Wa­ter­mel­ons for Bob Hope

Reminisce - - Contents - BY KATHY ROBIN­SON • IM­PE­RIAL, MO

The great wa­ter­melon tra­di­tion started long be­fore I got in­volved.

Dur­ing his vaude­ville days, a hoofer named

Bob Hope found him­self at the best­known wa­ter­melon stand in St. Louis, Mis­souri, buy­ing one of the big, juicy sum­mer­time fruits. He told the fruit stand ven­dor, Sam Zvi­ble­man, that the Mid­west mel­ons tasted much bet­ter than those grown in Cal­i­for­nia. Both agreed that wa­ter­mel­ons were na­ture’s no­blest fruit.

For two decades, as Hope’s ca­reer grew, Sam the Wa­ter­melon Man sent a wa­ter­melon to the en­ter­tainer’s dress­ing room when­ever he was in town. He also drove a car­load of the beloved wa­ter­mel­ons to his now friend in Bur­bank, Cal­i­for­nia, ev­ery year.

In 1958 Hope was play­ing in the mu­si­cal Roberta at the St. Louis Mu­nic­i­pal Opera The­atre. Sam de­liv­ered the goods there as usual, but he handed over the yearly Cal­i­for­nia drive to a younger friend, Joe Born­stein. And Joe did it for many years af­ter­ward.

July 1974 marked Joe’s 17th an­nual wa­ter­melon trip. That’s when I came in. Joe was dat­ing my mother, Betty, and he in­vited us to join him on the trek.

I had just grad­u­ated from high school, so I went with them. We drove a car do­nated by a lo­cal car deal­er­ship, which also spon­sored and ad­ver­tised the event.

That year, along with the three of us and our be­long­ings, we loaded

17 wa­ter­mel­ons into the back of the sta­tion wagon and drove cross­coun­try to de­liver the pre­cious cargo.

What a thrill it was when we fi­nally got to the house and Bob Hope came out to greet us. He was just as ex­cited about the wa­ter­mel­ons we brought as we were to be there.

DE­LIV­ER­ING WA­TER­MEL­ONS to Bob Hope was an an­nual event. Kathy, cen­ter right, made the trip with her mom from St. Louis, MO,to Bur­bank, CA, in 1974.

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