Will Rogers’ Weekly Articles

6 January, 1935 - Current

Jan 6, 1935


Well, Xmas has passed. I was just thinking if there was some way to make the Christmas spirit continue during the other days of the year, why we would be the most happy and wonderful Nation on Earth. Gosh, if all of us that was able would just feed and do things for folks without waiting till Christmas. I think we mean well, but we just sorter got in our heads that about one day a year pays our obligations off, then we swell up and hide our Conscience till the next gift day comes along.

With all of our fact finding departments in our Government, and all our statistics gatherers, I believe you could increase generosity 100 to 1000 fold if there was some way of finding out just exactly the people that were in actual need throughout the country.

That is, I mean have the Government’s agents have some way of ascertaining through some system of offers, of work and records of what they had, and had not done, and then just list them by some of our various initial systems. Like for instance, I.N.B.A.W.W. I is for In, N is for Need, B is for But, A is for Absolutely, W is for Won’t, and W is for Work. “In Need but Absolutely Won’t Work.” Then cut them out from the other needy, and then you would have the names and addresses of all the people who really did need help, and the amount they needed per month.

You could find those nearest to you who were in want, and you would know they was in want, and you would know there was nothing they could do that would help themselves. I will bet you that every Community would be able to look after its own. Now, your system would have to work two ways. If you are going to pry into the business of the poor, to find that they actually needed help, you must pry into the affairs of the others and see what they were doing to relieve their neighbors. Your ability to help would be listed exactly as their needs.

You wouldent get much complaint if you knew that every dollar you gave reached a real case, and if you knew that your neighbors rich, well-to-do, and just ordinary salaried ones, were all contributing exactly in a graded amount, say like income tax. A certain per cent that must go to your unfortunate neighbors, and the quicker you can get them to working and off your list the better it is for you, then lack of employment would become everybody’s business, instead of like it is now just the business of the man who has lost his job. Of course when a case comes up where he won’t work he is shifted over to our Alphabetical Department, the I.N.B.A.W.W. Now the question arises what to do with these people. Well I am leaving them to last, and maybe I can think of something after while, but I can’t right now.

Now earlier I spoke of our Conscience. It’s one of the most individual things we have. It’s not like human nature, where they say “It’s all the same.” We got some mighty fine Consciences in this country, they prompt the owner, the owner acts. Then we got some other Consciences. While they are supposed to be Consciences, they are almost invisible. They may urge their owners, but they don’t seem to have any authority, so it’s those Consciences that my scheme is getting at. They maby, as I say, don’t act, and should be given a start.

Well there is a Government man, he is called C.A. (Conscience Assistor). Maybe your Conscience says you should help your neighbors $1,000 worth, but you can’t hear it. Well this C.A. (Conscience Assistor) he hears what you should hear, but won’t. He is also in communication with your finances, so in that way he is able to have the two act in harmony. In fact, without the aid of you whatever, it shouldn’t be much a job to find who is in need, and the degree that they are in need, and it shouldent be hard to find out what the exact proportionate amount of help that each of us should give to relieve that distress.

It’s paid exactly like taxes. That stops us from just being a Santa Clause on Christmas. You wear whiskers and bring presents every day in the year, instead of just one day. People wouldent mind giving if they absolutely knew that every person in the U. S. was giving exactly in proportion to them, and that every dollar given was to go to someone who needed it, and was not able to help themselves. It’s an unemployment tax in a way, then if everybody can hustle around and cut down the unemployment before next year’s contributions start, why the tax would be cut down in proportion.

Now we are getting down toward the end and I got to start doing something about I.N.B.A. Now statistics have proven that we always have a class of people that are looking for political or Government jobs. Now we could let them go, just tell ’em that they are not needed as political and Government job hunters any longer. They must take up something else. Then we put these (In Need but Absolutely Won’t Workers) in the P.L.F.G.J. (Perpetually Looking For Government Jobs) places, as they won’t work. Why they are the very fellows to apply for these jobs, for they are not going to get ’em anyhow, (none of these others ever got any), so in that way they fill in a vacancy in our scheme of life that seems to always exist, the (Perpetually Looking For Government Jobs).

But I would like to see the whole system tried. You might call the scheme “Conscience By Law” or “If You won’t be a Santa Clause, we will make one out of you.” Any such name would do.

I don’t believe any of us really know what our obligation is to our fellow man. That should be established, as I say you can’t go by Conscience for they vary too much. So, find the needy, and tax us exactly our proportionate share to keep them, and you won’t run up this tremendous National debt. We pay as we go, and if it’s not done fair and equal like this you won’t hear many kicks and those won’t be legitimate.

Jan 13, 1935


Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, and what I hear as I sit around on a moving picture set and argue about. We are still fighting the football game over. There is not a soul in the world that don’t think those Albanmians showed not only us, but themselves some football that they dident know they had in ’em.1 Stanford was a much better team than the score shows, but there is something about that Rose Bowl that just makes ’em do the wrong thing every time they get in there. They used to talk about deciding a game by the team that made the most number of first downs. Well Stanford in its three previous times in the Bowl had always made more than their opponents, and sure enough they did this time, but somebody told ’em they maby could pass. Well they could, but they couldent get anybody to catch ’em but Alabama, and that wasent a paying proposition. They could march down the field through the line and could have till yet, but they wanted to pass, and they did, right out of the picture.

I tell you those old Southern boys come here for the eggs, and they gathered ’em and went home. That Howell is a freak, and that old Hutson that caught ’em, he gathered ’em in like Rabbitt Maranville on an infield fly.2 It was a great team, and they beat a great team. Stanford is much better than they showed there. They are always better than they show in the Bowl.

Then too you see they made the first touchdown, and the coach must have felt pretty confident for he started pulling some of his main men out, and before he could get ’em back in, the horses had been stolen. But the arguments will go on into the winter.

Well football dropped out on January the first and the old Senate and House of Representatives met on the third, so we only had one day of no amusement. Mr Roosevelt delivered ’em a message that all the country had been waiting for, but the trouble with messages is conditions come along about a week or two after they are delivered and that almost makes the last messages null and void.

Things are sure rambling in this country now, and what’s radical today is stand pat tomorrow. Course there was lots of kicking on the message, and lots in favor of it. You see it’s getting hard to please all these fellows now. This enormous relief is running into big figures and they are all anxious to know how they are to be met.

Never a time in our lifetimes was money as scared as it is now. Even during the war when folks were asked to shovel it out they dident hesitate, but then they felt that they were able to keep on making it, but now there is a doubt, and they want to hang onto it as long as they can. We are getting two fairly well defined schools of thought on what is one’s obligation to another. Mr Roosevelt has a very liberal idea on the subject. He thinks that there has to be a more generous feeling toward those who are in need, and if it can’t be arrived at by persuasion, he will arrange some other way of making each meet their share. He has done a lot in his attitude to offset a communistic feeling, for if he did happen to lean to the more conservative element, there would be some justification of hollering for a more equal division, but with him doing all he can, and still keeping within the bounds of fairness to all, why he offsets the old red.

It’s going to be an interesting session of Congress. The question will be who is going to break over the traces. The Republicans are naturally going to dig in, and do all they can to save their old principles and theorys. Then there will be the plum locoed ones among the Democrats who will claim that Roosevelt has gone too far to the right. There will be a dozen factions, and there will be things where enough of ’em can unite to offset any of the President’s plans. He is not going to have any cinch, there is three or four hundred Democrats in there but there is two or three hundred kinds of ’em.

I am hoping to get back and see some of the games. I love to sit up there in that old Senate gallery and watch ’em down there on that ten yard line fighting to hold those seats.

Well we are living in a great age ain’t we? I think we are in for quite a few changes. I think you will see lots of folks offering to play ball and glad of it, that now think it’s their ball, so why should they have to furnish it.

1The University of Alabama defeated Stanford University, 29 to 13, in the Rose Bowl game in 1935.
2Millard Filmore “Dixie” Howell, football star at the University of Alabama from 1932 to 1934. Known as the “Human Howitzer,” Howell completed nine of twelve passes for 160 yards and one touchdown in the Rose Bowl.
Donald M. Huston, receiver for the University of Alabama foorball team from 1932 to 1934. Huston, whose speed earned him the nickname “Alabama Antelope,” caught six passes for 165 yards in the 1935 Rose Bowl.
Walter James Vincent “Rabbit” Maranville, shortstop whose major league baseball career began in 1914 and included stints with the Boston Braves from 1912 to 1920 and 1928 to 1935. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1954.

Jan 20, 1935


Well, all I know is just what I read in the papers or the mail. You get all kinds of letters and, say, if you think this thing of being in the Movies and in the papers is a cinch, you ought to read some of our mail sometimes, and what hurts is that most of the time they are about right. You know you really don’t know how silly you are till you have to read it awhile after it’s written.

But we are all that way, not only with the written word but with the spoken. If somebody had a dictaphone on us all the time and then we had to sit and listen to it all run off every night or every month, or every year, I bet that would break us from shooting off so much. We had a great illustration of that out here in California during the late election. This fellow Sinclair had written an awful lot of stuff in his life.1 Well, they would go back among his writings and reprint things that he had said. (Maby it was only one of the characters in one of his books that was made to say that thing, but as he was the author of it, why naturally he come in for the blame.)

Well that had an awful lot to do with beating him, for a lot of those things sounded mighty cuckoo, but on the other hand if he had had the means of publicity, that is the papers to do it with and had been able to have every one of the papers who printed what he said maby in ’98, and had been able to go back over their editorials and reprint what they had said, he would have had them hollering “Quit.” I sure would hate to be running for something and have somebody dig back through old papers and confront me with all the nutty things that I have shown my ignorance on.

You see, conditions and events change so fast that what is passable today is redicilous tomorrow. Look at Mr. Roosevelt. He started in with an idea of a balanced budget and said that was what he would hold out for. But look at the thing now. Conditions are different, and he dident know this thing was going to be among us so long. The NRA looked like a good bet at the time, but part of it, in fact maby over half of it, have proven to be non practical. It all had the right idea but we are still just too selfish to see that exactly the right thing is done for the good of everybody.

I doubt very much if Civilization (so called) helped generosity. I bet the old cave man would divide his raw meat with you as quick as one of us will ask a down and out to go in and have a meal with us. Those old boys or girls would rip off a wolf skin breech clout and give you half of it quicker than a Ph.D would slip you his umbrella. Civilization hasent done much but make you wash your teeth, and in those days eating and gnawing on bones and meat made tooth paste unnecessary.

Civilization has taught us to eat with a fork, but even now if nobody is around we use our fingers. In those days people fought for food and in self defense. Nowadays we have diplomats work on wars for years before arranging them. That’s so that when it’s over nobody will know what they were fighting for. We lost thousands and spent billions, and you could hand a sheet of paper to one million different people and tell ’em to write down what the last war was for, and the answers that will be alike will be “D_________ if I know.”

So that’s what you call Civilization. Civilization is nothing but acquiring comforts for ourselves, when in those days they were so hard they dident need ’em. We will strive to put in another bath, when maby our neighbors can’t even put in an extra loaf of bread.

No, our Civilization is not so hot. Poor Mr. Roosevelt has tried to right some of it. He couldent do it by persuasion and he can’t do it by law, so he may just have to give it up and say, “Boys I have tried to bring a little social justice to you all, but even the Constitution is against me, so back to the old times. Sick ’em Tige.”

Now all this ain’t what I started in to write about. I started to write about some woman writing me about paying for her divorce as she had a better offer, and I just drifted into this mess. But at that maby I wouldent be afraid to be confronted with it 20 or 30 years from now. Nothing would hurt me but my Conscience for living like a “Civilized Citizen.”

1For Upton B. Sinclair see WA 603:N 7.

Jan 27, 1935


Well all I know is just what I read in the paper and what I see here and there. Been on rather a kind of hurried prowl back east. I started in a week or so ago. I was to go east at 4 o’clock on the regular plane, and my good friend Jimmy Doolittle had asked me about a week previously if I dident want to ride east with him; that he was going to make a trip in a new plane, and so when I got to the field here was his plane.1

He was going to leave in one hour after our plane was. Well I did want to go with him. I knew he would really “burn oil,” but I was headed for South Bend, Ind., where I had promised to speak at Notre Dame’s annual football dinner, for my good friend the Coach, Elmer Layden, and Father O’Harra.2

Jimmy told me he would after landing in New York City fly me back to South Bend, but I figured that was kinder imposing on him, so I dident do it. I sure wish I had been on that trip. His wife was with him.3 I think they had it pretty cold and rough too, and I would have perhaps messed the whole thing up, so maybe it’s just as well I dident go. Jimmy is a great pilot, and I wouldent be afraid to go anywhere with him.

Well I went on and got to South Bend by regular air line, and they did have a great time, and a great dinner. I like that school. I always have. There is something genuine about it. They turn out some great men.

We had about 1,200 there in one of their big dining halls. Many an old boy in there that had played during his time under the great Rockne.4 My, what a heritage and tradition that man left. I had been a friend of his for many years.

I think this Elmer Layden is going to be a great coach for them. I tell you, he has the support of the whole school, and the whole alumni. In his first year he lost two or three games, but they dident do like lots of places, jump on him and yell for his scalp. They knew that he had made great progress, and were heart and soul to give him a chance, a real chance. He had ’em playing mighty smart ball when they played California out there last fall.

Did you know that school has no automobiles, no campus full of cars. There is books there. Oh it’s an odd college! Had some great speeches at the dinner that night. You know these Priests are smart fellows and a lot of humor. One old boy from, (I think he had charge of the charities in Cleveland, O.), well he was a knock-out. And Father O’Hara is an excellent talker.

I had to leave rather early to catch my plane. I was headed from there to Washington to attend the dinner given by the Vice Pres. to the President. I was there last year and we had a lot of fun, and the President said he had a lot of fun, and this year was just as good.

This little fellow Garner is a great fellow, and smart. Say I would rather have his opinion than anybody. He don’t say much, but he knows which way the wind is blowing every minute. They was all mussed up over the gold, but seemed to think that no matter how the decision was rendered that they had some schemes to fix it so it would get by.

There was only about 50 at the dinner. All the cabinet and their wives were there, none of the second string team were there that night, the ones they call the brain trusters. The brain trusters are not the cabinet; they are the advisers to the Cabinet. Don’t hear quite as much of that bunch as we used to, but they are still there and still cooking up medicine. This Supreme Court has kinder held them up. They had all kinder forgot about it, but now that they find that those nine old men with the kimonos on are really alive, why it’s got all Washington excited.

1For Jimmy Doolittle see WA 559:N 2.
2Elmer Francis Layden, head football coach at Notre Dame University from 1933 to 1940. Layden, a star running back at Notre Dame in the early 1920s, coached the Fighting Irish to a 47-13-3 record. John Francis O’Hara, American clergyman and educator; vice president of Notre Dame Univeristy from 1933 to 1934; president from 1934 to 1939.
3Doolittle was married to his childhood sweetheart, Josephine Daniels Doolittle.
4Knute Kenneth Rockne, head football coach at Notre Dame from 1918 to 1931. Personable and popular, Rockne compiled a remarkable 105-12-5 record at Notre Dame. He died in a plane crash in 1931.

Feb 3, 1935


Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see from here to hither. About ten days ago, Mrs Rogers and I were going into New York. (By train as the weather had me riding the rods about that time for several days.) It was late Sunday afternoon. We was coming from Washington D. C. I was going in to broadcast from there that Sunday evening. You see you got to kinder let ’em know a little in advance where you will be on these broadcasting Sundays so they can sorter make arrangements.

We hadent been in N. Y. in a good while. We had nothing to do but broadcast at seven thirty, and that gave us the evening to ourselves. We got into our hotel about six thirty. Dident intend to go and eat till after the wind jamming. Got to the studio, which was a real theatre, with an audience of three floors of people, and a big orchestra sitting on the stage.

Well I hadent any more than walked in the place till I was booked for a benefit performance, there was some kind of a combined charity broadcast by both companies, Columbia and National, for the musicians. It was to be around eleven, so I told ’em I would be glad to be there. Well then I come from my broadcasting and I hear of another show. It’s a big benefit for the Actors Fund, a fine charity ably sponsored for all these years by the beloved Daniel Frohman.1 Well I was tickled to death to go there. Here I havent been in town over 30 minutes and book myself two shows. You never get so old that somebody don’t want you at a benefit, and they have always got audiences too. I do know that N. Y. people are the most liberal and they always fill a house for a good cause.

You see, Sunday nights are the benefit nights on account of the actors being idle, and they can get the theatres for the show. First actor I met was Charles Winninger, who has become immortal as Uncle Andy of Zeigfeld’s “Show Boat” on stage and air.2 I was with Blanche Ring in a musical show called “The Wall Street Girl” twenty years ago when he and Blanche got married.

Well then out of the theatre and met an old cowpuncher friend, Charley Aldrich, who used to ride bucking horses in the stage show “The Roundup” with Macklyn Arbuckle starring.3 Then we went to an Italian Restaurant where we used to go and get the best food in the World, “Leones,” met the fine old Mother and the four sons. You eat so much you can’t do much but a short benefit afterwards.

Who should we run onto but Lillian Shaw, the stage’s best character singer.4 Played in vaudeville with her for years, and she was a star in my first musical show, one called “The Girl Rangers” at the Auditorium in Chicago. That was in 1907. Wow, 28 years ago! Lillian looked great. John Bunny the first movie comedian, was in that show.5 The chorus girls were all mounted on horses. (That is 12 of them were.) Reine Davis was the star.6 It was a beautiful show, but too expensive. Then who comes over to the table but Roscoe Turner, and we had to cross and recross India, Persia, Messopotamia, as I had flown that route too.7

Where do you think the Actors Fund Benefit was held? At the old Amsterdam Theatre, the one I had spent 10 years playing with the Follies in under the showman who will never be replaced, Flo Zeigfeld. Oh, what sentiment! What memories! Some of the same stage hands were there. Gee, if I had just have had as good a jokes as I used to have in those days! Saw Blanche Ring there. She did look great. And Elsie Janis.8 What a marvel, sing, dance, and imitate like no other human in America, and throw the rope better than me!

The grand dramatic actress, Charlotte Walker.9 All these people I am mentioning we have no one like them. There is no training ground. Where in America is there even a tenth grade Elsie Janis, a Blanche Ring, a Charley Winninger who could do anything ever done on a stage, every musical instrument, a dandy acrobat. No girl can sing those Jewish character songs like Lillian Shaw. And Charlotte Walker in the “Trail of the Lonesome Pine.” Saw Heyward Broun back stage, as fat, jolly, and amiable as ever.10 He must have thought of what those old days were.

Then over the broadcasting benefit. But as we walked out of the stage door or that old Amsterdam Theatre to a taxicab, we both had tears in our eyes. No Amsterdam Theatre, no Flo Zeigfeld. I would never have been as lucky, for no other manager in the world would have let me go my own way and do as I saw fit. At the broadcasting was dear Graham McNamee, who started it, and looks like he will finish it, even if it last a hundred years.11

And who do I hear is there of us old timers but Miss Geraldine Farrar.12 We worked for a year on the same movie lot for Sam Goldwyn in 1919.13 She was always a remarkable woman, the most pleasant, the most considerate, and the hardest working I ever saw in pictures. Now who can sing like her today?

Then we went up to see our dear friends the Fred Stone Family.14 Betty says, “They will be in bed.” I says, “The Stones are show people, they couldent sleep before midnight.” Fred has gone to Hollywood on a fine movie contract, and he will make a hit for he can do anything. Where on the American stage, radio or screen is there someone who compared with what he meant to the theatre? They don’t develop people like that anymore. They have no place to develop ’em.

Well as we were driving home mighty late for the Rogerses, Betty said, as we talked of each we had met that night, “Isn’t it a shame that not on our whole amusement fields have any of these a successor.” Everyone of them today can walk on a stage and show that when they learned their trade it was a profession and not an accident.

People who have spent a lifetime perfecting the art of entertaining people, then to have the whole stage profession snatched from under them, and ship your entertainment to you in can. Brave hearted people are theatrical people.

1Danial Frohman, American theatrical figure; manager of the Lyceum Theater in New York City from 1885 until his death in 1940.
2Charles Winninger, plump, ruddy-faced America stage and screen character actor, best-known for his portrayal of “Cap’n Andy Hawks” in Show Boat. He produced Wall Street Girl in 1912, which starred his soon-to-be-wife, Blanche Ring (see WA 597:N 5), and Will Rogers. For Flo Ziegfeld see WA 543:N 5.
3For Charley Aldrich see WA 625:N 5. Macklyn Arbuckle, Texas-born rodeo performer, vaudeville star, and motion-picture character actor. Arbuckle starred in the 1914 production of The County Chairman and appeared in other silent films through the 1920s.
4Lillian Shaw, American vaudeville performer and musical comedy star; entertainer on the Loew Circuit.
5John Bunny, American vaudeville and motion-picture actor; plump, popular comedy star for Vitagraph Pictures in the early 1910s. He died in 1915.
6Reine Davis, American vaudeville comedienne, dancer, and singer who usually had minor billing in theatrical productions.
7For Roscoe Turner see WA 559:N 2.
8Elsie Janis, American vaudeville performer, silent screen star, and motion-picture scriptwriter; known especially for her imitations of popular personalities, including Will Rogers.
9Charlotte Walker, American theatrical and motion-picture actress. A favorite of the stage, she also enjoyed a successful film career, appearing in Trail of the Lonesome Pine in 1916 and other well-known features.
10Heywood Campbell Broun, American newspaper columnist, author, and organized of the American Newspaper Guild; syndicated columnist for the Scripps-Howard newspapers from 1928 until his death in 1939.
11Graham McNamee, sports and general announcer for the National Broadcasting Company and one of the best-known broadcasters in the country.
12Geraldine Farrar, American operatic prima donna and motion-picture star. One of the first opera singers to enter films, she made fourteen pictures between 1915 and 1921.
13For Samuel Goldwyn see WA 540:N 4.
14For the Stone family see WA 597:N 15.