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As a youth in Cleveland he earned spending money selling newspapers and as a constant entrant in amateur shows. During his years at East High School he worked as a delivery boy in his Uncle Fred's meat market. He was also a soda jerk, a shoe salesman, and a pool hustler.

After high school, Bob took dancing lessons from entertainer King Rastus Brown and from vaudeville hoofer Johnny Root. A natural, he took over some classes for his teachers. Bob also worked briefly as a newspaper reporter and tried amateur boxing under the name of Packy East. Bob gave up boxing when he " was not only being carried out of the ring, but into the ring."

 

 

At 18, Bob persuaded his girlfriend, Mildred Rosequist, to become his dance partner. Appearing at nearby vaudeville houses they worked their way to the princely wage of $8 a night and were ready to take their show on tour. However, the curtain fell abruptly on Hope and Rosequist when Mildred's mother finally saw the act.

Bob then teamed up with a friend, Lloyd Durbin. After developing their act in local bookings they were hired by the Bandbox Theater in Cleveland as a "cheap act" for the Fatty Arbuckle Show.

One year later, Bob teamed with George Byrne for a tour with tab shows. They polished their act and soon were playing major houses including Keith's Flushing in New York city.

In New York they were chosen for the Broadway show "Sidewalks of New York" which starred Ruby Keeler and Smith & Dale. The show enjoyed a long run. Hope & Byrne did not!

On the advice of their agent, Hope and Byrne headed west to change their act and start over again.

They secured a three-day date in a tiny theater in New Castle, Pennsylvania. On opening night Bob was asked to announce the coming attractions to the theater audiences. Encouraged by the audience responses and the theater manager, Bob enlarged his introduction routine to five minutes. At the conclusion of the three-day engagement, Bob became a 'single.'

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