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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website each week and be added to the archives.

The Articles started December 2007.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Bob Hope competed with moon landing

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................June 5, 2012

Sandwich historian Joan Hardekopf and I recently found out we have a couple of things in common.

Talking about what famous people we had seen in person, she mentioned Eleanor Roosevelt and Bob Hope. It turns out we were in the same audiences more than 50 years ago when they made appearances in DeKalb County. The former first lady spoke at Altgeld Hall on the Northern Illinois University campus when Joan and I were students there.

Then there was Hope. We were in the crowd when he flew into the Sandwich Airport on July 20, 1969, to do a benefit show as a favor for a friend. Coincidentally, it was the same afternoon that the Apollo 11 astronauts were making the first moon landing. I was covering the Sandwich event for the Daily Chronicle, along with staff photographer Chuck Richardson.

This old newspaper clipping shows comedian Bob Hope being interviewed July 20, 1969, by local publicist Shirley Keller at the Sandwich Airport. (Provided photo)


The Sandwich crowd was estimated to be anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000, and it would have been larger had it not been for competing with the Apollo lunar mission. Hope stayed in the airport administration building long enough to see the televised touchdown on the moon. I snapped a photo of him at the moment, which was used on the front page of the Daily Chronicle the next day. He was awed and was speechless at the moment. The show’s emcee, WGN radio personality Eddie Hubbard, announced the news of the landing to those gathered outside, and a cheer went up from the crowd.

The program included some dancers, a pianist and a two-hour air show headlined by Jerrie Mock, who was the first woman to fly solo in a single-engine plane around the world. It was reported that proceeds from the benefit totaled about $15,000. The money went toward the purchase of a six-passenger Cessna P-206 for use by the Rev. Tony Gendusa and his missionary work in New Guinea.

Once on stage, Hope managed to ad-lib a few lines, asking “If this is Sandwich, are we the crusts?” and adding that he had “never played to a cow pasture airport before,” which brought a response from Sandwich Mayor Leonard Barter. But the local crowd loved the banter and Hope tossed out a few more jabs at small towns, the rough condition of the highway and the rural surroundings.

When I think about the hundreds of thousands of troops Hope entertained around the world during his long career, this crowd was fortunate to see him up close for only $3. What a bargain and a special memory on the historic day when Neil Armstrong uttered, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

By the way, after next week’s column I will take a month off for a trip to California where I like to spend time at the Alameda County Fair, demonstrating printing on its museum’s antique press and seeing old friends.

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The columnist can be reached via email at :

barry815sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115