EDITOR’S NOTE: They say a photo is worth a 1,000 words. For the next few weeks leading up to the October Destin Fishing Rodeo, The Destin Log will be taking a look back at some iconic Rodeo photos found in the “Fifty Years of Fishing the Destin Fishing Rodeo” book and relay the story behind the photo — hopefully in less than 1,000 words.
For Marion Palmgren, her encounter with entertainer Bob Hope at the Destin Fishing Rodeo was a day to remember. But the day after is the memory that still puts a laugh in her voice.
Hope, an actor whose career spanned almost 80 years, was also a singer, dancer, comedian and athlete. He was also known for his USO shows between 1941-1991 entertaining active duty American military personnel.
But he also made annual trips to the Emerald Coast during the fall and would fish the Destin Fishing Rodeo in October as well as play a round of golf or two.
As for this photo, it was Friday, Oct. 1, 1982.
Palmgren, who had recently gotten involved with the Rodeo as a volunteer, was called upon by Rodeo director Helen Wren to meet with Hope before he headed out with Capt. Harold Staples on the Wynsong for a day of Rodeo fishing.
“This was the first day of the Rodeo,” Palmgren said. “I was holding a golf ball wrapped in pink tissue paper.”
She explained that Hope had attended the Rodeo captains meeting the night before and had remarked that he was going fishing instead of playing golf. He apparently had played a bad round the day before, she said.
Anyhow, on behalf of the Rodeo, Palmgren and Pat Destin, another volunteer, presented him with a golf ball, a Rodeo T-shirt and a hat.
“He fished a lot down here. In fact he even got into the (Rodeo) book a couple of times,” she said, for a white marlin or two.
However, she said, Hope liked to fish the easy way.
“He didn’t go early … so this was like at 10 o’clock in the morning,” she said.
The funny thing about this photo is the autograph in the bottom left corner and the story of how that came about.
Palmgren can’t recall exactly who took the photo, but whoever it was made her a print and brought it to her.
Hope was to leave town the next day after his fishing trip.
“I’d give anything if I could get it signed,” she recalled saying. “Of course Destin was so small then … someone said ‘He’s at the Destin airport right now on a private plane getting ready to leave.'
“Well Hamm (Palmgren's late husband) had a red 1970 Cadillac convertible … and in those days … we jumped into that car and headed to the Destin Airport with the top down and we went racing out on the runway as he’s getting on the plane,” she said.
She explained there wasn’t really anybody around and he was not quite on the plane yet.
“He was standing out there … it scared him to death,” she said.
On the other hand, “It was embarrassing for us. We then jumped out and told him all we wanted was the autograph. … He was so relieved,” she said.
Hope graciously signed the photo – “To Marion, My Best, Bob Hope.”
Palmgren said Hope was nice man.
As a matter of fact, when he came in from Rodeo fishing on that first day he had gone to Marina Café for dinner.
Palmgren said she was having dinner with her husband Hamm and another couple and their table was next to Hope and his party.
“The four of us never said a word,” Palmgren said. “We were too busy eavesdropping and listening” to Hope.
“He was astute enough and nice enough to remember me,” she said, noting he made a comment about seeing her at the boat that morning.
The photo, which hangs on her "wall of fame" at her home in Georgia, still brings a laugh to Palmgren.
“The biggest memory was his face … when we went racing in that 22-foot long convertible. He didn’t know if he was going to get run down or what.”
Palmgren is still very much involved with the Destin Fishing Rodeo. She will be here all 31 days and serves as right-hand man to Rodeo executive director Helen Donaldson.