affairs from 1925 to 1932 and cosponsor of the Kellogg-Briand antiwar pact of 1928.
3For William E. Borah see WA 119: N 2.
4For James A. Reed see WA 151: N 6.
5For Hiram W. Johnson see WA 152: N 4; for Frank B. Kellogg see WA 132: N 7.
WA175 April 18, 1926
MISSING OF MUSSOLINI PROVES
ADVANTAGE OF POSSESSING
ROMAN NOSE WHEN IN ROME
Well, all I know is just what little news there is in the papers. I went through Washington, D. C., the other day, and all you can hear is wets and drys. You pick up a paper and all you read is “Wayne B. Wheeler issues statements proving prohibition is a success.”1
In the next column, “Senator Edge puts Buckner on stand and Buckner says that Bootleggers sell three and half billion dollars’ worth of government alcohol.”2
It would drive you cuckoo to try and follow it, even if you wanted to, and here we are paying all those birds salary to argue and talk this, month in and month out. Talking is costing us more than the drinking. If drinking cost 3 and one-half billion, I bet you talking about it has cost us a trillion. Besides the wear and tear on people’s nerves that don’t care what becomes of it.
Senators and Congressmen and Revenue Agents and everybody in public life don’t get such tremendous salaries, but when you figure that there is hundreds and hundreds of them I tell you it runs into Heavy Jack. And all in the world they have to do is to shut up, both sides, and let the people vote on it. They don’t need to be told. They will vote like they want to. I just sent the following wire to the investigation committee, “Would be glad to testify in behalf of the people that want to be let alone and are tired listening to both sides. Eighty percent of America wish the wets would get so drunk they would be speechless for the rest of their lives. And the drys get so perfect that the Lord would call ’em away from this earth up into heaven. Then what a wonderful place it would be for the rest of America to ‘Live In!’”
This argument is just like a war. It’s the innocent that are not in it that suffer. So I may be called on to represent America. But I doubt it. America has
never been represented at any investigation ever held yet. It’s always just the
two sides who are financially interested in the outcome of it. Let Wayne B. Wheeler take Mussolini’s place, if my scheme goes through.3
Now I am going to show you that I can have some news in my pamphlet of truth besides harping on prohibition, either one way or the other. H. L. Mencken has just gone through an ordeal of 10 minutes arrest, and the disadvantages of national publicity, to try and keep sheets like “Mercury” and “This Illiterate Digest” and “The Bull’s Eye” and the “Dearborn Independent” free and open to the big minds of the country, without being hampered by the watch and wards who are the Ku Kluxes of Boston Literature.4
So now that the press has suffered, and is free again, we start out, bigger and better and freer than ever. In place of “Hatrack” I will substitute “The Unfortunate Missing of Mussolini.” This is also a true story, which, while it
didn’t take place in my home town, did take place in a small town in Italy called Rome. I guess it’s small, because it used to be spoken of as being on seven hills, and I never heard of but one now and that’s the one Mussolini lives on. Now, if the Italians have a watch and ward I may be called upon to
go to Harlem and the East River District and try to sell a copy of this.
Here is the true story. An Irish woman shot at Mussolini in Rome and hit him in the nose. It looked for a minute like Italy would be saved. So that’s the advantage of having a Roman nose in Rome. Even photographers will tell you you must never shoot a man’s profile. The shooting demonstrated one thing, and that was that you could shoot Mussolini in the head without hitting his brains. So they are not as extensive as he has led us to believe. The woman who dehorned his nose was of Irish descent. I knew this long suppression of war was becoming unbearable with the Irish. She had nothing particularly against the gentleman. But it looked like the surest-fire means of starting a home talent war, that might show possibilities of picking up a few outside entries as it went along.
It only shows that you can dictate to men, but you can’t dictate to women. She just got sore because Mussolini didn’t move the Pope over to Ireland. I was just a-thinking the fellow who claims he was the “Colonel House” to Mussolini will be the next big memoir writer.5
And just as a coincidence last
week I was in Dayton, Ohio, and on the same day that Mussolini was shot, why some woman there tried to shoot a dentist who had charged her already for fixing her teeth and hadn’t fixed them yet, or had charged her too much or something. The gun missed fire. She didn’t even get his nose. Had her ambition
been realized, she would have come clear if the jury had ever had any dentist work done. I hope that will be a lesson to dentists, as much as it is to
I tell you the world owes women a terrible lot, and one of our greatest debts to them is for shooting some of the men. If we can just improve their marksmanship we can improve civilization. You give a woman a gun and let her practice with it as much as she does with a powder puff (you never saw one miss their nose, even in the dark) and this will be a better world to live in. People think there is a lot of shooting going on in the United States nowadays,
but I tell you there is not half as much as there ought to be. About every fourth fellow you meet nowadays ought to be shot.
Now we have disposed of prohibition, Mencken and Mussolini, our three troublesome problems. Here is some South American Editors up here in our midst. Mr. Kellogg (our clean shaven Hughes) got the first crack at them the other day.6
It wasn’t a hands across the sea speech. It was an elbow crooked around down through the canal to try to reach them. He said he hoped to see the time that all national problems was settled by arbitration. That is the champion apple sauce speech of the world. Nations should get together and discard that from the diplomatic vocabulary.
If I was a diplomat and asked to speak at an international dinner and that was all I could think of, I believe I would plead bad cold. Sounds like a Sunday School teacher saying just out of force of habit, “Go home now children, and be good little boys and girls and don’t do anything naughty, and don’t fuss, and mind your parents. Do that now.” He told Peru and Chili that they should settle their dispute over that disputed territory and set an example in liberal statesmanship.7
And here we are on the verge of war with Mexico because Mexico wants to make her own laws! Those editors would rather he would have explained that to them. Anybody knows all their sympathies are more with Mexico than with us. They hadn’t quit smiling up their sleeves when the President took another apple sauce jolt at them the next day, with the power of the press and how much they could do to bring on international friendly relations.
I suppose they will go back home and insult their own people just to be friendly with us. Read about the next dinner where these foreign editors or any other visitors are being entertained, and you won’t have to read the speech. You will know what they said. Then the Argentines, and the Portuguese and the Greeks will get up in response and say, “We come to cement more friendly relations with our big brother of the north. We hope to always be friendly.”
Yes they do! The minute they think they can clean us they would come in a warship instead of a ocean liner. Why do people want to continually hand out a lot of bunk that they don’t believe themselves and they know the other side don’t? These editors are a bunch of keen business men. They come here to see how we got so many ads in our papers. They come to learn something about their own business. They want the pictures of our leading murderers and divorce principles. They are here to find what it will cost to transfer Mutt and Jeff into Spanish, and can Jiggs eat chili the same as corn beef.8
come to see Coley Blease and hear Dawes.9
They are not here cementing any good feeling. To tell you the truth, they are just here slumming.
1Wayne Bidwell Wheeler, American attorney who was a leading figure in the prohibition movement; general counsel for the powerful Anti-Saloon League of America from 1915 to 1927.
2Walter Evans Edge, Republican United States senator from New Jersey from 1919 to 1929. Emory Roy Buckner, United States attorney for the southern district of New York from 1925 to 1927. Buckner often was criticized for lax enforcement of the prohibition laws in New York City.
3For this and all further references to Benito Mussolini see WA 168: N 6.
4For H. L. Mencken see WA 164: N 2.
5For Edward M. House see WA 166: N 8.
6For Frank B. Kellogg see WA 132:N7; for Charles Evans Hughes see WA 156:N5.
7For the Tacna-Arica conflict involving Peru and Chile see WA 140: N 2.
8Mutt, Jeff, and Jiggs were cartoon characters.
9For Cole Blease see WA 171: N 9; for Charles G. Dawes see WA 117: N 9.
WA176 April 25, 1926
ROGERS LEAVES SOON FOR EUROPE
FOR THE SATURDAY EVENING POST
All I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I encounter as I leap from Crag to Crag. Everybody will start reading the papers, now the baseball
season has opened. I played Philadelphia the night before the season opened and was to go to Princeton the next night, and as it’s near, I was able to be at the baseball opening in Philadelphia, the Fillies and the Braves. Now, I know a lot of you will think I overlook a comedy crack if I don’t say something about not really seeing a league game yet. But there is where you are wrong.
Both teams looked mighty good. Any team that has Bancroft on it is a ball team, and the Fillies got some great material in that trade with the Giants last year.1
They had all the opening day ceremonies. All you need to open a baseball season nowadays is a band and a mayor, and most any town has both of them. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which is the worst.
In some cities they meet at the plate and march to center field where the flag pole is, and raise last year’s pennant. Well, Filly and Boston are original.
They didn’t do that. They met and marched out there and instead of raising a pennant, they just stuck to the regulation stuff and raised the American flag. I
don’t care how low down a team gets in baseball, that is one thing that is never
denied them. They are always allowed the same use of the flag as the good teams are. That’s one thing that makes baseball as democratic as it is.
Well, the band led the parade to center field. It was led by a little fat guy that everybody thought was John McGraw.2
The players of both teams come next, all out of step. Somebody must have told them out there that they were all out of step and that they should lead off going back with the other foot, and as they came back they did all change and that made ’em just as much out of step as they had been going out. They had three umpires. One to correct the other two.
But the game I would have given a wad of gum to have seen that day was the one my old friend Walter Johnson pitched, when he beat the Athletics (1-0) in 15 innings.3
Twenty years in the big league and hold ’em run less for 15 innings! Well, I sure was tickled. And I know somewhere else they were tickled. That was in a nice, prosperous-looking brick house, just out towards the river from Coffeyville, Kansas. I was right in that very house about four weeks ago when I played in Coffeyville. They certainly were nice to me, and everybody asked me what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. I said, “I want to go see Walter Johnson’s mother if she is here,” and out John Ellis took
me, and say what a treat.4
Honest, she is just Walter. Looks like him and acts just like him. What a fine pleasant old lady! There, right in the middle of the living room was the biggest loving cup in or out of captivity. It’s the one that Washington fans filled full of money and gave him one time.
That’s been the most wonderful part of this trip I am on. I have met the greatest lot of folks that I would never in the world have had a chance to meet
otherwise. Now Coffeyville, that’s just 40 miles from where I was born and have a ranch now. It used to be when I was growing up to about 10 or 12 years old, our trading place. We drove there in a buggy or wagon to do our trading.
I met the old timers who knew my folks, the old merchants, Reeds, Barndollars.
The old hotel is there yet where we used to stop. It was run by the Kloehrs. Saw and had a long talk with John Kloehr, the man that shot the Daltons. 5
He showed me a wonderful medal that the Chicago bankers gave him, with a big diamond in the center. And I want to tell you he don’t show that to everybody. He is a very quiet, retiring fellow. He gave me the whole tale of the shooting. He is and always has been a very highly respected citizen of a great community. I saw the grave where they were buried, all together, with just a piece of iron piping marking the spot. She is a real live, buzzing western city now. Harry Sinclair, the big oil millionaire, used to live there, and he has built a tremendous refinery that employs lots of people.6
They gave me a luncheon that was upstairs in one of the dining rooms, and right in the middle of the luncheon they brought in a real live bull. It’s a great place. Fine people, and I can imagine the rejoicing there when “Old Barney” set the Philadelphians down without a smell of the home plate.7
Oh yes, to show you how robberies have changed since the day of the Daltons. There had been a robbery 3 days before and the robbers had taken away the whole safe. And the man had advertised if they would bring the safe back there would be no questions asked. I asked John Kloehr why he didn’t shoot some of the robbers nowadays. He said, “Lord, Will, I couldn’t afford to buy enough ammunition!”
Robbing is one profession that certainly has advanced in this country.
And the remarkable thing about it is that there is no schools or anything to learn you to rob. No other line, outside of drinking, can show the progress that
robbing has in the last 5 years. We spend billions of dollars on education, and
we are no smarter today than 30 years ago, and we spent nothing to foster robbing, and here it is one of the most skilled industries we have. So it sometimes makes you think what’s the use learning people anything, anyway. Let ’em alone, and they will progress quicker.
Speaking about what you read in the papers, we see where what the papers are pleased to call “Bloody Herrin,” the mining town in Illinois, has broke out again. Now, I played that section. There is several dandy, nice little hustling
towns of from 5 to 10 thousand each, and we played Frankfort and also went down to Herrin, and we had a lot of their people up to our show, and I never was as surprised in my life. I had just got my impression of them from what I had read, and when I got there and met them they will stack up with any community in the country. There is not a lot of murderers and cut throats there. They are real people congenial, hospitable. But instead of being like a lot of communities, fuss and argue, call each other names, they just shoot it out if it’s necessary. I am mighty glad to have been in there and met them. I know I have a lot different opinion of them than from just reading about “Bloody
Well I have seen America from top to bottom. I had lunch yesterday at Philadelphia with Mr. George Horace Lorimer, Editor of the Saturday Evening Post, and I am going over to Europe for the Post.8
I am going all around over there. I am really going to represent President Coolidge. You see, he hasn’t a Col. House to run over and fix up things, so that is what I am to be.9
I want to get away about the middle of May. I want to catch Mussolini while he is going good, and before some better shot gets in their work. I am also to go to Ireland and see what’s keeping them so quiet, and if they really are happy, and into Germany and Russia and Spain. I want to see what reason they had for wanting to try and get into the next war by way of the League of Nations.
Oh yes, even next week I will have something to tell you about Canada.
I am going up there in a couple of days. In the meantime my consolation goes out to Brookhart of Iowa, and McKinley of Illinois.10
They were both good boys when they had it. I look for quite a good many new members of next
year’s cast of our “Washington Follies.” It’s taken some of them three elections
to learn that America didn’t want to join any of Europe’s luncheon clubs.
1David James Bancroft, player-manager for the Boston Braves from 1924 to 1927. Nicknamed “Beauty” for his play at shortstop, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.
2For John J. McGraw see WA 124: N 11.
3For Walter P. Johnson see WA 133: N 2.
4Minnie Perry Johnson, mother of baseball star Walter Johnson. John Perry Belcher Ellis, Coffeyville real estate and bond broker.
5John Joseph Kloehr, Coffeyville automobile dealer and hotel owner. Kloehr killed three members of the infamous Dalton outlaw gang during its abortive raid on Coffeyville in 1892.
6Harry Ford Sinclair, Oklahoma oil producer who was involved in the Teapot Dome oil lease scandal of the Harding administration.
7“Barney” was a commonly-used nickname of Walter Johnson.
8For George H. Lorimer see WA 167: N 2.
9For Edward M. House see WA 166: N 8.
10Smith Wildman Brookhart, Republican United States senator from Iowa from 1922 to 1926. A progressive, Brookhart lost his seat in the Senate on April 12, 1926, when he was succeeded by Daniel Frederic Steck, who had contested his election in 1924. Brookhart regained the seat in March 1927 and remained in the Senate until March of 1933. William Brown McKinley, Republican United States senator from Illinois from 1921 to 1926. A former congressman, McKinley was defeated for reelection in the Illinois senatorial primary on April 13.
WA177 May 2, 1926
ROGERS OFFERS SPANISH SPEECH
CONCERNING EDITORS AS SUBSTITUTE
FOR CLUB SINGING
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. Or what I stumble onto from day to day. Well, I blew into New York last week for one night to speak at the newspaper men’s dinner. The newspaper men from all over the United States and Canada have a convention here every year, and they generally have the President to come and speak to them. Well, Mr. Coolidge didn’t come this year, so I had to go and carry his regrets. He said he would go but he had nothing that he could tell them. If it had been a political year, why you can bet your life Mr. Coolidge would have been there, but as he is setting so pretty now he has nothing that the newspapers can give him.
Well, there was a great gang of them. They have this society. They are banded together for self protection, and then they go back home and write editorials
against unionism. They had a great joke on me. I had been reading so much lately about all these South American editors being up here visiting us that I naturally thought a lot of them would be at the dinner. Years and years and years ago I spent six months in the Argentine Republic and inhaled enough Spanish to ask for something to eat and to cuss. So I thought it would be a
great gag to get me a Spanish speech together. So I even hired a Spanish student
from Columbia University to come down and I wrote out what I wanted to say and he translated it in Spanish and started me in on it. I worked night and day on the thing. I even trained for it. Didn’t eat a thing but chili and Spanish
omelets and Spanish onions. Oh, I was all set for the speech of my life! I was right in the atmosphere. There is quite a wave of Spanish going over New York now anyway, on account of this great Spanish singer, Raquel Meller who is singing here all alone for $11 a seat.1
I heard Irving Berlin sing all alone at a benefit for nothing.2
But I will tell you about her later, as I went to hear her.
It’s my misfortune that I want to get off my chest now.
Well, I am getting my Spanish speech all agoing good and right ready to pull on the boys. And I get to the dinner and there is not a Spaniard or a South American any nearer than Cuba. Instead of prominent Spaniards from the Argentine and Brazil and Chili and Mexico, it’s a lot of advertising guys that fill up the papers with everything but news.
So there I was with a Spanish speech and nowhere to put it. I will have to book a concert tour in Ecuador or Peru now to get rid of that speech. So if any of you hear of anyone that wants a Spanish speech delivered, let me know. I ought to be good for these Rotary or Kiawanis outfits. It would fill in the time between one-thirty p.m. and two p.m. and that’s all they seem to care about. I
could stretch it out a little bit and take the place of that terrible community
singing they have. In fact, I believe it would prove a big novelty for someone
to go out and speak to those clubs in Spanish. They would know just as much at the finish as they do now at 2 p.m. every meeting day. The speech translated into English is about editors, and as every town is afflicted with one or more,
it might be very appropos. I will give you a brief Synopsis in English in case you want something like this said in your town in Spanish. It’s very complimentary to Newspaper Owners and Editors and in case you want to stand in
with your Local Editor, bringing me there might be beneficial to you. The speech opens with me behind the speaker’s table, dressed in a Spanish shawl.
I have a pair of castanets in one hand, rattling them to the tune of “Lopoloma.”
In the other hand I have a live Jersey bull by the tail, just ready to throw him
across the room. The opening line is “Viva La Toro,” which means “Long Live the Bull.” Well, you see that is sure fire anywhere in America, because if it don’t live long here, we are sunk.
Now this will be the literal translation from the Spanish. Bienvenidos Amigos editores de la America del sur e Central. Nosatros Estados Unidos Editores son toda poco loco, Como todas los norte Americanos son “Llenos de Toro.” La Cerveza n America es mala, el vina es terrible, el Aguardiante es meurte suguro. Viva prohibicion, caramba. You editors are always the ones that are telling the rest of the world what to do. Where do you come in to be a cook’s guide to starving intellects? You own the paper; that’s how you get your stuff in print. If you editors and owners had to go out and sell your ideas to someone else I would be speaking here tonight to a bunch of Paupers.
Did you know that the best newspapers in the world is printed in jails?
That shows that you have to be a crook to be a real good editor. Do you know there is four pages of funny pictures to two columns of editorials? That shows
what the people read. (All this is in Spanish, mind you. It don’t read very good
in English, because in English you pronounce the H and in Spanish they don’t so that I am afraid it is losing a great deal in the translation, but in the Spanish it has a kind of a swing or dash to it, which I can’t get into the English of it, but this is all part of the Spanish speech.) Did you ever realize that papers were not a necessity? Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson; when we produced such men, we didn’t have daily papers, and we haven’t produced any to compare to them since you littered up our living rooms with Mutt and Jeff and cross word puzzles. Besides, we would be better off if we didn’t know what was going on in the world anyway. Everything is so terrible that is happening
nowadays, it’s best if we didn’t know it. There has already been enough books
printed that we couldn’t read them in a thousand years, and none of you out there tonight are going to improve on anything that Shakespeare or Dickens or some of those gentlemen wrote. A newspaper is just like a luncheon speaker. He never tells you anything but what you already know. It used to be bad enough with newspapers when they only appealed to the people that could read, but now they have gone to putting pictures in them to appeal to New York. You don’t have to be able to read the paper nowadays. When you see a girl’s picture you know she has either got a divorce or was going to get out of a bathtub of wine, or if it’s an extra big picture it means both. If it’s a slick-haired young sheek picture, you know he has just robbed a bank and killed two employees.
You don’t need to read under pictures. They have been in so much everybody knows them by heart. Peggy Joyce gains a column space on the front page with every marriage.3
She will be crowding the ads out after awhile. It would take two hours for all her husbands to pass a given point. Murders here in New York, most papers get the pictures of the actual crime. They go to some gang leader and say “Tony, when you going to bump some one off? Here is a bottle of liquid cancer if you will tell me where to set up my camera to get the best view of the shooting.”
These my Spanish friends, are the papers of our day. And to think of the timber that goes into the making of them! If it was put into lumber everybody would live rent free.
1Raquel Meller, Spanish singer of the 1920s and 1930s who won international fame with the songs “El Relicario” and “La Violetera,” which she made popular in the United States and Europe. She made her first tour of the United States in 1926.
2Irving Berlin, Russian-born American songwriter who composed lyrics for the Music Box Revues and the Ziegfeld Follies. His song successes included “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and “White Christmas.”
3For Peggy Hopkins Joyce see WA 117: N 14.
WA178 May 9, 1926
ROGERS AND HIS ROPE IN THE
TEMPLE OF ART
All I know is just what I read in the papers or what I horn into as I tour this great American Commonwealth. Well, we have just been everywhere this year. Had the greatest and most enjoyable year I have ever experienced in all my little Theatrical career. I have been out all over the country and met some of the greatest people, and I sure did enjoy playing to them. They are a great bunch. They don’t come to a show to criticize it. They come in with the idea of having a good time, and they give you the benefit of the doubt every time. And read? Say, the audiences in the smaller towns make a monkey out of the big Cities for knowing what is going on in the world. They know and read everything.
But the old New Yorkers are still on the job when it comes to something that has happened around his own town. Well, my New York manager wired me while out on the road, “Have you booked for Carnegie Hall, N. Y., for Saturday night, April 11th.” My goodness! I commenced getting scared. I wired him, “Don’t take a chance on New York. We been doing pretty good and we better let good enough alone.”
But he would have his way, and he went ahead and stuck us in there.
As the time got nearer and nearer the more leary I got. Now a lot of my old friends out of N. Y. don’t know what this Carnegie Hall thing is. And lots of them in New York City don’t know what it is. I myself used to think it was one of those things that “Uncle Andy” Carnegie imposed on every good natured town.1
So I thought maybe New York to be different calls theirs “Carnegie Hall’ instead of Library, because if it gets out in New York that it is a Library and nothing but books in there, it would be boycotted. But by calling it a “Hall” New Yorkers might think maybe there was some dancing or something worthwhile in there, and they would go in. Now, that is the way I had it figured out. But in the last few years I had found out what Carnegie Hall was. It is a tremendous building with three or four rows of Boxes all around it like the pictures of a Spanish Bull Ring. It is laid out kinder like the Metropolitan Opera House, the place that Mary Lewis and Marion Talley made famous.2
Although I myself am not any too familiar with that place either.
Well, this Carnegie Hall is where they have all the “Big” Concerts. If a foreign Fiddler comes here, as soon as he is fumigated they throw him down and get a Musician’s dress suit on him, and put him in Carnegie Hall for a “Recital.” Foreign singers, as soon as they have lived long enough to learn enough songs for what they call an Evening’s entertainment go there and give a “Recital.” Piano players are one of the principal commodities that haunt the central portion of the stage. It seems to kinder be the New York test. Men who
have been let out of regular jobs in Theatre orchestras form themselves into a
gang and add the word “Symphony” and go in there and play “William Tell” for two hours. It sponsors every form of artistic graft in the World. You show in there, and you either go to work after at some useful employment or remain on the fringes of Art.
Well, this Art thing kinder worried me. I had never by any stretch of imagination been associated with it. So I thought we ought to be playing the
Columbia Theatre on 47th St., instead of Carnegie Hall. I was explaining my predicament to Walter C. Kelly, the Virginia Judge, whom you all know as absolutely America’s premier story teller.3
Walter says, “Well, Will, you have one novelty to recommend you up in that Hall. You will be the only short-haired guy that ever played that joint.” I used that remark up there that night with due credit to Walter and he got just about the biggest laugh I got.
He told me the next day, “You could have gone further than that Will; you could have told them that you were about the only one that didn’t attempt to try to have a Dress Suit.” I have seen a lot of Artists’ dress suits and I know I couldn’t compete with them, so I didn’t rent one. I just stuck to the Old Blue
Serge with the mirror effect in the seat and knees. If it was good enough for
Ponca City and Muskogee it was good enough for Uncle Andy’s Temple of Art.
You see here is where I figured I had the edge. The front as well as the back of the house was dedicated to art, and I know that I would be no more out of place than the people that I drew in there. We were both looking it over for the first time. Of course the Boys, the De Reske Singers were with me, and they had drawn in a lot of people that were kinder on a nodding acquaintance with the Arts, but they just kinder snuggled down among all these Rough Necks and nobody noticed them at all.4
Ziegfeld didn’t get there.5
He was still in Palm Beach. But he would not have understood that type of entertainment anyway. It was of a very high class order. He would have been looking for jokes about Ann Pennington’s knees or something like that.6
Well, we had a great Gang that night. We had an awful lot of notables. So I knew when I commenced to get pretty tiresome that I could pick out a notable in the audience and they would all be glad to see them. Mr. Abraham Erlanger, the greatest and most famous Theatrical Manager
our game has ever produced was there and I certainly did feel swelled up because he never goes to the Theater.7
He was interested with Mr. Ziegfeld in the Follies, and yet he never saw the show after it left Atlantic City to come to New York. Well, he was wonderful, I got him up and say, he made a real speech. The house had lots of Actors who had never seen him before in their lives. I certainly did appreciate his coming, and everybody was tickled to see him.
Young Teddy Roosevelt and Kermit were both there.8
The audience was glad to welcome them back to America and a Barber again. That must have been a wonderful trip, and they have some of the funniest stories about it! Great Boys, those, real sons of a great Father. Mary Garden’s Mother was there, and Lord! no wonder that Mary looks so young!9
She has to, to keep ahead of that Mother. I am going to Nice to see Mary on this trip.
Mrs. Fiske, that wonderful actress, was another the audience was tickled to see, and I want to thank you, for they say she never stands up in public for anyone.10
She looks great and Alice Nielson was another, bless her smiling soul, and Fannie Hurt, the Writer.11
And when I say Writer I mean writer.
She sold one story for 50 thousand dollars. Fanny said she had never seen Rope throwing in Carnegie Hall before. Burns Mantle, a Critic and a real fellow. 12
Few had ever seen a Critic out of print, and in Person. Brandon Tynan, the best Actor that ever left Ireland.13
He and his wife, Lillie Cahill.14
Madge Kennedy, who I used to be associated with at the same Studio in Culver City.15
The stage harbors no sweeter character than Madge Kennedy. Oh, we had a great time! Oh, the show? Well, that wasn’t much. It didn’t need to be when the audience could see all those people. I have tried ’em all here now. I started out in Madison Square Garden roping at a horse, and there is just where I wish I was tonight as the circus is there, and that is just about where I will land up.
1Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-born American steel industrialist and philanthropist. Carnegie, who died in 1919, made large contributions for public libraries, public education, and international peace.
2Mary Lewis, American soprano who made her operatic debut in Vienna in 1923; a member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City from 1926 to 1930.
Marion Talley, American operatic soprano who made her debut in the Metropolitan
Opera in February 1926 at the age of eighteen. Her career with the Metropolitan lasted only three years, after which she made appearances on radio and motion pictures.
3Walter C. Kelly, American vaudevillian known to the threatergoers for many years as “The Virginia Judge,” a story-telling character that he created in 1904.
4For The de Reszké Singers see WA 153: N 4.
5For Flo Ziegfeld see WA 117: N 11.
6For Ann Pennington see WA 117: N 14.
7Abraham Lincoln Erlanger, American theatrical manager and producer who in 1896 helped form the Theatrical Syndicate, which for many years had a virtual monopoly of the theatrical business.
8Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., eldest son and namesake of the nineteenth president. A former assistant secretary of the navy, the younger Roosevelt was a noted writer, explorer, politician and soldier. Kermit Roosevelt, second eldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt. A successful businessman, Kermit Roosevelt also achieved fame as an explorer, an author, and a soldier. The two Roosevelt brothers had returned in March 1926 from an exploration abroad on behalf of the Field Museum of Chicago.
9Mary Garden, Scottish-born American opera star who made her debut in the United States in 1906 in Thais. She was the daughter of Robert Davidson and Mary Joss Garden.
10Minnie Maddern Fiske, American actress who appeared in such popular plays as Hester Crewe, Ghosts, and The School for Scandal.
11Alice Nielsen, American soprano who made her operatic debut in 1903 in Rome. She made her initial tour of the United States in 1908, later singing for the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York City. She retired in 1917. Fannie Hurst, American short story writer, novelist, and scenarist. Her novels included Stardust, Lummox, and Imitation of Life.
12Robert Burns Mantle, American journalist, editor, and critic who served on the staff of the New York Daily ews from 1922 until his death in 1948.
13For Brandon Tynan see WA 128: N 5.
14Lily Cahill, Broadway and London stage actress. A native of Texas, Cahill scored her first important success in Under Cover, which ran for two years in New York City during World War I.
15Madge Kennedy, American actress who performed in plays and motion pictures. She mad her film debut in 1917 in Baby Mine.
WA179 May 16, 1926
ROGERS ATTENDS PRINCETON SEMINAR
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers and what I can’t help but come in contact with as I enlighten the intellects of this great Commonwealth.
I hit into some queer places. The other day we played Princeton University. (Don’t laugh, durn you.) I had never been to Princeton before. I had met and played to President Wilson many times, but I had never been to Princeton, either to school or to visit.1
Well, it seems the Boys hadn’t had an
intellectual treat all year. President Hibben had told them about all he knew.2
The Professors were becoming discouraged. So I looked like the one best bet as first aid to backward minds. It was a kind of a Church or a shrine or a Chapel or something I played in. It had a sort of a Marble Pulpit, with a solid rock parking space for the Bible or the box scores or whatever it was that happened
to be being read at the time. Then it had a big solid concrete or imitation marble seat back of this rack where you could sit down till it was your time to recite. It had a big solid rock roof on it, sort of a hansom Cab effect.
It was a beautiful arrangement, but it was not any too conducive to art, because
every time you would start explaining the fourth dimension or Gloria Swanson’s
Husband, why the rope would get caught on this Sepulcher, or whatever it was.3
The Faculty and the Student body didn’t seem to mind these temporary offsets Art would encounter, and they laughed as though they thought it was amusing. They said they had seen lots of other professors in trouble on the same Rostrum. It’s a beautiful school, and I am sorry now that I chose Harvard instead, but tradition is hard to overcome. The Pater wanted me to follow his old Alma Mater. I think you can learn the same at all schools, outside of football.
Harvard has really never taken that serious. They are talking of putting in a Chair of football next year.
The Boys were very nice to me and took me all over the grounds and in the various buildings. They had two square white Buildings with no windows.
Just looked sorter like Vaults. I thought they were Mausoleums (or whatever those things are they put you in if you die with money). Well, what do you think they were? Why, Debating Cells. It is for their course in Public Speaking. They put the affirmative in one and the Negative in the other and shut the doors. They are about 50 yards apart and the walls must be 8 feet thick. The Judges stay outside, between the two; and the one that they can hear loudest is the winner. It’s a great idea. I wish some Alumni of the United States Senate would get a couple of them down in Washington. You see they open them every three or four days and let one bunch out and another in. They wanted me to come on the Campus early so I could imbibe some atmosphere.
I did, and here is some of the more forceable things that imprinted themselves
on my mind. I walked along behind four very serious, dignified Boys, and the first whiff of College Atmosphere I got was this, “Boy, she is Hotsy Totsy! Some frame that Gal’s got! And if she can’t tear off a hot Charleston, then I
am as dumb as a freshman!”
Walked around a secluded corner unexpectedly, and there was a bunch matriculating in Algebra. They had two little square looking things and they were trying to figure out the cube root of Seven and Eleven. They were even so interested in it that they seemed to be making wagers on which was the most proficient.
Oh yes, and that evening I went to one of their clubs and had dinner.
They don’t have Fraternities with all those foreign names. Harvard has them, because they can pronounce their names. Harvard goes in for names. But Princeton just calls them Clubs and they eat and live there. They brought one
of the Professors there and he was bumming his meal the same as I was. He was an awful ordinary talking and looking fellow for a Professor. I asked him what he was professing in and he said, “Modern Political Science.” Well, I didn’t know any more then than I did before. But I didn’t let on. I just kept still
like I knew what he meant. I remembered if Calvin gets by by not saying anything
I would just make out like I knew too.
He was certainly a mighty friendly and entertaining fellow. After the dinner was over I found out that they were going to hold a “Prescept” or something like that. I had heard of a postscript but this “Prescept” was sailing right over my head. The Boys said, “Would you like to sit in on it and hear it?” Well, I didn’t have much money with me, and I am a very poor player at any kind of games, including Polo. But I thought well to be friendly I will contribute
something. I could tell one Boy knew I was doubtful of what one was, so he told me it was a kind of a talk, or discussion that Professors would hold at various times with just 8 or 10 boys. It was a kind of an argument between Profs and students.
Well, this Professor friend was booked for this argument. So I said I would like to listen to it; that after the Democratic National Convention I was about getting back in shape for another calamity. Well, we went upstairs to hold the meeting, and as we did another Gang wanted to get in on it. They were to hold a “Prescept” with another professor, and they seemed to want to have a “Joint session.” I met him too. He was from Harvard and wore glasses and a Fraternity Pin. You see, any graduate from Harvard can teach at any of these other schools. I said to him, “What’s your graft?” He said “Early Reformation.”
There was another one on me that Kemper Military Academy at Boonville, Mo., had failed to give me marking in. “Early Reformation?” I asked him. “Don’t you think you should be in Grammar school or at least High school if you want to accomplish any Early Reformation? Personally, I think you are too late here.”
I just had to ask them. I knew it was ignorance on my part to do so but I said, “Is there nobody here teaches reading, or writing, or arithmetic, or some of the old-fashioned things that Lincoln struggled along with to the Presidency?”
Well, nobody seemed to know of anyone that gave instruction in any of those branches. Well, they got upstairs and the “Joint Presbetry” started. My readers are just about as ignorant as I am, for like seeks like, so I will explain in detail this form of modern education. They all finally got sit down. That took longer than you think, for there was not enough tables for them all to put their feet on. The Professors had the best two spots. Then they all started borrowing Cigarettes. That took up quite awhile. Finally all those that couldn’t
borrow had to use their own. The Professor in Modern Political Science smoked a pipe.
We were all ready to start when he had to clean the stem of his pipe. The early reformation Guy looked over his audience and decided not to do any missionary work at all. By this time it was time to start borrowing another Cigarette. I thought this thing is not a College, it’s a smoke House. I was still anxious to hear what the Science was to Politics. Getting in office was all that I could think of. I thought here is where I hear all about Mussolini because he is about the most modern there is. And Borah, and Trotsky.4
After he had got the rat’s nest out of the stem of his pipe he turned to me, who wasn’t even in the class, and said, “What has become of Ann Pennington?”5
Well, Lord, I didn’t tell him anything about Ann Pennington. No matter how much I know, I wasn’t getting paid to instruct Princeton. That was his business. I was there as a Guest, not as a Professor. So I just let him mark me Zero on that question.
Well, that seemed to give the Harvard Pedagogue a lead on “Modern Reformation,” so he up and inquires, “Does Gilda Gray shake like that off the stage?”6
I could just tell the man was a reformist at heart. A Senior who was finishing
his sixth year there spoke up. “Are these Dames in the Movies as Dumb as everybody says they are?”
A freshman started to ask something in regard to, I imagine, Political science or Early reformation, when a sophomore casually kicked him under the chin. That was the earliest reformation I had witnessed.
Well, things drifted along like that from one political and scientific question to another. Countess of Cathcart, and Peggy Joyce cases come up for reformation and modern scientific settlement.7
By this time I had to go to the
Monastery and do my act. They were a great bunch to play to, and I had an interpreter to explain to the English teachers what I was saying.
So I have an offer to enter college next year as a Professor. All I will have to do is get me a subject and talk on something else. Oh yes, and learn to smoke.
1Woodrow Wilson was a graduate and former president of Princeton University.
2John Grier Hibben, American clergyman and educator who served as president of Princeton from 1912 to 1932.
3Swanson (see WA 117: N 14) was married to a French nobleman and sometime actor, the Marquis de la Falaise de la Coudray.
4For William E. Borah see WA 119: N 2. Leon Trotsky, Russian Communist leader who participated in the abortive Bolshevik uprising in 1905 and the successful revolution in 1917. Trotsky was expelled from the Communist party in 1927 and banished from Russia two years later. He was murdered in Mexico in 1940.
5For Ann Pennington see WA 117: N 14.
6For Gilda Gray see WA 135: N 3.
7For Vera Cathcart see WA 168: N 5; for Peggy Hopkins Joyce see WA 117: N 14.
WA180 May 23, 1926
ROGERS VISITS CONGRESS
AND LISTENS TO VICTOR BERGER
TALK IN MILWAUKEE TONGUE
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. And I have just about quit taking the paper’s word for it. I am going around and getting the information
myself. I can’t always rely on the papers. You see, they just publish their side of it. I haven’t been satisfied with the way the Government had been reported as being run, in the papers. So I just take a day off and blow down to
the Capitol to find out if the boys we send there are with us or against us.
I got in early in the morning, went to the Willard Hotel, and as there was no investigation on, I had no trouble in getting a room. I thought well, I will get an early start and I will see a lot today about the workings of our Government.
I hung around the hotel, eating breakfast and reading the Washington Post till about nine-thirty, what I thought should be time for even the most fastidious. I grabs me a taxi and up to the Capitol and there is nobody ahead of me but the Statues. I couldn’t see a living live thing. Well, I walk around and look at the old argument factory and then I strolled over to the House office building. That’s the place they are supposed to mail the seed out from. It is now about 10:30, and the Janitor is just opening up.
I says, I will pick out some old Country boys that are Congressmen that I know are up. I hunt out Charley Carter of Ardmore, and find he hasn’t even ordered his Grapefruit yet.1
So I see that Injun is getting town wise. I try
Tincher of Medicine Lodge, Kansas, and he is still in his Pink silk Pajamas, a
wardrobe which, if found out, will lose him his seat.2
Upshaw was still dreaming of the time when America would be as dry as Stone Mountain.3
I go over to the Senate building. By this time I commenced to think somebody ought to be showing up to start doing us some harm. I asked everybody, including a few Secretaries that were getting in, where I could locate anyone. “Oh, sessions don’t start till 12 o’clock. They will be getting down here pretty soon.”
I then went back over to the main building and chatted with Nick Longworth’s secretary, and say what a gem she is!4
No wonder Nick is getting long so fast, between the assistance he gets at home and this able secretarial force, and what different other Congressmen come in and tell him all day. Why there is hardly a thing that there didn’t seem to be at least a dozen to explain to him how it should be done.
Now constituents out home, I am just telling you this so you won’t be worried about these Boys overworking. They are a great bunch down there, but after being around a lot of different offices and sorter watching what was going on, if there is ever to be another pay raise, see that it goes where it is deserved - to the Secretaries. And one of them can take care of more stuff in a minute than the Boss can in a week. Well, around noon there was enough of the early risers there to make an opening. Not what you would call an auspicious opening, but they opened. Nick hit the hammer and the Chaplain prayed for wisdom and guidance. But he didn’t seem to have much heart or confidence in what he was asking for. It sorter looked like force of habit more than anything else. Well, the House of Representatives, they kinder had a regular program layed out for the day. That is, you could look and see what acts were supposed to go on. But the Senate, they just opened and the first one that could think of anything funny, why he pulled it. Victor Berger, the Socialist from Milwaukee, was on the program for a thirty-minute sketch.5
Then some other one had five minutes; then another one was billed for 40 minutes.
Well, I said I will stay here and listen to Berger. If it was a Democrat speaking he would only be against the Republicans, and if it was a Republican
he would only be against the Democrats. But here is a Socialist. He will be against both of them. So I thought there is a fellow after my own heart, only I even go further than he does, I am agin the Democrats, the Republicans and Socialists. I take in more territory than he does. Well, sir, the old fellow
was really good. They all like him in Congress. He has a good sense of humor,
and he started in by telling them that he and LaGuardia, who comes from New
York City, were the only ones of the Party in Congress and that now LaGuardia
had left him and joined the Republicans, “that his Party had lost 50 percent of
its total strength.”6
Well, that was a yell from the rest of the Gang. He told about the number of Bills he had introduced there that had never been passed. Some of them sounded awful good to me, and I could see then why they hadn’t been passed. They had merit. He said as none of his had ever been passed that he had really done the country no harm. I couldn’t hear what he was saying at the time.
But I got the Newspaper men to give me an account of it after it had been translated into English. It was delivered in the Milwaukee tongue.
He asked for something that will be a surprise to a lot of you. It was “To revise and change anything that I may say here, or insert anything else into this speech before it goes in the final record.” Now that is what they can do. In other words, you can get up on the floor and what you say has nothing to do
with what people back home will read that you said. And if you said some fool thing, which more than likely you did, and everybody laughed at you, why that will not appear in the record. But it will have instead some brilliant passage from Shakespeare or anything that you would like to have said but didn’t think of at the time.
I wish we could do that on the stage, when a joke flops. Why, we could come back with, “I didn’t mean that. Here is the one I intended to tell you.” Well, he was good. He was the only man in Public life I ever saw that seemed to realize what he did, or said, would have no effect on the destinies of Nations.
In other words, he was the only politician that seemed to be wise to himself. So I am strong for Berger. Can you imagine what must pass through his mind as he sits there day after day and listens to those fellows as they get up there
and rave and rant and get sore at each other? I would like to see him pull a Col. House and write a book of Memoirs.7
Well, they was going along fine, and all at once they got on Prohibition. So I left quick. For if I ever was tired hearing a thing talked on, it’s Prohibition. I haven’t heard a new thought advanced or a different thing said, that has not been said a thousand times before. So over to the Senate I went.
1Charles David Carter, Democratic United States representative from Oklahoma from 1907 to 1927.
2Jasper Napoleon Tincher, Republican United States representative from Kansas from 1919 to 1927.
3For William D. Upshaw see WA 171: N 16.
4For Nicholas Longworth see WA 117: N 16.
5Victor Berger, Austrian-born American Socialist who was a United States representative from Wisconsin from 1911 to 1913. Although reelected in 1918 and again in 1919 in a special election, he was excluded from Congress each time on grounds of disloyalty. He was reelected and seated in 1923, serving until his death in 1929.
6For Fiorello H. La Guardia see WA 171: N 11.
7For Edward M. House see WA 166: N 8.
WA181 May 30, 1926
ROGERS VISITS DAWES AND THE SENATE
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. But I am about to quit reading the papers and just get out and see what is going on myself. As I told
you last week I went right down to Washington, D. C., of my own free will and
accord. Imagine it! I wasn’t subpoenied or summoned before a Committee, or I wasn’t playing there in a show or anything. Just went. I wasn’t even lobbying.
So I guess I am the only man that ever just went there practically for nothing.
Oh yes, I will take a little of that back. There is some talk of building a Hospital for Indians, and if it is done, why there is only one place that it should be and that is Claremore, Oklahoma. It is just about the most meritorious thing I know of, so that sometimes makes me doubtful of its success.
Well, I will just kinder run through the day’s happenings, outside of what happened in Congress. I already told you that. I was in the Willard Hotel having breakfast, and who is sitting at the next table talking to some Lady, but
Newt Baker, of Cleveland.1
Now just lots of folks in there didn’t know who was there among them. Here was the little fellow that was Secretary of the War, when we had a war. But here was a man that had been appointed to a job
and had worked at it. I found where he was down there on a committee to prevent
crime. Mrs. Richard Derby (Ethel Roosevelt) was also down there on that commission.2
Now, that is a good idea, and I would have, if I had been asked, contributed my endorsement. Because I personally think crime has gone too far, and I am glad to see somebody come out flat-footed against it. I hope the Lions and the Kiwanis and the Apes, and some of the more hungry Luncheon Clubs will also come out against crime, and they will if you can get them to stop eating long enough. Well, when I saw that crime was being properly
attended to, I go up to the Capitol to see if anything is being done to care for
As I told you last week, Victor Berger was talking in the Lower, or “Small Time” House.3
They had suspended the rules in his case, as all speeches are supposed to be made in our native tongue. I go on up to see what is happening in the more deliberately destructive end of our Law bodies. They were approving debt funding loans. They were arguing on some country called Latvia. I don’t know just what part of the Hindenberg Line they defended during
the cause of the Big Parade. It seemed that Latvia owed us about the price of a Rolls Royce car and had made application to pay us off at about the rate of a Ford steering wheel each year up to 62 years, and then declare themselves insolvent. Well, if you had locked that whole Senate membership up and said, “Not a soul can leave this room until you can tell where Latvia is,” say, in years to come they would point out the Senate Chamber as being the place where 96 men perished through starvation in the year of ’26.
Well, they passed the thing, but it was over the objection of Jim Reed, from the Smelly banks of the Kaw.4
Jim said we are being robbed, not only by England and France and Italy, but now by Latvia. That’s one thing about Jim;
a Nation never gets too little for Jim to notice. Well, then up come the debt cases of three or four other Nations, and they got so tired voting on Debt agreements that one Senator made the motion “Just put them all together and say,
if any Nation regardless of name location or previous condition of servitude feels that they have anything laying around that might be used in the way of part debt payments to the United States, why we will be glad to receive it. Old
second hand Wars, Revolutions, Crayons of Kings, or any knick-Nacks. No matter what it is it will be acceptable, just so they promise to do what is right in 62 years.” So they just decided to pass everything, and put a collection box outside the Treasury, and anybody or any Nation that ever felt like they would
like to drop in anything, why it would be O.K. They only made one stipulation.
It was not to be called a conscience fund, as they were afraid they wouldn’t get anything at all by calling it that, as no Nation has yet been discovered who had a conscience.
Then when we had lumped off all the smaller nations’ debts, and the clerk figured it up that we had received net about $1.78 why they took up the case of Italy. Well, some of them had heard of Italy. What a relief to vote about some country you had at least heard of! Those that hadn’t heard of Italy had certainly heard of Mussolini. Coley Blease asked, “What will Italy pay?”5
Senator Borah: “What does Mussolini say that Italy will pay?”6
“Why 50 million lyers a year for the first 61 years, and then do whatever is right on the sixty-second year.”
“Well,” Senator Borah replied, “if that is what Mussolini said he would pay, why that is all you will get.”
Senator Harreld, of that great State of Oklahoma: “What is 5 million Lyers?”7
“Well, I will explain it to you,” said Pat Harrison.8
“Over in Italy they don’t call it Dollars; they call it Lyres. But never mind what they are worth.If Mussolini says that is it, I for one am not going to argue with him.” So it seemed that Mussolini’s record was a little too strong for the boys. They had heard that he had put Italy to work and they got afraid he might do something like that with them. So anybody that can throw a scare into that Senate away over from Italy must be quite some little guy. Just at that minute somebody said that it had just been rumored that France had threatened to settle!
“Threatened to settle!” bellowed Caraway, “Threatened to settle!9
So has Coolidge threatened to help the Farmer! Somebody is always threatening to do something!” “Yes, but it really looks like they will do something now. They want to borrow some more, and they can’t get it till they get their books straight.”
So that just about winds up the debt thing. Now the private ones can start loaning them and we won’t have another war till they want us to collect that. So I had been invited to have Lunch with Vice President Dawes, and I went in and we had Lunch alone in his Chambers.10
And say, I am not saying
this because he fed me (for I wasn’t very hungry anyway) but he is a real two-fisted, go-get-’em, eat-’em-alive Kid. He makes you feel right at home, no matter how common you are. We had a wonderful visit. I was smart enough to not get him off on the Senate Rules. We both agreed how these debts should have been settled if it had been done the right way from the start.
I wish he could do something with that Senate. But I think even as strong a man as he is he must be beginning to realize that that they will just keep on going as they are. I was going to Europe soon, so he gave me letters to all the men on his plan there. He looked like he would like to go too.
1Newton Diehl Baker, Cleveland attorney and Democratic politician who served as secretary of war in Wilson’s second administration. He served briefly in 1926 on a committee of the National Crime Commission.
2Ethel Carow Roosevelt Derby, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt and wife of Dr. Richard Derby, a New York surgeon. She chaired a committee of ten in 1926 which studied the medical aspects of crime for the National Crime Commission.
3For Victor Berger see WA 180: N 5.
4For James A Reed see WA 151: N 6.
5For Cole Blease see WA 171: N 9.
6For William E. Borah see WA 119: N 2.
7John William Herreld, Republican United States senator from Oklahoma from 1921 to 1927.
8Byron Patton “Pat” Harrison, Democratic United States senator from Mississippi from 1919 until his death in 1941.
9Thaddeus Horatius Caraway, Democratic United States senator from Arkansas from 1921 until his death in 1931.
10For Charles G. Dawes see WA 117: N 9.
WA182 June 6, 1926
IF YOU CAN’T CHARLESTON
YOUR TEETH MAY BE BAD
The two big medical problems that confront this country nowadays is Face remodeling and Teeth removing. Both of these adornments in the old days were thought to have been put there permanently. Your face, if it took on queer contours and shapes as it grew into manhood and disrepute, you never minded it much. You just figured well it’s getting pretty tough looking, but when I look at others mine is holding it’s own. And your teeth, why the person that would have one taken out until it almost killed him, you would think was crazy. You might go and get it overhauled, or reloaded, or any odds and ends; vacancies filled that might occur in it, but you didn’t ever in your life have over one removed at a time, or in a single year more than one. But you see that is because we didn’t know anything. We were just living, but we were not living according to Doctors’ orders. Nowadays what happens? You go to a Dentist to get him to fill an old Molar that has been rarin’ and pitchin’ because you have had your mouth open talking too much, and cold has got in there and she has found this dugout.
The Dentist will just glance at it for a minute and then commence to browse around with his little side looking glass off a Ford car, and he won’t say a word. He will just start shaking his head. You have your mouth propped open so wide you can’t ask him what he is so disturbed about. But he don’t pay any attention to you. He just goes right on down the line, first on the south-bound traffic and then he starts working back on the uptown side of your row of mileage posts. Finally, when you have wondered and slobbered all over your chin and necktie, he will stop picking and exploring and come out of there, still shaking his head and acting as though he is just going to tell you, “The Jury is about to find you guilty of murder and you are to be hung Tuesday.”
Finally you say, “What’s the matter, Doctor, does she need filling pretty bad?”
“Filling? All that one is nothing! It just needs a couple of fillings, and a hanging bridge and a little interior riveting. It’s nothing at all. It’s those others.
You have got some bad Babies in there. I think though by proper work and by getting them in time like this I can save around, Oh about 60 percent of them. My but you are lucky coming here to me when you did!”
“Why Doc, there is nothing the matter with any of the others. That is the only one has hurt me in years. It started a long time ago with just a little hole, and I kept feeling in there with my tongue and have just gradually wore it bigger and bigger. Funny how your tongue can wear out your teeth ain’t it?”
“Well, I wouldn’t advise you wrong. Here is a mirror. Look at them yourself.”
Well of course they look queer to you because you never saw them in your life before with all this series of mirrors. Even if all of them are in their right places they look sorter out of joint to you.
“I will just take out a couple of these big ones and that will give me more room to work around that little one. There is some little gold fillings in there that will have to be taken out. They are not wearing that any more. Then
the work is beginning to show bad anyway.”
“I know, Doc, but they never have caused me any trouble. They was put in there years ago by a little small town Dentist, and I thought they were fine.”
“Why, you won’t go a week. They are just liable to start bothering you tonight. It’s getting teeth in time that is the big thing today. Now I can get these all fixed up and you come in here say about every other Thursday and you will see that you will have very little trouble with your teeth.”
“But I haven’t had any up to this one. But if you think it’s best, why go ahead.”
And he starts in. That is the start, not only of him digging into you, but you digging into the little monthly saving account that you have been trying to lay by for a larger tube set. But this is just the start of it. Now they have the
regular Doctors working with them. Maybe you have had rheumatism or a bowed tendon, or the black leg, or something, and your Doctor has been working on you for perhaps years. Why he will say, “Let me have a look at those teeth.”
“Yes I have thought so a long time, but I wanted to wait to be sure. They have got to come out of there.”
“What’s got to come out Doc?”
“Why those teeth. They are what is causing you to have dandruff.But I am going to do it slowly. At first I am only going to have you take out the first row in the upper balcony. I will give you a card to the man who will do it. Then you come back to me and I will be able to start curing you of that Asthma that has been bothering you so long. I am going to have those Ex-Rayed first, and see just which ones are the worst.”
Well, then you go to an Ex-Ray Guy. The Doctor sends over a Blue print of the ones he wants “stills” made of. He has a thing that shoots right through you and shows any bad spots. It should be compulsory before marriage and not before teeth pulling. Then you could tell if either of you had a kind of a faulty heart, and it was maybe going to give out caring for the other. Well, they get the Scenics of the Bi-cuspids and if it shows a dark spot away at the back! (it may be the brass collar button on the back of your shirt, or it may be a fly speck on the film.) But at any rate it’s too late to call for a change of venue. Those teeth that were unfortunate enough not to photograph well are coming out of there. Just think, we have had, and have, Presidents that don’t photograph well. But we don’t pull ’em out of office for it. But a tooth, if its just some Corn Likker lodged down in there and happens to photograph like bran mash, why out the tooth comes. He explains to you, “See that small dark speck? Well, that is on a nerve that goes directly to the Madull Oblong Gotto, and it has a side line that runs right through the Appendix.” So the Ex-Ray bird gets His cut out of the savings. The man that’s sent you there gets his. The fellow that pulled ’em out gets his. No dentist pulls your teeth any more. That’s a separate branch altogether. All he requires is a strong arm, two nurses, no conscience, some gas, or a hammer. Then the Appendix Guy gets His. That is also a side line or assessory, to the medical highwaymen’s profession.
In other words, they are making four fees grow where only one grew before. There is four Industrys flourishing off the one dark spot.
A broken leg is generally traceable to a cloudy molar. Gunshot wound from an unreasonable husband is traceable to a faulty wisdom tooth. Water on the knee? They take out a tooth and drain that off. They remove the eye teeth to prevent blindness, and if you are blind they remove them to restore sight.
Another great gag with them now is, “I don’t know that it is your teeth that is
causing you trouble, but we will just take them out, and if that don’t cure it,
why of course you will be out nothing but your teeth. It’s worth the trial. That
might just be accidentally what is the matter with you.”
The best joke I know of that you could play on a modern Doctor would be to go to a Dentist first and have every tooth pulled out, and then go to the Doctor and say, “Doctor, those fallen arches of mine are are killing me. What can I do?”
He would say, “Let me see those teeth of yours; that is just about what is causing the trouble.” Then when he looked there wouldn’t be any teeth. You would have a big laugh on him. It’s funny. Babies without teeth at all are sick,
and old people that haven‘t got any at all die. So I don’t know how these Doctors get away with this laying everything onto the teeth.
There are two things that seem like got started wrong in life. One was the Constitution of the United States. The men that layed that out didn’t seem to know what we needed, and so these modern smarter men have been all these years trying to improve it and get it fixed up properly. And the other thing was teeth. It seems the Lord when He layed out our original teeth didn’t know much about teeth, so He just put those we have in temporarily till the Doctors could come along and get ’em out or get ’em remodeled so they amounted to something.
If you can’t Charleston, I know it’s your teeth, so get ’em out of there at once.
WA183 June 13, 1926
WILL ROGERS HAS MARVEL AS PROTEGE
AND SETS OUT TO RIVAL
MARY GARDEN AS PROMOTER
I have read for years the wonderful things that singers, such as Mary Garden and Schuman-Heink and a lot of others do in the way of encouraging talent in their particular line.1
In fact, sometimes from some of the voices you hear you get the idea that they have been really too liberal in encouraging it.
It is not really talent encouragement that we need so much in this country as it is talent suppression. But they do do some great things. Take Mary Garden for instance. You remember those Boys that traveled with me last year, the De
Well, they were boys studying over in Europe and trying to get along and Mary Garden heard them and made it possible for them to go ahead, and when they were ready she even loaned them the money to come to America on. And to them Mary Garden is just about the greatest woman there is and she seems to be to about everybody that ever met her. I am going to see her this summer, when I get over to Europe. She lives down at Nice. And speaking of her, she is also responsible for my prowling about the Country last season. She is a great friend of Charles Wagner and he manages her concert tour.3
She heard me several times in the Follies and suggested the Concert tour to Wagner. So you see I have Mary to thank for my new line of work.
So when I arrive in your town next year, if you should be unwillingly dragged off to the show by some partly demented relative or friend to hear me, why blame Mary. It was not my idea at all. So I just got to thinking to myself if Mary can make all these friends by trying to help them in their work, why can’t I do something. Everybody thinks in their own heart they are funny, and why not encourage some of them, and then again there is lots of Boys that are good Rope spinners that with a little encouragement would leave a good job for the uncertainty of a stage career.
Well, just as my conscience was about to begin to hurt me why here comes a letter from an old Boy out in Arizona, and if ever a man appeared on the surface to have everything, why this gent was the one. Here Mary Garden had become beloved for encouraging singing, and I was torn between whether I should pick out someone to encourage just a Comedian, or to center all my time picking out a rope thrower. I didn’t know which would make me the most beloved, when lo and behold, just read this letter that falls into my hands and has solved the whole problem, because in fostering and encouraging him I am helping out not only those three great Arts, Singing, Comedying, and Rope throwing, but this fellow seems to have combined all of these as just a side line along with some half dozen real accomplishments.
“Dear Will Rogers: I can do a lot of Rope spinning on the slack wire, also I write short Stories of western life, at the same time I punish a guitar, and
sing Cowboy songs. Some of them are songs not generally heard everywhere else. I can lie on my back on a slack wire and sing too. I can spin the rope either while standing on the wire or on the floor. I can play a Harmonica standing on my hands. When you played at Phoenix, at the Shrine Auditorium, I don’t know if you noticed them or not, but if you did they were put there by me. It was two holes in each end of the Auditorium stage, where I bored them to fasten my wire into as I did an act for the Cattlemen’s Convention Bawl, there that night. My first and only appearance on any stage. Everybody said I went over fine. Harry Nace, the Manager of the Movie Theatres in Phoenix, says he will engage me to do my act as a Prologue in front of some big good western Picture, but it don’t seem like the good western has come along, and from what I have seen of them if I wait till a good western comes along I will starve to death. I have worked a long time learning all this, and I have a little ranch out here, but pretty near all my cattle died during the five years drouth.
Don’t let the Commercial Club of Phoenix know that I mentioned drouth in this country. I would make also a mighty good man at changing western stories into film plays, because I don’t know a thing about the motion picture business. I guess my knowledge of a ranch would be against me though. I got a story in the Adventure Magazine called The Astral Bull. I could write a movie story for the audience during my act on the stage. All the costuming I got is a silk shirt (red one), a pair of Frazier nickle-studded Chaps, Boots, Spurs, and a Whale of a good Guitar, and old cheap Stetson hat, and I got a voice like a wounded hyena and two exclusive songs with catchy tunes that I made up myself. Now this is a good stout wire; if I can stay on it it will hold me up. It looks like with all these I ought to be able to please somebody. You are getting old now Will, and been a-fooling ’em so long, I think you ought to just reserve your act for the old men’s homes, and if you know of a manager whose place is not too hard to get back from, why let me know. That Astral Bull story will give you a fair idea of my acting if you will read it. Do something for me, Will. Yours sincerely, Romaine H. Lowdermilk, who goes under the Pen name of “Yavapai Ike,” Wickenburg, Arizona.”
Well, you can bet your life I am going to get Ike started. The first thing I am going to do is to take that “Ike” and that “Yavapai” name away from him. If Ike was looking for a show name he didn’t have to go any further than the one he was christened with. Romaine H. Lowdermilk. Think what a name to conjure with, and so appropriate for what Ike does. The “Romaine” either suggests a Song or a salad. And Ike has the songs and with all his accomplishments he is what would be called a salad of tricks. The “Lowder” part means that you don’t have to worry about the acoustics of any place he plays in. He can be heard even standing on his hands, and the last part of the name, the “Milk,” that suggests the Cowboy or open spaces, or early morning carousals.
So I have written Ike and told him that his parents knew more than he did when they named him, and that we would get back to the original birth certificate title. Now old Ike’s letter shows that he has sure got the humor. And now it is up to me to get the stage for Ike (I mean Romaine) to bore his holes in. I am like Romaine. I wouldn’t wait till a good western was produced to go to acting. I would go to work rather than wait that long. That singing a song and blowing a harmonica at the same time is going to be a mighty pretty sight itself, even if he don’t stand on his hands. I have heard Cowboys sing, and they all sounded like they were blowing a Harmonica at the same time. In fact I wish they had been blowing one so Romaine might have found a way to improve on Cowboy singing, and that is to have a harmonica working out of the same mouth at one and the same time. Romaine Lowdermilk wouldn’t be any good changing original stories into Film plays. That is being done just as bad as he could do it. He might keep the same titles in them that is not being done. For instance when Romaine see’s his “Astral Bull” on the screen it will be under the title, “The Sea Cow.”
Ike (I mean Romaine) certainly is right. He ought to please somebody.
Pretty near everybody likes good singing, they get so little of it. And pretty near everybody likes good wire walking, although Ike said he layed down on his; he didn’t say he walked it. I bet Ike never thought about it, but if he would just get that Guitar playing while standing on his hands, like he does that harmonica, that would be another good one. That spinning a rope, there is not
much to that anymore unless somebody comes along some day that can do it good. And that writing a western play right before your eyes, anybody in the audience can do that. For instance, the Sheriff, his Daughter. The Horse thief runs away with the Girl down hill all the way. The capture. The fight in deserted cabin. The Horse thief turns out to be Yale student who was run away from home for winning a Charleston Contest. He grabs a saxophone out of his Chaps pocket and plays a tune and shows them that he is a Gentleman at heart. Then hunts a beautiful willow tree by lake to fade out on, with Yale student shooting craps with Sheriff father for girl’s hand. Suspense --------------Student wins!
So if you ever see a fellow come out on the stage and start writing a western story, and singing an unpublished song, and blowing a harmonica, and asleep on a slack wire, and spinning a rope, and standing on his hands playing a Guitar, and boring holes for wire all these going on simultaneously and in unison and at some time, or in other words at once, why you will know I have landed old Ike (I mean Romaine). That is, if he does all these things and has on a red shirt. If he has on some other colored shirt it may not be Ike. It may be some imposter, or imitator of Romaine. So I am going to make an amateur out of Mary for promoting new talent. Remember, Ike knocked ’em all back sober at the Cowboy’s Bawl at Phoenix. So book him. If he don’t make good I will pay you anything you lose on him, but it’s to be under his original name.
1For Mary Garden see WA 178: N 9. Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Austrian-born operatic contralto who, beginning in 1898, appeared for several seasons with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York City. She reappeared with the Metropolitan in Das Reingold in 1926 at the age of sixty-four.
2For The de Reszké Singers see WA 153: N 4.
3Charles L. Wagner, American impresario who began managing theatrical, musical, and vaudeville performers, including Mary Garden (see WA 178: N 9) and Will Rogers, in 1909.
WA184 June 20, 1926
ROGERS FLIES THE CHANNEL
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers or what I happen to bump into as I prowl about the old Universe. You remember on my little Lecture tour last year I told you a little about some airship flying that I did one time with General Mitchell.1
Well, it’s great stuff, but I am kinder slow gathering up or accumulating nerve.
We was in London, little Bill and I.2
That’s the kid, 14. We were over there prowling around, waiting for school to be out and the rest of the troupe to come on over. We wanted to go over to Paris and we had read and heard a lot about all this “Flying to Paris” or flying around everywhere in Europe. So
Bill was pretty strong for it. He had been up before out in Los Angeles and flew around over our house in Beverly Hills and waved at us. So he was sure that this would be just like that. Well, I wasn’t so sure about that. I wasn’t so strong for comparing my little plot of ground with the English Channel. If I
fell out there I dropped right in the lap of some friend or acquaintance but if I fell in that English Channel I couldn’t think of a Fish that I knew.
Well, it’s pretty tough to have a little Kid kinder make a Sucker out of the old man in the way of daring him to do something, and I didn’t want to let him know that I was getting old that fast. So I finally said, “Bring on your Airships.” Trot out your old English Channel. Here is an old Country boy that will either fly the Channel, swim it, or jump it.
No son was going to feel ashamed of the old man, especially away from home. Now, they fly over there every day, rain or shine. I had always sorter thought that you couldn’t do much airshipping in the rain. But my goodness, if that was the case over in that Country they never could fly at all. Well, there is two big lines go over, the English and the French. I got to thinking and I said, “I think we better go over on the French. I think they had more Aces in the war, and then when they get across the Channel they ought to know the country better.”
In other words, I picked them because they would be flying toward home, while the English would be flying away from home. I always figured that it was better to be with a fellow that was trying to get home than one that was trying to get away from home. He will use a little more effort. Now in coming back this way why of course I would choose the British. But it wasn’t the coming back; it was the getting over that was worrying me right then.
We drove out to the edge of London, and when you drive out to the edge of London why you have drove out to the edge of something. It begin to look from the Taximeter like London didn’t have any edges. Between the constant checking of the Taximeter and the thought of that Airship over that Channel, why I was what you might call a mildly nervous man. Oh boy! It was a drizzling rain and a high wind. It seemed like the old U. S. Senate when they get started on Prohibition.
We started right in, not being able to understand anybody for everybody around the joint was a “Froggie.” The rate is, IN MONEY, about $32.50.
Flying in Europe is really about as cheap as railways, especially on longer trips where you take in consideration Sleeper fares and meals and all the extra
time it takes on the train. They have a line now from Berlin to Moscow. In one
day they fly all over in those countries, and think nothing of it. And the funny
part is Americans go over to Europe and fly that at home if you wanted one to get up on a step ladder and hang a Picture they would say, “Oh, I just can’t stand to be up in the air! When I look over I just feel like I want to jump.”
But you see if we just hang a Picture we can’t tell that to our friends when we get home about how we enjoyed it. So I was like the rest of them. I was flying so I could tell the natives back home about it. There was eight or ten big planes out there and some smaller ones.
Finally, a man that spoke what he thought was English said to me, “Do you want to go in a small plane or a big one?” Bill said a small one. I said a big one. I asked how many would be in the small plane and he said three. Bill asked if the small plane wasn’t faster. He said, “Oh Yes.”
Well that didn’t particularly appeal to me. I got to thinking and I couldn’t think of a single thing that I was in a hurry to get to Paris for. So then I got
Bill off to one side and I explained to him what a wonderful thing it would be to go home and tell about this big plane. Oh this Giant Aeroplane that he flew the Channel in. That if he told that just three of us flew over that would be no
novelty, but if he could tell them a whole gang flew over, why that would be different. I was sparring to try and get some company, in fact as much company as possible, on there with me. I had read somewhere that there is supposed to be “safety in numbers.” They send over just as many planes as they have people for. I saw a plane a loading up and on it we got. The wind pretty near blowed us off the steps climbing up in to it. I thought maybe on account of the wind and rain they will declare, “No flight today.” And that would give me another day to think up some new excuse for going on the boat. I thought maybe they give out “Wind Checks.” But no sir, they just started packing us in there. There was room for 10 passengers and there was 10 passengers, and the Pilot, and another fellow that stood by the pilot. It looked like he was there in case of the thing falling. He could advise the Pilot just where would be the best place to fall. It’s all closed in. The people are the middle and the Engines are out to one side, one on each side of you, all right out in the open, working.
When that big thing commenced leaving the ground and getting up in the air, no Britisher ever craved London any more than I did. Then I commenced to wish. Well, maybe Bill was right, the little plane would have been better. This is so heavy I doubt if the air will hold it up.
Well, if you ever saw a beautiful country in the world to look at it’s England from the air. You would just start to try to enjoy a wonderful old Castle and fields down below when something or somebody would take what air there was under us out and it would settle straight down like an elevator. Your stomach tried to change places with your head. Then we would find some nice concreted air roads and be sailing along fine. Then it would just remind you of surface roads over home. You would come to a place where somebody wouldn’t vote road bonds and you would hit another bunch of ruts. The old stomacher would commence to sorter want to get up through your throat again. I looked back in the seat behind me, and poor little William had located a kind of a lunch basket effect that seems to be standard equipment on one of these cross-channel planes. He wasn’t just examining it; he was seeing if it was practical. A Japanese across the 12-inch passageway looked like he would like to commit Hiri Kari. You know there is nothing in the world as sick looking as a seasick person. I think people look more natural when they are dead. Well, a seasick Jap is even worse than all that. You know they have a kind of a pale look anyway. Well, this fellow was slowly turning what we ranchmen call a “Muckle Dun.”
After making my examination of adjoining companions I happened to glance out the window. Somebody had taken the land out from under us. We had no air just now; now we have no land! And what scares you is you know the ship is not made to land on water. It has no boat arrangement. It only has wheels, and no one has ever been able to coast very far on any kind of wheel on the water. Then I commenced wanting France. I said, “Lafayette here I come! Bring your land to meet me!”
By this time all the sick had totally passed out. Little Bill was asleep, and I begin to envy him then. We hit France finally, and somebody hadn’t paid their poll tax, and we hit more Air pockets, or Chug holes. It reminded me of motoring in Virginia. By continuous gulping, and main force it looked like I would make it with my original cargo, when all at once I looked and there was an airplane field below us, and he didn’t coast down to it. He just dropped right down into it. Well, he broke my clear record. Bill claims he didn’t get a
fair chance at it and wants another crack at some other trip. Well, airships are
great, but take it from me, it’s the last 500 feet that’s the hardest.
1For Billy Mitchell see WA 117: N 10.
2Young Bill Rogers (see WA 124: N 13) accompanied his father to Europe. Mrs. Rogers and the other children, Mary Amelia and James Blake “Jimmy” Rogers, joined them there later.
WA185 June 27, 1926
SEEING PARIS BY TAXIMETER
Well, all I know is just what little I read in the papers or what I am obliged to see as I prowl the length and breadth of this great Universe. Well, I felt like I had a right to go to Europe because I believe that I am one of the few Americans that have seen America first. I haven’t seen near all of it, and when I get back I am going to look over some more, and I know in my own heart that they haven’t got a thing to show us over here that we haven’t got at home and better. I had been over two or three times years ago, but I thought well I will go and see if the Boys have scared up anything new. They hadn’t anything new but the prices.
Well, after doing London, why of course in the natural course of the tourist route, why Paris comes next. Well, I only had a couple of days to spend there, as I was on my way down to Geneva to see what a Delegation of good Americans were doing in the way of Disarming at an annual argument they were holding there. The boy, Bill Jr., age 14, and I blow into what is familiarly called the Gay City. We step off our airship, kinder pale and staggering, but we make it for a Taxicab. The Taxicabs in France have the lowest start in the way of money of any Taxicabs in the world. That is, they start in at one Franc. Now a Franc on the Tuesday afternoon at four-forty when we were in this cab, was worth in money less than three cents, and there is Lord knows how many “sonteemes” in a franc. Well at each turn of the front wheel of the car the Meter jumps 10 Sonteemes. Well, you have just settled back figuring here is something in Paris that I will get for nothing for this thing is only one Franc and that is just about half a nickel. You have gone about a couple of blocks and you are looking out watching what they call Peasants, pushing their wine Carts by. In our Country with the same load they would be called Plutocrats. You have just missed some dozen-odd people by less than a quarter of an inch. Driven on every side of the street there is, over the edges of the sidewalk, down a couple of what we would call Alleys, where you would say, well we are safe here; it’s a one way street because there is no one that could pass us in here. All at once here comes a truck loaded with Fresh wine, labeled 1888. You say we can’t pass that in this narrow place and you can’t, but you do. Then when your blood pressure is approaching normal again, you just casually glance at the taximeter. It registers in francs, 14, and in Sonteemes, they are rolling by your eyes so fast you would have to stop to see what they did say. No human mind
can read ’em as fast as they click by. You say why my goodness, I have only gone a couple of blocks. The number of Francs is caught up with the Sonteemes. Now they are both chasing each other around the clock.
Traffic halts you but it don’t halt that thing. They have a way when they are standing still or having one wheel jacked up, and it don’t interfere with the movement of the meter. You arrive at your destination some ten American Blocks away, and you hand them a hand full of Francs, and then he comes back with, “Fer Me, You, no pay Fer Me!”
You give him another little bale or a handfull. And if you stop to count up it has just cost you $3.80 to ride what you could have made the same trip in New York for about 45 cents, and no argument about “Fer me.” Of course you always tip them, but this “Fer me” comes anyway. That’s an extra tip for giving them the first tip.
So your last chance of getting anything cheap in Paris has gone a-glimmering. They certainly started right with the meter when you got in, but from then on brother it showed you some speed.
You think on account of these Francs changing so fast in the rate of exchange
that you should be getting the best of everything. Yes, that’s another pet illusion. Say, they are up in the morning setting those prices, and no jump
that the Franc will make during that day will ever catch up with them. It could
drop to one cent apiece in American money, and they would still be ahead of you.
So I wouldn’t spend any particular great time worrying about the poor downtrodden Frenchman with the low cost of the Franc, especially if he comes in contact with the Americans in any way. It may be tough on them to deal with each other, but if you will just give one of them 10 minutes with an American
you can save your pity for something that needs it. You know the American gets the idea that when he sees in the last paper that the Franc has reached a certain low price, he just can’t hardly keep from jumping up and going out and start buying. He gets the idea that he is putting something over on his foreign
hosts. I don’t know why he thinks the Frenchman can’t read those same reports, and know what the Franc is doing as well as he does.
Here is another great gag they have over here. You know people in all these countries speak different languages, but they are supposed to write figures
in the same language. For instance, when you get your Bill in the Cafe, all you should have to do is to read the figures on it. But say, you can’t read the figures on it. A handwriting expert can’t read the figures. You start to add
up the bill, because every American always warns every other one, “Oh, do add up your bill! You really are supposed too. It’s not considered cheap like it
is in America when you do it. So always add up!” Well, here is what you will
find. The 3’s are all made to add up, and look like 8’s; 7’s look like 9’s. So you take a figuring system where there is no such thing as three and seven, and
jump them up a few notches to 8’s and 9’s, why you have a pretty good percentage
system working for you. The men running Monte Carlo are just apprentices in the percentage figuring game compared to these.
So you can’t add the thing up because you can’t read the man’s writing. You just as well add a Chinese Laundry slip.
You see, there is another thing over here that we are slow getting accustomed
to. Over home if you go into a place and order ham, eggs and coffee, why when the bill come it would have those two objects on it. Ham and eggs so much, and coffee so much. There would be two items, that’s all. But in France or Italy there would be a long slip. So many Sonteemes or francs for waiter taking order, so much for rent, so much for bread, so much for butter, and if by any chance you had a glass of water with it, that would be harder to get and cost more than the ham and eggs. Now these ham and eggs would be split in the addition. They don’t pair any two things in the billing over there. Bread and butter may eventually get together in the hands of an expert American. But they will never become so closely associated that they will not be prominent enough to be priced separately.
Then there is a luxury tax. Then a cover charge, that is even if you are eating on the sidewalk with no cover over you. Pepper and salt are only served on demand. So really what started out to be only a light breakfast will add up to be a dinner. Try to find out what these twelve items are on the bill. They all
speak English when selling you something, but if asked to explain a bill their English gets back to native again.
So from what I have been able to learn about these people in a kind of an offhand way, is that they don’t take bad care of themselves at all in any financial arrangements. Europe is supposed to be artistic, but if I had to judge
I should place their financial ahead of their artistic ability. So in offering
prayers for downtrodden races, I would advise you not to overlook the “Downtrodden Tourist.”