Kenneth Roberts: College Fight Song Lyricist

Cornell "C" logoWhat do you know about Cornell University? Yes, it’s a university in New York. And yes, it is the alma mater of Andy Bernard from The Office (a fact of which he was very proud). If you’re a fan of Kenneth Roberts, you may even know that Cornell was his alma mater as well. But, did you know that Kenneth Roberts – while a student at Cornell – wrote the lyrics to some of Cornell’s fight songs? Well, he did – two songs, to be exact!

Kenneth Roberts (Class of 1908) penned the lyrics to Fight for Cornell (’07) and Carnelian & White (’06) (at least, he mentions only these two in his I Wanted to Write). And just as Kenneth Roberts’ novels have lived beyond Roberts’ own life, so has one of his Cornell songs – Fight for Cornell. 

The alumni page of Cornell’s website has a collection of current Cornell songs, among which is Fight for Cornell. Over 113 years after Roberts penned the lyrics, you can hear his words put into song. The alumni page provides MP3s for each song, which one can download for free here: https://alumni.cornell.edu/come-back/cornell-traditions/cornell-songs/#track-listing. Unfortunately, I cannot upload the MP3 to my site, so you’ll have to listen to the 1975 Cornell University Glee Club version of Fight for Cornell from Cornell’s site previously linked.

It’s amazing that the words of Kenneth Roberts put to song is still available to us today. Enjoy this unique treat – something other than Roberts’ novels that still lives on today. I close this post with the lyrics of Fight for Cornell. [P.S. I’ve not been able to find a recording of Carnelian & White – if I do come across it, rest assured I’ll write about it!]

Fight for Cornell
Words: Kenneth Roberts, Class of 1908
Music: Theodore Julius Lindorff, Class of 1907
Written: 1906

From rocky height
We come to fight
For the name Cornell has made,
And we will cheer
Without a fear
That her good name will ever fade.
Fight to the end,
Don’t break or bend
Until our team has won the game;
And fight for might, for right, for Cornell’s name
For the glory that brings us fame.

Refrain (2x)
Make all advances strong and sure today.
Take all the chances fate throws in the way.
Fight for the glory that is earned so well;
Victory makes history so fight for Cornell!

“Cornell Songs,” Cornell University Chorus, http://cuchorus.com/cornell-songs. Accessed 09 Jan 2020

 

Kenneth Roberts in the News: Prescott Evening Courier 1938 and Northwest Passage

Which Kenneth Roberts novel is your favorite? For me, it’s always been Rabble in Arms, followed by Northwest Passage and Oliver Wiswell tied for second. While Roberts published his first novel in 1930 (Arundel), he did not gain notoriety until after the publication of Northwest Passage (1937). So popular was the novel that it made the silver screen starring Spencer Tracey. (If I’ve read Roberts correctly, he was none too happy about his novels being set to movies. Within the first three pages of I Wanted to Write, Roberts made known his dislike of Hollywood producers butchering perfectly fine novels).

Way back in 1938, however, George Tucker, in a column titled “Man in Manhattan” in the Prescott Evening Courier (3/19/38) wonders aloud why Roberts’ first two novels weren’t more popular than Northwest Passage:

Never was fame more illusive or unpredictable than it is now. Take the case of Kenneth Roberts, who wrote “Northwest Passage” and became “discovered.” Everybody is reading it and the money is rolling in. Yet, despite these enjoyable royalties, Roberts must turn his back occasionally and indulge in a private chuckle. For, it seems to me two earlier books, “Arundel” and “Rabble in Arms,” are so much better than “Northwest Passage” that comparisons are ludicrous. It just doesn’t belong in the same league with either.

While I think Tucker is a little hyperbolic, I do agree that Roberts’ first two novels can stand with Northwest Passage.

An interesting little read from way back in 1938.

Kenneth Roberts Memorabilia: The Lively Lady ASE

Last week I wrote about a new (to me) find regarding Kenneth Roberts books – the American Services Editions of The Lively LadyNorthwest PassageArundel, and Captain Caution. I’m surprised, honestly, that for all the years I’ve been reading and collecting Roberts’ books (20 years?) I’ve never heard of or seen the ASE editions. So last week was a bit of a treat to ‘discover’ something ‘new.’

This week I received an ASE copy of The Lively Lady. Honestly, they’re nothing to write home about. The binding is simple, there are no pictures or prints, and the covers look more like an advertisement than the front cover of a novel. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but hold the book in wonder because I knew that a U.S. serviceman once carried this book with him while serving during war. As you can see in one of the images below, the book I have was once issued to an Alan L. Hunnicutt of the Corps of Engineers.

I have no idea who Hunnicutt is, but my mind is flooded with questions. Who was he? What did he think of the novel? Did it pass hands to other soldiers? What was Hunnicutt’s fate? And so much more. Perhaps these questions will never be answered. Nonetheless, this ASE (as with all others) is a piece of American history – definitely a treasure worth keeping.

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Kenneth Roberts’ Books: ‘Lively Lady’ Armed Services Edition (Update)

***I’ve updated this post in light of a comment left by a Roberts fan in Facebook. I’m keeping the original content and adding the update at the end.***

Just when you think you know your favorite author well, a surprise comes out of nowhere on the ever-expansive Internet. It’s been a while since I’ve last posted on this site, so last night I was scouring the Google news search feature to find any Kenneth Roberts tidbits to share. I was not disappointed.

Ten months ago, Nancy Noble (Archivist/Cataloger at the Maine Historical Society) wrote a very interesting piece for Bowdoin College’s “Community” section of their website, titled “‘With books in their pockets’: Armed Service Editions at Special Collections.” According to Noble, she recently had the opportunity to be a researcher at Bowdoin College Library’s archives department. Noble’s work has included “cataloging the World War I pamphlet collection” at MHS, and during her work she stumbled across a book titled “When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning. Continue reading

Kenneth Roberts On American College Football

If you are new to Kenneth Roberts, or are primarily familiar with his novels, then I suggest that you pick up a copy of The Kenneth Roberts Reader (Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1945; also reprinted Down East Books, 2002). The reader is a collection of essays Roberts published in The Saturday Evening Post and excerpts from his novels. The essays from SEP help the reader to get a better picture of Kenneth Roberts the man – his humor, his wit, his quirks, and his pet peeves. He was very observant…and opinionated.

Oxford Rugby 1901

Roberts’ reader contains an essay titled “Oxford Oddities” (originally published in For Authors Only and Other Gloomy Essays [Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1935]) in which Roberts elaborates on his observations of Oxford and its students. True to form, Roberts finds much of the British and their ways odd (relative to American ways), and comments on how Oxford students approach studies, social life, and extracurricular activities. Underlying most of his observations is his pro-American view of American ways. That is everything except American football.

One feature of “Oxford Oddities” is Roberts’ account of his attendance at a rugby match in London (see this post where I highlight Skip Grimm’s post on this account). I’ve read Roberts’ account before, but when I read it again the other day, I noticed something that was hidden last time – his snarky view of American football.

British Fans vs. American Fans

A large percentage of the sixty thousand patronized those snack bars before the game; yet, incredible as it may seem, there were no drunks, no fights in the stands, no beating of strangers over the head by overstimulated enthusiasts (160).

There were sixty thousand people at the game, which was played on neutral grounds near London…Apparently the sixty thousand spectators had come with no ulterior motive, as is so often the case in America, and were actually eager, not to say determined, to let nothing, not even alcohol, interfere with their enjoyment of the game. This may or may not be an indication that the English understand nothing about pleasure (160-61).

If I’m reading Roberts correctly, it appears that he is making a stab at American football fans who, in his (unstated) opinion, attend games with ulterior motives other than the enjoyment of the game. If the British don’t let alcohol get in the way of enjoying the game, then do Americans see the football game as an opportunity to drink? Whatever the case, it appears Roberts saw British rugby fans as more tame than American football fans.

Fan Attendance

At most games, even at important ones, there are not many more spectators than players. This is due to the fact that those who, in America, would be spectators are off somewhere playing a game of something against somebody else (159).

Prior to this excerpt, Roberts noted the sheer number of extracurricular sports teams and participants among Oxford students (and other Brits?). In his opening of this section on rugby, Roberts says:

The method in vogue at Oxford for selecting the members of a varsity team is interesting and not without merit, even when compared with the American system of keeping eighty or a hundred men working all season without an opportunity to play in a game (159).

We see, first, a knock against how American colleges form their football teams: 80-100 team members for a sport where a little more than a ¼ will play. At Oxford, teams are smaller because (in part) so many are playing. This further impacts the patronage of the games, for when one game is going on, other games are in action as well.

Game Day

The game was played on a Wednesday, that being the day after the universities had closed for the Christmas vac. Apparently it never occurs to the English to wait for Saturday in order to play big games. They play when it’s convenient, and if their dates don’t quite suit the convenience of the public, nobody – not even the public – seems annoyed (161).

As all American college football fans know, gameday is Saturday. It’s not until recent years (with the advent of cable TV and ESPN) that we see college football played on weekdays. Apparently, Roberts found it annoying that Americans expected college football to be played on Saturdays, for his tone regarding the English seems to be one of pleasant surprised. Games are played “when it’s convenient,” and if the game day is inconvenient for some, they are not annoyed.

Cost of Tickets

My seats were on what would correspond to the 50-yard line, and cost 7/6 apiece, or $1.87 – and to the best of my knowledge and belief, no football game in the history of the world was ever worth more than $1.87 (161).

Cornell-Penn Fan Guide, 1922

The first thing I noted was the price of a ticket. Today, tickets at the 50-yard line of a college football game are premium tickets (outside of the box seats). Honestly, I’ve never tried to buy such a ticket, but it’s common knowledge that the more premium a seat is, the more you have to pay. Further, if the game pits two powerhouses or rivals against each other, then you’ll be paying even more.

I’m not sure if Roberts was complaining about the price, but what we see here is not an economic complaint per se, but a complaint about the worth of American college football. Roberts never says how many games he had attended in his lifetime, but he must have attended enough to know their worth (in his eyes). It’s worth noting that Roberts attended Cornell University [1908], so he more than likely attended games against Ivy Schools like Yale, Dartmouth, and Harvard. Back in his day, the big games were played by the Ivy Schools.

Coaches’ Salaries

There are no long intermissions, nor do the players leave the field to receive the mental stimulus of a pep talk from a $10,000 coach (160).

This is perhaps my favorite quote from Roberts in “Oxford Oddities.” Complaints about how much college football coaches today abound. Just last month Jimbo Fisher was given the highest paid contract with Texas A&M at $75 million for 10 years. Though college football is an “amateur” sport, the amount of money raked in by football programs leave many skeptical about the “amateur” nature of the sport. Complaints about coach salaries, then, are the norm today.

Complaints about money and college football, however, is not a new phenomenon. The quote just given is in the context of Roberts’ discussion of intermission at rugby games. Where American college football games have lengthy intermissions (too long for Roberts’ liking, apparently), rugby has a very short intermission where teams don’t even leave the field. In the midst of discussing rugby intermission, Roberts slides in a comment about the state of American college football.

The coach, who is seen worthy of a $10,000 contract, does little more than give students a “mental stimulus of a pep talk” at half time. Obviously, in Roberts’ opinion, college football coaches are grossly overpaid.  [$10,000 is nothing today. However, if Google can be trusted, the average salary in 1935 was $1,600/year. Some college coaches, then, were paid almost 10 times more than the average American.]

On American Football

It was as fast and exciting a contest as I ever saw, and more exciting than 90 percent of the big American football games I have seen (161).

If Roberts’ attitude toward American college football was not apparent enough, he makes himself crystal clear by claiming the rugby game was more exciting than practically every American college football games he’d witnessed before. Such an assertion is anathema today, and even then.

Though I’m a Roberts fan, this is one thing I just don’t get. I grew up in Louisiana, where LSU football was (and is) king. SEC football reigns in the South, just as college football reigns in many parts of America. To put non-major sports – like rugby – above college football is…well…it’s just unheard of. But, for Roberts, rugby was more watchable than college football, and he could careless about the national sentiment about college football.

And so we have a look into Roberts’ view of American college football. Quite an interesting peak into the man Kenneth Roberts on a topic we normally do not see him address.

Kenneth Roberts’ Memorabilia: Roberts’ Inscription in Antiquamania

A running theme throughout this website is the joy of finding a steal – a Kenneth Roberts’ work in great condition, a hard-to-find work, and even a signed copy of his work. One particular work that is difficult find is his Antiquamania, published in 1928 by Doublday, Doran, & Company. Much harder to find is a signed copy of Antiquamania. According to Roberts in his autobiography – I Wanted to Write – he published the book on antiques while in Italy (the period during which he was building the “American Wing” of his house in Italy). He says of Antiquamania:

even though delightfully illustrated with drawings by Mr. Tarkington, [it] was as unproductive as the other volumes had been. Its circulation was 1,165 (181).

Recently, some new Kenneth Roberts fans – Melissa and Drew – emailed me a picture of their recently acquired copy of Antiquamania that was signed and inscribed by Kenneth Roberts. See the image below (posted with permission):

The inscription reads:

Rare old Currier & Ives print, Flying Ants in September, discovered by Professor Kilgallen is an Arundel lumber pile and presented to Paul Allen by Kenneth Roberts.

Hanover, N.H./October 11, 1937

It appears that the picture at the top of the page is the Currier & Ives print discussed in the inscription. If I had to guess, Roberts’ humor shines forth here, matching the humor of the book itself.

Now, I’m no expert on handwriting, much less Roberts’ signature, but the signature and inscription above appear legit.

In a recent post, I’d posted pictures of signatures that I have (and know to be real), and another signature that I have that appeared to be forged (see the post here). The image on the top is the signature I’m confident is real, and the one on the bottom is the questionable one:

This is a Roberts signature located in a presentation copy of Boon Island.

This is the imprint and signature found in the book I received recently.

After that post, I had someone email me questioning my assertion, and now I am not so confident that the signature is a forgery. I’m not 100% confident it’s Roberts’ signature and inscription, though. I do know that Roberts’ wife Anna helped him considerably in his work, so it’s perhaps Anna’s writing on behalf of Kenneth Roberts (note the “of” in the inscription, as if the writer is writing in the third person. This is not something that someone would do if writing in the first person.). However, I do not have a way of knowing for sure right now. Hopefully more on this later, though!

First Edition Books: For Authors Only

D/J Front – For Authors Only 1st Ed

For Authors Only and Other Gloomy Essays is one of my favorite books by Kenneth Roberts. The reader gets a clear picture of Roberts’ sense of humor and quick wit, and his views on a variety of matters (like British mystery novels). For any fan of Roberts, his For Authors Only is a must-read to get a full picture of Roberts the man and his writing style. (The first edition was published in 1935 (MCMXXXV).)

As is normally the case, I tend to find Kenneth Roberts books in the least likely places. Today, while in Half Price Books, I found a 1st Edition copy of For Authors Only. I already have a copy of this book, but the book I found today is in pristine condition. More so, the dust jacket is in near perfect condition with no visible tears and only one small area of slight fading. The gold and blue colors are vibrant and beautiful, protected by a dust jacket cover.

The cover boards and spine are also in near perfect condition. Typically, I find Roberts books that are showing considerable wear; however, today’s find is as if it has not seen the light of day. The cover has no wear or tear (with only a small area of bubbling), and the embossing is nearly intact.

Considering the condition of this book, I am quite impressed with my find. I only paid $7, and after some brief research, the book is worth well more than that (on abebooks.com, I found a book of in a condition less than what I have, and unsigned, at $185). So, moral of the story – search your bargain book stores!

Below is a collection of photos I’ve taken of the dust jacket (primarily) and the front/back boards.

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