Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat


June 10, 2006

Comic Relief

Program to focus on Rogers’ Depression Era relief efforts

In 1931 America was in the thick of the early years of the Great Depression.

The plight of the nation was never more demonstrated when in January of that year 500 local tenant farmers in England, Arkansas, marched in protest, demanding food for their families.

The incident was termed as a “riot” by the press and brought national attention to the dilemma of many farmers during the Depression.

One American touched by the protest was Oklahoma’s Will Rogers.

The England, Ark., protest and Rogers’ subsequent tour through southern Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas to raise money for drought relief will be the subject of this Saturday’s special presentation on Rogers, sponsored by the Pauls Valley Arts Council and the PV Historical Society.

“Breakfast with Will” will take place Saturday, June 17, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Stark Art Studio and Gallery and will feature a multi-media presentation by Steve Gragert, assistant director of the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore.

Gragert has titled his presentation "Will Rogers and the Great Depression: Lifting Spirits, Lifting Hopes."

“We will view the story through the life and emotions of Will Rogers,” Gragert told the Daily Democrat. “We will examine how he used the culture of entertainment to convey hope and to lift the spirits of the American people.”

Gragert’s production will focus on Rogers’ writings, radio broadcasts and stage presentations to raise not only money to help with drought relief but also raise the consciousness of the nation.

“We will strive to understand more clearly how one man, one of our most significant figures of the 20th century, reacted and changed during arguably the nation’s most trying years,” Gragert said.

The 22-day tour Rogers undertook in January and February in 1931, took the humorist and noted personality to several stops in the region, sometimes four-stops per day.

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