Will Rogers' Weekly Articles
WA275 April 1, 1928
MEDALS, TEAPOTS, AND REAL ESTATE
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. Lindy grabbed off another Medal. If he ever makes another Ocean flight and carries his medals with him he will have to take one of these big sausage-shaped Dirigibles. We used to think that Sousa had more medals than anybody.1
You remember we just were able to see his Baton waving out in front of a solid breastwork of medals. He had so many it acted as a sounding board, and Flats and Sharps bounced off those inscriptions and welded themselves into real harmony.
Lindy has so many that it will just take one man shining them. Coolidge gave him this latest one. In fact Coolidge has given him most of them. If Cal would have given the Farmers a little speck of relief every time he handed Lindy a medal they would be almost out of the poor house by now. He has pinned so many medals on Lindy he can reach up and do it in the dark and hit the right place. This last one was a “Congressional Medal” that Congress gave to Lindy.
I am sorry that Lindy can’t reciprocate and present Congress with one. Nobody has ever suggested giving Congress a medal. These Congressional ones are given for “Valor and bravery beyond the ordinary duties.” I believe I will have one struck off and give it to Congress and Senate for “Endurance in Oratory beyond and far on the other side of the duties for which they were elected.” I will raise the funds by popular subscription, VERY POPULAR Subscription. Congress would feel so proud over getting a medal that it might encourage them. Because there is times when I feel that they feel that they are not appreciated. When they get through giving Lindy all these Medals, which he deserves, why don’t they give him some lifetime job, like Secretary of Aviation, or Commander and Chief of our forces in the air, or President of Commercial Aviation, or something that would keep him directly in touch with the air forces and still give us the benefit of his knowledge and consul. Course in discussing the news of the day you can’t get anywhere in a paper without stumbling over a Tea Pot.2
We have had more excitement over a Tea pot than England has had over all her tea she has drank for years.
This term of Congress which we expected so much of, will go down in history as the Tea Pot Congress. They couldent pass any bill, for every body was on the stand testifying somewhere. Anybody that they hear of that knows anything they will go out to his house and hold court. It’s the most accommodating court I ever saw. Their slogan is, “Testimony taken in your homes while you eat.” “Testimony made easy.” They are going out to El Paso now. They have been to Chicago a couple of times, and New York. If they can just locate somebody up in Seattle, that will give them a great trip.
You see the reason this investigation has dragged along so long is, these people who are testifying have all testified before many times, but the first few times you testify they don’t expect you to tell anything. It’s just to kinder get you used to testifying. It takes sometimes about five or six trials with you before you really tell much that you know. In other words they have to find out what you know before you will testify to it. No witness yet has ever told what he knew until the Committee had known first what he knew, and then made him tell it. They let a witness go for awhile till they find out some more on
him, and then bring him back and make him testify to this last that they have found out. One witness tried to say that he thought the Democrats had gotten some money too. But that was so laughable that it was almost funny. If any man had given money to the Democratic cause it would not have left him liable for corruption, but to the insane asylum. The Democrats wanted to follow up that clue and see if there really was any truth in it, and find out who it was and let him go ahead and give if he would.
I just come out of Florida last week, was all over the State, and naturally everybody wonders how they are making out. Well, I want to tell you they are coming back strong. They had a wonderfully successful Tourist season down there this winter and they were all still there staying late and all the Tourists were satisfied, they were not pestered to buy any lots, they dident buy anything and they also was not overcharged at the Hotels. They sent away a lot of satisfied customers. Heretofore a lot of people always come out kicking about how they had been overcharged, but not this year, and mind you it was not a bad year up north this winter either. Let it be a real bad winter and there will be no holding them in Florida. They have some splendid roads there, and they are doing all they can to develop their crops, copying California in
You know everybody I think felt sorry for Florida. It really wasent the real people of Florida that was responsible for what happened. It was the outside grafter that come in there, put on all this boom and then ducked out, leaving the poor real Floridians with the bag to hold. But they are sticking it out bravely and not hollering, and charged off the high prices to profit and loss, and are starting in now and will be on a sounder foundation than ever. In fact the whole South is stepping. States have found the recipe for success now, and no one of them has a monopoly on it. They are all doing the same thing that California did: first, build good roads, encourage diversified crops, encourage factories to locate in their State. They all know now that certain things will bring certain results, and they all are practicing it. No state now has a monopoly in progress. If a new thing comes out that will help a State, why in a month every other State knows about it and has it. When the people come south to the Democratic Convention they will have their eyes opened to what has taken place in the old South.
1John Philip Sousa, American bandmaster and composer, known as the “March King.” Sousa, who had received decorations from most European countries, composed such well-known march tunes as “Washington Post March” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
2The Teapot Dome scandal involved bribery of public officials and the leasing of federal naval oil reserve lands to private concerns. It occurred during Harding’s administration, but court battles and congressional investigations dragged on for years.
WA276 April 8, 1928
Well, all I know is just what little testimony I read in the papers every day. If a man is not testifying about Oil, or Bonds, or votes, why he is testifying about coal, or railroad rates, or Miners’ wages, or something. My school for testimony that I wrote you about is gathering recruits every day. Men that had no idea they would be called on a month ago, are now enlisting for short courses in my School.
Who would have thought that Henry Ford would have had to look a Senator in the face and tell him he could pay a Miner $8.00 a day, while these other Coal Operators say the Miner should pay for the privilege of mining the coal, that if he don’t they have to operate at a loss. Everybody in the coal business seems to be losing money. You would think they were just giving it away.
Schwab was pretty good on the stand.1
Or course he had cut his Miners’ wages but he was good natured about it. You know you can work for Charley cheaper than you can for anybody else because he is so congenial and nice about it. What he might lack in pay to the miners he makes up in smiles to ’em. Well, they got him on the stand and he really showed up fine. They couldent get a whole lot of information out of him, but he made it up in jokes. He showed that money and humor could go together. He said he had never made a cent out of his Steel Company. That was one of his jokes.
I have been in his beautiful home on Riverside Drive, New York, and incidentally interrupted a Poker Game that Sunday afternoon I was there. Now he may have been telling the truth when he said he hadent made anything out of the steel Company, but it certainly is a beautiful House. Now it may be possible that he keeps it up on this Poker Game. But I doubt it. The men that I saw in the game that afternoon, some of them whom I knew, dident look to me like they was able to support a place like that.
He pulled the best Gag that has been pulled on the witness stand this year. Senator Goodings asked him about farming, saying that he the Senator was a dirt Farmer himself.2
When Schwab interrupted him saying, “I am also a farmer. I have a picture at home taken of me sitting on a tractor, with an Orchid in the lapel of my coat.” Now that was a “Wow.” That is what I call the height of farming.
I come through Washington, D. C. the other day. Had a long talk out at the Longworths’ with Bascomb Slemp, who had just leaped head first into the Hoover hopper.3
I was anxious to find out from him just how much opposition there was to Hoover from the real Politician. He says, “Not as much as you hear there is.”
You know I have always thought the real old politician (who’s real stock in trade is a Government appointment to something for which he is unfitted) I always figured that he would be kinder leary of Herbert. Herb never was much on appointing him to anything, for Hoover has always been in the habit of appointing men who would be of assistance to him, so these old Boys dident want anything like that happening. I take a straw vote every night in every place I play and it gives a pretty good line on who they want. However, that’s only the people. Who they want and who they will get is a different thing. I certainly hope none of you readers are so simple-minded as to think that you have anything to do with the nomination of the man that you will eventually vote for.
I was in Ohio all last week, but I couldent stir up much speed for Willis.4
Still they tell me out in the Buckwheat belt he is pretty strong. Hoover beat him 100 to one, in every vote I took there. Still one man explained it to me in this way, “Well, Will, the people you get in your show are the better class people. You could go and get a crowd from some other parts of this town and they wouldent know Hoover at all.”
I have been in several of the states where they had these so-called native Sons, and somebody ought to write a book on, “What gives a Native Son hope?” I couldent write it, for I don’t know what does, but there must be something. I think picking Harding that time when nobody knew where they had picked him from, has done more to revive hopes in Nationally unknown breasts than anything else.
Cal broke out again a couple of weeks ago with his usual statement, “I don’t choose to have my name on the Wyoming ballot.” That’s three times he has said exactly the same thing. Now I claim there is a catch in it somewhere or he would say, “Will you please let me alone. I am not and WILL NOT be a Candidate under any circumstances.” Did he say that? Not on your life he dident. He is laying by that little word “Choose” like a Republican to a stack of Liberty Bonds.
If you was misunderstood in the press in the morning, and there was doubt as to the meaning of some statement you had issued, why what would you do? You would immediately clarify it wouldent you? That’s what anybody would do. They would say, “I meant so and so.” But he will be “Choosing” right up to Kansas City, and I think he will be “Choosing” then. He gets a big vote all over the Country every time I ask for a vote on him running. In fact I think he gets bigger than Hoover.
All but in Cleveland. They are not so strong for Cal for some reason or other there. You know Lafollette carried that City last time.5
They would just like to be sorter radical in Cleveland if they knew how. They are like a young boy that wants to be devilish but just don’t know how to start in.
Jim Reed is stirring ’em up all around.6
I wish they would pass a law that no matter who is elected President that Jim Reed would be the one to make the Public speeches for him. Nothing is so dull as a Presidential speech, and nothing is as exciting as a Jim Reed one. Jim can make the Republicans pretty near as corrupt as they are. I go into Indiana next week, but I certainly don’t want to be taken as one of Senator Robinson’s “Birds of a Feather.”7
Another Native Son Candidate out there is Jim Watson.8
Jim is old enough to know better, and I believe he does at heart. He is just running to get a free Ticket into the Convention. So this week it’s Coolidge and Hoover, for the Rep., and Smith against the field for the honor of running second.
1Charles Michael Schwab, American industrialist and steel magnate who founded the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1904.
2Frank Robert Gooding, Republican United States senator from Idaho from 1921 until his death in 1928.
3For Nicholas Longworth see WA 221:N 2. Campbell Bascom Slemp, former Republican congressman from Virginia who served as secretary to President Coolidge from 1923 to 1925. On March 21 Slemp announced his support for Hoover.
4Frank Bartlett Willis, Republican United States senator from Ohio from 1921 to 1928. A former governor of Ohio, Willis had been touted as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1928. He died shortly after this Weekly Article was written.
5Robert Marion La Follette, Sr., United States senator from Wisconsin from 1906 until his death in 1925. A maverick Republican, La Follette ran for the presidency in 1924 on the Progressive ticket.
6For Jim Reed see WA 228:N 2.
7Joseph Taylor “Joe” Robinson, Democratic United States senator from Arkansas from 1913 until his death in 1937.
8James Eli “Jim” Watson, Republican United States senator from Indiana from 1916 to 1933.
WA277 April 15, 1928
POLITICS AND BASKETBALL
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. As I pen these lines I am messing around in Indiana. (In fact everybody that is in Indiana is messing around, or was till they caught ’em.) I am trying to keep my visit kinder quiet. I don’t want to let it out I am here. But I do believe the old State is trying to do better. There is a whole lot of awful nice people in here. They are kinder like Florida during their set back; they are not really responsible for what some have done.
I proposed the other day that they run George Ade for Governor, and I wasent kidding.1
He has lived here in this State all his life and he has either been too honest or slick for ’em. You know he is a very remarkable man. I think he has his life better organized than any man I ever saw. He just travels around and goes where he pleases, writes when he pleases, and always is
happy when he has his congenial friends with him, and he carries them with him, so he takes no chances. He is down in the West Indies somewhere prowling around, he and some friends. But really wouldent he add a lot of confidence and even dignity to the Governorship of Indiana?
And speaking of Humorists, wasent that too bad about Chauncy Depew dying?2
Oh what a grand old man! I was pulling for him to reach a thousand. He left Florida too quick, come north and got a cold. That’s one thing, if you go away for the winter, stay for the winter. It’s the cold spring months that are bad. He come to see me in the Follies one time at a Matinee performance, and I will always remember it. He never went out to shows. I introduced him to the audience and he got a tremendous hand, and then is where he pulled the Gag on me that I have so oft repeated. I made him make a little speech, and as I had just finished my little roping stunt, he said, “I have been entertaining the Public for 70 years (that was on his 90 birthday) and I have never found it necessary to use a rope.” Wasent that nifty? Lord just think of the memories of that man! He was in politics before Abraham Lincoln decided to “Choose to run.” Just think of the Presidents he had known, and help elect too. He was going to go to Kansas City if he had lived. Well they missed a greater attraction than any one they will have there. Suppose he hadent had this humor and wonderful entertaining qualities, how long do you reckon he would have lived? And the great part of it was he dident have to be funny for a living. It was a kind of a side line with him.
I wonder who he was for for President? Well I wonder who anybody is for. Did you ever see such a scrambled up race? As I told you last week I take my little straw vote every night, and I had a mighty hard time scaring up any Jim Watson sentiment here in his own State.3
I can hardly understand Jim running. I guess it was to kinder head off Hoover. I tell you this Hoover is a tough Guy to head off. Of course the smoke-filled room at 3:30 A.M. in Kansas City may head him off. That’s stopped many a good man, and let an inferior one get by. I still got my bet with William Allen Hearst that Coolidge will run, and I have not lost yet.4
Oh, and say, did you see where the Daughters of the American Revolution had vetoed the speaking in Massachusetts of William Randolph White, Governor General of Emporia, Kansas?5
It seems like White was agin the Revolution at the time. Him and that old fellow Ed Howe, of Potato Bug Hill, and Henry Allen.6
Well, all these old Kansas Newspaper men wrote Editorials against the Revolution, and that’s what’s the matter with the Daughters. I hope it don’t make any difference with him in Kansas. Course if he is barred everywhere else he can always go to Oklahoma. They will listen to you there. I don’t care what you were against.
I told you about being made Colonel down in Kentucky. The Governor made me Aide on his staff, with the rank of Colonel.7
So I am working now on the Goatee, and getting out the old string tie. But no kidding I sure do like those old fellows. They sure do know how to live down there. I like that Lexington. It’s got the prettiest country around it in the world. We all went out to “Big Ham Davis’s” and had a breakfast, at a town called Midway. He makes these wonderful smoked Hams. The Governor was there, and a fine fellow, Republican, but unusual. Boy what a Breakfast!
Well sir, I guess you read about ’em. But if you have I must tell you more. This Carr Creek Basket Ball team that kicked up such a fuss later on among all the best High School Basket Ball teams in America. They was in Lexington when I got there. They come from away down in the mountains. There is only eighteen boys at their little country school. They played barefooted and out on the ground. They just had the baskets fastened up to two trees, had no suits when they come to play in the Kentucky State Tournament. They walked in eight miles to get on the train, and it was one of those slow jerk-water lines, and the reporter in Lexington asked them how they made out coming down from the Mountains, and the kid told ’em, “We made pretty good time till we got on the train.” The whole five is cousins and two are Brothers. They were beat for the Kentucky Championship by one goal in I think it was the second extra quarter. They never had a coach, and don’t know what is commonly called by the coaches, “The finer points of the game.” They just know one point. I don’t know if they call it fine or not, but that is they have been told that the idea of the game is to get that Ball in the hoop, and boy, how they do it! I think it’s the greatest example of what any school any place can do. It’s funny that the two greatest upsets in our Sports have been by Kentucky teams, when you think of what Center College at Danville did a few years back. I visited the school, and they only have a couple of little brick buildings, and to think they beat Harvard! Then here are these kids right out of those Mountains, beating big City teams from all over America. “The Carr Creek Boys!” That’s a great kick to a country school any place anywhere, to know that they can go out do the principal sport just as good as any other school in America. “Viva Carr Creek!”
1George Ade, Indiana humorist, newspaper columnist, author, and playwright; author of the plays The County Chairman and The College Widow.
2Chauncey Mitchell Depew, American attorney, Republican politician, and railroad tycoon; United States senator from New York from 1899 to 1911; known for his witty after dinner speeches. He died on April 5, 1928, at the age of ninety-three.
3For Jim Watson see WA 276:N 8.
4For William Randolph Hearst see WA 240:N 2.
5William Allen White, owner and editor of the Emporia (Kansas) Gazette from 1895 until his death in 1943; Republican; recipient of a Pulitzer prize in 1923. Rogers often interchanged Hearst and White’s middle names.
6Edgar Watson “Ed” Howe, journalist and writer from Atchison, Kansas, who edited and published E. W. Howe’s Monthly from 1911 until his death in 1937; author of The Story of a Country Town. Henry Justin Allen, Kansas newspaperman and Republican politician. A former governor of Kansas, he later served in the United States Senate.
7Flemon Davis “Flem” Sampson, Republican governor of Kentucky from 1927 to 1931.
WA278 April 22, 1928
BIG OR LITTLE CORRUPTION—
TAKE YOUR PICK
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I get an eye full of as I wonder from Tabernacle to Tent preaching a sermon on “Tolerance toward Politicians.” My subject is “Father don’t blame them, they know not what they are doing.” It’s rather a thankless job, and some times gets mighty discouraging. When you start out to educate people “up to some cause” you are just about sunk before you start. I try to tell ’em these men are doing the best they can according to the dictates of no conscience, but it’s hard to change the old established idea of what the politician is. People think I am a paid propagandist sent out by the politicians just to foster good will toward them. But it’s not that at all, it’s just that I don’t think the Politicians are getting what is coming to him. They are lucky.
But with an election coming on I want to draw your mind off of Golf as much as I can and onto a few of the big issues of the day. Now Corruption has supplanted the Tariff, as a National issue. But it’s awful hard to get people interested in corruption unless they can get some of it. You take a fellow that hasent received any corruption and it’s kinder like the fellow that has never drank Sour Kraut Juice, he ain’t much interested in whether it’s good or bad. People just figure, “Well there couldent be so much corruption, or some of it would have fell my way.” And the fellow that has received any of it naturally he is favor of a continuation of the policy.
Corruption is supposed to be a Republican measure, and they are supposed to have perfected it up to the high standard that it occupies today. It’s really not new. It has been in existance for years, but mostly in a small way and practiced by the minor politicians of what was called the Ward Healer type. But it showed even then that it was practical, and so naturally was adopted and improved on. In fact the Democrats were supposed to have started it, in what was called Tammany Hall. But a good thing can’t be restricted and is bound to spread. So the Republicans had their eyes open for all new wrinkles that would help them stay on the U. S. Pension list. So like everything else they took it and improved on it and brought corruption up to the high standard that it is today.
The Democrats always were a kind of a cheap lot. They never had much money to operate on. They were always kinder doing business on a shoe string basis. The type of man they had with them went in more for Oratory than he did for Stocks and Bonds. They would rather make a speech than a Dollar. They cultivated their voices instead of their finances. You give a Democrat a high hat and a frock coat and put him on the speakers’ list, and he would turn down the chairmanship of the board of a big corporation. Give him a horse in the parade every year, and that was just about all the glory he wanted.
The Democratic graft was mostly confined to sorter rounding the Saloon keepers into line with a Campaign collection every year. They thought that was just about the height of “Big Business.” They knew that as long as a Saloon keeper was on a good corner and no opposition allowed near him that he was good for quite a touch in the latter part of October. Lord only knows why the Democrats thought that the saloon man was the only man that would pay for a good location. They never give any other business a tumble. I guess it was because they dident know there was any other business. They dident know that a man that was owner of some mines, or Lumber or coal, might also dig up something for the pot. (If promised a little break in the tariff, or Rail road rates, or suppressed opposition.) But their mind was on a Saloon and that’s as high as they could elevate it. So the Republicans just was wise enough to see that the same principal applied to one business as to the other. If it was good for the Saloons to stand in with the Government, why it was good for all other business. So they commenced working out the idea in a big way. The men who were thinking of running for office got to looking around
their various States and seeing what some other men wanted, and they went to them and said, “If you will sorter help me out at the poles, I think I can help you out getting these big things.” While the Democrat was still fooling his time away with the “Jitney” fellow the Republican said, “There is only one way to be in Politics and that’s to be in a big way. What’s the use of being a Piker?” So instead of getting a hundred dollars from some poor little Guy, they grabbed off a couple of thousand from the big fellows that was looking for something worthwhile, and they just kept working and building their business right up, till look what it is today. They had vision, they had foresight, they really deserve to prosper. There is two types of Larceny, Petty and Grand, and the courts will really give you a longer sentence for Petty than they do for Grand. They are supposed to be the same in the eyes of the law, but the Judges always put a little extra on you for Petty, which is a kind of a fine for stupidness. “If that’s all you got you ought to go to jail longer.”
But the parties will never be changed as long as we live, for you can’t change human nature. You can’t broaden a man’s vision if he wasent born with one. And another thing, it’s hard to get people to believe a thing as Corruption, when it’s something that has always been going on. These deals gradually come under the heading of legitimate Campaign business. You promise something in return for something whether it is a Post Office, or an Oil well. It’s what the Lawyers call “Sharp practice.” So it’s going to be awful hard to make an issue of Corruption. It’s like the poor, it’s always been with us. If you promise a man that if you are made Senator, that he will be made a Judge, why you have sold him something, his votes have helped you to get your salary. You might promise him a river to get a dam built on, but you have always promised something, either directly or indirectly, and you just can’t get the voters to distinguish the difference. If there is any. The Republicans have always been the party of big business, and the Democrats of small business, so you just take your pick. The Democrats had their eye on a dime, and the Republicans on a dollar.
WA279 April 29, 1928
WILL ROGERS SAYS HE’LL NAME A
CANDIDATE WHEN THE
“BIG DOUGH” COMES IN
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. And about all you read in the papers now is political propaganda for one candidate or another. Now this old reliable “Illiterate Digest” hasent come out for any certain one, I am just sitting waiting for the best offer. So I guess I will land with the Republicans, as it looks like they can make the best offer, unless the Democrats have got wise and they are sending someone out to gather in some dough too.
All the “boys” are getting out beating the bushes now. Even Calvin made a speech for the D.A.R.’s. That’s the Daughters of the Revolution. It’s a band of women who have traced their births directly to the excitement of some revolution. The rest of us are just here by “the grace of God.” We don’t hardly know what to trace our birth to. I started to have my ancestors looked into one time, and they got back one generation and had one of the family up on a limb for horse stealing, and I asked them to discontinue.
These birth societies take that junk seriously. Why they not only wouldent let my friend William Randolph White of Emporia, Kansas join the daughters, but they wouldent allow him to speak in their presence.1
If he opened his trap all of them was to get up and walk out on him.
William White can’t trace his ancestry back much further than Kansas prohibition. They havent barred me from speaking for ’em yet, but on the other hand they havent asked me to, so that means about the same thing.
Well let’s see what other scandal we got this week. Al went clear to Ashville, N. C., to play golf. These Northern courses are all packed with snow. I look for Hoover to have to go out around Iowa to help plant some spring wheat. That’s the tough part about being a candidate, your backer won’t let you act natural and do the very things that you have always done. You can’t be the man; you must be the candidate. I still take my little straw vote every night in each place. I played New York a couple of weeks ago, had a big audience and Hoover got all the votes. In New York, what do you know about that. These however were all in evening dress. If I had gone right over to a movie theater, why Al would have copped all the votes.
Did I tell you I am including Coolidge now in my straw vote, and he is running right up next to Hoover? It’s Hoover, Coolidge and Smith. Course it’s only a straw vote, and don’t mean much, for somebody is liable to come long with a better offer for the real vote at election and they would change it.
I was around New York all during the excitement of the flyers.2
Stood out at the field all day waiting for them to come that first time. There sure would have been some excitement there if they had got clear in that time. When we heard they had landed safe, Mayor Jimmy Walker pulled a wise crack, said when the Irishmen landed he said: “I got a cargo of foreigners here what will I do with them?”3
That was a great feat, getting clear over to this side. Just think, three men, all that gas and just one engine. It’s been a great thing for Geography. Nobody had any idea that there was that many different pieces of land away off up there. Americans always thought when you passed Halifax the next stop must be the North Pole. Why these guys were further North than Cook got!4
If I was going to fly that ocean I would pick me out the Highway where all the ships go. I would kinder hang along with one ship till I thought that I could make it over to another one.
They tell you that the earth is round, and yet they say that it is further to come straight from one place to another than it is to come away up around Greenland. There must be a kind of a dent in the earth up around there. Spain to Florida would be my route, and then if I came down my wheels wouldent break through the snow. You know that must be a pretty tough trip either way.
By the time you read this I will be winging my way back to California. Back on the old air line, and say by the way, you are going to hear of something before long with some pretty well known men in it. It will be a big transportation scheme, worked in connection with the railroads. You will leave New York in the evening, travel all night on your train, in the morning you will be met at some city by cars that will take you to a plane and you will have lunch in St. Louis or Chicago (depends on where you are headed for). Dinner in Omaha, or Dallas, then on another train you will spend the night, then off in the morning and on the last day in the plane you will go clear to any part of the coast, ’Frisco, Los Angeles, Seattle.
That’s what’s a brewing. Two days and two nights to the coast. No night flying. Both nights will be spent on the train, When plane travel breaks in a big way you will find that the rail roads will be working with it and not against it. They are not going to let another bus thing be pulled on ’em, by thinking that it would never amount to anything. You watch the old boy President of the Pennsylvania system and see if he hasent got his eye on this scheme. I wrote a story on this very idea two or three years ago, and people thought I did it for comedy.
The Atlanta to New York line opens just as you will read this. It’s all already lighted. You will be able to get clear to New Orleans, leaving New Orleans after lunch, and be in New York the next morning. This summer will see some great strides in commercial aviation and don’t forget that old boy Lindbergh is the one that stirred the whole thing up too. Aviation was just, Blah, maby I will—maby I wont—still that baby woke ’em up to it, we will never get through paying that guy.
1For William Allen White see WA 277:N 5.
2Two Germans, Captain Hermann Koehl and Baron Gunther von Huenefeld, and an Irishman, Major James C. Fitzmaurice, landed on Greenly Island, a lighthouse station off the Coast of Labrador, on April 13, completing the first transatlantic flight from east to west.
3For Jimmy Walker see WA 245:N 4.
4Frederick Albert Cook, American physician and arctic explorer. On his return in 1909 from a two-year arctic expedition, Cook announced that he had reached the North Pole on April 21, 1908. The claim was denounced and rejected on the grounds of insufficient evidence.
WA280 May 6, 1928
A WHIRL WITH THE
BUTTER AND EGG MEN
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what little I can give the once over as I prowl around. I been covering a lot of ground here lately, I don’t care where you live, I have been there. I was in and around Chicago for a few days, and the old town is really trying to behave itself. BigBill has made quite a lot of friends by the way he took his beating at the primary election.1
He hasent made any squawk. He just said, “They licked us good and I have no excuses to make.” Course a lot of them have counted him out too quick. He is not through by a long shot. He will deal a many a political machine misery before he is through. There was a few murders while I was there, but not enough to keep up the town’s reputation.
You know you hear a lot of jokes about the “Butter and Egg men.” Well sir, I must tell you about them. They opened the most beautiful building, 17 stories high, and they had a big Banquet and I happened to be there to help them annoy.2
Now you say what kind of a fellow is a Butter and egg man? Well he has gained a reputation as a spender. He is supposed to peddle a car of eggs, and then go into a Cabaret and shoot the whole receipts. Those babies will take the price of a truck load of butter and just smear it all over a Cabaret dance floor. It is a beautiful building, a tribute to “Cold Storage.” They deal in “Fresh eggs.” That means any egg that has been layed, (or laid) during the lifetime of any member. They even go so far as to say that the real fresh eggs is no good; that it should lay in the cold storage few months to kinder give it an idea of what its functions are to be when spread out on the plate. Their whole organization is very much against people going in for soft boiled eggs, for that is when you can detect the “Bad babies.” They claim that people should eat ’em scrambled, it’s “Much healthier.”
You know seeing that building just gives you an idea what the hen can really do when she sets her mind to it. Hard work, perseverance, and taking advantage of your opportunities, that’s what the old pullet has done. Nothing but an old dominick hen has erected that shack. It’s the greatest “Chicken Coop” in the world, and houses many an egg. And say while we are giving all this credit to the Hen, let’s give the old Rooster a hand. There is a baby that don’t really get the credit that is due him. Yet every time he crows that means another trade on the exchange. And Butter too. It’s through robbing the calf that you get the milk to make the butter. If they hadent tied the old calf off early enough there would have been no building.
Wrigley built a wonderful tower in Chicago just out of Chewing Gum, (of which I contributed an unproportionate share) and the Chicago Tribune has a beautiful building that was built on old Editorials on Mayor Thompson.3
But this Butter and Egg hatchery is the first one built that is a monument to Hen and Heifer.
It’s a landmark to the progress of the Middle man. The farmer, the producer, is lucky if he can get a new hen roost during his lifetime, and the Consumer enjoys his one egg in the poor house, but the Broker or the middle man has certainly seen that some profit was dropped on the way from the farmer to the eater. For 80 percent of the dress suits in the hall were bought outright, and yet you can’t “Corner” the egg market like you can the wheat or Corn. You see, in those commodities you know how much is raised, and there can be no more that year, but with the eggs and butter, just about the time you think you have cornered them why some old hen that has never heard one of Judge Lindsey’s debates on “Birth Control” bobs up and throws discretion to the winds, and starts laying on a mass production basis and there goes your “corner.”4
And the same with Butter. Some inventive genius will frame up some new way of hooking a New Ford car onto a “Churn” and there goes your “Corner,” for up goes Butter production. You know you can buy car loads of eggs on “Futures” just like you can Wheat.
So you get some good December eggs, and hold ’em till everybody looks like they just can’t go through the winter without an egg-nog, and then you can sell your eggs and clean up. If you can’t keep up your payments on the cold storage, why hard boil the eggs and save ’em till summer and then sell ’em for “Picnics.” A guy on a Picnic will eat anything, that’s why it’s called a Picnic is because of the things you have to put up with. You know right along about now is the midst of the laying season for hens. They like to be like house wives, get all their spring work over with, and then take a much needed rest. The funny part about it is, that they all seem to want to lay at the same time, and then lay off at the same time. If they could fix ’em so part would lay one three months and part the next three and so on, that would make it better, but then you would hurt the Cold Storage guy. It looks like he is the fellow that has got to these hens and got ’em to all act in unison.
Oh yes, and we had all the rail road men there that night too. They collect millions and millions of bucks, shipping the butter and eggs from west to east. Imagine shipping an egg all the way from Petaluma, California, to Great Neck, Long Island. Then we call ourselves an efficient people! Why don’t they have the hens and lay the eggs back there? It don’t matter where a hen is, if she wants to lay she will lay. She is not selling, or interested in any real estate anywhere, and where she is don’t make much difference to her. She knows that there is three months that she has to lay and she don’t care where they are just so she can lay ’em and get ’em over with. But these R. R. Presidents were there to see that nobody did any fool thing like that and moved producer too close to consumer. That’s what keeps them RR Presidents is keeping the raiser as far away from the eater as possible.
1For Bill Thompson see WA 254:N 8.
2Chicago Mercantile Exchange Building.
3William Wrigley, Jr., Chicago industrialist who founded William Wrigley, Jr., and Company, manufacturers of chewing gum.
4For Benjamin B. Lindsey see WA 242:N 7.
WA281 May 13, 1928
WHO’LL RUN AGAINST SMITH
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. Been messing around the country a good deal lately, trying to find something to talk to you about. All the Politicians are trying to stir up some excitement in their line of work, but I can’t find much interest in their graft outside the ones that are in it. The outside people have just about come to the conclusion that there ain’t a worry worth of difference in either one and they just try to forget it, and live it down if they ever did take any interest.
By the way, the way they are raiding the Treasury now there don’t look like it will do anybody any good to get in. What’s the use running your head off to get to a table where the food has just been all eaten up? If I was an office seeker, I would kinder be doughtful whether there was enough in there left just to pay my regular salary, much less what I wanted to run the office for.
They sure are taking the old Treasury to a cleaning. None of this million, or five million dollar appropriation. It’s a half billion or nothing in a Bill nowadays. It takes a man that can think in big numbers to introduce a bill in Congress nowadays. A Bill under a hundred million would be so unusual that it wouldent pass. “We can’t spend our time voting on trifles.” He would be laughed out of Congress as a Small Timer.
If you got a river near your house and the Government hasent dammed it up yet, why it’s because you havent sent them a blue Print of where it is, and havent asked them to put one in for you. If you got some land that nothing will grow on and havent had it irrigated, why it’s because you don’t know your Congressman. Everybody wants land irrigated by the Government. For, as anyone knows, new land with plenty of water will raise quite a bit. But so will old land if it’s fertilized, so why should the whole of American Taxpayers pay for water for newly irrigated land any more than they would for fertilizer for old land? Both will do the same thing if you will put them on there. But it looks like nobody is ever original enough to think of a Bill like that. They just think that water is the only thing that will help land. Why my Lord there is dozens of different things that will help the farmer on his land besides water or fertilization either. There is the Interest on the first and second Mortgages. Why don’t they introduce a Bill in Congress for Congress to help the Farmer by paying off his Mortgages? That’s what’s eating him up on the farm, it’s not lack of irrigation or lack of fertilization, it’s abundance of interest. That’s the baby that is there every minute of every day. Not when it’s needed, or when you spread it, but every minute of every day and night. Talk and sing about “Old Man River.” It’s old man interest that keeps the old Farmer running to town every few days. He has to have a bookkeeper to keep a set of books to keep track of when his various Notes and Mortgages’ interest comes due. It’s the thought of the old Mortgages that keep him awake at night.
But if you notice they are always trying to put through some kind of Bill in Congress, but nobody ever puts through one to do something about interest. No sir, you couldent do that, then you are getting into the business of the boys that really hold the troops while the jumping is going on. You could no more get a bill through to whittle the old interest down than you could to get a Politician to admit a mistake.
They limit a Saving Bank from paying you over four or five percent, but about eight is legal if you are the one to do the borrowing, and then nothing definite has ever been done about the “Bonus,” that’s the extra for the loan. But I will say there is some that are honest enough they don’t do that. I won’t call names, but they will be given on application. So you see everybody has their racket, and everybody is looking to nick the old Treasury out of something, and on account of this being a Presidential year that makes the nicking more juicy.
But let’s get off of sense and get back to foolishness. It looks like Hoover and Smith are about the only two the people want from what I can gather. So I doubt if either one will be nominated. Well, I guess Smith will, for his position is exactly reversed from Hoover’s. Smith, the Democratic Politicians want him worse than the entire people, while with Hoover it’s the people that want him and not the Politicians in his party. So it may be Smith against Dawes, and that would make a colorful campaign. Dawes would make that sway-back pipe our National emblem.1
The “Old Brown Derby” against the “Nicotine Bowl.” Now take your pick, which is the worst, a “Brown Derby” or the old Pipe. It sure would bring out the vote. The old Corncob boys out of the meadows would be there to see that cigar ashes dident litter up the White House, and the Town “Slicker Derby” boys would be there to see that no pipe whiffer ever lowered the smoking standards that are nowadays set by advertised Gentlemen.
They will make great Campaign Posters, the old Derby and the old Pipe. Hoover, I don’t know what he smoked, and Calvin smokes Cubebs. I think Jim Reed chews Horseshoe Plug.2
Walsh won’t chew, smoke, drink.3
He just wants to find out what the other fellow is doing all the time. And Jim Watson dips snuff.4
Hughes smokes Cigarettes, but not too close.5
It’s going to be a great Campaign for ads, no matter who is nominated. A man will make enough out of the ads even if he is defeated to salve his conscience. Al chews his Cigars, even if they are lighted. He lets the fire work on one end, and he starts chewing on the other, and when the fire and the lips meet why the Republicans get H_ _ _ .
1For Charles G. Dawes see WA 221:N 2.
2For Jim Reed see WA 228:N 2.
3For Thomas J. Walsh see WA 274: N 4.
4For Jim Watson see WA 276:N 8.
5For Charles Evans Hughes see WA 253:N 6.
WA282 May 20, 1928
THE OLDER WE MEN GET,
THE MORE CUCKOO WE ARE
All I know is just what I read in the papers. Say did a fashion Magazine ever fall into your hands? I don’t mean a woman’s fashion one, Lord we have all spent half our life looking at “Laungerie” adds. But what I mean did a men’s fashion magazine ever drop across your trail? Well my Wife dug one up somewhere, and she has got a pretty good sense of humor, and I heard her giggling at this thing, and asked what it was, and I am telling you that it was a great big prosperous Magazine. There must be flocks of ’em that take that stuff serious.
Now if you have ever landed a good job, couldent seem to grab off your second million, couldent get so tropical with the Ladies, why it was because maybe you dident have on the following, as that is given in the Magazine as the “Real ultra Calf’s brains”: “Black Jacket single breasted, fairly shapely, it buttons with two medium wide notch lapels. The waist coat is double breasted, narrow in its lap, with a likable roll in its collar, and a much wasted look. Below the Jacket and waistcoat, are mull grey trousers without pleats or turn ups. These have a double stripe. One line of white the other of biscuit color. The stripes are far enough apart to not jarr. The boots are black, the lowers are varnished with deGniche varnish, mixed with a little claret to make the enameled more brilliant, and pliable, the button tops are of dull finish French calfskin.”
Now you farmers that’s been hollering for relief, maybe that’s what’s the matter with you, you havent had this “deGniche varnish mixed with a little claret.” That may be just the Mary McHaughen bill you are looking for.1
It says: “Below the waistcoat and Jacket appear the trousers.” Now you Democrats that havent got anywhere in years maybe you havent been wearing your trousers below your waistcoat. In fact some of you maybe havent had trousers either above or below. They say the boots are black, and then it says they button. Did you ever see a button boot? It looks like the buttons would catch on the brush when you are riding through the mosquite. There is one place in there where it says it has a “waisted look.” Say I have been in style all my life and dident know it if that waisted look means what it says.
Did you ever have trousers with a biscuit colored stripe? Say there is not two women that make biscuits the same color, so any stripe is biscuit colored. And then it says, “The stripes of Biscuit and white are not close enough to jarr.” Now just how close will one stripe jarr another one? Some will jarr evidently quicker than others, so you got to be careful, you may have on a pair of pants, and you feel something funny and it’s your pants jarring. They are just liable to jarr right off you can’t tell. There is nothing worse than a jarring pair of pants.
It tells about how the men of Palm Beach that are “Well dressed” change five times a day. “Green is the color that has made it’s appearance in men’s jackets, Lovatts blue green, grey greens, lapels are of a stubby character, as made by English tailors, small patterned neckwear in foulard continues.” So watch your jackets. Lack of a pea green jacket has held many a good man back. Now don’t by any chance throw away your old foulard ties, they are going to get some mileage out of them. You take a good small pattern tie on a smooth neck, and it ought to do from two to five hundred cocktails without showing wear. Of course on a rough neck, it will gradually wear itself frayed at the edges.
Have you given any thought much to your bathrobe? that you must decide on. They have “bright colored terry robes, and elaborate designs, and solid color contrasted trimmings.” Those are mostly worn by men that buy on margins. I have become so discouraged over the selection of my bathrobe that I sometimes think I will just get out of the tub and get right into my clothes, like I have been doing, and not monkey with one of the things.
There is a new cocoanut straw hat that is being worn by just a few of the very smartly dressed men of Palm Beach and Nassau: It’s got a high “puggarree” band and a “careless” curl to the brim. Maby it will help you get your Ford order through quicker if you only had a touch of “Puggarree” to your old lid.
Now boneheads like you and I can’t imagine sane people taking all this junk serious, but they do. Why if a tie has one more dot in it than the one worn by Tony Biddle, their day is spoiled.2
Talk about women being vain, and always primping, why say men will make a sucker out of any woman when it comes to thinking he is about the grapes, a Corset manufacturer told me that if it was not for men’s corsets they would have to go out of business. Can you imagine a big hulk going in getting a corset fitted? No Sir, we can’t laugh at the women any more. Men are getting their nails manicured, and even pointed and colored. They are henna’ing their hair. They are watching their diet. They are reducing everything but their head. And the funny part the older and the funnier looking they are the more Cuckoo they are. They will be rougeing their lips, and powdering their noses next.
Here is an ad in the Magazine that you will get a kick out of. “From the Montmarte, Hollywood’s most fashionable Cafe, rendevoux of the smart set of Hollywood. Where the stars dine and dance comes the exclusive styles that go into Hollywood Clothes, Styles that are swagger, flattering, chosen by men to whom appearance is everything painstakingly tailored in selected fabrics, $20.00 and $25.00. A few extra Ultra at $30.00.”
Maby that’s what has kept you out of the movies you dident have one of those “Extra Ultra suits” at $30.00. Then there is some “Snappy” top coats at $8.00. Cost you more to check ’em than it would to buy ’em, but I am telling you men are watching their styles. That’s why they all look so funny.
1For the McNary-Haugen farm relief bill see WA 263:N 4.
2Anthony Joseph Drexel “Tony” Biddle, Jr., Philadelphia and Palm Beach society figure who had widespread interests in nightclubs. He also served as an American diplomat to several European governments.
WA283 May 27, 1928
WILL BUYS PAINT
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. The other day I had a Gag in the papers where I said that all the Towns ought to have the name of their town painted up on their buildings somewhere, so any one flying over could see what Town it was. You know your Town is not quite as well known to the World in general as it is to you yourself. Of course you imagine that anyone should recognize it the minute they see it. I even went so “Cuckoo” as to say that I would pay for the paint. Well, right there is where I stepped into paint plum up to and over my financial neck. Say, Sherwin Williams dident have enough to have supplied the demand. I started with an awful poor idea of the number of towns in this Country. Say, I couldent have bought enough paint to have painted even the letters that I got.
Now I sure did mean well, but I just gnawed off more than I could chew. Pontiac, Michigan, sent me a bill for 98 dollars. I thought somebody was going into the paint business up there, but when they wrote me the size of some of their factories that they were putting the sign on I commenced to look, and as I couldent see the name, it looked like I had had been bunked for $98. I wanted to see the sign from Beverly Hills, but I guess they have some pretty big places up there. If they got buildings as big as they say they have I am going to fly up there and land on one of ’em some day. The Saratoga ain’t that big, and all the Navy lands on it.
Now here is Pierce City, Mo., with three more letters in it than Pontiac, and they send a bill for $4.50. It is a beautiful little City down next to Oklahoma. You see the nearer they get to Oklahoma the more honest and economical they are. I am going to send them the $4.50 and they raise such fine strawberries around there, I figure one crate of Strawberries received in appreciation will net me maybe a profit. Of course if they spill on the way out here my $4.50 will be a total loss. But I have hinted to Harry Osborne to pack ’em very good.1
Painesville, Ohio, wants to use their own judgment in what to spend. Now a town has got to be mighty patriotic toward Aviation to condescend to paint the name “Painesville” where anyone can see it.
The Kansas Chamber of Commerce advised me that as the State was at that time having a “Paint and clean up week” and that would I just mind including enough to paint and clean up Kansas. Now can you imagine me cleaning up Kansas? Can you imagine anybody cleaning up Kansas? Even Carry Nation couldent do it.2
But I tell you what I will do. I will contribute to clean up “Emporia” and Topeka. I want to make Emporia fit for Homes and not just for old Newspaper men, and Topeka, being the home of both Curtis and Capper.3
I will help whitewash it as far as a Republican feed trough can be fumigated. I will be at the Convention in a few days and will take care of these towns personally.
Here is an offer from Swim, Oregon. They not only offer to paint the roof, but will do so as soon as they build a building to paint it on. Here is Parma, Idaho, which is far enough North to have felt the influence of Robert Service Poems, and it acted on them as follows:4
“On Thursday May third, Our Legion Post heard
Of this chance to head off a complaint
So we give you our word to assist a lost Bird,
If you’ll only come through with the paint.”
So I very liberally allowed ’em two bits a letter. By mixing plenty of water with it, and serving, it will do. The Laconing, Maryland, Business Men’s Club asks me to send the money, and being Business men they will use their judgment. Well, I think my money is as good as their judgment. Ah, now we are getting down to honesty. Here is Wichita Falls, Texas, with a Bill for only $2.40. See, that’s the kind of people you will meet when you go to the Democratic Convention in Texas. The minute you get out of Republican Territory, why you see honesty and square dealing creeping in. It’s a great little City. They already got the Oil. So I am having them draw on Charley Featherstone, a friend of mine there, for $2.40.5
San Fernando, Cal., sent bill, but on account of length of name it was deleted by Censor. You know that Town is right here in that wonderful valley of the same name, so I told them “If an Aviator gets that near Beverly Hills he is not lost.”
Here is Chewraw, South Carolina. “Send two quarts of yellow paint two bucks. Put up or apologize!” See that’s down South with the Democrats, see. No corruption, no scandal, only want what it takes.
Here is one from Ontario, California. “This is a strong Republican District, and if too much oil paint is used, we might be drawn into the oil scandal. So $25 will cover everything.” See, there is Chewraw for $2 and Ontario for $25. One Republican, and the other Democratic. The Ontario ones only want enough to “Cover everything.” While Chewraw only wants enough to paint its name. Huntington, West Virginia, says they will do what is right about it, and knowing them as I do, I believe they will. It’s the American Legion, and they are generally pretty square. It’s the Chamber of Commerce that you have to watch.
Brasstown, N. C. had the sense of humor to paint their name in Public and only ask $10. That’s fair, for there is a sprinkling of Republicans in that state, and you can just see the fringe of corruption creeping in. Chewraw $2. Brasstown $10. Getting a little further north. Tuskeegee, Ala., don’t state price. But I know it will be reasonable, and will be in white against a black background.
1Harry Osborne, unidentifiable.
2Carry Amelia Moore Nation, Kansas temperance agitator of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who became notorious for her wrecking expeditions through the saloons of the state.
3For Emporia newspaperman William Allen White see WA 277:N 5; for Charles Curtis see WA 267:N 5. Arthur Capper, Republican United States senator from Kansas from 1919 to 1949; editor and owner of the Topeka (Kansas) Daily Capital, Kansas Farmer, Capper’s Farmer, and
4Robert William Service, English-born Canadian writer, best known for his ballad, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.”
5Charley Featherstone, oilman and automobile insurance executive from Wichita Falls, Texas. A former cowboy, Featherstone owned a string of polo ponies and occasionally competed against Rogers at polo.
WA284 June 3, 1928
WHAT MAKES THE
CONVENTIONS GO ROUND
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. This ought to reach you shortly before the first American Follies is held in Kansas City. We have our amusements so arranged that we have two every four years, and they draft various Cities where they are to be held. This year, K. C. and Houston, Texas were convicted. We will speak mostly of the K. C. one, for that is the first. The Democrats watch the Comedy in this one, and then they improve on it. This one started out and looked like a great Show, but an Actor named Hoover has grabbed off all the best lines, and if they don’t stop him pretty soon, it looks like he will about change it into a one man show. If he gets enough to nominate before he goes there, why it will just about take all the interest out of the whole shebang. There will be nothing to decide but the Vice Presidency, and that’s just about like picking the best man at a wedding. Everybody knows it will be some old family friend, it won’t make much difference who, and as for any excitement about the platform, or what is the issues of the race to be, why the poor Delegates will be allowed to sit and sweat and finally vote on something that he thinks is a Platform but when he gets home it will be found to be a “trick floor,” one of those things that you can raise it or lower it without the audience even seeing you do it. It will have a false bottom, and when you think you are standing on it, you won’t be at all. You are over it but not on it.
But the whole thing will be a great show at that, and of course if Hoover is replaced by the management and they throw the part open to anybody, why then we will have a real run for our money. Charley Curtis is on his home ground and will be a hard man to beat among the mullatto horses.1
The Republican Party owe him a lot, but whether they will ever pay him or not, nobody knows. Can you imagine Kansas with a President? Why the D. A. R.’s would remove the ban on William Randolph White!2
If Hoover does get away with this it will be the biggest engineering job he ever accomplished. For the Political Leaders sho tried to tare up his Blue prints. But if the Politicians defeat him, why it will be the greatest demonstration of Matter over Mind that was ever demonstrated. Kansas City will show ’em a great time. It’s a live town. It’s near enough to Oklahoma to have a lot of life, and plenty of money to spend.
It will be great to meet all the old Newspapers boys who havent met since the old siege of Madison Square Garden.3
We will all be there, grinding out dope to the home papers, trying to make “copy” where none or no reason for any exists. They are the ones that keep it interesting. It’s not the Actors themselves. Political Conventions would die standing up if it wasent for the inventive genius of the Boys that make the Actors look “colorful.” They will write back to your paper and make you at home think that it is the most exciting place you ever saw, while as a matter of fact there won’t be a thing in the world doing but some old long-winded Bird talking about “getting back to the early Lincoln Democracy.”
There won’t be an original saying, or a new passage uttered during the entire fiesta. But the old Newspaper Boys will “Smoke” it up, and Graham McNamee will tell it to you over the “Rodeo” so that you will imagine that Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and Calhoun are there in droves.4
It’s just, as I say, one of our Follies that we have built up that no other Country in the world would understand or know for what reason it was being held. But we like it, and it’s distinctly ours. It’s the one place where our public men can do foolish things, and due to the surroundings they kinder look plausible at the time.
It takes weeks after one is over to really start to appreciate the finer comedy points of one. The reason a thing don’t look ludicrous to us is that a man at the last one did and said exactly the same thing. If a man’s silk hat blows off at exactly the same place every day, why it ain’t near as funny as it is if you wasent looking for it to happen, so these long winded silly nominations, and the “save the country” speeches, you don’t laugh at them when they are made, for we have become so accustomed to them that it’s like the high Hat blowing off, we know it’s going to do it. But it’s when we get home and take one of these conventions apart and just see what was really inside it, why then is when our sense of humor asserts itself. But it’s too late to do anything about it then, so we just smile and wait four years, and here they are back again. The ones that failed to save the Country the last time are patriotic, they are back again for another trial. Prohibition is dragged out as another issue, lower taxes, all the old Gags are dusted off, and away they go again.
Those that are in are trying to stay in, and those that are out are trying to get in, and that’s about all there is to the game. The same old flock of Delegates are back again. They even boast of not missing a Convention since Lincoln was inaugurated, and the funny part of it some of them really believe that they have got something to do with what’s going on, and maybe they have, for let’s not deprive them of what little pleasure there is in it.
The same old leaders are here, just Rarin’ for something to lead. But there’s lots of them that don’t take it serious. They just come for the badge and the free seat. But there is a kind of a fascination about them that you wouldent miss.
They are a great bunch of fellows. But there is not a one among them that have really any more personal feelings whether one man or the other is elected President. It’s their particular job, and something that will further some scheme of theirs, that they are more vitally interested in than any President. Ben Turpin would be O.K.5
1For Charles Curtis see WA 267:N 5.
2For William Allen White see WA 277:N 5.
3Madison Square Garden in New York City was the scene of the Democratic National Convention of 1924, which lasted a record seventeen days.
4For Graham McNamee see WA 266:N 5. Henry Clay, American lawyer and statesman who served several terms in the United States Senate and House of Representatives between 1806 and his death in 1852; United States secretary of state from 1825 to 1829; unsuccessful candidate for president in 1824, 1832, and 1844. Daniel Webster, American lawyer and statesman of the early national period. Webster, a renowned orator, served several terms in both houses of Congress and as United States secretary of state from 1841 to 1843 and 1850 to 1852. John Caldwell Calhoun, famous American lawyer and statesman of the early national period who served at various times as United States congressman, senator, secretary of state, secretary of war, and vice president. A South Carolinian, he was a leading champion of slavery and the southern cause.
5For Ben Turpin see WA 233:N 2.
WA285 June 10, 1928
A PROPHECY THAT CAME TRUE
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers and what I happen to see and hear as I have an ear to the ground. Let’s get off politics, and corruption, and International relations, and Texas, and Boulder Dams, and Farm reliefs, and get down and speak to everybody in their Native tongue.
What you say we have a little chat on the Movies? Havent dished out any Movie scandal to you in a long time. Well, I have been out here now for about six weeks, and it’s just kinder the off season. Spring marrying is about over, and summer divorces havent quite got going good. But here is something that might be a lot of news to you. I was just talking to some of the biggest men in the whole industry and they told me some very surprising things, they say that the whole business is undergoing a great change. That in four or five years you will look back and laugh at yourself for ever having sit for hours and just looked at Pictures with no voice or no sound. I am not very much of a Movie fan, and don’t get around much, but I had just thought that the “talking Pictures” were a kind of a fad, and that they would die out like they did years ago when they tried to start them. But these men told me of the millions and millions of dollars that they are spending in talking equipment. All the big Companies have made contracts with the General Electric, (I think that’s the one that holds most of the patents on the sound) and they are all going in for it heavy. These men said that Movies now are as much in their infancy as when years ago we all got excited over “The Great Train Robbery” in some Nickleodeon.1
They say that the talk and sounds have just begin to develop. That the ones you hear now are very crude in comparison to the ones you will get in a year or so. Sound is in about the stage that Photography was in Movies 15 years ago. Every picture will bring new developments.
The whole business out here is scared cuckoo. The girl that left a ribbon counter and won a Beauty Contest and then was made a “Star” overnight. Just because somebody told her every move to make and when to smile, she can just see her finish. It looks like it is getting into the days of the Actor. That’s one thing where the stage always had it on the Movies, you couldent be a stage actor overnight. That had to come with years of experience. You got to do something beside being photographed on the old stage.
I saw a picture the other night that used the talk. It’s called the “Lion and the Mouse” and oh boy, how the stage Actor does show up the Movie ones!2
Lionel Barrymore even as a Villian, and Alec Francis, another splendid stage actor, just made you wish the others hadent talked.3
The town is clogging up with stage people. The Movie ones can’t keep their mind on over one thing at a time, and that was “How am I looking?” While the old stage fellow, that’s how he gets his expressions is through what he has to say. Let him speak the lines and the expressions will take care of themselves. Then you see the Director can’t holler out and tell you what to do, when to back up, when to smile and when to “Register” indignation. If he did holler it would be heard on the record, so he has to trust his acting to the Actor, and in order to trust his acting to the actor he has to have an Actor to trust it too.
You will see a great improvement in the Titles. Those beautiful sounding phrases may read all right when they are on there in print alone, but when some live moving Character really says them they sound funny. We never thought before that Real Human beings wouldent use such words. But now the Titles that the Actors speak have got to be something that the man would really say under those circumstances, and not something that read good when the Title Writer “Copped” it out of some book. It’s going to make pictures about twice as human. Course for awhile they will lose part of their audience, for with this new intelligence coming in so sudden there is going to be a lot of Movie fans that can’t stand it, and they will drift to the Radio, where they will hear the announcer say “I have some Telegrams here that I would like to read”: “Program coming in fine, Oolagah Kiawanis Club.” But I hear real trained Actors (that never won any contest in their lives) speak real lines that real human beings would utter, why you are going to drag many a new recruit back to the “Cinema.”
Your trained Dogs and your trained horses can outdraw the Movie Stars, but when it gets down to Acting, and talking in a natural way, why the animals will have to go back to the Circuses. Each big company is putting in Studios in Los Angeles and New York too. They also have the sound recording apparatus so arranged that they have them on a kind of trucks and they can haul them easily anywhere and record speech or event at its original place the same as they can take the pictures there with a Camera. There is about a thousand Theatres equipped now with the means of showing sound Pictures, and they are equipping others just as fast as possible. These Movie Magnates said, “all the great dramatic stage actors, that wasent any good for the Movie fan Janes, because they showed their age, they will be able to go on now and give the whole people all over the world a chance to see and hear their wonderful voices, even if they have no Sex Appeal.”
They say that the Kreislers and John McCormacks can make more from their few records on the screen than in all their travels and Concert work, and more people can see and really hear them, at one third the price they have to pay at a Concert.4
So it looks like old Hollywood won’t be as Dumb as it has been.
1The Great Train Robbery (1903), an eleven-minute western film that has been inaccurately hailed as the first story-length motion picture. It was the longest film of its time and as one of the most successful of the early narrative movies.
2The Lion and the Mouse (1928), one of the first attempts by Warner Brothers film studios to produce a motion picture with sound. The movie was produced only partially with sound.
3Lionel Barrymore, celebrated American character actor; member of a famous American stage and screen family. He began his film career in 1909 and continued to appear on screen until shortly before his death in 1954. Alec B. Francis, veteran English-born barrister and stage and screen actor. He appeared in more than seventy American films from 1911 until his death in 1934.
4Fritz Kreisler, Austrian-born American violinist and composer, noted for his many original violin pieces and the operetta Apple Blossoms (1919). John Francis McCormack, successful Irish-born operatic and concert tenor. A naturalized American citizen, he appeared regularly with eastern opera companies and on radio.
WA286 June 17, 1928
REAL FOLKS IN A PRAIRIE LIGHT HOUSE
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I run into as I prowl the old Commonwealth. Here is something I bet you never run into and the most of you dident know existed, and that is “A Light House Keeper” in the middle of a prairie.
I sho love to meet “Folks.” I mean “Just folks” and talk with them and get their angle. Well the other night I had the chance. I was flying from Beverly Hills back to Chicago to go to the late lamented Republican upheaval and after having one little mishap at Las Vegas, Nevada, where our Plane turned over in landing, and not a one of the three of us got a scratch, and incidentally it was the very first accident of any kind I had ever been in, in all the flying I have done. Well they sent up another Plane from Los Angeles and I only lost a couple of hours, and then right on into Salt Lake, and then out of there on
the next leg of the journey.
Was on the regular mail plane. They generally stop for gas at Rock Springs, Wyoming, but the wind was bad and it’s not any too good a field, so we went on to an emergency landing field at Cherokee, Wyoming. We got our gas and in taking off the wheel hit a big Gopher hole and sprung the strut, or brace, that holds the undercarriage. We were going very slow at the time, and nothing happened, only that we couldent take off with that in that shape, so he phoned into Cheyenne, and they sent out another Plane and in a couple of hours there it was. Yet Cheyenne was 175 miles away.
Well while we was waiting out there on the prairie, it was just beginning to get dark, then is where I made my acquaintance with my first “Light House Keeper.” A real honest to goodness Light House Keeper, that works for Uncle Sam and is there day and night, 365 days just to keep the light burning to save wayfarers on their way, the same as if he was out on a lonely
island off the rock bound coast of somewhere or other.
Here he is out on this big open prairie, a man and his wife. They have a little box house, split up into three rooms, and out a few steps away is the Tower House. There is a Tower with the big revolving light on it. It has an electric motor in the power house that runs it and all the lights that are around the field, the little tower house is about 10 feet square.
These Light Houses are strung clear across our continent to guide the Air Mail Pilots at night. They are about twenty-five miles apart. Then in between, just about every three miles, are the small flicker lights. They are run from the rays of the sun and go on when the sun goes down. No one has to tend them.
Well here is this fellow and his wife. When night comes on he goes out around his field and turns on the lights that show the outline of the landing field, then the big tower light. Well while the pilot and the light man are out trying to fix the wheel I am in the house drinking good coffee, and talking to the Light House Keeper’s wife. It gets 35 below zero out there in the winter. They are twenty-five miles away from Rawlings the nearest town and Post Office. Their only means of seeing anyone is an emergency landing by some Pilot in a storm. They are paid by the Department of Commerce, the salary is around $100.00 a month, with house rent, and fuel furnished. They have two boys away at Laramie, at the University, specializing in electricity, they have been in this service ever since it was started in 1924. She thinks the youngest boy will become a Pilot.
She visited her Mother whom she hadent seen in years and lives out in California. The Boehling line that operates the mail service gave her a pass, and she got on a plane in her front yard and made the trip out to California by Plane, and then back by plane and landed right at her own doorstoop. She says that was the most wonderful trip, and by golly it was. How many of you people that have had all our so called advantages, have ever had an experience like that? She spoke about how nice all the different Pilots were to her on the trip, she said, “They couldent have treated me finer if I had been a Millionaire making the trip.” She talked about all the different airports, and the big mountains that she flew over, she turns on the lights when her husband is sick, they have a nice new little Chevrolet car and one of the best looking cooking stoves I ever saw, a great big dandy white enameled thing, that burns either coal or oil, and what a pride she took in it when she saw I was interested in it. She told me what it cost and how they was able to afford it, just think of it in these days and times, a woman that takes pride in her cooking stove. She was a mighty wholesome middle aged woman, wasent interested much in a permanent wave, or reducing, but did bake some of the best bread I had had in years. Said that the people who landed there as passengers in storms sometimes, were all mighty fine, and put up good naturedly with the conditions that they had to meet.
She knew all the Pilots on that run, knew all about them, their joys and sorrows. She said they was all “Such fine boys.” Her husband come from Iowa, and she come from Oklahoma, and they argued all the time over which was the best State. I settled that for ’em. Her boys will be home in a couple of weeks and how she beamed! I imagine they are working their way through school, and I bet they both turn out great. She said her and her husband hadent had much “Schooling” but they wanted to have their boys have a chance. Says the boys and her run a little filling station out on the highway in the summer time and that pays ’em pretty well, and then they handle the gas for the emergency landings, and they get paid extra for that by the mail company.
She was a cheerful soul and she had a right to be, I don’t know but after it was over and our Plane had come and we had loaded in the mail and were away with only a couple of hours delay, I was kinder glad it had happened.
It made you appreciate some “Real Folks.” I don’t know when I enjoyed two hours more. we got some great people in this country, and they ain’t all on Wall Street, or at the Luncheon Clubs, or in the Movies or in the Senate. Some of ’em are just in the “Light Houses” on the Prairies.
WA287 June 24, 1928
WAITING FOR THE GUN AT HOUSTON
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I see as I prowl over the old Commonwealth. Here we are down here in Houston all getting set for another Dog Fight. I think we are going to have a lot of fun down here. There is always excitement at a Democratic Anything. Of course it don’t look like there is any way to keep from nominating Al, but that don’t make any difference, there is always something that will stir up an argument even if they all agree.
And talking about Smith reminds me of an incident that happened at the Kansas City show. Senator Moses was the Chairman or Ringmaster of the outfit, and of course no one at any of those things can take office without making the customary speech.1
Well here is part of what he said, “We enter this coming battle militant. We intend to carry the fight to the enemy, and we challenge them to bring forth their strongest champion, whether he emerge from another 103-round battle of the Madison Square Beer Garden, or from a convention held spell bound by the Tammany Tiger. We are ready for him, bring him on and we will bury him. We will welcome him with hospitable hands to a bloody grave, and we care not whether his name be Brown, Jones, or Smith.”
Now them is strong words Moses, even for a Prophet to utter. Now its alright to use them on the ordinary run of Politicians. It sounds great, and the gallery eat it up. But when you are messing with Al Smith, why you are not dealing with the ordinary Politician, you are going up against a man that can take the English language and throw it back to you wrapped up as ridicule, and Moses he will have you taking to the Mount. He will make you wish you had smitten those words on a rock, and not uttered them in national Convention. This Baby Smith is past master of repartee. You been dealing with some o those slow thinking Senators around there, and you are liable to get a little cocky, for you hand out some mean ridicule yourself. But Brother, this Smith party is in the Big League when it comes to sitting the enemy down with a single paragraph. So I am just tipping you off. Lay off this Guy. You may defeat him at the polls this autumn, but the more dignified you handle your end of it the better. If it ever comes to a battle of words he will have all the Deligates, so you better keep the election on votes and not on Slogans. There is men that can speak better English than Smith, but there is not any that can make it SOUND any better.
By the way, however, Moses made a mighty good officer. He gave us an example of the Republican methods. The minority was drowned out by the gavel. The best speeches made there were by young Bob Lafolette and Senator Borah.2
The others could have sent ’em in by mail. But say, this young Lafolette has a great deal of the old man in him. He has that kind of little sympathetic touch in his voice, like a sincere appeal, and looks like a real promising young fellow. He looks like he has a great career ahead of him. It’s too bad he is so many years ahead of his time but he is. It will take about three generations of Lafolettes before the people catch up to what they are working on. Borah was great. He was on the opposite side from what he usually is, that is he was trying to pacify them and not trip ’em up. He was against the Mary McHaughen bill, and a lot of the Lawyers for the farmers were for it.3
But the Convention voted it down, so that kills that. Coolidge always said it wouldent work. I don’t know whether it would or not, but I know it never will.
It seems good to come to a Convention where some of the Public men are known. Outside Bill Borah with the Republicans nobody knows any of them. But down here when a man gets up to speak, why we all know who it is. They seem to have more color and character. And the old town of Houston is sure set to give ’em a time. This Convention means a lot to the State of Texas. Thousands are seeing it this coming week that never had any idea of what it was like. I have often said, and I still say and believe it, that North Carolina has made more progress in the last few years than any other State in the Union, and Texas is next. Not a bad record when you figure that there is 48 (count ’em). Texas is a humming. She has some great towns. Don’t get out of the State, you Deligates, till you have seen some of the other towns they have. Course it is a little warm here now, and may be all week, but we are all overweight anyway, and havent got the will power to reduce by less eating, so we will kinder perspire it off here. They have a great Convention hall that they put up after they landed the Convention. They are hustlers down here.
They have to go some to do a better job of it than Kansas City did. They did mighty proud by their Republicans. And were blessed with great weather. The New York Deligation is coming in by boat, and they have built a special canal that brings ’em right up from the ocean.
They are talking about putting a wet plank in the platform. I hope they get it in before it’s over, so we can try it out and see if it works.
1George Higgins Moses, Republican United States senator from New Hampshire from 1918 to 1933; leading adviser to President Coolidge.
2Robert Marion La Follette, Jr., Republican United States senator from Wisconsin from 1925 to 1947. Young La Follette succeeded his father (see WA 276:N 5) as senator upon the latter’s death. For William E. Borah see WA 222:N 4.
3For the McNary-Haugen farm relief bill see WA 263:N 4.