1 July, 1934 - 30 September, 1934
GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP AMONG
Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I run into out in
front of the movie camera.
THE MOVIE ACTORS
I been making a lot of faces here lately; I have used up all my expressions two or three times. You know us actors just got certain little grimaces that we make for hate, fear, merriment, exaltation, (well that and merriment are pretty near the same). Scorn is one of our good ones. We can just wipe you out with a look, that we label scorn.
About the same situations come up in every picture, so it’s really just like a politician’s speech. If he is asked any questions from the audience they are generally the same ones in every town, and he has the same answers, and that’s the way we are. An actor is a fellow that just has a little more monkey in him than the fellow that can’t act.
The old monkey has learned just about what to do under most circumstances that come up with him, and we got about the same looks we had when the pictures were silent, only now with the look we got noises that go with it. You can’t swear as much as you could in the old days in a scene, that is out loud. In the old days these folks that can read your lips used to get more out of movies than most people.
Everybody seems to be making a lot of pictures nowadays, course not near enough to give all the folks work that deserves work. There is some awfully good actors that are out of work. You know some of the smallest of parts, or “Bits” that you see so well done in pictures nowadays. Well, it’s because it might be some actor doing it, that if you looked up his record you would find that he was perhaps a star one time, or that he or she had played leads in some big pictures or stage plays.
And it’s marvelous the grace, and good sportsmanship they take it. They never whine, never alabi. If you don’t know ’em personally or happen to have known them in better days, you would never know a thing about it. I defy the world to show more spunk, and hold a stiff upper lip better than you will find among actors that things are not breaking so well with.
You can’t mention names for that wouldent be fair to such courage, but on every big set, (what we mean by that, is a scene where there is a great amount of people used, that’s called a big set) there is a great what is they call it, “Comraderie” among the real ones who each knew the others in those happy days. I like to ease over by a bunch of ’em, and hear ’em talk, and the talk is always of, “Wasent so and so great in that play?” Never a vitrolic note.
I have yet to ever hear a knock, they just sit day after day and watch inferior actors like a lot of us who have just been lucky. They watch us with never a sour look, or unconscious shake of the head that might show that they could do that very thing better than we are doing it. No sir, they seem to glory in any of our little pictures that they have heard turned out O.K.
We had a great bunch the other day, Jack Ford, one of Hollywood’s best directors, and one of the likable things about Jack is, that he remembers.1 Jack used to direct westerns, and made some great ones with Harry Carey, the most human and natural of the western actors.2 Well, the other day on a big set, a jury and court room trial, Jack had all his old cowpuncher pals, I had known most of ’em for many many years too, and it sure was good to see ’em again.
We had many a good hand on that set those days. To name all of ’em would take about all the old timers that are out here. Many of them rode with David Griffith in the charges off the hills in “The Birth of a Nation,” many have been to Europe with Buffalo Bill.3 Fred Burns was one of ’em, a good bucking horse rider and fancy roper, and some old Pawnee Bill boys, and lots of 101 boys, Vesta Pegg, Rickson, Duke R. Lee, Pardner Jones, and Neal Hart.4 There was a real cowboy. He did some fine real Westerns not so long ago either. He was often sheriff in Montana.
Dave Butler is another Fox director that did my latest picture “Handy Andy,” and also “Connecticut Yankee at King Arthurs Court.”5 Dave is a great sportsman, and he helps the football players that are going through college by using them in all the scenes he can. It ain’t anything to have a bunch of big gorillas in armor come up and grab you and take you away, and it will be the whole U. S. C. (the great University of Southern Cal, line, and backfield). They are plenty rough, and a nice bunch of boys.
Ah, there is a story in almost any person sitting on a movie set. Ex bankers, business men, professors, every type of person in the world. There may be many a broken heart, but I have yet to see one of ’em show it.
1For this and all further references to John Ford see WA 600:N 3.
2Harry Carey, American leading man of silent motion pictures and character actor in later films. He made his first appearance in a western in 1911 and continued to act in the movies until his death in 1947.
3David Lewelyn Wark Griffith, pioneer American motion-picture producer, noted for his technical innovations in Birth of a Nation (1915) and other films. William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody, American frontier scout and wild west showman; organizer and producer of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (1883-1913).
4Fred Burns, American cowboy and motion-picture actor who played a gray-haired sheriff in such westerns as Flaming Guns, and Parade of the West. Gordon William “Pawnee Bill” Lillie, Oklahoma rancher, wild west showman, and oil company executive. The 101 Ranch, which was owned by three brothers—Joseph Carson, Zachary Taylor, and George Lee Miller—encompassed 110,000 acres in north central Oklahoma. The Millers regularly toured the United States from 1906 to 1931 with the famed 101 Ranch Wild West Show. Vester Pegg, American motion-picture character actor, mostly seen in low-budget westerns from 1918 to 1948. Rickson, unidentified. Duke R. Lee, American film actor who appeared in many silent westerns and serials, including In the Days of Buffalo Bill, in which he starred in the title role. Edgar “Pardner” Jones, lawman of the American West who went to Hollywood as a stuntman and support player in numerous early westerns. Neal Hart, American motion-picture actor who was billed as “America’s Pal” in dozens of westerns in the 1920s. He continued as a supporting actor in low-budget westerns until his death in 1949.
5David Butler, American motion-picture director of mainly light entertainment. He directed Rogers in four films, including A Connecticut Yankee (1931) and Handy Andy (1934).
THE BAND PLAYS “DIXIE”Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see here and there. We are all sitting out here on the “Set” taking the parade in an old Confederate Reunions Convention. I am sitting here on the running board of a car with the typewriter on my knee, trying to knock out of a few “Personals.” I have on the old Confederate grey, (the long grey coat). It’s Irving Cobb’s story of “Judge Priest,” and it’s layed around 1890, about twenty five years after the Civil War. The parade is in a little small town of Kentucky, and it’s wonderful the old costumes on all the men and women, and even the children. Folks often ask, “Where do they get the old clothes?”
Well costuming is one of the biggest businesses out here. There is just one company that has a great building of their own, six or eight stories high, that covers half a block. You can get any suit, (or hundreds of ’em) of any time or period in the world. You can say I want five hundred Confederate grey, and five hundred G.A.R.’S., old period clothes for five hundred people along the streets. Then there is all the “Mother Hubbards” and old calicos for all the colored women folks and kids. Then the fife and drum corps, then the old fashioned “Buggy’s” and “Surreys” and “Hacks” and all the horses and harnesses. Then the little reviewing stand which is about the only thing that hasent changed much. There is always just about the same amount of queer looking people in it with high hats on, looking down on the “Riff Raff” marching. Then the dogs, all breeds and all descriptions that would be in a parade. Well that’s another big industry. There is several men out here with as many as fifty different breeds of trained dogs to “Act” better than most of us actors.
Did I ever tell you about the time a year or so ago I made a “Tramp” picture, and used a big Saint Bernard dog in it? We were for a couple of weeks away up in the Sierra Nevada mountains and I become very attached to this old dog. I was playing with a rope and I would rope him by the hour, and he never minded it. Well I finally decided to try and buy him. The trainer with him wasent the owner, but knowing nothing about what in the world the dog might cost, or any other dog, I finally worked up courage and generosity enough to say to him, “Say tell your boss I will give him 100 dollars for this old dog.“ Well I just figured that I had the dog, and had just thrown in 50.00 or 75.00 dollars for good measure. The trainer kinder grinned and said, “Well I doubt if you get him Will. The dog gets 150.00 a week.” Well I knew I couldent afford to pay him that if I had him. Especially just to walk around and be roped at. Then today I see some hogs along old wooden sidewalks. You rent them, any color, any breed. They ain’t trained much, only just to root and grunt, and look like a hog.
There’s the old Southern Court House with its big pillars, fronting out on the park, or square, with the Confederate Monument in it, and the cannon and cannon balls piled in each corner of the park. Now all this has been put there. Not a speck of it is real. It’s all been made just for the picture. The trees, great big ones, have been transplanted. Yet when this picture is finished and gone, this same spot may be the bowery in New York, or the whole acres of this speace taken up with an iceberg, or an ocean with a liner on it.
Yesterday I worked at a beautiful old grave yard scene, willow trees, old untrimmed rambling rose bushes, tall uncut grass, all upon a little raised mound. And where do you think it was? All “made” on the inside of one of the great stages. And it was something that you couldent imagine not being real when you looked at it.
These scenic artists are marvels. They and the photography are the principal advancement that this business has shown. Acting is just as bad, and so is the stories. But the mechanics have improved.
Now I have to get up and run over and march again, for we will have to take this parade scene a dozen times, and a dozen different ways (or angles) but there is something about marching to “Dixie” that you never get tired. What wonderful old characters some of these extras are sitting around here in their uniforms. I am the least real looking one in the whole mob. Little Henry Walthall, that great actor, looks every inch the ex Chaplan.1 Many an ex cowboy is marching in these uniforms and some others that are not in the scenes that brought the horses over. They fix everything ready for the actors to drive ’em in, and in case of a runaway, watch them “pick ’em up.”
We lay around under the shade here when not “shooting” and talk old time vaudeville with some of ’em. Shean of Gallager and Shean is visiting the “set,” and lots of old timers among these hundreds of people, or I might roll over under the shade of the next tree and talk “calf roping” to some boys that have made Cheyenne, or Pendleton, away back when they were wild.2 There goes that fife and drum corps with Dixie, you just got to get up and march, even if there wasent any camera. Picture making is a “nutty” business but it’s fascinating. There’s Jack Ford our genial, kidding, but terribly competent director yelling, “See if you can get Rogers on the set.”
The band is playing Dixie.
1Henry B. Walthall, American leading man of the silent screen. In films from 1909 until his death in 1936, Walthall reached his greatest stature in the role of the “Little Colonel” in the 1915 film classic Birth of a Nation.
2Alfred “Al” Shean, German-born entertainer who had a long career in vaudeville as part of the famous “Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean” act. After the death of his partner, Edward F. “Ed” Gallagher, Shean played character roles in many Hollywood films, including Murder in the Air in 1935.
ON THE BRINKWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or hear here and there. Senator McAdoo and his charming daughter was out to the ranch to see me the other day, he is about fully recovered from a very bad illness.1 His daughter has been in Paris studying voice, and has a good one, and is a lovely girl.
Had rather an odd occurence for politics. McAdoo, a Democrat, endorsed his co-senator, Hiram Johnson for the Democratic nomination for the Senate, although Johnson is a Republican.2 (Well maby I am wrong, but don’t write any letters about it.) And it was the right thing to do at that, for Johnson has stuck by Roosevelt better than some of the Democrats, and he is a good man, Hiram Johnson is a very able fine man, a very self thinking one.
Well they got the first primary in Oklahoma over, and I was glad to see that George Marlin a very fine fellow, an ex-rich man.3 (Of course that’s no novelty now), but this fellow Marlin was a real fellow when he was rich. Pretty near any fellow is a good fellow when he is poor, but George had done much for his town, county, and state with his time and his money. Would make a fine govenor.
California is another state where we have everybody running for Govenor that is not in production making a picture.
George Creel on form should win.4 He is the regular Democrat. That is I mean he dident just take it up for the time being. He will be remembered as a very fine writer, a working humorist, and political critic and observer. He had charge of all the writers during the war, a President Wilson appointment.5 His wife is that great actress Blanche Bates.6
Then we got a Socialist out here running, Upton Sinclair, darn nice fellow, and just plum smart, and if he could deliver some of the things he promises, should not only be govenor of one state, but president of all of ’em.7 Upton has got some sort of a scheme where us old boys over 45 reatire and get a couple of thousand a year. Now that’s right up my alley. I am in favor of making that retroactive. (Now I got a lot of readers that’s not going to know what that is, and I wouldent either, but I been running with Irvin Cobb a lot lately, and he is going to have me plum educated first thing you know.) Retroactive means as you were before you got like you are. That is in other words, if Upton’s scheme works, and a guy at 45 starts getting some dough, a fellow at 54, (yes that‘s me) well they would owe me 9 years back rations. That is I should have gone on government rations nine years ago. It’s a good idea. Everything worth while is a good idea, but did you ever notice there is more bad ideas that will work than there is good ones.
Then too don’t get the idea that just the two leading parties, the Democrats and the Socialists, are the only two with candidates in the govenors race, there is an outfit out here called the Republicans, and they got a list of entries that reads like a petition for government relief, and strange thing they got some pretty good fellows belong to the thing. And you know how people are to grab at some novelty. This outfit calling themselvs Republicans are liable to cast right smart votes. (Pardon me that’s a typographical error, that “smart” was just put in there through an old saying, and has to do with the number, and not the smartness of the voters.) But I know some of their candidates running, and they are just fine fellows. One named Quinn used to be head of the American Legion, known him long time.8 And one named Merriam is now Lieut Govenor, dandy old fellow.9
Well we get pretty excited over politics, and pretty soon it’s all over, and we settle down to cussing the guy we just elected. It just seems like we can’t get a man that can take care of all of us after he gets in office. There just ain’t enough favors to go round. The bigger majority a man gets elected by, the more enemies he makes, for that means that many more to turn down. Well it’s going to be a big year, (in the minds of the candidates) the country is always “On the brink.” “And your decision on November 4th will be the deciding factor on whether it goes on over the brink, or if you wisely vote for me, I will grab it just as it’s going over and pull it back for you. The answer is in your hands.”
“Poor old brink” I don’t know of anything we have been on more of than we have it. We have tottered on the brink so long and so much that I think the old brink has got hand holts on it. I am beggining to beliave we wouldent go over it on a bet. We are what you call “brink” conscious, so don’t let the boys scare you about this “brink” bugaboo. It’s away overestimated.
1William Gibbs McAdoo, Democratic United States senator from California from 1933 to 1939. McAdoo served as secretary of the treasury in President Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet.
2For Hiram W. Johnson see WA 585:N 4.
3Ernest Whitworth Marland, Democratic United States representative from Oklahoma from 1933 to 1935. An independent oil producer, Marland was elected governor of Oklahoma in 1934 and served from 1935 to 1939.
4George Edward Creel, American journalist, government administrator, politician, and author. The former chairman of a World War I propaganda agency, Creel lost his bid in 1934 for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in California.
5For this and all further references to Woodrow Wilson see WA 536:N 4.
6Blanche Bates, famous star of the stage who also appeared occasionally on the screen, including in the film The Border Legion (1919).
7Upton Beall Sinclair, American novelist, socialist, and Pulitzer Prize winner. Sinclair, who was defeated in 1934 as the Democratic candidate for governor of California, ran on a platform of “End Poverty in California” (EPIC).
8John Robertson Quinn, Los Angeles banker and civic leader. A former national commander of the American Legion, Quinn ran third in a four-man race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1934.
9Frank Finley Merriam, Republican governor of California from 1934 to 1939. Merriam, who had served as lieutenant governor since 1931, became governor in early 1934 on the death of James Rolph, Jr. (see WA 599:N 1).
THOUGHTS WHILE FLYINGWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or see, or hear. I have always been a reader of the magazine “Time” ever since it started. I try to read a lot of other newsy magazines, and the Saturday Evening Post I couldent live without. And all the newspapers I can get my paws on, and a country one or two, for they are the best informed reading of all. Then you want to read both political sides.
Well the other day I met the managing editor of “Time.”1 He was making his first visit to the Pacific or Japan’s ocean. A young fellow, mighty nice, and of course mighty well informed (far as I was able to judge). The reason I happened to think of him at this very time, I been sitting on the plane reading, and I just happened to read his magazine clear through. You are awful apt to catch something in a weekly that you have missed in a daily. Well you shouldent if you read the daily properly, but you naturally will let a steer calf get through the chute on you ever once in awhile.
Some of these I had overlooked, some of ’em I hadent. Maby some of ’em might be new to you. I had overlooked Ed Ballard of West Baden, Indiana, who earned his money in circuses, gave a seven million dollar hotel to the Jesuits for a college.2 That’s that beautiful big hotel you have all seen and stopped at. And he wasent even a Catholic. I knew a Jesuit was the highest educated of all religious orders, but I dident know he had to study 15 years to complete his college course after high school. My, imagine a four year college man’s embarrasement if he had to tangle intelects with a Jesuit! Then our gang get what they call a masters degree in five years (or one extra). Now what an ignorant bird he would be stached up against one of those.
Nobody has ever figured out just why we thought everything could be learned in four years. It just seemed a good even number I guess and we used it.
Did you know that one of the young Duponts held the record for distance in a glider, without the aid of gasoline or powder, 155 miles from Elmira N. Y. to right near New York City?3 Then he holds the American altitude record of 6,500 feet. Remember the name Dupont, of the Wilmington Duponts.
Up in Alberta, Canada there is only six on the jury, and they tried their premier of that province for an affair with his secretary.4 (These foreigner courts do have some of the most Puritan notions.) The jury convicted him, but the judge said the jury was haywire. So now they don’t know which one to try, the judge or the jury.
Did you know that Roosevelt had a cousin down in Chili, named Delano, that has made the first all Chili moving pictures?5 Everything but the lenz was made in Chili. Clever people, these Roosevelts. Did you know that some old preacher denounced the Roosevelts because they were having their second divorce in the family? And another cleric set him down with, “We dident elect the family to be President.”
Did you know that a Japanese assasinated their Prime Minister 20 years ago, and the Emperor freed him the other day.6 And he is a hero. Hugh Johnston and Clarence Darrow like to faught a duel over bath room fixtures, water closets to be exact.7 Huey Long put through the farmers bill, where they can have their mortgages reappraised, have six years to pay off the new appraisment, and only one percent interest. And Mr Roosevelt signed it.
That almost all over Europe they celebrated St Vitus day. The day 20 years ago when a young student shot the Archduke, and Duchess of Austria, and started the World War, in a town called Sarajevo.8 Down the street ahead of this in the parade, another campanion had thrown a bomb at him but missed. They were too young to hang, but they died in damp prison dungeons. And he has a brother that’s a Senator in Jugo-slavia. And the young kid that started the whole thing was named Princip. He changed the maps and actions and thoughts of the whole world in some direct or indirect way, yet we remember the names of guys that did nothing. Not that anybody is bragging on this lad. But give the kid credit. He did “start something.” “Princip” is the name. And the funny part about it is we can pronounce it too. That’s unusual in that part of the world.
San Francisco gave a big funeral, to the reburial of an old bum who died 50 years ago, and always called himself “Emperor of the United States and protector of Mexico.”9 And that’s what they put on his headstone. No other town would have enough sentiment to do that but Frisco, (pardon me, San Francisco). I may want to go back there again.
Drew Pearson, one of Washington’s best writers, both humorous and instructive, his father is the govenor general of the Virgin Islands, and Mr Roosevelt is going to give ’em a rum factory.10 They make great rum punches there. I had one, or two, and like to not got back to the aeroplane. We was anchored out in the bay. It was a sea plane. I was flying from South America.
Dr. Cadman, mighty fine fellow by the way, one of New York’s greatest preachers, got in bad with some of his herd for endorsing a fountain pen point.11 He realized now how mighty the pen is. I endorsed chewing gum one time and almost like to had to take up chewing tobaccao to win my “fans” back again. Nothing can get you in wrong quicker than an endorsement. I even got in wrong one time for endorsing the Democratic party.
Well it’s just midnight, and we are about to land in Albequrque, New Mexico. The typewriter is on a little lunch table that fastens on the seats to serve food on. Air is smooth and lovely, and I am going to sleep from here in. Good night everybody.
1John Stuart Martin, managing editor of Time magazine from 1929 to 1937.
2Edward Ballard, millionaire Indiana hotel and circus owner. In 1934 Ballard gave the Jesuit order a $7,000,000 resort hotel at West Baden Springs, Indiana, to convert into a college.
3Richard Chichester “Dick” du Pont, twenty-four-year-old son of a vice president of the huge chemical firm, E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company of Delaware.
4John Edward Brownlee, prime minister of Alberta from 1924 to 1934; leader of the United Farmers party; grain dealer.
5Jorge Delano, Chilean motion-picture producer; winner of the 1929 Ibero-American Cinema Grand Prix. He was a fourth cousin of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
6Konichi Nakaoka, Japanese fanatic who assassinated Prime Minister Takashi Hara in 1921. He was released from prison in 1934 under a general amnesty.
7Clarence Seward Darrow, prominent American defense attorney and civil libertarian whose court cases were almost invariably headline material. Darrow headed a governmental review board which investigated the NRA in the spring of 1934. The board’s highly critical report, published in May 1934, immediately brought rejoinders from Hugh Johnson, chairman of the NRA (see WA 568:N 1). Two supplementary reports and a caustic exchange of remarks between Darrow and Johnson ensued.
8Francis Ferdinand, Austrian archduke who with his wife, Duchess Sophie Chotak, was assassinated at Sarajevo, Bosnia, on June 28, 1914, by a Serbian student, Gavrilo Princip. The murders precipitated the events leading to World War I.
9Joshua Abraham Norton, English eccentric who went to San Francisco during the 1849 gold rush where he proclaimed himself Norton I, “Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.” He died penniless, but not forgotten, in 1880.
10Andrew Russel “Drew” Pearson, American lecturer, newspaper correspondent, diplomat, and author; writer of a widely-syndicated newspaper column “Washington MerryGo-Round.” Paul Martin Pearson, governor of the Virgin Islands from 1931 to 1935; educator, public speaker, and author; father of Drew Pearson.
11Samual Parkes Cadman, American clergyman and author; president of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America from 1924 to 1928 and radio minister for the same from 1928 until his death in 1936.
COFFEE ROYALWell all I know is just what I read in the papers or what I see hither and yon. I had a funny kind of a trip here two or three weeks ago. My younger kid Jimmy and my little nephew Jimmy Blake were over in the Panhandle of Texas on the Mashed O. Ranch learning to be cowboys.1 They were having a big calf branding. The ranch belongs to the Halsell Family, old family friends of my folks and myself.2
It’s where I went a couple of years ago and was roping calves, and an old jug headed grey horse I was riding got tangled in the rope, and the calf and I was just an innocent bystander. And all I got out of it was bucked off on my head. On account of using good judgement in knowing how to fall, why I wasent hurt at all. The old horse stampeded around the corral with the calf anchored to him and tore up the branding fire. All this time I was just scratching old cut off ear marks, and other amputated parts out of my hair. And old dry cowpuncher, (and I never saw many that wasent) said “Well you will sho have something to write about now.” He figured here is a day when he will lay off the Republicans, and tell something amusing.
Well this time I flew out there one night. Flew all night and got to Amarillo at four o‘clock in the morning. It’s about 100 miles to the ranch, down at the town named Muleshoe. (I suppose it’s an old Spanish name and come from the thing a mule wears on his foots.) Well I got in taxi and lit out. I figured there wasent much time to sleep, so I told the old boy “let’s get some breakfast and then hit on out of town.” I didn’t know the road, but I did know the direction.
We went by the restaurant to get ham and eggs, for out West everything you do you must get ham and eggs first. Then when you get it done you get ham and eggs again. An old girl and her beau, (perhaps) eating in there too about 4:30 that morning, she recognized me. She had on an evening dress, that’s mighty late for an evening dress in Amarillo. She wanted me to join her in what she said was a cup of coffee “that had something in it.” I told her I was doing mighty well on this coffee I had ordered that had nothing but grounds in it. But she swore she was drinking “Coffee Royal.” That sounded awful “Continental” to be browsing around in Amarillo. Why even “Old Tack” never heard of that.3 Well anyhow she got plum sore at me because I wouldent join her. And when I said “Good Morning” as my driver and me went out she turned her bare back on me and muttered “Them actors are all alike, they are all swell headed, that’s what I got for speaking to a ham. He dident know a lady when he seen one.”
Well as it got to getting daylight and we passed all those little frame farm houses on every prairie quarter section, (where it never in the world should have been plowed up) I never saw as many fowls of various breeds try to cross the road ahead of us. Chickens, turkeys, guinea hens. This old driver boy looked like he took a fiendish delight in trying to maim some of ’em, but much to my delight he couldent reach any of ’em.
We was driving over a Country where 36 years before as a boy 18 years old I had helped drive a bunch of cattle from that very place to Western Kansas, and there wasent a house or a chicken in a whole county. That plains was the prettiest country I ever saw in my life, as flat as a beauty contest winner’s stomach, and prairie lakes scattered all over it. And mirages! You could see anything in the world—just ahead of you-I eat out of a chuck wagon, and slept on the ground all that spring and summer of 98. (Lot of folks went to the Klondike, but I couldent get any further away from my home in the Indian Territory than Texas.) The limit of my “Pay Dirt” was I think 30 dollars a month.
Well here I was 36 years later driving out to a ranch, to eat at another “Chuck Wagon” and do a little roping. A good deal had happened to everybody in 36 years. No more happens to one person than to another. Some look bigger, but they are no bigger than the things that look little that happens to the other fellow.
No greater, no happier life in the world than the cattle man. He missed being with the Follies, but so did I miss many and many a great meal from the tail end of a wagon. That coffee is not “Coffee Royal” but, brother, it’s coffee.
Now none of this ain’t what I started out to say, so I will have to say that next week. I would get sentimental in a minute if I kept on.
1James Blake “Jimmy” Rogers, second son of Will and Betty Rogers; student at New Mexico Military Institute at Roswell. James “Jimmy” Blake, son of Betty Rogers’ brother, James K. Blake. The two cousins, who were inseparable, and Jimmy Blake’s father were all named for Betty Rogers’ father, James W. Blake, of Benton County, Arkansas.
2The Mashed O, a 120,000-acre Hereford cattle ranch in Lamb and Bailey counties, Texas. Ewing Halsell, who managed the ranch, was a good friend of the Rogers family. His father, William Electious Halsell, a co-founder of the Mashed O, and Will’s father, Clement Vann Rogers, were also friends and business associates.
3Gene Alexander Howe, founder in 1924 and publisher of the Amarillo (Texas) Globe; editor of the Globe from 1924 to 1936. Howe, who took pride in his optimistic view of life, wrote a daily column of humor for the Globe under the pseudonym of “Erasmus R. Tack,” or simply “Old Tack.”
TO MAINE BY THE WAY OF TEXASWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or else.
Well sir I started in last week to tell you about a trip I had a few weeks ago, where I just started in to go over into Texas. Well I got there and had a great time at the ranch. But I only had a short time before I left for our trip around the world, so I decided to go on over into Oklahoma and see my sister and folks.1 So grabbed an evening plane out of Amarillo, I had just come in there that morning on one from the coast, then on into Wichita, Kans. Got a little sleep that night, then down to Tulsa in oilman Mabie’s plane, a fast Lockhead.2 He used to trade and sell mules. Now he has more holes in the ground than a gopher, and the funny part of it, the things got oil spouting out of ’em. They got one field called “Mabie Field.” But it’s not just maby, it’s really there.
First landed in Tulsa, but I told ’em to go on over to Claremore. That’s 28 miles away, and say you know what Claremore is doing? Putting up a fine hangar. A rock one. No ship is going to break out of it if they ever get ’em in it. You see we got a fine military school there, Oklahoma Military School, a state school. And they are going to have an aviation course of instruction, so that’s how we got the hangar. We already got a fine polo team there at the school, the best one in the middle west, and now we going to have us some aviators. Claremore is booming. Dry and hot when I was there, but it’s that way everywhere. That’s the New Deal, just feeling folks out to see if they can take it.
Well went up 12 miles north of there to where I was born, at our old ranch. Looked mighty good. They was threshing oats, and the women folks was cooking for the thresher. I got a niece there that was raised in a city, then married my nephew, a real cowhand and darned if she ain’t the best cook in the Rogers County.3 Get a city gal if you want a country wife. For these old country gals have had enough of it. They are headed for the pavement. Cities are full of country folks, now all the city folks are trying to get little places in the country.
Caught the passenger line out of Tulsa for Chicago that afternoon. Then changed for Cleveland, then for Washington, and here I was in Washington at four a.m. after leaving Oklahoma along about three in the afternoon. There just ain’t any limit to where you can eat lunch at and then eat dinner.
Washington looked pretty dopey. Take all those old Senators and Congressmen out of there and you have removed a big comedy element, and a lot of life. The rascals are all at home electioneering to get back. This old politics is not such a cinch as it’s cracked up to be. Had a fine visit with the Russian ambassador.4 Speaks good English. I had met him in Tokio when he was Russia’s Ambassador to Japan. Mighty accomodating little fellow, I wanted to fix so I could send my daily dispatches back from there every day. Before when I was in there I wasent sending ’em, (I hadent started writing dailys yet), so he assured me that no censorship or any red tape would prevent it, and that goes for Sunday articles too. Told me we might be able to fly clear across from the Pacific to the Atlantic, or we might take the train for four or five days, then the plane at a place about half way across called Cheta.
Then I went over to see Mr Cordell Hull, and he was so nice he took me over to have lunch with he and Mrs Hull.5 He is the perfect type of what is called gentleman. You know lots of folks carry that title but few work at it. Then in addition to that he is a darn able man. Ordinarily you take a gentleman, and he hasent got much time to be anything else.
Well then I flew that night up to N. Y. Now get this. I have only left Los Angeles three days before, and I have spent one day in Texas, one in Oklahoma, and one in Washington. Only in New York a part of a night, but saw my little co-starring partner, Dorothy Stone, in Marylnn Miller’s place in “As Thousands Cheer.”6 And was she a hit. Clever girls those Stone girls, Paula in Vaudeville with a great dancing act, Carol a big hit in a new Europeans play “The Sparrow,” and Fred just walking around beaming.7 He met me at the theatre, and we all went to Dinty Moores after the show. That’s the extent of my night life in New York. I want Fred to play “Ah Wilderness” on the road through the Middle West next year. (He could do it great) and to big houses. Let the young ones do the dancing, just sit on a chair and talk Eugene O’Neill’s lines, you can’t go wrong.8 Hope he does it.
Well out at daylight to fly to Maine to see my Mary. Here I had started out just to go to Texas, and wound up in Maine. Good thing there was no other states any further away. That Maine is a beautiful place. Lakewood where they have the theatre and summer stock company and a real one, is a great boon to the speaking stage. They all live in little cottages around the lake, put on a different show every week, and rehearse the one for the next week. Lord I wouldent know which one I was doing. They were getting along fine, working hard and happy. I couldent interest Mary in trip to Japan, so Ma and the two bohunks and I broke out, and away off over here landing at an island.9
1Sallie Clementine Rogers McSpadden, older sister of Will Rogers and wife of John Thomas “Tom” McSpadden, a stockman and businessman from Chelsea, Oklahoma.
2John E. Mabee, Tulsa oilman who was one of the principal operators in the Oklahoma petroleum fields in the late 1920s. “Mabee Field” refers to oil-producing property near Midland, Texas, in which Mabee had made significant investments.
3Madelyn Pope Palmer McSpadden, wife of Herbert Thomas “Herb” McSpadden, second son of Sallie and Tom McSpadden. Herb McSpadden managed the Rogers Ranch after 1919 and moved to the ranch house, the birthplace of Will Rogers, in 1927.
4Alexander Antonovich Troyanovsky, Soviet ambassador to the United States from 1933 to 1939. He had previously served as ambassador to Japan.
5Rose Frances Witz Whitney Hull, wife of Cordell Hull (see WA 582:N 12), Democratic party figure, and popular Washington hostess.
6For Dorothy Stone see WA 574:N 4. Marilyn Miller, American dancing and singing star of Broadway musicals in the 1920s and 1930s. She appeared in a few motion-picture musicals in the early 1930s.
7For Paula and Carol Stone see WA 597:N 15.
8For Eugene O’Neill see WA 592:N 1.
9Betty, Jimmy, and Will’s oldest son, William “Bill” Rogers, Jr., accompanied Will on the around-the-world trip.
A TRIBUTE TO A GREAT MANI was reading an article just now by some smart aleck, and he was giving his solution of censorship, and movies, and what caused this and that. And he happened to mention the “Specialist” by Chick Sales.1 Well what in the world about that little book? One that every man, (especially if he had ever been raised in the country or small town) took home, read to his wife, and to his mother, and his dad, for the older you was the more it appealed to you. Then to have somebody speak up that never had enough humor to get the idea that it was a great character study of a man. The story wasent of a building. It was of the man’s great pride in his chosen profession.
You can make anything you are a mind too out of anything, but that little story that sold over a million copies, and here is a funny thing about it. It was the best people that got it. The dumb guy, the cleverness of the whole thing was lost on him. I wish this bird that wrote that knew Chick Sales, he would get the surprise of his life. He has done for twenty five years the cleanest and most applauded act ever in Vaudeville, he is so clean that he is almost a prude. I remember years ago, long before the publication of the book, Chick told me that story, and I rushed home to repeat all of it I could remember, and I could visualize this old carpenter, an artist to his hammered old finger tips.
Reading this little obscure missinformation here tonight, brings back the memory of my first meeting with Chick. We were both on the bill togeather at the Grand Opera House, Pittsburgh. Pa. both doing singles, (that is I mean both acts were acts where we worked alone). Chick was doing those great set of characters that have lived so long till they have become classics. Why the old man with the horn sitting on a stool blowing on it, is as famous as that statue of a fellow sitting on a rock, called the “Thinker.” Then the preacher making the announcements, then the fresh boy, then the girl reciting. They applauded and yelled then, they do the same today. Chick was such a big hit the rest of us might just as well have packed up and gone home, and we would but we dident want to miss his act at any show.
He had just got married, and his wife was a beautiful, lovely sweet girl, and very accomplished violin player.2 Well Chick had her on the bill doing a single. I watched his career and occasionally run into him. He was the biggest hit with an audience, and the biggest hit off stage with all actors, that I can recall in all my years of stage work. He lived at Urbana, the home of the Illinois University. His father was a dentist. I played the town, and went out to see his folks, as grand an old couple as ever lived. His dad used to make him up sets of teeth that he wore in some of his characters, and they are what principally changed his whole looks.
Mrs. Rogers and I were up to his rented flat one time when his twins were born. Now here they are grown children, and what fine ones his children have turned out to be. He lives out here somewhere now, and like many and many of admiring friends, our trails just don’t happen to cross very often. This whole Hollywood and Los Angeles is the darndest places to have friends that you never see, if you don’t happen to work at the same studio. I got lots of friends that I havent seen in years, and I would just love too, but it seems it just don’t happen so. If I run onto Chick I am going to show him this little article by this squirt who is such an authority on what constitutes the decay of the American mind. Its like reading that the Archibishop of Cantebury had been caught in a night club.
Chick is awful good in pictures. He is a real character actor. The rest of us just do a character. He lives him, he is him. Remember the old man “That had talked to Lincoln”? Well that little article of this guy did some good anyhow. It brought back to my mind afresh memories of one of the finest characters that ever put foot on our stage. A real fine wholesome man, that has perhaps got more applause, given more clean amusement, got more laughs per minute, than any Vaudeville act in America.
Gosh that Vaudeville, how we miss it. No class of entertainment has ever approached it for real entertainment. The variety, the world’s various collection of talents, the years of practice to attain perfection in acts of skill. And to have been the outstanding figure in that glorious parade is something Chick Sales can be proud of.
1For Chic Sale see WA 597:N 9.
2Sale was married to the former Marie Bishop of Missoula, Montana.
LOTS OF REDS IN AMERICA
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. Did I ever tell you about
going up to the strike in Frisco.1 Well I had as I told you been to the general
strike in England away back in 1926. So I wanted to see what one that we
would put on would do. Over in England I never saw anything as quiet in my
life. Why I used to walk the streets wishing two dogs would fight just to scare
up some excitement. Not even a newspaper was published. Well I had always
been going around bragging, (and every time I met an Englishman) complimenting him on the stability of his race, the feet on the ground attitude that the
Englishman is famous for. I used to say why if we ever had a general strike in
any part of our country, one half would kill off the other half.
BUT PLENTY OF WHITES, TOO
Well then along comes this one up in San Francisco, and so I grabbed the quickest plane and up I went. Got in there at night. Everything was as quiet, no street cars running, no taxicabs, and the pilot had to drive us in from the airport. Just a few restaurants was open, 18 to be exact. This was the night of the first day of the general strike. The strikers allowed them to open. As you went to enter your hotel there was a guard or two on deck to see you dident enter, unless they knew you, or if you had previously registered there and had your registration card from the clerk of the hotel. Prowled around quit a bit that night. Quite a few private cars, not many people on the streets, but all quiet. The National Guard soldiers that were on guard there had been for a couple of weeks. They were stationed down on the water front, dident see them till the next day.
General Johnson got in there that same night, well I was up with the birds the next morning to see what might be happening. Well the same was happening that was happening the night before, nothing. I stirred around and a friend from the aeroplane co, in his car drove me around. We went down to see Mayor Rossi.2 Mayor Rossi is a mighty pleasant able fellow, a regular guy, so he told me that the strike was broken. I told him, well it just started yesterday, it couldent bust this quick. But he insisted it had. The municipal street car lines had been allowed to go to work that morning, and restaurants were opening up if they promised to use all union help. All the trucks you saw on the street was either, ice, milk, bread, or bare necessities. Oh yes not a theatre was open. Nowhere to go to while away with you troubles.
Well then I went over to see General Johnson. Found a bell boy, (oh yes, all the hotel help had to stay in the hotel, as they were supposed to strike to) cafes were closed but they served you meals in your rooms. Well this bellboy was delivering General Johnson’s pants that he had pressed, so I grabbed them, and delivered ’em to him in person. If it hadent been for me the General wouldent have had any breeches. He was just going to start out that morning to break the strike. He was to go to the University of Northern Cal at Berkley, that’s the branch of the University of Cal. which is at Los Angeles. He was to be given the By-Feta-Fy. Or the Phy Sigma Gama, or some one of those Greek Elks Club affairs. He was to get a key.
Well it’s funny but the whole aspect of the strike changed when it was made General, and it began to interfere with your business. You can be in favor of something, (and lots of good folks were) but when they saw the trucks that was moving, moving with a sign on ‘em saying it was by permission of the strike committee, well all that rubbed ‘em the wrong way. They got to thinking, “Here look what this might lead too, to have somebody tell you just what you can do.” Well the old American spirit bobbed up, and that really was beginning of the end of the general strike.
I have read that one never did win. It just is not in the cards. Lots of times individual strikes when they are just, and conducted along fair lines have won their case, and they should, for manufacturers have associations for their mutual betterment, bankers have associations to see how they can help each other out, and there is nothing fairer than workmen having unions for their mutual benefit. It’s helped to keep wages up in San Francisco, and it’s a strong union town, but when the people felt that the reds were running the thing, and that it wasent really done for the sole benefit of the striking men, but just to raise the devil generally, why the folks turned against ’em. Even Mr Green head of the whole federation said it was a mistake.1
But what I want to get over is that the people were just as down to earth, as peaceful, and as law abiding as you ever saw. Again a dog fight would have constituted excitement. There is lots of reds in the country, but you would be surprised at the amount of whites when the real showdown comes. This strike will do more to get ’em weeded out than any strike. For it’s been proven that they “gummed” this one up. So the minute one starts telling some other union gathering what to do somebody will holler, “Yeah, what about San Francisco?” Things are brightening up, men with money for industry when they see they have a good chance to run their business, will start running it again. If we just had some more jobs, that’s what’s needed.
1A general strike paralyzed the San Francisco Bay area in mid-July 1934. Involving ultimately 75,000 workers and costing millions of dollars, it occasioned considerable violence and widespread radical activity.
2Angelo Joseph Rossi, Republican mayor of San Francisco from 1931 to 1944.
3William Green, American labor leader; president of the American Federation of Labor from 1924 until his death in 1952.
AND THAT EMIL PACKED
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see as jump
from craig to craig. Was getting all ready to make the big hop around the
world. Now to get ready for that would take me just about as long as it would
most people to get ready to drive to town Saturday afternoon and stay for the
picture show that night. I got one little old soft flat red grip, or bag, that if I
just tell it when I am leaving it will pack itself. A few old white shirts with the
collars attached, and a little batch of underwear, and sox, now all these you can
replenish at any store anywhere, (I know for I have done it) then throw the old
ones away. You don’t figure on laundry at all. And it’s cheaper, for when you
start paying excess on these aeroplanes, brother, till then you haven’t seen any
excess. So me and my little red bag and typewriter, one extra suit in it. It’s always packed the same, no matter if it’s to New York or too Singapore.
A DOZEN OF EVERYTHING
But this time it was different, there was women folks along. Ma was going along and she said I couldent be trooping along with her unless I looked the part. So with all the fussing, and buying and packing, the Rogers ranch was in a mess for days and days, tromping on dress makers, cutters and fitters. Then the boys were both away, and she felt that she had to dress them by remote control to get them ready. We got a fellow named Emil.1 He has got some other name but you can’t pronounce it. Emil is all I know. Well he kinder runs the Rogers household. He is of that capable tribe called the Swiss. They can speak anything, and can do anything.
Well it seems that there was concocted a scheme before we all embarked on this present enterprise, that the master, “Ha Ha” meaning me, should be diked out as never before. They started dragging in Palm Beach suits to fit onto me when I should have been up roping calves. They dragged me in from the polo field where I would be working a green horse to try some white shoes on me. Well they might just as well put ’em on the horse, he would have felt more comfortable. And then the new baggage commence to arriving. Now we are a race of people that have lived in grips and trunks all our lives, but it seems the old baggage was kinder rusty, and that Honolulu and Japan would turn up its nose if the Rogers come in with old soiled portmantous.
Now these Palm Beach suits. I don’t care how hot it gets in these so called tropics around Honolulu, we ought to have sent those suits to our friends back in Arkansaw and Oklahoma, there is your tropics for you this summer, or in fact any part of the old U. S. (I don’t want to get in wrong with any particular part of the country; it’s better to get in wrong with all of it.) Then besides a Palm Beach suit is not supposed to fit, if it does, it’s uncomfortable. Ma Rogers argued that she hadent been anywhere in so long, that she just was plum out of clothes. (Any of you boys ever heard that talk before?) She had just shortly before returned from New York, but she just dident call that anywhere, and she had been to Honolulu two summers ago, so she had to get something light enough for Honolulu and something else a shade heavier for Japan.
Well I have never been to Japan in the summer time, but summer time anywhere is not a lot of difference, only San Francisco at night. Then it snows. So of all the fitting and a trying on, stores have a habit now, if you have been keeping your bills pretty well paid up, they will just send you out a few arm loads of plunder, then you pick over it, and you are allowed to return 80%. Of course if there is a party or picnic or barbecue in the meantime, you can use for that, just so you don’t soil the price mark.
Well I was trying to pick out my 20% so the store could salvage the rest. Emil had an old fashioned idea, (it’s an old Swiss idea) that you must have one dozen of everything. The last time I had a dozen of anything was when they packed me off to Kemper Military Academy at Boonville Mo. in 96. And my education dident last long enough to wear them out. Well he would pack in the daytime and I would come in and unpack at nights. At one packing he had a bath robe in there. Well that was the last straw. You only wear them when you are getting well from an operation. And that’s where this one had come from. Well anyhow we got off, and if we had had some horses with us, I would know we was taking away more than we was leaving.
The first aeroplane trip we make I am just going to let her pay the excess baggage that will cure her. And it will cure that Emil too, if I charge part of it up against him. What in the world do people want to lug so much junk around for? Well if you just follow this family you could pick up a lot new unworn things across Manchuira and Siberia, and Moscow, and Finland, and Denmark, and Sweden, and Norway. I just slipped one grip full to a bellboy in Honolulu just now. It’s going to take a long time to get rid of all of it. But I will come into New York harbor, with the little red bag, the old blue serge, and the typewriter.
1Emil Sandmeier, the house manager for the Rogers family, joined the staff at the ranch in 1930 after a career in hotel management in his native Switzerland. After Will’s death in 1935, he continued his association with the Rogers family until Betty’s death in 1944.
GO TO SEA AND YOU LEARN PLENTYWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I learn as I talk to the sailors. You know there ain’t much smarter old boy than the one that has spent his lifetime, from about 14 years old, hanging onto the mast of an old square rigged ship. That’s the old sailors that you see on these passenger boats now, but that got their start on the windjammers. They have been in every port in the world. And everyone of ’em kinder longs for the tough old days when they was three months rounding the horn. Course all of us in any line of business are like that. We are always yapping about the “Old days” and how we look away back and enjoy it, but I tell you there is a lot of huey to it. There is a whole lot of all our past lives that wasent so hot.
It’s all right for a wrinkled by wind faced old second or third mate on a boat in a nice new uniform with quite a batch of gold stripes on his arm, and a bird’s nest on his shoulder, who is walking the deck and being asked questions by the lady passengers, well he can tell you that he longs for the days when they pulled out of Gloucester. Or Liverpool, or Amsterdam, or the Barbary Coast, and headed for Australia, and then back by the South seas and loaded on a lot of that coconut whiskers. Well he will tell you that that was the life, but you try to jerk this uniform off him now and jarr him away from these lady passengers and he will die of a broken heart. But they are a great bunch of folks. Lots of ’em are of what they call the Scandinavian countries. They just had to go to sea, there wasent enough land to grow up on.
American boys never took to the ocean so much. Lots of the New England ones from around Maine did, but the old inland boy, those old oceans were made to read about, but not to prowl around on. Our boys make fine sailors when they will sail, but they want their sailing to be mostly in a Ford. While the hardy youth of the world was going aloft to trim the mast, and adjust the jib boom, (maby I am wrong, chances are I am). Well while they was doing that, our lads were working on their carburators, and everybody trying to go to college and come out a bond salesman. An awful lot of the rest of the world went out to get a practical education, while we was trying to cram Latin and Greek down youths that would never in all their lives have any use for it.
I was out on deck awhile ago, and they were cleaning out the life boats. That dident make me feel any too good. I thought maby they was expecting something. Now here is something I dident know before just how the modern ships try to work it in case of accident. Their boats hold 60 apiece. Then there is a big powered launch, in fact two of ’em. When these life boats are able to row away from the sinking ship they are supposed to stay out there cruising around, and these powered launches come by and pick up a tow line from a life boat, then pull it along till they come to another one, then it fastens onto the first life boat, and so on and on till they try to have the whole bunch of life boats in tow behind the launch. Now the launch has enough gas for five or six hundred mile cruising radius’. Then too it has a sending radio on it; each one has, and they can start their S.O.S.’es, and everybody is supposed to stick togeather till some boat comes along and picks ’em up. Each life boat has ample provisions, hard tack and concentrated canned foods, and two large containers of water, and you are supposed to last quite awhile.
Now this launch gathering these up was all news to me, but that’s the way it’s supposed to work; that is everything going off according to the steamship rules. Of course there is one little hitch in all these plans. It’s not a very large hitch, but it’s of enough importance that it might casually be mentioned, and that is the condition of the sea at the time the enterprise takes place. If the sea is doing enough to wreck a boat, it is liable to be doing enough to keep any immediate assembling from taking place. You can get your life boat over behind a wave from some other one, and it’s like being over another mountain range, you won’t see him for weeks. Every once in awhile you might be sighted on the top of one of these aquatic mountain tops, but before lifeboat, launch, or even Amos and Andy by radio can get to you, you have dropped down into the canyon again.1 That’s one thing that makes the sea interesting. Nothing ever happens twice the same way on it. I always thought the old captains had the right idea, go down with the big one instead of getting on a little one and going down with it, or without it. So it’s a question whether theirs is heroism, bravery, or just good judgement, there is many a time the big one lasts longer than the little ones.
But it must be a great life. We need more of our young men to take up the sea, he can get his life started about six or eight years ahead of the rest of his companions. He is a man when they are just a freshman. When they are a senior he is an A. B. (able bodied seaman) that beats a diploma, and a fraternity pin. (Able bodied seaman) that means you are a man among men. You havent had 4 years of varsity football, but you can whip the man that has, a swimming pool and a gymnasium dident put those shoulders on you. And when you walk up and ask for a job, you know you know your business. And no man out of a book knows if he knows his or not.
1Amos `n Andy, popular radio serial that began in 1928 and was aired five times weekly until 1943. The creators and stars were Freeman Fisher Gosden and Charles J. Correll, blackface comedians, who played every male part and wrote every script. The escapades of two Harlem taxi drivers and their friends captivated an enormous and faithful listening audience.
LIFE ON THE ROLLING SEAWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see on ship board. A ship is supposed to be a great meeting place or melting pot. The first day everybody walks by kinder acting like they are not paying any attention to each other, the second day they size each other up. The third day after the sizing up they go back to passing without looking, as they did the first day. If by that time you havent got everybody’s number, you are just plain dumb.
There has been enough heads togeather in the meantime to patch up, or fill in any odds and ends that might be missing about some of ’em. It’s awful hard to be on a boat anywhere, and not be recognized by sight by somebody. Then if you have any past, the one that knows it, trades it for something about somebody that they know. Then if there is any missing information you can always go to the purser. There is nobody in America, or the civilized world that a purser on boat don’t know. He makes a hotel clerk look like a man that was deaf, dumb and blind. He has had this or that man on the voyage, away back when they used to have their wife, or husband with ’em. That’s how long he knows ’em.
Then to help out your information you have the folks on a boat that do nothing but ride on boats. They will hem you up back over the propeller and tell you how many times they have crossed this particular stretch of ocean. If it’s to Honolulu they can point out the various sharks and call ’em by name as they swim along by the boat and beg for an arm or leg.
Then there is always the “Buyers” on there that change clothes a few times a day and make a play for all the women, they are what the old time country drummer was. They know all of Wynn’s and Pearl’s latest jokes and what the country will come to if they keep on carrying on like they are. 1 Then the girls with all the colored slacks on. It takes an awful rough sea to keep them from walking the deck. And there is many of ’em on that you wouldent hardly call a girl anymore.
Then there is the old grouchy fellows that just grunt if you speak to ’em. And the pleasant old gals that will just tell you right off that this is their first trip, and they are having a great time, and they are going to enjoy it. And they want you to know it. They always know somebody that you know, and you both say, “Ain’t the world little after all.”
Then there is generally a diplomat of some breed on board. He always looks like a flat-footed secreat police. Because you can tell one a ship’s length away. You hem him up in the smoking room and he talks very mysterious about his trip and his mission. He tells you he is being called home for a “consultation,” but it’s generally for an examination. Then the children “God bless ’em,” they are running and tripping over everybody. It takes a rough day to quiet them down. And you almost wish for it. Then there is the fast walker around the deck. They never walk at home, but they are going to be athaletic on this trip.
Oh yes, then the fellow, or fellows with some addresses that they want to give you the minute they find where you are going. “The proprietor of the Huey Long Hotel in Noboskoboski, Siberia, is an old friend of ours. He was lovely to us. Give him this card, and he will look after you. He will give you the room with the bath.”
Then too there is the exclusive ones. They are on the same boat, but they look on the others as lepers. They don’t want to be contaminated. They look like they minute they get off the boat they will fly to a castle somewhere away from all earthly things. Then there is the ship’s officers who are always pleasant and nice. And that must be quite a trial at times, with all the questions that are asked of them. “Officer tell me which is the port and which is the starboard side of this boat, I just can’t get it straight, and why in the world do they call ’em by those odd names?”
“Oh Captain, what time will we dock?” “How about my camera, they say these Japs are cranky as goats about taking pictures, I don’t see why every country has blue prints of the others’ fortifications.”
“How many cigarettes can I take in? Suppose I smoke a little on each one, will that let me in with more?” “No madam, you can take all the butts in you want.”
“What does those bells mean ringing all the time, and how in the world do you tell the time by ’em, they all ring alike to me?” “Will they ever get through scrubbing this boat? I guess they are going to keep on till everybody falls.” “Why don’t they put an outrigger arrangement on this boat like they those kanalas do at Honolulu to keep it from turning over?” “Imagine the little Japanese saying their money is better than ours! Why I give him real money for this hand full of yens.” “Officer is it true that the banks in Japan all have Chinese cashiers?” “Well here we are! Do we have to tell these little fellows all about ourselvs, and what we got, and why?”
1For Ed Wynn see WA 555:N 3; for Jack Pearl see WA 555:N 2.
ALL ASHORE THAT’S GOING ASHORE!Well all I know is just what I read in the papers. Did I ever tell you about the time I sailed into the beautiful Pacific ocean? Well, pull up some pineapple crates there mates and I will tell you.
There had been quite an argument in the Rogers family as to the shape of the world. The Stanford sweater one, he is kinder the brains of the organizaion.1 He said the world was round. I contended that it was flat, the same as everything else now. Not being a horse connected in the argument in any way, the younger one took no interest at all. So we made a bet, and we says well we will sail into the setting sun, and we will keep sailing into the setting sun. And if we land back into Santa Monica the boy is right. But if we go “flat” before we get around, then I am right.
He was still in a military camp R.O.T.C. up at Monterey Cal. and dident get out for another week. Well the rest of us couldent wait. We had our tickets and were just walking up and down the platform, so the Mama, the other bohunk, and myself got the idea that we better get out now, or the studio would be liable to have some re-takes.
They then hadent shown the picture, and I figured it was better to escape before they did. There is nothing that can make a picture worse than re-takes. It’s generally bad enough the first time, and it’s better to let it go at that. Sometimes we retake scenes to what we call “Clear up a sitiation.” But it’s never know to the audience that we did it. It’s just as confusing to them as it would have been the in the first take. Then if it’s for the “Acting,” there is no use to re-take it for that. You can’t learn to act in that short a time. About the only thing you can do with a picture after you finished it is to run it, and then take out every third reel. That will do more to satisfy an audience than anything I know of. The third and the sixth reels are the ones they generally get muddled up over. But you get them out and you generably got a pretty clean fast running picture.
Irvin Cobb, who told us jokes during the making of the picture, none of which we could use, he was for taking out each second reel, but these newcomers in our business are always too drastic. They come out to revolutionize our business, and they just don’t understand that ours is a selected business, it requires a technique. Not only a technique but a lack of conscience. You got to treat your audiences rough, for that’s the way they treat you. You can’t coddle a movie audience, they don’t like it. You may not have known just what you were driving at in the picture, but they do. They are mighty wise nowadays. You can’t fool audiences nowadays. They like to take your picture apart, and the more things you can put in there that they can take apart, why the more talk it creates.
You see we take scenes where we go in one door and come out on the other side with another suit on. Or maby with our hat in our hand where it was on our heads, well we know that, but we do that to see if they are paying attention. Now if they don’t notice that, and we don’t get letters, why we know that they were asleep. Or that they dident go to the picture at all. But if we get letters, why that tickles us to death. We know that they are right with us. That they have seen the picture, and that they are awake, and following the story every minute. It shows that we got their interest.
An audience loves to pick out things, and I tell you it keeps us all worrying to get ’em little new things and ideas to pick out. Now take scenes where a horse has quite a lot to do. We may use five or six different horses in that picture. One to jump the fence, another that will open the gate, another than will make a wild run down hill. Another just for the close ups. But that don’t do a bit of good, an audience won’t pay a bit of attention to it, and won’t write us a single letter about it, till somebody conceived the idea of having one of horses white and the other black. Then they picked out a little thing like that right away. But that one was big and one was little never seem to interest ’em. They just sleep right through that. So it just keeps a director worried pretty near nuts to think up something subtle like that, that they will keep their minds on. I tell you this thing of trying to keep the world amused is a tough job.
And now that they are cleaning everything up so, it’s making it worse still. Now they won’t pay any attention to ’em at all, no matter how many mistakes we put in. I hope the whole thing clears up before I get back. In fact that’s why I sorter had to duck out was to let this morality wave kinder blow over. Will Hayes advised me to duck, for awhile.2 In fact Will was on the verge of ducking with me there for awhile. But he showed ’em that it wasent his fault. He was just a Presbyterian, and naturally he dident know what a Catholic or a Methodist might care to see or not to see.
Well anyhow it’s good to get away from it all for awhile. Maby they will get onto something else by the time I get back. We are a people that don’t stay with one thing very long. We stayed with the Republicans longer than we ever did with anybody else, but that taught us a lesson, and we will see that that don’t happen again. So here we go steaming into the beautiful Pacific ocean.
1Bill Rogers, the eldest son of Will and Betty Rogers, received an undergraduate degree from Stanford University.
2For Will H. Hays see WA 55:N 13.
ANCHORS AWEIGH SOME MOREWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see as I prowl hither and thither. Did I ever tell you about the time we steamed into the beautiful Pacific ocean? Well set down mates, draw up a coil of ropes to set on, and I will tell you. We had sailed out of Los Angeles Harbor.
Now mind you Los Angeles is a place that had no more harbor than Claremore, Oklahoma. But by golly they just went out and dug ’em a harbor. Houston Texas did the same thing. Amon Carter of Ft Worth has the most ambitious plan of any of the late harbor diggers.1 Ft Worth is several hundred miles from the nearest sea gull, but Amon wants to give Ft Worth the benefit of a tidal wave. They have had drouths, floods, bollweevils, cattle fever ticks, and were struck by two visits of Jim Furgeson, but they never have tasted salt water.2 It’s the only thing they havent tasted in a bottle.
But to get back to the Los Angeles Harbor. There was a town called San Pedro that had what might in a pintch, or a bad storm, be called a kind of an amateur harbor. They had stole it away from Santa Monica many years before, in a bit of political skullduggery, as Santa Monica was where it should have been located. So Los Angeles said to themselvs one day, “We ought to have a harbor.” Someone happened to think of this little place San Pedro having one, so they decided to take theirs. Now in most countries you would say as dear old Charlie Mack of the two Black Crows used to say, “You can’t do that.”3 You can’t just go out and take somebody’s harbor away from ’em in broad daylight.
Well you don’t know our town. They have a thing called “Annexation.” They don’t buy you, or borrow you, they just annex you. Well they just grabbed this San Pedro by the scuff of the neck one night, and when it woke up the next morning it had a big L. A. branded right on its left hip. And it was written on the minutes of the meeting as, “We annex you for harbor purposes.” And they commenced piling rocks out there, and the first thing you know they had quite a pile, but like everything in our fair land that wants to put over something, you show what a great thing it would be for the U. S. government if Los Angeles had a harbor. Well the government had never thought of that, but they had some Congressmen there reminding ’em of it. That’s what a Congressman or Senator is for, is to see that too much money don’t accumilate in the National Treasury. They said “We got a million people,” (old time figures) “we want a harbor.”
Now all the million had come in by land and was going out the same way, and a harbor had never entered their heads. In fact if it hadent been for reading about San Francisco’s we wouldent have known what one was. But we showed the government where they could anchor near the movie studios, where it would make it handy for the picture companies taking pictures, and by golly the government pitched in and helped ’em pile rocks. And you would be surprised, they got a rock corrall built away out like a cattle chute, so you won’t run past the harbor, like a wild steer will by the corral if the chute ain’t there.
And you would be surprised at the amount of stray ships they catch in that trap.
They “annexed” ’em a strip of land running down from the town of Los Angeles, so in going to their port, they wouldent have to be arrested for crossing some farmer’s barley fields. And by golly they got a thing there that looks kinder like a port to everybody but folks from Frisco. And it’s the thing we sailed out of, and by golly it’s not a bad thing to sail out of at that.
We steamed up by Santa Monica, where it should have been in the first place, (I don’t know if you have suspected the fact or not, but I live in Santa Monica). Mind you I am not predujiced, I am just fair. There is where the rocks should have been piled, and I would have given ’em to ’em off my ranch to pile too. Everywhere I go to pile one there is already one there.
Well the big strike had been on, and it was just in the first throes of being settled. Wait a minute I am wrong, I dident sail out of this harbor at all. I got a little afraid of it. I was afraid we couldn’t make it, so we drove down and when we found that the boat was going to go to San Francisco, why we just loaded the plunder on it and turned right around and beat it to Frisco, beat the boat I mean. Ever since they so cruelly robbed Santa Monica from having it, I have never used it. I am on what you would call a port or harbor strike. I won’t sail out of it till they move it to Santa Monica.
So I just drove 400 miles and used another harbor. That’s the best way to take a boat trip anyhow, is to load your baggage on and then get in car and go and meet it when it gets there. There would be fewer sea casualties if everybody did that. But we are building what they call a yacht harbor in Santa Monica. None of us living down there have a yacht. There is a good many horses and an awful lot of Fords, but not yacht in the village. But we hope in this “chute” we are building there to catch a few, for a fellow on a yacht never knows or cares where he is going anyhow. So he had just as well wind up in Santa Monica as anywhere else. If we ever get him in there, I think it will be so rough he won’t ever get out, and we will have him, so before long we hope to have more yachts for sale than we do fish. In fact there is more yachts for sale now than fish, and cheaper. And that’s how I sailed into the beautiful Pacific ocean.
1For Amon G. Carter see WA 547:N 2.
2James Edward “Jim” Ferguson, Democratic governor of Texas from 1915 until his impeachment and removal from office in 1917 for misappropriation of state funds and other misdeeds. He remained an important figure in Texas politics, strongly influencing the gubernatorial administrations of his wife, Miriam Amanda Wallace “Ma” Ferguson.
3Charles E. Mack, American entertainer; member of the vaudeville and motion-picture comedy team, “The Two Black Crows,” popular during the 1920s and early 1930s.
ROGERS AND ROOSEVELT IN HAWAIIWell all I know is just what I read in the papers. Did I ever tell you about the time I steamed into Honolulu Harbor? Well I been lying so much, I reckon I better tell you. It was in late July of the year 34. It seems that Mr Roosevelt picked that same time of the same year to go too. I don’t know what he was doing there. Well yes I do, he had really gone out there to see that wonderful place of ours. It is a kind of a freak place. By that I mean that there is nothing just like it anywhere. While it might at first suggest nothing but sunburn and surf boarding, ukaleles and cocanuts, when you really get ashore you find folks working.
We steamed in to that wonderful old harbor on an early Friday morning, in the S. S. Malolo of the Matson line. After a fine trip, lots of fun, good weather, and whoever said that ship rolled was some Communist propagandist. When they roll I am not above decks, and I was above decks all the time, so it certainly dident roll. I got a sea stomach that will roll just two jumps ahead of any ship. Well we steamed in and there was what they called “Diamond Head.” We have the diamond back, but the head is a mountain. It’s an old volcano that’s seen better days.
It’s like everything else nowadays, it’s laying off. This depression has hit those volcanoes too. And if you ever saw a sad looking sight it’s a volcano that’s been hit by a Republican depression. They just sorter sag in the middle, and all sides hang loose. Nothing going out, nothing going in. It’s a real depression. They say that the Army, or Navy, has sneaked in there and charged her innards with some 18 or 20 inch guns, and that while you can’t see ’em from the outside, they can see you. It was a fine morning and fine sight. Then we spied the President’s boat, the cruiser “Houston.” Named in honor of the chairman of the R.F.C.1 Then there was another one laying there by it, I forget its name. It was to carry three newspaper men who were on the trip. It was the biggest yacht that ever housed three men. All nice boys though and deserved it.
Then we pulled up by the dock and they start giving you those beautiful things around your neck called it’s pronounced lays, but I don’t know how it’s spelled. Then the wonderful Hawian band plays a great welcome to each steamer as they come in. There just ain’t nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. That is as far as I have been around in Oklahoma.
I got to my hotel and I had twenty-eight of those things around my neck, and they were all of a different, and wonderful fragrant breed of flowers. I thought they was all going to be paper ones like those Hawian bands use over home, and all yellow, but these are some of ’em made out of orchids. That’s running into a real wreath brother. Then up to the wonderful Royal Hawian Hotel. And look out of your windows right down onto the beautiful ocean, and Wikiki Beach. And guys coming in on surf board as easy as a politician can stand up on a Fourth of July picnic speaker’s stand. Right up above us and kinder over to one side on a balcony apartment was the President’s rooms. Had a lot of bathing suits hung out there. Made it look mighty ordinary and homelike. I don’t think he himself went in. But I bet he sure would have like too. He is a fine swimmer. I know the two boys were in, Franklyn and John.2 Then out to drive and see the city, and say it’s a real city. My wife had been there before, and you know how it is when somebody has already seen the picture, they start telling you the answers before they happen.
But she hadent exagerated it at all. I dident get mixed up in the ocean during the whole trip. Guess I am the only person ever went to Honolulu and dident take a whirl at the ocean. But I couldent ride one of those ironing boards with my stirrups hobbled. You know that racket is just mangy with skill. My kids tried it, but they come in a new way, they had the board riding them. It was standing up on end right on their necks. That night Mrs. Rogers and I were asked to have dinner with the President up in his apartment. There was a mighty jolly party of 10 or twelve. He was in great humor, and told us many diplomatic things, and many that wasent. He was simply overjoyed at the spirit, and prosperity of the islands, and the way they all got along there togeather the various nationalities.
That night for him was given one of the greatest and most novel parades ever given on American soil. It was called a Chinese and Japanese lantern parade. And it was unique. I tell you they do things right in these islands. Ah it would take me a year to tell you about ’. I went over to the big island and stayed three days where the big cattle ranchers are. Well they are on two of ’em. I was at both of ’em, but I will have to tell you about that some other time.
That’s a whole scenario in itself. I tell you the President knew something when he picked Honolulu to go on his vacation.
1For Jesse H. Jones see WA 567:N 8.
2Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., and John Aspinwall Roosevelt were the youngest of President Roosevelt’s sons. They were both attending Harvard University in 1934. Franklin later became an attorney and United States congressman, and John an investment banker.