A couple of interesting veins I wanted to tap while blogging about Babe’s letters so far have turned into dead-ends.
First, there was the oblique reference to Jack Benny’s broadcast scribbled on the outside of the envelope of his May 5, 1943, letter to his parents. It seemed to have some significance to him and he wanted to make sure his parents found someone who heard the broadcast. But if it’s more than an inside joke, I can’t figure it out.
Now, there’s a letter to his brother Bob (whom he called Bib) that says, “Bob Hope and his gang were here last night, but we couldn’t see him and, although I tried, I couldn’t pick him up over my radio. We stayed out until 11:30 last night. Did you hear his broadcast?”
Babe dated that letter May 26, 1943. He was based at Camp Wheeler, near Macon, Ga. So when he says “Bob Hope was here last night,” wouldn’t you think that on the evening of May 25, 1943, the comedian would have been somewhere in Georgia?
Well, he wasn’t. He was nowhere near Georgia.
According to multiple accounts online, including a snatch of video on YouTube, Bob Hope was doing a show at the Stockton Air Field in California for a large group of Army Air Corps cadets. The show included a bit with his brother George, a staff sergeant at the base.
“Remember, George, you’re my brother,” Hope said at one point in the routine. “My success is your success. Anything you need, name it. You can have anything under the sun.”
“How about 5?”
“Cloudy day, isn’t it?” the comedian deadpanned.
In fact, Bob Hope did perform at Camp Wheeler, but more than a year after Babe sent the letter. He did a show broadcast on Oct. 18, 1944. According to the intro of the broadcast, “The Bob Hope program with Frances Langford and Jerry Colonna, in a special rebroadcast scheduled expressly at this hour for the fighting men of the united nations by the special service division of the War Department of the United States.”
That suggests the show was taped at another time, but I don’t have any idea when. Hope makes reference to spending a couple of weeks in Atlanta and to the looming start of cotton-picking season, which would have started around September and been in its peek in October.
So this is not likely the broadcast Babe was referring to, is it? So what the hell was he talking about?