Will Rogers' Weekly Articles
WA29 July 1, 1923
BACK TO THE OPEN SPACES,
ALL FOR SALE
Well, Clara Phillips and I arrived back in Los Angeles about the same time.1
I tell you, Honduras or New York, either one can’t compete with this country. Clara could have come clear if she had just pleaded insanity. Any Los Angeles jury in the world would have voted her insane, just for leaving here. Still, she claims she was kidnapped away so that squares her with all of us.
I, myself, wasn’t kidnapped away. It was poverty that drove me out of this paradise. I was living fine on the climate out here but those kids of mine have no sense of the value of climate and beauty. They demanded meat and bread, so I had to go forth back into the narrow spaces, with no sunshine to protect me and toil every night and Wednesday and Saturday afternoons to procure enough to allow me to return to the broad spaces where every man is as good as his close up.
I arrived at my hut in Beverly Hills just in time to keep real estate men from plotting off and selling my front yard. They will sell you anything or anybody’s in the world as long as they can get a first payment.
Well, I have been away from here for a year and a half and I never saw such a change in a place in my life. It used to be only Iowa that was out here but now they have three or four adjoining states interested and they are here, too. Real estate agents—you never saw as many in your life; they are as thick as bootleggers. You know, in most cities, after tending to your business and seeing the town you feel that you are through. But not in this town. You can’t get a room in a hotel till you show that you have bought a lot.
You buy lots in Los Angeles with the same frequency you would newspapers in other towns. After buying it, you put it back in the hands of the agents again, for don’t think you are going to get away with that lot. It has to be sold three or four times that day. Why, every lot out here has its own agents. Agents get rich out here just off the various commissions on one lot. If an agent handles two lots he opens up a branch office and has an assistant. And you call one a real estate agent and he won’t sell you anything. He is a REALATOR. It’s the same as what the old fashioned real estate agent used to be only the commission is different.
Lots are sold so quick and often here that they are put through escrow made out to the 12th owner. They couldn’t possibly make a separate deed for each purchaser, besides he wouldn’t have time to read a deed in the 10 minutes he owned the lot. Your having no money don’t worry the agents, if they can just get a couple of dollars, or an old overcoat, or a shot gun or anything to act as a first payment, second hand Fords is A-one, collateral.
It’s the greatest game I ever saw. You can’t lose. Everybody buys to sell and nobody buys to keep. What’s worrying me is who is going to be the last owner. It’s just like an auction; the only one stuck is the last one.
They had a big function here the other night celebrating in honor of a man from here who had been over to Europe and landed the 1932 or 1942, I forgot which, Olympic Games, for Los Angeles.2
He could have gotten them here sooner but he wanted to give the town time to do a little advertising ahead. They have a committee out working now on the next centennial of Columbus’ discovery of America which takes place 1992. The same officials will handle both events.
The Columbus Celebration has rather an added significance to Los Angeles, as they want to celebrate the good fortune of his landing on the Atlantic instead of the Pacific side, because if he landed out here he never would have gone back even to tell the Queen. He would have stayed right here and nobody would have ever known it but him.
Then they have bid for the 1950 Republican and Democratic Convention—both. They want to make a big event out of it if they get it, that is, in case of course, if the Republicans have an organization by that time. The real treat of course will be W. J. Bryan stampeding the 1950 convention.3
You see, if we get all these things we will be setting mighty pretty out here. Now of course a lot of you all wonder why we look so far ahead. Well that’s on account of the clear climate. We can just see further ahead than anywhere else.
You see we have got to look ahead on account of living so much longer then anywhere else. An old man kicked here the other day on account of the owner wouldn’t only give him a 99-year lease on the house he was living in. Said he didn’t like to be moving every few days! He would like to get something permanent. Where most cities have sanitariums Los Angeles has Cafeterias.
I live near Sawtelle where the old soldiers of the Civil and Revolutionary wars have their home, and last week they beat the Los Angeles Coast League team playing baseball.
Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you, they are getting the tickets printed now for a big historical pageant which takes place 1949, commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the first camera to be brought into Hollywood. It arrived in a covered wagon. They have already celebrated the wagon. So in ’49 they are going to take care of the camera in fitting shape as they feel that it has done more for Southern California than the wagon. Also, in conjunction with this camera celebration, will be added a fitting tribute, to all the moving picture plots which they have used for all these years, and which arrived on that same wagon—ALL THREE OF THEM.
Oh yes, and just so we will be all ready for our Oympic Games in 1932 and to show you that there is something doing all the time, we are having a Movie Industrial Exposition and Monroe Celebration right this very summer. I don’t know what ex-President Monroe had to do with moving pictures that he should be coupled in the betting with them.4
Neither do I know what industry has to do with the making of moving pictures. I guess, on account of Monroe being the author of a Doctrine, they figured he was the author of the first Scenario.
When I started this article I wasn’t going to say a word about California, but the climate got me before I got through.
1Clara Phillips, convicted murderer of her husband’s mistress, had escaped a Los Angeles jail in December of 1922. She was arrested in Honduras in April of 1923 and returned to California a month later.
2Los Angeles hosted the Olympic Games in 1932.
3For William Jennings Bryan see WA 5:N 7.
4James Monroe, president of the United States from 1817 to 1825. Monroe proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 which warned European nations not to meddle in the affairs of countries in the Western Hemisphere.
WA30 July 8, 1923
TOURING THE FORD BELT
Well, as I go to press, everybody is on a trip somewhere if they work for the government. I wonder when the taxpayers take their trip. The feature trip is the Leviathan.1
Now there has been a lot of newspaper discussion on that joy ride. Of course the ones that didn’t get to go are against it, and the ones who did, are for it, so, as there was only 600 who got to go and something over a hundred and ten million that did not, the odds are sightly in favor of the “It-should-never-have-been-alloweds.”
Now, I may be a little prejudiced in favor of the trip as I was asked to go, but, on account of being the only one working for a living, I couldn’t spare the time. I also felt like this celebration would be kinder tame in comparison to one that my wife and I made to Europe on the ship’s first trip home when she was called the Vaterland. I was going to Europe to play.
I never in my life saw such enthusiasm. They had brought all the designers, architects, landscape gardeners, and everybody that had anything to do with building it, over on this first trip and, going home, how those birds did celebrate! So I knew that nothing on this trip could touch that, as that was when Volstead was still plowing corn out west.2
I remember very well they said she was built to transport troops in case of war; they said her wide decks were to drill on. That might have been what they would have done, drilled on them, but our boys didn’t have to train on her decks. Both of their days’ training was done over here. You know lots of people in Europe wondered how America could train men so quick. Well, when you only have to train them to go only one way you can do it in half the time.
Believe me, she is some tub. I was on her three days before I got near enough to the edge to see the ocean. We were on the stern end of the boat and we landed in Europe two days behind the people in the front end.
I think she should be paraded around all over, for we should be proud of her. Her and Cooties are all we got out of the War.
Now personally, I think the trip was framed up to kinder get people’s mind off Mr. Harding’s trip. You see, all the humorous writers and Congressmen were on the Leviathan, so it looked to be a good time not to have any of them following him. He is making a one night stand tour of all the principal precincts of the Ford Belt. The show opened in St. Louis. I never heard of a good show playing St. Louis in the summer time—nothing but circuses.
He spoke on an International Court but changed his act the next night in Kansas City. He said the Court did not suit a lot of Republican Senators as he first proposed it but that he would change the idea around so it would suit them. He spoke as though Party Harmony was more important than mere Court details. So, if any of you want a Court, you better get your plans in now before they get the Scenario of this one all written out.
The next one night stand was Kansas City. The Loew Circuit play you three days there now. The President spoke on transportation. I don’t know why he thought Kansas City was more interested in getting somewhere than St. Louis was. You know, in a lot of these towns, it is going to be hard to get a subject.
His lips got so sunburned while he was making a speech in Convention Hall in Kansas City that he had to have his Doctor call in a physician.
When you speak in a St. Louis or Kansas City building, either one, in the summer time, you want to always hold an umbrella over you.
He discussed the government taking over the railroads. I can’t remember now, but didn’t we have them once?
Next the President stopped at a town in Kansas called Hutchinson. He is not only the only President that ever visited Alaska, but he will go down in history as being the only President that ever visited Hutchinson. The nearest was Bryan in a Tent every Chautauqua.3
He is the second President since Lincoln that ever heard of Hutchinson.
By the irony of fate, he rode on a Ford Tractor that pulled a Wheat Binder. Now the question is, who are the farmers going to vote for, the man that rode the tractor or the man that made it?
He met an old childhood sweetheart. He said he had not heard of her in 40 years. If she had wanted to have been truthful and returned the compliment she could have said, “Well, Warren, up to 2 and a half years ago, I had not heard of you in 40 years.”
It must be getting near election time; he has commenced taking up all the babies and kissing them. That is a sure sign of election. Mothers when you see your baby picked up by someone, nowadays, it is either one of two men. It’s a kidnapper or a politician.
He spoke there on agriculture, and it was really wonderful how well off the farmers are and didn’t know it until he explained just what had been done for them. He said that the War Finance Corporation had loaned the farmers and stock men lately $400,000,000, besides what they had borrowed from the Federal Loan Banks.4
He said he thought that they would improve from now on, and that next year they should be able to borrow twice as much, as the Administration had been doing all it could for them.
So I don’t see what kick the farmers have coming. Where could they ever owe that much money before? Now, he said, in closing, these very words: “I have reserved for the last what we may well call the crowning achievement of the entire list of things we have done for farmers. I refer to the Agricultural Credit Act of 1923, which furnishes the most enlightened scheme of farm borrowing of any of the others, and will enable the farmer to carry on his business on a sound business-like basis.”
Now that is marvelous, when you think how they can get out next year and borrow better than they did this year. That is just what has been the matter with the farmers of this country, they just haven’t got out and borrowed enough. But that is all being remedied now. This last thing he spoke of must be a third mortgage scheme. It has to be for the farmers are carrying two already.
Say, my article of a few weeks ago on Life Insurance for Ministers to be paid for by the congregation has stirred up something. It was recopied in all insurance papers and a half dozen church papers, and I have had many letters of endorsement from some who are going to try and start it. So keep up the good work and let me know what congregations believe their Ministers are human, and deserve something in their old age when they can’t any longer do their chosen work.
1The Leviathan (see WA 10:N 4) made its maiden voyage in the summer of 1923 as a reconditioned American passenger liner.
2For Andrew J. Volstead see WA 9:N 13.
3For William Jennings Bryan, see WA 5:N 7.
4The War Finance Corporation, a government agency established during World War I, made substantial loans to agriculture during the early 1920s.
WA31 July 15, 1923
A FEW SHOTS OF SCOPOLAMIN
Well, as I write this, between breaths in a comedy chase scene away out here in the broad spaces, where an actor is no better than his double, I am reading about the Dempsey and Gibbons fight.1
In no business is a man entitled to more than he can draw and every man is entitled to a fair share of
every cent he can draw. One of the boys in the picture just remarked that they should shut both of these fighters up in a room alone and then open the door and see what had happened. Why, they would find Dempsey had sold Gibbons something and that Kearns was waiting outside to get 50 per cent.2
Say, we have a discoverer out here in California, a Dr. House of Texas, who has invented a serum called Scopolamin, a thing that when injected into you will make you tell the truth, at least for a while, anyway.3
Now, I don’t know that the stuff is any good, but he certainly come to the right state to get material to try it on. If he can make us fellows in California tell the truth his experiment will be a total success. He don’t have to look for subjects—just jab his needle into the first guy out here and await results.
He only has to ask one question if he has a Californian under his spell. All he has to do is ask him if he don’t think it is a very hot day. If the patient says, “Yes,” why, his experiment is a assured success. But if the patient says, “Well, it is warm today, but that is very unusual for this time of the year,” why, then he might just as well throw his serum in the creek. It is a failure.
They started in by trying it on some convicts in various prisons out here. I don’t know on what grounds they reason that a man in jail is a bigger liar than one out of jail. The chances are that telling the truth is what got him in there. Anyway, it has worked wonders; every man they tried it on said he didn’t commit the crime. The chances are he would have said the same thing if the injection had been hydrant water instead of Scopolamin.
ITS EFFECT ON MOVIE STARS
But it has done wonders outside the jail and has proved that it really has Aladdin qualities. They tried it on a male movie star in Hollywood and he told his right salary and his press agent quit him. They then tried it on a female movie staress and she recalled things back as far as her first husband’s name, and remembered her real maiden name.
They tried it on a movie magnet from New York who manufactures moving pictures and when he come out from under the influence of it and found they had had an interpreter there and took his speech down in English and that he had told what his pictures really cost, he committed suicide.
Their only failure to date has been a Los Angeles real estate agent. They broke three needles trying to administer the stuff to him and it turned black the minute it touched him, so they had to give him up. He sold Dr. House three lots before he got out of the operating room.
It really is a wonderful thing, and if it could be brought into general use it would no doubt be a big aid to humanity. But it will never be, for already the politicians are up in arms against it. It would ruin the very foundation on which our political government is run.
If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics.
Everybody in jails are for it, for they want to prove their innocence. But everybody out of jails are against it, for fear they will get in themselves under its influence. Even ministers are denouncing it now.
So the chances are that this learned Taxan will return to obscurity, the same as his illustrious namesake of the same state, Col. House, who also had great plans of an ideal existence among nations of the world without conflict.4
Humanity is not yet ready for either real truth or real harmony. So
I look for these two House boys to finish back on their original lots.
Come to think of it, what a big aid to the cause of anti-prohibition that truth serum would be. Just before a voter goes in to vote, give him a shot, and then have a committee ask him if he drinks and if so, to vote that way. This country would be serumed right away from the bootleggers. I wonder if Bryan would volunteer to undergo a seige of it and then be asked if he hadn’t had just a little nip at some time or another.5
Well, guess what Hollywood discovered in grading the side of a mountain to sell lots, right in her own town! Why, it is a road up the mountain where, if you stop your car, take off the brakes and put your gear in neutral, your car will start rolling up the hill instead of down. That’s a fact.
THE CRADLE OF HIGH ROLLERS
Now, you know it’s always been hard for a man to go uphill in this world. But you come to Hollywood and roll uphill without an effort. So now we have a new slogan: “Why is Hollywood the cradle of high rollers? Because we possess the only hill in the world you can roll up in neutral.”
Well, as I pen these never-to-be-remembered lines, Pres. Harding is wending his way westward, the advance guard of the 1924 election. He canvassed Denver on “The enforcement of the law.” The bootleggers all agreed with him that the stricter the law is enforced the better it will make prices. Why, in some places it was getting terrible; the prices had dropped to almost what they were before the law went in. If there is one thing that will starve out bootlegging it is cheap prices.
That was quite a compliment to Denver to be picked out for the only law enforcement speech of his tour. Shows you what an enviable position they gained in America’s principal commodity.
Next Mr. Harding went to Salt Lake City. He spoke in the Mormon Tabernacle on “Thou shalt have no other wives before thee.”
Mr. Senator Elder Reed Smoot introduced Mr. Harding by telling what the lately passed tariff bill had done for Utah and the sugar beet, and what it had done to the Housewives.6
Then he went into Idaho, just to prove to people that Borah does come from somewhere.7
A hundred people have heard of Borah that never heard
of Idaho. It was a wise move on the President’s part, for, up to then, the people of Idaho thought Borah was President. But Mr. Borah was a good sport and went right with him and admitted to the people that Mr. Harding was President.
Well, Senator Borah certainly acted the part of the real host. He never said a word against his guest untill he had left. Then he started in taking the President’s speeches apart to see what made ’em stop.
So, in Idaho, it was the case of the Lion and the Lamb lying down together. But the Lamb had government detectives to see that the Lion didn’t walk in his sleep.
So long, readers; I will meet you next in Alaska.
1William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey, American prizefighter who held the world heavyweight title from 1919 to 1926. Thomas “Tommy” Gibbons, Irish-American boxer whose career peaked in 1923 when he went fifteen rounds with Jack Dempsey at Shelby, Montana, on July 4.
2John Leo McKernan, “Jack Kearns,” colorful American boxing promoter who managed Dempsey and other prizefighters, many of whom became champions.
3Robert Ernest House, obstetrician who practiced at Ferris, Texas, from 1899 until he death in 1930. House introduced the use of “truth serum” to determine the guilt or innocence of an individual charged with a crime.
4For Edward M. House see WA 6:N 7.
5For William Jennings Bryan see WA 5:N 7.
6Reed Smoot, Republican United States senator from Utah from 1903 to 1933. Smoot, an apostle of the Mormon Church, was also a member of the executive committee of the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company.
7For William E. Borah see WA 1:N 6.
WA32 July 22, 1923
ROGERS PRAISES SPIRIT OF TULSA
Well, I see by this morning’s papers that our old friend, Mr. Gary of the Steel Trust, after much letter writing and persuasion from President Harding, has sent a letter to the President which he received the day before he started mushing his way over the Dawson Trail to that gold cursed land near the Pole.1
Well, in the letter he promised the President that he would
do away with the 12-hour-a-day work in the Steel Mills (just as soon as it
could be arranged). He said in the letter that it would take some time to arrange it.
Now, he promised the President to do this, but you know, so many Republicans have promised him things since he has been in and then didn’t make good that it is getting so that a Republican promise is not much more to be depended on than a Democratic one. And that has always been considered the lowest form of collateral in the world.
Now Mr. Gary says it will take time. You see, a man who has been working for years for 12 or 14 hours a day, and you cut him down to 8, and you have a physical wreck on your hands. You take a person who is used to the cool air of a steel furnace for half the 24 hours of each day and bring him to the stuffy atmosphere of outdoors, or a home, and he can’t stand it.
Well, the 4th of July just passed and 62 people passed with it, beside 262 wounded. A great many of the deaths were due to gunshot wounds, some accidental, but most of them were from Roman Candles shooting from the wrong end. I wonder if it would not be just as easy for the manufacturers of those things to make them shoot out of just one end. It looks to us ignorant like it would be easier.
TRICKY WIVES’ PISTOLS
After reading the casualty list every 5th of July morning, one learns that we have killed more people celebrating our independence than we lost fighting for it. We would celebrate the ending of each of our wars but we haven’t got enough people to go around. Some of these affairs were caused by husbands trying to celebrate with their wives’ pistols and didn’t get the wives to show them how to properly do it.
Of course, the worst case of a Roman Candle going off at the wrong end on the 4th of July was when Dempsey picked up Tom Gibbons at Shelby, Montana. That was supposed to have been hand picked and prepared. Now, in searching for material to write about and asking advice as to what people would be interested in, quite a few would say, write about Shelby and the fight; that would be funny.
And I have heard lots of kidding about Shelby’s failure to raise so much money. Now, I generally try to see the funny side of most of our national calamities, including politics, but to save my soul I can’t think of a funny thing about Shelby, Montana. They went into what they thought was a sporting proposition, but they soon found out that the only thing that was not connected with it was sport.2
They wanted to do something to put their little town on the map. They believed in it; they believed, contrary to New York and all the so-called experts, that Gibbons would make a creditable showing. They went out and spent their money as far as it went, and that’s as far as any one can go.
Years ago, I remember a similar incident of a never-heard-of-hustling little town that was hardly known as far as the county line. It was located about 30 miles from where I was born and raised. They, like Shelby, wanted to do something that would attract attention to their little town. This stunt I am going to tell about may not be new now, but I believe it was then. They hired a special train for 10 days and made a trip to what to us was back East, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Chicago and Kansas City.
THE “LITTLE ROPE’S” DEBUT
It took just about all the town could raise, but every business man dug up all he could. They loaded the baggage car with things their country would raise. The reason I remember this case so well was because I had the good fortune to be invited to go along, and it was one of the first cases of me and my little rope making a public appearance.
Well, it was a joke—a hundred men getting off a train, marching with a band, boosting a place nobody had ever heard of. But business men in the places we paraded commenced to realize that there must be something in our town or we couldn’t do all this.
Now, if you are anxious to know whatever became of this tank town it’s Tulsa, Oklahoma, which would have been a real town, even if its people weren’t greasy rich with oil, for it is founded on the spirit of its people.
They plunged and they won. Shelby had the same spirit and lost. I can’t become tickled at it, myself.
It’s the towns, big and small, that don’t do or try to do anything at all that are funny to me. Personally, I think they made a bad selection of a mode of publicity. People a prize-fight would attract wouldn’t settle in any town. They won’t even stay in New York. So how was Shelby going to hold them?
The most pathetic part of this for this little cow town is to come yet. Through the fruits of their idea and financial failure, some so-called wise eastern promoter will reap a fortune by rematching these two men again. All reaped at the expense of Shelby’s idea. More power to all the other Shelbys in the west who are trying.
Well, all I read in the papers now is about some fellow named Edward Bok offering 100 thousand dollars for some one to suggest a plan where they stop wars.3
Now he is receiving serious editorial mention for his idea and philanthropy. People that praise his idea laughed at Henry Ford’s for trying to just stop one war, while this fellow offers just 100 thousand dollars to stop all of them.4
I claim that both men were equally sincere, but, on the other hand, if there is to be ridicule, I claim they should share equally in that, too.
The very terms of this make it ridiculous. He is to give half the money when the trustees accept the plan, and the other half when the Senate accepts and passes it.
Now, I am no Philanthropist. I am hard to separate from money; if I killed two birds with one stone I would want the stone back. But I will just raise Mr. Bok’s offer 100 thousand dollars. I will hereby make a bona fide offer of 200 thousand dollars to any man in the world who can draw up any kind of bill or suggestion, I don’t care on what subject, no matter how meritorious, and send it to the Senate of the United States and send this paper a copy of the bill submitted, and if the United States passes the bill as you sent it in, you get 200 thousand.
Talk about stopping war, I will bet any man in the United States 5 thousand even that there ain’t a man in this country that can draw up a bill that the Senate themselves won’t go to war over while they are arguing it.
Can you imagine the bunch of multi-millionaires made by the last war agreeing to stop all chances of a future war for 100 thousand dollars? I am only an ignorant cowpuncher, but there ain’t nobody on earth, I don’t care how smart they are, ever going to make me believe they will ever stop wars.
We ain’t as smart as the generations ahead of us, and they tried to stop them and haven’t been able to. In fact, every war has been preceded by a peace conference. That’s what always starts the next war.
Ever since, I think it was Noah’s two boys, there has been conflict. Cain, I think it was, picked up an oar and slew his brother Abel so hard with it that he knocked out the side of the zoo. I suppose a hundred thousand dollars would have stopped that. Why, a hundred thousand dollars couldn’t even stop the Dempsey fight.
The only way to do is just stay out of them as long as you can, and the best way to stay out of them for quite a while, instead of teaching a boy to run an automobile, teach him to fly, because the nation in the next war that ain’t up in the air, is just going to get something dropped on its bean.
As I told you in an article a few weeks ago, Mr. Harding has the plan, and by the way, I see on this trip he has suggested it several times again. His is better than any that will come in through this offer and he should get the 100 thousand. And it is only a few words—that is, “Draft capital as well as men.” Any time you take everything that every man has got the same as conscript, Boys, there ain’t going to be no war.
Now, I think you will agree that would be great, but you see if Congress passes it. If it does, I will give Mr. Harding the dough for getting the idea through. I say, IF Congress passes it.
1For Elbert H. Gary see WA 23:N 3.
2Dempsey received $200,000 for his match with Gibbons (see WA 31:N 1). The town of Shelby, Montana, had to declare bankruptcy to raise the money.
3Edward William Bok, Dutch-born American magazine publisher, Pulitzer prize winner, and philanthropist (see WA 58:N 2).
4Ford chartered a “peace” ship in 1915 and, accompanied by a company of distinguished persons, sailed for Europe in the hope of inducing the warring nations to end the world conflict.
WA33 July 29, 1923
ROGERS PRAISES CLAREMORE AQUA
You never heard me boosting from anything, for I never saw anything made that the fellow across the street didn’t make something just as good.
But, at last, I have found something that I absolutely know no one else has something as good as, for an all-seeing nature put this where it is and it’s the only one he had, and by a coincidence it is located in the town near the ranch where I was born and raised.
So I hereby and hereon come out unequivocally (I think that’s the way you spell it) in favor of a place that has the water that I know will cure you. You might ask, cure me of what? Why, cure you of anything, just name your disease and dive in.
Claremore, Oklahoma, is the birthplace of this Aladdin of health waters. Some misguided soul named it radium water, but radium will never see the day that it is worth mentioning in the same breath as this magic water. Why, to the afflicted and to all suffering humanity, a jug of this water is worth a wheelbarrow full of radium. Still, even under the handicap of a cheap name, this liquid god-send has really cured thousands.
Now you may say, “Oh, you boost it because you live there,” but I don’t want you to think so little of me that you would think I would misguide a sick person just for the monetary gain to my home town. We don’t need you that bad. The city is on a self-supporting basis without patients, just by shipping the water to Hot Springs, Ark.; Hot Springs, Va.; West Baden, Ind.; and Saratoga, N. Y.
Now, as to a few of the ignorant who might still be in the dark as to where the home of this fountain of youth is located. I will tell you. I shouldn’t waste my time on such low brows, but, unfortunately, they get sick and need assistance the same as the 95 million others who already know where Claremore is located.
It is located, this mecca of the ill, about 1,700 miles west of New York (either city or state, depends on whichever one you happen to be in). You bear a little South of West, after leaving New York, till you reach Sos McClellan’s place, which is just on the outskirts of Claremore.1
Before you get in the city proper, if you remember about 500 miles back, you passed another town. Well, that was St. Louis, most of which is in Illinois.
Now, if you are in the North, and happen to get something the matter with you, we are 847 and a half miles South by West from Gary, Indiana. We have cured hundreds of people from Chicago, Ill., from gun shot wounds inflicted in attempted murders and robberies. There is only one way to avoid being robbed of anything in Chicago and that is not to have anything.
If you are from Minneapolis, our radium water guarantees to cure you of everything but your Swedish accent. If you are from St. Paul, we can cure you of everything but your ingrown hatred for Minneapolis.
I will admit that these waters have quite a peculiar odor, as they have a proportion of sulphur and other unknown ingredients, but visitors from Kansas City, who are used to a stock yard breeze, take this wonderful water home as a perfume.
Approaching this city from the North, don’t get it confused with Oolagah, Oklahoma, my original birthplace, which is 12 miles to the North, as both towns have post offices.
From the West, if you are afflicted and you are sure to be or you wouldn’t have gone out there, why Claremore is just 1,900 miles due East of Mojave, California, one of the few towns which Los Angeles has not voted into their cafeteria. You come East till you reach an oil station at a road crossing. This oil station is run by a man named St. Clair.2
You will see a lot of men pitching horseshoes. Well, that is the post office of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the men are millionaires pitching horseshoes for oil wells, or for each other’s wives.
You should, by this description, have the place pretty well located in your minds. Now, if you are living in the South and are afflicted with a cotton crop under a Republican administration, or with the Ku Klux Klan, or with the hook worm, we guarantee to rid you of either or all of these in a course of 24 baths.
Claremore is located just 905 miles North of Senator Pat Harrison’s mint bed in Mississippi.3
In coming from the Gulf Country some have got off the road and had to pass through Dallas, Texas, but have found out their mistake and got back on the main road at Ft. Worth before losing all they had. You easily can tell Fort Worth. A fellow will be standing down in front of the drug store making a speech.
Now, before reaching Claremore, you will pass, even though it’s in the middle of the day, a place where you think it’s night and you won’t know what is the matter. Well, that’s Muskogee, Oklahoma, and this darkness is caused by the color scheme of the population, so put on your headlights and go on in. This Muskogee is really a parking space for cars entering Claremore. Of course, if you want to drive on into the town of Claremore proper, it’s only 60 miles through the suburbs from here.
LOCATED ON CAT CREEK
The city is located on Cat Creek, and instead of having a lot of streets like most towns and cities, we have combined on one street. In that way no street is overlooked.
You might wonder how we discovered this Blarney Stone of waters. In the early days, us old-timers there, always considered these wells more as an odor than as a cure. But one day a man come in there who had been raised in Kansas and he had heard in a round-about-way of people bathing, although he had never taken one, so, by mistake, he got into this radium water.
He was a one-armed man—he had lost an arm in a rush to get into a Chautauqua tent in Kansas to hear Bryan speak on man vs. monkey.4
Well, he tried this bath, and it didn’t kill him and he noticed that he was beginning to sprout a new arm where he had lost the old one, so he kept on with the baths and it’s to him that we owe the discovery of this wonderful curative water. Also, he was the pioneer of bathers of Kansas, as now they tell me it’s not uncommon thing to have a tub in most of their larger towns.
Now, it has been discovered that you can carry a thing too far and overdo it, so we don’t want you there too long. A man come there once entirely legless and stayed a week too long and went away a centipede.
I want to offer here my personal testimonial of what it did to me. You see, after this Kansas guy started it, why, us old-timers moved our bathing from the river into a tub. Now, at that time, I was practically tongue tied and couldn’t speak out in private, much less in public. Well, after 12 baths, I was able to go to New York and make after-dinner speeches. I stopped in Washington on the way and saw how our government was run and that gave me something funny to speak about.
So, in thanking the water, I also want to thank the government for making the whole thing possible. Now, had I taken 24 baths I would have been a politician, so you see I stopped just in time.
The only thing I get out of this is I have the “thrown away crutch privilege.” If you don’t get well and throw away your invalid chair or crutches I get nothing out of it, so that is why we give you a square deal. If you are not cured, I don’t get your crutches. There is no other resort in the world that works on that small a margin.
W. J. Bryan drank one drink of this water and turned against liquor. Senator LaFollette drank two drinks of it and turned against everything.5
So, remember Claremore. The Carlsbad of America, where the Frisco Railroad crosses the Iron Mountain Railroad, not often, but every few days.
1John Foreman “Sos” McClellan, Claremore rancher and an older brother of a boyhood friend of Will Rogers.
2St. Clair probably refers to Harry Ford Sinclair, American petroleum magnate who was a major developer of oil fields in northeastern Oklahoma in the early 1900s.
3For Pat Harrison see WA 15:N 8.
4For William Jennings Bryan see WA 5:N 7.
5For Robert M. La Follette, Sr., see WA 14:N 4.
WA34 August 5, 1923
VILLA ONLY MAN TO “DEFEAT” U. S.
Well, as I go to press, the news has just reached me of the 100th death of Pancho Villa of Mexico.1
It looks like this one is permanent, though. It really seemed like old times yesterday, picking up a paper and seeing the headline “Villa Shot.”
Villa was really the reason of William Randolph Hearst having an afternoon as well as a morning paper in each of our large cities.2
His morning papers used to capture Villa every day so he had to have an afternoon paper to let him escape again in, so the morning one could get him again the next day. (Now, I know that joke is good, because Mr. Hearst, himself, used to laugh at it more than any one else when I used it in the Midnight Frolic in New York in the days before Volstead and the assassins got Villa and me, both.)3
I won’t be right sure yet that it was not one of his doubles that was killed. One thing makes me doubt it—it happened at 6 o’clock in the morning and no retired bandit gets up that early even to be shot.
One of the most regrettable things about it is that the American Movie Companies will be flooding the market now with pictures of his life. They were afraid to make them before for fear he would see some of them.
He was 47 years old, considered unusually old, as life in Mexican bandit circles is judged. He leaves many friends and wives. The government had settled some two or three hundred thousand acres of land on him, so it will be interesting to see his children claiming his estate. They ought to just give each child an acre apiece as long as his land lasts.
He was an uneducated man, and had been raised in this country, he would have become wealthy and gone into politics, and perhaps have been mentioned as presidential timber. In fact, America has not been able to produce such a man. He was a combination of the traits that have made some of our greatest men. He had the bullheadedness of a Senator La Follette, the courage of William Borah, the cunning strategy of a Senator La Follette, the “get in wrong” proclivities of a William J. Bryan, the Alpine horsemanship of a Max Oser, the romance of a Valentino, the marksmanship of an Annie Oakley, the leadership of a Will Hays, and the mustache of William Taft.4
THE ONLY PEACEFUL MAN
I look for a lot of war down in Mexico now, as they have killed off the only peaceful man they had down there.
And right here I want to go on record as being the only person that has written about Villa since his death that did not claim that they knew him well at one time or another. They know now there is no way of having it denied. Well, he certainly must have been a martyr if Mexico farms had not paid any better than American farms in the last few years.
I doubt if you could get one of our bandits to come in and surrender if you gave him the whole state of Iowa, and told him he had to make a living farming it. That was the only foolish move I ever read of Villa doing.
Some of our wheat farmers wish somebody would ambush and shoot them before the second mortgage comes due. You will hear very little expressions of regret over his death by farmers; they will just figure him lucky. I had just read in the papers a few days ago about his complaining to the government authorities that some one was stealing his stock and asked for protection.
With the passing of Villa, not only Mexico but the world at large, will lose a national character. He started America on its career of note writing, a thing in which we are equaled by few and excelled by none. He was responsible for the typewriter supplanting the bayonet as our national arm of defense. Did you ever realize that at one time in our negotiations with Mexico this country was 4
He was personally responsible for our only losing war. Of course, after losing it, we changed the name of it from a war to a punitive expedition.5
As it turned out, it was a very good thing, for shortly afterwards we matched a real war and used this Mexican one as a training station. It was the best rehearsal for a war that America ever had.
It was a coincidence that the same fellow who went down to tag Villa was the man responsible for winning the real war, so Villa really holds a decision over the champ. That was Jack Pershing.6
He went down and marched around for three months down there but couldn’t find anybody to fight with. So, if we ever have another war with them, let’s have it understood and in the contract, just where they will be and when.
THE UNDERHANDEDNESS OF VILLA
The whole thing started over a raid that Villa made at Columbus, New Mexico. It was like Shelby, Montana; it took a fight to make it famous. It was a government army post and we had a man on guard that night, but, just to show the underhandedness of Villa, he didn’t sneak up on the side this fellow was watching on. But, even at that, they got up and chased Villa over the line into Mexico till they run into a lot of American red tape and had to come back.
So, finally, when he didn’t come in and give up, why, they sent some troops down from as far back as New York, all new recruited ones. Well, they naturally thought they were in Mexico when they got 20 miles west of Trenton, N. J. They wouldn’t have known Villa if they had seen him. They didn’t even know Pershing.
Well, they camped on the border and ate chili and thought that was war and sent a lot of post cards home of the Rio Grande River to show where the water could run if there was any there.
At one time the regulars that Pershing took in with him had Villa surrounded at a town called Los Quas Ka Jasbo. But nobody knew where Los Quas Ka Jasbo was. They should have caught him. They had him hemmed in between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and all they had to do was stop up both ends.
At one time our troops wanted to use the Mexican Railroads, and the Mexicans did give us permission to use them—coming this way.
One time there was a headline in the paper, “Villa escapes net and fleas.” Now I knew right then that they would never get him. I have been in Mexico, and any man that can escape fleas! No army ain’t going to catch him.
We have a commission down there now trying to get Mexico to recognize us. We have changed so in the last few years that very few nations KNOW us now. The way we are trying to make up with them now—they must have struck oil lately.
I never could understand why we wasn’t nicer to them than we are; they don’t owe us anything. That alone makes them a novelty.
Well, I don’t suppose Washington will protest this last affair. It will be the only thing they haven’t protested that has happened down there.
I have always felt that the reason Villa come in and gave up was because when he heard what bootleggers made in America he got discouraged with the bandit business. He saw what a punitive business it was. So he just figured, what’s the use?
I think Mexico did the wisest thing in the world when they got him to give up. I wish America could get some of the political bandits that live off this country to come in and give up. Then we would know just what we were paying them to live on, instead of the present system of letting them grab what they can.
One thing, they can’t claim robbery as the cause of the murder. Statistics have proven that there has not been a farmer in either Mexico or the U.S. even threatened by a robber in the last three years.
Well, I guess there is a lot worse ones than Villa, and, poor soul, he filled his life’s ambition. He died what’s called a natural death in Mexico. He was shot in the back.
P. S.– Just last night, when I was writing this out here in Los Angeles, we had the whole house trembling and shimmying around. Now don’t get me wrong, it was no earthquake—just a disturbance, they call ’em.
Don’t say much about this. We keep these things quiet so ’Frisco won’t hear anything about it. They always make a lot out of nothing. My typewriter fell off the table, but it was just a disturbance. So just skip this part of the article. We don’t want anything said about it. That’s why I ain’t mentioning it.
1Francisco “Pancho” Villa, Mexican revolutionary and bandit leader who was active in the Revolution of 1910 and against the Carranza government in 1914-1915. He was assassinated near Parral, Mexico, on July 20, 1923.
2For William Randolph Hearst see WA 19:N 2.
3For Andrew J. Volstead see WA 9:N 13.
4For Robert M. La Follette, Sr., see WA 14:N 4; for William E. Borah see WA 1:N 6; for Henry Cabot Lodge see WA 4:N 7; for William Jennings Bryan see WA 5:N 7; for Max Oser see WA 20:N 7; for Rudolph Valentino see WA 9:N 9; for Annie Oakley see WA 13:N 9; for Will H. Hays see WA 21:N 6; for William Howard Taft see WA 26:N 3.
5Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico, in 1916, killing sixteen persons and partially burning the town. The Punitive Expedition under the command of General John J. Pershing was organized to pursue Villa into Mexico. The expedition was withdrawn, however, when President Venustiano Carranza objected to the presence of United States troops on Mexican soil.
6For John J. Pershing see WA 4:N 10.
WA35 August 12, 1923
ROGERS APPROVES SONG OF BANANAS
The subject for this week’s brainy editorial is resolved that, “Is the song ‘Yes We Have No Bananas,’ the greatest or the worst song that America ever had?”1
I have read quite a lot in the papers about the degeneration of America by falling for a thing like it. Some lay it to the effects of prohibition, some say it is the after effects of war, that it is liable to follow every big war. I
see where some have written editorials on the song claiming that things are always in an unsettled state the year before a presidential election. I claim it’s due to none of these causes at all; neither is it due to the French occupation of the Ruhr.2
I claim that it is the greatest document that has been penned in the entire history of American Literature.
And there is only one way to account for its popularity, and that is how you account for anything’s popularity, and that is because it has merit. Real down to earth merit, more than anything written in the last decade. The world was just hungry for something good and when this genius came along and got right down and wrote on a subject that every human being is familiar with, and that was vegetables, bologna, eggs and bananas, why he simply hit us where we live. You know a war song will only appeal to people that are interested in war, a love song to those who are in love, mammy song to nobody at all, but when you get down and write of cabbages, potatoes and tomatoes, you just about hit on a universal subject.
You see, we had been eating these things all our lives but no one had ever thought of paying homage to them in words and harmony. It opens up a new field for song writers. I look for an epidemic of corned beef, liver and bacon, soup and hash songs to flood the market. So more power to an originator. Did you ever stop to realize that that song has attracted more attention than anything that has taken place in this country since Valentino gave up the screen for a mud face preparation?3
Magnus Johnson of Wisconsin or Minnesota (they ought to put those states together; nobody can ever remember which one anything ever happens in, generally the same thing happens in both of them); well as I say, Magnus was unfortunate enough to be elected to the United States Senate at a time when bananas was at its height.4
Ten thousand people can sing the song that don’t know that Magnus can milk a cow with one hand and broadcast a political speech with the other. Millions can hum the song that can’t tell you
what Lloyd George is sore at England about.5
Hiram Johnson arrived from Europe a presidential possibility, and spoke to 2,000 people.6
The creator of bananas to music, penned one gem of constructive thought, and spoke not to 2,000 but to 110,000,000.
Then some editorial newspaper writer has the nerve to sneer at this marvelous song, when perhaps his writings never cross the county line. Why, Italy has already made arrangements on account of his honoring her national diet to place his name alongside of Michael Angelo, Garabaldi, and Louis Firpo.7
It is already bringing on international complications. England is sore because he didn’t say something about tea and cake.
If we had a man like that to write our national anthem somebody could learn it. It wouldn’t take three wars to learn the words. Mother has been done to death in songs and not enough consideration shown her in real life. We thought when we sang about her we had paid her all the respect there was. I tell you, conditions were just ripe for a good fruit song.
COHAN HAD AN IDEA
George M. Cohan wore out more flags than a war waving them to music.8
He transferred the flag from cloth to paper, he made it a two-verse and chorus affair. Now George was original. He saw an idea; he knew that a big percentage of the American people had seen the flag, so that would give him a subject to write on that people knew about. But look what a universal subject this bird hit on. There are thousands of foreigners landing here daily that know Spinish and Honions, that don’t know an American flag from a Navajo blanket.
TAKE THE BANANA CLASSIC
Did you ever just dissect the words to some of our so-called popular songs? One has the words “It’s not raining rain, it’s raining violets.” Now can you imagine any more of a cuckoo idea than that? You can’t hardly raise the things, much less rain ’em. Now which do we owe the most to, the violet or the banana? Even such a genius as George M. Cohan himself has a song, “You remind me of my Mother when Mother was a girl like you.” How can any man remember his mother when she was a girl? It’s a physical impossibility. You would have had to be born almost simultaneously with your mother.
Now on the other hand take the banana classic, “We just killed a pony so try our bologna, it’s flavored with cats and hay.” Now that’s not only good poetry but his honesty should be rewarded. He is on the level, he is telling you just what you get. Then those history-making lines, “Our hen fruit, have you tried ’em, real live chickens inside ’em.” Now I think in the rhyming line that is a positive gem, and will live when Gungha Din has lost his hot water bottle. That shows originality. He is not just simply going along rhyming girl and pearl, beauty and cutey, bees and knees.
This boy has got the stuff. Get this one and then read all through Shakespeare and see if he ever scrambled up a mess of words like these, “Try our walnuts and co-co-nuts, there aint many nuts like they.” Not just off hand you would think this is purely a commercial song with no tinge of sentiment, but don’t you believe it. Read this: “And you can take home WIM-MENS, nice juicy PER-SIM-MONS.” Now that shows thoughtfulness for the fair sex and also excellent judgement in the choice of a delicacy. Then there is rhythm and harmony that would do credit to a Walt Whitman, so I defy you to show me a single song with so much downright merit to it as this has.9
AS FOR OTHER SAYINGS
You know, it don’t take much to rank a man away up if he is just lucky in coining the right words. Now take for instance Horace Greeley, I think it was, or was it W. G. McAdoo, who said, “Go West, young man.”10
Now that took no original thought at the time it was uttered. There was no other place for a man to go, still it has lived. Now you mean to tell me that a commonplace remark like that has the real backbone of this one: “Our grapefruit I’ll bet you, is not going to wet you, we drain them out every day.” Now which do you think it would take you the longest to think of, that or “Go West young man.”
Some other fellow made himself by saying, “War is hell.” Now what was original about that? Anyone who had been in one could have told you that, and today he has one of the biggest statues in New York. According to that, what should this banana man get? He should be voted the poet lariet of America.
Now mind you, I am not upholding this man because I hold any briefs for the song writers. I think they are in a class with the after dinner speakers. They should be like vice used to be in some towns. They should be segregated off to themselves and not allowed to associate with people at all, and should be made to sing these songs to each other. That is the only way you will ever do away with the song writing business.
Another thing that has made it bad is these people that used to send scenarios to moving picture studios, after getting them back have turned them into songs. It’s been a godsend to the picture business but a blow to the music business. And those mammy songs,—those writers should have been banished to Siberia, and as they went through on their way to Siberia don’t let them stop in Russia to see their mammy. But when one does come along and displays real talent as this one has proven, I think he should be encouraged. Some man said years ago that he “cares not who fought their countries’ wars as long as he could write their songs.” But of the two our songs have been the most devastating.
I understand this boy was a drummer in a jazz band before this world renown hit him. Now I personally have always considered the drummer the best part of a jazz band. I think if all the members of a jazz band played the drums it would make better music. I would rather have been the author of that banana masterpiece than the author of the constitution of the United States. No one has offered any amendments to it. It’s the only thing ever written in America that we haven’t changed, most of them for the worse.
1“Yes, We Have No Bananas,” a nonsense song of the 1920s made popular by Eddie Cantor; words and music by Frank Silver and Irving Conn.
2The French occupied the Ruhr Valley industrial complex in Germany in 1923 because Germany had failed to maintain its reparations payments to France.
3For Rudolph Valentino see WA 9:N 9.
4Magnus Johnson, United States senator from Minnesota from 1923 to 1925. A Farmer Laborite and agrarian reformer, Johnson took office on July 16, 1923, to fill a vacancy in the Senate.
5For David Lloyd George see WA 1:N 1.
6For Hiram W. Johnson see WA 14:N 3.
7Giuseppe Garibaldi, Italian patriot who helped lead the nineteenth century movement to unify Italy. Luis Angel Firpo, Argentine prizefighter, known as “Wild Bull of the Pampas.” Firpo, who was of Italian-Spanish ancestry, lost a controversial heavyweight title bout to Jack Dempsey in September of 1923.
8George Michael Cohan, American actor, playwright, producer, and songwriter who dominated New York City theater during the first two decades of the twentieth century. He wrote such patriotic songs as “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Over There,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”
9Walter “Walt” Whitman, nineteenth century American poet and writer noted especially for his Leaves of Grass, Goodbye, My Fancy, and other collections of verse.
10Horace Greeley, nineteenth century American journalist and political leader who founded the New York Tribune in 1841. Greeley ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1872. For William G. McAdoo see WA 25:N 1.
WA36 August 19, 1923
LETS TREAT OUR PRESIDENTS
LIKE HUMAN BEINGS
As I am writing this away out here in California days before you read it, it’s Sunday and everybody’s thoughts and sympathies are with a train rushing clear across our country, passing sorrowfully through little towns with just folks standing bareheaded paying their respects to just folks going back to Marion to stay with just folks.1
He goes to his resting place a martyr, a martyr to the boneheadedness of reception committees. You wouldn’t ask your hired man to do in one week the amount of real physical work that each committee asked him to do in one day. Imagine three long speeches in one day in Seattle at different places, and parade for two hours in the hot sun with his hat off most of the time, besides a thousand other things he was asked to do.
Just suppose for instance you had a guest coming to visit you. Would you start in having him entertain the neighbors the minute he got in the house, and then keep every minute of his time occupied till train time, and then turn him over to the next bunch? Why, no, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. The first thing you think of when a friend comes from a long journey is to have him rest, but because it is your president he don’t need any.
So when the next Congress meets they should pass a law to shoot all reception committees, or teach them consideration for other people.
If Jack Dempsey had left Washington and undertaken this same strain, when he got back Uncle Joe Cannon could have licked him.2
Any of you who have slept or tried to on a train at night and got into a town early in the morning, you know you don’t feel like speaking or parading. You want to go to a hotel and go to bed. Now can you imagaine the president’s case? Every morning at 6 A M, to be awakened by a band (it wouldn’t be so bad if it was a good band) and you look out and there is the town’s best citizens in antique hats, ready to show you the Fire House, the new Aqueduct, the High School, and City Hall. The smell of the moth balls from the long tail coats of the committee, morning after morning, would give a man some kind of disease.
Now, every man on that committee was nearly tired out at night and took a vacation the next day, but the president must go right on the same thing the next day, only worse, for every town was trying to outdo the other. It’s not only a hardship on the people you are entertaining but hard on everybody participating.
One town will have a flag composed of 5 thousand children, assembled and standing in the hot sun for hours, not only spoiling their whole day but subjecting them to every known contagious disease. The next town to be original will get 10 thousand children to make up their flag, and make their parade 10 miles as the last one only paraded 5, even if they have to exhaust their guest to do it.
Then of course, he is always asked to speak out in the open. They have 60 acre fields and put seats around them and call ’em stadiums, and expect a man to talk in them. Anyone who has ever spoken outdoors knows what outdoor speaking does to your voice. The town with the cheapest land and most concrete can have the largest stadium.
I have always claimed that parades should be classed as a nuisance and participants should be subject to a term in prison. They stop more work, inconvenience more people, stop more traffic, cause more accidents, entail more expense, and commit and cause I don’t remember the other hundred misdemeanors. And what good are they? Half of them going along you don’t know who they are, or what they are for. Even the people in them hate ’em. The most popular joke I had after the war in New York when the boys were coming back and parading every day was, “If we really wanted to honor our boys, why didn’t we let them sit on the reviewing stands and make the people march those 15 miles?” They didn’t want to parade, they wanted to go home and rest. But they wouldn’t discharge a soldier as long as they could find a new street in a town that he hadn’t marched down yet.
Of course, keep circus parades, for they really give enjoyment not only to kids but us old ones too. As a remedy for this parading I would suggest that each town set aside a street, away out where there is nothing to interfere and give them that as Parade Street; then when some fellow or gang wants to try out a new uniform or honor somebody, why let them parade up and down there just as long as they want to. If you think parading is popular just see how many would go over there to see it. Parades nowadays think they are drawing a crowd when it’s only people trying to get across the street to their business, not to see you parade at all. So just set them aside a street—that will stop it. The minute a parader sees that no one is watching him he will stop and in that way you will eliminate all parades.
I was on the reception committee of the movie industry that was to have met the president here in Los Angeles. Well, just as an example of what I said about the others, they decided that it might be showing partiality if they took him to any one studio, so they decided to take him to all of them. In that way they could take up his entire time. Now, no one knew whether he wanted to go to any of them or not; we were deciding for him. Can you imagine being a guest of the city of Carnegie, Pa., and the committee showing you through all the steel mills in town?
Now President Harding was quite an admirer of the movies, so I imagine he liked sausage, too. But Chicago didn’t rush him off to the packinghouses the minute he got there to see it made.
According to his itinerary here, he was allowed 15 mintues to call on an aunt whom he hadn’t seen in years that lived here. That was to be his only relaxation while here. We were waiting to see how long Frisco’s parade would run so we could run ours longer.
Now, as just an example of the trip, he loved golf, (and as the later sad events have proven) it was good for him; it was the very recreation needed. But do you think these communities let him do it? No sir, he only got out three times on the entire trip. I offered a suggestion here when they were making the arrangements, but like everything coming from a comedian it was considered not practical. I wanted to let the reception committee go ahead and rent the suits and be at the station looking funny just like these others he was used to day after day, but instead of dragging him off where he didn’t know where he was going, why just say, “Mr. President, we have engaged a room at the Central Hotel. Here’s a Ford car at your disposal. Here’s a card to any golf course in our town. Now we know you are tired, so you just make yourself at home these few days; do just as you please, we have no plans for you at all.”
Well, my plan wasn’t adopted; it was too late. But if it has been even partly tried in all the towns on this trip we would have all been happy and had him with us today. The first town that ever does do that with their visiting guests and treat them as if human, will soon be wondering where all their popularity comes from.
You may have read in the papers last year that the diplomatic relations were strained between President Harding and some of my jokes on the administration. Now, I want to say nothing was further from the truth. That was simply newspaper stuff. It was reported that he couldn’t stand jokes about the administration. Why, he had a great sense of humor and could stand all the jokes ever told about him or his policies. The first time I met him Will Hays introduced me to him in the White House and he repeated to me a lot of jokes that I had told away before.3
And I told him then: “Now Mr. Harding, I don’t want you to think I am hard on you-all. You know I told some pretty hard ones on the Democrats when they were in; in fact I think I told funnier ones on the Democrats, as they were doing funnier things.” I explained to him that it would not be fair to the Democrats to kid them while they were down, but the minute they get their head above water again I will take a whack at them.
He didn’t come to see our show, that’s true, but he went that night to a better one, so he not only had a sense of humor but he had good judgment. I met Will Hays just before I left New York in June and he said, “Will, I had lunch with the President last week and he had me tell him all your new stuff on the Administration.”
No, I don’t think I ever hurt any man’s feelings by my little gags. I know I never willfully did it. When I have to do that to make a living I will quit. I may not have always said just what they would have liked me to say but they knew it was meant in good nature.
I never go to Detroit that I don’t spend an entire day out with Henry Ford and I don’t suppose there is a man living (barring the owners) that have told any more jokes on him than I have.
I liked President Harding. You see I had met him, and I don’t believe any man could meet him and talk to him and not like him. Why, I said after first meeting him, “I thought I would be scared when they took me in but he made me feel just like talking to some good old prosperous ranchman out home.” That’s why I can understand him wanting to meet as many people personally as possible, for to meet him meant another friend.
I only hope our future presidents can be gifted with his sense of humor and justice.
He was a mighty good friend to us theatrical people; he was a good friend al ALL kinds of people.
For he had the right dope after all. Everybody is JUST FOLKS.
HE WAS A REAL HONEST-TO-GOD MAN.
1The train carried the body of President Harding, who had died in San Francisco on August 2, 1923, during an extensive western speaking tour. He was buried in his home town of Marion, Ohio.
2For Jack Dempsey see WA 31:N 1; for Joseph G. Cannon see WA 15:N 7.
3For Will H. Hays see WA 21:N 6.
WA37 August 26, 1923
BACK TO REAL LIFE
Now my wail this week is on a subject that is really growing serious, and if something is not done about it pretty soon it may bring on very complicated results.
Since I have been out here working in pictures I have had a chance to see quite a lot of movies, and observe their looks and style of dress on the screen.
Now the thing I want to speak about was really prompted by my being asked to speak before a Doctors’ Convention at the hotel where they were meeting. I had not been sick for a long time and did not really know what a doctor looked like, only of course from the ones I had seen on the screen, who all wore Vandyke beards trimmed very neat, and a cutaway coat. So I went into the hotel where I was to speak on the subject, “Odds and Ends Left inside after Operations,” or “Mistakes Doctors have made and covered up.” I saw a room full of men but not one of them had on a Vandyke beard, so I thought I was in the wrong room. Finally I spied one lone guy with a Vandyke, so I immediately rushed up to him and said, “You are Dr. Alibi, aren’t you?” He said, “Why, no, I am not a Doctor, I am the secretary of this Doctors Association that’s in session here, but I am only a clerk myself.”
Now I wouldn’t believe these men were Doctors at all as not a one had the earmarks of a Doctor, and to make it still more doubtful there wasn’t a cutaway coat in the room. There were alpacas, cotton, sear sucker and every brand and vintage of coat in the world, but not a single cutaway. So you see, by not knowing how to look or dress, I just realized what fools moving picture actors were making out of these Doctors. Why, I bet you a lot of real Doctors have been called in to attend some steady movie fan (for no person in the world needs a Doctor more often than a constant movie fan), and I bet you the fan would not let the Doctor in till he went home and put on a beard.
Now it wouldn’t be so bad if it was only the Doctors in real life that were making themselves ridiculous by not knowing how to dress or look, but the same thing has percolated into almost every line of business you can think of.
Another bunch of men that think they are doing well (and they may be financially, but to a movie fan they are the laughing stock of the country) are the Bankers. Any one with a grain of movie sense knows that all Bankers are big and fat. Still, in New York just before I come out here, I spoke at their banquet where the richest were gathered from all over the U. S. I spoke on the subject, “Widows you have foreclosed on,” or, “Yes the Legal Rate is 8%, but try and get it.”
Well, when I got into the room, the first fellow I saw looked like the ideal screen Banker. He had on a dress suit and was big and fat, so I said, “You are one of the Bankers, could you give me some information?” He said, “Why, I’m one of the waiters here, I am no Banker.” So I looked all around to see if I could see one. Finally I did see one, and made for him. He weighed about two fifty, but after the usual question, he turned out to be the assistant manager of the hotel. So I asked him where the Bankers were. He said, “Why, here they are all around here.” I said, “What! These little weasly undernourished men?” They were the most dyspeptic looking bunch of little runts I had ever seen gathered together.
Well, I’ll tell you how bad they looked. I got so scared I went to the manager and told him to “feed ’em before I talk to them because some of them look like they ain’t going to live anyway.”
So you see how much more popular they would be with all the movie fans if they were like they ought and are supposed to be, big and fat. And what makes it worse, they have got the money they could do it on too. But of course if they want to go ahead and let actors make fools out of them, why, it’s none of my business.
Another case that I had forcibly brought to mind lately was a fellow who sold me a lot and took part of the Money down. I found later he had sold the same lot to three other people and had done the same thing with them. He was a little fat, blonde, jolly fellow. Now anybody in the World that’s ever seen just one Picture knows that a Crook or Villain that would do a thing like that is tall with Black hair and Eyes, has a Mustache and smokes cigarettes all the time. That little fellow will never get any credit at all for being a Crook. His whole life’s work is wasted simply because he don’t look right. He didn’t smoke at all, or even wear a high hat.
Now you see if he had looked like I have been used to seeing villains look, I would have known right away what he was and given him credit for being a sharper. But this other little grinning runt that beat us all out of our money over the lots, will never be known in the movies as anything. I can’t understand it at all, when people know how popular movies are, that they can’t take the tip and be as they are represented.
Even women who as a rule are much smarter than men make the same mistakes. Now I have seen young women with babies whom they said were theirs, and some really young ones that claimed they had a whole bunch, maybe five or six. Now you know, and anybody that has ever been to movies knows, that that ain’t so. A woman don’t have children unless she is at least gray-headed. As for being the mother of 5 or 6, why her hair must be snow white and she must be on the way to the poor house. So I don’t see how these young women in real life ever make anybody believe these children are theirs.
Sheriffs in real life are a source of great merriment to all movie fans because a lot of them will persist in appearing without being tall and lanky and having a mustache. What a joke they are to regular movie fans! Can you imagine a sheriff on the screen that is not tall and has no mustache?
Another thing I saw the other day when visiting a big ranch out West here was a cowboy chasing an animal, and he was running it part of the time up hill. Well that struck me, who had only been looking at pictures for years, as being a strange thing to do. I had always seen everything chased down hill and never up. So I just thought how foolish of this Cowboy doing this when on the screen it had been proven absolutely unnecessary. But this boy was away out there on that ranch and he didn’t know much. Why, he was even chasing where there was no road! That was a novelty to me. I had always seen a fellow chasing like mad down a road. So I asked him why he didn’t run down a road when he was after something, and his excuse was that he had to follow what he was after. Silly remark, wasn’t it. Why out here in the movies we train everything to run down the roads. That’s all they would have to do on a ranch. But then, in a lot of places they haven’t got as good roads as California, so I guess that’s why they don’t chase their stock and outlaws up and down them like they do in the movies. Of course, after all, when you sum it up, there are two sides to everything so a lot of people that act primitive really some times have an excuse for it. Of course everything can’t hope to reach the perfection that we have reached in our industry.
Another practice that they tell me is still in vogue in certain parts of the West is to shoot a gun so much that you have to reload it. Now what a silly practice when producers and actors have been working and striving to educate people for 10 years to know that no matter how many times a man may shoot a six shooter in a battle he don’t have to reload it. Of course sometimes it gets so hot you have to dip it in water to cool it off, but I never yet saw one shot so many times it had to be reloaded. But as I say, it will take some people years to learn what we are trying to teach them.
They are certainly suckers now.
I happened into a hospital not long ago and there I saw some real homely nurses. Well I could hardly believe my eyes, as in all my movie experiences I had never seen a nurse that wasn't beauftiful. So then to make sure I asked this nurse if she wasn’t going to marry her patient, and she said, “No!” That seemed strange to me. I had always been used to the nurse being beautiful and marrying the man-patient. They were working in that hospital but you can’t make believe they were real nurses. You see these little things just show you that people in real life have got the wrong angle on life and dress altogether.
I am proud to be connected even in a small way with an industry that is trying in every way possible to set real people right, and make them see where they are wrong. They have either got to change or be the butt of every movie fan’s ridicule.
WA38 September 2, 1923
WHY DON’T COOLIDGE FIX IT?
The Masterpiece of Literature this week is on the failure of President Coolidge.1
From what I have read about what people want him to do he seems to be about the most colossal flop of any president we ever had. Now I will just enumerate a very few of the reasons why he has been a failure.
First, you take the farmers. There has been no rain in a great many states where they have growing crops, and if rain don’t come pretty soon it will just about be the ruination of them. Then, on the other hand, there are states where they were trying to harvest their crops and they have had too much rain. Now you see, he has been in there over a month now and it’s time he was declaring himself.
Of course it wouldn’t look so bad, but it’s been the Republican states that have had the rain when they needed it, and the Democratic ones have been left dry, and even papers that ordinarily want to be fair have commenced to comment on it.
Not only the rain, but you just look at the boll weevil on the cotton. He has had plenty of time to say what he was going to do with the weevils. Other presidents have settled the thing by coming out against them and why don’t he!
Personally, I have always advocated taking those weevils and as long as the South has to feed them and nourish them, and getting some way of using them after they are mature. Get a guy like Burbank to cross them with some other animal that is short sighted and see if he can’t train them to live off cockle burrs instead of the cotton stalk.2
Or get some famous New York chef to frame up a dish made of them. Just tell the New Yorkers it was eaten in Paris and they would go wild over it and pay any price.
Or get some breakfast food co. to use them. They are using everything else. Just think what wonderful advertising possibilities the name has: “Eat a Bowl of Boll Weevil before Breakfast.” Of course, they could stop raising cotton for one year and starve them out and then, when they started cotton growing again in the next year, there would be none to bother them, but nobody ever thought of that.
It’s not my place to tell people what to do. That’s what we pay Mr. Coolidge 75 thousand a year for. I can’t think of everything. I am not getting paid for looking after the nation’s affairs, so it’s not for me to settle the boll weevil. I simply tell you how it can be done; but why don’t he do something?
Now take Skiatook, Oklahoma, near my home town of Claremore, Oklahoma, (the home of the greatest magic water in Rogers County).
Well, do you know that Mr. Coolidge has not yet come out in the open and appointed a new postmaster.
I am not knocking, mind you; I am a tolerant taxpayer, but why don’t he say who is to be postmaster in Skiatook?
Right here in Beverly Hills close to where I live, Charlie Chaplin has built a home.3
He is outside the city limits and can’t get city water and he
can’t find any by digging. Now what is Coolidge going to do about it?
Of course, I will admit that Charlie never thought of needing water, but that don’t excuse Mr. Coolidge for not doing something about it. If he don’t, the first thing you know, we will have a dry comedian on our hands.
Wheat is only worth 90 cents a bushel. He has been in a month and it’s still 90 cents. Why don’t he issue a message and say wheat from now on is $1.50 a bushel?
For the last few days out here it has been foggy and cloudy until almost noon and we couldn’t shoot any pictures. Now that never happened during any other administration that I can ever remember. So why don’t he do something?
France and England are about to go to war over how much they owe each other. Why don’t he (President Coolidge) come out at once for the League of Nations and stop this coming war?
All of Europe looks on the verge of war. Why don’t he come out against any entangling alliance for America, and stop any chance of us getting into European affairs? He could very well do both of these things if he only would, so why don’t he do it?
France owes us a bunch of dough. All he has to do is make them pay it. Why don’t he come out and do it? He has been in for over a month now.
The railroads are in terrible shape (really worse than usual, which don’t seem possible). Now what has he done to remedy the situation? Not a thing! It’s funny to me he can’t remedy these things when other presidents have always coped with them so readily and satisfactorily.
The coal situation has been dragging along ever since he first took the office. Still he has not done a thing to settle it to the satisfaction of both sides.
Louie Firpo hasn’t smiled since he come to this country.4
We have been mighty good to him in a financial way, so why should he look on us with a
sneer on his face? Still, he has been doing this for over a month now and not a statement has Mr. Coolidge issued in regard to it. You let things like that go and it will gradually bring on international complications.
What has he done for Capital? Nothing! What has he done for Labor? Nothing! As I say I don’t like to complain and won’t; nobody ever heard me utter a word against the management of our government, but when a man is neglecting his duty and failing to come out and settle things once and for all it’s simply more than even my patience can stand.
Now they are trying to make Babe Ruth change the style of bat he uses.5
Can you imagine a president standing idly by and not doing a thing?
Russia wants to be recognized, and you know if a man can’t recognize you in a month’s time, why the chances are you don’t know him at all.
He should have come out on all these problems the night he was sworn in up in Vermont. Why, if he had been the right kind of president, do you suppose he would stand idly by and see all the Negroes going North? (Even if they hadn’t been doing anything down there) why didn’t he stop them?
What about the German mark? Is he just going to sit there and let them get cheaper than Fords?
I see by the papers that Valentino is wearing suspenders and his hair is getting bald.6
Now what has Mr. Coolidge done about it? That’s a National Calamity and still, for the last month, he has just let it drop till the first thing we know we will all be worshiping a toupee.
Now what makes it harder is that when Mr. Coolidge went in I had a lot of confidence in him; he always struck me as a quiet competent man, and I can’t understand why he is not doing a thing in settling these various questions which I have enumerated.
Look at Mary Miles Minter!7
What has he done for that poor downtrodden girl? I tell you the time is coming when these picture stars will
come into their own, and if Mr. Coolidge don’t take their part we will elect
some other man that will. They have been getting the worst of it long enough.
What has he done for the drinking man? Liquor never was so high, from what the papers say. He hasn’t done a thing to bring the necessities of life down to the reach of the common people. I tell you, you can look up the history of the world and you don’t find a single nation that ever amounted to anything on 15 dollar a quart liquor. The poor man simply can’t pay rent and do it.
What he has been doing these 4 weeks is more than I can figure out. Everybody is wondering if he is going to call Congress in extra session. About the only way I know of for him to make himself solid, after all these colossal failures is to not only not call congress now, but not call them at all. I tell you if he did that he would go down in history as another Lincoln.
1For this and all further references to Calvin Coolidge see WA 7:N 6.
2Luther Burbank, American horticulturist who initially took up market gardening in 1868 and who developed the Burbank potato and new and improved varieties of other cultivated plants.
3For Charlie Chaplin see WA 11:N 8.
4For Luis Firpo see WA 35:N 7.
5George Herman “Babe” Ruth, popular American baseball player and home run slugger who played for a number of major league teams, including the New York Yankees from 1920 to 1934.
6For Rudolph Valentino see WA 9:N 9.
7Mary Miles Minter, American silent screen heroine who first appeared in films in 1915.
WA39 September 9, 1923
ROGERS STUDYING ETIQUETTE RULES
Somebody must have seen me out in public; I think it was Emily Post, for she sent me a book on ETIQUETTE that she had written herself.1
It has 700 pages in it. You wouldn’t think there was that much Etiquette, would you! Well, I hadn’t read far when I found that I was wrong on most every line of the whole book.
700 pages of Etiquette and not a line how to remove dogs and cats and still remain nonchalant.
Now, you wouldn’t think a person could live under fairly civilized conditions (as I imagined I was doing) and be so dumb as to not have at least one of these forms of Etiquette right. Well, when I got through reading it, I felt like I had been a heathen all my life. But after I got to noticing other people I met I didn’t feel so bad. Some of them didn’t know much more about it than I did.
So I predict that her book and all the other things you read now on Etiquette are going to fall on fertile soil. Now take, for instance, being introduced, or introducing someone; that is the first thing in the book. I didn’t know up to then that inflection of the voice was such a big faction in introductions.
She says that the prominence of the party being introduced determines the sound of the voice, as she says for instance, “Are you there?” and then on finding out you are there she says, “Is it raining?”
Now the inflection that you use on asking anyone if they are there, is the same inflection that you are to use on introducing Mr. Gothis, if he is the most prominent of the two. Then for the other person, who Mr. Gothis probably got his from, why, you use the “Is it raining?” inflection.
You see, a fellow has to know a whole lot more than you think he does before he can properly introduce people to each other. First he has to be up on his Dunn and Bradstreet to tell which of the two is the more prominent. Second, he has to be an Elocutionist so he will know just where to bestow the inflection.
Well, I studied on that introduction chapter till I thought I had it down pat. So I finally got a chance to try it out. My wife had invited a few friends for dinner, and as she hadn’t finished cooking it before they come, I had to meet them and introduce them to each other.
Well, I studied for half an hour before they come, trying to figure out which one was the most prominent so I could give her the “Are you there?” inflection. It was hard to figure out because any one of them couldn’t be very prominent and be coming to our house for dinner. So I thought, well, I will just give them both the “Is it raining?” inflection.
Then I happened to remember that the husband of one of them had just bought a drug store, so I figures that I had better give her the benefit of the “Are you there?” inflection, for if prohibition stays in effect it’s only a matter of days till her husband will be prominent.
So when they arrive I was remembering my opening chapter of my Etiquette on introductions. When the first one come I was all right; I didn’t have to introduce her to anyone. I just opened our front door in answer to the bell which didn’t work. But I was peeping through the curtains, and as I opened the door to let her in 2 of our dogs and 4 cats come in.
Well, while I was shooing them out, apologizing, and trying to make her believe it was unusual for them to do such a thing, now there I was! This Emily Post wrote 700 pages on Etiquette, but not a line on what to do in an emergency to remove dogs and cats and still be nonchalant.
The second lady arrived just as this dog and cat pound of ours was emptying. She was the new prescription store owner’s wife and was to get the “Are you there?” inflection. Her name was (I will call her Smith, but that was not her name.) She don’t want it to get out that she knows us.
Well, I had studied that book thoroughly but those animals entering our parlor had kinder upset me. So I said, “Mrs. Smith, are you there? I want you to meet Mrs. Jones. Is it raining?”
Well, these women looked at me like I was crazy. It was a silly thing to say. Mrs. Smith was there of course, or I wouldn’t have introduced her, and asking Mrs. Jones if it was raining, was most uncalled for, because I had just looked out myself and, besides, any one that ever lived in California knows it won’t rain again till next year.
But that didn’t discourage me. I kept right on learning and from now on I am just mangy with Etiquette.
Why, just the other day, I heard what I had always considered up to then a well behaved woman, introduce one gentleman friend to another and she said, “Allow me to present.”
Now anybody that’s ever read the first five lines in the book knows that the word present, is never used only on formal occasions. You should always say “May I introduce” on all informal occasions. There was a woman who, to look at her, you would never have thought she could possibly be so rude and uncultured as to have made a mistake like that.
It just spoiled her for me. I don’t care how many nice things she may do in the future, she just don’t belong.
Rule 2, Chapter 5—: “No Gentleman under any circumstances chews gum in public.” Now that kinder knocked me for a goal, for I had been chewing gum before some of the best families in this country. But from now on it is out. I am going to live according to the book.
Chapter 6—: “Gentlemen should not walk along the street with their cane or stick striking the picket fence. Such habits should be curbed in the nursery.”
Now that rule didn’t hit me so hard for I am not lame and I don’t carry a cane yet, and furthermore, there is no picket fences in California. If they had enough pickets to make a fence they would take them and build another bungalow and rent it.
Outside of eating with a sharp knife, there was no rule in the book that lays you liable to as much criticism as the following: “Whether in a private car, a taxi, or a carriage, a lady must never sit on a gentleman’s left, because according to European etiquette a lady ‘on the left’ is no lady.”
I thought at first when I read that it was a misprint, and meant a lady should never sit on a gentleman’s lap, instead of left. But so I guess you can go ahead and sit on the lap. It don’t say not to. But don’t sit on his left, or you can never hope to enter smart society.
Then it says “the owner of the car should always occupy the right hand side of the rear seat.” No matter how many payments he has to make on it, that is considered his seat.
Chapter 7 is given over entirely to the Opera. What to wear, when to applaud—it tells everything but how to enjoy the thing. The fellow that figures out how to enjoy the Opera in a foreign tongue, without kidding himself or four flushing, has a fortune in store for him.
Chapter 12 tells how the Butler should dress. You don’t know what a relief it was to me to find that news. I never had one, but if I do I will know what to costume him in.
The book says: “At six o’clock the Butler puts on his dress suit. The Butler’s suit differs from that of a Gentleman by having no braid on his trousers.”
Now all you birds that never could tell the servants from the guests, except somebody called one of them a Butler and the other a Gentleman, you can’t tell them that way. More than likely the Butler is the Gentleman of the two.
But I can tell the Butler. He has no braid on his trousers.
Now, all I got to do is find out how to tell the Gentleman.
If you see people walking around looking down at trousers, in the future, you will know they are looking to see if the braid is left off.
1Emily Price Post, American writer and columnist famous for her advice on manners and social etiquette; author of Etiquette and similar works.
WA40 September 16, 1923
TWO LONG LOST FRIENDS
FOUND AT LAST
Well sir, I have a real message for my readers this week. It looked like it would be just the ordinary article with no flavor or backbone or truth, and with no real underlying news or wisdom, that is, nothing that the people would be glad to know and read. As I say, that is the kind of article I thought it would be. But as I picked up the morning papers, why I read who was in our midst out here in sunny California. Well, sir, it struck me like a thunderbolt here was news which my public had been longing for for years and here I had found it out!
Well, I says to myself, this is too good to keep, for here people had been wondering all this time for just what I knew now. I kinder hated to leave the East on account of thinking I would be out of touch with some of our national characters but I find that sooner or later they all arrive out here and start in fighting off real estate men the same as shooing away mosquitoes on Long Island.
Well, who should blow in but two of our old long-lost friends, and I know that even ’Frisco (who is jealous of any one being here) will be glad to hear they are here well and hearty, and rehearsed their old act here yesterday and people enjoyed them just as much as they did in the old days.
Both of these boys were on the big time and were well known all around the circuit, and any time they took the platform standing by the side of a pitcher of ice water and a glass, why, it just meant 6 columns starting on the front page and ending among the want ads. I bet you hadn’t heard of them in years and will thank me for resurrecting this information for you.
I can’t keep it any longer, I did want to keep it ‘till the finish of this to tell you but I must tell you now who they are—William J. Bryan and Billy Sunday!1
Neither did I, but they are, and looking fine.
You know, if you have lost any one, look out here, because sooner or later they will come here to visit relatives, for anybody that has relatives comes here so he can write back to the other relatives.
They are both just resting here, (so is everybody else). Mr. Bryan is waiting till he finds out where the next Democratic Convention will be held, and then be there ready to knock any aspiring presidential candidate on the head the minute it shows above the mob.
The only way they will ever fool W. J. is some presidential year decide not to run any one. Then it will be a good joke on him; he will have no one to object to.
Of course, now we don’t hear much of Democratic candidates, as both sides are busy watching to see what Cal will do. When he first become President there seemed to be quite a sentiment to nominate him again for Vice President, but the last few weeks there seems to be a change of sentiment to shift him up to the No. 1 position.
Everybody was wondering how he would come out of the coal strike situation, and figures his political life or death depended on how he decided, so he just fools everybody by appointing some other man to settle it. Now, no other President had ever been smart enough to think of a thing like that; they tried to do it themselves, so I think he will go a long ways. He figured, why should I get in wrong when I can get some man to do it for me, so he just looked around until he found some other fellow who had a political future.
He said “Gifford, you go get in wrong with which ever side you decide against.”2
Now, the minute a crisis comes up, all he has to do is to remember some Republican name and appoint him to settle it for him.
Now the only crisis that Mr. Coolidge can possibly get into, himself, is running out of Republicans to appoint. In that case he would have to appoint a Democrat which would bring on a worse crisis than the one he appointed him to settle.
But I am not here to talk about Cal and what he is doing. I am here to tell you of these two long lost prodigals that I discovered in the wilds of this village. They were preaching in a pulpit. I guess that’s why no one had seen them for so long. Both these boys, in the good old days, used to talk in a tent. Now you can always attract a crowd in a tent, for they figure that it might be a circus. Come to think of it, their acts were similar; either one of
them could take a dictionary and sink an enemy with words at 40 paces.
Bryan’s speeches have been the only thing to look forward to at a Democratic Convention for years. He has sent more presidential candidates home without a reception committtee meeting them than any monologist living. He can take a batch of words and scramble them together and leaven them properly with a hunk of oratory and knock the White House door knob right out of a candidate’s hand.
Bryan has made more political speeches than Germany has marks. He kissed, when they were babies, every man and woman in the United States who is now up to the age of 45. He has juggled the destinies of America more than any two Presidents because he has had the choosing or rejecting of them.
His career has varied from non intoxication to evolution; his hobbies have jumped from grape juice to monkeys. He tries to prove that we did not descend from the monkey, but he unfortunately picked a time when the actions of our people prove that we did. He, undoubtedly, is one of our greatest minds and in most of his theories he has been just too far ahead of the mob.
He preached prohibition at a time when it meant political suicide for himself. I bet the next Democratic candidate for President, no matter how strong he may think he is, would rather have the support of W. J. Bryan than any doubtful state in the Union.
Now that brings us to his accomplice Willie Sunday, who I discovered staggering from one of our local pulpits last Sunday. To some of you who can’t or don’t wish to remember, Billy passed out just as Andy Volstead made his entrance.3
Now Barnum invented the tent, but Billy Sunday filled it.4
He can get more people into a tent than an Iowa picnic at Long Beach, California.
He is the only man in ecclesiastical or Biblical history that ever had to train physically for a sermon. He brought more converts to prohibition before the 18th Amendment come in, than the 18th Amendment has converted to prohibition since it went in.
He is the first preacher to specialize on liquor. While Bryan’s oratorical wrath in the later years has been hurled at Darwin, Billy Sunday picks his opponent with a carelessness that is almost reckless.5
I suppose that he has had more mortal worldly combats with the Devil himself than any man living. He has challenged the Devil publicly more times than Wills, the Negro, has Jack Dempsey.6
People have been going for years to hear Billy, just figuring that if they didn’t go that night it might be the very night that the Devil would hear what Billy was calling him and come up, and they might miss what would happen.
I don’t know this Devil myself but if he heard Billy say these things and didn’t come up and call him for it, I think less of him than Billy does. Of course the Devil may be just good natured, and figure, well, he can’t hurt me, and if he can get anything out of it why let him go ahead.
Now, of course, you can get a fellow wrong. Billy used to lay all the drinking on to this Devil, and claimed that if we had prohibition we could lick this Devil. Now we got prohibition, I don’t think we can legitmately lay the present drinking onto the Devil.
Course, from this I don’t want you to think I am taking sides in this thing, I don’t know either one personally. But, as I say, there is a chance that they both may have each other wrong, I say, Billy must have something on the Devil or he wouldn’t dare to call him what he does, especially if the Devil can hear him, and I tell you the Devil must be pretty low if he don’t answer him, that is, if he hears him.
I have always figured that the reason that the Devil didn’t arise and respond was Billy’s slang was too much for him. But Billy sure did do a lot of good in the old days, and no matter if you didn’t like his style of sermon, you sure didn’t get a chance to do any sleeping.
So I hope we can keep them both out here with us, and help to get some of our population’s mind on the church on Sunday instead of being continually looking for lots.
1For William Jennings Bryan see WA 5:N 7. William Ashley “Billy” Sunday, popular American evangelist and former professional baseball player who reached the height of his ministerial career in the 1920s.
2Gifford Pinchot, Republican governor of Pennsylvania from 1923 to 1927 and 1931 to 1935. A progressive reformer, Pinchot was prominent in initiating measures that settled the great coal strike of 1923.
3For Andrew J. Volstead see WA 9:N 13.
4Phineas Taylor Barnum, American showman who cofounded the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1881. He remained in the circus business until his death ten years later.
5Charles Robert Darwin, nineteenth century English naturalist voted for his theory of evolution by natural selection. His On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859) provoked a storm of controversy, as did his later The Descent of Man (1871) in which he discussed the derivation of the human race from an animal of the anthropoid group.
6Harry Wills, black American boxer, known as the “Brown Panther.” Wills longed to fight Jack Dempsey (see WA 31:N 1) for the world heavyweight title, but he was constantly thwarted in his efforts by promoters who did not want a racially-mixed championship bout.
WA41 September 23, 1923
MEXICAN ECLIPSE CAPTURES ROGERS
Well, I have just this minute returned from Tia Juana, Mexico, where I along with some thousands of other scientists went to observe the total eclipse. That is, that was their excuse for going. You know it don’t take much excuse to get a man or woman either, to go to Mexico nowadays. So when the scientists said that Los Angeles was only to get a 99 per cent eclipse (that is about the only thing I ever knew Los Angeles to fall down on; they are generally 100 per cent), it kinder hurt their pride. It was first time nature had ever handed them a mere 99.
I don’t really think they would have ever gotten over it but San Francisco only received some 85 or 90 per cent so that kinder salved things over.
READY FOR THE NEXT ECLIPSE
But the Chamber of Commerce has held a meeting and voted resolution to apply for the next eclipse in its entirety. They claim that it was due to the club not giving the matter more thought that they lost the one percent on this one.
Well, the scientist road map showed that Catalina Island and San Diego and Tia Juana, were right in the path of total blackness. Everybody that could get out of a cafeteria line in time to make the trip started for one of these places. Catalina Island offered wonderful possibilities. You could get two rounds of sea-sickness, see the eclipse and get your chewing gum at cost — all in one day’s pleasure.
San Diego is a town built in the most south westerly part of the United States where Americans who are coming out of Mexico sober up before being able to go to their various homes, and it is really remarkable what a thriving town it is. You would be surprised at the business they do.
There are nice hotels there with ice water in every room, and even banks where you can draw drafts on your home bank after a day in Mexico at the tables, (as they say in Monte Carlo books). San Diego catches very few going down into Mexico (only the punctures), as most people are in a great hurry to get there, once you begin to reach this oasis.
So you see it didn’t take much decision on my part to decide that if I, along with the other scientists who were to write on this traffic accident in the skies, wanted to pick out an observatory, there was no particular reason why we should select a dry one.
Well, my friend Mr. Henry Ford may or may not ever be President, but I want to publicly say this to him, that the people he sells cars to are of a very high type of intelligence. I never saw so many owners of one make of car so interested in astronomy in my life. There were not only autos of every make but people of every make, jammed two rows for 150 miles struggling to reach Tia Juana, Mexico FOR THE ECLIPSE.
You would see people going to Mexico to see the eclipse, who, if you looked at them, you wouldn’t think they knew when Sunday passed between Monday and Saturday, much less when the Moon passed between the Sun and Earth.
Now, as I say, we passed through some 70 miles of United States territory that was to be blotted out totally, but there wasn’t an observatory in the entire region. Being my first year as a journalist and this being my first assignment to cover a total eclipse for the various papers who crave my scientific knowledge, I am really ashamed to admit it but, outside of no even knowing what an eclipse was or when one was to happen, I had never even entered one of their observatories where they watch these eclipses; so it was with the greatest anxiety and enthusiasm that I dashed up to the Mexican line.
The country to the South of us we have lately recognized (the receipt for any other nation that wants us to recognize them, is to strike oil, or some other
commodity that our capitalists want), but this editorial is not on our foreign
relations. That I will take up in due time as we have some foreign relations. This is to be on the planets, their various routes, mode and speed of travel.
A great many scientists, I had read in the papers, were bringing cameras to photograph this remarkable phenomenon. But most of the scientists that I saw had jugs and flasks. Well, not being up on science, I didn’t know what to bring. You know these scientists are such a queer lot I wouldn’t be surprised
at anything they do.
Well, I asked the customs inspector where the observatory was. He said, “Which one?” I said “Lick” (that was the only one I had ever heard of). He said, “Right over there is one, if it ain’t licked up.”
You never saw such an accommodating country in the world. Just think of the preparations they had gone through for the visiting scientists’ pleasure. They had built these observatories all over the place right up to the line where you would lose no time. You could start observing the minute you got into the country.
Now, there is apt to be among my readers some who are as ignorant as I am about the inside of an observatory, so for their benefit I will explain just what it is like. On the left, as you enter, is a long table affair, that runs the length of the room. It’s really higher than a table, and back of it is a long mirror where you get the reflection of any local eclipses that might happen. Then on the bottom, outside this high counter, is a little low railing that Singers’ Midgets could look over if they wanted to see an eclipse.1
Now, up here in Los Angeles, they talked about smoked glasses, but down there they just filled them and looked through them, and the more glasses you used, and the more different kinds of glasses, why, the more eclipse, you could see. Some men would have to get the man to let them try a dozen different glasses before they could get the right focus.
SOME REAL SCIENTISTS
Then on the other side of the room, if you didn’t want to look through glasses upside down, why they had various other instruments of knowledge. One was a table with little cubes cut square (or apparently square) with dots on them and the scientist would shake them in his hand and lay down some money, and then let them empty out of his hand. Then another scientist, even more of a scientist, would pick up the money in one hand and the little squares in the other and hand the squares to another scientist and put the money in his pocket.
I asked a visiting astronomy professor what the idea was. He said, “You can see if you are right.” I says, “What has that got to do with the eclipse?” He says, “Why you bet on the passing.” So I bet him I would pass but I didn’t so now I want the scientist to figure out in what year I am going to pass.
By that time it was 12:50 P. M. so I come out of the observatory as that was the time it was supposed to be total, but there wasn’t a soul on the streets or outside any place. Everybody was on the inside looking at the eclipse. It was pretty dark on the street and a Mexican who lived in the edge of the town started milking his cow, and raising the mischief with his wife because she didn’t have his supper ready.
One fellow staggered out of an observatory and I asked him if he had seen the eclipse and he said, “Which one?” But it certainly was a success from a scientific point of view, for away along in the evening after it had gotten light, I saw astronomers piled up in every observatory just overcome by what the scientists call the corona, or after effects of an eclipse.
Oh, yes, the Mexicans also put on for the visiting astrologers a bull fight. It was held at the lower end of the town. You had to pass every observatory in town before you reached the bull ring.
Well, I went down and there was lots of natives but very few Americans. As I say, it was held at the wrong end of the town for them to reach it. I guess it was the only fight ever held during an eclipse.
Can you imagine getting in a pen with a bull in the dark. I wouldn’t even get in with one in the light. Well, the bulls turned out to be steers. I guess on
account of the eclipse and the condition the Americans would be in, the Mexicans figured they wouldn’t know the difference. They didn’t kill the bulls, and the bulls wasn’t lucky enough to do any damage themselves. As a strict humane man I could see nothing to kick about, only from an audience’s standpoint.
IF THEY HAD COLLIDED
So I left Tia Juana and come back to this side where everybody had looked at the eclipse from out of doors, and they all seemed to be kinder disappointed. It didn’t do, anything. You see from the amount of press stuff written about it most people kinder thought it would do some tricks, maybe juggle or shimmy or something like that. It just passed - that’s all. I personally, along with all the others couldn’t see anything so wonderful about its doing that. If the two planets hadn’t passed but had hit, that would have been something to see.
Of course, I will admit in this day of congested traffic, for any two given objects to meet and pass without hitting is considered wonderful.
Everybody I talked with seemed to be unanimous that they would rather have seen the Dempsey and Firpo fight.2
So I guess that is why they only have eclipses every 100 years so they won’t have to draw from the same crowd twice.
But no one who saw it from Mexico had any fault to find with it at all. If there is any great thing happening and you are not right sure you will enjoy it, why, go to Mexico and see it.
I tell you a thing looks different from a foreign country. I wish, as I have to go to the Democratic and Republican Conventions, that I could see them from Tia Juana.
The eclipse was kinder overrated but I tell you Mexico ain’t.
1Singer Midgets, American vaudeville act consisting of performers (mostly midgets), animal trainers, and animals under contract with the Loew Circuit.
2For Jack Dempsey see WA 31:N 1; for Luis Firpo see WA 35:N 7.
WA42 September 30, 1923
BLAMES ALL ILLS ON EARTHQUAKE
Well, all I know is what I read in the papers. That Japanese earthquake in addition to being the greatest calamity in the history of the world, even at the time that it happened, has, according to newspapers and experts, not reaped half of its destruction yet.1
Every day something happens and we don’t know exactly just what it is, and it will turn out in the morning paper to be the earthquake in Japan that caused it.
We lost seven self-destroyers on the rocks just above here the other day.2
People thought at first that it might have been a fog, but it wasn’t it was the earthquake in Japan.
You know, come to think of it, it does sound plausible. They were getting along fine, going some measly little 18 or 20 knots an hour. Then the floor walker or main guy of the whole 15 self-destroyers happened to think of the Japanese earthquake and got to brooding over it until he decided that they were going entirely too slow. So he ordered some 25 knots an hour. So you can very readily see that the earthquake was directly responsible.
They used to use compasses on boats so they would have some idea whether they were going ashore or away from shore. People out of the Navy have always wondered why they kept their boats in a row. It’s so if anything happens to the first boat, why, the others will have no trouble having it happen to them. They have been holding an investigation here, but the officers in charge of it say that the public will learn just what they want them to learn, so it looks like the cause will be the earthquake.
SOME CREDIT DUE LOUIS
We have had no sunshine out here in the mornings, and we could not shoot any pictures, but I see where they claim it is due to the earth’s disturbance. I see where a great many of the negroes who went north to work, when the old breeze hit them struck out for the south again, but I see it wasn’t the cold weather, it was the earthquake that scared them back.
I will give Firpo credit, in addition to his gentlemanly conduct in the ring, that he has not blamed his downfall on the earthquake.3
I read where Will Hays went to Europe with Ambassdor Harvey.4
Now I don’t know if that was politics or the earthquake—either one is equally destructive. I think Will went over to see if he couldn’t get Mr. Harvey in the
movies on the other side.
See where the Prince of Wales is up in Canada on his ranch.5
As a pest of an after dinner speaker would say, that reminds me of a story. When the
Prince was up in Calgary the time before, a very wealthy old ranchman who I have known for years, and who originally came from Texas but now owns the biggest ranch up there, decided that the Prince ought to have a Canadian ranch.6
So, as there was one adjoining his, he got them to buy it, saying that as it was too big he would take part of it and let the Prince have the other part.
A WISE OLD BIRD
Now half of this ranch was very good, and he had been wanting it for years to add to his big one, but he couldn’t buy the good half and not take the bad. But when His Majesty graciously came along, he was able to obtain the half for himself that he had so long desired. And incidentally to have only a barbwire fence separating you and the future Viceroy of India, don’t hurt the value of your land any to speak of. Can you imagine what he could have rented his ranch for this fall to some old Newport matron, with a couple of empty bob-headed girls of marriageable age?
This same old gentleman, who is a great character, and known and liked by all the notables that ever visit western Canada, was present a few years ago when the Duke of Connaught and Princess Patricia were in Calgary at a big rodeo celebration in their honor.7
Charley Russell, the great cowboy artist, and the finest painter of the West we have, had an exhibition there and the Duke saw them and bought some, and wanted to meet this cowboy who painted them.8
So he asked Mr. Lane, this old Ranchman, and a lifelong friend of Russell’s where he could find Russell.
So Mr. Lane says, “You won’t find him around here with these white folks; he will be over back of the fairgrounds with them Injuns. Come on Duke and we will hunt him up.” He never called him anything but just Duke. It was Duke with George Lane, and the Duke really liked it and got a kick out of it.
Well, he dragged him through the dust till they found Charley. Then he said, “Charley, I want you to meet Duke,” and Charley, who is also like Mr. Lane, one of our characteristic Americans, said “Howdy, Duke.”
AX HANDLE A LITTLE OFF
The Duke said, “I have enjoyed your wonderful paintings. Mr. Russell, you are a genius.” Charley said, “No I am just an ordinary Dobber.” The Duke said, “Dobber? Dobber? What is a Dobber?” He turned to Mr. Lane and said, “What does he mean — Dobber?”
Lane said, “Is that what he said he was?” The Duke said, “That is what he called himself — Dobber.”
Lane thought a minute, he didn’t know what Charley was kidding himself about, but he wasn’t going to be stuck by any question the Duke might ask so he said, “Well, if Charley says he was that, you can depend on it, Duke, he wouldn’t lie to anybody.”
Charley was telling me about painting old man Lane a picture of a bunch of cowboys around the chuck wagon in the morning, some of them eating and some getting on their horses and one horse bucking through the campfire. Near by was an ax and wood for the fire. It was a big picture with lots of people and action in it.
Well, he sent for Mr. Lane to come down to Great Falls, Mont., where Charley lives, to see the picture. Lane looked at it quite a while and Charley said he began to feel that there was something terrible wrong with it. He knew the old man knew for he had been a cowpuncher all his life.
Finally he said, “Charley you ain’t got that ax handle wrapped with rawhide. You know them cooks was hell for breaking ax handles in them days.”
Charley picked up a brush and wrapped the ax handle with it, and the old cattleman handed over his paltry 10,000 bucks for it and took his ax handle back to Canada.
A HANDICAP FOR WALES
When the Prince was up there before, he went out to Lane’s ranch where they were rounding up a big herd and was riding around on a horse. Finally Lane yelled at him, “Hey, Prince, get out of there. You are getting in the way of my cowboys’ working.”
I would love to be up there working around as a cowpuncher and hear what that old bird will tell the Prince this trip.
This Prince seems to be a mighty fine kind of guy and it is a shame that he should have been handicapped by birth, for there is a boy who would have made something out of himself.
I guess that the King of Spain will be buying a ranch in Canada or Mexico or some place.9
Spain just pulled off a bloodless revolution. You know those bloodless revolutions are the ones that hurt the King business more than a fighting one does. A King can stand people’s fighting but he can’t last long if people start thinking.
I see where President Coolidge is not going to chase the bootleggers with the American navy. Wouldn’t that be a fine spectacle, seeing one of our dreadnaughts going into these golf and country clubs trying to shell the prominent bootlegger.
Members, can you imagine a subchaser stationed at the front door of every drug store? When you went into the Navy, instead of learning you to shoot, they would develop your sense of smell. Just think of the Navy returning to their home base after a cruise of raiding two stills.
As it is, we have the flower of American manhood in our Navy, but just think what the slogan would be then: “Join the Navy and prevent fermentation.” Why, in the grape season no one in the Navy could get a leave of absence.
No, just let the bootleggers alone; they are getting so prosperous they are drinking each other’s wares now, so they will gradually kill each other off.
1An earthquake of great magnitude struck the Kwanto Plain of Japan on September 1, 1923. The official total of persons killed or missing in the earthquake, called the Shinsai or Great ’Quake, and the resultant fires was 142,807. Damage was estimated at $2.8 billion, the greatest material devastation ever recorded in an earthquake.
2Seven American destroyers were wrecked in fog off the coast of northern California on September 9, 1923, with the loss of twenty-three crewmen. An inquiry board later reported that faulty navigation and bad judgment had cause the disaster and brought charges of culpable inefficiency and negligence against eleven officers.
3For Luis Firpo see WA 35:N7.
4For Will H. Hays see WA 21:N 6; for George Harvey see WA 1:N 8.
5For the Prince of Wales see WA 17:N 8.
6George Lane, American-born Canadian rancher who was a friend of the Prince of Wales and who often entertained the prince during his trips to Canada. Lane had purchased a ranch for the prince that adjoined his own Bar U Ranch in Alberta.
7Arthur William Patrick Albert, the Duke of Connaught and Strathern who served as governor general of Canada from 1911 to 1916. His second daughter was Princess Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth, who after her marriage in 1919 became Lady Patricia Ramsay.
8Charles Marion “Charlie” Russell, renowned American painter, illustrator, and sculptor of western scenes, known widely as the “Cowboy Artist.” He was a close friend of Rogers.
9Alfonso XIII, king of Spain from 1886 to 1931. His reign was marked by the defeat of Spanish colonial forces in Morocco by Moors in 1923. Because of such turmoil, he was forced to appoint General Miguel Primo Rivera y Orbaneja as military dictator in September 1923.