Path Home Shows 2012 Show Archive February 2012 Show 1206 Steve Gragert Interview - Will Rogers Museum

Steve Gragert Interview - Will Rogers Museum

We visit with author Steve Gragert who is the Director of the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore.
Steve Gragert Interview - Will Rogers Museum

Interviewee Steve Gragert

For more information visit this link:

Will Rogers Memorial Museum

Show Dates

Show 1206: Steve Gragert Interview - Will Rogers Museum

Air date: February 5, 2012

 

Transcript

ROB MCCLENDON:  WELL MY GUEST TODAY HAS WRITTEN NUMEROUS BOOKS AND SCHOLARLY ARTICLES ON THE LIFE OF WILL ROGERS, AND WAS NAMED IN 2006 AS THE DIRECTOR OF THE WILL ROGERS MUSEUM IN CLAREMORE.  STEVE GRAGERT, THANKS FOR JOINING US HERE IN STUDIO.

STEVE GRAGERT:  THANK YOU ROB.

ROB:  I DON’T THINK PEOPLE TRULY REALIZE JUST HOW POPULAR WILL ROGERS WAS.

STEVE:  WELL, HE WAS, AND HE STILL IS.  AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH, AUGUST 15, 1935, HE RANKED AS THE NUMBER 1 MALE MOTION PICTURE BOX OFFICE STAR IN THE COUNTRY.  I DID PUT THAT ADJECTIVE MALE IN THERE BECAUSE THERE WAS THIS LITTLE 8-YEAR-OLD THAT SLIGHTLY OUTRANKED HIM AT THE TIME.

ROB:  SHIRLEY TEMPLE.

STEVE:  SHIRLEY TEMPLE, EXACTLY, VERY GOOD.  AND ALSO AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH HE WAS THE MOST WIDELY SYNDICATED NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST IN THE COUNTRY.  HE PRODUCED TWO NEWSPAPER COLUMNS, ONE A DAILY, ONE A WEEKLY; AND HE WAS REACHING 40 MILLION READERS A WEEK WITH HIS NEWSPAPER COLUMNS.  AND AT A TIME WHEN THE POPULATION IN THE COUNTRY WAS ONLY 120 MILLION, 1 OUT OF 3 PEOPLE HAD ACCESS TO HIS WRITINGS.  AND AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH HE HAD THE MOST HIGHLY-RATED SUNDAY EVENING RADIO PROGRAM; THERE WAS BOTH MUSIC, BUT MOST PARTICULARLY, THE COMMENTARY OF WILL ROGERS.  SO, ON A SUNDAY EVENING HE WAS REACHING A WIDE AUDIENCE WITH HIS VOICE.  A VOICE THAT EVEN PEOPLE LIKE PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT, IN THE 1930’S, MADE CERTAIN THAT HE TURNED TO WILL’S BROADCAST JUST TO FIND OUT WHAT WILL WAS HAVING TO SAY BEFORE HE EVEN MADE HIS OWN SUNDAY EVENING BROADCAST.  AND ALSO, WILL WAS THE MOST WIDELY SOUGHT AFTER PUBLIC SPEAKER AT THE TIME, SO HIS POPULARITY, HIS RENOWN, HIS REACH WAS EXTRAORDINARY AT THE TIME; AND IT REMAINS SO TODAY.

ROB:  YEAH, AND WHAT YOU SAID, HE WAS AND IS, I MEAN YOU CAN NOT GO TO A TOWN IN THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY AND NOT FIND A SCHOOL, A LIBRARY, A CIVIC CENTER, THAT’S, YOU KNOW, NAMED AFTER WILL ROGERS.  AND YOU STILL HEAR HIS SAYINGS ALL THE TIME.

STEVE:  WELL EXACTLY; IN FACT, NOW YOU CAN ALSO ACCESS THEM IF YOU’RE IN THE TULSA AREA AND THROUGHOUT THE STATE THROUGH THE TULSA WORLD.  ON PAGE TWO OF THE TULSA WORLD NOW, THEY ARE RE-RUNNING THE QUOTES OF WILL ROGERS AND YOU CAN, ON A DAILY BASIS, READ ONE OF HIS QUOTES.  BUT ALSO, THROUGH THE INTERNET AND ELSEWHERE, OUR WEBSITE WILLROGERS DOT COM YOU CAN FIND HIS SAYINGS.  BECAUSE, HE PUT TWO MILLION WORDS IN PRINT; AND WITH THOSE TWO MILLION WORDS HE HAD A LOT TO SAY AND MOST OF IT WAS VERY MUCH RELEVANT TODAY, AS IT WAS THEN OBVIOUSLY, BUT ALSO QUITE HUMOROUS AND BRINGS A SMILE TO EVERYBODY’S FACE.

ROB:  YEAH, AND STILL VERY POPULAR WITH OKLAHOMAN’S.  EARLIER YOU WERE TELLING ME ABOUT A POLL THAT WAS DONE.

STEVE:  EXACTLY, IN 2007, THE CENTENNIAL YEAR OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA, THE TULSA WORLD RAN A STATEWIDE POLL OF REGISTERED VOTERS.  AND IN THAT POLL THEY ASKED, WHO WAS THE PERSON’S MOST FAVORITE OKLAHOMAN OF ALL TIME.  AND WILL ROGERS OUTPOLLED EVERYBODY ELSE; HE BROUGHT IN 57% OF THE RESPONDENTS WITH HE WAS THE FAVORITE OKLAHOMAN.

ROB:  WELL HE CERTAINLY STILL HAS A LOT OF IMPACT ON ALL OUR LIVES; THANKS IN GREAT PART TO THE MUSEUM THERE IN CLAREMORE.  LET’S TALK A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT THIS; WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF WHAT YOU DO IN CLAREMORE?

STEVE:  WE’RE PROUD OF THE FACT THAT WE KEEP ALIVE HIS RELEVANCE.  WE KEEP ALIVE HIS LIFE.  WE, UH, OUR MISSION IS TO COLLECT, PRESERVE, AND SHARE THE LIFE, WISDOM, AND HUMOR OF WILL ROGERS FOR ALL GENERATIONS.  SO IT’S IMPERATIVE THAT WE KEEP THE MUSEUM TIMELY, BUT ALSO REACHING OUT AND RELEVANT TO PEOPLE OF ALL AGES; INCLUDING THE YOUNG PEOPLE.  BECAUSE AS EACH GENERATION PASSES, FROM THE TIME THAT WILL WAS ALIVE, THERE’S, YOU RUN THE RISK THAT YOU’RE NOT REACHING THE NEXT GENERATION.  BUT, THROUGH THE WORK THAT WE DO AND THROUGH OUR OUTREACH THROUGHOUT THE STATE, WE HAVE THE WILL ROGERS IN SCHOOLS PROGRAM WHERE WE SEND A WILL ROGERS INTERPRETER INTO THE SCHOOLS, AT NO COST TO THE SCHOOLS, TO BRING WILL INTO THE LIFE OF THOSE YOUNG PEOPLE.  AND THE RECEPTION THAT THEY GIVE THE PERSON, DOUG WATSON FOR EXAMPLE, GOES OUT THERE, ANDY HOGAN AND OTHERS, IS AMAZING THAT THEY DO, UH, THERE’S A BIT OF A HESITANCY INITIALLY AS TO WHO IS THIS GUY, BUT THEN THEY LEARN.  AND WHEN THEY COME TO THE MUSEUM, AND THEY ARE ALL SO OVERWHELMED BY THIS MAN; BECAUSE IT WAS NOT JUST HIS WORDS,  BUT HIS, THE FACT THAT HE WAS AN ENTERTAINER.  HE ENTERTAINED WITH HIS ROPE FOR EXAMPLE; HE WAS THE WORLD’S GREATEST ROPER AT THAT TIME, AND STILL IS ONE THAT ROPERS TODAY USE TO LEARN TRICKS AND SKILLS.  AND THAT, THOSE ROPING SKILLS THAT HE HAD ENTERTAIN PEOPLE TODAY AS THEY DID THEN.

ROB:  AND HIS MESSAGE RESONATED SO MUCH WITH OKLAHOMANS THAT THE MUSEUM WAS BUILT AT THE HEIGHT OF THE DEPRESSION.

STEVE:  EXACTLY, THE MUSEUM WAS BUILT IN 1938, THREE YEARS AFTER HIS DEATH, AND IT WAS IN THE HEIGHT OF THE DEPRESSION.  IT WAS IN ONE OF THE STATE’S HARDEST HIT BY THE DEPRESSION; AND YET, THE PEOPLE OF OKLAHOMA PUT FORWARD THE STATE LEGISLATURE, TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS TO CONSTRUCT THE MEMORIAL MUSEUM THERE IN CLAREMORE, ON THE HILLTOP THAT WILL AND BETTY, HIS WIFE, HAD BOUGHT EARLY IN THEIR MARRIAGE AND THAT BETTY HAD GIVEN TO THE STATE AFTER HIS DEATH.  AND SO PEOPLE TODAY CAN GO TO THAT SITE AND RELIVE THE LIFE OF WILL ROGERS; ALSO VISIT THE TOMB IN WHICH WILL ROGERS AND MEMBERS OF HIS FAMILY ARE ENTOMBED, INTERRED THERE ON THE GROUNDS OF THE MEMORIAL.

ROB:  WELL CERTAINLY BOTH STATE TREASURES; STEVE THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING HERE.

STEVE:  YOU’RE WELCOME; THANK YOU.