7 April, 1935 - 30 June, 1935
RACKETS IN HOLY LANDWell, all I know is just what I was reading in the newsprints, or what I see hither and yon. I was a setting around home a week or so ago, and it all at once dawned on me that Mrs. Rogers and Mary were coming in from a Mediterranian Cruise off the beautiful boat the “Rex” so I hops me a sky rattler and away I hies myself to N. Y. to meet ’em. They beat me to the hotel by an hour, and they have a lot of news to tell me of their trip. They been gone just one month but they have covered a lot of land and water. Gibralter, ports along the Riviera of France, ports in Italy, then across over in the Holy Land, Jerusalem, Palestine, Mount of Olives, Ninevah, Bethleham, and well maybe you have read the book.
They said that Jerusalem was pretty dirty, and that they worked the Great Shrine of our Savior as pretty much of a racket. That it took a lot away from the impressiveness of the place. But anyhow it was great, even if a lot of it was evidently faked. I circled the town in a plane one time, but I never was there. In fact I dident think you could land there, but Mama and Mary says they flew out of there to go to Cairo. They must have found an awful big flat rock to take off from.
They say Mr. Rockefeller has done a lot of fine work there, that he has built a great museum, and a Y.M.C.A. and a lot of things, and that there is a fine hotel there.1 But the Y.M.C.A. dident turn out so good on account of it having some sort of religious tinge to it, and that there was constantly an argument over it. Can you imagine our Savior dying for all of us, yet we have to argue over just whether he dident die for us personally, and not for you. Sometimes you wonder if His lessons of sacrifice and devotion was pretty near lost on a lot of us.
Well just think of being on such hallowed ground. I felt a thrill just flying over and circling it. Then she said they went to the Dead Sea, Galilee and River Jordan. Then imagine flying across into Egypt, where in Biblical times they were months and years marching out of. That was my trip too by air, but I was coming all the way from China on the plane I was on.
I only stayed one night in Cairo, and then flew to Athens, Greece, but they were there longer, and Mrs. Rogers flew up the Nile to Old King Tut’s Tomb. She said that was the greatest trip she had, that the Nile and its very fertile valley, and its surrounding desert was a great sight. Said they told her the King of Egypt owned a great many of the fine farms along the Nile.2 You remember away back in biblical times it tells of what they raised along the fertile valley of the Nile. She said there wasn’t much in the Tombs now, that most of the stuff had been removed, and was down in Cairo in the museum. But, on account of it being their Xmas, (it was then in March) the museum wasent open. People shouldent be allowed to have Xmas at a time like that.
She claimed the planes there are not so hot, in fact the one from Jerusalem to Cairo two days later than her trip went down and killed three. You know some day folks will realize that we have the greatest transportation systems in the world.
Well, to get back to their travel talk, they were to go from Egypt to Greece, but Greece was having their annual fry, so they landed at an Island of Italy’s and they are on the boat that picked up Venizealous, the old Premier and revolutionary leader of Greece who was fleeing to Italy.3 She said they had him and about 150 of his officers on board. No one was allowed to see ’em. Then of course, she and Mary had a lot of gabbing about Rome, Naples, and Genoa. She says that Mussolini is going to make Genoa the finest port in the world, that he is making all a new harbor and new buildings that you will see as you come in. She said all the Italians are very proud of their great boats, and all that has been done to make their country what it is. It’s very clean and all looks great.
It’s kinder as I heard a very learned American man one time say, “Dictatorship is the greatest form of Government there is, provided you have a good Dictator.” Well ours is doing better than a lot of folks think. They accept everything he does for ’em, but they don’t think he does enough. I got to get back over there some day and see what it’s all about.
1For John D. Rockefeller see WA 545:N 4.
2Fuad I, sultan of Egypt from 1917 to 1922 and king from 1922 until his death in 1936.
3Eleutherios Venizelos, Greek statesmen who served as premier five times, including in 1933. A leader of the opposition to the existing Greek government, Venizelos instigated an unsuccessful revolt in March 1935. He died in exile in 1936 at the age of seventy-one.
TO READ OR TO WRITE?
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see as I try to
look down through the wings of an aeroplane. If you want to see something
don’t go up in the air and try to see it. Just as you glimpse it, why the wing of
the plane will cover it and before the wing passes over it, it’s too far back to
see. I flew East and back here a couple of weeks ago and it was when the dust
storms were going, and in lots of places where the real dust storm was not operating, it was dark and looked like rain, and I said to my sister in Oklahoma,
it’s going to rain today, and she said, “No, it’s been this way for days and days.
It’s just the very fine dust that’s in the air.”1
THAT’S THE QUESTION!
I just been reading tonight some reviews. I have the autobiography but I haven’t had time to read it, but will, of John Hays Hammond, the great engineer, who has operated all over the world.2 He used to come out here to my place and we would talk South Africa. We would talk about the Jamieson raid.3 He was mixed up in it, and it’s what started the Boer War. He was down there before the war, and I got in just before the end. Not in the fighting. I was breaking horses, and at the close working with a little wild west show. (My very first show experience.)
He has had a great colorful career, has John Hays Hammond. Eighty years old the other day. I was going to send him a wire, but like everything else I am going to do, I forget it before the time comes. Like about ten days ago, Dorothy Stone my little partner in Fred’s show one time, why she opened here as the big star in “As Thousands Cheer,” and while I went myself, I plum for got to send either wire or flowers.4 Now I meant well, but I get off to talking to some old guy about the N.R.A. or some cowpuncher about who won the roping at Ft Worth at their big show, or maby knocking the ball around on the field, or roping at some old gentle calves that are trained to stick their heads in the loop. I get to doing all this foolishness, and plum forget to do what I ought to do. I sometimes wonder if the Lord is going to make the proper distinction between the fellow that means well, and the ones that does well. I don’t believe he will blackball us just because we don’t remember.
Now some people are so wonderful about things, and they remember, and they do and say just the right things at the right time. My desk right here before me now is piled higher than Jim Farley’s of letters from friends, and folks that should be my friends if I would show them the least courtesy of answering.5 But do you know I will keep putting it off. I carried some of them clear to N. Y. and back. Now I knew in my own heart darn well that I wasent going to sit down and write any letters while I was on the planes or in hotels, but I meant well. I intended to answer ’em, but I knew darn well I wasent going to. There ain’t a thing in the world to lay it onto but laziness. I could have quit talking and boring somebody long enough to answered a lot of them. I could have stayed up an hour or so later and answered another dozen or so, but no I was too darn lazy, and I get sleepy early, and then the darn reading. I want to read everything in the world that’s in a paper. No sporting writer ever wrote anything that I dident read it all.
Why you know what I do, and I bet you I am unique. I even read the editorials. Yes sir, now you can’t beat that for misselaneous reading. That’s what you call exploring in reading. Course I forget everything I read. I haven’t got any more memory than a billy goat, and I forget about nine tenths of what I read, and get the other tenth wrong. But it makes me think that I am sorter doing something when I am reading. Then too, I can fall to sleep and never drop a paper. My closest friend can’t tell when I am reading or sleeping. They are pretty near always wrong. They say, “You read a lot,” and I say, “No, I sleep a lot over my reading.” If they would just quit printing newspapers for about a year, I could get some books read, but by the time the daily papers are read I am sound asleep. They send me books, they autograph ’em to me, sometimes with some very kindly and much more than fair inscriptions, but do you know that I am that lazy and honery that I don’t acknowledge ’em.
Now that is terrible, but I just get out of it by letting the impression go around that I am just so busy that I haven’t the time. Well I haven’t got the time because I am out on a horse somewhere, or asleep somewhere. If it wasent for riding, and reading newspapers, and dozing off, I bet you I would be writing to more people than Mrs Roosevelt. Lord I would like to borrow that Lady’s energy for a month, and I would wind up with some friends instead of a lot of unintentionally made enemies. Now here lays all these important letters here tonight, and I could answer at least a tenth of ’em, but here comes the morning papers. (They come out the day before.) Now will I answer these letters and maintain my friends. No I will take the papers and go to bed, and go to sleep holding it out at arm’s length, the light burning, and the glasses on.
1For Sallie Rogers McSpadden see WA 606:N 1.
2John Hays Hammond, American mining engineer who engaged in several successful mining ventures in the United States and abroad from 1879 until his death in 1936. He worked in South Africa from 1893 to 1900.
3Leander Starr Jameson, Scottish physician and statesman in South Africa. Known as Doctor Jameson, he led a famous raid during the Boer War in South Africa.
4For Dorothy Stone see WA 574:N 4.
5For James A. Farley see WA 541:N 1.
LET’S SEE SOME MONEYWell all I know is just what I read in the papers or what I see here and there. California has just been having some more big rains. It’s the finest season there has been out here in years. Cattle are all hog fat, and a high price. Some parts are still having it tough, but I think it kinder equals up in the long run. It seems like the middle west has had a particular run of bad luck the last few years. They just went and plowed up so much of that country that should have been left to Buffalo grass. But you can’t blame ’em, for at that time things were high, and when you first plow it up it did turn out some fine prairie grass. And the funny thing, of all these seed companys, they just can’t seem to get the native seed that originally come from that place. It takes years to get an old plowed over field back from anything but weeds.
I just got a kind of a hunch that things are going to pick up all around. Everybody hollers about all this big new batch of money that is to be spent, but (in spite of what the Republicans and part of the Democrats say) he must know certain things by this time that will bring results. You can’t possibly spend that much money without giving a lot of people work, and you can’t give a lot of people work without them spending it. They can’t bury it, they have to spend it. The man they spend it with, the storekeeper and butcher, he has to spend it. It’s bound to have a beneficial effect all around, and the big ones that are hollering so, it’s bound to reach them, and fix them so they can pay higher income taxes.
I am like everybody else. I could sit down by the hour and tell of plans that has been tried in the last couple of years that haven’t worked, that have maybe not only looked foolish, but were foolish, but darn it all that criticism wouldn’t do any good. It would just add to the yell of the pack. It would be just another howl in the wilderness. I could sit down from now till morning and tell you what he should not have done, but if you give me five minutes continuous time, I couldn’t tell you what he should have done, and neither can any of the rest of ’em. They can view with alarm by the hour, but they can’t point with pride to something else for a minute. All they can say is “Let Business Alone.”
Well that all sounds fine and it looks like a good thing to do, and it would be a good thing to do, but it was done. It was already done. Mr. Hoover certainly let it alone, right during this same depression.
There was not one sign of a handicap put on it. There was no hollering about usurping the rights of the Constitution. The Constitution was agoing wide open, and business had the same leeway. Then what was the holler? All you have to do is remember back.
“Why don’t the Government do something?” “Why don’t they put out five billion dollars?” Don’t you remember the first five billion that we were hollering for the Government to spend? This is not the first time this sum of money has been asked for. It’s however the first time they ever got it.
But it’s no good going over old scores. The breaks have just been against us, the same as I said earlier the breaks have been against those poor ranchers that lived in the drought and sand storm districts. We are in a hole and we are just running around in there looking for somebody to lay it on. Big business wasent entirely responsible for getting us in there, and they are not going to be entirely responsible for getting us out as lots seem to think. They can help, naturally, for they are a tremendous influence.
I think this fellow Roosevelt saw that there was a lot of ills connected with the way businesses were run, and he started in with idealistic plans as to how they should be remedied, and he has found that any business won’t work with you when it’s not paying. He has persuaded, he has tried, but you can’t make you or I invest our money if we are afraid, and he has kept ’em afraid. But maby the minute that this gigantic expenditure starts showing some results business will join in with him, and that will assure the whole plan’s success.
We can talk all the politics we want, but business rises above politics in this country. The South has gone Republican, and the North has gone Democratic. Why, both have done it because it looked like there was money in it. (Let Roosevelt start showing some results with this new money, and it will have a lot of outside dough join it.) There is not a country in the world that can change our outlook as quick as we can. Just a dollar in our pocket makes a different man out of us. So let’s don’t thumbs down on this thing till we see, and the minute any of that dough commences reaching us, we are going to think it’s a pretty good plan.
WILLS ALL UP IN THE AIR
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see here and
there. As I was telling you last week, went over one night to one of our Beverly Hills school houses to hear Amelia Earhart tell of her exploits but she dident make it that way, she just talked so pleasantly about everything, and told
more splendid jokes about herself and who all she had been taken for in her
travels.1 Of course, anyone moving around as much as she does would naturally be taken for Elinor Roosevelt.
PRAISES AMELIA, POST
If there was a plane suffered a force landing on your farm and you saw a woman get out of it you would naturally think it was Mrs. Roosevelt. (By the way these last were not Amelia’s jokes; they are mine. You can pretty near tell that.)
Where she shines in her talks are after her regular routine is over. She asks anyone to ask questions, and do you know where the intelligent questions come from? They are from the young kids in the audience. “How many revolutions per minute do you generally fly your plane on hazardous trips?” “Will these landing islands they talk of in the ocean be practical?” “Do you fly by a radio beam, or by tuning in on some radio station and use it as your guide?” Grown people’s questions in comparison to those by older people.
“Do you think women’s place is in the air?” “Does your husband mind your flying?” “What would you do if you come down?” “I went up one time and got sick. What should I have done?” asked one woman. Amelia said, “What did you do? That’s what you should have done.”
I was tickled to death to hear her say that Frank Hawks was the first one to take her up.2 Frank is now making some big test flight in South America and I was glad to hear her say what a fine aviator she thought he was, for I had always thought so, and so do many, many flyers. If he gets a hold of the right plane you are liable to see him back breaking records again pretty soon. You got to have the equipment.
Wiley Post, just about king of ’em all, can’t break records getting to New York in a six-year old plane, no matter if he takes it up so high that he coasts in.3 Equipment and engines change too fast. That Winnie Mae should be right in that Washington museum along with all the other historic planes. It’s already done more than any plane in the world. Twice has it broken records clear around the world, broken altitude records. He has thrown off his wheels and has forced landings on his “belly.” (And she never breaks a thing. Six years; that’s the greatest advertisement for airplane safety the world has ever seen.)
So when Wiley gets ready to put her into the Smithsonian we all want to give him a hand. It’s his own plane, you know. That’s all he got out of two hazardous trips around the world with that old ship. Lord, last summer when the family and I were days and days and days by train crossing Siberia we would come to towns with great long names and they would remind us of places where we remembered Wiley landed at his crossing of Russia. All alone, couldn’t speak a word of Russian, land at a field, and he couldn’t tell ’em a thing in the world. What ever he wanted done in the way of some minor work on his ship he couldn’t tell ’em. He would have to do it when he hadn’t been asleep for a couple of days.
One place he wanted a drink of water. Said he never was as thirsty in his life, but they couldn’t understand, and from his motions and actions, they thought he wanted liquor, or vodka. Well they had the welfare of his trip at heart and wanted to do all they could. (And he says they were wonderful to him on both trips across there. They are great aviation enthusiasts, the Russians.) So he was sleeping out in a shed at the hangar, and they left a soldier on guard to watch him, and wake him for an early start. Well he was dying for a drink, and he kept making signs, and the soldier kept saying and motioning “No, no!”
He was trying to tell him that liquor would not be good for him. Finally the soldier seemed to get so mad he left, and must have been miles to town, but finally he come back with two quart bottles. Well vodka looks like water, and Wiley grabbed one and started in on it. Naturally thinking it was water and it was vodka, (the poor soldier had perhaps said to himself, well if you are going to holler for it all night I will give it to you). Wiley got up, warmed his plane up, (he didn’t have to take it out of any hangar, as the planes all stand out over there. Thousands of ’em in a field winter and summer with nothing but a canvas sheet over the engine) and took off, and flew 1800 miles on to another place, just to get a drink. I tell you I think the W.C.T.U. or some good temperance society ought to take that true story and make something out of it. Left two bottles of vodka and flew 1800 miles for a drink of water, and the Russian got sore naturally, after walking all that distance to get ’em for him. Course I guess Wiley was gone and the Russian got good settled down into about the second bottle he didn’t cuss Wiley so much. Course if it had been me I would have poured one bottle in my engine and the other in me, and I would have been in New York by sundown. That vodka really sends you places.
1Amelia Mary Earhart Putnam, American aviator who was the first woman to fly both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans alone. Known as Amelia Earhart, she was the wife of a pioneer American publisher.
2For Frank Hawks see WA 559:N 2.
3Post made several attempts in 1935 to set stratospheric altitude records. For the tests he flew the Winnie Mae, the same Lockheed Vega with which he set around-the-world records in 1931 and 1933.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO READWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I gather as I roll down hill and gather no moss. You know all these fellows that write continually and grow and grow instead of giving everybody a pain in the neck as I do. When I write something that don’t agree with ’em they throw me in the ash can and they don’t read me any more, and maby next week I might agree with ’em, but they don’t wait to see.
But it’s as I was saying before. Some other minor thought interrupted me. O. O. McIntyre, Irvin Cobb, Bugs Baer, and of course Mr Brisbane, they can just keep growing in popular favor, for they can write about anything, and they can make it marvelously readable.1 Bugs makes it funny, and when I say funny brother I mean funny. He has the queerest and most unique and original slant on humor than any man in the world. You know, darn it, that fellow is a marvel.
And Cobb of course has lived and outlived, wrote and outwrote all the men of his time. Humor, but humor combined with a great sense of human understanding. No “Nut” humor in Cobb. It’s based on years of reporting. And by the way the best reporter the old New York World ever had. And it’s based on years of mingling, studying, and getting next to all classes of people. I would rather have him on a movie story with me than any man I ever saw. He knows what to keep you from doing. It’s kinder like a good wife, that don’t “Yes” you all the time. They just tell you where you are not so hot.
Homer Croy who wrote “They Had To See Paris” is another that knows just what a character should do, and Owen Davis, the great playwright, (who has had more successes over a course of years than all of ’em) he knows character.2 There is lots of our stories where we do thing to get a laugh, but it’s not the thing that the real man who we are playing would do. Well that’s all not done by one man, it’s done by two or three men working with a director who can tell when a laugh is out of tune. Cobb, Croy, and Davis can do it.
Now this fellow Oh Oh McIntyre is a character, that same as one we play on the stage, but he is fortunate in knowing what to do himself. Nobody has to walk around and tell him. His readers picture him, they visualize him meeting these various celebrities. They see him walking among the out of the way places in New York. They know that they are getting an authentic picture of New York in all its phases. (And is read more than all the other N. Y. writers put together.) He can sit down at his desk and write a column about his typeriter ribbon not working, but darn it, that’s what’s happening. We don’t know one tenth of these people that drop in, or that he meets on the street, or at various parties. They are Eskimos to us, but by golly before we are finished we think we know ’em too. He likes to use big words, but he is sure to have enough little ones in there, so us dumb ones don’t lose out entirely. And he is liable to run you to the dictionary, (he never did me for I haven’t got any. I imagine you had guessed that by now).
That brings us to my older friend, Mr Brisbane, the daddy of all of ’em. A man I expect with more talents than any man in the newspaper game. A great judge of what millions of people want to read. If a newspaper is bogged down in quick sand, or if it has the heeves, Mr Hearst sends old Doc Brisbane there.3 He operates. The patient not only recovers, but thrives. No other writer in America can do that. They can write, but when they have finished writing then they are through. They may know how to write their editorial, or column, but they don’t know what should be in the 50 or 100 columns.
For instance if I was running a paper, I would have it all messed up with cowboy stories, Jiggs and Maggie, and Rube Goldberg.4 And Yes don’t forget this fellow called J. R. Williams, that makes those marvelous cartoons called “Out Our Way.”5 He is a real cowhand and has a real ranch over in Arizona.
But to get back to the subject of my original oration, Mr Brisbane knows an awful lot about a lot of things. I dident know what caused earthquakes in Japan till away last week when he told it. They are on the edge of a tremendously deep deep canyon in the ocean, and it’s the land slipping off in this canyon. Now that makes sense and it’s plain ain’t it? Well that’s what he writes. They are fortunate men that can do that. I am always kidding about something the Democrats did to the Republican, and then I got the Republicans on my back, then I will sing a praise of some Republican uprising, and I will have all the Democrats down on me. My junk is always controversial. That’s all because I haven’t got the range of knowledge, the background of reading, the literary foundation. There is just so much you can say in praise, or in reprimand of our Government. And when I just keep saying it over and over again, it don’t stand up like these other boys, and don’t I know it.
1For O. O. McIntyre see WA 566:N 5; for Bugs Baer see WA 566:N 4; for Arthur Brisbane see WA 534:N 3.
2Homer Croy, American novelist and screen writer, best known for his humorously warm portrayals of small-town America. His book, They Had to See Paris (1926), was produced in New York City as a musical comedy and then in 1929 as a motion picture, Rogers’ first film with sound. Owen Davis, American playwright and scenarist who wrote more than 150 melodramas that were adapted for the screen; Pulitzer Prize winner in 1923.
3For William Randolph Hearst see WA 596:N 3. Brisbane was a leading columnist for Hearst newspapers and a prominent business partner of the publishing magnate.
4“Jiggs” and “Maggie” were comic-strip characters. Reuben Lucius “Rube” Goldberg, American cartoonist who created the comic strips “Boob McNutt” and “Lala Palooza”; winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1948.
5James Roberts Williams, Canadian-born American syndicated cartoonist from 1922 until his death in 1957. His famous comic strip, “Out Our Way,” chronicled small-town, lower-middle-class American families.
ALL ABOUT HORSESWell all I know is just what I read in the papers. That is generally all I know, but I haven’t been reading ’em so much lately. I been busy on a movie. It’s called In Old Kentucky.1 It was one of the most famous old plays of our young days. I never was fortunate enough to see it, but I heard a lot about it. It was written by Mr. Dazey.2 He has a son Frank Dazey that’s a fine scenario writer, and also his wife is a dandy scenario writer.3 She is called Agnes Johnson.
When our youngest kid Jimmy was about 12 he used to play polo. He had a couple of little old ponies, and he played quite a bit with the women, and Agnes Johnson played, and Jim had heard all the other women call her “Aggie” so he used to holler, “Leave it Aggie, leave it Aggie.”
My wife told him he shouldent call a Lady by her first or nick name. Jim said “Well when you are going so fast and you want her to leave the ball, you haven’t got time to say a lot of names. I can’t holler leave it Mrs. Agnes Johnson Dazey. The game would be over by then.”
Well I got to get back to Old Kentucky. Of course I don’t know how much our picture will be like the original Old Kentucky play. Anyhow we are having a lot of fun making it. We are working out at a fine stock ranch owned by Mr. Carleton Burke, the head of California’s racing commission.4 He and his Commission are the ones that kept racing on such a high plane out here and it was such a success. He breeds some very fine horses he and Mr. Neil McCarty, one of Los Angeles’ most prominent attorneys.5
You know this horse breeding and raising has become a great fad not only out here, but all over the country. Never was the horse so popular as now. Well I have just been up there playing with those beautiful young thoroughbred colts, and their mothers who had raced on famous tracks and some had made great records and won many thousands of dollars. This McCarty is a nut on breeding strains, and remembering who’s pap was who.
You know England is great for that. I was out one day at a big English estate for lunch, and more women than men, and for once in my life I never got to say a word. All the whole talk was “Sires, damms, gets, foals, and this strain couldent go the distance, and that strain was a big sluggish.” Not a word about the Republicans or the Democrats and I couldent get in a word edgewise.
But say those English sure do know breeding, of horses and dogs. But there is nothing nicer than the raising of a nice animal of any description. Those great racing stock farms out from Lexington Kentucky are the greatest sight in America. See Old Man of War out there with a skin of golden chestnut that glistens like gold in the sun, and the old darky that takes care of him has a monologue that goes just like one of these tourist guides.6 He can’t stop until he is finished the whole thing. See some old sleepy looking sway back mare with a colt tugging at her, and maby five years ago 50 thousand people were standing hollering her name.
It must be a great thrill to breed a horse yourself and then have them win a race, like the Kentucky Derby or the Santa Anita Handicap.
You know in the Argentine they have some very fine horses, and among the wealthy polo players, it is almost considered a disgrace to ride a horse in your string that you did not breed yourself. They all have big ranches out from Buenos Aires and they break them in working them after cattle, so they are really cow ponies, but thoroughbreds. Averll Harriman in this country breeds this string and some others but not so many.7
Thoroughbreds are a very nervous, nutty lot. I like an old gentle, kind of dopey horse, that is I mean, to ride around and mess about on. I want one you kinder got to work your passage on and kinder nudge him in the stomach at every step. We have a lot of pretty steep mountain trails out here and they are plenty narrow and steep sometimes, and there is a lot of difference in the way different horses negotiate ’em.
Say by the way I was working again this year when that Kentucky Derby came off. I have never been able to make that race yet. I am always working when that race is run. It must be a great sight.
I saw the English Derby one time, I think it was 1906 and a horse named Spearmint (I think it was) won it, but I wasent chewing much gum then and dident bet on him. I also in 1903 saw the Melbourne Cup Race run in Melbourne, Australia. We were showing there with Wirth Brothers Circus. I think there was forty five starters, run on a grass track and they run the opposite way. It comes pretty near being as great a race as there is in the World. Those people out there just bet everything in the world on that race, and the forty five horses all finished within four lengths of each other with six overlapping the winner. Boy there was a horse race, and they have ’em that good every year.
1In Old Kentucky was released in September 1935 shortly after Rogers’ death. It was filmed before but released after Steamboat Round the Bend.
2Charles Turner Dazey, American dramatist, scenarist, and author. Dazey, who began his composition work in 1880, counted among his works The Stranger, Manhattan Madness, and In Old Kentucky.
3Frank Mitchell Dazey, American author and screen writer; son of Charles T. Dazey. Shortly after graduating from college, Dazey adapted Manhattan Madness for the screen. He followed this success with several others, many of them in collaboration with his wife, Agnes Christine Johnston Dazey.
4For Carleton F. Burke see WA 558:N 7.
5Neil Steere McCarthy, millionaire Los Angeles attorney and sportsman; international polo player and owner of a leading horse racing stable.
6Man O’ War, American-bred race horse which won twenty of twenty-one races and set five American track records during a short career in 1919 to 1920.
7William Averell Harriman, American railroad officer for the NRA from 1934 to 1935; ambassador to Russia from 1943 to 1946.
NO DEGREES FOR WILLWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what people tell me they heard over the radio, as I never hear it. I don’t dislike it. In fact I like it, but I just never think of it. It’s a habit and a good one, but you got to acquire it and keep it up. But you can keep mighty well informed by just listening to it.
Opening up a lot of mail here, some of it turned almost yellow. Haven’t got any idea answering any of it, but I do look through it sometimes. I wrote an article here not long ago admitting that I dident answer things, but it dident seem to have much effect. They just kept right on. I think they thought I was kidding. I was kidding on the level.
One night on the radio I was yapping about all these people who are criticizing Mr. Roosevelt and saying he was spending too much money, yet admitting that the Government was the only one who was spending money, and that if that was the case that everybody that was making any must be indebted to the President for making it, for it was evidently relief money that we were in a round about way getting, and that a person to really be consistent, he should refuse to take any of it, that is if he was so critical of the Government policies.
Well there was a little too much truth for that to set very good, I guess I brought it out a little too crude and bare faced, folks don’t like to be told they are living off the Government, but that’s about what we are all doing. But among the letters were some which said, “Will should stick to his comedy. He knows nothing about economics.” Every time you write something that don’t agree with somebody they write that you should not venture in fields where you know nothing, that you are funny in a way but stay on things that are funny.
But they are not by any means all like that, I mean the letters I get. Now when I said all this that I am telling you here about taking Government money about a dozen people sent me the following article. It’s from Fort Gay, West Virginia.
“Mose Maynard, 84 years old, and his wife, 90, a widowed daughter and four children are living in a cave. They were removed to a house in town and given government relief. $3.50 a week for food was supplied them, but they went back to the hills. Said he wouldent live on Government money, they always lived without it, and they would continue it.”
Yes, but we haven’t got enough with that spirit. We talk more independence than we practice. Here is an interesting letter from an old friend of mine, Harry Oliver.1 He was art director for our movie company. That’s the man that arranges all the “Sets.” That’s the houses and scenes that we shoot. Well, he is quite a desert rat, and has a place away out on the desert, and he is head of the big amusement place called Gold Gulch at the big San Diego Exposition, which you don’t want to miss. It’s going to be a big fair. He is putting on a “Mule Swearing Contest.” That is its prizes for the man that can cuss a mule the best, or worst. They are importing real Missouri mules. He has a lazy dog contest, where there is handsome prizes for the laziest dog, including the owner.
Then he has a special contest just for residents from Florida who can tell the biggest lie about California (or mabe it won’t be a lie but the Californians will call it a lie). I can’t imagine what it would be if it was a lie. California is a hard state to lie about.
Now here is a nice letter from a college, the President of it. He wanted to give me a degree, said they had given the Cabinet, the Supreme Court and leading Industrialists, degrees, and had been hooded and gowned. I have this same play come up a time or two and I think these guys are kidding. If they are not they ought to be. This fellow kept an awful straight face in his letters to me, and I believe he meant well, but here is where the catch is. None of ’em know what to call the Degree. Hamilton College down in Florida had some pretty good name but it dident seem to have much to do with me. I forgot what this one was going to name me “Dr.” of. I will take one for “Applesauce,” I would take one for hooey, but they would say I was too close to Huey.
Degrees have lost prestige enough as it is, without handing ’em around to second hand comedians, and it’s this handing ’em out too promiscuously that has helped to cheapen ’em. Let a guy get in there and battle four years if he wants one, and don’t give him one just because he happens to hold a good job in Washington, or manufacturers more monkey wrenches than anybody else, or because he might be fool enough to make people laugh. Keep ’em just for those kids that have worked hard for ’em. Keep ’em believing in ’em. They are stepping out in the world with nothing but that sheet of paper. That’s all they got; our civilization don’t offer ’em anything else. We offer him nothing. He steps into a world not of his making, so let’s at least don’t belittle his badge.
1Harry Oliver, veteran Hollywood set designer who received Academy Award nominations for interior decoration in 1928 for Seventh Heaven and in 1929 for Street Angel.
KNOW YOUR POST OFFICEWell all I know is just what I read in the mail. The other day I wrote some little gag, and it mentioned Will H. Hays when he was Postmaster General.1 Well Sir, I got the nicest long letter from him, and he paid the present Postmaster General a fine compliment, and the thing that was so interesting and so astonishing to me was just what a big thing this Post Office business is. Will quoted all the following statistics on it. And he is mighty proud of it.
He says, the last year I was down there in every single hour of the 24, one million four hundred thousand letters were mailed. In every day 33 million. Fourteen billion postage stamps. One billion two hundred fifty million post cards were sold and over two billion stamped envelopes. There is 326,000 postal workers serving our 110 million people. 43,000 rural mail carriers serving seven million families. The P. O. use 800,000 miles (not yards) of twine just to tie packages of letters, enough to circle the earth 32 times. 6,500,000 pounds of paper are used to manufacture post cards, debts totalling one billion five hundred million are paid through the Post Office money order department. There are five hundred thousand depositors on Postal Savings. A larger number than in any other banking institution in the world, and 75 per cent are of foreign extraction. Sixty-five million mail sacks are in use all the time, and it takes six million yards of canvas every year just to replenish the supply. There is twice as much business done in the Post Office of New York City alone as in the whole of the great Dominion of Canada.
An average of more than 250,000 letters every day in New York City are re-addressed from City directories. Nineteen million letters every year go to the dead letter office because of carelessness of the writers, all charged to the taxpayer. If that alone was rectified it would do away with the Post Office deficit. The Parcel Post is the greatest express company in the world, and handles more than two billion five hundred million packages.
All the above is Hays speaking, but from statistics of that time, and he goes on to say, “Now, Will, all this sounds like Ripley, believe it or Not, but honestly it’s a swell business and a great business.2 It’s the biggest distinctive business in the world, and comes nearer to the innermost interests of a greater number of people than any other institution on earth. It makes thousands of scattered communities into a state, it makes all states into a nation. Without it, business would languish in a day, and be at a standstill in a week, public opinion would die of dry rot. I will never cease to appreciate the relation of that figure in gray to the daily lives on our whole 110,000,000 people. He is a part of the vast business which can be tabulated in terms of actual turnover and number of employees and curves of profit and loss like any other business, but which is never the less the strangest, most human and most romantic business in which men were ever engaged. Now that I have got that off my chest, I remember Will, that I don’t have to sell the Post Office Department to you. I shall never forget the talk we had, after you had just told those Army mail pilots good-bye in Salt Lake City.”
Well that whole thing was so darn interesting that I am using it. By golly I had no idea it was so big. We take it as a matter of fact. It seems to be the one department in Washington with no press agent, so there may be lots of folks that was as dumb as I was on its hugeness. The thing that makes it important is the fact that it’s always pointed out as an example that the government can’t run business. They say look at the deficit. Sure there is a deficit, and it’s a deficit because of a well-organized minority against allowing the government to charge what it costs to carry certain types of mail. Any other business could raise their rate. But no, not the post office. It must continue at a loss on everybody, because the great users of the mail, which are few in number (compared to the whole population), won’t allow the rate to be raised.
It’s the most competent business in the world, the costs are lower. No, sir, the Post Office is just the opposite of what it’s pointed out to be by a lot of folks. It proves that the government can run something. Turn it over to private enterprise and see what your costs are, and what your service is compared to what it is now. I am not for government ownership in a lot of things, but I don’t believe in lying about a thing, and misrepresenting facts, just to try and prove that the government can’t run anything.
1Hays (see WA 555:N 13) served as postmaster general of the United States from 1921 to 1922. James A. Farley (see WA 541:N 1) served as postmaster general in 1935.
2Robert LeRoy Ripley, American cartoonist; creator in 1918 of the newspaper series “Believe It or Not,” a popular, illustrated feature that highlighted unusual facts and feats.
RECALLING THE DAYS OF TEDDY,
Well all I know is just what I read in the papers or what I see here and
there. Couple of weeks ago we were up on the Sacramento River making a
movie with Irvin Cobb and director Jack Ford, (who directed “Judge Priest”).
We had a fine time. They are great folks up around there. Well they are nice
folks everywhere. Their Legislature was in session, and they had just stayed
their 100 days, that’s all they are paid for, and it was pretty tough on the old
boys at that, to stay there and not get paid, so from then all they got was
cussing. Before, they got paid and cussing combined, but they eliminated the
THE COW PONY
Well sir I had a happy experience. I knew he was up there somewhere, I dident know just where, as I hear from him every little while, but I hadent seen him in years, that was Buck McKee.1 Buck McKee was the cowboy that used to work with me in a vaudeville act and rode the horse, or little cowpony rather, Teddy. He trained in the pony for the stage. He wasent any trick pony, he just worked on a smooth board stage, with felt bottom boots bucked on his feet like goloshes, and run for my fancy roping catches. But Buck trained him to do on a slick stage just about what a good turning cowpony can do on the ground.
We started the act in the spring of 1905, just exactly 30 years to a week from when I met Buck up in Sacramento. He was with me for I think it was four or five years. We made two trips to Europe togeather. We went over just one year after I had opened on the stage. That was in the spring of 1906. We went to the Winter Garden Theatre in Berlin, that was the Premier Vaudeville Theatre of all Europe. We played there a month. The act was quite a novelty, as it was the first one to ever use a running horse to be lassoed at on the stage. Buck was, (and is) a great fellow, very efficient, and can do almost anything and the best thing is that everybody liked him. I never meet an old time actor that we used to play with in vaudeville that don’t ask about, “Where is that fellow Buck McKee that was with you so long that used to ride Teddy?”
Well he is at Roseville Cal., a beautiful little town about 20 miles out of Sacramento toward Reno, Nev. He still is handling horses, the thing he does best in the world. He runs a riding academy about two miles out of town at the “Whipple Ranch,” has been there 12 years. Everybody knows and likes him as usual. His wife Maudy is with him. She was a dancer in a vaudeville act that we played on the bill with. They fell in love and were married, and she has developed into a splendid horsewoman, and they are excellant teachers and they have learned many young and old people both to ride, and ride correctly, and above all they are so good to their horses, lots of patience, and real love for a horse. He was breaking in some lovely young horses, making gaited horses out of them. He has a fine thoroughbred stallion, and is raising a few young ones himself. It was good to see ’em.
I went out to their little ranch, then the next day they come over on the river to where we were working and met Cobb and Ford and all our folks, also Leonard Trainer, an old Oklahoma Cherokee cowpuncher who had worked with Buck in the Pawnee Bill Show away back ahead of when I met him.2 Leonard comes from my country and lived in Chelsea. We had a great old time fan fest.
We come back from Berlin to London and played the Palace Theatre there, then we went back to London in 1908. We played in that very Sacramento in the hot summer of 1907 on what was called the Sullivan and Considine Circuit.3 J.C. Nugent the splendid actor and playwright, with all his talented family was on the bill and Billy Hanlon’s was our hang out.4 He is now the proprietor of the big and fine Senator Hotel in Sacramento. We just stood and looked at each other that day, Buck and I. Here thirty years ago we had stepped on the stage togeather, only he was on horseback. He always said, “I can get away if anything happens, but the audience can get you.” Those were great old days, (but darn it any old days are great old days. Even the tough ones, after they are over, you can look back on with great memorys).
I was married too in 1908. And sometimes the salary wasent any too big to ship Buck and his wife and Teddy, and my wife and self, to the next town. In fact I think Buck rode some of the short jumps. It was great fun, not a worry. I regret the loss of vaudeville more than any part of it. It was the greatest form of entertainment ever conceived. Nothing in the world ever give the satisfaction of a good vaudeville show. We was mighty proud to be playing in it. It had class in those days. Buck looks fine, no older, and of course I am just practically a babe in arms yet. But I just knew lots of old friends and old timers would want to know about Buck. Roseville, Cal. will catch him. Speaking of catching him, I bet he has been roped, (and missed too) more times than any man in the world. He did look great when he come charging in on that stage with that beautiful little brown pony. Well old timers talk too much so I must shut up.
1For Buck McKee see WA 563:N 6.
2Leonard Edward Trainer became a lifelong friend of Rogers and acted as a stand-in in some of his films.
3Timothy Daniel “Big Tim” Sullivan, New York City saloonkeeper and Tammany Hall politician until his retirement in 1910. John William Considine, American theater owner. He and Sullivan formed a partnership in 1901 to develop a chain of popularly-priced vaudeville theaters that eventually extended to all principal American and Canadian cities.
4John Charles Nugent, American vaudeville performer and motion-picture character actor. Nugent and his wife, son, and daughter comprised one of the most popular family acts in vaudeville.
William Harold “Billy” Hanlon, Sr., Sacramento hotel proprietor and manager; California state boxing commissioner. For many years he owned and operated Hanlon’s, a well-known café that was a favorite gathering place for actors, politicians, pugilists, and journalists.
THE BROAD HIGHWAYAll I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I get in the mail. Now they are spending a world of money. Here is a fellow with a pretty good idea. He is Mr. Samuel Tait of Philadelphia. “Take a giant highway, starting from the center of the United States going east and west, and run it exactly straight. Have it containing six lanes going east and six west, with grass plots separating them so that in future years if depression got over and you needed more lanes, why put in 12 each way. The side roads to be used for trucks. Along side of this there would be another strip of perhaps a quarter mile that could be used for aeroplane landings, and along side of this an up-to-date railroad for high-speed trains. It could be built under a concession plan. The whole thing would be about a mile wide, but the government would purchase a strip three miles wide, so that would leave them owning a mile additional each side that they could sell and pay for the whole thing. Each state builds its own portion, but all under government supervision.” (Supreme Court permitting.)
The whole idea sounds pretty good at that. Run it straight regardless of cities or Chambers of Commerce influence. If it should happen to go through Kansas City, instead of Claremore, Okla., (as it should) why don’t make any concession on Claremore’s account, just let it go ahead. Then I would add to Mr. Tait’s plan, a horse back trail, and a wagon road. There is an awful lot of horseback riding nowadays, if you have good camping grounds and water a lot of folks would ride across. Then a bicycle trail, then a roller skate road. That and bicycles could be combined. If the government wasent so upset over reverses I would get after this with ’em, but the poor Democratic party just don’t know what to do. I expect they kinder feel like they would like to have a highway out of Washington. Think of the grade crossing they could build across a thing like that.
Now here is a lovely letter written by a very fine type of real American pioneer. She gives the other side of the government loaning and dealing. “After reading one of your articles about sheep and cattle I know you was joking about the sheep folks and know that you really like ’em, so if you will listen to a female of the specie I will give you the low down on the sheep business. We got a government loan from the R. A. C. C. I thought I was fortunate in getting a federal loan, but we had to list all our sheep, horses, cows, in fact everything we owned, just to get a loan on the sheep, and when the mortgage come the cows, (about 15 head) were included. We signed it, we thought the government intended to help the sheep men (or women). The first year on account of poor prices of wool and lambs, we dident break even. I sent every cent I got for both, off to the R. A. C. C. We made out a budget as to our bare needs, and the government sends us the money by the month.
“Now then last year they added the horses and the camp equipment to the mortgage. Last year we were offered 30 cents for our wool but were not permitted to sell. I have a small herd of 600, but that would have netted me 700 dollars. I could have paid that on my mortgage cutting it down 700 dollars and saving interest on that much. But we were forced to consign and paid freight, and are paying insurance, commission, grading, trucking and storage while it is being sold slowly in Boston, for 7 to 23 cents. We will lose over a third of what we could have got. The R. A. C. C. sent us application blanks in October. I filled ’em out and returned ’em, and they informed me to cut my budget. I did, and was forced to go out and take a hand myself, and worked in the lambing sheds.
“After taxes, insurance, interest and shearing was paid it left just 25 dollars a month to live on, less than some on the dole get, and raise nothing. The last paper included a mortgage on the home. I have been working for 18 to 20 hours a day. My 17-year-old boy works the same. Why does the government make slaves out of some of us and loafers out of others. We have neighbors on relief who have the very best ranches, and boast they don’t work. You won’t be accused of helping the sheep man, that just isn’t being done, but don’t hit him too hard. I have spent over an hour of my precious four hours in bed writing to you, but I had to tell some one and I just picked on you for the victim.”
The lady come from a little place in Idaho, and it shows you that Bill Borah comes from a pretty good stock. There is nothing as determined as a woman that carries on, and there is millions of ’em. But the government has tried to do something and has, it’s saved a many of ’em. I expect it would have been twice as bad under private debt and mortgage. But I did like the spirit of this woman.
HOW PICTURES REALLY ARE MADEWell all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I kinder eve drop around and hear. We are back at the Studio working on the picture after being away on location up around Sacramento, Cal.1
We had a lot of fun on steamboats up there. We had two or three rented and lived right on the boats. Had a big steamboat race. Irvin Cobb was the captain of one and me of the other. Cobb really knew something about a boat, but I am not part of a boat man, either ocean or river, although I would take the river first. I am the champion sea sick guy of this or any range. I am getting a little better though than I used to in my early days of ocean traveling. It’s all nerve you know and I am as yellow as a small pox flag. I give up and off to the hay I go.
But to get back to rivers, this Sacramento River that we were working on is a pretty big river. Well nothing like the Mississippi (but what is?) or even the Ohio. In fact Irvin said it’s about half the size of the Tennessee. I don’t know nothing but the Verdigris, (that last four letters gris, is prounced gree) Verdigree. It’s a pretty big river. It has to be to furnish Claremore with its water supply, and have any left over. I was born right on her, about a quarter of a mile away. She is steep banks, and muddy and boggy, and you can’t cross it only at fords. This Sacramento and another river that run into it right where we was working, the American River, that was the river where they first found the gold in Cal.
And say, the gold thing is a-booming around up there now, and all over California. There has been a pretty big strike up here in the desert at Mohave. The high price of gold is what has caused ’em to get out and dig again. It’s a railroad division point. I like to go to those little mining towns.
One time out here in the old silent day pictures, it was in 1919, we made about three pictures up at a place near Mohave, Calledarndsburg. It has a big old mine, and Irene Rich was with us.2 She was just a breaking in as a leading lady. She is a big radio star now. In those days I was one of the love interest. (Nowadays I just have to fix it for some young ones. They won’t let me have anything to do with it personally. I guess it’s just as well, I never was so hot as a screen lover.) But in those days your age never mattered. Audiences figured that old people fell in love too, but now that’s all out.
Modern audiences think that old folks are just to be the fathers and mothers of the young ones. And too in one of those same pictures was Margaret Livingston, who is now Paul Whiteman’s wife.3 She is the one that made him quit eating so much. The way she did it she would let him order whatever he wanted and then she had a string tied to it and she would pull it away from him, and he got thin grabbing at it. I was one time to rescue her out of the water.
Well we had to go another two hundred miles to find a stream. You know this water thing out here ain’t just water, it’s gold. Well I was supposed to swim in on a horse and rescue her, and as I dragged her ashore pull her up on my horse and run to the doctors with her. Well say you get on dry land and try to stay up on your horse and pull a fair size old gal up on there with you, when she is supposed to be plum dead, and then wet to boot! Say, she had to reduce before I could get her up there. There is nothing heavier than a person that is wet, even a little person. You dip one of Singers Midgets in the water and let him soak awhile, and I bet you Dempsey woulden’t lift him up in front of him.4
We had lots of fun in those days in the old silent pictures. They wasent so careful and tegious with everything.
I love Westerns. They won’t let me make one. They say they can only get just so much money with it, as they have a kind of set price for Westerns, but I would like to get to make a good one. (Now don’t start sending me any, you can’t hint anything in this business without somebody, dozens of ’em, taking you up on it.) Fox picks my stories, not me. They notify me the night before we start what it’s to be, if they know by then themselvs.
Pretty near everything in pictures nowadays is made inside a stage. Street scenes, churches, homes and all are put up inside a big stage. Then they can light it as they want too. We got a whole big steamboat built inside on a stage, water around the edges and all, but we miss a lot by not going on all those old location trips. Course this one to Stockton and Sacramento on this picture was great and unusual too. The people are awful fine to you, mighty friendly and nice, but the whole thing must look awful nutty to ’em, for there is no sense to it. It drives you pretty near cuckoo just to try to watch ’em make ’em. One scene done a couple of dozen times, a dozen different ways, and distances away with the camera, and different angles. But to the looker-on it all looks like the same scene, and is, but it makes us look dumber than we really are, to have to do it so many times. I heard of Charley Chaplin doing a scene 70 times, but brother when he gets it done it’s done right.
1Rogers was involved at the time in the filming of Steamboat Round the Bend, which was released after his death.
2Irene Rich, American motion-picture actress and radio star. She appeared on the screen from 1918 until her retirement in 1948.
3Margaret Livingston, American star of silent and early sound films. She married American bandleader Paul Whiteman in 1931 after he had promised her that he would lose more than 100 pounds from his bulky frame.
4Singer Midgets, vaudeville act consisting of thirty-three persons, animals and animal trainers; under contract with the Loew circuit. William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey, American boxer who held the world heavy-weight title from 1919 to 1926.
THE INDIANS ARE COMING!Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see here and there. A couple of weeks ago I was telling you that there was a very fine Cherokee Indian woman, Mrs Robert Lawson, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and that she was running for the presidency of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, but there had been some opposition on account of her being of Indian blood.1 I couldent hardly see how a thing like that could be possible in as smart an organization as that is, and it wasent, so sir. There was a very excelent lady running against her, Dr Josephine L Pierce, of Lima, Ohio, and as Mrs Lawson had been first vice president, and the other lady second, why it naturally should lean toward seniority.2
How I got mixed up in the thing was this way. Mrs Lawson comes from my home. She was born up the river about six miles from me, in fact on the adjoining ranch. She is a very talented, high class type of woman, and has done some splendid work in the Federation, so you have the example of an American Indian woman being President of the Federation of Women’s Club of America, and an American, which is odd. I tell you us Cherokees are just getting started. In fact I think Roberta Campbell, (that was her family name) I think she is part Delaware Indian too. There was an awful lot of Delawares lived up around there, Delewares and Shawnees, a couple of mighty fine intelligent tribes of Injuns. I hope this lady who was defeated this year will get to be elected the next time, as no doubt she is very deserving.
You know, speaking about Indians, guess who has been working on our picture! Our old friend Jim Thorpe, the greatest athlete that this Country ever produced.3 I know some of you will say this colored boy Owens of Ohio State.4 He has just been out here running and he is a marvel, but his is about four events, Thorpe’s was about 40. They have never found anything to this day that Thorpe couldent do, unless it was hitting curve ball pitching. At that he stayed with the N. Y. Giants for years. The greatest football player according to all the best authorities of those days and these.
You ought to have heard Knute Rockne tell stories about Jim Thorpe, “Knute let Jim run.”5 I will have to tell it to you sometime.
You know the reason I am telling you all this. It’s not to you old timers for you know it, and better than I do, but it’s for the younger folks. I would get so mad at folks on our picture when I would be a bragging on Jim, to ask me, “Mr Rogers what did he do? Was he an actor, or some sort of a famous Indian guide?” Well I would secretly burn up. What’s the matter with American History? Why don’t they make a student going to school in this generation read about people that did something in the last generation? It’s all right to get a smattering of Paul Revere, the messenger who traded his bicycle for a horse, or the fellow that brought the message to marathon, but our histories should be kept up to date, and tell us what the people during Pa’s and Ma’s time was doing.
The Olympic games was held in Sweden that year, and Jim Thorpe won everything on the menu, with the exception of “Skeeing” and “Ma-Jong.” Then some alleged bright newspaper man, (who I imagine ill wishes have sent to an early grave) well he discovered that Jim had played a little professional baseball down South during the summer. Jim told me he got his board, and laundry, and a ride to the ball grounds in a horse-pulled buss out of it. Well they heard about it, and they took Jim’s medals away from him. He had brought back everything from Sweden but the crown. They had claimed Jim was a professional.
Now get this. Let’s get in a well-placed word for the Country of Sweden. They dident do this. In fact the man who come second and that these were given too, (after they took ’em from Jim) he said, “No, I dident win them, by all rights they are his and I won’t take ’em.” There is fine sportsmanship, and nobody has got ’em, they are held in Sweden to this day, but they are Jim Thorpe’s as much as anything rightfully belongs to anybody.
You have all seen these modern football players (the good ones too) that can’t kick a goal after touchdown from the twenty yard line. Well Jim was telling me the other day that he goes out now, (or last fall) and gives exhibiion and kicks goals from 15 yards past the center of the field. That’s with a drop kick, something the modern player don’t know anymore about than a bow and arrow. Says he has drop kicked a goal over 70 yards. That’s further than the modern player punts. Jim says he one time kicked, (punted) from ten yards behind his own goal line and it rolled out on the three yard line. That figres out I think about 107 yards. Then basketball, baseball, and lacrosse, pole vault, put the shut, hammer, high hurdles, low hurdles, steeplechasing, horse-shoe pitching.
Jim is a sax and fox Indian. When he played football he was more fox than sax. He has had his ups and downs, things haven’t broke any too good in the last few years, but you won’t hear from him.
His gameness comes in mighty handy now. There ought to be some kind of life time award of Government money, for people in all lines, be they discovery, science, medicine, heroism outside of battle, great athletic achievements and dozens of other things that are worthy of life time recognition.
Course I doubt if it’s constitutional, so guess I will have to let the thing drop, or I will have the “Grass Root” fellows down on my neck.
1Roberta Campbell Lawson, an Oklahoman who was one-eighth American Indian, was elected president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in a hotly contested election on June 10. She served as president from 1935 to 1938. Rogers wrote about the election in a Daily Telegram published on May 25, 1935.
2Josephine L. Pierce, osteopath at Lima, Ohio, for more than fifty years until her death in 1957; leader of the state and national Federation of Women’s Clubs.
3James Francis “Jim” Thorpe, widely-hailed athlete of American Indian descent. A native of Oklahoma, Thorpe earned All-America honors in 1911 and 1912 as a running back at Carlisle Institute and won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon at the Olympics of 1912. He played with the New York Giants baseball team in 1919 and later with professional football teams in Canton, Ohio, and other cities.
4James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens, American track star and member of the United States Olympic team of 1936. Owens won four events at a duel meet in Los Angeles between the University of Southern California and his Ohio State.
GOT ANY FUNNY INVENTIONS?Well all I know is just what I read in the papers, or what I see or hear at home. Just tonight take for instance, I was sitting down stairs after returning from kinder late work at the Studio, and Mrs Rogers had gone out to the graduation of some of our sons or neices. (We’re going to have an awful smart family the first thing you know.) One boy was in the Stanford graduating class and Mr. Hoover made them quite a fine speech, but it was just a little political.
I dident get to go up as I was working, but Bill told me over the phone that it was awful hot in the big football stadium, and that Mr Hoover kept them all there in the sun till they promised to be Republicans. Said he promised early and got out.
But all this is not what I was starting to tell you. I was sitting down stairs all alone, in a great big high ceiling old board room, that I had raised the roof on while Mrs Rogers and Mary was gone to the Holy Land. She said I did it just so that I could rope in the house without hitting the ceiling. Well maby she was right. Anyhow I got an old stuffed calf in there that I get out and practice on. I am without a doubt the best dead calf roper in the World, but when I try it on a live one it don’t work. But I am death on dead calves.
Emil, (that’s a young man that’s been working for us for a long time, does about everything, only he does it good) well he was going up to an old shed we use as a store room to get some of that felt stuff you put under carpets to put in Bill’s room that Mrs R______ had been fixing.1 Well the old truck had a kind of a trick seat. Mack, one of the boys here on the spread was driving, and Emil’s seat flew plum off with him on it, and it broke his leg. It was a pretty bad break, and he is down in the hospital in Santa Monica, with a lot of weights on his leg so it pulls it out so they can set it.
Well as I started to say away awhile ago, I was sitting there after supper reading—Time—the magazine, it was telling about some theatre movement that was supposed to be sponsored by the workers, and there had been a big hullabalo about some piece called—Waiting For Lefty—.2 I don’t know anything about it. I havent seen it. Some say it’s propaganda, and some say it’s just good. Well in come a couple of fellows, one of ’em said he had met me in Russia last summer, and I think he had. He was an aviation man. The other was a Beverly Hills real estate man.
Well they had an arm full of technical maps and drawings, and you know what it was it was of that parachute jumping thing they had over in the big Park of Culture and Rest in Moscow. I think maby I told you about it away last summer, if I dident I ought too and if I did I will again. You go up on a high platform about 80 feet, and there is a captive parachute that works from an arm that hangs out from the oil derrick looking stand. You put the chute on, and you just jump out into space, pull the cord and down you come. But the top part is fastened to the top of the umberella part and too the pole that sticks out away from the high platform, so you can’t get hurt, and it’s quite a sensation. My kids tried it. It was one of the main amusement things in this big Park. Well these fellows was trying to get it into the San Diego Fair, but it seems Zack Farmer who was really responsible for the great success of the great Olympic Games here in 32, well Zack kinder claimed that a Russian wasent really human, and that he might just want to commit suicide purposely, (and there is some justification in what Zack says).3 I have always claimed that that’s why they was such great parachute jumpers, was because they was disappointed when it opened. But these boys wanted me to wire Zack and tell him that it was a great attraction, and that it would not make us nessasaryily communistic.
Well I sent Zack the wire. That was just now. Because I know Zack, and because I know this contraption. I don’t know how they come to think of me on weird schemes. I don’t want any of you to get the idea that because I did try to help out these guys that I am open to any and all plans that come along. I have no interest in this, or don’t want any, and also have none in any aviation company, either stock, or kin folks. I just ain’t in nothing but some vacant property, but I must be just a sort of a—Patsy—everything from a new cracker on a buggy whip to a soft-pointed hat pin, they come to me.
They had another concession in that Russian Park that I want to tell you about some time. Remind me of it, will you?
Well, Irvin Cobb come over to visit us on the movie set this afternoon. When he ain’t working he comes around anyhow. We sure was glad to see him. He is awful entertaining. I was over to his house the other night. He has the most beautiful place, out here in Santa Monica, right down the hill on to a gold hole. You step right out of my place into a gopher hole. Max Fleishman the Santa Barbara philanthrophist, and his charming wife were at Irvin’s.4 They are old friends, Santa Barbara has some great men live there, and Max is the main cog. They have given millions to that place. He is a great fellow is Max, and he gave me such political angles on the Country. When you make and sell a national commodity, you know the Country pretty well. He thinks much will happen in the next year or two. Well anyhow we are living in great times. A fellow can’t afford to die now with all this excitement going on.
1For Emil Sandmeier see WA 609:N 1.
2Waiting for Lefty, a one-act drama by Clifford Odets, a Jewish-American playwright and screen writer. Although a critical and box-office success on Broadway, the play engendered controversy because of its socialist bent.
3Zack Farmer, California sportsman and businessman; managing director of the Los Angeles Olympics of 1932.
4Max C. Fleischmann, chairman of the board of Fleischmann Company from 1925 to 1929. In 1930, after selling his interests in the Cincinnati-based yeast firm, Fleischmann moved to Santa Barbara, California, where he engaged in extensive philanthropy. He was married to the former Sarah Hamilton Sherlock.