Thursday, July 27, 2017


My friend Billie Bower is an avid Elvis fan and she shared her special memory blog item with me:

                                                           ELVIS MEMORY SHARED
I was traveling with my parents in February 1956 through Tennessee on our way to Florida. The radio was playing when a local DJ introduced a new record called Heartbreak Hotel by a local singer. I was in the back seat of the car with a girlfriend and when we heard the first notes of the song, we both looked at each other incredulously....such a different sound. I had my dad pull off the road and wait to hear what the artist's name was so that I could write it down. When he said "Elvis Presley", I wondered how to spell such an unusual name. Two weeks later, when we returned to Columbus, Ohio, I went to several record shops to find the record and was told that they didn't have it and had never heard of someone by the name of Elvis Presley. Needless to say, it wasn't long until everybody had heard of I felt I had discovered him in my own way. I was 17 and he was 20 and I was hooked forever with his talent, his charm, his charisma.

I was fortunate enough to be able to see him in person when he came to Columbus, Ohio, in the spring of 1956 at Veterans Memorial. I was not a screaming sort of fan...more of a bookworm/quiet type of when all the girls were screaming, I was irritated because I couldn't hear him. BUT when he was getting ready to close his performance, he lowered the stand-type microphone between his legs and held out his arm pointing to the audience and saying..."If you can't come back to see me when I come to town the next time, 'You Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog'!" followed by the song which had not been released yet. So the bookworm/quiet fan actually swooned in my seat!

I remember always buying his records at a local Kresge's store every chance I could. I got married in 1957 and my first baby arrived in 1958, and my first Mother's Day gift was Elvis' 2nd album. Always a fan but never able to afford going to his concerts with a young family, I still had my records. I eventually had 4 children (2 girls and 2 boys) and when I had my first son on January 8, 1965, I was unaware at the time that it was Elvis' birthday. So Bobby always had to share his birthday with Elvis and the anthologies I would always listen to. After he graduated from OSU and had to leave for ROTC military duty, I danced with my son in the kitchen to Elvis singing I Can't Help Falling In Love With You,  a very special memory.

I always got teased by my family and friends and co-workers about my love for Elvis, but it didn't bother me. When I only had 2 children in 1963, I had made plans to go to Graceland to finally see his home but alas, my daughters both came down with chicken pox and the trip was cancelled. I remember finally being able to buy 5 tickets to see Elvis to share him with my family in 1974, at University of Dayton. Our tickets were so bad that you could hardly see him, but my family didn't watch him....they were watching me!

I never joined his fan club or collected teddy bears, lipstick, etc., but eventually got hooked on his bubble gum cards, Christmas ornaments, velvet paintings, beach towels, t-shirts, in addition to many special books and album collections. Then on June 25, 1977, I was able to get 4 tickets in the 16th row at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati to see him perform. I was so excited, but my husband was at summer camp in Michigan, my children were at band camp or unavailable, so I called my girlfriend that had been with me in 1956 when we heard him for the first time on the trip to Florida. She and her daughter were available and so I recruited my mother to go too. She said she didn't want to go as she was not an Elvis fan, but I convinced her I needed her company. So the 4 of us were off to Cincinnati for a wonderful concert. He wore his sunburst outfit and I remember that he played the piano to Unchained Melody and complained about having novocaine from a dental appointment and couldn't curl his upper lip. Again, I was the quiet and shy fan who would not go up to get his scarf (I regret to say), but I did buy a rolled-up picture of him for $5 to take home to my dad. I felt bad that we left Daddy alone as it was his 63rd birthday! So 6 weeks later when I was driving home from work (North American Rockwell), I heard on my car radio that Elvis had died. I didn't think I would be able to drive home as I was so distraught. But I remembered when I gave Dad the rolled up picture of Elvis, he said, "Now what am I supposed to do with that?" I called my Dad and said you can frame it and give it back to me. So when I went to my parents home in December of 1977, I was alone in their house when I went to turn on the lamp in the living room only to find the framed picture of Elvis looking at me and almost had a heart attack. It was so life-like! I was asked by where are you going to hang that picture? Well, it was so big and heavy, it needed to definitely be on a appropriate...a stud on a stud! I hung it in the entryway of our home for several years, but now that we live in a small condo, it is behind the door to our computer room and when the door is closed and I'm on the computer, he is there looking at me.

I still had not gotten to Graceland. Again, we planned a trip in 1982...packed and ready to leave when we received a phone call that my husband's mother had passed away in Michigan. But finally in 1988, we did an unplanned visit to Graceland. We went to Florida to visit our son, Bob Jr. and while I was reading the map on our way back to Ohio, I noticed we were near a route that went to Tupelo, MS, and asked my husband could we take a little detour home?  I'll never forget the highway leading to Tupelo...I nicknamed it the Honeysuckle wild honeysuckle were blooming along the roadside all the way. When we arrived at his birthplace and home, it was closed, but I was able to sit in the swing on the front porch, look in the windows, and reflect. We stayed overnight in Memphis and at long last, I was able to see Graceland. I'm still hoping to go back again as more is open to the public now.

After his passing, I couldn't listen to his hurt too much. And several months later, trying to explain my feelings to my children, I thought I was ready to listen to some of his more upbeat songs like Poke Salad Annie and Trouble. Wrong! My favorite upbeat song is Trouble and when I played it, I realized I still wasn't ready as the tears flowed. It was from King Creole, one of his better movies. I did enjoy his movies, if for no other reason than watching him perform and the music videos of today. But I did want him to have the opportunity to star with Barbara Streisand in A Star Is Born" as he so wanted to be a serious actor.

And last but not least, Sue, is my memory of you doing your Elvis impersonation! It was so great to have a friend with the same excitement for Elvis that I felt. I remember you were the one I wanted to share my Elvis rose with so when I ordered one for me, I ordered one for you. Now they are not available.

I have wonderful memories of Elvis and will always enjoy listening to his music. When I leave this world, he will be singing How Great Thou Art for me.

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