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Bookstore owner paying tribute to Hope

May 29, 2003|By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Jack Staley is thanking Bob Hope for the memories.

The two window fronts of Staley's Barnwood Books in downtown Hagerstown are adorned with aged newspaper clips, magazines and books featuring Hope and his many personas as an entertainer.

Staley, a collector of Hope memorabilia for 50 years, said the decorated window fronts consisting of about 60 items are a tribute to Hope's 100th birthday today.

"He's recognized as one of the greatest entertainers of the century," said Staley, a World War II veteran. "I think most veterans of the military always had an interest in Bob Hope."

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Staley said he dug out his collection, which was then assembled in the windows by store Manager Judy Eshleman.

"I had no idea what I had until I pulled it out and decided to do these windows," Staley said.

Hope is well-known for decades of entertaining U.S. servicemen and women on military bases and installations around the world.

Born in England on May 29, 1903, Hope's family moved to Cleveland in 1907, according to Hope's official Web site, BobHope.com.

He starred in more than 50 films and appeared in cameos for 15 movies. He also has headlined NBC radio and television shows for 60 years.

Hope holds two entries in the "Guinness Book of World Records" for "Most Honored Entertainer" and "Entertainer with the Longest Running Contract with a Single Network," the Web site states.

While Staley never met Hope, he said it's nearly impossible not to like the star.

"You have to, there's just no choice about it," Staley said. "He's the best-known name in America."

Staley said he saw two live Hope shows - one at The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown in October 1978 and the other in Topeka, Kan., where Hope held a benefit show to help rebuild a cathedral that had burned down.

Staley said he often decorates his windows to represent different holidays, but his Hope collection has so far received the most feedback from customers.

He said some people stop by the store just to look at the collection, while others stop in to comment about it.

Staley said Hope acquired his large fan base by telling clean jokes and entertaining the military for years.

"He was very funny," he said. "He had very clean stories that you could repeat anywhere."

Staley said that if he could send one message to Hope, it would be the same line Hope made famous in a song.

"Everybody knows him by his song, 'Thanks for the Memory,'" Staley said. "That's what America wants to say to him."

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