Submitted by Jim Liversidge, curator of the Popular Culture Collections.
Bob Hope, the “entertainer of the (20th) century” saved everything from his illustrious and colorful career including ephemera and artifacts. As the Bob Hope Collection has been processed, we’ve uncovered trophies, golf clubs, even wedding cake. However, certain items stand out as moving representations of Bob Hope’s impact on generations of audiences. One of these artifacts is a framed jigsaw puzzle featuring the “NBC-TV Peacock,” which was sent to Bob Hope (c. 1965) from a student at Texas Christian University (Fort Worth).
A metal plate is attached to the frame reading “To Bob Hope – A Master Comic” and, on the back of the frame, the student includes a handwritten note: “This puzzle was given to me two years ago by my aunt in Tuson (sic), Arizona. It was given to her by the NBC station manager there. It took four and one half hours to put together. I thought I would keep it since I intend to work for NBC after I graduate from Texas Christian University, but I see now that I will be serving in the Arm (sic) Forces and the NBC Peacock has no place in Viet Nam. Will you keep him for me? Most sincerely, David West.”
Tragically, David West’s name can be found in one other prominent location: on the memorial wall in Washington DC. Military records show that West did deploy to Vietnam with the US Marine Corps, and was killed in action in 1966.
The framed object, from an idealistic young man on his way to war in Southeast Asia, was preserved by the entertainer, who would accompany and entertain troops in conflict from World War II through Operation Desert Shield. After almost sixty years, this massive archive has now been indexed for scholars, preserving the memory of young David West, as well as countless other correspondents, in the University of Florida Popular Culture Collections.