Today's column is part of a series about a famous Arkansas Gazette reporter, Joe Wirges, who ran for office in 1922.
Part 4 is ... here.
In Part 3 we read that "Joe Gazette" Wirges, police beat reporter and candidate for constable of Big Rock Township, planned to speak to a political picnic at White City. Here is, more or less word-for-word, an update about that from the Gazette of Aug. 4, 1922:
Joe "Gazette" Insists That He Ain't No Myth
Scouts attached to the Joe (Gazette) Wirges constable headquarters have unearthed a mess of lowdown political propaganda which for brazen-faced effrontery puts it all over anything that has happened since the Hayes-Tilden presidential conflict of some years back.
They're telling on Joe that there isn't any such person.
Such a statement is not original. There isn't a city editor who ever served on the Gazette since Joe has been covering the police run who hasn't made the same statement. Some of them have couched their statements in such vivid, colorful and far-reaching language that policemen have come all the way over from Main Street to tell them that their remarks were stopping traffic.
But this is office gossip and applies only to such times as Joe seeks to substitute an alibi for an assignment. Ordinarily, Joe is there like sunburn at a bathing beach — all pervasive and all comprehensive. ...
WASN'T JOE'S FAULT
The rumor that Joe is nonexistent grew up when Joe failed to make good on his White City speaking engagement a week or so ago. A vast throng had appeared on that occasion, and when the golden shadows of the afternoon lengthened across the sward and the vast protean pageant of the sunset blazed in purple and pavonine upon the pallid palette of the West and still no Joe showed up to make the welkin resound like a set of Swiss bell chimes, the multitude naturally was disappointed.
They figured that they had been spoofed or done one in the eye, as we say along Piccadilly.
It really wasn't Joe's fault. Joe was assigned to cover North Little Rock that day, and he couldn't get over to White City.
So he spoke in North Little Rock instead, and they do say that Joe is the most popular candidate for constable of Big Rock Township that ever sought the suffrage of the citizens of Hill Township. ...
According to a communication received from the Elks' Club, received by the Wirges Publicity Department last night, a straw vote at the club gave Joe a total of 14 out of 15. The 15th man was from Chicago ... .
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Celia here: That long-ago Aug. 4, less than a week remained until the Democratic party primaries. Arkansas was what pols call a one-party state, and so these Democratic primaries were effectively a general election.
But this was a hotly contested primary. The parade-loving organizers of the so-called secret Ku Klux Klan at Little Rock were making a move into politics. After holding their own mail-in "elimination primary," they published a long list of Klan-preferred candidates. That April, this klavern had pulled off a write-in ballot coup that ousted an incumbent city director (see arkansasonline.com/81pox/) who happened to be Catholic. But he was the party's legitimate nominee. Up sprang an anti-Klan movement among Democrats at Little Rock.
Oscar Winn, a one-armed prosecutor, announced a grand protest parade for Aug. 5, to include a 25-year-old horse, heavy artillery, a band, horsemen, footmen "and just plain opponents of the Ku Klux Klan." That parade didn't happen.
Here's the Wirges parody published Aug. 7:
MANAGERS DOPE OUT A DEMONSTRATION
The general headquarters staff of Joe (Gazette) Wirges, candidate for constable of Big Rock Township, yesterday perfected plans on a little demonstration to be staged in honor of the popular candidate today. The way the affair is doped out at present it will be quite a tea party.
Manager Loesch said, however, that not all those who have been invited to participate have accepted and that it may become necessary to make some slight revisions. As a matter of fact, Mr. Loesch said, Joe is the only participant who has accepted definitely and finally, and as Plutarch says (Standard Book of Popular Quotations, P. 187), "What matter the sideshows if the main attraction's there."
The present frame-up consists of a parade down Main Street and a picnic and barbecue to be held around somewhere handy -- Park Hill Addition, maybe.
The parade line, tentatively, includes the following:
1. Mr. Wirges on a horse.
2. President Harding and members of the Cabinet of the United States.
3. Ex-presidents of the United States.
4. Sousa's band.
5. President Mitterand of France, attended by a division of alpine chasseurs.
6. Whistling Jim.
7. King George of England and wife, attended by a squadron of the Coldstream Guards and a regiment of the Royal Scottish artillery.
8. Squadron of mounted police on livery stable horses.
9. United States Marine Band.
10. Ringling Brothers' Circus.
11. Boston Symphony Orchestra.
12. Life-size floats of United States Navy, as is.
13. Little Rock Fire Department.
14. Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra.
15. Members of the Joe Wirges Club and other pool players.
The full program for the picnic has not yet been doped out. It depends a lot on the location. If Willow Beach can be obtained for the day, it is likely that Sir Thomas Lipton might consent to enter his yacht, Shamrock, in another little international set-to, but there's no telling. The Kentucky Derby with original entries has been considered provided the picnic is staged on a piece of ground where the horses can be run; but these are all details that can be figured out later in the program.
The program, including only such numbers as are fairly certain, is as follows:
1. Address of welcome, President Harding.
2. Response, Mr. Wirges, who by then will be dismounted.
3. Vocal solo, "Mademoiselle from Armentiers," John McCormack.
4. Olympic games, official.
5. Debate on the ship subsidy bill, United States Senate.
6. Piano solo, Jan Paderewski.
7. Baseball game, New York Giants vs. St. Louis Browns (results to apply on World's Series).
8. Vocal solo, "Wirges Blues," Mary Garden.
[There was no number 9.]
10. Exhibition bout, Jack Dempsey vs. Jess Willard.
11. Old Fiddler's contest, Fritz Kreisler, Mischa Elman and Blind Tom.
12 High dive, if at Willow Beach, Steve Brody.
13. Vocal, Gem chorus.
14. Refighting of the Crimean War, including Charge of the Light Brigade with original cast.
15. Vaudeville sketch, New York Hippodrome company. ...
Come one, come all, says Joe, and have a good time.
Informality will reign. It may be that the headquarters staff will wear their uniforms, but Joe hasn't decided whether to put on his Lord High Constable short pants. Joe says he hasn't been elected yet, and besides, there may be chiggers at the picnic grounds.
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Celia here: Where Joe Wirges went, comedy followed, and so did music. In later years, he formed a band with his four sons; and he played the marimba in his church. But he also had a well known "rube" band in the 1920s and '30s, one noted for political humor. They played real music on hacksaws, washboards and Flit guns.
During a vacation from the newspaper in 1932, his Original Arkansas Hill-billies Orchestra stumped the state for 10 days with Sen. Joe T. Robinson and Democratic National Committeeman Brooks Hays.
So, the reference to the Elks Club above causes me to wonder if that straw vote happened during a performance by the band. Is it possible this so-called campaign was just hi-jinks with the band?
Next week: Plans for the inaugural hoedown
For now, please enjoy my email address:
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