Will Rogers’ Weekly Articles

1 October, 1933 - Current

Oct 1, 1933

WATER EVERYWHERE
BUT NOT A DROP TO DRINK!

Do you know anything about cattle out on an open range? Well Arizona and New Mexico are two great range states. That is, there is lots of government land and there is lots of big ranches. Don’t let anybody tell you there is no big ranches anymore, because that is only in magazine stories. In the last 15 to 20 years ranches have gotten bigger.

You see here is how it happened. Away back from the ninty’s and the 1900 to 1910’s, why there was an epidemic of alleged “Farmers” going out to settle the West. Well they went out O.K. and they settled it O.K. but from then on the initials turned to N.G. (no good). There was the land and there was the “Wide Open Spaces”, and it was plenty wide open. Never was there so much space, and so little water. Never was there as much openess and as little vegitation. Now to set back East and hear about our Government giving you a homestead that is maby 160 acres, maby much more, depending on the state and type of Country, well to tell a person you are going to give him a whole farm for nothing, why no better “Ballyhoo” was ever built up. It sounds like Santa Claus had really arrived with the old rain deers.

But to make a long story short, it’s the bunk. There just ain’t any way you can make a living out of it. If there was any water on the place why somebody would be on there, for they have been hunting water in the West much longer than they have gold and buffalo’s. If a wonderful spring come out of a mountain side, men left gold, silver and copper mines to come and grab that spring. Water ain’t gold in the West, water is diamonds and platinum. So all these poor folks starved out. Their little scratched out plots of ground, and remnants of log or sod huts, or old chimneys, are nothing but tombstones of a lost hope and ambition, all led on by government advertising.

That as I say happened along 15 to 30 years ago. At that time it did look like the ranchman, on a big scale, was doomed. But these poor missguided souls dident lose nerve or get homesick. They actually starved out. They just had too and in most instances had to pick up and leave, maby not getting a thing in return for their work for a year or so in living on the place. Well we had thought that that foolishness had pretty well died out, but no, this year it springs up again. The Government decides that the West should be settled again. The first settling on unoccupied land dident take so they would, as we say in the movies, try a “Retake.” So now they have issued an ultamation, that every ranchman shall take down all his “Drift” fences, all his pastures that are on government land, and give the old add reader in the papers another chance to starve to death. Principally they offer it to ex-soldiers. War wasent tough enough, they are going to dare ’em to live on a government claim and make the old cowman run his cattle right out on the open range. If a good sized blizzard comes, he finds his cattle just going into Mexico City.

The government has made ’em do away with all enclosures, and “Drift” fences. A “Drift” fence is one that goes across a stretch of country, that is put there to help hold cattle back in a certain radius. An old government law said there couldent be any fences on government land, but the law was outlawed. It was found that fencing was an absolute necessity so the old law in regard to fences was outlawed by necessity and popular demand. It’s still on the books, but so is a law against witchcraft in New England. Now mind you these cow men pay for the use of this Government land, either by so much a head or by the amount of land occupied. They don’t get it for nothing and they do themselves pay for the fencing of it.

Now every cowman there is broke. He hasent even got the money to move his fence off, if he was forced too. The R.F.C. has got loans on everything with horns on down there and in their loan contracts they stipulate that the stock mortgaged must be kept within an enclosure and be ready to be shown and counted at any time.1 Now part of this cowhand range is on the Government preserve. What are you going to enclose ’em with? Give each cow a map and let her see for herself how far she can go? Some of these cattle have been dipped in a medical preperation for diseases and some havent. If they are all on the range togeather, how you going to tell which has, and which hasent? Have to ask ’em, I guess. How is the man that wants to breed up his herd and have good bulls going to have any protection from the fellow next to him with some old sun, and brindles, and speckles? How about your weening of calves? Cut ’em off from their mothers and night herd ’em I reckon. There is a guard I would like to stand.

I could go on by the hour and enumerate reasons why the old cowman ought to be let alone and helped, and not hindered in his trying to climb back to about his first mortgage. But this ruling is throwing a skunk right in his bedroom and it ain’t going to not only hurt the cowman, but it’s going to be sure starvation to the poor devil that tries to homestead an old dry piece of land. A cow can walk further to water than a “Nestor” can. Then who in the world wants to sentence some woman away out there, with maby some children. That’s downright cruelty to animals.

Mr Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, means the best in the world.2 What he is doing sounds rather liberal, and in favor of the poor man with no home. But if Ickes had ever passed a homesteaders house on a cold windy day, no wood, no water, wind blowing his little crop right out of the ground, he would be the most guilty man that ever lived for being responsible for bringing that poor devil out West. The West has got lots of open country but none that you can live on.

1Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), a government lending agency established in 1932 to provide financing for banking institutions, life insurance firms, railroads, and farm mortgage associations.
2Harold Le Clair Ickes, United States secretary of the interior from 1933 to 1939 and administrator of public works from 1933 to 1939.

Oct 8, 1933

MIKE DONLIN’S EXIT

One of the pleasant things connected with working in the movies is that you are all the time running into actors and friends from the stage days, folks you havent seen maby in years, but that you used to know and play on the bill with in Vaudeville, or in a show. There is just any amount of them live out here in Cal., for when you wipe out a whole great industry the greatest creative branch that amusement ever produced. No line of entertainment ever enjoyed the enthusiastic indorsement of audiences that Vaudeville did. Hammersteins’s Victoria on 42nd St. and Broadway was the peer of them all in those days, they and the Percy Williams’ houses in New York.1 But Hammerstein’s had a following and a type of audience that no theater before or since ever had. It knew its Vaudeville like a cow knows its calf. Acts that were favorites year in and out, big importations from Europe and all the world.

In my last released picture called “Dr. Bull” worked with me an old timer, one of the unique characters of not only one amusement line but two. He was not of the stage, he was drafted from another line of recreation. He had become the best known base ball player of his generation, he it was who really introduced so called “color” into our national pastime. A ball player was just a man with a suit on, and a bat, but when Mike Donlin joined the Giants away along about 1904 or thereabouts, he was the Babe Ruth of his time.2 He couldent knock as many balls out of the park as Babe, but he could knock more men out of it. He could take a short arm jab, and bunt some boisterious spectator from the front row to the last.

In those days of the McGraw team you played one inning and fought two.3 When you slid into a base you slid into a fight. An umpire waved you out with one hand and warded off a swinging bat with the other. When an umpire yelled you are out, he had to look quick to tell who was out, him or the player.

College degrees hadent entered base ball then, but degrees in language had. Well that was when Mike Donlin was supreme, he was a quiet orderly fellow, but he has licked more men than the First Division.

We had a great stage comedianne in those days, Mabel Hite.4 I think Mabel was from Kansas City originally. Well there is a few funny women. Come to think about it there is few funny men, but there has always been a scarcity of women commediannes. Mabel was big favorite, in musical comedy the greatest of her time. She fell in love with Mike at the heighth of his wonderful career. She had a sketch in Vaudeville with Walter Jones, a splendid comedian.5 I played on the bill with them with my old pony, and Buck McKee, an ex Oklahoma sheriff that rode the pony across the stage for me to rope at, and lives on a ranch in Cal. today.6

I hadent married Mrs. Rogers then. She was still a girl of sound mind, in Rogers, Ark. Mike and Mabel married. America’s most popular commedianne, to America’s most popular ball player. It was the most popular wedding New York ever had. She put him on the stage in a Vaudeville act, I saw their opening at Hammerstein’s theater on a Monday afternoon. In my 30 years in all branches of show business I never heard such a reception. It’s always lingered in my memory, and when dear old Mike was playing with me in my last picture “Dr. Bull” I used to tell him about it.

Along about that time Betty Blake down in Rogers, Ark., had a mental relapse and said “Yes” after several solid years of “No’s.” She threw her lot with “Buck” and I, and the pony “Teddy.” From cheap hotels to dark stage door entrances, she trudged her way. We met Mabel and Mike. We played on the bill with ’em, they the big headliners and drawing cards, my act put in just to make it so it read “Ten acts of Vaudeville.”

Now my wife reminded me of this the other night. They invited us up to their apartment in New York. It was the first time we had ever been in a swell apartment. It was the first time big actors had ever invited us out. We went up on the street car. This was in the winter of 1908. We had just been married, but I had been on the stage since 1905. Mabel liked my wife. An awful lot of people do. She showed her, so Betty was telling me the other night, beautiful dresses, and a fur coat that cost I think it was maby two thousand dollars. It was a fairyland night for the rope throwing Rogers’.

Mabel is dead, died just a few years after that, at the heighth of her career, but my wife will never forget her kindness to us, for you must remember there was “class” in Vaudeville as well as in society, and for an “Act” to visit a headliner was an event.

Mike carried on as best he could. Bad health, bad luck, but always that something that made him the real fighter. He was tremendously fortunate in his next marriage.7 A girl much younger, beautiful girl, daughter of one of the stage’s shining lights of their day, a great Vaudeville team, Ross and Fenton.8 She stuck with Mike through many ups and downs, and an awful lot of downs among the few ups. He did some splendid things on the stage. He was always natural in anything he did.

He has been out here in pictures for years. Everybody liked him. Everybody used him when they had the chance. Everything he did was O. K. To see him sitting around day after day on our “Set” (as we call the place where we happen to be working). Here was sometimes maby a hundred people there with him, all kinds and all types of folks on a movie “set” yet there he sat, joking and laughing. Health very bad. Maby in actual pain. There was out of that hundred, perhaps ninety or more people that never heard one speck of applause, (for them personally) in their lives, yet here sat this fellow, who maby meant nothing to them, who had day after day, year after year, had thousands rise when he come to bat, had had audiences cheer for actual minutes, when he come on the stage. Here he was, looking for no sympathy, offering no alibis, not sore at the world, not sore at anybody, just a kindly soul who hadent raised his hands in combat in 30 years, “Peace on Earth” Mike Donlin that was your motto. You lived game and you died game.

1Oscar Hammerstein, German-born American theatrical manager who built and owned some of the leading theaters in New York City. His Victoria Music Hall opened in 1899. Percy G. Williams, American theater owner and theatrical producer and manager. He built the famed Orpheum Theater in New York City in 1901.
2Michael Joseph “Mike” Donlin, personable major league outfielder who played for several baseball teams from 1899 to 1914, including the New York Giants from 1904 to 1911. Donlin also enjoyed a successful career in vaudeville and silent films. For this and all further references to Babe Ruth see WA 553:N 2.
3John Joseph McGraw, manager of the New York Giants baseball team from 1902 to 1932. Nicknamed “Little Napoleon,” McGraw guided the Giants to ten league and three world championships.
4Mabel Hite, American vaudeville singer and comedienne who married Donlin in 1909. Donlin appeared with his wife on the stage and in films. They performed together until her death in October 1912.
5Walter Jones, American vaudeville and musical comedy performer whose Broadway credits include Oh, I Say in 1913 and The Gingham Girl in 1922.
6Buck McKee, Oklahoma cowboy who joined Rogers’ vaudeville riding and roping act in 1905. McKee and Rogers performed with Rogers’ trained horse, Teddy.
7Donlin was married to the former Rita Ross.
8Charles J. Ross and Mabel Fenton, husband-wife vaudeville team of the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were most remembered for their burlesque routines, or travesties, of classical and romantic plays. Rita Ross was their niece.

Oct 15, 1933

ROGERS IS LISTENING

Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I see here and there. Been listening in on the radio a little here lately, somebody told me there was a good cowboy song on, but it’s never been on when I was listening. Thought maby it might be one of the old ones, or taken from one that I knew. Cowpunchers had some pretty good old songs, and after all that is what they was made up to be sung to. You sang ’em at night when you was standing guard. Course many a night a bunch of old rowdy steers would come up off that bed ground quicker than a fireman, and roll their old tails into a question mark, and take for the “Tulles.” Well it’s always been a question whether the lightning stampeded ’em or the singing.

Speaking of radio, did you hear Roosevelt talk to the American Legion? That was good. He just went right in, spread his hand, faces up, and told ’em just why he did so and so. Well they liked it.

There is not much use of bringing up old happenings, but I always think that bad advice from his “Brain Trust” must have kept Mr. Hoover from going personally before the bonus marching army in Washington that time.1 Now he could have gone right down there and faced those boys and told ’em just what was what, and would have gotten away with it. But he was advised against it, and see what disgraceful episode in our history happened. I believe Mr. Hoover would have rather have gone, but he listened to the gang. Now, Mr. Roosevelt overuled his, he was advised not to go to Chicago, (after cutting down their pensions) but he went, and everything was O.K. But they all do the best they can, and looking at something months afterwards it’s always easier to make the right guess after it’s over. Here we all are, we can’t handle our own little affairs and yet we start yapping about “What the President ought to have done.”

“Well now just how is things going?” That’s about all you hear from all moderately situated folks and working ones, (and those that are not, but trying too). Well they all seem as a hundred percent rule to feel very hopeful, but the bigger fellows, lots of them, start whining and offering alabi’s. They just seem a little scared that the big fellow is kinder undergoing and overhauling, and they don’t know if they will fare the same as in the old days, but it’s not so much greed, as it is uncertainty. If they knew just what was going to happen to ’em, I don’t believe they would mind it, even, if it was the worst, but it’s this everlasting being in doubt that’s worrying ’em.

But all in all, we are doing better than usual. We are trying on everything in the store, and if something don’t fit us, well we are just deformed that’s all. I was talking to the “Old Economist” the other night, he don’t feel so bad about it, so it must look good. That’s Charley Chaplin.2 Did you know that Charley is just about the one of our best minds on all these deep subjects, well, what that little rascal knows will just surprise you. In my house one night I heard him tell Will Durant (the man that knows all about everything and a charming fellow, too) that America would be off the gold in I think he said two months.3 He missed it just two days, but that was due to daylight saving time.

Yes sir, if you want to get yourself a load of economics, with a side car of theories, why Charley can give ’em to you. He has talked ’em over with every big wig in Europe, and he knows what the shooting is all about. Course there is one thing about economics and money theories, your theory is always right for it’s never tried.

We were all down to a mighty fine dinner they gave to Walter Disney.4 He is the Sire and dam of that gift to the world, “Mickey Mouse.” Now if there wasent two geniuses at one table, Disney and Charley. One took a derby hat and a pair of big shoes, and captured the laughs of the world, the other one took a lead pencil and a mouse, and he has the whole world crawling in a rat hole, if necessary, just to see the antics of these rodents. But there was more than shoes and pencils and derby hat and drawing board there. Both had a God given gift of human nature, these professors, and we had one of the best of ’em there that night, Professor Van Klein Schmidt, Head of U.S.C.5 Well of course they base it all on phychology of some kind and breed, but it’s something human inside these two ducks that even pshychology hasent a name for. Why that three little pigs, why I would have given my life just to have played one of them. That’s the best picture ever made.

That night at the dinner the Writers Club gave, Disney was the composer of the tune, the fellow that played the flute like the Little Pigs, and three girls that really sang the song, and they did the whole thing outside of a nonstop speech of mine, it was a wonderful dinner. Chaplin wouldent talk, but he did two of the cleverest pantomine sketches I ever saw. Then Disney wouldent talk much. Everybody that does things I have noticed they don’t talk at public gatherings, but boy us other old windbags we just gas up and go till the lights are turned off. Rupert Hughes, that clever writer, is a wonderful toastmaster.6

Then did I tell you about going to a dinner to Hamlin Garland, the great writer?7 Well I must do that too, that was a fine one too. A great man, I am just eating my way all around town. I am brushing up on my oratory, getting ready for a tough winter.

1Brain trust, a group of close advisers to Franklin Roosevelt when he served as governor of New York and during the first years of his presidency. The name was applied to them because most of the members came from academic life. Bonus Army, a group of more than 15,000 mostly-unemployed veterans who marched on Washington, D. C., in the spring of 1932 to demand immediate payment of their World War I bonus. When the veterans refused to leave after failing to obtain the bonus, President Herbert Hoover (see WA 535:N 3) ordered the Army to evict them forcibly.
2For this and all other references to Charlie Chaplin see WA 546:N 4.
3William James “Will” Durant, American philosopher, historian, and essayist. Durant’s The Story of Philosophy (1926) was an immediate best seller that opened the way for a school of popularized history.
4Walter Elias “Walt” Disney, American movie producer and pioneer in animated cartoons. Disney created the character “Mickey Mouse” in Steamboat Willy in 1928, initiating the concept of making a separate cartoon for each movement.
5Rufus Bernhard von KleinSmid, American educator; president of the University of Southern California from 1921 to 1946.
6Rupert Hughes, American novelist, songwriter, playwright, historian, and screenwriter; best known for his biography of George Washington (1926-1930).
7Hamlin Garland, American author of the Middle West who perhaps is best remembered for his two autobiographical works, A Son of the Middle Border (1917) and A Daughter of the Middle Border (1921), the latter of which won a Pulitzer Prize.

Oct 22, 1933

LOS ANGELES MAKES THE NAVY

Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. Couple of weeks ago we had quite a gang out here in California with us. It was the Senate and House Naval Affairs Committee. They were on the Government ship Henderson, (I think it was), and they were out here looking over our naval situation. Well of course when you live on or near a coast, or a port, why you naturally are trying to grab off all you can in the way of government gravy. Now Los Angeles used to not have any more port, (well might have had a few bottles) (that joke belongs on the radio) but they had no seaport, so you know what they did, they just give the Chamber of Commerce a spade instead of a speech and they just dug ’em a port. Los Angeles really is not on the ocean it’s twenty miles away, but these old boys as I say just went to work and dug ’em an ocean. Course they did a little annexing, what I mean by that they found a town that was on the ocean and they says come in with us and we will make you a port, then they annexed a little strip of land that reached this town of Willmington, Cal., then they spaded up their harbor, and while compared with San Francisco, or Sydney, Australia, or Rio De Janeiro, it might look like an emergency landing port for some ship out of gas, why to us it’s a seaport, and you would be surprised at the amount of boats that get lost and get in there, and while it’s no great shakes as a land locked harbor, they have piled some rocks away out there in the ocean and you would be surprised at the amount of waves it breaks up. Then they bring a lot of fish into the port, or harbor, and that always makes it smell like a harbor. You can’t beat the smell of fish for reproducing a harbor.

But I must get back to my story, this Naval Affairs Committee was out here, and we got scared they was going to take away our naval base and maybe give it to some little outlandish harbor like San Francisco, so when the Naval Committee arrived in California they were feasted and fed everywhere they could get ashore. San Diego, who had most of the Naval loot up to date, in fact they got Navy, Army, Aviation, Farm Relief Board, and Indian Affairs, well, anyhow, this gang stopped there first, and in the heat of the banquet they promised everything to San Diego. Then they moved on up to Oceanside, where they all went ashore in a lighter, and after a banquet they promised Oceanside part of the Navy. Then when they got to Los Angeles why we had heard that they might take our mess of it away from Los Angeles, so the old town just did itself proud trying to convince the committee that in case of war that if the Navy wasent right here near Hollywood, why how would they get any pictures of the war, and a war without pictures, well it just wouldent be a war. So at one of the main entertainments, Mr Jack Warner, of the Warner Brothers Studio gave a wonderful luncheon for ’em.1 They had all the movie stars from all the studios, and he put on a swell show. All the clever people did their stuff, Senator Byrnes of South Carolina made the keynote address, and led us to believe that we would get our share, Warner made a fine toastmaster and asked for not only the Navy, but the Army, but they left us and went on up to Frisco, and of course they got the last offer to ’em, so the chances are they sold out to San Francisco.2

You see we out here keep telling ’em they are going to have war with Japan, and the fleet should be here. Be a funny thing if the government says some day, quote, well will you Chamber of Commerces guarantee a war if we give you the naval base, unquote. Chances are we couldent guarantee it. But out here they keep the old war scare going and every once in awhile land some government by-product.

There was an awful lot of admirals there that day too. They are a nice bunch of folks, they always look so nice and clean, there is never any dust on em’. But it’s got to be a great racket now for cities to see what they can hornswoggle out of the Federal Government. We got the submarine base here, but Lord it’s so uncertain, it’s liable to dive down some day and come up in Seattle. Their headquarters are as unreliable as an alley cat.

But if you run into this band of fellows anywhere, this Naval Affairs Committee, give ’em my best. They are a fine bunch, and they are around somewhere, kinder making the local town think maby they will take away their light house, or Post Office, or something. Anyhow they scare every town into a mighty good feed. There was two bottles of beer at every place at this one. They ought to moved Norfolk, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard out to us for that. But anyhow we showed ’em a movie star for ever sailor they will send us.

1Jack Leonard Warner, American motion-picture executive producer; one of four brothers who began a small production company, Warner Brothers Studios, in the 1920s that eventually evolved into one of the giants of the industry. Warner Brothers pioneered sound pictures with The Jazz Singer in 1927.
2James francis byrnes, Democratic United States senator from South Carolina from 1931 to 1941; later served as United States Supreme Court justice, United States secretary of state, and governor of South Carolina.

Oct 29, 1933

HOW WRITERS WRITE

Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. Walter Lippman has come back into one of our local papers, after a summer’s vacation, and we get a mighty fine slant on things from him.1 Mr. Brisbane is with us every morning and is great as usual.2 How that fellow keeps it up, and the amount of subjects he covers, is more than I can even imagine. When he is in New York and getting the wires coming in he really gets stuff ahead of the news.

Now you know in last Sunday’s paper I saw Irvin Cobb with a Sunday syndicated article, and I would give my best horse if I could write one half as good.3 Do you know that rascal is just about the best writer we got in this country. He is rich and lazy, but he is sure funny and he can do tricks with those words. And Bugs Bear, he is just a marvel.4 The things that bird can compare something to! What do you call ’em similies, I can’t even say it, much less think of one, but I could go on by the hour singing the praizes of folks that write in the papers that I like to read.

Then there is on every newspaper some wonderful writers that never even get their names signed to anything, but thank the Lord the boss of the papers know who does it. It must be almost heart breaking for those splendid writers, to see what some of us syndicate birds get away with.

Course with O. O. McIntire it’s different.5 O. O. would be a great writer even if his name wasent on his. Course O. O. on account of being raised down there on the Ohio River, around those steam boats with those Negroes he has copped a trait the Negroes have, he does love to use big words sometimes, but I don’t believe he means it, cause he is an awful nice fellow and he wouldent harm a soul.

I got me a dictionary one time, but goodness it dident last long. It was like looking in a telephone book. I never called up anybody in my life if I had to look up their number. Nobody is worth looking through all those numbers for, and that’s the way it was with my dictionary. I could write the article while I was trying to see what the word meant, and that’s one good thing about language, there is always a short word for it. Course, the Greeks have a word for it, and the dictionary has a word for it, but I believe in using your own for it.

The minute you put in a word that everybody don’t know, you have just muddled up that many readers. Running onto a word you can’t read or understand is just like a detour in the road. You cuss it, and about a half dozen of ’em and you will take a different road the next time. I love words but don’t like strange ones. You don’t understand them, and they don’t understand you. Old words is like old friends, you know ’em the minute you see ’em.

Then a lot of writers like to ring in a little French sentence every few paragraphs. They could make it a lot plainer to everybody by explaining in their first sentence that they went to Paris one summer, instead of seeing what they should have of America. Then it’s the same with the English. There is every once in awhile some English creeping into various writers articles. Nothing will make a reader yawn any quicker than good English.

I tell you these foreign languages must be kept out of our way. Now for instance I know a few Mexican words. I can’t spell ’em, in fact I don’t believe they can, but I never try to fog the issue by using any of ’em in any of my sermons or speeches, no matter what the type of audience is. Course with a speech, you can use some big words, and it comes in handy sometimes. Your audience will be confused over it, and that will give you a chance to think of something. Big words in speeches, you see, are just used for about the same reason a speaker stopping and taking a drink. He ain’t thirsty, he is just hungry for the next sentence.

I run onto this Emil Ludwig out here the other day.6 He waits around all over the world till some prominent man’s bones have decomposed and the relatives are about all dead, then he writes a great story of the fellow’s life. He is a fine writer and has made an awful lot of big men human after they was dead. That would be a wonderful thing, wouldent it, if a man could pick his own biographer? Trouble with a lot of these biographers is, they go and lower the moral of character with a lot of facts. Nothing will spoil a big man’s life like too much truth.

But all this is a long argument, and it just leads into something else, and it’s getting late and it’s getting down to the end of the page, and you are bored, and I am sleepy, and I don’t see any use of carrying this thing on any further. The whole answer is, if I knew any big words I would use ’em, so I am going to bed, and I don’t see why this article shouldent give you the idea of the same thing.

1Walter Lippmann, influential American editor, columnist, and author who served on the editorial staff of the New York World from 1921 to 1931 and later contributed columns to the New York Herald-Tribune and the Washington Post.
2For Arthur Brisbane see WA 534:N 3.
3Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb, American journalist, humorist, and playwright. Cobb and Rogers were close friends. In 1934 Rogers starred in the motion picture Judge Priest, for which Cobb wrote the screenplay as well as the book upon which the box-office hit was based.
4Arthur “Bugs” Baer, American syndicated newspaper columnist whose daily column, “One Word Led to Another,” made him one of the country’s best loved humorists.
5Oscar Odd McIntyre, American syndicated writer, known more commonly as O. O. McIntyre. His daily newspaper column, “New York, Day by Day,” appeared in more than 500 newspapers from 1921 until his death in 1938.
6Emil Ludwig, German biographer and playwright. His notable portraits of famous great men include Goethe (1920), Napoleon (1924), and Bismarck (1926).

Nov 5, 1933

A TEXAS PARTY

Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I see here and there. Had a great trip a couple of weeks ago down in Texas, where I prowled around for 3 days with the Post Office bunch and Vice President Garner.1 It started out at the opening of Arlington Race Track the first legalized betting in Texas, and what a fine thing it was for Mr. W. T. Waggoner, the grand old Texas ranchman that spent millions on breeding and a wonderful race track.2 He was able to be right there at the finish to see ’em run.

I was greatly interested in this starting gate. It’s a big frame of a concern that they pull with a tractor, and it goes right across the track, and has perhaps 16 or 18 little stalls or booths that the horses stand in. I had seen stationary ones, but this was the first movable one. They get ’em all standing in there. They can put a bar behind ’em if they get to backing out.

Then the starter has an electric button on a cord, and as they all get lined up in there even, he pushes the button, and a gong rings right over the horses’ head and away they go. It’s an awfully even start, with no chance of anybody being left at the post. They had a marvelous crowd and some fine horses. Mr. Farley was there.3 He is a great man for the administration. He makes a splendid speech and a fine impression and knows every one and never forgets a face or name. He is really the exalted ruler of the political end of the Democratic party.

They had a lot of prominent ones from Washington, all the assistant Post Masters but one. Then we had the Comptroller of the currency, (if any) and of course Vice President John Garner, as fine a character as ever lived.4 Lots of humor. He made several speeches and they were all good. With all the newspaper boys we had three planes, big ones of the American Airways.

Amon Carter, the proprietor of Ft. Worth, started the whole party off with a big seance at his famous Shady Oak Farm the night before.5 I dident get to make that, as I was still working in the movies. They say it was the biggest thing ever held in Texas, 375 guests.

Then we went down to San Antonio, one of the grandest old cities in America, one of my favorites, cause it’s different. We saw all those wonderful flying fields, one of ’em the finest in the world, the West Point of the air. Then on out to the beautiful little city of Uvalda, where John Garner lives.

They had a little speaker’s stand out at the field and of course we all made speeches, Garner the best one for he was at home. He appreciates his people and they appreciate him. You know, Garner is quite a man. Lots of people might not realize what a capable man we have as Vice President. Do you realize he was the dominant Democrat of House of Representatives for 20 years. He engineered, or helped to, every bit of legislation that ever went through Congress. Not a man living is as well posted on all affairs of this government as Jack Garner. God forbid that anything should ever happen to our chief, but the fellow that thinks this Garner couldent carry on in great shape, is crazy.

Nick Longworth told me 10 years ago that Garner was the smartest man in either the Senate or House.6 There hasent been a shot fired that Garner dident know what the shooting was all about.

We went out to Mr. Morrison’s wonderful ranch for a real chuckwagon meal and stayed all night at this eden of the saddle horse.7 Put me on one he had paid seventy-five thousand for. I got to thinking of the price and had to hold on.

Mr. Morrison went to London with our Economic Conference. Maby I shouldent have mentioned that conference. The only thing economic about it was that the deligates got back early, signed nothing so it was a success.

Then we flew on to Houston, the home of Emperor Jones, Jessie Jones, head of the R.F.C.8 Everything in Houston over two stories, Jones has built. He was there that day, and had just talked to the President on the phone. That was when they cooked up the scheme to buy the gold and Mr. Roosevelt told of it on the radio, the next night which was two weeks ago. It seemed good to get first hand information of what our Government was to do before it did it, but I dident go and blab it. I wish I could publish all the beats I can get ahold of. I could, but I wouldent get any more of ’em.

I tell you that Texas is a great state. It’s the biggest thing you ever saw, and has the most variety of products. I look to see the day away in the future when it will get so big that it will have to become an empire all its own like it was one time. Don’t you remember that time when Mexico won the war from the U. S. and made ’em take Texas back? Well the troop all broke up, and we all went home, but it was a congenial party.

1John Nance “Jack” Garner, vice president of the United States from 1933 to 1941. A Texas Democrat, Garner previously had served as Speaker of the House of Representatives.
2William Thomas Waggoner, Texas cattleman and oilman whose Three D Ranch in west central Texas embraced more than one million acres at the peak of its operation in 1903, Waggoner died in 1934 at the age of eighty-two.
3For James A. Farley see WA 541:N 1.
4James Francis Thaddeus O’Connor, California attorney who served as United States comptroller of the currency from 1933 to 1938.
5For Amon G. Carter see WA 547:N 2.
6Nicholas Longworth, Republican United States representative from Ohio from 1903 to 1913 and 1915 until his death in 1931; Speaker of the House from 1925 to 1931.
7Ralph Waldo Morrison, Missouri-born businessman with interests in utilities, banks, and railroads in the Southwest. He maintained an office in and residence near San Antonio, Texas.
8Jesse Holman Jones, Houston publisher, political figure, and civic leader who chaired the Reconstruction Finance Corporation from 1933 to 1939.

Nov 12, 1933

EXTREMELY CONFIDENTIAL

All I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I read somewhere else, or sometimes what I hear, but you don’t hear much nowadays. It’s all practically the old stuff.

But talk about reading. The other day a fellow handed me one of these “Confidential Letters” that are sent out from Washington. They call it confidential for it’s just meant for those that can read. It’s called “Private,” for there are only a couple of thousand different ones in Washington in this “Confidential Letter Racket.” But they do mighty good with ’em, and you would be surprised at the amount of fellows who whisper to you: “Now I got this straight, it come to me from a confidential letter. There is only 11 of ’em sent out, and mine was marked number one. These people that sent this letter say they are friends of the President’s, they are relatives of Mrs. Roosevelt, they raised Hugh Johnson, who runs the N.R.A. and, listen, they know the Brain Trust.1 They knew ’em when they was just professors, wasent called a trust, and wasent noted for brains. So what they are telling you is the real lowdown, but don’t breathe it to a soul.”

Now here is what they said in this week’s Letter: “The time has come to speak the truth.” I don’t know what they been doing all this time. Just lying I reckon. But anyhow this letter is going to be on the level.

“As we said before earlier in the Letter, the time has come to tell the truth. We hate to do it but it’s so. The Republican Party are secretly talking of entering politics again. There is talk right here in Washington under our own noses, that they are going to revive the Republican Party, and here is some thing you wouldent get if you dident subscribe to our Letter. The old Populist Party is coming back.

“The above of course comes under the heading of politics. Now what can we tell you this week about money? Well we are off the gold standard. Yes sir, we are off the gold standard. Some of our agents got it straight. We are off the gold. Now that brings us to effect. What effect will that have? Well it’s generally whispered around here, among us that are in on the know, that since we are off the gold, we may go still further off, but we can’t tell you how much further till we receive 12 more subscriptions.

“Now that that settles our political and mometary system, that brings us down to Farm Relief. Well we can confidentially tell you that Farm Relief is a problem. Course this is confidential but Farm Relief is a problem. Now that settles politics, money, and Farm Relief. Taxes. We have some confidential word for you on taxes. We have it on the best of our information that taxes will be relieved, but not until after your death.

“Industry. Industry has shown a slight gain since we wrote you last week, but the expense of keeping tab on whether it made a gain has overshadowed the amount of actual gain.

“Labor. We can confidentially report to our clients that Labor is not laboring. As to the cause of labor not laboring, it’s generally rumored around here among our source of information that labor is not laboring because labor hasent got a job.

“The weather. The Weather here in Washington has been yes, and no.

“The N.R.A. The N.R.A. occupies the same building it did.

“The R.F.C. We will have something to report to you in our next week’s letter. Now remember, subscribe to Jim Jasbo’s Confidential Letter. If you take our Letter you will be the life and envy of the Party. You will have all the dope at your finger prints, (I mean tips, finger tips) for remember we know all the prominent men’s chouffers. Yours, Jim Jasbo.”

1For this and all further references to Eleanor Roosevelt see WA 547:N 1. Hugh Samuel Johnson, administrator of the National Recovery Administration from 1933 to 1934; brigadier general and World War I veteran.

Nov 19, 1933

NOW TO SOLVE THE DEPRESSION

Well all I know is just what I read in the papers or what I gather from pamphlets that people send me solving the World situation. Somebody is sure doing good, that is in the printing line. Every guy that’s got a scheme, racket, idea, or hallucination, gets it put in pamphlet form and while the letter -R- comes pretty late in the alphabet, they must have me mixed with the letter A. I am the first to receive this Depression Solver. Now it’s not that I don’t appreciate it, I do, I think it’s mighty nice of ‘em to think of me, but I wish they would think of me—well I wish they would just think of me.

In case anyone happens to ask you, this is a pretty tough Depression, and it’s going to take more than a pamphlet to dig us out. I don’t even believe a whole book will do it, and there is just about as many books coming in as there is pamphlets. Maybe pamphlets gradually grow into books, maybe they start out as just a barber shop argument. The fellow gets more words and he issues one of these little dodgers, or throw aways, then he feels that what the dodger lacked was a little more explanation. Then the dodger becomes a pamphlet. Now it ain’t much of a jump from a pamphlet to a book, provided you get out the book yourself. As the depression increases why your solution gradually gets longer, so it’s beginning to be realized that maybe the thing won’t really be solved with not even a book, but maybe two to six volumes. So when the volumes commence coming in, even if the postage is paid, I am going to dive right off one of these Santa Monica mountains.

I believe that’s what’s the matter with this depression, everybody wants to solve it and nobody wants to work at anything else. I believe if it was announced that it couldn’t be solved, why there would be enough people released from solving it. They would go back to working on nobody but their own problems, and maybe first thing we knew we would be doing pretty good.

In fact I think just the announcement of the fact that it couldn’t be solved would be a blessing. Everybody feels better when you really know even the worst. It’s this uncertainty of not knowing that’s a worrying us more than the actual discomforts of it. I will bet you one thing, I bet you in the next Presidential race, you won’t get candidates coming out saying they can fix it. They have learned their lesson. The most that will be said in the next campaign platform of either party will be: “Now boys, we are going to try and check it, but we are not saying we will, but we will promise you this, we are not going to let it spread any more than we can possibly help.”

You see the way I figure this thing will end is that the depression won’t be solved. It will just remain with us and as a new generation grows up why they won’t be used to anything else and they won’t mind it. Wait till the ones who lived through the Coolidge era are all dead.1 You see any person that lived through those times just can’t get it out of his head. The World was spoiled for him anyhow.

So what must be done is grow up more children, and do what we can to get us old ones to drop off. We can’t remember anything but the days when all we had to do to get anything under the sun that we wasn’t used to, or didn’t need, was to just nod your head in the affirmative, and give the fellow the address where to send it. The thought of money changing hands was considered rather vulgar, everything was on time. If we was to actually have good times, why we still wouldn’t welcome it if we had to pay for anything and not get it on credit.

But these young ones coming along. The old car will be worn out, the radio gone, and a hundred and one other things he won’t know anything about, he will only buy what he needs, and will pay for it. So you see the depression won’t end till we grow a generation that knows how to live on what they got and never knew anything else.

1John Calvin Coolidge, Republican president of the United States from 1923 to 1929.

Nov 26, 1933

PICTURES AND A WOMAN

Well all I know is just what I eat at the banquets (and half the time I don’t even know what that is). As I was telling you a week or two ago, I been gnawing my way through quite a few public gatherings, one of the most satisfying, and one of much cause for satisfaction was one given to Marie Dressler a week or so ago.1 It was given by her studio, the Metro Goldwyn Mayer, and it was just about the flashiest and highest class thing you ever saw. They do things right over there. They feed an awful lot of people over there at one or another kind of public function, but this one to Marie was not one of the awful kinds they feed. It was a mighty pearl-stud affair.

Well I had to drag out the old blue serge, and double breasted that has fooled many a one, if you don’t watch it too close, into thinking maby it’s about a quarter breed tuxedo. Course the soft shirt and collar looks kinder negligee, but the black bow tie, and the old blue serge looking black by lamplight, why it looks within the requirements of “Dress Formal.”

It was on one of their great big stages and it was all decorated for the occasion. The bunting and the flags covered up the scars of some pretty bad pictures that I had made there away back in 1919, ’20 and ’21. You see I used to mess ‘em up there in the silent days for Sam Goldwyn.2

But never mind me, it’s Marie that we all want to hear about. Now you folks all know what you think of her, she is your ideal actress, be it male or female. Well what you audience think of her is just a preliminary to what we folks that are in the business with her think of her. And then especially those of us who know her from the stage. That’s where all this come from, that’s where she got all this ability. Do you know that there is no person in the entire moving picture business that has served the rigid and long apprenticeship of her craft that Marie Dressler has? There is nothing in the whole repertoire of the line of entertainment that she has not been in, and served it with great distinction.

Did you know she has a really fine voice, sang in light opera? Did you know she plays beautiful on the piano, and has a great appreciation and knowledge of really classical music, that she has always been a great personal friend of all the noted musical people during her long career? Although she never went to school in her life, not even a day, she is one of the best informed, finest and brightest conversationalists you ever talked to.

Her immediate friends compose every prominent man of politics, letters or finance that we have in our country. She is a darling of New York society, yet the greatest fighter for the chorus girl our profession ever boasted of. Did you know that she weighs 210 pounds and that 190 of it is heart? Did you know that records of the work done by people during the war, that she holds the feminine record? She enlisted for the duration of the war and has never been mustered out yet.

She has become the biggest box office attraction on the screen, and has made the world realize that there is character in a face. In addition to beauty, she has been a great incentive to us other hard looking old battleaxes (I know Marie will forgive me for that) ah, I could go on by the hour and tell you what she has done.

But it was a great treat to all of us to be invited there. I made a terribly stupid speech for which I can’t think of any alabi but the rest of them dident. Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, Louie B. Mayer, Polly Moran and the grand old May Robeson, and many others.3 Then along came Marie, and she made the best one of all. There is nothing the woman can’t do. I am already working on my speech for her 90th birthday, I believe I can think of a good one by that time.

1For Marie Dressler see WA 555:N 4.
2For Samuel Goldwyn see WA 540:N 4.
3Mary Pickford, American motion-picture actress who in the heyday of silent films won renown as “America’s Sweetheart.” Lionel Barrymore, celebrated American actor of the stage and screen; member of a famous American family of actors. His career was devoted mainly to films, and from the early 1930s he was a familiar and well-loved member of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer stable of actors. For Louis B. Mayer see WA 555:N 12; for Polly Moran see WA 555:N 7. May Robson, Australian-American actress who had long experience on stage tours before arriving in Hollywood in 1927 where she played domineering, but kindly, older women in several motion-picture productions.