January 3, 1932 - Current
PROWLING THE PACIFICWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I see as I prowl hither and thither, and believe me brother I have been prowling hither for the last few weeks. It would take me a week to tell you all about it. But this one will just have to kinder start me off.
I left the American shores when my plane crossed the Canadian border up above a town called Bellingham, Washington, on my way to beautiful Vancouver, and say, by the way, that is undoubtedly the prettiest aeroplane trip I ever made, that is from Seattle to Vancouver. You fly over all those islands and inlets and straits, and the mainland is in places low and level and a wonderful dairying country. It looked to me exactly like Holland.
There is a lot of rivers and canals, and lots of old milking cows out chewing on the green, and it was green. And here ten miles back was Mount Baker that is some fifteen thousand feet up, and covered with snow. But it is beautiful all up in that country; they say one of the prettiest trips is the inland trip to Alaska by boat, or plane for there is islands off shore and you can keep inside them. But the whole northwest is beautiful from Frisco north, its mountains and pines, and rivers and lakes.
Seattle is a great aeroplane center on account of the great Boeing plane being made there. They supply the government a lot of them and to lots of commercial and private parties. They have a fine field, well equipped, and Vancouver has one out on an island or a point of land, I was so busy looking at the beautiful scenery that I couldent tell. But Canada is going somewhere with aviation, and they should, for they are a country of long distances. Just think the time a plane will save in Canada.
Well, we went to the beautiful and big C.P.R. Hotel there, a well-appointed and really elaborate affair and was to sail on the Empress of Russia, a boat of their line in the morning. I had heard along the line that Floyd Gibbons, the world’s champion reporter and radio announcer, was to be on his way to Manchuria too, but I wasent sure.1 But when I finally got to Vancouver and they told me it was so I was tickled to death.
Just think of the privilege of traveling and being with him. Here is a man that has been in every nook and corner of the world, knows everybody, everything. I got acquainted with him in Warsaw, Poland, in the summer of 1926, and have been good friends with him since. Well, he was coming in on the C.P.R. at eight-thirty that night from N.Y. All the press boys was down to see him in and I joined out with ’em. He had 22 Chinamen on the train with him that was catching the boat too.
They were going back home, BUT NOT TO FIGHT. They said they dident want any war. Well, we all went up to the hotel and the newspaper men had a nice party that night, with all their wives and friends present and of course Floyd and I had to gab. He is just as good as he used to be on the radio, only slower. He gives you time to take it all in when he is talking to you. We had a fine time, met lots of fine folks, and up in the morning and saw Vancouver. It’s the coming city of all west Canada, and well laid out and very pretty.
We shoved off the next morning about eleven thirty. It looked like a long trip, eleven days to Yokohama. I am the world’s worst sailor anyhow. I get sick before the boat unties from the dock, but you know I says, “I am going to lick this, I am going to eat everything they got, drink ____ ____ _____.” Well, anyhow I stayed with ’em, and do you know I kept waiting to get sick, and kinder looking forward to it, and days went by and nothing showed up, and by golly I begin to believe that maybe the old Oklahoma kid was a sailor after all. Then we hit rough weather, and when you hit rough weather on the Pacific, brother you are encountering some weather.
The Atlantic is only a fish bowl. The Captain, and a very fine capable man, Captain Hosken, really did a great job of handling that boat in that hurricane.2 He practically had to stop, then he turned south off our course, as we were not so far off the Aleutian Islands. That’s the one these aviators try to sail along coming from Japan. Well, we was trying to keep off of ’em. The waves got so high we lost a lifeboat, washed off one of the top decks.
But I was still riding it, and retaining beautiful. Why any other trip I was ever on I would have died. This foolishness kept up with this ocean for over two days. It was a Chinese typhoon, that had run into a monsoon, that was crossed with just plain hurricane, and Oklahoma norther combined. But I kept eating, and HOW! They gave me good food on that line, and they are always passing something, and I was always not letting anything pass me. We had a fine little bunch on board, as travel like all other commodities has been curtailed by Hoover, I suppose, and there is not a whole lot of world travel. Now is the time to go, you are not run over by what one traveler always called “The other objectionable people.” You see everybody is doing the wrong thing when you travel but you.
Read a lot of books. I never was much of a book reader. I am kinder like Al Smith. I never read one through. But I knocked off some on this trip. That old Genghis Khan, that flourished around in all this country around 12 hundred. If you enjoy Jesse James, Al Capone, and the Younger boys, you want to read about this baby.3 Oh Lord, the world was his oyster. He ruled everything from all of China clear to the gates of Vienna, and from the North Pole to Africa, and he did it all horseback. There was a real buckaroo for you.
Then I read a book by General Graves about our adventure in Siberia with our soldiers.4 He tells you he was in charge of ‘em and he don’t know yet what we sent ‘em over for. Now that it’s all over and he has been looking up till now, he still don’t know what they were doing there. I guess it will go down as one of the prize boners of all our foreign invasions.
I want to drop up there to Vladivostok on this trip if I can. You know we have all heard of that place, and I want to get a crack at it. I am anxious to see this Japan and China and all this, and I will write you more about it when we land, which is right now. Oh Lord, here is what they call a rickshaw, a thing where a man pulls you in a chair. What a traffic jam I am going to get into in one of those.
1Ralph Floyd Phillips Gibbons, American journalist, author, and radio commentator who as an internationally-known roving reporter was recognized as the “premier was correspondent of his generation.”
2A. J. Hosken, Canadian mariner; ship commander for the Canadian Pacific line for thirty-two years until his death in 1936.
3Jesse Woodson James, Missouri outlaw of the western frontier during the post Civil War era. The Younger brothers—Thomas Coleman “Cole,” John James, and Robert— Missouri desperadoes who were prominent members of the James gang.
4William Sidney Graves, American army officer; commander of an American expeditionary force in Siberia from 1918 to 1920. A major general, he retired from the service in 1928.
IT’S A LONG WAY TO OSAKA!Osaka, Japan:—Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I see as I prowl. I think the last time I wrote you a long letter we were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You know I am the Champion of the World getting seasick, and I know that it is just lack of nerve. If you will just keep up there and battle with it, and keep going why you are O.K. But I am kinder yellow anyhow, and when I feel a little squirmish why I start hitting for the Hay, and when once I get down in the old Bunk why I am a dead Dog from then on, no matter if we are out for a week or a month. So knowing this in advance I was all set for about eleven days fun and amusement right in the old bunk with one of these little tin Bread Baskets fastened onto the side of it. Everybody said, Ah’ keep going, eat all the time, Drink!
Well we shoved off in the morning about eleven thirty from Vancouver on the Empress of Russia, a fine boat, a fine crew, and fine Captain, and they sure did do everything in their power to make everything pleasant. I dident want to get sick for I dident want to leave this good Gang. Floyd Gibbons of course was a good Sailor, for he had done nothing but sail somewhere all his life.1 He was a kidding me and telling me to come on and eat a lot, and have another little glass of beer.
Well it’s a beautiful trip from Vancouver over to Victoria, that’s the Capitol of British Columbia. So I dident have much excuse to keel over going through all those beautiful wooded Islands and straits. We got over there just about dark, and there was a lot of folks come down to the Boat. The American Consul there wanted to take me ashore and show me the Town. Course it was dark, but we drove by all the big Government buildings and we got a mighty good idea of the City. There is beautiful homes there and gardens and grounds. It’s about the most British City of any in Canada, there is an awful lot of Britishers there. I mean the real ones that come direct from England, and are not Canadians, but British. There seems to be a kind of a pack of ’em out there.
Well then we pulled out and hit the real Ocean, and course I went to bed. But even in the morning I surprised myself by getting up and going down to breakfast, and then stuck it out till Lunch, and then dinner, and mind you all this time I was packing in the Fodder. They had awful good eats on the boat and I just went the limit, and then about the middle of Mister Balboa’s Ocean we hit a Typhoon, and that’s when the Lifeboat washed away and like to got some more.
But do you know those little Chinese Crew, all the head officers were British but the crew are Chinese, and they are real Sailors. Those little Rascals stood out on that deck and hung onto ropes and did work around there when the waves were breaking all over this deck and it was the top one. I like to fell overboard from just looking at it from the inside, and we just had another glass of beer, and they were always passing all kinds of Hors Duervs, (I can’t spell it but I can eat it). Well I was cramming that in all the time. And three big meals a day in addition. I bet by the time I landed I was as fat as C. B. Irwin of Cheyenne.2 (You don’t know Charley. Well that’s your loss, you ought too.)
Then by that time I was figuring that I was a real Sailor. This thing of a Typhoon, crossed with a Monsoon, and sired by a Hurricane lasted with all that was following it, about two days in all. But what I started to tell you was one time, away out in New Zealand, that’s right near Australia, I was working with a Circus, (Wirth Brothers) May Worth the great Bareback Rider was a little Kid with it then.3 Well I left it to come to America, or rather the United States, for we are not ALL of American. Well I was supposed to make a one night trip by a small boat from down the coast where I left the show, after being it for over six months, and finally made enough to get home on. (But not first class.)
Well the train I was on pulled up beside the Boat, and I knowing that I was going to be sick, rushed aboard right away, and I says to myself I will get in the bunk and maby that will help me from being too sick. Well it’s the paint, and that smell of varnish that does it. Well I got a whiff of it going down, and I crawled right into my bunk, (which was in among a lot of other men’s bunks). Now I was under the impression that the Boat was going to pull right out. But this old sniff of paint had got me, and sure enough I started in being sick. I had the old Lunch Basket tied right on to the edge of the bed. (They have lovely little Cuspidors of a thing for Birds like me.) Well I sure was going strong. I thought well I havent got long to be sick, for we will be in there before long, and finally some fellow come in and asked another fellow, “What’s the matter with this Boat, ain’t it ever going to pull out?” Here I was practically dying and the boat tied to the dock, we hadent moved a peg. But the old Imagination had done some working along with the old Stomacher, and here I was dying and still tied to the dock. So when I crossed to Pacific this time with no casualties, why I sure did think I was a Sailor. I was for shipping on as a regular.
1For this and all further references to Floyd Gibbons see WA 471:N 1.
2Charles B. “Charlie” Irwin, rotund and colorful Wyoming rancher, race horse owner, and showman. At the time of his death in 1934, Irwin weighed more than 500 pounds.
3May Wirth Martin, Australian-born equestrienne. In 1903, at the age of five, May made her debut as a member of the Wirth family circus. Ten years later, the Ringling Brothers Circus showcased her at Madison Square Garden ad “May Wirth, the greatest rider who ever lived.”
AMONG THE HEATHERNWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I see as I prowl among the Heathern (so-called). Say these Heathern are pretty foxy guys. Us Methodist, and Baptist, and Holy Rollers, and Sister Aimee’s Four Square, have got to go some to put over anything on these babies.1
Now you take Japan for instance. That’s where we first hit the dirt. Of course, there was the Aleutian Islands off to our North. There is nothing on ’em, they are barren. Being in that state, of course we won ’em. If they had anything on ’em why some other nation would have taken them over and at least hold the mandate over ’em.
You know what a mandate is? It’s a thing you take over a Country, when you haven’t quite got the Gaul to take over the Country. It’s a kind of a fashionable way of glomming it, and still have a speck of pride left.
Well the Captain kept telling us that we were “off the Aleutians.” This kept on for days. “We are off the Aleutians,” till I thought he was off his Aleutian. But he was right, we were. They string out and they go pretty near over to Japan (not too close or they would cop ’em) but they sure do look like they were headed for the other side of the ocean. They are the ones that the aviators try to follow on their way from Japan over here. But it’s always so rough and foggy that you just as well try to follow a dry Republican into a speakeasy.
It got so rough once we turned south to keep from bumping into these possessions of ours. I was just wondering if Mellon knows we got ’em, and has he figured out any way to put an additional tax on ’em for being there during these times of a misplaced budget.2 I am going to escape to one of ’em some day and if I see a Revenue man coming I will flee to the other one, and I will keep him following me till after March the Fifteenth. That is the date you got to look out for is March the Fifteenth, that is if you have made anything during the past year. Of course, if you haven’t you got to look out for every day. And you know that the trouble over here among these dusky friends of ours, we don’t get any news.
Since I crossed into Canada from Bellingham, Washington to catch the Boat at Vancouver, I don’t know a thing that’s happened. Canada was so tickled that England payed her some attention that she was still writing about them, and they wasent paying any attention to their little innocent Sister to the south. It kinder feels good not to know what is happening at home. In fact it does feel good, for none of it is any good, so it’s better to stay in ignorance. Whether Congress ever met or not I don’t know. I hope they dident, but it would be just about like ’em to do it, they got no more regard for the people’s welfare than to.
Politics, I guess, is pretty cold for the Boys now, and we won’t hear much till they thaw out in the spring, and what an odor that will be after a year’s hibernation! Newt Baker was kinder smelling around the old Salt Lick when I left.3 I don’t know if some of the big Bucks horned him out or not. Newt did some good work during the war. Now as to whether we can remember that far or not is the problem.
This Japan has been kicking up a mess politically since I got here (not of course all on account of that) but they had a Budget that wouldent balance, and they had nothing to use for money, just like we did, so they changed Cabinets. Mellon has never thought of that idea. Now as to whether these new ones can find any more money laying around is doubtful. A Cockeyed Budget is the downfall of more Prime Ministers nowadays than was used to be.
Japan has got two Parties too. I don’t remember their names any more than they could remember ours. But they keep things in a turmoil just like ours. You see if we dident have two Parties we would all settle on the best men in the country, and things would run fine. But as it is now we settle on the worst ones and then fight over ’em.
But outside of Politics and Tea, this is a great little country. Everybody is mighty nice to you. It looks just like America outside of the kimonas. Course under the kimonas in either place I am not an authority. But the most of them here dress about like we do. Subways, elevated trains, Electric trains, Street cars, and Bycicles. Did I say Bycicles? Well I underestimated. It wasent just Bycicles. It is millions of ’em. Did you ever see a Kimona on a bycicle? Say that’s standard equipment here, and they are all carrying something on the Bicycles, generally an automobile, or a Piano, or some little trifle, a tray of dishes is the most common cargo. They will lope off on their wheel from one end of Tokyo to the other with a pot of tea for a friend, and then spend more time bowing before drinking it than it would have taken them to cook up some real coffee.
But they are mighty polite and nice, and they want you to see and like their Country, which you can’t help doing. They got everything we got, and if they havent you show it to ’em and they will make it. They are a great race.
1For Aimee Semple McPherson see WA 429:N 4.
2For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 440:N 9.
3Newton Diehl Baker, American attorney and statesman; United States secretary of war from 1916 to 1921.