Leslie Townes Hope was born on May 29, 1903 at Eltham, London, England. He was the fifth son in a family of 9. His father’s name was William Henry Harry and his mother’s was Avis Townes Hope. His father worked as a stone mason, but because stone masonry was being replaced by bricks at that time, the family’s financial problems continued to increase and they had to constantly move around, into smaller homes. Also, because of these financial problems, Leslie’s father began drinking a lot of alcohol, started getting involved with other women, and became abusive towards his family.
When Leslie was 5 years old, his family decided to move to Cleveland, Ohio and start over. This time, Avis became a concert singer to help support the family. The seven sons helped too, by selling newspapers and finding other part-time jobs in order to help earn money for the family. But even though they all had busy schedules, Avis always made sure that her sons had a virtuous life by bringing them to Sunday school every week.
Leslie’s childhood was full of unfortunate events. Having many part-time jobs (including being a delivery boy, a soda jerk, a shoe salesman and a pool hustler) and having to deal with his abusive father’s beatings were only a part it. Leslie was also made fun of by classmates at school because his name, “Hope, Leslie”, could be shortened to “Hope, Les” which sounds like “hopeless”. Fed up with this, he decided to change his name to Bob.
But, Bob was able to withstand and stay strong through all of these hardships, with some help from his understanding and gentle mother. As he grew older, his mother began to encourage him to take on a theatrical career like she did (she was a singer). And that was how the well-known comedian was born…