Will Rogers' Weekly Articles
WA288 July 1, 1928
HERE’S HOW TO MAKE
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I have seen as I jump from Convention to Convention. I have looked so many Speakers in the face in the last three weeks that when I get home and one of my children arises to ask if they can go to the Movies, I will look for them to start out with “The great Democratic Party of which I and my forefathers for generations back have been honored members, the Party of the Common or real people! The party which has always stood for all that is best in human rights! The man I am about to name, is the best fortified to carry on this great work or the downtrodden! The man I am about to name is Applesauce.”
I will raise up and desire to smite him, even he be of my own flesh and blood. That’s all I have heard for three weeks steady. If Oratory was devoted to some legitimate cause and reason it might be the means of revolutionizing the world. It’s just been Gab, Gab, Gab, with not a laugh, or a new idea in it. There should be a censor or an Aealianist or something that before a speaker gets up, they go over his stuff that he is about to perpetrate on the public and take it apart before he delivers it and see if there is a thought or an idea in it. Then if there is not he is told that the best place to dispose of that is at some station over the radio. They have to fill in twelve hours a day 365 days a year, and naturally they run pretty short of stuff, and no matter how few ideas it may have it won’t be noticed there.
Then if it does have an idea why take it out and let him go before the Convention and just deliver the idea that it has, provided that all the other speakers havent delivered the same idea all week. Now with this board operating it would shorten the time of the Conventions to almost nothing, because I don’t believe there is over three or four ideas at any given Convention. The main thing to make ’em cut out is the so called “History of the Party.” They always start out “This Party has always since its early birth been the party of right. The other party has been cockeyed all their life. Noah when he founded our party, had both sides to pick from Right and wrong, and he wisely chose right, and right we have ever remained, so it is a principle born in us to uphold the weak against the strong. This great Party had its birth in virtue, its youth in righteousness, and is spending its old age in holiness.”
Now take out all references to the foundation of the party, take it for granted that if anyone in the hall belongs to the party that they have taken enough interest in it to know how it started and give a kind of a rough guess on where it is going. If you will just eliminate the names Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt, Jefferson, Jackson, and Wilson, why both Conventions would get out three days earlier. Every Nut that gets up to spout off always has to refer to one or more of these past favorites. Well, the audience he is talking to know as much about the records of all these illustrious men as he does, so by having their Pictures hanging in the hall of the Convention of the party to which they belonged to ought to show proper respect without having to rely on each speaker to uphold their reputation. In fact I think a lot of our past great men would be a lot bigger in public estimation if it was made prohibitory for them to be referred to by some of our Politicians.
People generally Judge a man by the type of man that is bragging on him. So it really don’t do our great men any good to have their names brought up by most of the men who do bring them up. For instance people will say, “My Lord if Roosevelt kept company with that fellow and was as near him as this fellow seems to imply, I don’t think as much of Roosevelt.” You see it gets the man in bad that they are trying to brag on.
Now past records is another thing that should come under strict censorship. They are always telling, “What my party has accomplished.” Now as a matter of fact any time a man says that he is insulting the intelligence of his audience, for no party can put over one spring of Legislation without the aid of some members of the other party. Everything that is put through during a Republican administration is always referred to as “Our Legislation,” and all that come off during the Democrats is “Our Policies.” Now neither one can even pass a motion to adjourn without some aid from the other side. All Legislation is put through by the aid of swaps and trades. They are just a lot of horse traders. “You help me put over my New Post Office and I will help you get your creek widened.” Now there is no necessity for either one, (outside the money being spent in their two localities) but by putting over enough trades he can go home with enough Government loot to be re-elected. So make ’em leave all the so called Party accomplishments out of the speeches. Now that will cut ’em down a couple of days. When you take ’em all apart and take out the things that have got no business being said, you just don’t leave much. But just think of the pleasure of sitting in a Convention and every Speaker that got up you would know that he would advance a new idea, even if he only spoke a minute. Leaving out all that “It’s an honor for me to have been chosen” stuff, that would cut ’em down another two days.
So let’s get a Censorship board for Public speakers at National Conventions and it will just about eliminate Public Speakers, and that will leave nothing but the flags, and the band, and that will mean a perfect Convention, and that is what the “Anti Bunk party promises you, and when elected I will resign.”
WA289 July 8, 1928
WHERE ARE THE
EYES OF THE WORLD NOW?
All I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I can remember of days that passed lately at what was for lack of better names, Political Conventions.
It’s been over a week, the last one, and I am just getting over it. Two straight weeks of Applesauce. “These are momentous times, the eyes of the World are on us, let us act with foresight and deliberation.” Now you heard that by every speaker. Now just take ’em apart and see why they fall over if you try and let ’em stand alone.
“These are momentous times.” Now what is momentous about ’em? Time is time, momentous things happen to individuals, not to everybody at once. What might be momentous to one would just be wasting time to another. They are momentous times with the Speakers. For if justice gets its due it’s the last time he will ever get to address a National Convention. The only Guy a Convention is momentous with is the Bird that gets the nomination.
Then the prize bromo of all, “The eyes of the World are upon us.” Now if that is not insulting your intelligence! Whose eyes are on who? What’s the World care what we are doing? What do we care what the world is doing? The eyes of the World is cockeyed as far as we are concerned. Why the eyes of our Country are not even on us. They know the thing is just an ordinary routine. Somebody is going to be President. It don’t make any difference who it is. None of them from any party are going to purposely ruin the country. They will all do the best they can. If weather and crops, and no wars, and a fair share of prosperity is with them they will go out of office having had a good Administration. So the eyes of the World is not paying any attention to us. The World is shortsighted as far as we are concerned.
Our Public men take themselves so serious. It just looks like they are stoop-shouldered from carrying our Country on their backs.
And the women, poor souls, when they are allowed to speak, it seems they have paid more attention to the material in the dress than they have to the material in the speech. They mean well and act awful sincere. But the Girls just ain’t there. It gets ’em out and gives ’em a chance to get away from home, and wear badges. But it just seems like they havent added anything constructive to the art of Politics.
You see ’em scattered around through the Hall as Deligates. But not in enough quantities to effect the voting. They are awful nice folks to meet and talk to. In fact I made a speech just for them. The only man at the Democratic Convention that spoke “For Women Only.” But you see there they had dropped their grave responsibilities, and were just women. I could sit around with them and talk Babies, and Operations, and reducing and we got on fine. But they havent been able to harrow much of a row as far as cleaning up our National pastime is concerned. I think they take it too serious. I believe they would get further if they kinder ridiculed and kidded the men. They can do that in everything else, so why can’t they do it in Politics? Personally I think the Camera has done more harm for Politics than any other one faction. Everybody would rather get their picture than their ideas in the paper. What does the platform of a Political party amount to compared to the photography! There is 10 cameras to every plank in the platform. There was more film wasted on the two Conventions than was wasted making the “King of Kings.”1
Speakers get up early in the morning not to find out how their speech was received by the Press, but how the Pictures turned out.
A woman seconder of somebody’s nomination would rather have her candidate lose the election than to have missed the front page in the morning holding a bunch of American Beauties in her arms.
And some means should be worked out where by you could keep track of the same thing said by various speakers over and over again. Each man just stands and repeats what has been said a thousand times before and generally better than he is saying it. Their Candidate’s honesty is a thing that they dwell mighty heavy on. You would think from the nominating speeches that that was their outstanding qualification was Honesty. They don’t exactly say no, but they casually insinuate that the Candidate on the other side will perhaps steal the White House if he is not carefully watched.
But it’s a great game, this Convention game is. I don’t suppose there is a show in the World with as much sameness in it as it has got. You know exactly what each speaker is going to say before he says it. You know what the women seconders will wear. You know before you go who will be nominated. You know the platform will always be the same, promise everything, deliver nothing. I really don’t think any such proceedings could be carried on in any other civilized country in the World except ours. You cuss yourself for sitting day in and day out and looking at such nonsense. But the next four years find you back there again. So it’s really our mental exhaust.
1King of Kings, biblical motion picture spectacular of 1924, produced by Cecil B. De Mille.
WA290 July 15, 1928
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I see as I prowl from pillar to post. A couple of weeks ago after I had foolishly sit for a week at each place and watched and heard men burlesqueing Political speeches, it kinder made you wonder, “Are we doing all this progressing that we talk about all the time?”
They say practice makes perfect at anything. But I tell you, tain’t so. No Nation that was ever invented under the sun does as much practicing “Talking” as we do, and if you think we are perfect at it, you just listen over the radio, or worse still, in person to the speeches at these Political Conventions. Even the man that I had touted to all of you as being a world beater, Claude Bowers, the Democratic Keynoter, fell down on me.1
At the Jackson day dinner in Washington, he was a bear. He was new and unknown, and nothing depended on it, but his getting a free meal, and he know he would have received that before he delivered the speech. He knocked ’em cold there. But he had a far different kind of speech. He said the same things at both places. But at the dinner he did it more with ridicule, and sarcasm when he hopped on Republican corruption. But at Houston he took it serious, and was trying to convict ’em, while at Washington he was only trying to indite ’em, and at the dinner he had a lot of comedy spread all through the speech, while at Houston there wasent a sign of a laugh all through it. He should have kept the good Gag of (Abe Martin) Kin Hubbard, that he quoted and gave credit too.2
It was, “Old Abe Pash come to town the other day and bought a new pair of boots with money that he had saved up from the Wilson Administration.” That would have been a yell, and incidentally covered the whole prosperity thing better than all the hollering and preaching and quoting statistics that he could have done in an hour.
In fact any time Kin Hubberd has passed judgment on a thing there is not much left to say. Borah was the best of the so-called Republicans.3
But Lord he had no more opposition than a Prohibitionist at a Methodist Conference. Lafolette was second, kinder pleading for the downtrodden.4
He might as well been asking for the return of slavery as far as results were concerned. But the terrible things were the nominating speeches. Every man would talk for half the time about what his state had done. For instance a Wisconsin man gabbed for an hour seconding the nomination of Al Smith, but telling what Wisconsin had accomplished, including the milk and butter fat per cow. Now what’s that got to do with Al? Poor Al don’t know Butter fat from butter beans, as far as the dairy interests are concerned.
Another Guy from Tennessee was nominating somebody from perhaps Vermont or Arizona. I forgot which, and he went on for an age about what Andrew Jackson had done for the Commonwealth, and the records and traditions of his State. As a matter of fact about all old Andrew was responsible for was the system that made us all have to sit there and listen to such Junk. Andrew was the one that said, “If you don’t get out and work for the Party you don’t get in on the gravy after election.” So all these Birds were lined up at the feed trough. Then we did think that Houston would improve on the Oratory of Kansas City. For we did think that the one thing that a Democrat had on a Republican was that he was a better talker. For he being out of office more had more time to think up reasons why he should be in. But it’s just as I told you, the Speeches at the Democratic wake blew up higher than the other Kansas City Orgie. Senator Gore of Oklahoma took first there, over a field that should have been at home plowing corn.5
Mrs. Nellie Ross started her speech out with, “As I look into this sea of faces.”6
So that shows you about how far speech making has advanced. It was Noah that first pulled that when he looked over the bunch just before pulling in the gang plank. Then the Democrats especially harped on “Corruption.” Now they made that their battle slogan four years ago, when all the corruption scandal was at its height, and they were beaten by eight million. So how can they win with it this year, when we are more used to corruption than we was four years ago? In fact what these Nominators should say is, “The man I am about to name, needs no naming.” Then he would have it right. The ones that was named needed no naming. They should have been left to their own solitude. And the ones that did the nominating, where do they dig them up and do the men that are being nominated know of it in advance? I don’t believe they do, or they would never allow ’em to go on. These nominators can’t be friends of the man being nominated or he would never go on and handicap them as they do. You see here is what has made bad speeches stand out so over what they used to be. Maby in the old days speeches were just as idealess. But they was only being listened to by the Deligates. And the man making the speech was a Deligate, so he only had to appeal to intelligence as high as his own. But nowadays this radio thing has changed all that. They are not just talking to a lot of politicians; they are talking to the world. And people are getting wise to the type of man that is supposed to be saving our Country. Right away he compares the intelligence of their talk with the talk that he hears in other lines of business, and it just don’t stand up.
So the old Radio is just about to give us a true line on our Public servants. But speech making was never a lower ebb in the history of the World than it is today here in America. A speech nowadays is just like Bootleg liquor. Nobody knows what all the Junk is they put in it, but everybody knows that it just don’t stand up. It tastes terrible and sounds worse. So let’s don’t hold another Convention till someone can think of a New Speech.
1Claude Gernade Bowers, American journalist, historian, Democratic politician, and diplomat; on the staff of the New York World from 1923 to 1931; author of Jefferson and Hamilton (1925); ambassador to Spain and Chile.
2Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard, Indiana humorist, journalist, and caricaturist. Hubbard’s “Abe Martin Sayings” were widely syndicated.
3For William E. Borah see WA 222:N 4.
4For Robert M. La Follette, Jr., see WA 287:N 2.
5Thomas Pryor Gore, Democratic United States senator from Oklahoma from 1907 to 1921 and 1931 to 1937.
6Nellie Taylor Ross, Democratic governor of Wyoming from 1925 to 1927.
WA291 July 22, 1928
MEXICANS CAN DANCE WHILE SOBER
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers or what I see as I mess around. After the Democrats had agreed so thoroughly at their Convention that it was really disgusting, and made people almost wish they wasent Democrats, why on my way home to California, I went down to a place I had always heard of and wanted to go and see. And that was the famous King Ranch, down at Kingsville, Texas.1
That’s the ranch we used to read so much of that was owned by Mrs. King who only died a few years ago at the age of I think over ninety.2
Well I just havent got time in here to tell you one hundredth part of the ranch and all about it. That would take a great long Article, for it’s one of the very few old time REAL Ranches. But there is just one thing that I saw there that I thought you might be interested in, for it was kinder odd and mighty human. That was a dance, or “Baile” as they are called in Spanish, and as practically all the help on the ranch outside the immediate family that run the place are Mexicans, why the whole dance was a Mexican affair.
It was given by the owners, and took place at the Headquarter Ranch where the Kleberg Family live.3
It’s three miles out from Kingsville, and is almost a town at the ranch itself. They give these Bailies to hands every once in awhile. It took place in the school house there at headquarters. It’s a great big room. (They keep two teachers employed just to teach the children there on that part of the ranch.) They had a Barbecue before, and when I heard about it I cut the dinner that we were supposed to have up at the “Big House” and I went down and throwed in with this Barbecue outfit, and believe me they knew how to cook that meat.
Well it was early in the evening and they commence gathering in, mostly horseback, quite a few in cars. (You just can’t keep so called civilization out, no matter how little it fits in.) Now a Ford had no more business being hitched outside that dance hall, than I have being presented in knee breeches to the King. And the ones that drove ’em there just through force of habit started to stake it out when they got there.
Well us so called White folks eat so much more than the Mexicans who are primitive and don’t know enough like we do, that we were a disgrace before the thing started.
Now this ranch has been eighty years in this family, and all these Mexicans were raised there. Their fathers and grandfathers were cowpunchers on this outfit. One old kinder fat fellow that was kinder the Deligate at large, they told me he was one of the top horsemen that had ever worked there, a great Roper, and Rider. And there was his sons there all grown, and one of them was the best there now, and they would point out grizzled, bow legged veterans of many of a wild steer hunt. They said there wasent as many at the Dance as they generally were as there had been a death on the ranch, and lots of them would not go out for a year. I thought they was like Americans who will go out as soon as they get through reading the “Will.” If they was left anything they celebrate on the way home from the funeral, and if they dident they drown their troubles, and then have their lawyers protest the Will. But these Mexicans are curious people, they think of you after you are gone.
Well then the Orchestra come. They looked just about like our Orchestras only they dident ask everybody, “How did you like us last night over K. F. I.?” They finally got the Orchestra filled up with barbecued meat and bread and plenty of good coffee and they commence to get ready for some serious business. As dark come it looks like they just dropped right out from behind every mesquite bush. You would have thought there was going to be a Bullfight instead of just a dance. Finally the old head Cowman commenced drifting the Women toward the School house. As the she stuff all drifted in, he stood at the door and parted back all the Males. Another young Mexican who was kinder clerk of the Court, made up a list of all those who felt like dancing was just about what they needed. They registered with this young fellow, and as they got ready to have a dance he read out the names of about what would be a car load, or a floor full, and as he did they come in the door. There they all stood just inside the door, all these men or young boys, whose names were on this list. Then just as the Orchestra started they all scattered for the seats around the wall where the women and girls in all kinds of ribbons and fancy dresses were seated and they just held out their arms. They dident say anything. That is they dident say anything I could hear, and the Girl would get up, they would walk a little ways, kinder like you untrack a horse, and then they would get their holds, and the dance was said to be on.
It was dancing just about as bad as ours, in fact the worst parts they had taken from us. Now they never did say one word to each other while they was waltzing or Two stepping, and when it was all over they walked pretty near to the wall, and all at once turned and broke back for the door. They dident say “much obliged,” “so long kid,” or nothing. They had finished with ’em, and that was all. Then the door tender read out another list, and in would come about twenty other old Cow hands, and they would stand in the door and then make a break and hold out their arms, maby get some of the same girls. But never a word. They was there to dance, not to monkey around talking. Some of these old Cowpunchers danced like they was “flanking a Calf,” or “earing down a Bronk.” That steak had done mighty nobly by that Orchestra, for they was as serious as the dancers. Some of these girls was mighty pretty, and here is a thing that made it more different from our dances than any other thing. Everybody was sober. There wasent a drink around the place. I’ll bet you it’s absolutely the only 100 percent sober dance held in this country since 1918. The children was dancing, the old folks, and it was like our old time Country dances, when we could have a good time without outside aid. If anybody else knows of a sober dance taking place without a single one having a drop, why let me know. But I think this dance on the King Ranch holds the record for being unique. Think of it, a SOBER DANCE! But it took Mexicans to put it on. Hurrah for Al Smith and Prohibition.
1King Ranch, a 1,250,000-acre ranch in southern Texas; founded by Richard King in 1852.
2Henrietta M. Chamberlain King, wife of Richard King and owner of the King family properties after her husband’s death in 1885. She was one of the world’s richest women at the time of her death in 1925 at the age of ninety-three.
3Robert Justus Kleberg, Sr., Texas attorney who was retained by Mrs. Henrietta King to manage the King Ranch after the death of her husband in 1885. He remained as manager until his death in 1932. In 1886 Kleberg married Alice King, the only child of Richard and Henrietta King, and thus united the two families whose descendants still control the ranch.
WA292 July 29, 1928
POLITICS AND JACKIE AND
A CERTAIN HUMORIST
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and it’s been too hot to read lately, and if I did read there wouldent be anything but “Dry Democrats hold indignation meeting, are about to come out for somebody beside Smith.” Or, “Wet Republicans are about to bolt for Smith and leave Hoover high and dry.” Now all that is a lot of Baloney, the election is not held till November and American people never made up their mind that far in advance of anything. People collectively are as bad as individuals, they will do anything in the world to get their name in the paper. So anything that will keep their “Gang” before the public now or any time is all O. K.
Hoover crossed the Continent in the hottest weather just to be told that he was nominated. Smith dident do quite so bad. He tried to find the shady side of Brooklyn Bridge to have the news broke to him.
Hoover went by and had a talk with Coolidge where Calvin was fishing for fish without Goiter. Or at least in the early stages of the affliction where they could swallow the hook. He even went by and bid Dawes goodby.1
Said he was sorry he couldent keep him on the same capacity, but that he would fix up some Plan over in Europe that Charley could go over on. Hoover dident go by Topeka to see Charley Curtis.2
He figured I will see enough of him as it is without purposely hunting him up.
I passed through Topeka the other day and they are all mighty strong for Curtis. You know they really have two fine fellows for Vice Presidential Candidates. I hate to see either one of them lose.
And by the way to get away from Politics and all that Hooey, on that train going east that trip was little Jackie Coogan.3
I hadent seen him in a long time, and had wondered just like I bet a lot of you have, “What kind of a kid is he anyway?” I had known his father on the Vaudeville stage for years, and it was good to renew old acquaintances with them.4
And I was tickled to death with the Kid. He is a fine manly little fellow. Just about one of the brightest boys you ever talked to his age, which is 13 now. He is not at all spoiled, and is all kid. He is a Nut on flying, although he has never been up. His folks won’t let him. But he knows more about Aviation than any Aviator I ever talked with. He is simply mad about Planes, Engines, dimensions of wings, records and Horse power of all the different engines. Talk about reading Movie Magazines! All the way across on the train three days. He would be off at every station getting some aviation magazines and all these wild flying stories. You know I guess they have just about supplanted the old Wild West thing. A Horse moves too slow for Kids nowadays. Jackie and his father were going back to play on the stage. His father has learned him the dance routine and they have a great act framed up. He is a fine looking strong healthy little fellow and he will be a success in these Talkies, for he has a good speaking voice. You know we all used to wonder what he would be when he grew up too big for those Baby parts, and everybody had an interest in him, for he was just about the cleverest kid that ever appeared on stage or screen. Well I believe he is coming out fine and will make a very likable, manly and clever young man.
So that’s that, and say, speaking of people that amount to something, did you remember reading a few weeks ago about the death down in Rogers, Ark., of Tom Morgan?5
Maby that dident mean nothing to you and if you are kinder an old timer and read a good deal why maby it did mean something to you. Somebody is always yapping about being a Humorist. Well this man WAS a Humorist. One of the best ones in America, I venture to say he has written stuff that has made more people laugh than any man in America. He contributed loads of stuff for years to Puck and Judge. Well he lived in the Town where my wife lived, and had always been a friend of their family and she had always been especially fond of him. I first met him many years ago on my pilgrimages there to see her. He was an old fellow then, but he had in the early days been on the stage with the old Repetoire shows, and kept up on show business. Well I was just breaking in it, and I believe he really helped me out with my wife, for when he would see some little mention in the Theatrical papers about me, (and it would be mighty little too) why he would send or take them up to Betty. He was kinder my booster. I had a good deal of outside opposition from some local and Semi local talent and needed some aid that was constantly on the ground.
He was a queer Character. He wouldent leave there. We used to try and get him to come east and visit us, or to California, but he stayed right there, wrote all his stuff just from what he read and his local surroundings. But it was always original, it was nobody’s idea. An old Bachelor, lived to himself. If he had gotten out and mixed with people and had a chance too see all that was going on with his queer turn of describing things, he would have raised quite a rumpus as a Writer. But he dident want to, and I don’t much blame him. He had a lot of great friends among Writers that he had never met, but who like and admired his stuff. We will miss his letters, for news and briefness and humor they couldent be beat. He was 65 at death. He left his home and some fifteen thousand dollars. He had no near Realatives, so his will distributed it around to people who had befriended him. He died as I think he would have liked to. He saw all he wanted to see. He did what he wanted to do. He had his life, he had his laughs. He was satisfied, and when you are satisfied you are successful. For that’s all there is to success is satisfaction. Now you kids all know Jackie Coogan. But you old time readers will always remember the name Tom P. Morgan. We’ve lost a Humorist.
1For Charles G. Dawes see WA 221:N 2.
2For Charles Curtis see WA 267:N 5.
3For Jackie Coogan see WA 233:N 2.
4John Henry Coogan, Irish-American vaudeville and burlesque performer; father of child movie star, Jackie Coogan.
5Tom P. Morgan, regional humorist from Rogers Arkansas, who regularly contributed to Curtis publications and who wrote a daily humorous column for the Kansas City (Missouri) Star until his death.
WA293 August 5, 1928
FLIGHT, SLAVERY, AND OTHER ISSUES
All I know is just what I see in the papers and what little is beat into me as I browse hither and thither. Made a trip east a week or so ago, had a funny experience. I had boosted so much for Aviation that I couldent get a seat on the Mail line myself. I had not made up my mind just on what day to go till a couple of days before leaving, and then phoned down to “Save me a place on plane leaving Wednesday morning from Los Angeles to New York.” Say, they almost give me the laugh.
“Why we havent a place on our planes for weeks.” They tried to trade around and get me on but couldent do it, so I had to make the trip on the train. Well part of it I got in on a plane. So you see Commercial aviation is coming along fine. All they need now is just bigger planes, with more comfort and convenience for the passengers.
The day I left, Fred Stone, the actor, flew out to California to see me in his own plane.1
He carries a Pilot and a good one, the same as all private planes do. But he has learned to pilot himself. He has made several Solo flights. He gets a great kick out of it. It is his whole recreation. He has given up golf entirely, says he would rather fly around all afternoon anytime than walk around playing Golf. He went out the air mail route and come back the southern way by El Paso and Dallas.
We have quite a few Actors now that have their own planes, and quite a few of the Film Stars. But none of the so called Dare devils that you read so much about, none of them fly. I should say that there is as many private planes in use now as there was private Autos at the same stage of the Automobile business. I think the thing is greater for small trips than even for long ones. For you might become tired or if rough maby sick on long trips, but it’s the short ones that you really save time. Now for instance my train left Los Angeles in the heat of the evening, and it would have taken me at least an hour and a half to drive from my place out at Santa Monica down through the city to the depot. Well I drive over a couple of miles to an aviation field and leave almost two hours later and go to San Bernidino seventy miles away about dark when it’s cool and nice.
I was on Long Island and had to go down to Asbury Park for a speaking engagement, grabbed a plane, went right over Coney Island, and Sandy Hook and was away down there on the Jersey Coast in less than a half hour. It would have taken an hour and a half into New York and two and a half hours from there to Asbury, where we would have had to wait for Ferries across Staten Island. Then I went to Newport, Rhode Island, in an hour and a half, where it would have taken a whole day, or night on train or boat. We flew around over Montauk Point and along the south shore of Long Island, and it’s a beautiful trip, so I say it’s these short trips that are really the pleasant ones, and the great time savers.
I had a fine visit the other day with Governor Moore of New Jersey.2
He is the popular Democratic Governor of that State and all that keeps him from being reelected is that a Governor of that State can’t succeed himself. He was elected as a wet, and so it looks like Al if he runs on his “inclination” instead of on the “Democratic Platform” will carry New Jersey.
Al was to come down there for a big day at the Governor’s summer home at Sea Girt, and they expected the biggest crowd that had ever assembled in that Country. Al was to make ’em a speech and they are near enough to New York to understand it.
It’s a great place to land in an Aeroplane, right in the Governor’s front yard. Was to speak at Ocean Grove. It’s that Methodist settlement you have heard so much about, where they don’t let an Automobile in there on Sunday, no amusements running. Just kinder go into prayer and meditation. I was in there Saturday night and had to get out by midnight. So on account of havin me in there in their wonderful Tabernacle, it looks like they will stand for anything up to Sunday. My offering was to be kinder in the nature of a “Message.” I don’t know who from, whether it was from the Mount, (Mount Hollywood) or Mount Sinai. But it was kind of an “Offering.”
Well this little Governor introduced me, and on account of him being a Democrat and a wet, it was mighty nice of them to let either one of us in there. But we had to have it in our agreement that we both were to be out of the grounds before the Sunday started. Then I imagine they prayed that nothing either I or the Governor said would remain in their memory. But do you know they was just about as human an audience as you ever saw. I dident tell ’em that I was a South Methodist. That would have been worse than telling them that you had gone High Hat and joined out with the Episcopal. You know there is two gangs of Methodists, the North and the South. Well this bunch were North, and our troop down home are “South,” the difference is that one believed in Slavery and the other dident. That is their only fundamental difference. Now the war has been over since 65, but they are still building different churches in various towns. Then they tell you that people have learned and got broader minded. Now what has slavery got to do with Conditions now? There is just as much reason for some of these denominations being separate as there is for the Blondes to belong to one Church and Brunettes to
Slavery hasent been abolished. If a Northerner can get a Negro to work for him cheaper than a White man, why he will hire him. In the old days they could sell you to another Boss, but nowadays they can keep you till they want to get rid of you, then fire you and you have to hunt another Boss. So things don’t change much after all. Things just get different names, but remain about the same. But if the two set of Churches or a half dozen set of Churches went together and worshipped, why one set of Preachers would be done away with, or maby five sets of them would have to hunt other vocations, for the more you combine the less help you need, so I guess they will just keep on “being at OUTS over Slavery.” The Civil war has been over 63 years, but the Churches are the only ones that havent found it out.
1For Fred Stone see WA 266:N 3.
2Arthur Harry Moore, Democratic governor of New Jersey from 1926 to 1929, 1932 to 1935, and 1938 to 1941; the first governor in the history of New Jersey to be elected to a third term.
WA294 August 12, 1928
YOU CAN HEAR A HOLY
TROMBONE AT WINONA
All I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I soak up in the way of loose conversation as I meander around. I “preached” or “Lectioneered” as the hearer might call it what he may, up at Winona Lake, Indiana, the other day. It is a kind of a Chataqua, or summer colony affair, kinder like the one in New York State. It is on a beautiful lake, and they have lots of nice summer cottages and homes, and bathing and boating, and preaching, and praying, and maybe a little cussing, when the collection is slack, or the Mosquietoes are unusually famished. But all in all it looked like they had an awful nice time there. It was originally started by the Presbyterians, for the Presbyterians. But as expenses run pretty high on maintaining a big place like that, why they had to take in some outside talent. These Presbyterians still maintain a few of the old Scotch traditions, so they figured we better let in some Methodists. They will kinder contaminate the place but what we lose in prestige we will make up off them in dues. In other words we will let ’em pay for being Methodists. The bars even got down so low that the Baptists got in. Well that was the last straw with the real old Presbyterians. But after it was duly explained that it would lessen his carrying load for each and every one of these amateur religionists, why the real old Presbyterian spirit of generosity showed itself and he said, “Well, sure, we will let ’em in, but get their admission at the gate.”
And now the thing has just drifted along till the Protestants are practically welcome, and they all get along fine there together. If a Baptist preaches that morning, why a Methodist will lead the singing, but a Presbyterian will take up the collection, and some Congregationalist will lead the prayer, and implore the Lord that everybody at least get an even break out of what was collected.
But they are all living there just as happy as can be, and a finer bunch of folks you never saw or played to. Humor? Say, there is where you get it, in the towns and country where all these people come from.
It’s Billy Sunday’s old stamping ground.1
He is the first one told me about it. He was away at the time I was there. He already had these saved, and was out working on some others, but I tell you who I did see, and he is just one of the nicest fellows you ever met. That is Rodheaver.2
You all know “Rhody” the great Slide trombone player who always led the music in the Billy Sunday revivals. Rhody has slip-horned more sinners into the kingdom of Heaven than any of the old timers with their Trumpets, or even the great Biblical musician Nero, who never missed a fire and played “Turkey in the straw.” You know nobody ever thought about saving anybody with a trombone before. They have tried Tom Toms, and Organs and Harps, and even base drums, (more for collection, then inspirational purposes). You naturally are set and kinder guard yourself against being led down the trail by those instruments. But when something breaks out and you think you are following your first Negro Minstrel show Parade down the street!
Say, Rhody sure give that old instrument a Holy standing, and any revised addition of the Bible has sure got to give Rhody and his Slip Horn a chapter. He has a lovely home there right on the Lake, with a slide that goes from the roof of his house down into the water, and you ought to hear him sing! He sure can sing. He is the fellow that can make you sing whether you want to or not. I really think that he has led more terrible voices in what was supposed to be unison than any man in the world. He gets so many terrible voices going at once till the thing sounds like a novelty, and you will think it’s good.
Every fellow sings for Rhody, for he knows that he can’t be the worst one there, and he generally isn’t. You know singing does more good than preaching. For when you are singing you havent got time to think. I want to get back there again next year and see the old Gang.
Then I played at Ocean Grove, New Jersey. That’s another great place. It’s Methodist, and they are still trying to keep it exclusive. At the Hotel in Winona I met a fine young fellow who had been a Missionary in India for ten years, and knowing I was interested in Cattle, and I have a real full-blooded Sacred calf “Brahma” that the Klebergs, owner’s of the King Ranch, gave my Kids.3
It’s the cutest pet we ever had. Lives in the house with us, all same India. Well this fellow was stationed at a mission in a small town and someone shot and killed one of the hundreds of cows that roam about the towns in search of food. Well he said in less than an hour there was five thousand Hindo’s gathered trying to find out who did it, and that there was twelve of the most prominent ones sit up with the dead cow that night, and the next day the whole town close up and they hauled her to the Ganges and buried her, and there was thousands in the procession.
It was just about as pretty a Cow story as I ever heard. I asked him confidentally, “What missionary shot the cow?” He said, “He dident know, but he always thought it was a Greek that lived in the town,” and I asked him if the Greek run a Restaurant, and he said “Yes” and I said, “That’s who shot your heifer. That Greek was going to have meat on his menu, even if nobody eat it but him and the Heathen missionaries.”
1For Billy Sunday see WA 228:N 8.
2Homer Alvin “Rody” Rodeheaver, popular song leader and musician in the Billy Sunday revival organization.
3For the Klebergs see WA 291: N 3; for the King Ranch see WA 291: N 1.
WA295 August 19, 1928
THREE WEEKS; OR
WHAT HAPPENS IN BOHEMIA
Did you ever hear of the Bohemian Club and Bohemian Grove of San Francisco? Well if you dident, did you ever hear of Oberamagrau, (or some such fool name like that)? Or if you never heard of either one of them, did you ever hear of Coolidge? Or if you never heard of any of these, why you are deaf, so I will have to explain ’em to you in words.
This Bohemian Club, or Gang rather, is just about the most unique organization that was ever held up for the arrival of a cork-screw. It started exactly fifty years ago. It started over an actor. About the only things that actors can start is a fad or a divorce. But this Actor had lost his job in Frisco and had to go to New York to work where all the other actors laying off could see and criticise him. Frisco gave him a dinner, and they give it in a grove out in the Country, and they had such a good dinner nobody woke up all night and when daylight come they found they had communed with nature, and it being the
first time they had ever slept under anything but shingles and mortgages, that they said, “Let’s come every year and get so we can’t get back home that night.” Well that was not only a suggestion, but an inspiration. “But what actor can we offer an excuse for being here to see fired?”
“Oh we can always find a fired actor. If we give a dinner and lay out in the woods every time an actor gets fired we will be in the forest more than Rip Van Winkle.”
So they made arrangements to go to the forest again, and they decided to call it a Club, and get a name for it. They was so bright it took ’em a year to think of a name, and that was before Rotary, and Kiawanis, and Tigers, and Apes, and Crawdads, and all those good club names had been used up. They finally hit on “Bohemians.” It had been used before, in fact some country thought so well of it that they named their Country after it. But the name had never been used in a grove near Frisco. So they finally hit on the original name of Bohemian. That is supposed to be a fellow that is just sorter laying around, not eating regular unless asked, a sort of a good fellow, but what the h_ _ _. Well they all wanted to be one of those things even if they wasent, so that’s where the name started from. After they went to the grove the second time and got fleas, and poison ivy and every thing on ’em why they were real woodsmen. This time they took along so much that they dident come to for two nights, and it has kept increasing every year till now it takes three weeks to get home. Shows you what a small idea can grow into.
Then they decided to let in some pay members. That is some of the town’s business men. As I say the original gang was Artists, and Actors, and men that just layed around “yessing” both of these sexes. Well in those days the Artist racket wasent so good. It was full of Art but scarce on bullion, and the Actor game you could just get a man to act for almost nothing, as long as you would feed him enough to act on. Actors dident have much standing those days. In fact Actors dident have much of anything but a couple of different pair of false whiskers and a high hat.
So the club took in some bankers and some merchants. They dident have any too much class in those days themselves, so they dident mind associating with the artists and the Actors, as long as it was out in the woods where nobody would see ’em. So they had to let their wives run their stores and they would get away to the forests for a few days. But they wouldent tell their wives there was to be any Actors or Painters there, so they got so they used to put on plays where the Actors who never worked could get some practice acting, and the Painters who painted but never sold could maybe get some practice selling. For if they could get some of the old merchants or Sea Captains, or Pirates out under a Giant Red Wood under the proper conditions, why they could peddle him some old fly specked Chromo.
And that was the start of Actors and Artists sitting down and eating with white folks. And the thing has grown till now they own and preserve three thousand acres of Red Woods, and over 250 Bank Presidents, and no telling how many ferns and Vice Presidents there is. It’s the biggest thing of its kind in the World today where all classes speak to each other FOR THREE WEEKS. They have a great time. Hoover belongs when he is not a Candidate. The play on the last night is the most wonderful thing ever staged. I want to thank them for having me there as a Guest. It’s awful hard to get into. It was a question whether I or Coolidge would get in, and I want to thank them.
WA296 August 26, 1928
AN INTIMATE CHAPTER ON
Well, all I know is just what little I read in the papers. Hoover and Smith both broke out since I communed with you last. We will take Hoover’s apart first and see what is the matter with it, then maybe next week we will take up the cravings of Mr. Smith.
Hoover come home to be notified. He did that so he could show some people where home was. When a lot of folks heard he was going home to receive the nomination, they said, “Gee going clear over to England,” and others thought he might have to go to Moscow, or Melbourne. But it was at Palo Alto. It’s not a horn, it’s a kind of a town, like all college places are, “a kind of a town.”
Well it’s out here in California and the air line that brings you down from Frisco flys right over it. I looked down but we had passed it. But it’s a College town with Drug Stores that sell lettuce sandwiches, and more Peanut butter than Paragoic, and plenty of chili, and hot dog stands. But it’s a mighty pretty place, and Standford University is located there. It’s the University that keeps cutting down on the number of Freshman that enter every year, till they hope to have it perfect some day by not having any. Well by eliminating Freshmen, that in time will gradually do away with Sophomores, and that is the rainbow that they are striving for.
Well it seems that Mr. Hoover went to school there away back when they had to call it Leland Standford so people would know what they were talking about.1
But after Hoover went out from there and got work so readily why they decided that they dident need the given name so they dropped it. There wasent enough Standford Universitys that people were liable to get it conflicted with some other one. But they dident know that at first. They gradually learned that after they got into the University atmosphere. Well it’s the school that Hoover worked his way through. He had no idea when he was doing it that it would be such a sales talk in his campaign later on. But in those days boys wanted an education whether they got a fraternity pin or not.
Why things educationally were queer in those days, they even had reading and writing and Arithmatic, instead of Football, that’s how primitive Standford was. Dident even have as much as a Golf Course, what do you know about that for a two reel University. They built a Library before they built a Swimming pool. Wouldent that make you laugh now! They dident get football till after Carlisle had dissbanded because they dident have anybody else to beat. So Pop Warner was looking for some primative people that would pick up his trick plays like the Indians, so they told him to go to Standford.2
He would have the rawest material there to work with of any place in this country. There had never been a football in the County, and a Stadium was as foreign to them as a Niblick. Up to then Boys had gone there for their head and not for their shoulders. So Pop went out and in two years why the school had as many Scouts out looking for high school boys who could do 100 in ten flat and who had carried more footballs than they ever had books, and in three years Pop had the old Hoover Alma Mater on a paying basis, and from then on Hoover and Pop are to Stanford what Coolidge and Morrow are to Amherst.3
If Hoover had only known it, and the School had been properly managed, he wouldent have had to wait on the table when he went there, he could have made a couple of touchdowns every Saturday and been carried off the grounds and that’s all the worrying he would have had to do about who was to pay for the washing.
But while Herbert dident know that, he did know a lot of things. He kinder had a premonition that some day he might be in a position to need a good man who could tell about his good qualities if he ever got in a pinch and needed a written avadavit. So he took with him to school Will Irwin, a fellow that at that time maybe dident show any more possibilities than Herbert did.4
But Herb always said to himself, “There’s my Boswell, if I ever pull a Doctor Johnston.5
I will just lug him along with me.” And old Will sure come through mighty nice. Just when the farmers was throwing what few roastin ears they had raised at Herbert on account of his turning a deaf ear to Mary McHaughen, why Will just come through with the most beautiful things about Herb you ever saw.6
It looked like Will had a marvelous memory for recollecting the good things that Herb had done and the happy faculty of forgetting any devilment.
And Will told how Hoover had always even as a Boy just loved Farmers and wouldent do anything in the World to hurt one. That he had seen him while at Standford pick up little Farmers that had maby been hurt or drunk, and take them to their homes. He said Herb’s heart and soul was always with the Farmers. That he would never let a Teacher in School say anything against a poor defenseless Farmer, and that the reason he had been against the Mary McHaughen Bill was because on account of Calvin, that he Hoover was working for Calvin at the time and that he wanted to do all he could to stand in with him at that time. That he had something else coming up and if he stood right with Cal that it would mean that Cal wouldent stand in his way, and so endeth the principal chapter in the life of Mr. Hoover.
1Amasa Leland Stanford, Sr., nineteenth century California merchant, governor, and railroad magnate who founded Leland Stanford University in 1885.
2Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner, famous American football figure who coached at Carlisle from 1899 to 1903 and 1907 to 1914 and at Stanford University from 1924 to 1932.
3Calvin Coolidge and Dwight W. Morrow (see WA 254:N 2) were classmates at Amherst College.
4William Henry “Will” Irwin, American journalist and writer. Irwin, a schoolmate of Hoover at Stanford, published a sympathetic biography of Hoover in 1928.
5James Boswell, Scottish lawyer and biographer. Samuel Johnson, English lexicographer, critic, writer, and conversationalist, known
as Dr. Johnson, the “Great Cham of Literature.” Boswell’s celebrated Life of Samuel Johnson was published in 1791.
6For the McNary-Haugen farm relief bill see WA 263:N 4.
WA297 September 2, 1928
POLITICS AND OTHER TALKIES
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and all I have read for weeks is, “I have been nominated for this high office, and all I can say is that I accept.” Well if they would just quit right there acceptances wouldent be so hard on us. But after announcing that he accepts he goes ahead for two full newspaper pages and tells why he accepts. We dident ask any of them WHY. We know why they accept, they never tell the real reason. But they go on and tell of all the wonderful ideas they have that they want to try out on us when they do get in.
They tell of the high honor that has been bestowed on ’em. There has been no high honor bestowed on ’em yet, they have to be elected before there is any high honor coming. There is nothing with less honor connected with it than a defeated Candidate. But we have had to read all this.
I am for a bill in Congress for fewer and less notifications. Take for instance the fellow that is going to get beat. He would be better off if he never was notified.
Hoover left us flat out here in California. He hit the road with his new act and from what I hear it has been going fine. He tried it out in Los Angeles, and he had a great finish (for California). He come out strong for Boulder Dam. That put him in the hit class right there. Then Smith followed up with his notification, which he had asked the Boys not to notify him till he was real good and ready. He had to dispose of William Randolph White and Surgeon Stratton, before he could get his mind on serious things.1
He made a fine acceptance. One of his best ones, and he has been accepting since he was old enough to hold office. What did he say? Well, what do they all say? Did he come out on the leading issues of the day? He did. Did he solve them? He sure did. How did he solve them? By promising anything that was wanted. But what happened of a constructive nature that week? Why Art Gobel just hopped in a Plane about two miles from old Beverley Hills, put in about 450 gallons of gas, (name deleted by censor) and eighteen hours later he stepped out at Curtis field, Long Island.2
He just made 145 miles an hour, and flew the course by instruments, and not by house tops and rivers. That shows you what we will be doing pretty soon. By the mail Planes it takes about 33 hours.
You know that fellow Harvey, our Ex-Ambassador to Great Britain who died.3
There was a great character. He would be a Republican and then see the evils of his way, and turn around and be a Democrat, and to be sure that he stood in with the party he happened to be with at that time, why he would appoint the President, so it would be sure to be some friend. He picked up Wilson when it looked like he never would get out of just being another College Professor. Then he dug Harding out of the Senate when it was thought impossible to ever get a Senator out of such a rut. He was a quick thinker on his feet. I will always remember a little incident of it. One night he came to the Follies just after his return from Europe, and I had a lot of Gags about him as he was very much in the public’s eye at that time. He was quite a talker and I remember I had one where I said I see Ambassador Harvey is back. I wanted to go down to the boat to hear him land. We also had a scene where Brandon Tynan, a splendid Actor, was impersonating Harvey, so after the little sketch I introduced the real Harvey to the audience and insisted that he say a few words.4
He said, “I hope you don’t fall for this. This is another of Will’s little jokes. I am another Actor also impersonating Mr. Harvey, so the joke is on Will.” Well, do you know people dident know if it was him, or another Actor. That was what I called about the quickest thinking as a get-back I ever saw. He was an awful pleasant fine fellow, and in his day I guess wielded about the biggest influence of any newspaper man.
Our old friend, Tom Mix, had a little local upheaval lately.5
Some Actor said that anyway, Tony, the horse, would be good in the “Talkies.” He could at least snort. Well that kinder got Tom’s nanny, and he just snorted all over this person and it took a day to wind on the adhesive tape.
These Actors out here are kinder sensitive about this Talkie business, and this old boy should have kinder looked over his territory before he made that crack. I went to see one of the new “Squawkies” the other night. It was billed as, “Metro Goldwyn’s first sound picture,” and the only sound in it was Monte Blue whistling.6
It never reproduced a word he said, or any of the others, but it did whistle when he did. It dident even whistle the same tune he whistled, but it did whistle when he did. Well, that wasent bad, for he had done his whistling in the south seas, and this whistling was done in the Studio, so you couldent expect them to remember what he had whistled three months before. But that’s what they was selling as a sound picture was Monte’s whistling.
Now I like Monte, he is a dandy actor, but I don’t like to be hornswoggled into going in to just hear him whistle. For he is not what I would call an A–No 1 good whistler. I paid to see a “Talkie” and all I got was a “Whistlie.”
I suppose Metro Goldwyn’s next sound triumph will be Jack Gilbert snoring.7
So I guess that’s why Bill Morrissy thought Tom Mix’s horse would make a good “Snorty.”8
1For William Allen White see WA 277:N 5. John Roach Straton, Baptist ministerial leader from New York City who gained national
prominence as a fundamentalist, prohibitionist, and strident opponent of the presidential candidacy of Al Smith.
2Arthur “Art” Goebel, American motion picture stunt flier and free-lance pilot.
3George Brinton McClellan Harvey, American publisher and diplomat; United States ambassador to Great Britain from 1921 to 1923.
4Brandon Tynan, Irish-born American actor, dramatic author, and impersonator. A Ziegfeld Follies regular, he also wrote such plays as The Passion Flower and The Melody of Youth.
5For Tom Mix see WA 233:N 2. Tony, Mix’s horse, was one of the first of the motion picture animal stars. Fox Films terminated Mix’s contract in 1928, but the cowboy actor later made several films with Universal Studios, appeared on radio, and operated a successful circus before his death in 1940.
6Monte Blue, American leading man of the silent films. Blue long maintained that White Shadows of the South Seas, a silent film of 1928 with added sound (a high-pitched voice dubbed in for his), destroyed his starring career.
7For John Gilbert see WA 244:N 3.
8Will Morrissey, American vaudevillian, silent film actor, theatrical producer, composer,and comedy writer.
WA298 September 9, 1928
ALL ABOUT THE BIG SNAKE DANCE
All I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I run into as I prowl hither and thither. Well a week or so ago I prowled thither and run into the awfullest mess of snakes you ever saw. All my life I have heard of the Hopi snake dance out in Arizona. Well people and writers are such liars that I dident know but what they was loading us about this snake thing. So I grabbed up my two boys who had done a bit of snake reading, and we lit out for the wilds of Arizona. It took place at a place called Hotivilla, so you notice that the French, and the imitating Americans are not the first to use the word Villa. The Indians called it that even before it was fashionable.
This town is near the oldest town that is known on this Continent and that is Arobi. That one is just a few miles away and goes back hundreds of years. This new village was formed by an old Chief who moved away from the old one because he was trying to get the children away from the Government school. But the school followed him up, and Fraternities are right on his heels.
I tell you it’s awful hard to stay civilized in this Country nowadays. This old fellow thought he could do it with his people, but NO the Missionary, and the School teacher, and the Bootlegger was right after him. So his young is just as liable to grow up as big a heathen as the other 110 million with which he has to associate. He did have a lot of great customs, and some wonderful old ideas. But the Fords and the radio nailed him and now he is as unreliable as his white brothers.
They sure do hang on to this old custom of the sacred snake dance. You will hear Americans say, “Oh it is just a commercial thing now.” Well I don’t know where they get that idea. I don’t know who makes any money out of it. The fellow that runs the trading Post there sold the boys and I some canned salmon and crackers and Sardines, and oh yes Jim, (that’s the younger and rougher element) he had about a half gallon can of canned Chili Beans, and most of the other Yokeles beside us brought what they eat, so the Commercial end of it as far as I could see was about $1.80. As Jim finished off with a whole can of peaches and I called it a day by mopping up on some canned green gages, which I hadent seen since the old Oolagah Indian Territory days. The Indians could have very easily have sold seats to the dance on the tops of their houses, for there must have been 25 hundred so-called white people there. But there was nothing that cost you a thing, outside of some soda pop and Vanilla Ice cream that had been hauled in the hundred and ten miles by some white man in a truck. The Indians if they ever get to see the dance themselves will have to have it some time when the white folks don’t know it’s to be held. As they would just move in on the roofs of the little low houses like the Hopis live in, and the Indians would all be fixed squatted there with his little brood to see the dance and the Tourists would just move in front of him in such numbers that he dident have any more chance of seeing what was going on in front of him than if he hadent been there.
They go out in the desert days before and catch these snakes. Then on the day of the dance they bring them into the dancing place, a kind of a square between houses on each side. The actual space that the white people leave to them is about 30 by fifty feet. There is a little thing like a shock of corn, or a tepee made of green bows, and bushes, and into that an old Indian takes a couple of gunny sacks full of the snakes. He stays in there and hands ’em out to the dancers as they go by. Each dancer carries one snake around for three circles, then he puts it down, just turns it loose, and it makes for the crowd, and there is three Indians that do nothing but catch the ones that are turned loose and they let ’em get almost into the crowd before grabbing ’em, and of all the screaming and hollering, some of these old blue racers go into the crowd so fast that they are out among the people before the catcher can get ’em.
Then the dancer goes by this little Tepee, and gets another snake. He takes it, (generally a rattle snake, and some big ones) in his hands and they all go through the same plan. He puts the snake’s neck, about four or five inches back of its head, into his own mouth, and then he takes his two hands and holds the body of the snake kinder out straight. He handles it exactly like a Saxophone. His hands are on the snake in the very same position as one’s hands on a saxophone, only it’s the neck and not the actual head that is in the mouth. Now we couldn’t tell if any got bit or not. If they did they dident let on.
There is one man behind each snake dancer who don’t have a snake. He looks like he is there to attract the snake’s attention in case he might want to bite. He himself is not near enough to be bit, so I guess he directs the snake where to bite the other fellow. Each dancer must have danced with as many as 10 snakes. There was about 20 taking part in the whole dance. At the finish they grab up all the snakes and run to the four corners of the compass, down over the hill, and turn the snakes loose. If the white people keep on interfering with the dance, I think they will turn ’em loose in their automobiles. That will take the snakes to the four corners of the earth.
These men train for this dance, as they fast for days, and then they drink some kind of a Bite preventative that makes them very ill afterwards, and that is supposed to discharge any poison, then they have a big feast, like our Athletes had during their stay in Amsterdam. It is a very impressive thing. There is nothing of the make believe or show angle to it. It is the greatest dramatic religious spectacle in this country. All the Indians are very courteous and obliging, while the whites are our usual arrogant but-Ins. It makes a great spectacle for there is hundreds of the Navajoes Indians there. They are the tall, lanky horsemen type, that live out with their stock all the time and not in villages at all. The Hopis all live together in towns. The dance is to get rain, and before the last snake was caressed, why it begin to rain. I just thought suppose our dances were made as an appeal to the divine for something, and they got what they deserved, the varsity drag would be followed by an earthquake, and the Charleston by maby a famine.
WA299 September 16, 1928
POLITICS IS A DISEASE
All I know is just what I read in the papers. And newspapers are at a mighty low ebb when they have to resort to Politics to keep ’em alive. Every four years we have Politics. Every seven years some people have the itch, in a malaria country every other day people are scheduled to have a chill, every forty years France and Germany fight, and there is just hundreds of these calamities that hit us every once in a while. But of all of them I think politics is really the most disastrous.
It hits a country like a pestilence. There is no telling where it will hit. People that you would think was smart and would know better are sometimes struck by it, and when they are they are as dumb as the dumb ones. This year, the churches are hit by it harder than usual. It has been the text of more sermons than the Lord’s Supper. A Minister can’t pray without asking divine assistance in the election of his man. Before he says Amen he takes a poll vote. Half the contributions go into the campaign funds. The Saviour was never asking more imploringly to enter politics than he is this year.
Course we have these things every four years but we don’t have ’em this bad. Most of the elections heretofore it dident matter much who was elected, except to the fellow drawing the salary, but this year we are due for a mental, moral and financial somersault. It just happened that they by accident named two men who were pretty well known to run this year. It generally takes to November to explain who each of their respective Candidates are. But this year each side went out and got a couple of headliners.
Hoover is known wherever Calamities are known. A National Catastrophe without Herbert wouldent make the Editorial page even. He has fed more hungry people than Childs restaurants. He has been in Coolidge Cabinet ever since Coolidge was old enough to have a Cabinet. He and Mellon have made Cabinets Popular.1
The Democrats even wanted to run him a few years ago on their side, but after looking them over and finding they had NO side at that time, why he just waited till he got a better offer.
And the Democrats they went stark crazy this time and did the right thing, by nominating a man “that needs no introduction.” He is a man that has worked steady even when his whole party was laying off. He seemed to have made himself so valuable that even the Republicans engaged him. He was born under the shade of Brooklyn Bridge, but he dident set in the shade long. He went out and got him a Political office, and every time he would see a little higher one with nobody sitting in it he would make a dive for it, and he has never had the chair pulled from under him yet. He is an emigrant in our Country that makes no claim of having arrived on the Mayflower. His father was a truckman and if he had lived he would have been kept busy just moving his son’s Derby hats from one Office to the next higher. He has defeated the Republicans in his home State so much that they don’t Nominate a Man against him anymore, they Draft him. They tell him, “You are not a Candidate, you are just a Victim.”
So it’s on account of having these men run that is causing all this excitement. Women are voting who havent left a Bridge game that long in years. The voting booths won’t be ballott boxes, they will be fashion parades. Milliners will sell millions of hats, just to be voted in. School children this year know the Candidates’ names. Children that ordinarily only know their fraternity yell. Why it don’t seem like a Political election, it seems more like a family quarrel. Thousands and thousands of new voters that don’t know a ballott from a laundry slip will be trying to write down their votes on November 4th.
Both are fine men and would run the Country perhaps equally as well. But if you listen to either side you would think that for either opponent to get in would be a return of the whole country to Slavery, Free Silver, “empty dinner pail,” long skirts, bustles, and suspenders. So that’s what makes this the prize calamity of all political time. Why we have got people that are really taking the whole thing serious. They think a President has got something to do with running the Country.
So we will just sit back and watch the smoke fly. And here is a funny thing even the Vice Presidential Candidates are well known and great fellows. And money, say that’s the thing that is bringing the big response. ‘The Democrats never had any money before, while this year they are right in the market for good A No. 1 votes.
Somebody is going to make some money out of Politics this year besides the politicians, and that just about what is making it an unusual political year. So don’t sell too quick, wait till you hear from the Democrats.
1For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 231:N 3.
WA300 September 23, 1928
LOOKING BACKWARD, FORWARD,
AND TO BOTH SIDES
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I see here and there. Been jumping around pretty lively lately. Left old Beverley and jumped back to New York to reherse a part in Dorothy Stone’s show.1
It’s the first time I ever did reherse. In all the Follies, I just generally had my specialty and dident have to learn any lines only the ones I would read every day in the papers. But this is a kind of a part. Course it’s not much of a part as acting goes, but I will have to learn the lines so the other Actors will know when their cue comes.
It’s all greek to me. I feel like a kid at his first school entertainment. Old New York looks just the same after an absence of about three years. Course I have played there every year, but only one night just like all the rest. But this will be my first stage engagement with a show since I left the Follies three years ago.
You know I believe a big City changes less than any other place. It’s been a many a year since I first went back there, but it don’t seem like there has been so many changes. You see it always was so big, that it just don’t seem like it can get any bigger. A street can just be so full of houses and it was full of them when I first saw it. Course, they change the houses every few years, but they all look about alike.
My first appearance in New York was at the old Madison Square Garden. It was during a horse show. Col. Zack Mulhall of Mulhall, Oklahoma, took a bunch of boys back there to work as an attraction during the show, and I stayed and went on the stage after the rest come home.2
It was in 1905. That’s twenty-three years ago. I hope Tom Mix don’t mind me telling that he was with us too.3
He has enough that he don’t have to worry about how old people might think he is.
Keith’s old Union Square on Fourteenth Street was the one where I made my first stage appearance.4
But it was at the Theatre where they sent me the second week where I made my best hit and stayed at it all summer. That was at the greatest Vaudeville theatre of that and all time. That was Hammerstein’s.5
I stayed on the roof one whole summer. We played on the roof at nights and down stairs at Matinee. We have never produced another showman like Willie Hammerstein, and the old man himself was living in those days and with what that Theatre made he was able to indulge in presenting Opera.
I used a horse on the stage then and had a Cowboy ride him across at a run and made catches on him as he run by. I had Sheriff Buck McKee with me.6
I wish I knew where Buck was. He was on a ranch in California some place the last I heard of him. Everybody in vaudeville knew Buck and Teddy, the pony.7
I did that type of act for over three years, during which time I went to Europe twice, played at the Wintergarden, Berlin, in 1907.
But wait, I am getting old and starting to reminence. I will be telling you how much better the performers were in those days than they are today if I keep on. But I must get back to my knitting and rehersing. Think of it though! Twenty-three years on the stage and never rehersed before!
Well, let’s cut out all this Old Time Hooey, and get down to present day scandal. I am paid to tell the truth about the Politicians, and not to drag in old times and tell what we used to do. Let’s get back to the Comedy. Raskob just come back from the west and says, “Al has the solid South, the Mushy east, the cracked North, and has a fighting chance in the Cuckoo west.”8
Senator Moses, not the Jewish one, but a kind a backslider and now perhaps it mere Baptist, says that Smith won’t carry his Brown Derby.9
That Hoover has the whole thing sowed up, and that the only reason they are going through with
the election is just because they have the ballots printed, and it’s a kind a holiday anyway.
Now that is the way those Birds rave on from day to day. You would think that everybody in America had gone to them and placed a bond and a guarantee the very way that they were going to vote. Did you ever see such assurance in your life? Everywhere they go, Moses only meets the Republicans. Naturally a Democrat wouldent be seen with him, and Raskob or whoever it is on the other side, everywhere they go, all they meet is the Democrats. Republicans have self respect and watch who they are caught with, so how in the world are they going to get an opinion?
Besides the man that announces who he is going to vote for generally is not registered, or perhaps his wife has not told him how he is to vote yet anyway. Any of those fellows don’t know any more about this election than the rest of us, and we don’t know anything. If both sides were as sure as they claim, why are they working so hard, and spending so much money? Those Guys like a dollar as well as the rest of us, and they wouldent be handing anything out to the Voter if they knew it was a cinch.
No sir, it’s a tough race. The Democrats not only have a good Candidate, but they got Money, which is better to have than a good Candidate. When there is money in an election it’s always doubtful. Well this old Burg of New York sure is ready to go the limit for Al. Coming from California here it’s pretty noticeable the difference in the sentiment. So if you get big odds either way take ’em, and don’t vote for nothing. They will pay you either way you want to vote. Well, I am glad I am back here among the excitement. New York election night will be worth mingling with.
1Dorothy Stone, American theatrical and motion picture actress; eldest daughter of Rogers’ close friend, Fred Stone. The Stones were to open in the East in Three Cheers, but Fred suffered serious injuries in an airplane accident and had to withdraw from the production. Rogers volunteered to take his place, although at great personal financial sacrifice. The show was a success.
2Zachary “Zack” Mulhall, Oklahoma cattle baron of the 1890s; pioneer rodeo and wild west showman.
3For Tom Mix see WA 233:N 2.
4Benjamin Franklin Keith, American theatrical manager who opened a chain of vaudeville theaters in the early 1900s.
5William “Willie” Hammerstein, picturesque American theatrical producer and manager whose Roof Garden Theater in New York City featured some of the most unusual and popular acts in vaudeville.
6Buck McKee, cowboy and reputedly one-time sheriff of Pawnee County, Oklahoma, who joined Rogers’ vaudeville act in 1905.
7Teddy, Rogers’ beloved trick show horse.
8John Jakob Raskob, American industrialist who resigned his executive position with General Motors Corporation in 1928 in order to serve as Democratic national chairman or the Smith campaign.
9For George H. Moses see WA 287:N 1.
WA301 September 30, 1928
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers, and back here in New York there is an awful lot of papers to read. But they are mostly pictures. New York newspapers don’t have reporters, all they have is photographers. Everything is done by pictures. They wouldent give a dime for the biggest story in the world if there was no pictures with it, for it would be no good, for their people couldent read it. So I sure have read a lot of pictures since I have been back here.
What they can’t read in the picture why they hear over the radio so there is no use knowing how to read reading any more. There must be a kind of a gentleman’s agreement between Smith and Hoover. They have divided up the air so that Smith has it Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and Hoover Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and you would think “Well that gives us Sundays without having to listen to any politics.”
But don’t you believe it, that’s when you get more politics than all the rest of the week combined. That’s when the preachers start lectioneering. They all start out by saying, “The church should not enter into politics.” But, then they try to show how in their case it is different, that they are not entering politics, they are just advising, that people are so flighty nowadays that if they are not advised properly why they are so apt to be lead astray by the opposition.
Smith started out a couple of weeks ago and made what he thought was a trip around the world. I bet he had no more idea this country was that big or he would never had the nerve to say he would try to govern it. He hit Omaha first. He made a farm relief speech there. The poor farmers have had more oratorical relief than monetary.
Smith brought out one pretty clever thing in that speech, that was showing that the Republican farm relief plank was exactly the same in the 1924 Convention and in the 1928. They hadent even gone to enough trouble for the farmer to re-word their promise. It just looked like they said, “Well what did we promise him last election?” “Oh, we promised him relief.” We’ll do as well for him this time, promise it to him again. As long as we don’t give it to him we can keep on promising.
Well Al nailed ’em on that, but of course they will squirm out of it some way by saying they was just on the verge of giving him relief when something happened. But the old farmer up north, he will go right to the polls on November sixth and vote the Republican ticket, and the old farmer down South will go and vote the Democratic ticket. Now will you tell me why those two should not be on the same side politically? What does the farmer in the North want that the Republican party can give him, that his brother in the South wants that the Democrats can give him. Why ain’t they on the same side?
They both raise corn and oats; they both have to buy wagons and plows. They both want to sell what they raise for as much as they can get for it, and buy the same things for as little as they can. Now, I don’t know if they should be Republicans or Democrats, but it does look like they should be on the same side. The only reason I can see is they fought against each other in ’65, so that made one a Democrat and one a Republican. So if they still harbor that feeling then there is no reason why they should get relief. When they can’t agree among themselves, how do they ever expect to get anything? So I don’t blame the parties from not helping them.
Now, here is the Southern Farmer lined up with Tammany Hall. Now, what have Tammany Hall and any farmer got in common? Then, here is the Northern Farmer lined up with Wall Street and big business. Now, why should they be together? The farmer don’t want to borrow any money. Borrowing is what put him in the hole he is in today. The government was always figuring out where he could borrow more. But they never figured out where he could pay something back.
Now, there is a real reason why farmers or country people should be in one political party and city people in another. They have different interests, different needs, different things to sell and hundreds of different wants and customs. But why the Northern Farmer and the Northern City fellow should be allied against the Southern Farmer and the Southern City fellow—that is beyond sane understanding.
That should be the legitimate alignment of politics, is the country against the city. Tariff don’t divide the two parties any more. Smith is explaining his lead off that if he gets in they won’t do away with the tariff, so it would just drive a person pretty near crazy to dope out really what does divide the two. Outside of one being in and wanting to stay in, and the other being out and wanting to get in. Prohibition can’t be the dividing line, for it is so arranged that both sides get all that they want. Prosperity don’t divide the two parties, for under either administration the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. Prosperity is only a question of giving a guy time to get it. So the whole things it looks like goes back to the Civil War. The boys are still fighting it and don’t know it.