a recent trip to Luckenbach
my wife and I sat under the oak trees, listened to the music, and
reminisced about the old days. As we walked past the bronze bust of
legendary character Hondo Crouch, my wife recalled the time that Hondo
stole the show from renowned entertainer Bob Hope.
Hope came to Fredericksburg
on August 14, 1976 to raise money for the Admiral
Nimitz Center. The actor with the ski slope nose met the Admiral
at Pearl Harbor in 1944 and kept in contact with Mrs. Nimitz, then
living in California, since the Admiral's death in 1966.
At the time of his visit to the Texas
Hill Country, Hope was one of the biggest stars in the world.
Thanks to radio and television, everyone in America knew his name
and recognized his image. He made over 70 films, and for six decades
he traveled the globe entertaining American troops.
A friend once said, "If he could live his life over, he wouldn't have
day Bob Hope came to Fredericksburg
began with a parade down Hauptstrasse (Main Street) from Kraus corner
to the Nimitz Hotel.
The grand marshal of the parade was Minnie Pearl. Ms. Pearl, born
Sarah Ophelia Colley, was a regular on the television show Hee Haw
and a recent inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
After the parade the festivities moved to the Gillespie County Fairgrounds
where spectators enjoyed steer roping, barrel racing, food, beer,
and polka bands. That afternoon Nashville recording artists Johnny
Bush, Stoney Edwards, and Darrell McCall performed on the stage in
front of the grandstand - followed by more food, more beer, and more
polka bands. Bruce Hathaway, the morning DJ at KTSA in San
Antonio was the MC. At 7:00 the Fredericksburg High School Band
performed. That's the Missus, Ginger Oestreich, in the flute section.
Bob Hope took the stage at 8 that evening. He arrived in a golf cart
while a 15-piece orchestra played in the background. Hope twirled
a golf club as he spoke into the microphone. Jokes and wisecracks
came fast and furious. The upcoming presidential election was a favorite
target, especially some of Jimmy Carter's recent comments about his
"I like to see politicians praying," Hope said. "It keeps their hands
where you can see 'em."
Then, right in the middle of Hope's routine, Hondo Crouch walked on
Hondo Crouch and
Photo courtesy Fredericksburg Standard
the time Hondo was one of two famous Americans born in the Texas
Hill Country; the other being Lyndon Johnson. Both men were
in politics, in a manner of speaking. Johnson became president of
the United States while Hondo was the self-proclaimed mayor of Luckenbach
Hondo had a colorful and unpredictable personality and a knack for
self-promotion. His zany celebrations, like the Luckenbach
World's Fair and the Return of the Mud Daubers, focused national
attention on his tiny town. The
World's Fair drew 20,000 people. They consumed 9,000 cases of
Someone once asked Hondo what he did for a living.
"I write books on etiquette," he said while picking his nose. "But
they don't sell too good."
On summer nights he usually held court under the oak trees by the
old general store at Luckenbach,
but with an audience waiting for a world famous entertainer just
a few miles away, the temptation to make an appearance was too great.
Hondo came on stage, unannounced, in his usual dress: greasy jeans
stuffed into a pair of well-worn boots, a sweat-stained cowboy hat,
a red bandana, a scruffy white beard, and an impish smile. He said
he wanted to give Hope a new golf club but couldn't find one. "We
don't play golf in Luckenbach."
So instead of a golf club, Hondo presented Hope with an axe handle.
"It doesn't have a head on it," Hondo explained. "It hard to get
'ahead' in Luckenbach,
so I'm just giving you the shaft."
Hope glanced away in exasperation. Hondo smiled and waved. The crowd
roared with laughter. Six weeks later Hondo Crouch died of a heart
Thanks for the Memories.
Fredericksburg Standard, August 11, 1976, August 18, 1976.
Ginger Barr Interview, October 19, 2015.
John Davidson, "The Man Who Dreamed Up Luckenbach," Texas Monthly,
The Handbook of Texas, John Russell Crouch.