Watermelons for Bob Hope
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.