the directors of the Admiral Nimitz Center in Fredericksburg
needed to raise money to restore the old Nimitz
Hotel, the occasion called for something bigger than a bake
sale or a car wash. So the directors hot-dialed Hollywood, and Bob
Hope answered. On Saturday August 14, 1976 Hope staged the "Stars
over the Hill Country" benefit show at the Gillespie County Fairgrounds.
| Bob Hope
courtesy Fredericksburg Standard
Pearl, star of the Grand Ole Opry, made her way from Grinder's Switch,
Tennessee to Fredericksburg
to share the stage with Hope. Both entertainers had Fredericksburg
connections. Hope was friends with Admiral Nimitz and President
Johnson. Minnie Pearl, whose real name was Ophelia Colley, rekindled
her acquaintance with Victoria Keidel, Mrs. J. Hardin Perry. They
both attended school at Ward-Belmont College, a fashionable girl's
school in Nashville.
| Minnie Pearl
courtesy Fredericksburg Standard
The big day
began at 10:30 in the morning with a parade down Main Street from
Kraus Corner to the Nimitz
Hotel. Minnie Pearl was the grand marshal. A flyover by T-38
jets from Randolph Field in San
Antonio scared all the chickens in town.
The new fairgrounds opened that afternoon for an arts and crafts
show, and there was music on the stage in front of the grandstands.
The acts included Johnny Bush and the Bandoleros, George Chambers
and his Country Gentlemen, Darrell McCall, Stoney Edwards, Kathy
Grissom, Gary Langston - The Singing Sergeant, Inalani and her Hawaiian
Dancers, Felix Pehl's Oompah Band, the singing Feller Family from
Harper, the Poverty Playboys, the Wagon Aces and a singer named
Jim Owen who sang just like Hank Williams. Looked like him too.
The Luckenbach Junior High Band, under the misdirection of the maestro
Hondo Crouch, made a rare public appearance. For weeks prior to
the big event the band gathered in the saloon behind the Luckenbach
Store and Post Office, even playing their instruments every
once in a while.
Hope's plane landed at the LBJ Ranch at 5 that afternoon. He visited
the grave of President Johnson and then came directly to the Nimitz
for a press conference.
Fredericksburg and the Admiral Nimitz Center pulled out all the
stops for the Hollywood legend. Hope, who could not imagine a greater
honor than the Congressional Gold Medal President Kennedy gave him
in 1963, received a certificate making him an Admiral in the Texas
Navy. Then he bashed a wall at the hotel with a sledgehammer to
symbolize the beginning of restoration work.
Despite the looming presidential election Hope smartly avoided politics.
"I knew Ronald Reagan since he was a lifeguard," he said when asked
if he had a preference, "and I think I played football against Gerald
Out at the fairgrounds Max Gardner of San
Antonio radio station KKYX was the master of ceremonies for
the afternoon entertainment, and Bruce Hathaway, the morning DJ
at KTSA, stayed up past bedtime to MC the evening show.
Late in the afternoon the Fredericksburg High School Band entertained
the crowd. Then at 7:30 Minnie Pearl took the stage. She scanned
the audience "alookin' fer a feller." She poked fun at herself,
mostly at her appearance.
"I once wore a mumu," she said. "I looked like a mama kangaroo with
Then, the stage lights dimmed and old ski nose himself stepped comfortably
into the spotlight, cracking jokes and twirling a golf club.
"I wanted to be in show business since I was a boy," Hope told the
audience. "I grew up with 6 brothers. That's how I learned to dance
- waiting for the bathroom."
Right in the middle of Hope's act, Luckenbach's
own Hondo Crouch came
on stage and traded barbs with the Hollywood legend. They say Hope
held his own.
At the end of the evening Hope sang "Thanks for the Memory" and
said a warm goodbye. He spent the night in Kerrville
and played a round of golf at Riverhill Country Club before flying
back to California.
The people in Fredericksburg
still talk about the night Bob Hope came to town, but as a fundraiser
"Stars over the Hill Country" fell short of expectations.
The show broke even. The publicity was priceless.
"Bob Hope Showers Memories on 8,200," Fredericksburg Standard,
August 18, 1976.
"Famed Entertainer Headlines Star-Studded Show," Fredericksburg
Standard, August 11, 1976
"Galaxy of Stars on August 14 Bob Hope Show," Fredericksburg
Standard, August 4, 1976.
"Minnie Pearl's Not All Cornball, She's Real Lady," Fredericksburg
Standard. August 18, 1976.
"Publicity Main Benefit of Bob Hope Show," Fredericksburg Standard,
September 15, 1976.