Christmas With Bob Hope

The last few days I’ve been putting up my Christmas decorations with the sound of carols playing in the background. This time of year is always a time for reminiscing for me, and while unpacking, one storage box held memories from 1966. Inside was a garland of realistic holly, boxwood and pine intertwined with miniature old world lanterns that light up. I remember splurging on it at a department store Christmas boutique that year. The Vietnam War was on and my husband was stationed with the USAF in northeast Thailand at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base. The amazing thing about that garland is that it still works! I’ve never replaced anything on it, and it’s been lighting a wall or fireplace mantle every Christmas since, for 48 years!

As I stepped back to admire the garland, memories flooded back of that time my husband was gone. In those days there was no R&R (Rest and Recuperation Leave) for our troops overseas at the half-way mark and no phone calls for the entire year. The Internet and Skype didn’t exist. Only letters. How the men looked forward to letters from home and an occasional gift package.

Probably the most exciting time for them that year was a visit from Bob Hope. Stars accompanying Mr. Hope were Vic Damone, Phyllis Diller, Joey Heatherton, and Miss World, Anita Bryant, plus some minor acts. The men at the Nakhon Phanom base talked about it for weeks ahead of time and families at home were eager to see the Bob Hope Christmas Special when it came out in January to see if they could catch a glimpse of their son, brother, uncle, husband, or father.

I remember my son and I sat on the living room floor as close as we could get to my parents-in-law’s TV without blocking anyone else’s view, to see if we could find my husband in the crowd. He had written to say he was in front sitting on the ground only about ten feet away from the stage. During the special, everything happened so fast and there were so many faces to search, I couldn’t be sure we actually saw him or not, but the important thing was that the troops were able to see Bob Hope and company. What a thrill it was to them! I wish there were DVRs then!

Not all the memories of that time were good ones. Last month was Veteran’s Day and many Americans thought of all the sacrifices our soldiers have made for their country. I’d like to mention the sacrifices of the families of those soldiers as well. That year my husband and I missed sharing the celebration of our birthdays, our anniversary, several extended family events and a year of our 4 year old son’s life in a country that wasn’t very supportive. My husband’s paycheck documents got lost and for several months, we had no money coming in at all. It was a difficult time sometimes, but we persevered until his return. We considered ourselves really blessed that he was able to come back to us!

Ninteen sixty-six was a different time and military families have some advantages since then, but they also have more challenges and difficulties than ever before. I just hope that as we celebrate this holiday season, we remember the families, as well as the soldiers and airmen, for the dedicated, selfless people they are. And that those families have something nice to remind them of their sacrifice, like my garland that keeps staying lit.

12 Comments

Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, musings

12 responses to “Christmas With Bob Hope

  1. The image of you and your son watching the audience at the Bob Hope show (instead of watching Bob himself) in hopes of spotting your husband is very moving. 1966 was a different time indeed, in so many ways. Thanks for the post, Coco.

  2. Your blog brings back lots of memories for many of us. You laugh and cry all at the same time. I do have some fond memories of our days in NM.

    • I’ll say, Susan! Many of those memories were magical, but remember on a hot summer’s eve, the aroma of the cattle stock yard near by? Or Florence Nightengale? Your dog, Brandy? He was bigger than me! Hahaha! Thanks for bringing back more memories! Merry Christmas!!!

  3. Art

    The Christmas season always has a way of bringing up memories of good times and even a few not so good times. It is nice to have a point in every year where we have an opportunity to reflect and to open our hearts if we will take it.
    Merry Christmas Gail

  4. Cynthia

    What a wonderful expression of memories my dear friend. You always know the perfect way to relive them. May you have a Beautiful Holiday Season, as I too will be remembering special times with you during the Holidays Seasons of the past! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Coco!
    Love Always,
    Cynthia

  5. Coco! 1966 is a special year for us, and we do remember all of the celebrities you mentioned, and in fact, I think I even remember his show that year. It’s good to look back on these years because life was very different then, only letters coming from home to spark the life in a soldier unable to be with his/her family. Today is so different – with the ability to connect 24/7 with anyone around the globe. Your story is so well written, and I will post the link on Alma’s web site. You are a great writer!
    Marie with ALMA

    • Thank you, Marie. Yes, we remember a different time. We probably both saw my husband and didn’t know it. Ha! Thank you for posting my blog on the Alma site. I appreciate it so much. And thank you for all you have done for me. Finding my sister was my goal and you made it possible. I’ll never forget that! Bless you. A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your husband.

  6. Very well said, Coco. Been there, done some of that myself, back in Germany, in the late 1970’s. Merry Christmas!

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