Soup Bowls at the Roxy
January 17, 2014
I know for a fact that one of America’s most beloved citizens was a bald-faced liar and a hypocrite to boot. I am discussing an American icon who for more than thirty years came to us as the common man as well as friend of presidents and small spotted puppies.
It all started when we were standing in line for a movie at the Roxy and hoping to be early enough to get the three soup bowls we needed to finish our service for six when a gum-chewing cowboy with a fancy lady on each arm tried to cut the line and walk into the theater. Grandpa, a burly man who also happened to be a stevedore, put out his arm and told the cowboy that we all wanted the dishes and that he’d have to take his chances and wait his turn and to please get to the back of the line. The cowboy said, “dishes,” and smirked and my grandfather told him that we had been waiting for an hour and forty minutes and he could darn well wait his turn. The cowboy, showing off for his two lady friends, tried to cajole my grandfather into letting him by and only succeeded in annoying my grandfather more. Then the cowboy whispered his name to my grandfather and my grandfather shrugged and pointed to the back of the line. Finally the grandfather resorted to insults and threats and pulled out a rope from somewhere, began twirling it, and offered to hog tie me if my grandfather didn’t get out of his way. I was standing but two feet away and with about two or three dozen other people in hearing range when he said to my grandfather, “I don’t like you, or that behemoth you call a wife, or,” pointing to me, “that pet of yours that you taught to stand on its hind legs.”
My grandfather could take a slight to himself, and even to his wife and shrug it off because he was not a trouble-maker, but when it came to me, his grandson, no one could put me down without paying for it.
Grandpa snatched the man’s hat, dropped it to the ground and mashed his cigarette out on it with his work boots. Then he yanked the rope and the cowboy along with it. Grandpa picked up the hat, stuck it back on the cowboy’s head and shoved him toward the rear of the line. By that time the cowboy was not only swearing at my grandfather but at all of the other people in line who proceeded to give Grandpa a round of applause.
Finally we got in the movie theater and on comes the Movietone Newsreel with the familiar voice of Ed Herlihy and would you believe it but the second story in the newsreel was the very same cowboy standing behind a microphone twirling a rope and chewing gum. He said with a bigger than life grin, “I never met a man I didn’t like”. A roar of laughter from the people who had been in line with us filled the theater and the rest of the audience wondered what they had missed. After the newsreel the lights came on and the theater manager walked center stage with a mike stand and announced that since this was the last night of the giant colossal dish give-a-way, Will Rogers himself was going to be on stage doing rope tricks and talking as people filed up the steps and got any dish they asked for.
Just after my grandfather asked for the soup dish and was heading across stage to return to his seat a rope circled him and Will Rogers, standing next to the microphone, grinned and pulled my grandfather over. The fancy ladies were on stage too.
“Howdy,” said Will. “What brings you here tonight sir?”
“Soup bowl,” said my grandfather, to lots of laughter and applause.
“Are you here alone?” Will Rogers asked my grandfather.
“Are you related to Calvin Coolidge?” Will wisecracked.
“Nope,” said my grandfather.
“Who’s here with you tonight then?”
“Wife and grandson,” my grandfather said a bit apprehensively.
“Let’s bring them up on stage too.”
All the time the conversation was going on people were filing by and picking up their dishes. Finally I got back on stage with my grandmother and we stood awkwardly in front of the audience.
“I suppose that you came for soup bowls too,” said Will Rogers.
“Yes,” my grandmother and I said in unison.
Will Rogers then bent over and asked us our names and he introduced us to the audience as the grand prize winners. He took our soup bowls from us and handed them to the fancy ladies to hold and told us that as the grand prize winners we would receive free movie tickets for one year and a full service for eight of these very fine dishes and that he and his assistants would personally deliver them to our home. The audience whistled and applauded. As we went back to our seats and sat down Will Rogers took off his hat, stared at my grandfather, bowed to us and said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” The audience gave him a tremendous ovation as did we when he exited the stage with the two fancy ladies carrying our three soup bowls.
Weeks went by and when he didn’t show up with our new set of dishes Grandpa went down to the Roxy to check up on things and was told that they were sorry but Mr. Will Rogers had no authority to promise dishes from a local store and that there were no more dishes left and the pattern had been discontinued and no the manager didn’t know where we could get three more soup bowls.
“What about our free tickets?” my grandfather asked.
“They are probably with your soup bowls,” the manager laughed.