Dumpster diving yields images of Bob Hope, Gerald Ford

2013-06-17T03:45:00Z Dumpster diving yields images of Bob Hope, Gerald FordBy ALGIS J. LAUKAITIS / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

History can turn up in the weirdest places.

Attics, basements and closets can hide political memorabilia, celebrity autographs and letters, and photographs of important people and events.

Trash bins also can be treasure troves, as Jim Null discovered while visiting his wife, Elaine, in the Lincoln law office of former Gov. Charles Thone.

During the 1990s, she was the accounting manager for Erickson and Sederstrom, where Thone was an attorney, and Jim Null sometimes chatted with Thone when he stopped in to see his wife.

One day, Null said, Thone was moving to a different office and tossing stuff away in a trash bucket in the hallway.

"I was glancing at the dumpster and saw a picture," said Null, a Lincoln native who moved to Omaha five years ago.

The picture turned out to be a black and white image of a country church near Agnew, about 20 miles northwest of Lincoln.

Null, 61, liked the photograph so much he asked if he could have it, and Thone gave it to him. Much to his surprise, Null later discovered his wife's parents, Ray and Adeline Houdek, had gotten married there.

"This photo was taken right when the church was built," Jim Null said.

The Nulls reframed the picture and gave it to the couple for their 50th wedding anniversary.

Something else caught Jim Null's eye that day: a small manila envelope labeled "Bob Hope@Mansion 10/16/82." Inside were lots of negatives.

"I asked Charlie, 'Are you throwing these away?' He said yes. I was floored," Null said.

Thone gave them to Null, too, and it turned out the negatives were snapshots of comedian Bob Hope, Omaha native and former President Gerald R. Ford and actor and singer Gordon MacRae, who lived in Lincoln late in his career.

Hope sports a red cap with a white "N" in one photograph and holds a red and white football, presumably autographed by the Husker football team, in another.

MacRae, an arm resting in a sling in the photos, is best known for his appearances in Rodgers and Hammerstein's musicals "Oklahoma" and "Carousel." 

Negatives of photos showing Ford with Thone and other politicians and talking with the media at a news conference were in a smaller envelope marked "Ford at the Thones 8/20/82" and "Do Not Destroy."

Thone, 89, recalls throwing the negatives away only vaguely, but he has a clear recollection of Hope's visit.

"He called me and said, 'Is this Gov. Thone? This is Bob Hope. Do you have a room in your hotel for me?'"

Thone thought it was a friend playing a practical joke.

It wasn't, and Hope stayed overnight and even took a walk around the Capitol with Thone, who was governor from 1979 to 1983.

"He (Hope) was kind of like the Energizer bunny. He would just go, go everywhere. He showed up in so many places all over the United States," Thone said recently.

Ford also was a guest of Thone and his wife, Ruth, on several occasions when Thone served in Congress from 1971 to 1979. Ford was House minority leader at the time.

"He took a liking to me," Thone recalled. "He got me appointed to the committee to review the assassinations of Martin Luther King and JFK."

Other guests of the Thones included comedian George Burns and bandleader Lawrence Welk.

"He (Welk) came up and brought me a football," Thone recalled. "He said, 'The Oklahoma coach wanted me to give this to you.'"

Neither Thone or Null knows who took the snapshots, but Null has safeguarded them for years and believes they may have historical value at some point in time.

Thone isn't so sure, but the photographs did spark some great memories.

"That was one of the nice things about being governor. You ran into some interesting personalities," he said.

Last month, Null took some of his favorite negatives to a camera store in Omaha and had them made into prints, some of which he plans to hang.

"I was a major Bob Hope fan because of him helping the troops," Null said.

During World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Hope made many USO trips oversees to entertain U.S. soldiers.

"I had no clue either of these guys (Hope and Ford) were in Nebraska, let alone the Governor's Mansion," Null said.

And who knew Hope was a Husker fan? If only for a photo op.

Reach Algis J. Laukaitis at 402-473-7243 or alaukaitis@journalstar.com.

Copyright 2015 JournalStar.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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