Will Rogers' Weekly Articles
WA354 October 6, 1929
WILL BUMS AROUND
Well all I know is just what I run into as I prowl around. I was a sitting around home after finishing an “Audible” and as it was to appear with a sort Ballyhoo opening why I figured I better kinder take to the woods till the effects kinder blew over.1
I wanted ’em to kinder fumigate around before I appeared in person back home. Well then the thought come where will I go. Now just offhand that is more of a problem than you would think. Here you are with some time on your hands, have to get out of town. But nowhere in particular to go. In fact you could go wherever you wanted, so where?
Well naturally my first thoughts was back to see the old Home folks back in Oklahoma. My Wife had just returned from a visit there with my folks and over into Arkansaw with hers. But I had not been there for, well since I was on my way from the Republican Convention in Kansas City to the other one in Houston last summer. The children were all getting started in school, which of course was her job anyhow and not mine getting them off, so I announced that Father for perhaps the first time in his life was just out for some travel, sun and amusement.
Will Rogers relaxing while reading Homer Croy’s They Had to See Paris. Rogers starred in the 1929 motion picture based on the best selling novel.
Rogers and Fifi D’orsay in a scene from the film They Had to See Paris (Fox Film Corporation, 1929), based on the novel by Homer Croy.
Just think, going somewhere. Dident have to go at any certain time, dident have to make some Town to lecture the people out of anything on any certain night, dident have to make a Show at eight o’clock in New York. I just dident have to do nothing. Well of course my mind turned to Planes. Well the Western Air Express gets you further from Los Angeles in one day than any other, so I called ’em up and told ’em to reserve me a seat the following morning. (Oh I tell you I work fast when I decide to step out.) They told me we left for Kansas City at five o’clock in the morning. Well that’s pretty early to be woke up and shoved on an Aeroplane and it still dark, but I made it. And the Plane was full 10 or twelve people. There was some Boys and Girls on there that were going back to their homes who had made a ten thousand mile trip as the Guests of the Western Air Express Co. on their Planes. They had won a Song Title Contest, in their respective Citys all over the Country. I had always wondered what kind of people it was that answered Puzzles and entered all Newspaper contests. It was a kind of a mania that I couldent hardly see what would drive ’em to it. But do you know they was an awful normal bunch. Old ones, young ones, School Boys and men with good jobs. All had answered some add and sent in a Title for a song. You would have been surprised what a rational crowd it was, Awfully normal. One Girl in the bunch who tried to make love and DID to all the rest.
We had a fine trip, the Pilot in flying over where the accident was tried to point it out but was not able to find it.2
It was in a very bad territory and with a storm and a fog on, why you could see that it was an accident that could be accounted for in no way only by the elements. It was just one of those unfortunate things that had to happen like some are killed by Earthquakes and lightning. But it don’t mean that we are going to abolish either one of those.
I got off in Wichita at eight o’clock that same evening. Just think across the whole width of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and most of Kansas, and a corner of Oklahoma, all in one day. Staid there all night, then on a regular, organized line, on a regular daily schedule from there down to Tulsa, Oklahoma, and by the way saw more Planes and more Aerial activity there than at any field I have ever visited. Was met by my Sister and driven to her home in Chelsea.3
Well for the next few days I did nothing but just visit around with all my folks and old Cronies, made no dates, just get in the car and go see ’em. The family couldent get over the idea that there was not some place I had to rush to make a Lecture date every night.
I received a wire from my Wife from California saying the picture had opened and I could come home, that’s all the wire said. So you see we got two Comedians in the family. Left Tulsa in a fast single motored Lockhead Viga, with Oklahoma’s favorite Pilot Robert Cantwell, stopped at Fort Reno a beautiful old Fort that I had always wanted to see.4
They were having a big Polo tournament there, among the best Army teams and the best Civilian ones in the middle west. They are doing a great work there. It’s the Government Remount station and they are keeping up the breeding and caliber of our Army Horses and also of the whole country.
Next was an old Friend’s ranch away out in western Texas, where if it hadent been for Planes, I would never have been able to spare the time to make the trip. Then I degenerated down to the speed of a car. Another old Cowpuncher Cronie loaded me in his car, (as this Plane that had brought me out had gone back to Tulsa) and he and I drove from Amarillo Texas to Cimmaron New Mexico. We was half of one night, up at five o’clock and most of the day. Could have made it in a Plane in three hours. But did enjoy looking at all the ranches. Cattle was never fatter, and grass was never better.
The old Staked Plains that we used to think wouldent raise a thing but grass has farms all over it. But there is still some tremendous ranches, for lots of them have blocked up and bought outright big tracts of land. There is several of a Quarter and half million acres each. My friend had a big Horse ranch away up in the mountains and we rode and looked at horses and lots of wild game for two days. All this time I was just going where I wanted too, and doing what I wanted too. Had nowhere to go, or no particular time to get there. Finally I says I better go home, cause I got to make another one. So into Raton New Mex by car, then by train down to Albequrque where I would catch one of the transcontinental air lines into Los Angeles. Left Albequrque at eleven o’clock in the morning, landed at Los Angeles at four thirty. So I finished ten days of just Bumming. Course it was high class “Bumming” but it was bumming never the less.
1They Had to See Paris, Rogers’ first “talkie,” had its world premiere in Los Angeles on September 18, 1929.
2An airliner crashed in western New Mexico during a storm on September 8, 1929, killing all eight persons aboard.
3Sallie Clementine Rogers McSpadden, a sister of Will Rogers; wife of John Thomas “Tom” McSpadden, rancher of Chelsea, Oklahoma.
4Robert Westmoreland “Bobby” Cantwell, early Oklahoma aviator who flew as an executive pilot for oilmen and as a private transport flier.
WA355 October 13, 1929
THE CHANGING MOVIES
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers. I got home a week ago from prowling around in the various states visiting relatives and old friends and what had been going on in Hollywood during my absence. My picture had opened amid no casualties and I had been practically forgiven for it; wasent bad enough to shoot or good enough to cheer. Went over to the studio and our general manager showed me the new “grandeur” screen.
That is you can’t take one old bed sheet and tack it up on the wall and throw some movies on it. This is a great big thing as broad as a Gettysburg painting that covers the whole of the opening of the theatre. It’s about two and a half times the width of the old screen. It has to be taken with a different camera and it has to be projected with a different projecting machine and the width of the film is just about twice what the other was.
They say it will speed up the movies as it will take in so much territory that it will do away with the old idea of continually cutting to a “close-up.” That when a scene is being played and there is a bunch of people that you will have to get over your “emotions” all at once and in the same picture, that they won’t cut to each of you in a close-up.
I sho will be glad of that for I sho do hate those close-ups. When those old wrinkles commence coming and the old mane is turning snowy, why we don’t want either cameras or people to commence to crowd us.
This broad screen thing looks like almost as big an innovation as the new talkies were. You just get twice as much to look at as you used to. Then the color thing is coming along fine, where they are going to get our natural complexion right in the camera, without artificial coloring after the film is taken.
Oh we are just getting so many new things that you almost have to go every night to get ’em. A theater no more than gets in one type of apparatus than it has to start installing another one. They have more workmen in the theaters now than they have audiences. Everybody that can speak above a whisper is out here to have their voice invoiced.
The old town is just a-humming. Broadway, New York, has moved out spats and dogs. This talking picture craze has got more actors out of New York than “Abie’s Irish Rose” did.1
They come thinking the screen actor can’t talk. Say, the screen actor can talk, but nobody ever listened to him before.
He has been speaking words in these things for years, but nobody heard him but the crew. You know, after all, talk is not exactly a new industry among any Americans. Talk was the best thing we did. And when a chance come along to record it for prosperity (posterity means people two weeks later), why, we just snapped at the chance.
I was over to the studio today and who do I run onto but little Ann Pennington.2
I hadent seen her in years since we used to work together in the “Follies.” She has collected more money off her knees than most people have off their heads. My wife always said that Ann was the only woman that had a child’s leg. So you see it’s not only me in the family that’s high on Ann’s underpinning.
Not only actors but writers are all out here. Ben Ames Williams, that you all have read after in the Saturday Evening Post so much, is here.3
He wrote the finest story it was ever my privilege to work in. That was one called “Jubilo,” where I played a tramp.
It was the only story ever made out here where there was no scenario made. We just shot the scenes from the various paragraphs in the story in the Saturday Evening Post. When we took a scene we just marked it off and went on the next.
I think, and he verified it, that it was the only story ever made that was absolutely filmed as it was written. Here is the big novelty to it: We dident change his main title either! They will film the Lord’s Supper and when it is made figure that that is not a good release title and not catchy enough, so it will be released under the heading, “A Red Hot Meal” or “The Gastronomical Orgy.”
I passed a theater down by the ranch the other night and we wanted to go in and had intended to, but what stared us in the face but something like “Fast Company” or some such idiotic title and we just drove on. A few days later the children got to talking about a good and funny picture they had seen, a baseball picture. I got to asking them about it. It was the one by Ring Lardner, the “Elmer, the Great” play, based on his famous stories of the rookie in baseball.4
Andy Tombs and I had done a sketch in the “Follies” of ’22 that Ring wrote that was the nucleus of this play.5
Well, here this thing called “Fast Company” and featuring some girl was nothing but “Elmer The Great.” Now I know that title they had drove out more people than it ever brought in.
So no matter what famous book you have read and want to see in the pictures, why you better start going into every theater you come to. Don’t look up at the title, for “Pationate Pal” may be just what you was looking for as “Romeo and Juliet” or “She Stoops to Conquer” may reach your corner labeled “Baby You Are a Wow.” Sometimes you just think there ain’t enough crazy titles to go round and that when they end, that will be the finish of pictures.
But really the whole business is flourishing and weddings were never more at a premium. Divorces permeate the air. High-powered roadsters are skitting here and yon. Beach houses are closed and the sand is covering up the old bottles. There will be little to recognize the old place in a few weeks. It and Wall Street are two businesses you can’t explain.
1Abie’s Irish Rose, one of the longest running plays in the history of Broadway theatrical productions. Anne Nichols wrote the comedy, which opened on May 23, 1922, and played before approximately two million theater-goers during its lengthy run.
2Anne Pennington, American dancer who often performed in the Ziegfeld Follies and who won fame as the dancer with the “dimpled knees.”
3Ben Ames Williams, American novelist and short story writer whose works include All the Brothers Were Valiant and Audacity.
4Ringgold Wilmer “Ring” Lardner, American humorist, novelist, playwright, and short story writer, famous for his baseball and other sports tales; author of Big Town, What of It?, and Round Up.
5Andrew “Andy” Tombes, American vaudevillian and motion picture character actor, active in the entertainment business until his retirement in 1955.
WA356 October 20, 1929
WILL EXPLAINS ‘GRUNDY’
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. It sure was fine the way America responded to somebody that had some vague connection with labor. It was really an inspiration to our Politicians to see the way Ramsey worked even while here.1
He made a mighty fine impression, and his evidently charming daughter was a tremendous hit over here. Just when we were on the verge of having our Women reach for “Henry Clay” instead of a dish rag, why this Girl comes along and announced that she dident smoke, chew, dip, Powder or rouge, and she “dident take care of her Father.” Well that knocked American society right back on its flasks, and had the old Dem-me monde breaking their Lornogettes trying to pick flaws in her complexion. If England have got any more like her, and I imagine they have, why we could use ’em over here. Not that we haven’t got a lot of that type. But we got a lot that would be that type if they were sure that they could get anywhere by being that way. For the painted Dolls and the Ga-Ga Girls have kinder grabbed off all the paying boys here lately. But we got many an old fashioned one that will be in at the payoff.
Course here is one thing you got to keep in mind on all this disarmament thing. Mr. McDonald is for it, Mr. Hoover is for it. But it takes years to get ships sunk, or even plans scrapped. Now there is one thing about England’s Government where they are more Democratic than ours. When a Guy don’t suit there is no waiting five years to oust him. The minute the majority are at outs with the reigning Premier, why they can call for a new election and he is out, maby before he had time to learn where the ice box is at 10 Downing Street.
Then, even over here you know what three years will bring in the way of a change of opinion. Well what I am getting at by the time all these marvelous plans are about to be in effect why neither of these men might be in power. Most of this is their ideas. But who knows what the next men’s ideas are that might follow them in these two high offices? You know it is not just everybody in the World, (and that may include quite a few smart people) that think the best way to never have any more wars is not to have any Navy.
It’s going to be an awful good tax saving thing, the same as economy in any other line of business would be good tax saving. But they are conscientious men, and let us hope that they are followed by men of the same high type. You can’t get nothing without trying, and if no effort is made toward peace why we can’t expect any.
Well now what else has rolled over the old Press since last we communed? Why nothing but the Tarriff.
Our old friend Grundy.2
(And by the way I get more communications wanting to know who this Grundy is that I am always boosting to the skies.) Well Mr. Grundy is kinder the Federal Reserve of the Standpat Republican Party. When the boys need a little more nourishment in the way of some financial fodder for the forthcoming election, why Mr. Grundy is the Lad that OK’s the shipment out to the needy Senator, and his benefations have been known to reach as far down as a mere Representative in Congress.
“Yes, I know, but where does Grundy get all this?” Children, What was the first thing you learned about Politics at school? It was that Politics was business wasent it? That is that it was advertised under the heading of idealism, but that it was carried out under the heading of business, and the bigger the business the bigger the politician.
Now the great State of Pennsylvania houses many manafacturing concerns, don’t it? It’s a rich State. Well everybody in Pennsyl vania that makes anything have joined in a Giant Society. That is, everybody but the Farmer. He is not a member. He is just a campaign slogan.
He is just the fellow that they are “Going to help” every four years. He would join a Society, but he don’t make enough to get in. But everybody that makes things, I don’t mean that makes things you need, I mean the ones that makes things that you buy. Well they got a Society and they got to have a President. Well, right there is where Mr. Grundy comes in. He not only comes in, but those Republicans have the door open if he even looks like he is going to pass within a block.
I knew you was going to ask, “What is Grundy doing in Washington?” That is where his offices are.
“What’s his offices doing in Washington when he is President of the Manafactures Association of Pennsylvania?
Why ain’t they in Pennsylvania?” Say, Grundy has more offices in Washington than Hoover. Hoover only tells the Senate what they should do. Grundy tells ’em what they will do.
“Well, what’s the answer? What’s it all about?’”
It’s all about the tarriff. Grundy has a list of everything made in Pennsylvania. (That is all that are paid up.) He sends that list to the Senate, and then the tarriff is changed.
“What do you mean it’s changed?”
Why, it’s raised.
“Why is it raised?”
Because Grundy sent the list.
“Can’t they raise anything that’s not on Grundy’s list?”
They can but they never have.
“Well why don’t Grundy run for the Senate?”
Would you get out of the driver’s seat to go down and pull with the other horses?
“But I see by the papers here lately that they are to investigate Guys like Grundy.”
There is no Guys like Grundy, he is in a class by himself.
“Well they are going to investigate ’em anyway.”
Yes investigate them, but not Grundy.
“Well who will they investigate then?”
Why Guys that Grundy puts on his list for ’em to investigate.
“Well this Grundy must be quite a fellow then.”
Quite a fellow. There in only one man stronger.
“Who is that?”
1J. Ramsay MacDonald (see WA 344:N 2), accompanied by his elder daughter, Ishbel, made an official visit to the United States in October of 1929.
2For Joseph R. Grundy see WA 332:N 2.
WA357 October 27, 1929
ALL THIS FUNNY POLITICS
Well all I know is just what I read in the reading papers. Ramsey left us and everybody predicted that there wouldent be any war at least till after the next disarmament Conference.1
He made a mighty fine human speech over the radio before he left and it made him lots of more friends if that was possible.
Then come the World Series and that knocked the tarriff, the Investigations, Shearer and Aimee’s argument with a Precher right off the front page while the series was on.2
Even Mr Hoover got all warmed up and bothered over it and went clear to Philadelphia to see the last game. If he had just let ’em know they would have brought one of the games to Washington. He had been the first person to make a special trip to Philadelphia since the time those two people took in the Susqui-Centenial there. They put him on a fine game and plenty of excitement. Connie Mack arranged it so his boys wouldent make any home runs till along about the last inning.3
He even had ’em wait til one man was out. Then he told the Boys, “Go ahead and get back to normal.” So they all started hitting. Chicago played a fine set of games and if they could have played indoors where the sun dident shine they would have perhaps won. But Connie Mack had it arranged so they would start the game at a time when the sun was right in the center fielder’s eyes at that particular time of day, and he made all his Boys knock them to Hack.4
If they had knocked ’em to anybody else they would have got caught. But Hack lost them in the sun, and it really was not his fault at all. But it was a fine series and The National League really come back into its own. They dident win but they got one game that is more than they have done in the last two previous series. Hoover going there was a big boost for the whole game. He took his whole Cabinet with him, so in case the tarriff come up and they had to vote on it why he would have them there with him. None of them were busy so there was no time lost by them going away. Lots of them had never been off the train in Philadelphia before and a good time was had by all.
The Senate wanted to go but they wasent invited gratis, so they started an investigation instead to see what was the matter with a Man like Connie Mack that he stopped the World series so quick and not grab off that dough.
But after it was all over and I read about the Cubs coming home I don’t know when I ever felt so sorry for anyone in my life. You know when all is said and done I doubt if any club ever had so many lucky breaks come their way at the very right moment as the Athletics did. And there really wasent that much difference in the two teams.
But let’s see what the Government is doing, Baseball only operates in the summer but Senatorial Investigations go on all the time. The one about finding out who is a Lobbyist and who is a Bootlegger in Washington has started now and that will be the best one of the bunch. There is no law against Lobbying any more than there is against a man going out and trying to get votes for the Senators when they are running for office. It is simply a case of trying to convince someone that this or that is the best thing under the circumstances. But Washington is going to investigate them and see how they make this living. For it looks like a terrible easy graft, and during the investigations will be brought out perhaps the finer points of Lobbying. Then of course Shearer will be led out again. They dropped that while Mr McDonald was here so Shearer could go to some of the dinners. But they will put on a second edition of that investigation now, and you will hear some good ones from him when he starts in questioning those Senators. There will be no chance to get any legislation through Congress as all the Senators are on investigation Committees and they will never have a Quorum.
Mr Hoover went out and made a fine address at the Ford Factory for Mr Edison.5
That’s about the first running around he has done. He even brought his fishing right near home.
That was a great affair they had for Mr Edison. He had no idea when he invented that all day Lantern that it would lead to so much Glory and confusion. He just invented it because he needed it to work by. It was appropraite that Mr Ford should give him that great celebration for it was through Mr Edison’s electricity that Mr Ford was able to get those things started without breaking an arm.6
Then they have always been great friends. They go out camping and fishing together. They lost one of their old Cronies, Mr Burroughs, the Naturalist.7
He went along to show ’em where to camp and tell them what the names of the trees were, and all the Birds. Then Mr Firestone would be along and he would show ’em what tires to put on. Mr Harding used to go with ’em. They never could get Mr Coolidge out with ’em. He kinder watched his company. He was afraid to be seen with so much wealth, it might lead to a bad impression by the voters. They might think he was listening to a Lobby.
But it was a wonderful thing for us to have lived in this age and have seen in person this great man Edison. For he will get bigger and bigger as the years go by and our Grandchildren won’t believe it when we say “Why yes your old Granddad saw him right on the street, passed right by him. Think of that Lad, saw him with my own eyes.”
1For J. Ramsay MacDonald see WA 344:N 2 and WA 356:N 1.
2William B. Shearer, American shipping lobbyist, naval expert, and proponent of United States preparedness. Shearer, who attended an international disarmament conference in 1927 as an observer for the American ship-building industry, was accused of working to break up the conference. The Senate Naval Affairs Committee conducted an investigation and early in 1930 cleared Shearer of all allegations. For Aimee Semple McPherson see WA 344:N 6.
3Connie Mack (Cornelius McGillicuddy), American professional baseball player and manager; manager of the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901 to 1950.
4Lewis Robert “Hack” Wilson, American professional baseball player who starred in the outfield for the Chicago Cubs from 1926 to 1931; renowned as a home run hitter.
5Thomas Alva Edison, American inventor and scientist, famous for such innovations and improvements as incandescent electric lamp, the phonograph, and the microphone. Edison, who celebrated his eighty-second birthday in 1929, was the honored guest at a Golden Jubilee of Light celebration hosted by Henry Ford at Dearborn, Michigan, on October 21.
6For this and all further references to Henry Ford see WA 351:N 5.
7John Burroughs, American naturalist and essayist who died in 1921. Among his nature works are Wake-Robin, Bird and Bough, and Field and Study.
8Harvey Samuel Firestone, American industrialist who organized and built Fire- 228 Weekly Articles, Volume 4 1929 stone Tire and Rubber Company.
WA358 November 3, 1929
THAT DEARBORN PARTY
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers or what I see as I prowl from hither to yon. Well the first of last week I had the finest and most remembered day I ever had in my life. It was what the advertising man would call a Red Letter day. I had received by Air Mail a lovely engraved invitation from Mr Henry Ford and his Son Edsel to be present at Dearborn at the celebration of Mr Edison’s.1 So grab the old Plane and reserve passage and away I went.
Got there on Monday morning the day of the big doings. Was first taken to the hotel and then the Guests were sent to Dearbon. Mr Hoover come in by train from Washington and he and his party was transferred to an old time wood burner Engine train on the Port Huron railroad. It was the same one Mr Edison used to work on. He was what was called a News Butch, that is he sold everything, papers candy and all that.
Well he even as a young boy was of an inventive mind. He use to keep his junk in the baggage car, and along with it a lot of chemicals and tools that he would experiment with. Well one of the first things he invented was setting a train on fire from the baggage car while it was in motion. It had never been done before, and they dident leave him on the job long enough to ever repeat the experiment. The experiment worked and he left.
Well Sir do you know this man Ford has reproduced that whole thing, the train, the little depot where he was fired. They put on everything but the fire and would have done that if Mr Edison had just had some matches. Mr. Hoover and Party were on the train. Mr Edison was in his old role of Candy butch. He went through the cars crying his wares. The President took a peach, charged it to the Republican Pennsylvania tarriff Commission. Charley Schwab bought a joke book from him, for which all audiences will be grateful.2 Then when they got off at the depot there was a whole town of that early period reproduced.
There was dozens of Cabs with horses hitched to ’em, and they hauled everyone all around from one place to another. It was drizzling a little light rain all day. But no one noticed that.
The President and Mrs. Hoover had to be down in the City of Detroit, as they were to be paraded through the streets of the city, and they insisted on it being in an open car. Mrs Hoover was smiling through the rain dripping off an unpowdered nose. They risked Phneumonia but they saved Michigan to the Republican Party. It made a big hit with everybody, them going through with the program as they did regardless of the weather.
Mr Edison of course was taken back to Mr Ford’s home to rest for the night festivities. Then the riff raff of Guests were left pretty well to themselves to just wander from one place to another in this old remade village. In this class was prowling around in the rain and all having lunch in an old time Inn, was such undesirables as Young John D. Rockefeller, the President of every railroad from the Cotton Belt down, Mr Otto Kahn, who retails Art at so much a Box at the Metropolitan Opera.3 He was the only one with Spats on. Judge Lindsey was advocating to a bunch of Automo bile Manafacturers, Chrysler, Irskine, Fishers, and Briggs.4
They had an old Store with it all stocked up with the very things that they used to have in ’em, cracker boxes, Cheese for the local rats, rolls of Calico, boxes of old brogan boots.
I saw an old fellow looking it all over mighty minutley and I went up and got in conversation with him, and who do you think it was? It was Julius Rosenwald, the great Philantrophist and head of Sears Roebuck, the man who sells more stuff in a year than any man living.5 Here he was looking over this old store, and maby you think he wasent getting a kick out of it. We bummed around a good deal together there the rest of the day. I was trying to see if I couldent nick him for an appropriation for “Starving Actors whose voice dident register well,” He was interested in my charity, but finally decided that they should be radio announcers.
But it was just a joy to see just hundreds of the men that we read about all the time in every big activity going on, well here they were just bumming around, everything they looked at it must have brought back old memories, for after all pretty near all of our big men are country or small town boys. There was the old school house where Henry Ford had gone to school, with the original benches, an old mill, an old church. In bringing the old Labratory of Mr Edison’s from Milo Park, New Jersey, he had even brought a dozen or more car loads of Jersey clay. This old red sticky stuff, and had it around the front of the labratory and Mr Edison noticed it too. It was I think one of the greatest thoughts and the most perfectly carried out things ever attempted in America. All these great financiers and men of big affairs just felt like kids at a County fair.
It was marvelous, and the dinner that night in an exact reproduction of the old Liberty Hall in Philadelphia. There was real splendor and old time magnificience. I heard all of them say that it was the greatest banquet in every respect that was ever held. And the old Gentleman made a fine little talk, the longest perhaps in his entire career. I was sitting near his son and he told me that his Father had been worried about it for weeks and had even practiced it, but could never quite get through it. He did that night, but he was overcome with emotion at the end, which made it all the more wonderful. Mr. Ford was persuaded on to rise, but he wouldent speak, but he certainly got a rousing hand. The only sad note of the day was that one of Edsel Ford’s children was very sick with diptheria that day and he or his charming wife was not present at all.
But it was a proud day for Henry Ford, and it was a great treat to everybody else. Just think we all got something worth while to hand down to our grandchildren. It will be like men living today who saw Lincoln. “Say you kids asking about that wonderful man, Edison? Why I lived when he did. I have seen him pass by with my own eyes! Say you little Brats, your old Granddad lived when there was Real men”.
1Edsel Bryant Ford, president of Ford Motor Company from 1919 to 1943; only son of Henry Ford. For Thomas A. Edison see WA 357:N 5.
2Charles Michael Schwab, American industrialiast who founded Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1904.
3John Davison Rockefeller, Jr., son and namesake of the Standard Oil Company magnate (see WA 351:N 5); manager of the family philanthropies. Otto Hermann Kahn, German-born American financier who was a partner in the powerful banking firm of Kuhn, Loeb & Company of New York City from 1897 until his death in 1934.
4Benjamin Barr Lindsey, American jurist and social reformer; proponent of the juvenile court system and “companionate marriage.” Walter Percy Chrysler, American automobile manufacturer. A former president of Buick Motor Company, he later founded and headed Chrysler Corporation. Albert Russel Erskine, American industrialist who headed Studebaker Corporation, manufacturer of automobiles, from 1915 until his death in 1933 Albert Fisher, American industrialist who was a major manufacturer of car bodies and trucks. Walter Owen Briggs, American manufacturer of automobile bodies; president of Briggs Manufacturing Company from 1909 to 1937
5Julius Rosenwald, American merchant and philanthropist; president of Sears, Roebuck & Company from 1910 to 1925.
WA359 November 10, 1929
BEATING WALL STREET
Well all I know is just what I read in the Papers. Awful lot of news percolating here and there. This Stock market thing has spoiled more appetites lately than bad cooking. Some fellow named Roger Babson a month or two ago predicted that lightning was going to strike the margins, and because it dident do it the day his warning come out, why they all give Roger the laugh and said “This Country is too big and prosperous to have any let up in prices.”1 Well it looked like Roger had pulled a bone and he had to stand for a lot of kidding. But as the old saying, “He who laughs along toward the finish, generally carries more real merriment in his tones.” So as things have turned out why it looks like the whole market has just tried to help Roger Babson make a sucker out of his detractors.
Now that Stock Market is all a puzzle to me. I never did mess with it. One time in New York last year when everybody was just raking in money with a shovel, so they all told me, well Eddie Cantor the Actor of Jewish contraction, I had known and been a friend of Eddie’s for many years and I was hearing that Eddie was piling up a fortune that Rockefeller couldent vault over.2 So I hold out some dough on Mrs. Rogers out of the weekly stipend and I go over to the New Amsterdam Theatre one night and call on Eddie.
When I was admitted I felt like a Racketeer that had finally gained admission to J.P. Morgan’s sanctum.3 Eddie thought I had come to persuade him to play a benefit for some improvedent christians, (as I had often done with him in the past). But when I quietly whispered to him that I wanted him to make a few dollars without telling jokes for them, (or what went for jokes) I told him about the amount that I had been able by judicious scheming to nick from Mrs. Rogers. Knowing her he wouldent believe that I had been so shrewd, and immediately he said “you don’t need me, just keep this thing up and grab it off from her. What does it matter whether you make it from Wall Street or her?
But I told him I wanted to get in on this skinning of Wall Street. Everybody was doing it and I wanted to be in at the killing. I dident have anything particular against Wall Street, but knowing the geographical and physical attributes of the Street, I knew that it was crooked. (You can stand at the head of it, and you can only see to the bend. It just won’t let you see all of it at once as short as it is). I just said to myself I would like to be with the bunch that has the credit of straightening this Alley out.
Well Eddie had just that day made fifty thousand according to closing odds on the last commodity. I says show me the fifty. He then explained to me that he hadent the money, that that’s what he could have made if he had sold. But he hadent sold, as tomorrow he should make at least another fifty, or even if he only made 49 why it would help pay for burnt cork. Then he explained the stock market to me in a mighty sensible way, he told me who had told him this, but anyhow it had repeated well, so I will repeat it to you.
The Stock market is just like a sieve, (one of those pans with holes in it). Everything and everybody is put into it, and it is shaken, and through the holes go all the small stuff. Then they load it up again and maby hold it still for awhile and then they start shaking again and through the little investors go. They pick themselves up, turn bootlegger or do something to get some more money, and then they crawl back in the hopper and away they go again.
Well that made a mighty pretty Scenario. But I said, that’s only the Boobs that go through the hole. I am going to grab a root and hang on with the big boys. He dident much want to take my money, knowing how hard I had worked for it, both from the Theatre Manager and Mrs. Rogers.
But I went on telling him I was 49 years and had never in my life made a single dollar without having to chew some gum to get it. So he says, “Well I will buy you some of my bank stock. It’s selling mighty high and with this little dab you got here you won’t get much of it, but it’s bound to go up, for banks make it whether the market goes up or down. Even if it stand still they are getting their interest while it’s making up its mind what to do.”
So he said I will get you some of this. You don’t need to pay me for it, just let it go. Put it away and forget about it. Then some day when you want you can send me a check for it.
Well I shook hands and told him that I had always known and said that he was the greatest Comedian on the stage but now I knew that he was best financier we had in our profession. Well I went back to my own dressing room at my Theatre and I never was as funny in my life as I was that night. I had Wall Street by the tail and a down hill run.
I stayed up the next night till the papers come out to see what OUR Bank had closed at, and after reading it stayed up the rest of the night wondering if Eddie could possibly be wrong. Well one little drop brought on another, till one day I received a letter from Eddie’s Broker saying my check would come in mighty handy and for me please remit undernamed amount.
Well in the meantime I had used most of the money celebrating the fact that I had bought the stock. In fact I had really spent most of it in advertising Eddie and his humatarian qualities. Each night I begin to get unfunnier and unfunnier. This strain of being “In the Market” was telling on me. Eddie could laugh at a loss and still remain Komical. But when there was a minus sign before my lone stock, I just was not unctious. I dident want to tell Eddie. But finally I sent for his personal Aide De Camp and told him that on the morrow when the market opened, among those desiring to dispose, I would be among those present. I got out with a very moderate loss. Next day it went up big. But the whole thing is no place for a weak hearted Comedian, and from now on when Eddie wants to help me, he can just give me some of his old jokes.
1Roger Ward Babson, American businessman, statistician, and business prognosticator.
2Eddie Cantor, American vaudeville, burlesque, theatrical, motion picture, and radio comedian. For John D. Rockefeller, Sr., see WA 351:N 5.
3For J. P. Morgan, Jr., see WA 340:N 7.
WA360 November 17, 1929
Well all I know is just what I read in the Advertisements. Been a lot of Scandal in the last few weeks including elections all over the Country. New York’s of course attracted quite a little attention, but was no surprise to anyone when Walker won by half a million.1 One big fight was in Virginia. The Civil War was the issue there and the Confederates won, Bishop Cannon turned his pulpit into a rostrum and wound up with the minority.2
Kentucky threw out a mess of Republicans that had accidentally got in during the boom days. Another Dinner Scandal in Washington. When Mr Hoover was pouring tea for Mr. and Mrs. Dawes why it seems that the invitation of Senator Hiram Johnston was misplaced, perhaps purposely, and instead of Hi getting into the White House why he had to eat with some Democrats in the Capitol Restaurant.3 Well that brought up a big scene out here in California. Our Papers played it up very big. For they are both home town boys, both members of the same club, (Republican).
These Lads seem to have had different views for some time past. When they come west looking for a President why naturally Mr Johnston couldent see why they had to pass his house on the search. He was in Washington and wouldent have to move his things far, and it looked like a good move all around. But the Republicans always claimed that while Hiram was carrying a Republican labor card, he was at heart for the open shop, and they claimed that everything they started he would not only disapprove of, but he would even go so far as to lend his support to the Democrats. Well that’s one thing the Republicans won’t forgive. They can excuse you being against them, for in their heart they know that you are right, but when you go and throw that support to the Democrats, that’s the last straw.
So along comes Mr Hoover and naturally he had some ideas of what he would like to have done in the way of Civic good for the entire Commonwealth. But every time he would suggest something why Hiram was there with the veto. Mr Hoover would suggest fishing in Virginia, and Mr Johnston would suggest that he fish in California. Mr Hoover suggested relief for the Farmer, Mr Johnston suggested Relief was what put the Farmer where he is now.
Then the Tarriff come up and for awhile they dident know how to disagree on it for neither knew how the other stood on it. But it finally worked out satisfactory to each of them, they disagreed. I can understand this invitation being lost in the mail.
Now that bring us down to Senator Brookhardt who a week or so ago related the ingredients of a wild party he attended.4 He said Liquor just flowed like Oratory in the Senate. Said he sat next to Otto Kahn which sounded to me like a boast.5 For it was certainly a social concession on Otto’s part. He told the names of the Senators that were there, but couldent remember what they drank. When you can’t remember what people drink, you must be drinking some of it yourself. For that’s what it does is destroy your memory.
He said Mr Kahn asked him about some Railway legislation and told him that it wouldent work. And he told him he knew that, that’s why they passed it. Well anyhow the other Senators could have choked him for telling all this, for it just made it that much harder for them to get into another Dining room.
Senators’ lives are getting tough enough as it is without losing out on any invitations that might crop up.
Look at Senator Bingham; they said he had disgraced the dignity of the Senate, and everybody couldent understand what he could possibly have done, so he was reprimanded.6 The Democrats wanted to have him thrown out, and his place taken by a dignified Democrat. But they couldent get him to resign. It’s awful hard to get a Senator to quit. In fact, Mr Bingham wouldent even appolig ise to ’em. I always like this fellow Bingham. He is strong for aviation. And I like Hiram, he has done some mighty worthy things, and anyhow it takes years in this country to tell whether anybodys is right or wrong. It’s kinder of a case of just how far ahead you can see.
The fellow that can only see a week ahead is always the popular fellow, for he looking with the crowd. But the one that can see years ahead. He has a telescope but he can’t make anybody believe he has it.
But anyhow its been a great fall in legislative matters. Nothing has been accomplished, making it a typical session. But there has been a lot of laughs, plenty of what looked like excitement at the time. But which in the general results dident amount to anything.
They had Grundy up for awhile and he gave them the lecture of their lives on, “Protection.”7 They was going to try and prove he was a Lobbyist. Well he not only admitted it, but seemed proud of it. Well that dident leave them a thing to do, but just look amazed. Said he had been a Lobbyist for fifty years and never lost a Lob. He raises a million dollars every Presidential year for the good of the Party, and is down there to collect dividends.
Don’t want a thing but protection for everything that is made in Pennsylvania. Said the only thing that Idaho, Arkansaw, and Montana raised was Senators and they made too much noise. He said every State should make a noise according to what it manafactured, and that as Pennsylvania manafactured more things, it was his night to howl and he was there to Howl. The Senators couldent think of any answer to that so they adjourned the investigation. And they cuss the day they ever called Grundy.
1For Jimmy Walker see WA 351:N 4.
2For James Cannon, Jr., see WA 335:N 15.
3For Charles G. Dawes see WA 331:N 2. Carol D. Blymyer Dawes, wife of Charles G. Dawes. Hiram Warren Johnson, maverick Republican politician; United States senator from California from 1917 until his death in 1945.
4For Smith W. Brookhart see WA 335:N 12.
5For Otto H. Kahn see WA 358:N 3.
6Hiram Bingham, Republican United States senator from Connecticut from 1924 to 1933. Bingham was censured by the Senate in November 1929 for having placed a lobbyist of the Connecticut Manufacturers’ Association on the Senate payroll as his tariff adviser.
7For Joseph R. Grundy see WA 332:N 3.
WA361 November 24, 1929
WALL STREET HAS A HEADACHE THAT’S CATCHING
Well all I know is just what I read in the morning Papers. The evening ones don’t have much unless they grab off a late murder that dident make the early editions, or a delayed divorce. So it’s with the old Ham and — that we get our early scandal. This Stock Market thing has kinder had the front page groggy here lately. They thought we had the thing just about as low as they could possibly get it but here lately it’s been getting still worse.
Course all that’s great for the rich, for they just sit around and wait till some body goes broke and then buy in. But the old Margin Boy has got a mustard plaster on him all over. He can’t take any good stocks of his to protect the weak ones, for there is no good ones, the good ones are the ones that are going down. England says our Market is all cockeyed and that it will eventually get so stabalized that if a thing pays around five percent it will be worth right around 100, and that if it pays ten percent it will be worth 200. That is everything will be based on just a fair percentage of what it earns. Our Folks been buying without even having any idea what they were earning. We been buying just alphabetically, the nearer A you could get the more it seemed to be worth.
If the President of the concern was a good after dinner Speaker and made a good appearance, why his stock would go up to two or three hundred. Nothing determined the worth of the stock but the fact that it was going up, and it hadent reached a thousand yet and there was no reason why it shouldent keep going till it did.
Oh it was a great game while it lasted. All you had to do was to buy and wait till the next morning and just pick up the paper and see how much you made, in print. But all that has changed, and I think it will be good for everything else. For after all everybody just can’t live on gambling. Somebody has to do some work.
So I hope Oklahoma farm lands come back. They been about the cheapest thing there is, and our little neck of the Country has been mighty bad hit, but maby we are in for a change. This session of Congress was rounded up to try and do something for the Farmer but they went into a private fight of their own, and nobody has got a thing out of them. The Republicans hatched ’em up a high Tarriff bill and all they thought they had to do was to pass it, which looked like about the easiest thing there was too it, and of course they knew the Democrats would be against them. But they dident pay any attention to a little opposition like that.
But all at once they got to looking around and there was the renegade Republicans cavorting with the Democrats. It was the first time they had ever knew enough to go in together and beat the Republicans. Well the fact of the matter was that they dident figure victory was worth that much. They wanted to win but they just dident want to stoop so low to conquer. But they buried their pride and now when the Bill comes up why they will knock it right in the head. You see this session of Congress was called primarily to help the Farmer, and then when they all got to Washington why they learned from the Manafacturing State Senators that Industry was in a terrible shape, and that would they mind giving it a helping hand as they went along.
Well that looked reasonable. They dident go to the trouble of looking at Industry’s earnings, they just took the Senator’s word for it. Then they got to making up the schedule of the raises, and when they got it all done, why it was the old Farmer that they had forgotten, and they had raised the price of the things that he had to buy so high, that even if he had raised anything he could never have had enough to buy anything. Grundy got in among the Boys and handed ’em a list of raises that a Poker player couldent have stood.1 You see where the whole mistake was, was in Mr. Hoover ever allowing them to drag in every known article under the face of the sun. It was originally just to be a Farm relife session. And that’s where he should have stood his ground and held ’em to that alone. Course nobody hates it I imagine worse than he does. For he sure is sick and tired of them by now, and then to make it worse they are to go from this session right on into the next one, without even giving him or the public a vacation.
This Lobby investigation has kinder helped to liven up things. They have found out that there is some Lobbyists there and now all they got to find out is “What to do with ’em.” They will be finding out there is some Policemen in Washington the next thing, or that there is some crooked streets that nobody knows where they go only around circles. But they have had a lot of fun investigating them.
A Senator is never as happy as when he is asking somebody a question without the party being able to ask him one back. But I guess these Lobby Guys had got to going pretty strong and if this will kinder scare ’em out why the whole thing will have done some good. Grundy bragged on being one and said he was a good one and glad of it.
Been reading some mighty nice things that Miss McDonald said about us on her return home.2 Well we are doing the same over here about her. I don’t know when anyone has visited that come in for any more whole hearted praise.
Thanksgiving is right on us and we got to do some thinking over just what we got to give thanks for. Course we are glad to be living. But we got to have a better excuse for it than that. I guess we will all just give thanks we had it in land instead of Wall Street, even if we can’t sell the land and have to pay taxes on it, we can at least walk out on it. Still I got some you can’t unless you have divine power. But take it all around it looks like a pretty good thanksgiving.
1For Joseph R. Grundy see WA 332:N 3.
2For Ishbel A. MacDonald see WA 356:N 1.
WA362 December 1, 1929
WHOOPING IT UP FOR WALL STREET
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. And I just haven’t had much time to read the papers lately on account as you know, that I have been trying my best to help Mr. Hoover and Wall Street “Restore Confidence.” You take confidence, it’s one of the hardest things in the World to get restored once it gets out of bounds.
I have helped restore a lot of things in my time, such as cattle back to the home range. Herded Folly Girls toward the stage door near show time. Helped to revive interest in National Political Conventions. Even assisted the Democrats in every forlorn pilgrimage, and host of other worthy charities. But I tell you this “Restoring Confidence” is the toughest drive I ever assisted in. When I took up the work two or three weeks ago, confidence was at a mighty low ebb, that is so all the Papers and speakers was saying.
Wall Street had gone into one tail spin after another. You would pick up a paper in the morning and read the stock report and you wouldent think there was that many “Minus” signs in the world. Well the effect of it was just like going to Monte Carlo, and hearing that everybody was betting on the Black, and red had been coming up continually for two days. That would just sim- 78 Weekly Articles 1929 ply demoralize southern France and the whole Riviera. Well that’s what this Market was doing here. It was just taking all the joy out of gambling. If it kept on like that it would discourage Gambling, and that of course would be bad for the country. (That’s what they said.)
Course there was a lot of us dumb ones that couldent understand it. We said, “Well if somebody lost money there, why somebody else must have made it. You can’t lose money to nobody, unless you drop it somewhere and nobody ever finds it.” Then they said a good deal of the money was “Lost on paper.” That is it was figures but it wasent real money. Well I had done that, I could remember every contract I would get for a season’s work on the stage or screen, my wife and I would sit down and figure out what all we would have by the end of that season. Well at the end of the season we had the figures but we couldent find the money. So Wall Street Men had nothing on us. In fact, I don’t think it had anything on anybody, for we all can take a piece of paper and if you give us enough pencil we can figure ourselves out a pretty neat little fortune in no time, so when I heard that most of the money had been lost on “paper profits,” why I felt right at home with them.
But then everybody said it would have a demoralizing effect on the country for so many to have their paper profits all rubbed out at once. That it would have the effect of making people more careful with their money, and thereby make it bad for speculation. That if people dident trade in stocks why Wall Street couldent exist.
So I says what can we do for ’em so they will keep on existing? “Why restore confidence.” And that’s what I been doing for weeks, writing and talking. Course I haven’t been buying anything myself. I wanted to give all the other folks a chance to have confidence first. There is none of the greedy Pig about me. This confidence was for sale and I wanted them to have the very first chance of buying it.
Course I never could understand what the price of the stock had to do with keeping the company working and turning out their product. For instance if “Consolidated Corn Salve” stock had all been sold, and the Company had that money it had brought in and was operating on that, what difference did it make to them if the stock was selling at a thousand bucks, or if people was using the stock to kindle their fire with? Their business was still to keep after those corns. In other words they should be watching corns instead of the market. If the shares had sold for 564 one day and $1.80 the next, what had happened during the night to the afflicted toes of the country? Well I couldent get that.
Course they explained it off someway. Said, “Trading was good for the country, and kept things a-circulating.” So I finally went over to their side. I really did it for vanity, for I could see all the big men over there, and I felt flattered when I saw that I was one to join in this great work of getting people back to contributing to Wall Street agin. Course there is a lot of them that is going to take me time to get back. They not only lost confidence but they lost money, some of them all of their money. So we will have to wait till they get some money in some other business, perhaps in some business in which they really have no confidence. Then they will be able to get back into the market not only with new confidence but new money. That’s going to take time in some cases.
But I am telling them that the Country as a whole is “Sound,” and that all those who’s heads are solid are bound to get back into the market again. I tell ’em that this Country is bigger than Wall Street, and if they don’t believe it, I show ’em the map.
Mr. Hoover called all the Railroad men in and they decided to do all they could to keep people from riding on Busses. Then he had all Bankers there, and they announced what their annual Jip would be for coming year. They agreed to be more careful in their loans, and see that the borrower dident buy a farm with it, as Agriculture was so uncertain. Try and get them to invest in some business where he could read the paper in the morning and see what he had. But it’s a great work, and I am just crazy about it. Viva confidence.
WA363 December 8, 1929
DOWN IN THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA
Well all I know is just what I read in the Movie weeklies, or what I happen to run into as I prowl hither and thither. Was you ever down below sea level? Well I am like you, I thought the only way you could get down there was to go to Australia or some place on the under side of the ocean, or to go down below the level of the ocean in a submarine. But here a week or so ago, I spent two or three days prowling around down below sea level, riding in cars eating and sleeping in nice beautiful homes and all the time the ocean could have come right in and covered us up.
It’s in California. Everything is in California, all the great sights of nature, and along with all these wonders we have out here is the World’s greatest collection of freak humans on earth. We maintain more freak religions and cults than all the rest of the world combined. Just start anything out here and if it’s cuckoo enough you will get followers. But its not of the alleged humans I am talking to you about now, it’s of the freaks of nature. It’s down in what’s called the Imperial valley. Some old Preacher years ago named it. It was up to then called the Colorado desert. But he could see no reason why it shouldent be called the Imperial Valley. Well it was about like all desert valleys except you had to climb up hill to be able to see the Ocean. If there had been an ocean there. There is a good big lake down there and it’s all salt, for years ago the ocean used to be in there. But the real estate men and the Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution and either it or them had to get out. Well the Lord saw that while he might be able to handle nature, He couldent do anything with California Real estate men. It was a new form of pestilence that he had never encountered before. So he just washed his hands of the whole thing, picked up his ocean and took it down into Mexico, where they appreciated God’s original handiwork, and the Preachers were not selling Real Estate. Well that just left ’em the place where an ocean had been.
Did you ever look at a place where an ocean has just been? I doubt if you ever did. For very few communities do things on that big a scale like they do out here in California. It takes real enterprise to move an ocean. They left a little of it there, to show that they were not as big a liars as the rest of country generally suppose them to be. This Salton sea is evidence. The Salton Sea is something like the Dead sea only this one is not mentioned in the Bible, (except in the California revised de luxe edition).
The Dead sea got a lot of publicity in those days on account of its odd name. Everybody wanted to see it, and wondered what it died of, and how long would it stay dead. It’s the sea that the then Kaiser Wilhelm went down on, on one of his big new Battleships and of course it couldent get up to the dock.1 So instead of going ashore in a small boat or lighter, he just stepped out on the ocean, and started to walk ashore. He had heard that this feat had been performed years ago by another great man, (if any of you haven’t read the original book, there is no use of my continuing with this narrative). Well it seems that the Kaiser had kinder overestimated his aquatic feats, and after they had fished him out, to show that while he had perhaps suffered humiliation, and perhaps contracted pheunomonia, he still retained his egotism, for he immediately remarked, “I don’t believe the other fellow did it either.” That was on the Dead sea, but as time goes along and as California historians get going good our Grandchildren will perhaps be taught that both events took place just eight miles west of Calapatria, Imperial Valley, California, in Ed Vail’s horse pasture.2
This town of Calapatria was named by taking a part of two famous historical names. The Cal, comes from Calvin Coolidge—first name of Calvin, and the Patria, comes from the last part of Cleo-Patria, a woman of doubtful reputation, who I am sorry to see Mr Coolidge get mixed up with.
The next town they establish down there will be called “Hershe.” It’s not a Chocolate, it will be a town. The Her, will of course come from Herbert, (Mr Hoover’s given name), and the She, will be from Sheba’s, one of the best advertised Queens. Her, and She, Hershe, after Herbert and her Majesty. But you want to go down there, where there used to be whales swimming around scratching their stomach on the bottom, why now there is Real Estate offices, Cafetaria’s, and Department store Druggists.
And Fertile, say you ain’t seen nothing yet. They can raise anything. It’s another Rogers County Oklahoma as far as productivity is concerned. That County and the valley of the E-U-F-R-P-H-A. I can’t spell it, I will just make it the Nile, that’s easy to spell and maby just as fertile as that hard one. Cotton is one of the big things, half the linen goods we buy is made from Imperial valley cotton. And their Grapefruit is every day squirting on wealthier and more immoral families all over our land. Of course it gets hot there in the summer. But only for those who are able to get out. For those who can’t afford to leave “why its really not bad at all. It’s hot but there is no humidity, so we really don’t mind it at all, and won’t till we get enough to get out.” But when the Chamber of Commerces in these other Towns have seen what can be done with the bottom of an Ocean, why I can see ’em moving them all over the country. But you got to hand it to California for starting it. But if you have never been below sea level you just ought to go down and see what all they have, luncheon clubs, and mortgages, and everything even below sea level.
1Wilhelm II, emperor of Germany from 1888 until his abdication in 1918; led Germany into World War I.
2Edward Fitz Randolph “Eddie” Vail, California cattleman and philanthropist; close friend of Rogers.
WA364 December 15, 1929
HAIL TO ROCKNE
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. We ought to start going right along now from the Comedy standpoint, for Congress is back in its regular stride. This is the real session, the last one was one that was called to just reherse for this one, so this is the Big Show.
Mr. Hoover delivered his message to ’em about ten days ago, he is supposed to tell ’em the shape the Country is in. Well as Countrys go nowadays, we wasent so bad off. Course we wasent so well off either. But we was better than most of ’em. We are in the first division as far as “Condition” is.
He dident deliver the message himself, he sent it. You know some of our late Presidents delivered them themselvs. They wouldent trust the Senate or Congress to read ’em right. He picked a kind of an oppurtune time to deliver it. Football had just passed out in a blaze of raccoon coats and empty Gin bottles, and that left the papers nothing in the world to do but pick an all-American team, so all Mr. Hoover had to do was to sandwitch his message in between the team Coolidge picked and the one Texas Guinan picked.1
Football had a great year. Course the market failure cut into it at the finish. But most of the big operators had their game tickets bought before the crash, and of course while they dident get to go themselvs their Brokers had taken them as margins, and they closed ’em out and give the poor victims credit.
Notre Dame come through like the real forward passing Institution that it is.
They can talk about all your Dean Lowells, and your Elliotts, and Littles, your Glenn Franks, but I tell you Knute Rockne’s name will live when the following generation can’t tell you whether Nicholas Murray Butler was an Educator or a Politician.2
Knute just went out there on those Prairies and said to the graduating class, “Now you are going out in the World, with no aim and no purpose. Well I want to tell you that from now on you got an aim and a purpose. Henceforth and hereon you are to desecrate your lives to a cause. There is going to be no more monkey business from now on. You have a reason for living. If you are from Notre Dame, show it to me. Not now, but in the future. Every time you hear of a Football game, no matter how small, High School, Grammer school, or Kindergarten, go to it. Get in some way, no matter what the hardship. Get in there and watch ’em, and if you see a six months old baby grab a Milk Bottle and heave it across the room for a forward pass, watch that Baby. If as a growing child, its Father or Mother starts for it to punish it, and the Child shows any ability at all in dodging and keeping out of reach, through cut backs, and delayed runs, why cultivate the aquaintance of these parents and start showing them the advantages of the training table at South Bend, Ind. Tell of the wonderful advantag es of travel. Show ’em where you recite your mathematics in the Stadium in New York on Saturday and the following one you do some Physics in the Rose Bowl at Pasadena. Show ’em that there is no education like it. The minute that child can write its name get it on an agreement to some day receive its forward passes from under the shade of the Studebaker factory, and make a run toward Oliver Chill Plows. That’s the spirit of old South Bend. Go Ye into the Highways and Byways and deliver back to your old Alma Mater a man that can stand on his own two yard line, receive a pass intended for some Protestant, Grab that Pass, tuck it to your consecrated bosom and show those Athiest’s your heels! That’s what I want you to go out in the world and do. When you have done that then you can say, I am a Notre Dame man. Get out of here you Graduates, and don’t you dare hang up your sheep skins in your homes till you have delivered to old Man Rockne a man that can Run, Punt, Kick, Pass, and Receive. When he has led his own State in all these then send him to your uncle Knute, and even then don’t hang up your Diplomas till I have sent you an O.K. on him. I don’t want College cheers, and good wishes sent in by this Alumni. I want open field runners, hard tacklers, and ten second men with mole skins on. They are to be had. If you don’t get ’em somebody else will. Where was you when Cagle was booting ’em for some high school?3 Where did the Army come in to grab him off. When we could have shown more of the world in one session than he will see in the Army if he travels as Pershing’s aid.4 How did you let him get away? West Point never saw the day it could show a prospect the advantages that old South Bend can. Where did this Abie Booth get by you?5 Don’t let the name Abie scare you. We will take any Nationality, the odder the better. We got to have some queer breeds to keep the Irish mad enough to play. Bring him in. Whether he is a Schecko, Slovakian, or an Esquimo, or Siamese Twins, just so he can get that old Pigskin down that field. He don’t even have to be a Catholic. He can be Grand Kleagle of the Klan at his home Wickiup so long as he can make first down. So go send me back a Real Football Player, and then you can truly say, I AM A REAL SON of OLD NOTRE DAME.”
And that’s the spirit. They are all doing it, only he inspires more confidence and does it better than any other college. So viva Rockne, long may you live.
1For Texas Guinan see WA 330:N 1.
2Abbott Lawrence Lowell, American educator, political scientist, and author; president of Harvard University from 1909 to 1933. Charles William Eliot, American educator, scientist, mathematician, and author; president of Harvard University from 1869 to 1909. Clarence Cook Little, American biologist, cancer specialist, and educator; president of the University of Michigan from 1925 to 1929. For Glenn Frank see WA 345:N 4. Knute Kenneth Rockne, Norwegian-born football coach at Notre Dame University from 1918 until his death in 1931. In thirteen seasons as head coach, Rockne directed the Fighting Irish to 105 wins, 12 losses, and 3 ties. Nicholas Murray Butler, American educator, philosopher, and Republican politician; president of Columbia University from 1902 to 1945; co-winner of the Nobel peace prize in 1931.
3Christian Keener “Red” Cagle, football star at the United States Military Academy in the late 1920s. Cagle was forced to resign from the academy in 1930 after it was disclosed that he had married in 1928 despite academy rules prohibiting the marriage of cadets.
4John Joseph Pershing, popular American military officer, known as “Black Jack,” who commanded the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe during World War I and who served as Army Chief of Staff from 1921 to 1924.
5Albert James “Albie” Booth, Jr., star football player at Yale University from 1929 to 1931. Booth led the Bulldogs to fifteen wins, five losses, and five ties with excellent running, passing, punting, and dropkicking.
WA365 December 22, 1929
THE NEW PROSPERITY
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. Football had no more than dropped out till Congress took up playing to a packed gallery.
Mr. Hoover has just about finished with his Conferences. He run out of men to confer with, that is men that had anything. He wanted men that he could get in there and make ’em sign the pledge that they would go back home and spend something, that is if they ever intended to spend anything “To Spend It Now.” And it looks like it is having mighty beneficial results. It’s really astonishing the amount of things that are going to be done in the way of improvements and public works. Never did things look brighter for the working man, but none of us want to work.
If Mr. Hoover could have persuaded these big men to divide up, why I believe it would have been a better idea. But if we got to work for the money we are just as bad off if there was no prosperity. Henry Ford raised everybody’s salary and tried to shame some of the others into doing the same, but some of these old Babies are pretty hard to shame. They offered to help prosperity but they dident want to hardly go to that means to do it.
But anyhow I believe it’s going to be a good year. It just shows how two men can get at the same results by directly opposite methods. Here was Mr. Coolidge that never delivered a message that he dident always add a postscript, “Save your money, don’t spend, be economical.” And here comes Mr. Hoover with “What’s the big idea of having money in the Bank? Get it out, blow it in, let’s get some action around here, the more you spend the more it gives everybody else to spend thereby creating an active market for everything.” And he may be right, and so was Mr. Coolidge right. You see it was only through Mr. Coolidge having them save some, that they was able to spend some during this time. So that makes a splendid arrangement, have everybody save during one administration, and spend during the next.
So it looks like Wall Street might have done everybody a favor after all. Course some of them got pretty hard hit. But they would have only spent it in going to Europe anyhow, so this will keep ’em at home and let ’em see California and Florida, and Oklahoma.
You know Politicians, when Mr. Hoover got to calling in all the businessmen of the Country to ask them something about the country instead of calling in Politicians, why that was such a radical move that it had never been heard of before. The idea that a President would call in Henry Ford, Owen D. Young, and John D. Jr., instead of calling Senator Jasbo, and Congressman Whiffletree had never been done before.1 It was all new, and looked mighty radical. But this fellow Hoover is a kind of a queer Duck that way. He can take a bunch of businessmen and talk to ’em a little while and before he gets through they are eating out of his hand, and purring and rubbing all around his legs.
Now of course the Politician feels hurt that he wasent called in, for while he couldent have given the country any practical relief, he could have passed a bill in Congress, “Demanding Prosperity.”
Then Mr. Mellon comes in with a mighty welcome suggestion.2 He says we can cut the taxes $160,000,000. Course that many millions is not much when you are used to dealing in billions, but it’s a good trade argument. We deal in Billions in expenditure, and millions in curtailment. But Andy is a mighty fine business man and he will do what he can for us.
Mr. Vare of Pennsylvania wanted to get his regular elected seat in the Senate a couple of weeks ago but he only got to stay in there in his seat till the roll was called on his case.3 They said he was a splendid man, but too free hearted for that organization. That spending money that much money on his election was not against the law, but set a bad precedent, and that as each of them was coming up for re-election in the near future, they dident feel that they wanted to squander that much money for their seat. As they had been in and knew what it was worth, and he hadent. That naturally he might overestimate the value of it. But he is going back to Philadelphia and at the next election he will be returned with no expenditure at all. In fact the people of Pennsylvania will no doubt make up a purse and present it to him, so then it will be amusing to see what happens.
Then to cap the climax Mr. Grundy was appointed in his place.4 Well taking out Vare and sending in Grundy is the same as being sorry for a Bull Fighter and taking the bull out, and replacing it with a Mountain Lion. But it’s going to be a great year and we will have plenty of prosperity, and plenty of excitement. Course it may not reach everybody, the Prosperity. But the excitement will, so we will all get a 50 per cent break anyway, so what more can we ask?
1For Owen D. Young see WA 340:N 6; for John D. Rockefeller, Jr., see WA 358:N 3.
2For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 334:N 4.
3William Scott Vare, Republican political leader in Pennsylvania and United States congressman. Vare was elected to the Senate in 1926, but because of charges of excessive campaign expenditures he was never permitted to qualify, eventually being unseated in December of 1929.
4Grundy (see WA 332:N 3) served in the Senate from 1929 to 1930.
WA366 December 29, 1929
GOLF IS GOOD—WHEN THERE’S DOUGH IN IT!
Well all know is just what I read in the papers. We have had a lot of Golf Players out here in California with us lately, they are just playing a regular circuit of Tournaments. Why it’s like show business in vaudeville. All the good ones are out here. By that I mean the Professionals, men who make a living at it, and a mighty good living too. They are about as fine a lot of fellows as you ever met, and fine bunch of sportsmen.
You know it’s a kind of a funny business at that. You see these fellows don’t get anything at these Tournaments unless they win it. The prizes generally run to about the first ten. Well sometimes there is sixty or eighty that start, so you can see somebody has got to have some other visable means of support than his “Putter.” They pay their railroad fare and all their living expenses and if they can’t find that Gopher Hole in less knocks than the other sixty why, it’s just too bad.
I saw ’em all playing in the $10,000 Professional Champion ship, where the winner got I think $3500. Now Golf is no joke when it gets into jack like that, I have done my fair share of kidding about it, but when there is $3500 bucks strung along on the green and you have to project a little Gutapercha missle into the empty end of a sardine can twenty feet away to get your clutches onto any part of that dough, I want to tell you neighbors the humor of the game immdiately vanishes into cold prespiration.
Most of us that think it’s a kind of a Nursemaid’s knee game. If you laid thirty five hundred in front of us and informed us casually that all we had to do to get it to eat on, was to spank that little marble over a hill to a spot that we couldent even see, why say, with that much collateral at stake, we couldent take a whisk broom and get down on our hands and knees and even brush it off the tee. I would be nervous carrying a ball in a sack to deposit somewhere, if I knew everyone else had one going for the same hole. It’s not like a lot of games where you loaf along till you get down near the finish and then turn on some speed.
You are shooting for your marmalade on every shot, on every hole, on every day, the thing lasts. There is no three strikes here. There is no yap hollering, “Never mind old Boy you got the big one left.” Every move is the big one. When one is sliced out into the forest reserve nothing goes with it but your week’s board bill, and fare to the next Niblick Rodeo. There is not only a story, but a meal hanging on every putt. You just get the worry of one hole out of your system and onto your handkerchief, then all you have to do is walk up to a nearby executioneer’s stand, and look from there down across a beautiful valley (That is it’s beautiful if you are only a spectator) and by exact geometrical survey just 543 yards and 7⁄8th inches is located another of these cunning little resepticles in the ground with a mouth no bigger than a Higlander’s heart, and to give aid and comfort to you in distress there is a well painted sign staring you in the face with the information that if you are any kind of a Golfer whatever that four swipes at this little cascaret is all that “Should” be required. That any you take over that, you are simply deducting from your own Bank account.
Then there is a pardner, or accomplice, who plays along with you. You are not sent out for company but to annoy each other, if it wasent for watching what he was doing you could do pretty good. Sometimes it’s (what I think) is called a match play that is all you have to beat is the Guy with you. But generally it’s medal play, (I think that’s it) then all you have to beat is eighty profession pals (that you know in your own heart are better than you) and Bobby Jones, and Par, and O. B. Keelers Typewriter.1
That’s all you have to do to start eating regular. I want to tell you Lads it’s no place for a nervous person. I got the Jimmys just looking at them, and I had nothing at stake but a Two dollar admission ticket. I knew William Fox would feed me that night whether the Guy made the putt or not, but you would have thought that I was to dine with the guy putting.2
Then there is wives. Yes Sir these fellows actually have wives, and they are following around. What must those poor creatures go through. They all look young. I guess there never was an old woman Golfer’s wife, either the strain or starvation get ’em along before middle life. I would think one tough season of tournament would wear out about three wives on a fellow. Think of the prospects of a new dress hanging on every approach. If he goes in the bunker she goes back to last years “Cerise.” Just think of having to see your husband’s every mistake. Other wives know of them, but they don’t see ’em happen. Not only you seeing what a fool he has made of himself by missing a ten inch putt, “But it was right before everybody. What must they think?” Then when you get through the game, the strain is not over, you have to wait till the last Guy comes in at sundown to find out what happened to you. Oh, It’s a game, don’t kid yourself about that. I don’t mean this Junk these old fat Birds go out and call Golf, I mean it’s a game when you have to do it right, or you don’t eat. Anything to be done right has got to be done by people that make their living at it, like football, look what it has done since it’s for the old ham and eggs.
But these Golfers are a cheerful lot, win or lose, wives and all. They laugh it off, take the husband home, dress him up and send him back for another beating on the morrow. But don’t kid yourself Comrades that there is nothing to this game. Put $3500 smackers down and tell us we had one putt to win it. I think I would be so nervous I would pick up the caddy and swing him at it.
1For Bobby Jones see WA 351:N 8. Oscar Baun “Pop” Keeler, American sports reporter, widely known as the “dean of the nation’s golf writers”; friend and biographer of Bobby Jones.
2William Fox, Hungarian-born American motion picture producer who was one of the early power-wielders in the industry.