October 4 - December 27, 1925
JOHNSON WENT TO THE BALL PARK
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers, and as I pen these immaterial lines to press, there is quite a big happening. You remember when the Shenandoah fell down, Commander Landsdowne’s wife said that he had “fought against going on this trip and told the heads of his department that over the midwest valleys there were liable to be thunderstorms.”1
AND NOT THE CAPITOL—HE’S SMART
Well, then the department come back and said it was no such a thing, that “he had made the trip of his own volition.”
Now you have just had an investigation and they find his wife’s statements have been vindicated, that he did try to keep from going at that time.
So you see you can’t believe a thing you read in regard to official Statements. The minute anything happens connected with official life, why it’s just like a cold night, everybody is trying to cover up. But the truth is gradually coming out, though. We find, after having read all the correspondence in the case, that the Navy Department had requests from a lot of Pumpkin Fairs out in the middle west. Every place that had a merry-go-round, and a prize hog show, wanted the Shenandoah to fly over their place. Some of them were towns that the U. S. Geological Survey couldn’t find.
Commander Landsdowne wrote the Navy Department, “We can’t make all these Street Carnivals you have laid out for us.” The Department sent back word, “You got to make ’em. Every person that puts a crick in his neck looking up at you, over the age of 21 has a vote. So don’t disappoint the Grand Old Republican party.” It also told Commander Landsdowne to go to Detroit, that Henry Ford had fixed up a Hitching Post for Airships that couldn’t come down, so please go by there and “tie up to this Flag Pole, and slide down and pay your respects to Mr. Ford.”
Now, while Mr. Ford had been successful in driving the last half of America in debt at five dollars a monthly payment, he had never yet had much experience in arranging an aerial parking space for a dirigible Airship, that was bigger and longer than a Ford income tax statement. So Commander Landsdowne asked permission to jump the old sausage skin out to Detroit some day and see if this contraption that Mr. Ford had stuck in the ground, would assist this aerial monstrosity to stand hitched. But the Navy Department said, “No, you go ahead, take the Shenandoah, fly over every lemonade stand you see, salute every man that looks to you from up there like he has registered in the primaries and come back by Detroit and tie to this mast of his.” Well, we all know he went; he obeyed his superior officers.
A thunderstorm come which he had predicted and he, being up in an airship with his companions didn’t fare as well as his Superiors, quartered in the Willard Hotel in Washington. They weathered it and he didn’t, but can they weather this one going on now?
The Army and Navy’s old line officers say the Aeroplane is “No Good” but you suggest to them that it be taken away from them and be made a separate branch and they howl like a pet coon. Now Secretary New of the Postmaster General’s department, says, “We want us a branch of the Aviation too.2 How are we going to deliver advertising letters and bills to customers if we don’t do it with the least saving of time?”
The Secretary of State will be wanting him a branch of the service to fly from one Public dinner to another. Mr. Mellon will want a Treasury Department of Aeronautics, to hasten a debt funding commission to Washington from the boat, so we can start drawing interest sooner.3 When Mitchell really opens up get out your Asbestos Specs and read what he has to say.4
Well, the old World Series is on hand and what does America care about Airships!5 Or Caillaux and his (better terms) debt funding commission, or anything else!6 What the world wants to know this very day (including Ye Dignified Editor of Ye Olde Reliable Illiterate Digest) is this: Is my old friend and neighbor from Coffeyville, Kansas, going to be able to throw a baseball through the hull of a Pirate Ship and bring on a leakage?
Walter Johnson has had a great year.7 He will return home with as much Glory as a Congressman who has succeeded in swindling the Government Taxpayers out of money for a new Post Office Building for a town where 4 picture Post Cards in one mail constitute a rush. He and Uncle Joe Cannon are the only two men in the history of America that ever withstood Washington, D. C. for 19 straight years.8 No Senator has ever equaled that record and it is a good thing for the Nation that they haven’t.
Walter Johnson came to Washington during the Roosevelt administration, when tennis was first played by a man.9 He can remember the time in his early days when Presidents were cheered more than he was but he plugged along. He stuck in the game and saw three Presidents pulled out of the Box and relief ones sent in. He saw a fourth die in the Pitcher’s Box, and is living to see the day when he can generously share applause with the fifth. And when he retires it will not be by “popular demand” of a majority of voters. I class Walter Johnson as one of America’s smartest men.
When he went to Washington, he went to the Ball Park instead of to the Capitol. He has seen more Bush League Congressmen and Senators come and go, than he ever saw Ball Players returned to the Minors.
To show you how Walter stands in comparison to a President in Washington, at the opening game there, Calvin will throw out the first Ball and Walter will throw all the rest. Walter will get a reception on his entrance and on his exit, (no matter, win or lose) while the President is only applauded on his entrance. Of course, mind you, Pittsburgh, when they get that smoke out of their eyes and some of that soot washed off of them they are going to step some. I would like to see Max Carey come into his own.10
He has never received the publicity that was due him. He is just about one of the greatest Ball Players that ever laughed when his foul tip hit an umpire. He has stolen more bases than anybody in his league. He has done more stealing than a Theater Treasurer.
Well, when you read these immaculate English lines, I may have met some of you personally. I break out into what is advertised as an alleged “Lecture Tour,” on the night of October first, at Elmira, New York. If I survive I proceed. If not, they should at least announce to the world what happened to me.
We can’t find out what to call it. It’s not exactly a lecture but by the time you read this it will perhaps have been named. I think we will get at title for it from the comment the two fellows will exchange on leaving the Elmira Opera House. It’s a kinder get together tour to meet my readers, and I want to meet them personally in my dressing room, each one of them.
Business concerns go over the country every once in awhile to meet what they call their “men in the field.” Now that is the prime object of my pilgrimage.
My readers are the “men in the field” and we want to get together on what is the best way to remedy the running of National affairs during the coming year. I am making what the politician calls a swing around the Circuit.
But I am not like the Politician who wants to “meet the Voter.” I want to meet the Taxpayer, and that is very seldom the voter. Now I haven’t got much of what you might call a Show with me.
There is just a Male Quartet and myself. When my talk on the affairs of our Nation and the world in common (and it is) gets dull why the Quartet will sing. That gets your mind off me, and when they have sorter got you soothed back to sensibility I break out again and give you (if the audience stays) the real inside dope on our hired help in Washington. I know more scandal than a White House Cook.
Now there is no women with this organization. I know this is going to be a terrible disappointment to a lot of you who claimed you come to see me in the past. If you are coming to look at something, you better stay at home. But if you want to hear something, come hear that quartet!
I do hope I last long enough to reach your town. If it’s got a railroad and a Town Hall we will be there sooner or later. A Man only learns by two things, one is reading, and the other is association with smarter people. I don’t like to read and one can’t find the associates in New York. I am going out among the people whom New Yorkers call Rubes. But these people I am going out among are the people that just look at New Yorkers and laugh.
1Zachary Lansdowne, lieutenant commander of the American naval airship Shenandoah. Lansdowne and thirteen crewman died in the crash of the Shenandoah during a storm on September 3, 1925. Lansdowne’s widow, who claimed that the flight had been forced on her husband for political reasons, charged the secretary of the navy with responsibility for her husband’s death.
2Harry Stewart New, United States postmaster general from 1923 to 1929.
3For Andrew W. Mellon see WA 124: N 5.
4For Billy Mitchell see WA 117: N 10.
5The Washington Senators met the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series of 1925. The Pirates took the series, four games to three.
6Joseph Caillaux, prominent French politician who served as minister of finance from 1899 to 1902, from 1906 to 1909, in 1911, and from 1925 to 1926.
7Johnson (see WA 133: N 2) was a native of Humboldt, Kansas.
8Joseph Gurney “Uncle Joe” Cannon, Republican United States representative from Illinois from 1873 to 1891, 1893 to 1913, and 1915 to 1923; speaker of the House from 1903 to 1911.
9For Theodore Roosevelt see WA 117: N 2.
10Max George Carey, professional baseball player with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1910 to 1926. Carey, an outfielder, is remembered primarily as an outstanding base runner who stole 738 bases in his career.
CARL TOOK FLORIDA FROM THE
America has about a hundred and ten million people (including male windowdressers). Now, out of all this herd there are about 99 9/10 per cent of us that just drag along and what we do or say don’t have much effect on any of the rest of the mob. But, scattered among these 1/10th per cent, every once in awhile you run onto some odd individual, some queer Bird, that is out of the natural beaten path of Human beings. We all go up the main road, while they take the trails.
ALLIGATORS AND GAVE IT TO THE
I fell afoul of just such a Duck. Henry Ford? No. He is not the one I am talking about. (But I will use Uncle Henry’s name as a means to explain my man). You all know that Mr. Ford had done more personally to change the style of life and customs of this country than all the Presidents ever elected, or defeated. Ford took American farmers off their own quarter sections for the first time. He took people off city blocks that had never been further than the corner Delicatessen Store. He moved ’em around. He dissatisfied half of America by getting them out and seeing where the other half lived. He started half the world cranking, and the other half dodging.
But this other one that I want to tell you about has, next to Mr. Ford, been responsible for causing more dissatisfaction and unrest among contented people than anybody I know of. He is Carl G. Fisher, the man that took Miami away from the Alligators and turned it over to the Indianians.1
Had there been no Carl Fisher, Florida would be known today as just the Turpentine State. If you were an admirer of Turpentine, why, naturally, you would go there. Of course it would have always attracted the true disciple of this perfume laden fluid. But Carl drained off the water-moccasins, the blacks, and the Turpentine, and replaced them with a Hotel and New York prices. He put in a Jazz Orchestra and one-way Excursions; advertised free heat the year round; fixed up the chug-holes so the Fords could get in; rehearsed the mosquitos ’till they wouldn’t bite you until after you bought; shipped in California oranges and tied ’em on the trees; whispered under his breath that you were only ninety miles away from Palm Beach, with its millionaires and its scandal.
He put Florida on the “dollar down and dollar a week plan,” and in no less time than it took the Rural Free Delivery to reach the old homesteads in the North, them old timers had packed their basket lunches, and were pouring into the Heel-shaped State of the Boot of the map of America.
Carl met them at the train or at the crossroads, and whatever they had, be it spare tires, shotguns, crayon enlargements, relatives, or tin foil, why, Carl immediately took it as first payment (“Binders,” the Floridans call it), and handed them an embroidered Deed calling for 30 by 100 in the Everglades.
“Push an alligator out of the way and try and find it.” “There is a Sucker born every minute.” Well, Carl knows the United States Census, and when Barnum made that remark, the population of America consisted of only forty million, including Evangelists and Carpetbagger.2 So Carl says “There is, at the present Census, three born per minute now. And if California gets two of them, we ought (by judicious advertising) get the other one.” So Florida was built on that theory. But it’s not Florida we are talking about, it’s Carl Fisher, the Mid-Wife of Florida.
This guy has done more unique things, even before he ever heard of Florida, than any man I ever met, and I met Al Smith, Al Jennings, Calvin Coolidge, Rudolph Valentino, Senator Borah, Ben Turpin, and the Prince of Wales, to say nothing about Dawes.3
This Fisher person is what the American Magazine would call a “Self Made” man, “who won by hard work, perseverance, and taking advantage of his opportunities.” He used to be a Bootblack. (Now that is telling how old he is, because men haven’t worn boots in years.) He was the first to discover not to use any blacking on at fat man’s shoes. Just rub them enough as though you were shining them. He couldn’t look down and see them anyway.
Then he got to be a Newsbutch on a train. He is also the originator of selling Laura Jean Libby Novels by whispering to the day coachers, “This is a little bit spicy.”4 The third Chapter in our Hero’s life is that he was a champion Bicycle rider, and he opened up a bicycle shop. He was the first man in Indianapolis that knew how to mend a puncture. But here comes the high light in his life. A guy comes along with a thing to light for your car. (Up to then you either did not go out at night, or if you did you had somebody walk ahead of your car with a lantern.) He started making this gas in his home town of Indianapolis. He blew up the first three of his factories; he couldn’t keep it intact until he could sell it. Finally he got to making it so fast that it couldn’t all blow up, and he had enough left over to sell. A firm come along and give him FOUR MILLION just for his share. And to show you what a lucky Bird he is, the very next day after he sold it, somebody invented electric lights for automobiles.
He built the Indianapolis Speedway, a place where if Motorists didn’t like the fast driving on the roads or streets, they could go in there once a year and kind of take their time and slow down. He then went to Florida on a bet, and returned in a Private Car. He was the first man smart enough to discover that there was sand under the water. So he put in a kind of dredge, and “all day Sucker” arrangement, and he brought the sand up and let the water go to the bottom instead of the top. Up to then sand had been used to build with, but never upon. Buck Dancers were about the only ones that were in the market for sand. Carl discovered that sand wouldn’t hold up a Real Estate sign, and that was all he wanted it for. Carl rowed the customers out in the ocean and let them pick out some nice smooth water where they would like to build, and then he would replace the water with an island, and you would be a little Robinson Crueso of your own. And today the dredge is the national emblem of Florida.
Carl Fisher holds License No. 17 for Balloon Pilots in America. (I didn’t know you could pilot one, I thought the wind did that.) He tied an automobile onto one, got in the car, went up, flew over Indianapolis, landed, loaded the balloon into the car, and drove back. That trip resulted in the sale of two autos (of which he was Agent) and one balloon. He sent up a Grand Piano tied to a balloon, with a woman playing it. She landed without a discord in a hog pen at Lafayette, Indiana. (That trip resulted in the sale of two harmonicas, of which he was also the Agent.)
Then he took to automobile racing. He was one of the old time Drivers along with Barney Oldfield, Earl Cooper, Earl Kaiser, and all that bunch.5 He held the one mile dirt track record for an auto. He went to Maysville with Earl Kaiser to race against time at a Country Fair. They went thru the fence, totally destroyed a few dozen customers, and finally met an oak tree with no “detour” sign on it, and landed in the hands of a premature Ku Klux Gang who were on the verge of extracting their life’s blood.
Another time he raced against a horse with his automobile. (Then they thought that automobiles wouldn’t run.) But unfortunately Carl’s car happened to run that day; he beat the horse, and everybody that had bet on the horse took a punch at him. He was racing an old time car at Lexington, Kentucky against time, when he felt something whizzing by his bead. He thought it was a big clod of dirt, but when he got in and they looked at the car, he found it had been part of his crankshaft and a couple of pistons. He turned white when he found out what it was.
Then he got wise and managed automobile racers. He used to contract them for Fairs. He sent Earl Kaiser and some more down in Kentucky to race. They got down there and raced, but the Fair management didn’t want to pay them, so they phoned Carl at Indianapolis. He told them to go ahead to the next town where they were billed and he would get a Lawyer to get the money. He said, “Ship your cars out.” Earl replied, “We can’t get ’em loaded; the Sheriff has ’em chained to a tree.”
The other day he bought Montauk Point, the sharp end of Long Island, for seven and a half million and is going to spend that much more developing it, I don’t know what all he will do there but he is liable to make it the terminal for a Subway to Europe. He is just about far sighted enough to see the need of another Golf Course near New York City, like the two they have. There is plenty of room for all the golf Players, but not enough for all that want to play.
He will drag all the pleasure seekers from Miami to Montauk Point, of course he won’t get anybody from California, for we already have everything. But he will get Florida—their second payment is about due. Watch this Bird; he is a beaut. He could take Death Valley and turn it into a Sunken Garden.
1Carl G. Fisher, Indiana businessman and realtor who built the Indianapolis Speedway in 1909 and who developed Miami Beach and other resort cities in Florida.
2For P. T. Barnum see WA 122: N 3.
3For Al Smith see WA 121: N 1. Alphonso J. “Al” Jennings, Oklahoma lawyer and bank robber who ran for governor in 1914. He later produced and acted in western movies. For Rudolph Valentino see WA 142: N 2; for William E. Borah see WA 119: N 2; for Ben Turpin see WA 117: N 13; for Charles G. Dawes see WA 117: N 9.
4Laura Jean Libby, American writer of fiction; author of many popular sentimental novels, including Lovers Once but Strangers Now and Miss Middleton’s Lover.
5Berna Eli “Barney” Oldfield, pioneer American automobile racer whose name was synonymous with speed. Earl Cooper, California automobile racer who was one of the leading drivers in the United States during the period 1910 to 1920. Earl Kiser, early-day American race car driver whose career ended abruptly in 1905 as a result of a near-fatal speedway accident.
EVEN PRISONERS FLEE WHEN ROGERS
All I used to know was just what I read in the papers. But that was when I was “Shanghied” in New York, because all anybody knows in New York is just what they read in the papers. But NOW all I know is just what I see myself. What I see I can understand, but what I read—there is a terrible lot of that I can’t “savvy.”
SEEMS ABOUT TO START TALKING
Now that I am looking over America I am going to be able to tell you something besides “Who Ann Pennington is going with this season,” and “What Millionaire has been in the front row four nights running.”1 I am out to see how America is living. I mean the ones that don’t go to New York and support the Ticket Speculators, and then come back home and brag on what everything cost ’em. No sir. I have seen him in New York; we have had him out in front of our footlights for years; he is the one that cusses New York but still goes there for no reason in the world, and then says, “I had to on business, or I would never come near this place.” No, he is not the one I am out hunting.
I am meeting the regular Bird—the one that lives in his town; stays in his town; is proud of his town; he offers no apology for not having seen last year’s Follies, or any other year’s. I wanted to find out what he was thinking about; what he was reading about. Everybody said to me, “Why, Will, you can’t use a lot of this stuff you use here in New York—you can’t use it out where you are going—they won’t know what you are talking about.” Well, I broke out anyway to try it. I closed one night with the Follies and opened the next night in a Church in Elmira, New York. It was a real church, too. It was Henry Ward Beecher’s church.2 They told me that years ago the first time he put in a play room for the little children during Sunday School there was talk of burning him at the stake for Heresy.
Now, here was an Oklahoma cow-puncher giving an “alleged Lecture” in there. I sort of imagine that on account of Henry’s broadmindedness in those early days is why he is just about one of the only Preachers that anybody remembers his name today.
I was sorter glad it was held in a church as it gave what few followers I had a chance to get into a church once. The surroundings were a bigger novelty than I was. Well, they were fine. After they got kind of used to the place they just limbered right up. The only ones I had any trouble with were the regular church members who were occupying their regular pews.
They just naturally went to sleep out of force of habit. I couldn’t keep them awake. The only way I got them out of there was to say “Amen,” at the finish.
Now in making this tremendous leap from the Follies to the Pulpit, I would like to state that I did not have to change one word of my act. Now I don’t know whether that is a compliment to the church audience or to the Follies audience. Elmira is a great old town. I went up in the afternoon to visit the State Reformatory. I had heard so much of the splendid work that the Warden, Mr. Christian, was doing, that I wanted to shake the hand of a real competent Public Official.3 (I always boost the worthy.) He started to take me thru and show me all the boys at work learning a trade, at variety of over twenty-five different ones. There didn’t seem to be much of a Prison Spirit, or Rules in there. Every other boy we passed would holler out, “Hello, Will.” And then hollered out, “What are you in for, Will?” They all spoke to the Warden and called him “Doc” and he knew them by name.
Finally so many recognized me that the Warden remarked, “More of my Inmates know you than anyone I ever saw come up here, and the longer they are in for, the more they seem to know you.” Well, we finally figured it out that there is almost two-thirds of them from New York City, and almost the other third from Buffalo. So that’s why I knew so many. You see the boys from the small towns are either better behaved or too slick for them to catch. At any rate he is not in there. I asked the Warden if I couldn’t come up here next morning and do a little stunt for the boys, so the next morning at 9:30 he come to the Hotel for me, and just as we were driving into the grounds a siren whistle blew. He said, “An Escape.” All the guards started running around, jumping into cars. They told him it was three boys who had got away. Well, I have had lots of people stay away from shows that I was in—I have had them get up in the Theatre and walk out on me--but this was the first time I ever had them break out of jail to keep from hearing me, and take a chance, if they were caught, to lose all their time. I guess they just figured “We were sentenced to Jail, but it was not in our sentence that we had to listen to Will.”
Well, I told the Warden not to hunt for them, for when I am gone they will come back, and sure enough as I started to drive away one of the guards hollered to me, “They are back!”
I guess they thought I was going to lecture to them and tell ’em how to act when they got out. That’s what everybody does when they talk to unfortunates. I showed ’em how lucky they were to be in there, that if they were out they would be either be murdered or robbed before a week. I told them I would be a fine one to lecture them.
“They say a lot of you are in here for ‘stick-ups’ and small robberies. Why, I have held up every Theatre Manager I ever worked for and I am out. If I was in here for every dollar I had beat Mr. Ziegfeld out of, I would be here for life.4 I want to see all of you, when you get out come to see me, but remember, we both belong to the same Lodge, so lay off me. I haven’t got but one bit of advice to offer you fellows. You are learning a trade in here. When you get out you better follow this new trade; don’t try the old robber trade; you will find that it is one of the most over-crowded professions in the world today. There is not enough people that have anything to make it worth while robbing them. I know good robbers now that haven’t done a tap of robbing for weeks, just because the victims haven’t got it like they used to have. It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just a condition, and the outcome of it will be something terrible to realize. Somebody is going to have to go to work.”
And speaking of churches, I appeared one night in Canton, Ohio.(That was McKinley’s town and it is a beautiful place.)5
Well, we had several preachers in and one of them has the biggest Sunday School in the United States. So the Minister asked me to come up the next morning and see this wonderful Sunday School and to say a few words at his church service. Well, I did, and it seemed to be going pretty good, nobody was converted, but everybody seemed to be laughing. When I would stop, he would tell me to go on, and I kept on—me hesitating and him encouraging me to keep on, until when I finished he didn’t get up and preach at all. I had preached and didn’t know it.
After I got thru, they prayed and the Minister complimented me, said that it was better to make people laugh than to cry, and said, “I know Will has done us all good.” Well, I didn’t hardly know how to take that remark.
Then he announced he would take up a collection. So after the collection, I knew that we had both done them good! I didn’t know I was supposed to be preaching or I would have been scared. But he was a mighty broadminded minister. Well, you know that on account of the size of his church and his Sunday School. I told them I was not going to talk about anything only what they all knew about; that I would not say a word about religion; that preachers of all the thousands of denominations can misinform you enough about that without me adding to the perplexity. That preacher just used me to conserve a sermon of his that morning, or else he didn’t have one. But I enjoyed it, and the church audience applauded, and I think it made me better, for on my way back to the Hotel I passed a Beggar selling lead pencils, and I know I passed him with more feeling and just kinder wished I didn’t write with a fountain pen so I could have helped him.
You see I hold the distinction of being the only one that ever preached a sermon in a regular church and didn’t know it. And I don’t even know what denomination the church was. But I am having a wonderful trip, meeting and looking out into the faces of Taxpayers, instead of Bootleggers.
1For Ann Pennington see WA 117: N 14.
2Henry Ward Beecher, nineteenth century American clergyman noted as a powerful orator who opposed slavery and favored women’s suffrage.
3Frank Lamar Christian, American physician and penologist who served as superintendent of the New York state reformatory at Elmira.
4For Flo Ziegfeld see WA 117: N 11.
5William McKinley, Republican governor of Ohio from 1892 to 1896; president of the United States from 1897 until his death in 1901.
FORD’S RAILROAD IS DISCOVERED
Well, all I know is just what I see as I am combing this entire country in search of an honest Politician, I have only been out two weeks and been in 14 states. Brother, the “Round the World Fliers” can’t follow me.1
BY THE INTREPID EXPLORER, ROGERS
I have had some great experiences, and made some fine discoveries (haven’t found the Politician yet). Quite a while ago I read in the papers, and also a story in the Magazine (I think it was the American Magazine, because the thing they were writing about had made a success by hard working, perseverance, and taking advantage of its opportunities). The story run as I remember it that Henry Ford had bought a Railroad, and it told he was making a success out of it, that he was paying more wages than anybody else to his men, and he had the thing going fine.2
Now that Magazine needn’t have said that he was making a success out of it, or that he was paying high wages. All it needed to say was, “Henry Ford bought a Railroad.” We know what he has done with it. When Henry gets his hands on anything it is, what do you call that word, Superfluous that’s hitting close to it) well it’s (what I said it was just now), to say that he has made a success out of it. He uses common sense instead of a Board of Directors; that’s why he makes a sucker out of other concerns trying to do something on a big scale.
But, as the Novelist says, we must on with our plot. Now, ordinarily, if a man owned and operated a Railroad, and also manufactured Automobiles of the same name, you would think that more people would know about the Railroad wouldn’t you? Well sir, there is not a man, woman or Golf Player in the World that hasn’t seen a Ford Car, no matter what country it is in. And I believe that I am the only one that has ever seen his railroad.
I tell you how I happened to sneak up on it. I come into Springfield, Ohio, to play. I was asking Mr. Edgar Morris, the Editor of our paper there, what they had of local interest that I could compliment the town on that night.3 Well he told me a lot of things they had there, as it is a beautiful little city. Finally he just casually mentioned: “Ford’s got a Railroad comes in here some place. I have never seen it but if you can find it that would be interesting to your audience to tell them where it is.” Well, I started snooping around. I found all the railroad tracks and traced them to their lair, and they would give some other name on their trains.
Finally I found a track that was just as clean. The ties under the rails were scrubbed, and the rails were all polished, and the weeds were cut. I followed it along. Finally I come to a little thing built out of some old crank cases and three Ford radiator hoods, and it had a sign on it said “Springfield.” Well, the track stopped at this odd little contraption with this name on it, so I sneaked up and peeped in and it was a Depot.
Well, I went to the other railroads in town and asked the Agents if that was their Depot and they all said “No.” So I just kinder did a bit of Sherlock Homes’ing. I started to deducting. I deducted right down till I said that’s Mr. Ford’s Railroad. Then I talked to his Agent there. He was shining the telegraph wires. The road backs into Springfield. That’s so it can get a good start going out.
Years ago, the story goes, Mr. Ford wanted to locate some kind of factory in Springfield, but the Manufacturers Association wouldn’t let him. They were afraid he would get a lot of help in there and some Saturday not pay off, and they would all be left on the town. Well, the first thing they knew Ford amounted to something, So they have been trying to get him back in there. So he put up this little “Coupe” Depot to get even with them. We were going to leave out of there from it, but there was five (count ’em) in our show and the depot won’t accommodate a rush.
Ford had just bought 30 thousand acres of land in a place called Charleston, a few miles away from Springfield. They don’t know what he is going to do with that land. I will tell you what he is going to do with it. You know you have read about him being interested in the “Old time” dances. Well he is going to take that 30 thousand acres in Charleston and hold a Charleston Contest, open to all Ford owners.
He has only had the railroad a short time and the workmen are allowed to buy stock in it, and the stock is paying them 15% already, and he won’t let the thing run on Sunday. On Saturday night at 12 o’clock, no matter where a train is, they stop, the passengers get off, go and hunt up a farmer’s house and take out board and lodging for the rest of the week end.
On Sunday night exactly at twelve, the Engineer blows his whistle and they come running in and all get on and go till the next Saturday night catches them. Live Stock, they won’t accept them after Tuesday, so the line is generally pretty clear of them by Sunday.
His men work only eight hours. But he goes on the rule that that means do something that eight hours. It’s rather an unusual rule in modern industry. When an Engineer and Conductor and all the crew stop, they are supposed to start doing something, generally rubbing and polishing. You can tell a railroad man that works for Mr. Ford. He carries a piece of this cleaning waste in his hand instead of a Cigarette. While the passengers are getting on, the Engineer is scrubbing the wheels of the Engine, and while the train is going the Conductor is washing the windows and the Brakeman is painting the inside of the cars. Even running, there is no waste energy.
The throttle is in one hand and a dust rag in the other. Every piece of coal is bathed before it enters the firebox. Cinders are sent to the Incinerator. Roads have names or Slogans, like “Phoebe Snow and anthracite,” “The Scenic Route.” But Ford’s road slogan is “Rub, Brother, Rub!” When you finish on that Road you are either a good Furniture Polisher or a bootblack. If they stop out on the line somewhere at a switch, they all grab scythes and start in cutting the grass on the right-away. The road is called the D. T. and I. R., “Don’t Tolerate Iron Rust.”
The people that had it before didn’t know where it went to, but he got in a Ford car and he went right in and followed it around and found out. It is supposed to be the crookedest Railroad that ever went through a flat Country. The Architect was a futurist. It looks like it is going around mountains, but they are not there. Of course if they ever grow there why the road will be all ready for them.
If it was straightened out it would be a Trans Continental Line. It starts from Detroit, and it has no more idea where it is going than any one of those millions of other things that he starts out from there. It goes out aways south and gets discouraged or scared and starts for Chicago, hears about the crime wave out there, and figures Toledo would be better, but before going to Toledo it decides to go back to Detroit for orders. The people that had it before didn’t know what to do with it. Mr. Ford added two more curves, put in a Lecturer, and called it a Scenic Railway. It won’t attack a Town head on. It kinder sideswipes the town. The Route was laid out by a Ford Car going south one night in a blinding snowstorm.
Mr. Ford knows more human Nature than any business man living. He knows the American People want to be going somewhere. and they don’t care where, just so they are going, so he says, “Here is the very thing for them. They can be going somewhere, and they, me or nobody else will know where.” He made a fortune with his cars, catering to this same disregard and he will do it with this Railroad. People have confidence in him getting them from where they are, and that’s all America wants, IS JUST TO BE FROM HERE NEXT.
1Two United States Army planes, each with three crewmen, made the first around the world flight in 1924, accomplishing the feat in five months and twenty-two days.
2Ford bought the Detroit, Toledo, and Ironton Railroad in 1920 and operated it successfully until 1929, when he sold it to the Pennsylvania Railroad.
3Edgar Leslie Morris, publisher of the Springfield (Ohio) Daily News and Sun from 1924 to 1954.
ROGERS OPENING NIGHT HERE WAS
Well, all I know is just what I see as I travel over this country. I got to Cleveland, O., and had heard rumors of the New Depot, but when I got off I found the same old one they have where the school children study Ancient History. They have plans drawn for a new one, but plans are awful hard to run a train on. Cleveland looked pretty lively. There was a International Peace Conference on there at the time, drawing up an armistice between the Irish Police Chief and The Republic of China. Well then I went down to Columbus, Ohio. That’s the town where the Capitol is located in a big square, and a lot of squirrels running all around. Well I never saw the squirrels looking as poor. You see the State Legislature has been out of session.
THE NIGHT OF NIGHTS, HE SAYS
They haven’t had a single thing to gnaw on. Oh yes, they did have a big excitement in Columbus. A squirrel had bit some woman, and there was some talk of destroying the squirrels. But women going into politics is what made the squirrel think they were the same food as a Nut Politician. If women must insist on leaving men’s privileges they have to take the men's chances. You can’t blame the squirrel.
Had a fine visit with “Bill” Ireland, the great Cartoonist.1 (I don’t know what the thing higher up than a Cartoonist is, but whatever it is, Ireland is it.) Ireland is one of the greatest, and you have all enjoyed his wonderful take-offs of our National events. He is with the Columbus Dispatch and wouldn’t go to New York for Brisbane’s salary.2 Imagine, after being able to visit men like that, then some Bird will ask me “why I left N. Y.” I can learn more talking to Ireland in an hour about what the people in this country are thinking about than I could in 10 years listening to a Jazz band play in N. Y.
At Columbus the Police met me and escorted me to the Hotel, 10 mounted men. I think they just wanted to show me their Horses, and I don’t blame ’em. They had the best horses I ever saw on my force. I told the Chief that was the first time Police had ever escorted me INTO town, and that it was about the biggest honor I had ever received. He said, “Well I am glad you like it. We meet about everybody that comes in. The Boys have to exercise the horses anyway.” He told me, “We had a bigger time than this when Theda Bara come here.”3 He was showing me a new traffic program that they were just breaking in that morning with lights and everything. In fact I discovered that that was why I was met; that they were trying the thing out on me. If anything went wrong I would be the one to get run over. I would die a Martyr to Columbus progress. Well in 8 or 10 years when the system starts to work right I can look back and say I told you it would work in time.
Well a state wouldn’t be a state unless it had a Springfield. Springfields are as numerous now as Hollywoods will be in the next generation.
But Ohio has the original Springfield. So that’s the one I went to. It sure is a dandy little city. I caught it at its worst (when it was putting on a Booster Week). People in a town during a “booster” week can’t hardly wait till the following Monday to start in knocking the town again. That’s the place I found Henry Ford’s railroad I told you about last week. I guess they have taken it in for the winter now.
We dropped from there off down to Lexington, Kentucky. It sure was a pleasure to hit the first old southern town where you could see two men talking and neither one trying to sell the other something. As I walked into the Hotel the Rotary Club was in session at their noon Luncheon. So I started right to work. The speaker of the day was a man who spoke on Fire prevention. He said, “People should be more careful.” I think I had heard that advice somewhere else, I forget where. I don’t know how to prevent fires in all parts of the United States, but I do know how to prevent fires in New York City. Abolish Fire Insurance, and you will abolish fires in New York, or pass a law that if a man burns anything but his own place of business he has to pay for it. That will make ’em confine their fires. People go to Europe and prowl around over there trying to find something pretty to come home and tell about to impress their neighbors, when there are those Stock farms around Lexington, Kentucky, with those thoroughbred mares and colts grazing on that old blue grass and all those white Board paddocks.
Say, Europe looks like a railroad freight yard compared to that. Visited Man Of War.4 Say, there is more people visits his stable than there is visits the White House in Washington. He is a bright golden Chestnut sorrel. He is the most beautiful living thing I ever saw in my life (and I come out of the Follies where we have had some thoroughbreds). If Flo could land some girl with his speed and looks he could put out a No. 2 Follies.5 They got an old Negro fellow lives with him and takes care of him all the time. That old boy can tell you what that horse is thinking about. When I saw all those wonderful horses, I wished there had never been an automobile invented. There is an Editorial laying here before me which gives the statistics. “48 people killed by Auto every 24 hours in the United States.” And they call that progress. I have never yet seen a man in such a big hurry that a horse or train wouldn’t have got him there in plenty of time. In fact 9/l0ths of the people would be better off if they stayed where they are, instead of going where they are going. No man in America if he didn’t get where he is going would be missed.
People take themselves too serious, they think if they don’t break their neck from one place of business to another that the World will stop.
Say, all they have to do is just watch some man die that is more prominent than they are, and in less than 24 hours the world has forgot he ever lived, so they ought to have imagination enough to know how long they will stop things if they left this old earth. People nowadays are traveling faster, but they are not getting any further (in fact not as far) as our old dads did.
We hit St. Louis, the place where I worked on the Pike with a Wild West Show during the World’s Fair in 1904. It felt good to be in St. Louis and eating regular. I missed as many meals during the fair as I did tricks with the ropes (and that’s some misses).
Then Kansas City. I was getting close home and more nervous every minute. I tried to get out and see my old friend Senator Jim Reed.6 He had him a good job. He was defending a murder case. He was pulling a Clarence Darrow, trying to prove the defendant was sane enough to plead guilty, But too insane to hang.7 Reed will get him out of it and maybe have the judge apologize to him for trying him at all.
Kansas City has a wonderful monument to the Soldiers, but nobody knows what it represents but the Artist who designed it, and he won’t tell anybody. If he should die, before the completion of it, they would have to tear it down. Nobody would know how to finish it. A lot of old Kansas Farmers are going to take it for a Silo. Then they are building another one near it. I asked what it was and they told me “it was a Monument to Washington and the Revolutionary War.” Kansas City has been so busy making money that they are away behind with their monuments. They are 4 wars behind yet.
It’s getting so there is such a demand for Golf courses it’s awful hard to get people interested in a historical monument. A new Golf ball is the only sure way of taking money from the people nowadays. Went up to St. Joe Missouri that’s an old time western town. It’s the home of some mighty fine Theatrical people. Dave Montgomery, the pardner of Fred Stone, come from St. Joe, and they didn’t make ’em any better than little Dave.8 Arthur Pryor, the man that first got any music out of a trombone.9 Before him they only used trombones in bands for minstrel parades for the Negroes to follow and watch the fellow swallow it.
And say, O. O. McIntyre, our best reporter of New York life, comes from just below St. Joe a few miles.10 Don’t let him pull that Galopolis, Ohio, on you. Mc helped start the first Pony Express out of St. Joe for Sacramento. Now I went home to Oklahoma from there, and I want to write and tell you about it in another Article soon. After 20 years, playing your home State for the first time! I have had many a Follies opening night, but the opening night in Tulsa—(also the closing night, for there ain’t but one; we have to move quick after each show). Well it was the night of nights.
1William Addison “Bill” Ireland, cartoonist with the Columbus (Ohio) Evening Dispatch from 1899 until his death in 1935.
2Arthur Brisbane, New York City newspaper editor who began his popular editorial column “Today” in 1917. Brisbane had extensive property interests in New York City and Florida.
3Theda Bara, American actress who was the unforgettable first “vamp” of silent motion pictures. Noted as “the prime dweller in the tents of wickedness,” she seduced huge sections of the population through films such as Cleopatra and Salome.
4Man o’War, American-bred race horse which won twenty of twenty-one races from 1919 to 1920 and set five American track records during a brief racing career.
5For Flo Ziegfeld see WA 117: N 11.
6James Alexander Reed, Democratic United States senator from Missouri from 1911 to 1929.
7For Clarence Darrow see WA 137: N 1.
8David Craig “Dave” Montgomery, American actor and comedian who toured the vaudeville circuit with Fred Stone for many years. Montgomery died in 1917. Fred Andrew Stone, vaudeville, stage, and screen star who appeared in such films as Johnny, Get Your Gun and Broadway after Dark. Stone was one of Rogers’ closest friends.
9Arthur Pryor, American trombonist, composer, and bandleader. He formed a band in 1903 that appeared in leading cities in the world.
10Oscar Odd McIntyre, American journalist and author who wrote a syndicated column, “New York Day by Day,” which appeared in more than 550 newspapers from 1921 until his death in 1938. McIntyre was born in Plattsburg, Missouri, in 1884 but spent most of his youth in Gallipolis, Ohio.
TWO WARS A WEEK OUGHT
All I know is just what I see out in America. As I pen these immaterial lines, I am sitting here in a Rock Island train and we are crossing the Mississippi River at Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa. She is a beautiful river up here. Kansas City and St. Louis haven’t had a chance to dirty it up yet. There is just as much water in it here as there is down there, but not as much mud. Down there it don’t flow; it just oozes along with just enough water in it to keep the mud moving.
TO SATISFY THE BALKANS
Secretary Hoover and a gang of Government experts was out in Kansas City a few days ago talking about whether it would be practical to navigate the river.1 They seemed to think it could be done. It’s funny experts have to come clear out from Washington to see if the Mississippi and the Missouri can be made navigable, when for years and years that’s the only way people got around out there. They will be investigating next to see if a Railroad would be practical across the Rockies. Now, every local Senator and Congressman within drowning distance of these Rivers will go back to Washington and start working his head off for an appropriation. Of course, the fellows from New England and the Pacific Coast and Texas and the South, they won’t be much interested, but they will have them some scheme in their district that they want to get done. Maybe they got some creek stopped up too, and are looking for an appropriation, so then the trading will start in.
“You help me dig out the Missouri, and I will help you jip the Treasury out of enough to put in a new Post Office Building for your constituents.”
He will trade with Texas to help their Representative get enough to irrigate the Brazos River. At the finish every state gets something they don’t need; the Politician gets re-elected, thereby everybody getting something they don’t need. Then for the next session he has to think of something else to raid the Treasury for. It won’t do any good to deepen these rivers. They will just fill ’em up again with empty Gin bottles. As long as we have a mud hole or a gully in this country there will be a Congressman there to ask for an appropriation to have it widened or dig deeper. What they should do is fill ’em all up, and save bridges.
I am just entering Iowa. I haven’t been there in years, not since it moved to Long Beach, California. I am looking forward with great anxiety to seeing the birthplace of 90% of Southern California’s Native Sons. A corn crop in Iowa means many extra Tourist’s sleepers to California. California really just uses Iowa as a sort of Hatchery. For an Iowan to get a Picture Post Card of an orange grove in the winter time is just like receiving a telegram his nearest relative is sick. He leaves at once. There is something about a growing Orange that just makes an Iowan uneasy till he sees it. It’s only the last days of October but the snow is 5 inches deep as we enter Des Moines. A Florida exaggeration sheet has also reached Iowa.
That’s good if we in Cal. can just get them steered toward Florida, everything will be Jake.
Florida is prospering now because everything is wide open. Iowans will fix that as soon is they get there. Seeing some one enjoy themselves just rubs one the wrong way. They don’t seem that way at home in their own state. It just seems that when he leaves there he feels he or she is on a mission, like our foreign missionaries. They are going to reform the world, whether it wants it or not.
Now since I wrote these last lines I have been in Des Moines and met their audience face to face, and it is just as I predicted. They are exactly like everybody else. They are good laughers. I wouldn’t want a keener audience. They received my little kidding in fine spirit.
The first man I met in town that knew me was the Governor, who come over to my table in the Hotel. Gov. Hammil is a dandy fine, real good fellow.2 He come up to the Theater to hear my little nonsense. We exchanged views there before the audience as to how the executive offices of the state should be conducted. I give him a lot of ideas that will if he executes them either keep him in office or get him impeached, one. After all that is the ultimate goal of a Governor nowadays. He looks quite a lot like Mr. Bryan used to look.3 (I don’t think his gaze is focused on the White House like our old dear departed Commoner’s gaze was.) But aside from his ambitions he resembles him, and might make it at that.
So, as I say, it’s not Iowa itself that tries to make the moral traffic laws of any state they happen to land in, but it’s the ones who live there, and I can understand how it is prospering so well without them. The way I figure it out an Iowan gets away and gets sore at himself for leaving. He is too bull-headed to go back, and he just takes it out on the place he lights in. So I am writing to everybody I know in Florida to send all the literature they have up here at once. Florida don’t know it, but California is behind me in this. We are even loaning them Orange Grove Pictures taken in California, and having a Florida name on them, to send up here.
If I put this Iowa-Florida drive over for California I have it on good authority (well from Mr. Hearst himself and Arthur) that I can step right in Hiram’s shoes.4 Hiram has had a kind of a Red Grange and a Babe Ruth year in the last Senate.5 That’s the reason I turned down that Governor thing in Oklahoma. I figured they could wait, they will always be wanting a good Governor (at least they always have).
This Editorial of the Illiterate Digest is in the nature of a Travelogue. I am at this moment having breakfast at the St. Paul Hotel, in St. Paul (I think). This is the town where no one can ever remember whether it is in Wisconsin or Minnesota, and it acts more like North Dakota than it does like either Wisconsin or Minnesota. Climatically it’s the Capitol of Siberia. Somebody with a sense of humor built it and Minneapolis right close together, and then they moved away to watch the fun. If either City could find the fellow that did it his life wouldn’t be worth as much as Bank Messengers in Chicago.
They were born the “Twin Cities,” but since birth they have grown together. Now they are locked. One can’t do anything without interfering with the other. If one dances the other one wants to sit down, and if one wants to sit down the other one wants to dance. What one eats don’t agree with the other one. The Mississippi River is between them, but Lord, that don’t stop ’em from cussing each other. The Pacific Ocean should separate them.
Well, as I sit here with my breakfast, a pot of Coffee and 5 morning Newspapers, I find some very unfortunate news. The Bulgarians and the Greeks had just opened an engagement on the old battle grounds down in the Balkans. They had rehearsed and the Orchestra had gone in and they were all dressed for a war and had in fact fired the opening chorus, when along comes the League, meaning England and France, and says, “Say wait a minute, have you fellows got a permit for a war? We are just in the midst of trying to (unconsciously) show America that we are for Peace, and here you want to fight while we are even in session. Now you boys forget this, go back home and don’t let us hear any more out of you till we get America all set in here with us; then you can cut loose, but remember, you are on furlough now.”
Well, the ink on the Editorials were hardly dry, praising the work of the League in preventing this war, when lo and behold, today they break out again. The League will stop ’em again tomorrow, then they won’t fight again till Monday. A small war like that about two days a week will be all they will need anyway, Tuesdays and Fridays.
Now here is the catch in it, in the very next column to this headline of England stopping these two little E Flat Nations from carrying on what they had always been brought up to believe was a legitimate pastime, why there was four columns about the number of Airships that England had massed together to send against the Turks in Mesopotamia. Now just for a quiet laugh, just suppose Greece and Bulgaria sent word to England that her and Turkey was to withdraw, can you see England complying to that ultimatum, League or no League? Say, they would laugh so loud in those little Nations’ faces they would give ’em the earache. What good would it do to stop those little Nations fighting anyway. They would go back home and start in shooting each other. War is just like Golf. Once a fellow takes it up he won’t let nothing interfere with it.
1Herbert Clark Hoover, United States secretary of commerce from 1921 to 1928; Republican president of the United States from 1929 to 1933.
2John Hammill, Republican governor of Iowa from 1925 to 1931.
3For William Jennings Bryan see WA 122: N 1.
4For William Randolph Hearst see WA 144: N 5; for Arthur Brisbane see WA 151: N 2. Hiram Warren Johnson, Republican United States senator from California from 1917 until his death in 1945.
5Harold Edward “Red” Grange, star football halfback at the University of Illinois from 1922 to 1925. An All-American, Grange left college to play professionally with the Chicago Bears from 1925 to 1934.
HOME FOLKS KILL FAT CALF AND
In 1906, 1907 and last in 1914, I played over Europe, the first time in Germany at the Wintergarden, Berlin. And every trip I played in England, one of the things that struck me was the amount of American Acts over there that had been there for years, lots of them well known and liked over there, lots of them just hanging on because there was nothing back home for them. Then I have seen some of the same acts that were hits over there come over home again, and lots of times they wouldn’t make the grade over there. They of course would always say, “Well over in England they know good stuff when they see it; we are somebody over there.”
LAUGH AT WILL’S JOKES
Well, they passed it off that way, and to a lot of people it went over, but to a lot of us we know down deep in their own hearts they would have given all the success they had ever known over there for one half the recognition here at home. It’s fine to be big and well liked in any country in the world, but after all it feels a lot better to be thought something of in your own land. There is hundreds of Americans abroad that are doing fine not only acting but in every line, apparently happy, and sometimes envied by visiting Americans. But say, they would cut off their right arm to enjoy the same success and prosperity at home.
Well, as it is in regard to other countries so it is in regard to different parts of our own Country. New York in most lines is our goal. We think the peak has been reached when we can succeed in that wonderful City, or in fact any of our big Cities. We drift away from home, go out into every line of business in the world, sometimes think the old home grounds are kinder slow. Maybe you wasn’t figured much around there before leaving. Well, lots of them succeed IF THEY ARE LUCKY.
I am no believer in this “hard work, perseverance, and taking advantage of your opportunities” that these Magazines are so fond of writing some fellow up in. The successful don’t work any harder than the failures. They get what is called in baseball the breaks.
Walter Johnston in the last World’s Series Game, had the breaks against him.1 His most reliable support made two errors that he wouldn’t make again in 10 seasons. Thousands get to be big men in communities that they were not born in. They apparently have everything. Nine tenths of successful New Yorkers are from somewhere else. To meet them under their present surroundings, you would think the old home town was the last thing ever entered their head. But it’s not. It’s the first thing. You wonder what they think of you at home, or if they think of you at all.
Even the big ones, your Garys, the Schwabs the Rockefellers, Mr. Coolidge, Hoover, Ford.2 Everyone has deep in their heart the old town or community where they first went barefooted, got their first licking, traded the first pocket knife, grew up and finally went away thinking you were too big for that Burg. But that’s where your old heart is. I know you will say “what has this got to do with trying to make us laugh. Tell us some Ford or Coolidge jokes. If we want to read sentiment we will read somebody that can write it.”
Well I don’t want to purposely hurt your feelings, but I don’t care whether you read this or not. Instead of being sad as you think I am from the foregoing, I never was as happy and independent in my life. I have been over 20 years trying to kid the great American Public out of a few loose giggles now and again. Somebody had to act the fool, and I happened to be one of the many that picked out that unfunny business of trying to be funny.
Now I tell you why I am happy and nothing don’t matter to me now. After acting a Fool all over the World and part of Iowa, I have been back home, and they seemed glad to see me, and they laughed at me. They laughed at me MORE than New York or London or Omaha.
Now that don’t mean anything to you (and they’s why I told you awhile ago this article don’t interest you). But it meant something to me. My HOME FOLKS thought I was good. I know lots of Theatre goers that will disagree with them. But what do I care for them? What do I care for anything?
The old home State and the old home Town and the old ranch people I was born and raised with, I got by with them. Twenty years of doubt and expectations just to what they would think of you.
I played five towns in my old Oklahoma state, Bartlesville, Ponca City, Enid, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa. Well, it was wonderful. It was the greatest week of my life. And say, they are real towns. Talk about you Florida’s boom, Oklahoma has a steady growth, ships out more stuff than Florida has to ship in. The only thing Florida raises that they don’t have to ship in is their Turpentine, and that’s the only thing we do have to import.
Tulsa was the nearest to my real old home. I was born and raised 35 miles northeast of there on a ranch, which I am proud to say I own yet, and it is going to stay owned yet as long as I can keep up the interest on the mortgage. Of course 12 Miles from the old ranch is Claremore, that’s our old home Town and is the “Metropolis of the western hemisphere.” It’s the home of Radium Water. It’s to the sick person what Miami is to the Real Estate Grafters. Well they all come to Tulsa to see me. They drove in there for miles all over the Country. Our little Concert was in Convention Hall, just six inches less in diameter than the Polo Grounds, where McGraw’s Giants play in New York.3 The nearer the time come the more scared I got. No Follies of 125 people to make good for me. Just a Male Quartette and I.4 But I had confidence in the Boys of it, because they had made good the world over and this was not their home town.
But one of the things that worried me was, “What’s he trying to do; fool us, come here with nothing and get our money just out of old times’ sake?” The local manager asked me if I minded if he seated people on the stage. Well, that scared me more than ever. I walked around the building three times before I finally went in the Stage entrance, I heard the Boys singing and I knew I would be facing them soon. There was not even a chair in the dressing room. They said, “They are using everything on the stage.” When the Boys had sang their last of three or four encores they literally had to push me out. I had never seen such an audience in my life.
They were packed in, standing at the back, and sitting in the asles and over three hundred seated BEHIND me on the stage. Two little girls come up and gave me a great Floral piece. Well, I had never received flowers before in my life, and that did stick me. It had been sent by my Home Town. Well, after it seemed like ages, I got started, and they laughed, and they would laugh so long it would give me time to think of another one. Here it was the biggest audience I had ever faced and here it was the Best audience I had ever faced.
Well, they kept on seeming to want more till I did two Hours and fifteen minutes. That’s I think a Minor League Record for Monologists. That made all the opening nights in New York I have worried with, seem like rehearsals. Just think, back home and they liked you! That was a Kick.
It’s not the highest type of work, this acting a fool, and a Comedian may not excite much envy. But it’s the best I will ever get, and I felt good enough that night to last me the rest of my life. But that wasn’t nothing. The next day I was to go over to Claremore. They had asked me to get there by noon.
Well, here is what happened. These Folks, after driving home from Tulsa after the show away late that night, got up the next morning and Ladies cooked everything in the World good that ever was put before anybody at a meal, and stacked tables and tables full of it in the American Legion Hall.
When I drove over and got there at twelve o’clock they had the band out and everybody in town was there to welcome me, and we went in and had this wonderful meal that if Peggy Joyce had to pay for it, she would have had to send out and get a new Husband.5
Back Home, among the people that I would saw off a leg to make good with. Bring on your towns where they don’t think much of you (and we have had some of them since then, they wasn’t all Tulsas). But what do I care? I am going to always do my best, no matter where I am, but it was the Home folks that had been worrying me, and it’s what worries everybody if they will admit it. There is a million Towns in the United States, and a million communities. Pick out a million people and ask them where they would rather be thought well of, and they will say, “Back Home.” Gee, I am lucky, I fooled ’em at Home.
1Johnson (see WA 133: N 2) won two games and lost one in the World Series of 1925.
2Elbert Henry Gary, American jurist and businessman; chairman of the board of directors of United States Steel Corporation from 1903 until his death in 1927. For Charles M. Schwab see WA 125: N 10. John Davison Rockefeller, Sr., American oilman and industrial tycoon who founded Standard Oil Company in 1870. For this and all further references to Herbert Hoover see WA 152: N 1.
3For John J. McGraw see WA 124: N 11.
4The de Reszké Singers, an American male quartet which toured the United States with Rogers in 1925, 1926, and 1927. The group took its name from the renowned French dramatic tenor Jean de Reszké.
ROGERS DISCOVERS A MODEST
I was sitting in a Dining Car on the Frisco train going from Memphis to Birmingham, and enjoying my usual breakfast, Coffee and Newspapers.
I noticed some people come in and sit down across from me. I was attracted first by their Southern accent in talking. It seemed like getting back home again after all these years in the North to hear some real Southern accent, without being put on. They were gabbing away about a farm and horses, and I got to looking over there, figuring them out.
The Woman of the party looked to be about 33, or not over 35 or 36, really pretty. The men, one a little short heavy set man, very quiet spoken, the other a red-headed ordinary man, and the last, another man, looked to be a young College fellow or business man.
I noticed their talk and actions were all very familiar, and I there and then tried to figure out just what relation one was to the other. The younger man was such a quiet soft-spoken fellow and I noticed rather playful and affectionate with the Lady of the Party. I said to myself, he is the husband or she is a friend of his anyway. Then I said no, he is too pleasing in his attentions to her to be her husband, in fact I couldn’t pick one out in the whole party that was sour enough to her to be the husband.
I couldn’t get from their talk just what business they were in. It was breakfast and still they were so jolly and in such good humor you would have thought it was a midnight supper. Well, they went on out and I finished two more Cups of Coffee and an Editorial on the “Republican Party and the low price of Cotton,” in the Birmingham Age Herald. While I was waiting for the waiter to distribute my returning change so that there would be nothing smaller than a Half Dollar, the Pullman Conductor asked me if I knew a certain young man that was well known by a great many people and whose name appears regularly in papers all over the country. I told him I knew of him, but that I have never met him personally. He asked me if I would like to meet him, that he was on the train. I told him I would like to meet him, as I had heard some very complimentary things said of this particular young man, aside from his professional record.
Well, I sat there reading the Papers during breakfast. Headlines were as follows, “Red Grange grabs football and goes through opposition as easy as Burglar through Chicago Bank.”1 “Italy Arrives to Settle Debt. Promise to Try to Pay in 62 Years.” “Borah Arrives in Washington.2 President Can’t do Anything Till he Finds Out What Borah Wants.” “Young Stribling, Sensational Young Prize Fighter Knocks out Sailor Burke in Third Round.”3 “Prince of Wales Falls for England Again.”
When I had finished, the Conductor took me back, and, funny thing, it was this same Party of folks I had been watching in the Diner. The young fellow wasn’t the husband. The red headed man was just their friend, and what do you think the young fellow was that had been so affectionate and loving to the Lady in the diner? Well it was just another one of those Eternal Triangle things that constitute the Movies. Only this one had a switch to their triangle (and the Movies never do, it’s always the same with them).
Well, the Conductor unravelled the mystery to me quicker than most Conductors can explain when you get to your station. This young fellow was “Young Stribling,” the sensational fighter that I had just read the headlines about whipping some fellow the night before in Memphis. He is the one that most experts predict will wear the crown of Jack Dempsey in case Champions ever start fighting again.4
He is not quite 21 years old and has won 150 fights already. Oh yes, the triangle part. I know you are anxious to know what relation the young Sheik was to the Lady of the Party. It was only his Mother, and the Little short-set quiet-spoken man was his father. Here I was in the queerest combination in the annals of the Prize Ring. His Father is his Manager. His Mother is his Trainer. She sits by the ringside and sees all his fights. She cooks his meals and sees that everything is just as it should be. In high school in Macon, Georgia, he was a great Basket Ball Player. He showed me very proudly, just like a kid (and if there ever was a big Kid it is this fellow) a couple of Basket Ball Medals he had won. He was crazy about Football, and wanted to take it up, and his Mother had a fit. She wouldn’t let him play Football. It was “too dangerous and rough; she would be scared to death he might get hurt.” Can you beat that? Yet she would be tickled to death if he were matched to meet Jack Dempsey, and she could sit in the corner and see it, every bit of it. I know you say how in the world can that be.
Well, it’s this way. It’s what you are used to, and what you know you or your folks CAN DO. This father was a kind of a Gymnast, and heavy weight lifter, and Acrobat; the Mother a young Girl of fine family who fell in love with him, and they were married. She became part of the act eventually. Then this Boy was born, and a second son two and a half years younger.
The Children were practically born in a trunk and raised in a dressing room. They were taught acrobatic stunts, and went on the stage with their parents as soon as they could crawl. When the bigger one was eight and the little one 6, they did a Boxing act. Finally in the little Theaters they played they got to asking any local boy up on the stage to box this older one.
Soon the kid got so good that he got to be the feature of their act. Of course it was a fight. Two kids can’t box without fighting. He could knock these other kids out, he was so clever. Well, it’s not much strain on even a Mother watching her son do something if she feels confident that he will come out without a scratch.
He soon become so good that they put him in real professional fights.
He whipped them just as easy as the amateurs. She has seen him in more fights than most Wives have seen their husbands eat at home. It’s not hard hearted; it’s just confidence. You wouldn’t miss a Football Game your Son was in for a fortune, yet there is men ready to pounce on him, and maybe he has only played a year or so, while her boy has trained for 13 years at his trade, and he has only one opponent at a time. Well, I wish you could meet ’em. You would take them for everything but prize fighters. Imagine having just fought and knocked a Real Professional Prize Fighter the night before, and not one word was spoken of it, while they were talking to themselves, or after I met them. Not a mark, pimple, or scratch on him.
We had a great talkfest, of the old vaudeville days. We had never played together, but had played the same houses, and knew the same stage hands, the same boarding houses. In fact we had slept in the same day coaches many a time.
This Boy was going to school in Atlanta. He got this night off to go over and fight. His teachers make him make up his work. Had his books on the train. The younger Brother goes to a business school in Florida. He is 18. He fights too sometimes. They all, during the school vacation, made a tour to the Pacific Coast and back. Had a big Truck Automobile built like a house and traveled and lived in it. Arranged about 12 fights on the way, with about the same concern you would tour the Country and arrange to play Golf with different friends in various towns.
The young Boy fought in some of the preliminaries, or lesser fights. He is clever, but hasn’t the punch to knock anyone out like his brother, so his Father told him if he would knock some one out on the whole tour he would give him a Ford Roadster. He always won just on his cleverness.
Well, in one town he had a Big young Boy almost out a dozen times, but the bell would ring, or something would happen and he wouldn’t get him. Finally the boy managed to stick to the finish. The Kid Stribling was terribly disappointed. He had won, but he hadn’t knocked the boy out and hadn’t got the Ford. He told his Father, “I had the F . . . O . . . R. . . . But I couldn’t make the D.”
They save their money, have substantial investments, and the Boys are the favorites of all their Schoolmates. They had just bought 11 hundred acres in one farm in Georgia, and the Big Boy was more interested in the fact that there was Quail and Squirrels and Ducks on it, than anything you might tell him about Prize Fights, Cafes, or Dance Halls. After winning a big fight in Los Angeles, to a $60,000 House, he come back to their Automobile Wagon, undressed, and slept, the same as if he had been in town to a Picture Show.
I have met lots of prominent men and people of every description on this tour, but this struck me as being America’s quaintest Quartette. Fighting was their business, but only when they were fighting. But they had spent a lifetime learning and perfecting their business. It was the most congenial and happiest family I ever saw. I tried for two hours and I could only get him to tell me about two fights. One was when the string in one of his opponents’ trunks or tights broke, and the Referee grabbed them from the back and had to run all over the ring behind the man, holding up his pants, till the end of the round. He laughed at that till he shook. That to him was the greatest fight he ever had. It would keep a Referee busy, at that.
The other one was one time he fought a clever fellow who seemed to be able to hit him any time he wanted to on the nose. “Honest, that’s all that man could find, was my nose. I couldn’t keep him away from it. I would even try to hide it and that man would prowl around and locate it. My nose never got so tired of one man in its whole life.”
Prize fighting may not be the most elevating business in the World, but whatever plane it is on, here is a family of people that won’t lower it any. This Boy would be an example to many of our prosperous youths of his age. Incidentally, he don’t wear BIG LEGGED BREECHES.
1For Red Grange see WA 152: N 5.
2For William E. Borah see WA 119: N 2.
3William Lawrence “Young” Stribling, Georgia-born boxer who fought at several weights, including heavy. Holder of an impressive knockout record, Stribling was the son of circus parents and was managed by his father. He knocked out Soldier Buck, a light heavy-weight from Louisville, Kentucky, in the third round of a scheduled eight-round bout on November 2, 1925.
FOOTBALL NEEDS PLENTY OF COLORAll I know is just what I see as I pussyfoot around, and about America.
The whole Country has gone Cuckoo over Football. Red Grange could run against Walter Johnson for President and be elected by a Harding Landslide.1
I have seen quite a few games as I canvassed the Corn, and Cotton belt in the last few weeks. And thousands and millions of you have seen games this fall. But you ain’t seen nothing yet. These games you have seen like Harvard and Yale and Penn, and Notre Dame and all the State Universities, I have seen them too, but they are a lot of Amateurs. They have the old Spirit drilled into them. They have high priced Coaches just to TRY and keep them on edge. But say, listen; I blew into a town and saw A FOOTBALL GAME. I said A GAME. If you could stage it at the Polo grounds in New York, you would hold ’em over for the second week.
I went down to the Depot in Birmingham, Alabama, one morning after having enlightened the residents the night before on what Calvin was doing, how Mitchell was trying the Army instead of the Army trying him, and how the Navy got caught in between the two and it looked like they would be the one convicted.2 There was a Movie Company in Birmingham from Hollywood (Hollywood, CALIFORNIA, NOT Florida). Milton Sills, May Allison, and a bunch.3 They had come there to get Factory Atmosphere. It seemed like old times to watch them standing around all day doing nothing, waiting for the Sun.
I had dinner that night in Birmingham with Roy Octavius Cohen.4 That is the marvelous writer of those wonderful Negro stories. We used to be good friends on the same Movie lot out in Hollywood. Well, as I started in to tell you away while ago, when I got to the Depot, I thought Roy Octavius had a reception committee there to see me off. There was 300 Florian Slappeys and a couple of hundred Dr. Evans Chews, and hundreds of Sis Callie Flukers.
It was broad daylight, but the Taxi Driver had to turn on his lights, it was so dark around that depot. I never heard such chattering, laughing and giggling and as much excitement in my life. I thought Miller and Lyle, the Blackface Team, had been elected President, and Vice President, of the Sons and Daughters of “I WILL Arise.”5 I had had so many queer receptions and leavings planned and arranged for me on this tour that I thought Roy had framed me “High Brown Escort.” Well here is what it was. The entire Bent Haired population of Birmingham was going to Montgomery, Alabama, to a Football game. Tuskegee Institute was to play Alabama State Normal that afternoon, and they were going on the same train that I was. (Black, High brown, Chocolate, dark bays, Low Yellows, ashy, every shade in the world) there wasn’t nothing else but — The Grand Central Station when Yale plays Harvard at Yale Bowl, was a funeral compared to this stampede. We finally got ’em all loaded.
You could actually see the Sun shining in Birmingham after we left. We made Montgomery about noon. I looked out our car window and we hadn’t brought anybody. Why there was at least 10 on every reception committee to meet each one we had brought. The White Folks certainly cooked their own lunch in Alabama that day. I says to myself, me for this game. I wouldn’t miss it anymore than an Ex Follies Girl Millionaire would miss a Follies opening to show the other Girls her new clothes. My reception committee got lost in the dark, but when we located each other I said, “Get me at once to that Game, and get me not only in there, but I want a Side Line Badge. I want to hear this Game, as well as see it.”
Well every two Bales of Cotton was hauling the elite of Senagambianism, and every ONE bale was hauling its usual quota of from 12 to 15 on each Chassie. The tires were all wrapped in the School colored buntings.
The radiators were filled with streamers of their school colors. White Folks were at a premium. Our Old Friend, ALABAMA VOTES 24 VOTES FOR OSCAR W. UNDERWOOD, (Governor Bill Brandon) had his representative at the train to greet me.6 He had been called out of town that day to open a Big Dam on the River. (Which By the way Alabama has more Water Power than any state. Not only has it but is using it.) He got back that night and was right on hand to welcome me to the Capitol of Alabama, and he got right up in Public and did it. We had a wonderful House, the finest type of Audience in America. And Governor Bill did his “24 Votes for Underwood,” right out loud for us. They like him down there. And I want to state right here that those southern Towns are all growing and doing fine. Prosperity has at last hit a Country that has been mighty patient, and took just what was handed them for years, but they always had the natural resources, and now it is being developed.
But it ain’t of prosperity I am writing about; it is of a Negro Football Game. After making a hurried auto trip all over the City and seeing the beautiful new homes and factories, I hurried right to the grounds. Say, Yale has her Bowl. Montgomery has got a Bowl that is dug down in a holler and is open at one side, and more people could see a game than ever heard of Yale. Tuskegee, as you know, is the Harvard of the Ethiopian race. This Alabama Normal dispenses a mighty thick goat hide itself. This Tuskegee is backed by the glorious tradition of Booker T. Washington, the Theodore Roosevelt of his race.7 After 4 years there they straighten your hair and your English both.
This Normal is a sort of a Princeton. They pitched a coin for stands and Normal won and chose the concrete seats dug into a natural hill. Tuskegee took what was left, and it was the opposite side. Tuskegee had over 15 hundred students there in Uniform, including a 50 or 60 piece Band. They would have run Paul Whiteman’s outfit into a Dime Museum.8
In each bunch about half of them were Girls. Normal didn’t have any 15 hundred, but they hollered like 15 thousand. The colors, Tuskegee, Red, Yellow, and Black; Normal’s colors, Blue, Black, and high brown. It was by far the most colorful game I ever saw. Normal had to borrow some folks from town and make ’em look like students. They were all right if you didn’t ask ’em anything. The Tuskegee Girls were all in White and the Normals in Blue, and, say, you talk about Yells. You ought to hear those Girls. They have a bunch of Cheer leaders down front, and their yells are mostly songs.
And you want to see those Girls do the Charleston. The Girl Cheer Leaders do the dance and song and the others sway and “Shimmie” to the music. Their principal Song is an old Negro Spiritual called the “Old Tuskegee Spirit.” Normal started fumbling the ball. Tuskegee’s song was, “Da, Da, Da, Normal’s got the Dropsy; Da, Da, Da, Normal’s got the Dropsy,” with 15 hundred Shimmying and Charlestoning to it. There was a real kick to it. Football! They played it!
They just give a man a Football and showed him the back line and said, “Leave here and go there.” Run, Kick, Tackle, Fight, Argue. They had everything. They changed Referees oftener than they did players. The most useless thing on the field seemed to me to be Helmets. I guess they wore ’em to keep their hair down.
I met all the head men and Professors of the Institute. No Southern Darkey talk among them. You would think you were conversing with the Boston Historical Society. They spoke such good English I couldn’t understand ’em. They wanted me to go out and see the School. They must have a wonderful School. After the game they had the Parade and Snake dance on the field. They carried a Coffin over and marched up and down in front of Normal stands. Tuskegee was supposed to beat them by about two Touchdowns, and that is just what they did, 14 to 0. But I tell the world it was a Ball Game. If you want to see Football combined with electrocution, murder, mayhem, and Manslaughter, don’t overlook a colored football game, even if you can’t watch it for watching the rooters. For excitement I wouldn’t give a dime to see Harvard play Yale, because both of them have been beat so much the last few years they are liable to play bad enough to tie each other. Or the Army to play the Navy. Outside of seeing the Goat and the Mule led out and the President come in, the game ain’t nothing. But anytime these Birds toe the mark it’s on the level. Not a one of them was hired to go there by an “Old ALUMNUS.” There is no commercialism there. It’s just Football. “Yonder, Boy, is the Line; Go there! We will remove the wounded.”
1For Red Grange see WA 152: N 5; for Walter Johnson see WA 133: N 2; for this and all further references to Warren G. Harding see WA 139: N 2.
2For Billy Mitchell see WA 117: N 10.
3Milton Sills, American leading man of the silent screen whose first role was in The Pit in 1914. May Allison, blond silent screen actress from the South. Allison and Sills costarred in the 1926 film Men of Steel.
4Octavus Roy Cohen, American fiction writer, well known as the author of African-American stories, including Polished Ebony and Florian Slappey Goes Abroad.
5Flournoy E. Miller and Aubrey Lyles, former Fisk University classmates who had one of the foremost comedy acts in American vaudeville. They starred in the 1921 Broadway production of Shuffle Along, one of the greatest all-black shows in theatrical history.
6Oscar Wilder Underwood, Democratic United States senator from Alabama from 1915 to 1927. On most of the 105 ballots at the Democratic National Convention of 1924, the Alabama delegation consistiently cast its entire twenty-four votes for Underwood, its favorite son candidate. William Woodward Brandon, Democratic governor of Alabama from 1923 to 1927.
7Booker Taliaferro Washington, African-American educator who established Tuskegee Institute in 1881. He headed the school, which was devoted to industrial education, until his death in 1915. For Theodore Roosevelt see WA 117: N 2.
8For Paul Whiteman see WA 117: N 12.
RED GRANGE CHOSE THE BETTER PARTWell, all I know is just what I read in the Papers. The Tax problem, President Coolidge, the French Debt, Indefinite Postponement, Leonard Kip and Emancipation, and the entire Riff war, including those American (so called) Aviators who are assisting some Nation from retaining their freedom. 1
All this news was knocked right back among the ads by Red Grange’s fingers getting so hot he had to drop his Ice tongs and reach for the cooling influence of a Check book.2 Well, from all the fuss that was made over it in the papers, you would have thought William H. Taft had signed a two-year contract with Hal E. Roach to appear in two-reel comedies.3 The papers just threw a wildcat. You would have thought Calvin Coolidge had blacked up to deliver his message to Congress or that France had said for once in their lives, “America is right.”
Red had six more months and he would have got a Diploma. Nobody before him has ever found what to do with one, so he couldn’t see why he would be any exception. From the comment you would have thought Red had poisoned a well at an Orphan Asylum. They seemed to infer if he had just stayed and got that Diploma, why everything through life would just have been made to order for him. He wasn’t treating his school right if he didn’t take the Diploma, instead of $15,000 or $20,000 a game. But Red knew something these Editors and College professors didn’t know. He knew how many pounds of ice you had to carry before you got one $, even with three years of College life, and he wasn’t certain the other year would lighten the burden any. They think Red fumbled an opportunity in the game of life.
Now here is a fellow who has spent the best part of the last 7 or 8 years learning to do something, and finally got it down better than anybody, but somebody started that system that says, “You can only play Football once a year and that is in the fall. When you begin to get cranberry sauce on your necktie, you have to stop. If it’s your last year in college, you have to give it up for life and start in learning something new.” 22 years of age and he has to give up a game that he excelled 110 million other people doing. It’s the only thing he ever did where he ever heard anybody applaud him. Everybody wants to see him do it, but no, he must stop.
My old friend, Will Hays, was in the Cabinet of our President of the United States, getting, I think $12,500 a year and his own mail sent free.4 He looked like a good Movie type, got a good offer and jumped. Hughes was Secretary of State, with the secrets of the affairs of the entire world, including Vermont, at his command.5 He saw a law case in New York with more money staring him in the face than a Cabinet salary, so he drops us twice as quick as Red dropped his Ice tongs. He didn’t even stop to get a shave. Nobody wrote any Editorials about them being ungrateful to the Government of the United States for putting them in a position to earn a big salary. Papers didn’t say they should have stayed to finish out their course, and then “They could have done what they wanted to.” They didn’t tell about what they owed to their old College. No sir, they had these offers and they knew they had to take ’em then or they wouldn’t get ’em. Nobody in the world blamed ’em. Little old Bill Hays went in and cleaned up and made good and everybody is tickled to death. He didn’t stay and get his Diploma in the Cabinet, but he is not looking for any Political Job again.
The Ex-Secretary of State bought him a big home in New York the other day. But we are tickled again. He is the Red Grange of law and we all want to see him collect on it.
Red stepped out just like they did, when the iron was hot. What good would he have been to his school the rest of the year? They say he can’t dance and played a rotten game of pool. The ice is all in for the winter. Red perhaps knew about Diplomas. Chances are some of the other Ice men had ’em hanging around there. Of course, if he had been in Harvard and finished he could have turned out to be a Bond Salesman. But on the other hand, if he had been in Harvard he wouldn’t have been a Football Player.
Of course, I can get the College angle. Football is the only real dough that has ever fell their way. They don’t want to see some outsiders like professional players come in and grab off their meal ticket. You can talk all the College spirit you want to, but Americans will finally go where a thing is done the best. There is spirit in College Baseball, just the same as there is in Football. A College Baseball Player will do as much to win a Baseball Game as a Football Player will to win his game. But the crowds know that Professional Baseball Players play the game better, and they go and see them. The spirit don’t mean anything; it’s the skill we pay to see. There is spirit in Amateur Acting, but they still flock to see the mercenary Professionals.
The first Professional game he played in, you didn’t hear of anybody fumbling the Ball and somebody else picking it up and running over the line with it. You didn’t see any score 48 to nothing or something like that.
No, he had a bunch of fellows against him that had spent a longer time playing the game than a college kid. They knew where to be and what to do. McGraw says the first thing you have to do with a College Baseball Player is to make him forget all he learned at school.6 Well, will you tell me why football Players wouldn’t get better after they leave, if they had more experience?
Football Players are not old enough to hurt at 23 and 24. No sir, if you do anything better than anybody else this old country of ours is so happily constituted that they want to see you get all you can out of it. Class will tell in Football, the same as anywhere else. If Red has been the best player for the last 3 years and is only 22 what’s going to keep him from being right up among the best for at least the next 3? Your same men are always right up around the top in every sport we have. Hornsby gets 20 or 30 thousand a year, and he still sticks up there.7 Tilden is supposed to get nothing but his room and board (American Plan), but you see he is right up there every year.8 You are not going to develop some young fellow next year that will replace either Hornsby or Tilden and you are not going to develop in all your Colleges any player next year that will play as good as Red Grange will next year. So if he plays next year, go see the best Football Player in America, either this year or next year.
A College is tickled to death if they can send a player to the Big League. It means a lot for them in reputation. You will see the day coming when it will mean something to send a Fullback to the New York Football Giants or the Chicago Cardinals. As far as your Coaches, they work for money now. They will go where the biggest offer is made. They talk about loyalty! Why do they change schools now? They will cut off a leg to beat a school that they have just left. Football is a game of skill, and in no game of skill can a rule be set down that says that everybody in it has reached the height of perfection just because they have finished College.
This College Spirit thing is kinder overestimated. Men will do things every day for money that all the spirit in the world you try to assemble can’t make ’em do. Organized hollering and rooting is a beautiful thing to look at, but it never won a game. You let a fellow grab a forward pass out of the air and start down the field; you won’t need any organized rooting. That stand will get up and howl for him even if they never looked a Cheer Leader in the face in their lives. Spirit is a good sales argument for a College, but it didn’t keep Harvard and Yale from having a couple of high school teams the past few years. Receiving money for it never interfered with his sharpened spikes coming in at a mile a minute. If you have something extra dangerous that requires nerve and skill, you don’t try to go out and rig up a lot of cheering and spirit to get somebody to do it. You just put a price of the old $ sign on it, and you get it done, even if you can’t detect any spirit within a mile.
You can take any line of business and skill (and football is certainly a business, lately anyway) and the ones who do it the best are the ones who get the most money for it. So Sick ’Em Red. Nobody wants Ruth to go through life and not play any more baseball. And I am certain when I retire from the stage I am not going to quit chewing Gum and spinning my rope for anybody. I am like Red “It’s all I know.”
1Leonard Kip, American attorney and writer; author of The Dead Marquis in 1873, Nestlenook in 1880, and other literary works. The Rif region of northwest Africa was inhabited by Berber tribes, who generally were independent of any central authority until subdued in 1925-1926 by the campaign of France and Spain against Abd-el-Krim and his followers.
2Grange (see WA 152: N 5) signed a professional football contract on November 22, 1925.
3William Howard Taft, Republican president of the United States from 1909 to 1913; chief justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1921 until his death in 1930. Hal Roach, Sr., American motion picture producer chiefly associated with comedies, including the “Our Gang” and “Laurel and Hardy” series.
4For Will H. Hays see WA 117: N 3.
5Charles Evans Hughes, United States secretary of the state from 1921 to 1925. A former Republican governor of New York, Hughes served as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1930 to 1941.
6For John J. McGraw see WA 124: N 11.
7Rogers “Rajah” Hornsby, professional baseball player with several teams, including the Saint Louis Cardinals from 1915 to 1926. Hornsby, who holds the modern record for the highest batting average in a single season, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1942.
8For Bill Tilden see WA 141: N 5.
ROGERS SEES TEXAS AND ITS TROUBLESSomebody figured it out (I guess it was one of those statisticians) that there was about 48 Governors in the whole United States. Well, as far as hearing of them, or having them make their presence known there is not but one, and that is Jim Ferguson of Texas.1 These others might just as well be Congressmen as far as publicity is concerned. We hadn’t heard much of any of them in a long time, since Calvin Coolidge of the book-learned state of Massachusetts, put Policemen to work.2 (That was such a novelty, and considered such a miracle that he was eventually made President for it.)
Then my intellectual Cradle, the Sovereign State of Oklahoma, jumped into the jaws of scandal, by Jack Walton mistaking a package of pardons for picture post cards and mailing them to all his friends in jail, and before he had discovered his mistake somebody moved his flannel nightgown right out of the Governor’s mansion.3 The next upheaval in Governors was caused by removing two of the feminine gender from a flat-top stove to a flat-top desk. Wyoming’s contribution seemed to have made the journey fairly satisfactorily,4 but Texas’ weaker sex delegate couldn’t negotiate the difference between an egg beater and a Seal of State. Well, it wasn’t long till the Texas mails were as full of pardons as a Florida bedroom is of Mosquitoes.5
It looked like the Fergusons were preparing for re-election. They were turning out enough votes to assure them of a safe majority. Then the police fell down on them. The pardons were ahead of the captures. Jim would send a man a pardon and would get a reply through the mail, “Why, they haven’t caught me yet!” Then the climax was when Jim said, “I want to pardon 100 on Thanksgiving.”
So the whole police forces of the towns and state started out, but they told him, “We will do the best we can, but I doubt if we can get in that many of them. That’s a pretty big quota for us.”
Well, anyway, they got in 93. That left seven pardons over that they can use if they get anyone else. Now, you hear talk down there about Jim getting money for these pardons, BUT nobody has ever showed where he did, and if he was, it looks like it would be easy to frame up a fellow and put him in there and then let him buy his way out and have the goods on Jim. But it’s all just talk and no evidence. Now, when I left New York awhile ago, I told you I wanted to get out and find out what was going on. I was tired being like all the OTHER BIG eastern Editors, rewrite something I had already seen written.
Well, when I write you of Texas, I know about it. I have been all through the State. Half of my entire act while in Texas consisted of local things on Texas. I talked with every Editor in each town, all the writers on the papers, Hotel Managers, Ranchmen, Farmers, Politicians, Head Waiters, Barbers, Newsboys, Bootblacks. Everybody I met I would try to get their angle.
I had some material in my little kidding that I received several Editorial comments on. “You Texans have a queer way of running your Primaries. Of course the Primary is the election in the south, they won’t let a Republican eat at the same table with folks. But they see how many candidates they can gather up and run, and it’s just like a big horse race where there is one good horse and a lot of ordinary ones. The ordinary ones coat pocket the good one and keep him from winning, and another ordinary one wins. That’s the way you all do here in your Primary. Then with all the various Candidates you get your issues so confused that nobody knows what they are voting for. You have to vote for somebody you don’t want to, to keep somebody worse out. A Man you had here, Lynch Davidson, by all the customs of any other state, and on his merits, would have been elected.”6
Now this Attorney General Moody that is so hot after the Fergusons now, he makes the usual Politician’s mistake.7 He starts running for an office before it’s vacant. He wants to be Governor, so you can’t tell if he is electioneering or tending to his business as an Attorney General. Everybody is saying, “He is just trying to get Jim out so he can get in himself.”
He would carry more sincerity in his fight if he wasn’t a Candidate himself. He is asking the dead husband’s wife at the grave to marry him before the other man has been lowered.
Now for the Fergusons. I see where the papers state now that “Ma” is not the Governor, Jim is. I had that in my act all over Texas over a month ago. I said, “The hardest thing Jim had to do after the last election was to learn to sign ‘Mrs.’ or ‘Miriam’ in front of his own name.” I said, “It’s wonderful to know that we have one old-fashioned woman in America that we know is dominated by the Husband. Would that we had more. I would welcome it into MY own family.”
Now I never met her personally, but I have met lots of people that have. I wish I had for I am strong for her type of Womanhood. I believe her to be just a plain, home-loving, wholesome woman, a ranch woman, like we have thousands of in this country. God Bless ’Em. I don’t think that she cares any more about it than I do, and Lord knows that’s little enough. Now here is where she has Mr. Moody and Texas throwed and hogtied. She told ’em all through the Campaign, “I know nothing about Administration. I will be guided by the advice of my husband who is a trained executive.”
You see, they knew before she got in there. She told them who would be Governor. Why, ever since the election she has had to read the morning papers to see what the Governor did the day before. She is a typical house woman, makes preserves, darns and knits. She went in to be Governor for one thing and she had done it. She went in to clear the name of Jim Ferguson.
He had been impeached for that same office. When she got in she had his name cleared by some of the same Legislature that impeached him. She must have proved to them that they were wrong in the first place.
Well, she had done her part. She fought for and cleared the name of the man she loved. That’s just what wives have been doing ever since wives were invented. Never mind right or wrong. A real wife don’t figure that at all. She is just like all the good ones; she was there when he needed her.
If she gets “bogged down” again, she will be there in some other way to drop a loop over him and “snake” him out again. If she didn’t know an Inaugural Ball from a Football, he is “Her Jim.” Maybe she can’t even do “The Charleston,” but I bet you she can assemble an aggravating pan of biscuits, and congregate a mean Angel Food Cake. The biggest laugh and the biggest applause I got in my act in five towns in Texas was when I said, “Now why don’t you folks in Texas just be good sports and admit, Old Jim is just too slick for you. If a man comes along and outsmarts you, why give him credit. You threw him out. You turned your backs to applaud each other and shake hands all around, and when you looked around again he was in AGAIN. And he was in such a way that you can’t throw him out, because it is not him that’s in. ‘Ma’ ain’t doing nothing, and you can’t throw anybody out for doing nothing.”
I was in the state the time the Highway trouble broke, and I told ’em Jim reminds me of my first car, an old Overland. It had some of the most terrible noises and knocks. People would say, “Will, get that noise fixed.” but I wouldn’t. I would just keep on and in a few days a worse one would drown out that one, and that’s what Jim did. He made the Highways drown out the pardon scandal, and now he has made the “Liquor Enforcement on the Rich” drown out interest in the Highways.
Of all Texas, Jim had to go and pick Amon Carter, the Hearst and Munsey of Texas.8 I hope he don’t electrocute Amon. If he puts him in jail he will have a great time. Amon will have it all to himself. He would be the most exclusive Prisoner in the world. He would constitute Texas’ unlawful element. Amon is like a lot of our law-breakers, he is not what you would call a contemptibly mean man. He just has his weaknesses. You have to watch him every minute or he will give you what appears at first to be an innocent looking walking cane. But on opening it you will find about two good drinks in it. Personally I think the only way you will ever stop Amon from doing that is to prohibit the manufacture of drinks. Of course this Cane publicity will just ruin Amon financially in his home state. Everybody will want a Cane. But socially he is made.
Now back to Jim. They say, “Oh, Jim is doing this and that,” and they whisper a lot, but they don’t prove anything. Jim has a lot of good old sound common sense, and has proved it by a lot of good Legislation. The last Legislation had more work and got through quicker than any ever did before. Jim is for common folks, and I am kinder with Jim in that. There is a lot more common folks than will admit it. Jim Ferguson (so I have been told even by his enemies) has 150,000 voters in Texas that would be with him if he blew up the Capital building in Washington with everybody in it.
They would say, “Well Jim was right. The thing ought to have been blowed up years ago.” Another thing, and that’s the biggest asset in Politics. He has got the nerve. Nobody is a-bluffing James. You just take it from an Old Country Boy, the next impeachment is NOT going to be in Texas. Miriam Ferguson is Governor of Texas BY law, and she never did a dishonest thing in her life. NOBODY can say that Jim ever did a dishonest thing, and if he did, what position can you take away from him? By law nobody knows what position he holds. I CLAIM HE IS THE ONLY GOVERNOR IN THE WORLD BY MARRIAGE. I don’t think that an Impeachment will get ’em out, and I will go further than that. I don’t think the next election will get ’em out.
I think they will run as AN ENTRY and be re-elected. Dual Valves proved a success; why not Dual Governors?
1James Edward “Jim” Ferguson, Democratic governor of Texas from 1915 to 1917 who was impeached for several reasons, including misappropriation of state funds. He attempted to run as governor again in 1924, but the courts ruled that he could not be a candidate, whereupon his wife, Miriam, entered the race and won.
2Coolidge, while serving as governor of Massachusetts, was instrumental in breaking up a policemen’s strike in Boston in 1919.
3John Callaway “Jack”Walton, Democrat who was elected governor of Oklahoma in 1922 but was impeached and convicted on several charges, including excessive illegal campaign spending and padding the state payroll. He was removed from office in 1923 after serving less than one year.
4Nellie Tayloe Ross, Democratic governor of Wyoming from 1925 to 1927; the first woman governor in the United States.
5Governor Ma Ferguson (see WA 146: N 3) had pardoned a large number of prisoners.
6Thomas Whitfield “Lynch” Davidson, prominent Texas attorney and Democratic politician who was defeated for governor in 1924 when Ma Ferguson won the Democratic primary.
7Daniel James “Dan” Moody, Jr., Democratic attorney general of Texas from 1925 to 1927. Moody defeated Ma Ferguson for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1926 in one of the most spectacular campaigns in Texas history. He served as governor from 1927 to 1931.
8Amon Giles Carter, publisher of the Fort Worth Star Telegram and influential civic leader of FortWorth. Governor Ma Ferguson demanded Carter’s resignation as president of the board of directors of Texas Technological College in December of 1925 on a charge of drinking before students at a football game. Carter denied the allegations and asserted that it was a smoke screen set up by Jim Ferguson to obscure the problems of his wife’s administration.
MR. COOLIDGE PRESCRIBES
He was billed to appear IN PERSON, NOT over the Radio, or in Print. He had two messages to either deliver, or send. He was busier than a Western Union Call Boy with the Hookworm. He had one for the Farmers and one for Congress. Knowing the one to the Farmers was the most important he said, “I better deliver this in PERSON. These Farmers of today are the voters of tomorrow. (If I can just keep them out of the poor house.) Besides I have seen Congress, and it’s not a place that one would voluntarily pay a second visit to. So me for the Broad Spaces of Chicago, where the aroma of fresh meat and the crack of the Bandit’s Automatic is meat and drink to the true Chicagoan.”
FOR THE FARMERS
So he called up the B and O and the Penn., and said, “What one will make me the best rate to Chicago?” The B and O said, “We got a train going out that way along the latter part of next week. If you will arrange your trip to comply with this train we can make you a pretty fair offer.”
The reason I am telling you these little financial arrangements is so that you won’t think he is squandering money needlessly. He could have gone to Congress cheaper, but it would have cost more in the long run.
Well, the Farmers have been hollering for some time. In fact they have been doing more hollering than working. That’s one thing that is the matter with them. Well, they were like a child that was crying for something to eat and he give ’em a drink of water instead. That shuts ’em up for a little while, anyway. The water was iced and it took their mind off their hunger.
But he left town the minute the speech was over. That’s kinder like we have been on our tour. We always arranged to have the train stand by and get out if possible before the audience did. Of course it shows weakness and lack of confidence in your speech or lecture, but it also shows excellent judgment for your personal safety. He spoke before the Farm Bureau Association. Farmers have more Associations, and Bureaus, and Clubs, than they have pitchforks. If farmers would quit paying dues to Clubs and organizations they wouldn’t need any relief. Buy a Lantern (and use it) instead of some Radical Farm Journal. Farmers spend more time at Conventions than they do plowing. They will be like these small-town business men next, who think it’s a business weakness to go home and eat lunch. Farmers will be having Noonday Luncheon Clubs.
Well, this Convention was held in the Sherman House. An organization that can afford to go there voluntarily don’t need much financial relief. Among the prominent Farmers he spoke to was Mayor Dever of Chicago, who superintends the raising of one of the best crops of holdup men in the entire agricultural belt.1 On a good season they will pan out about 55 to 60 Hijackers to the block. Len Small, another sterling Dirt Farmer, Owen D. Young who sows copper wire and raises General Electric, and writes Dawes’ International Plans for him, Gene Biefield, whose only thought is the success of the Farmer, Frank Behring the irrigated farmer, and Jimmy Durkin, all representative modern tillers.2
He told ’em how Agriculture had advanced. How in the old Feudal days Farmers wasn’t thought much of, but that now they had advanced till they could use them for Tax-paying purposes. He told ’em that now they were the “salt of the earth,” and they fell for it and applauded, even the ones that at home had no salt.
“Why in the old Feudal days there was Farmers that didn’t have a spare tire to their name. So poor that they didn’t have even the inconveniences of a Radio. They were denied their nightly Static. Even their last Caruso Phonograph Record was broken.3 The lid wouldn’t fit on the Cocktail Shaker, and there would be times when they would be snowed in for the winter without their Montgomery Ward Catalogue.” Oh, he had those hardened Convention attenders almost on the eve of tears as he related the hardships of the olden Farmer. He told of “the old time Farmer that didn’t have enough to go to California for the winter on.” He jarred those Club-Duespaying members’ chins out of their soup when he said, “Some people would grow poor on a Mountain of Gold, while others would grow rich on a Rock.” Well that sounded like a good Epigram at the time, but after they got to picking their teeth and studying it over it sorter dawned on them that that was a kind of a “dirty crack” at the Farmer that wasn’t working, and as none of them seemed to be manually employed at the time, it kinder looked like he had taken in the entire works. But of course by that time he was on his way to Washington. It was sorter patterned after Bryan’s “Cross of Gold Speech,” only Mr. Coolidge changed his to a “Rock of Gold.”4
He advocated Co-operative marketing. That is a scheme whereby, if your stuff is not bringing as much as it cost you to raise it, why you all go in together and take it to town. Then when you sell it you can be together to cheer each other up. It’s kinder like saying, “I will commit suicide Boys, if I can get 10 others to go in with me.” Co-operation when you are down and out is just another way of saying, “We will starve together.” He complimented the Farmers. Now if a Farmer can make a living on a compliment he will do more than he can on a Farm.
He told them, “The Protective Tariff has helped you, but you can’t see it.” He said, “I want you to know the Government is with you.” He spoke truer than he thought. The Government IS with them. The Farmer owes all he’s got, and the Government owes 20 Billion. They are together, all right. He says, “There is lots of people worse off than the Farmers.” I don’t know who it could be unless it is the fellow who holds the Mortgages on the Farms. “Be sure and watch and don’t have an oversupply or surplus of any crop.” In other words go around and find out just about what everybody will want for the coming season. And if it looks like people are getting kinder sour on Cranberries or Grape Fruit, why find out before planting, if they wouldn’t like some Cotton Stockings or wheat cakes or maybe there might be a coming demand for Pigs’ feet. If so go home immediately and discourage race suicide among your swine. He said, “I don’t want the Government to go into business.” Well, if I was Mr. Coolidge I wouldn’t worry over that. The Government never has been accused of being a business man.
“If none of these ways seem helpful, there is the farm Loan. We have put out over One Billion, two hundred Million, to 350,000 Farmers.” In other words, we can’t help you make any money, but we will show you where you can owe some more.
“The Government is always at your disposal and willing to cooperate and give our advice.” He closed by saying, “The future of Agriculture looks to be exceedingly secure.” Agriculture is secure. In fact it’s SECURED, most of it, by at least two Mortgages. HE DIAGNOSED THE CASE BUT LEFT NO MEDICINE.
1William Emmett Dever, Democratic mayor of Chicago from 1923 to 1927.
2Lennington “Len” Small, Republican governor of Illinois from 1921 to 1929. Owen D. Young, Chicago attorney and businessman; chairman of the board of General Electric from 1922 to 1939 and 1942 to 1944. Young was associated with Charles Dawes (see WA 117: N 9) as a representative to the Reparations Conference of 1924. Eugene “Gene” Byfield, vice president of the Hotel Sherman Company in Chicago and an avid sportsman, especially of polo. Frank West Bering, popular executive with the Hotel Sherman in Chicago from 1910 until his retirement in 1960. James “Jim” Durkin, Chicago newspaperman; executive with the Chicago Tribune.
3Enrico Caruso, Italian operatic star who was the leading tenor with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City from 1903 until shortly before his death in 1921. After his death his many recordings perpetuated his fame.
4Bryan (see WA 122: N 1) delivered his “Cross of Gold” speech, an impassioned plea for monetary reform, at the Democratic National Convention in 1896.
ROGERS TAKES A LOOK AT ELINORA,
Well, all I know is just what I see as I tour the open pastures of America, where women are men, and coal is scarce, out where men are being manicured and women are rough shod. It just looks like I run right into everything that was happening the last couple of weeks. I was in Boston the day Miss Elinora Sears, the Boston Society Girl walked into town from Providence, not such a fool-hardy feat if you know Providence, left it flat at one o’clock in the morning and set out to walk back to Society in Boston.1
MELLIE, NICK, AND CONGRESS
New England was tired of reading the headlines of the doings of Red Grange of Wheaton, Illinois, and Mrs. Miriam Ferguson of Temple, Texas, so Elinora and “Mellie” Dunham (Ford’s relaxation) made a raid on the front pages socially, athletically, and artistically.2 Elinora putting over the first two and “Mellie” wrestling with the art end of it. Elinora started out with some young men to accompany her. Being members of Harvard’s late football team they arrived by sleeper 5 hours later than Elinora. An automobile was to have accompanied her but it got caught in traffic and arrived the next day.
The social climbers must not get the idea that walking was how Elinora got into Society. If they thought that they would walk from Frisco to New York. In fact, most of them have already walked further than that trying to get in. You know through this Girl doing this it is liable to bring walking back among grown people. They are liable to teach it to grown-ups like they do to little babies.
But it’s getting so a man that has a Car now walks further than he ever did in his life, walking back from where he parked it at. The thing about Elinora’s walk was that she had money to ride. That’s what made it news. If she had been poor and forced to walk even if she had made it in an hour, her Picture would just about have made a Yeast Add.
Now “Mellie” Dunham, he is the first person we have heard of from Maine since James G. Blaine.3 Maine had been furnishing most of our sea coast but very little of our Who’s Who. So when “Mellie” got a “command performance” before Henry Ford at “Castle Dearborn,” he just reached for his Wife and his Fiddle, grabbed some rosin off a tree, and put Maine on the map in the winter time. (Something the entire state had never been able to do before.) New England Papers sent some Reporters right with this fine old fellow and his wife. That’s more than they did when the Democratic Delegation left in 1924 for Madison Square Garden.
Up here they don’t consider anything that a Democrat does as news.
Well, I am strong for “Mellie.” I danced all my youth life to the music of old country fiddlers. In fact, I don’t drag a bad bow myself. I had a Fiddle and I was practicing on it every minute and I was in a big show with Dear Blanche Ring, “The Wall Street Girl.” She stood it as long as she could.
Finally she sent word, “Will, you can stay, but that Agony Box you are scraping on must vacate.” Blanche just about wrecked my musical future.
If it hadn’t been for her it would have been the “Oklahoma Fiddler” that went to fiddle at Dearborn. I would have been the “Local Nero that fiddled while Ford financed.”
I notice Blanche let her husband, Charley Winninger learn a lot of old instruments and I played twice as good as he did.4 In fact I think it was him that had my fiddling finished.
Then as I couldn’t make good in the musical end of Terpsichore I “called” the dances. (You City Slickers don’t know what the “caller” is.
You think it’s a poker player.) The “caller” is the one who “calls” out the figures the dancers go through. Well, some of the best dancers in Claremore, Oklahoma (and when you say the best dancers there you are just about talking about the best there is), have danced to my “calling.” So I am liable to get with Mr. Ford yet.
Well, as I say, I was right in Boston when Elinora “walked out” on Providence, and “Mellie” pulled a Red Grange and turned professional, and went into Vaudeville. I also was in South Bend, Indiana, the day before Knute Rockne left for New York.5 Knute showed me all over that wonderful school, Notre Dame. I had all the football team on the stage that night, and what a bunch of HE boys. No wide-bottom pants and fur overcoats among that gang. Corduroy pants and old sweaters or leather jackets. NOT A PAIR OF KNEE BREECHES IN THAT SCHOOL. No wonder he gets a real team out of that bunch. Knute didn’t say anything to me about going to start this course in penmanship in New York. He hadn’t signed a thing when I saw him, but I am with Knute. I bet you he was in the right.
Then I was in Clarksburg, the home of John W. Davis.6 (They voted against him there.) Stonewall Jackson was born there.7 They are just beginning to find out now that he amounted to something everywhere else. It’s a dandy fine town though, and going along fine. Tremendous coal interests there.
Went to Baltimore. The night I played Baltimore I went over and spent the afternoon at Washington, D. C. (Don’t Complain). I rushed up to the Capitol to congratulate Nick Longworth on becoming Toastmaster of the hungriest banquet in the world.8 He had moved into new offices and I couldn’t hardly find him. I never saw such a swell office outside of a Movie Magnet that had just gone from bastings to celluloid. Representative Garner of Texas (one of the really big men of the Democratic party) come in to see Nick while I was there.9 He is the only Democrat outside of Finis Garrett of Tennessee that can get into a Republican’s office without knocking.10
Well, I had just been all over Texas, so I had to tell Mr. Garner about his old home state. He had heard of the impeachment of Jim, but hadn’t heard of the election of Ma.11 He recalled the days of Bowie and Crockett,and asked if the old Alamo was still down there.12 I told him he ought to visit the old state again, as he was getting old now. He promised me he would. I told him there was a fellow in Ft. Worth named Carter that would give him a Cane if he ever went down there.13
I had just been to Cincinnati, Nick’s old birthplace, so Nick was glad to hear of the old State and Town. I don’t care where you come from, even if it’s Ohio, you kinder always have a feeling for the old home state, and secretly long to get back there some day. I could just tell by Nick’s questions that he was interested still in the old Rhineland, and he told me that when Paulina grew up he was going to take her back there on a visit and show her the Old 1st District.14 I told him I had spoken of him in my act out there, and that he would be surprised the several people who remembered him.
Congress was in session at the time I was in Nick’s office. (I mean Suite.) I asked he and Garner why they weren’t in there. Nick said, “I am Speaker, not Listener.” Garner said, “Why go in and listen to something that I told the fellow to say?”
I asked them, “What are they talking about in there?” They said, “The Tax.” I said, “Why that ought to be a good live subject.” Nick said, “Yes it has been ever since Thomas Jefferson forged the Declaration of Indifference.”
I said to them, “Well, I am going in there and hear it.” They replied, “Go ahead; you do it at your own peril.”
You know how a good Serial Story or a Novel leaves you, just at that exciting place. Well, that’s what I am going to do. I know you are just crazy to find out what was doing in that great Lawmaking Factory. Well, you will have to wait till the next issue. I am not going to tell you. I will just give you one little inkling; just a peep, that’s all. I went in. I was all alone in that gallery. Somebody was talking, but there was only four members present in their seats. Oh, it was lonesome in that place! I begin to get scared.
It reminded me of the night I played Madison, Wisconsin.
1Eleanora Randolph Sears, Boston society figure who helped to pave the way for women’s entrance into sports at the turn of the century. A versatile athlete, she attracted national attention in the 1920s for her spectacular feats of marathon walking.
2For Red Grange see WA 152: N 5; for Ma Ferguson see WA 146: N 3. Alanson Mellen “Mellie” Dunham, American fiddler who performed on December 11 at a party given by Henry Ford. Dunham later appeared briefly in vaudeville.
3James Gillespie Blaine, nineteenth century American politician and statesman. He served as a Republican United States representative from Maine, speaker of the House, United States senator, and United States secretary of state during a lengthy public service career.
4Blanche Ring, American musical comedy favorite who gained stardom by singing “I’ve Got Rings on My Fingers” and introducing “In the Good Old Summertime” in 1902. Charles Winninger, plump, ruddy-faced American stage and screen star, best known for his portrayal of Cap’n Andy Hawks in Show Boat. He produced The Wall Street Girl in 1912, which starred his soon-to-be wife, Blanche Ring, and featured for the first time on the theatrical stage,Will Rogers.
5Knute Kenneth Rockne, Norwegian-born American football player and coach. While coach at Notre Dame University from 1918 until his death in 1931, Rockne led the Fighting Irish to a legendary record of 105 wins, 12 defeats, and 5 ties.
6For JohnW. Davis seeWA 122: N 2.
7Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson, renowned Confederate general during the American CivilWar who gained the sobriquet “Stonewall” for his heroic stand at the first Battle of Bull Run.
8Longworth (see WA 117: N 16) took his seat as speaker of the House on December 17, 1925.
9John Nance “Jack” Garner, Democratic United States representative from Texas from 1903 to 1933; speaker of the House from 1931 to 1933; vice president of the United States from 1933 to 1941.
10Finis James Garrett, Democratic United States representative from Tennessee from 1905 to 1929.
11For Jim Ferguson see WA 157: N 1; for Ma Ferguson see WA 146: N 3.
12James “Jim” Bowie, American frontiersman who settled in Texas in 1828 and fought in the Texas Revolution. He was killed at the Alamo in March 1836. David “Davy” Crockett, American frontiersman well known as a Tennessee humorist, marksman, and Congressman. He joined the Texan forces during the Texas Revolution and was killed at the Alamo in 1836.
13For Amon G. Carter see WA 157: N 8.
14For Paulina Longworth see WA 117: N 15.