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Elvis has left the Building

November 8, 2008

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This week I want to share a “most unforgetable” moment in my life, the day I met Elvis Presley. Unfortunately, all of the pictures in this post are from Google images. The pictures my husband, at the time, took are in his possession. Although I have asked several times for copies, he refuses to give me even one. But, that’s ok, I still have my memories.

 

 

 

Elvis has left the building

 

I grew up in a country music household. By age 10, I knew all of Pasty Cline’s and Loretta Lynn’s songs from playing them over and over on our record player. I was also moved by Johnny Cash and Johnny Horton. But my very favorite was Elvis Presley. My parents were not overly fond of Elvis because he also sang “that rock and roll” music, which my mother was convinced came straight from the Devil himself. But he sang very inspirational Gospel hymns and therefore a few of his albums made it into our family collection.

 

elvis-portrait1smI would sit for hours listening to Elvis and studying his pictures on the record albums. Even as a child, I was mesmerized by his haunting eyes. As I grew into adolescence, I became fascinated with his jet black hair and curling lips. My first crush was on a boy who looked like Elvis, at least through the eyes of a twelve-year old. Even my first kiss came while listening to Elvis sing “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” If I were not in love with Elvis enough, his movies only compounded my love affair. “Love Me Tender” and “Flaming Star” are my favorites of the 31 movies he made. Yes, I have seen them all, probably more than thirty times each. I was contented living in a country and western household, that is, until the Beatles came to America.

 

I was in the seventh grade when the Beatles stepped onto American soil. I had won a transistor radio at my dad’s company picnic the summer before and had freedom to listen to my own choice of music. The first time I heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” I was hooked. I became an overnight Beatlemanic. I collected bubblegum cards, key chains, posters, anything with the Beatles on it. My parents became concerned over my obsession with a group they never heard of. “You spend too much time listening to that noise!” they complained. The final straw came the night the Beatles were to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. I spent the entire week prior trying to convince my dad that we really didn’t need to watch Bonanza. But all my pleading and reasoning fell on deaf ears. The weekly family tradition of watching Bonanza on Sunday night at 8pm while sharing a half gallon of vanilla ice cream would not be changed for anything, much less for a program featuring a rock and roll group. The night finally arrived and my resolve not to be the only girl in junior high to miss seeing the Beatles on beatlestelevision only became more intensified. At every commercial, I asked if I could turn the channel just in case they were on. NO, was always the answer. Finally Bonanza was over and I literally I got down on my knees in front of my dad and begged to be able to turn the channel. “But we will miss the previews for next week’s show if you turn it now.” he responded. “But dad, we are going to see the show next week anyways, it’s not going to hurt anything to miss the previews. The Beatles might still be on. Please dad! Please let me turn the channel.” I begged. He finally agreed and I was across the room like a shot and had the channel changed before he even finished, “I suppose we don’t have to watch the preview.” Just I turned it to the correct channel, Ed Sullivan was introducing the Beatles’ second act for the night. I had not missed them! There they were, singing “I Saw Her Standing There” followed by “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”  I never saw their entire presentation of I Want to Hold Your Hand. I, like every other teenage girl in her living room across the country, was jumping up and down, screaming and crying. My dad was too shocked at first, but finally gained his senses, and got up, walked over in front of me, and then turned the television off. “If this is what this kind of music does to you, you will not listen to it ever again!” I had never defied my dad before, so this was going to be a problem. I quickly learned to schedule my rock and roll listening around times when my dad would be within hearing distance. I quickly cast country music aside, along with my love for Elvis, and fell in love with Paul McCartney and John Lennon. This new love lasted several years until I moved to Memphis.

 

I married at age 16, due to an unplanned pregnancy. Seven months after our marriage, and death of our first child, my husband and I moved to Memphis, Tennessee. John worked for a lumber company who paid our expenses for five months for him to attend the National Hardwood Lumber Inspection School. This proved to be quite an adventure for two kids from the rural hills of Holmes County, Ohio. We rented a duplex from Mrs. Goolsby, who lived next door. On the second day of our arrival in Memphis, John left for school. Being as I was only 17, I had nothing to do but sit around the apartment. Mrs. Goolsby invited me over for tea that afternoon. That’s when I saw it. An autographed 8×10 framed picture of Elvis and Mrs. Goolsby. I asked if I could pick up the picture and was told, “Well sure honey, it just a picture of me and Elvis.”

 

“Just” a picture, I thought as I ran my fingers over his face. “Oh, that’s right,” she began, “you folks being from the north probably don’t know Elvis.”

 

“I know who he is, but I don’t know him. You mean you know Elvis, like really know him.” I asked.

 

She laughed and said, “Well yes I do. He hasn’t been around in a while, probably been a year now. But he stops by when he gets the chance.”

 

“Stops by? Here? In this room?!?” I stammered.

 

“Well sure honey. Why wouldn’t he? I’ve known Elvis since he was a little tike. I used babysit him when Gladys, that’s his mamma, had a lot of sewing to do. Course, we all lived in Mississippi then. The Mister (her husband) and Vernon, that’s Elvis’ papa, worked on the WPA. That Roosevelt sure did a good thing there . . .” she continued to ramble on but I couldn’t get past the fact that she actually knew Elvis. That Elvis had actually sat in her living room, maybe even in the same chair I was sitting.

 

“So, you like Elvis’s music do you?” she asked. I responded I used to listen to his records all the time. “I noticed you folks don’t have a record player. If you want, you can borrow this little one and some of his records while you’re here. And if you want to see Elvis, all you got to do is go over to Graceland and wait outside the gate. If Elvis is home, they come down and let whoever is waiting in.”

 

“What? You mean I could actually get to meet Elvis.” I asked, hardly believing what she was saying. “Well sure honey. Now Elvis ain’t one of those uppity famous stars. He knows who butters his bread and he tries to see as many of his fans as he possibly can. You can even take pictures if you want.”

 

Mrs. Goolsby wrote down the directions to Graceland and said the best time to go was between 2pm and 5pm. I carried the little record player and five of Elvis’ records back to our apartment, along with her directions and my resolve that I was going to meet Elvis if I had to go down to Graceland everyday while we lived in Memphis. And I did – drive over elvis3to Graceland every afternoon for four and a half months. I would stand and talk with other fans from all over the world who hoped for a glimpse of Elvis. I ended up getting a great tan, but no sight of Elvis. That is, until June 15, 1969.

 

My parents, along with my younger sister and brother, and my Uncle Jim and Aunt Vivian came to visit. They brought along the top layer of our wedding cake which they had in their freezer. Mom was very superstitious and said it was bad luck if John and I didn’t share the top of our wedding cake on our first year anniversary, which was June 22. We just laughed at their excuse, as everyone knew the real reason for their visit was to make sure we would be coming back home in four weeks when John’s school was over. I had written several letters saying how much I liked the warm weather, and dad was worried we might decide to stay. We assured them we would definitely being coming home and spent two days showing the group around Memphis. A stop at Graceland was on the itinerary.

 

We arrived at Graceland shortly after lunch. I was happy to see there was only a small group of people, which meant we could go right up to the gate. I explained how I made a daily pilgrimage to Graceland in hopes I would get to meet Elvis. Everyone laughed and said I should be happy with taking a picture in front of the gate. We had just arrived at the gate, when a man appeared on the other side. To our astonishment, he unlocked the gate and told us to walk up to where chairs had been placed for us to sit. “Elvis will be out when he is finished with his karate lesson.” he announced and then locked the gate. There were only 14 of us in total, with eight being our group. My sister began to cry about the prospect of meeting Elvis. My parents and my aunt and uncle were so shocked they said nothing. My brother and my husband got the cameras ready. I was so nervous, I could not sit down, but stood starring at the mansion in front of us. We were going to meet Elvis. We waited for seemed an eternity, but was actually only about a half an hour. Then, as if he was just an ordinary person, Elvis walked out. Of course he had two very large muscular men standing on either side of him.

 

“Hello everyone.” He said. No one moved. No one said a word. There was not a mad dash to see who would get to him first. Everyone was stunned. I could not believe how beautiful he was. He still had on his white karate jacket and pants. The jacket was trimmed in red silk and held elvis4closed by a black cotton belt. He had several large rings on his fingers. A yellow towel was draped around his neck and I noticed perspiration stains under his arms. His black hair sparkled like diamonds in the sunlight. He was the most beautiful man I have ever seen.

 

“Hello,” he said again laughing. “Don’t be shy. Tell me where you folks are from.” Then everyone started talking at once. Elvis spent more than an hour with us that afternoon. He talked with everyone individually and allowed us take all the pictures we wanted. My mom had just purchased a Polaroid camera with four rolls of film for their trip. My brother snapped picture after picture, 32 in all, laying each one on a chair to finish developing. John had a regular camera and snapped all 12 pictures of Elvis.

 

I was one of the last to talk with Elvis. I had waited every afternoon all those months, and now that he was finally within a few feet of me, I was awestruck. My wait was not in vain however. Elvis looked over at me while talking with my aunt. Our eyes met and my knees went weak. He started walking towards me and I thought I was going to faint. “Well now, aren’t you a pretty little girl.” he said as he took my hand. “I can’t believe I am talking to you.” I stammered. “I have come here everyday for months and months, and now, here you are.” He laughed and his white teeth shone. “What’s your name?” he asked. “Cricket, well actually it is Evelyn, but my family calls me Cricket.” He laughed again, “Well, I like Cricket. Have you watched Hawaiian Eye?” I nodded yes. “Connie Stevens played a singer named Cricket. I always thought the name didn’t suite her. She is blonde. I always pictured the name Cricket should be for a girl with dark brown hair. Of course, I kind of favor brunettes.” he said smiling as he touched my hair with his other hand. He had never let go of my hand. As he held my hand, my fingers fumbled with the ring on his finger. I do not think I have ever been so nervous in my entire life. Then he moved on to the next person. A few minutes later he said good-bye to the group and walked back into his mansion.

 

We all walked down to the gate and were escorted out. My brother was already at the gate when we arrived. A few hours later we learned he had taken all the Polaroid pictures of Elvis he had shot down to the gate and sold them for $10.00 each to people standing outside the gate. My mom was livid but my dad laughed and said he made enough to extend their vacation to include a stop in Nashville. They left the next morning.

 

I have always thought Mrs. Goolsby made a call to Elvis when we left that day for our sightseeing trip. She knew Graceland was going to be our first stop. Although I asked her several times, she never accepted credit for my, and my family’s, chance to meet Elvis. It is a day I will never forget.elvis-presleyElvis was the most beautiful man I have ever met.

I cried several years later when he left the building for the last time.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2008 2:03 pm

    That is SO COOL. Do you know where you were when he died? I actually do, even though at the time I had no idea who he was. I guess I was sheltered.

    Personally, I grew up LOVING Bonanza and never had any taste for the Beatles, but then I’m a 70’s child weaned on reruns. 🙂

    ~~Yes, I remember I was driving home when I heard his death announced on the radio. I cried so hard I had to pull off to the side of the road. I still like to watch reruns of westerns;Bonanza, Big Valley, Rawhide. I guess you can take the girl out of the country but you will never take the country out of the girl. LOL

  2. November 8, 2008 2:04 pm

    PS I participated in the slice of life this week, but again the link isn’t showing up. I wonder why it does that?

    ~~your comments always end up in my spam folder. I have to approve them before they are posted. If you check back, you will see your comments. Cricket

  3. adamswife permalink
    November 8, 2008 4:37 pm

    Did you know that Elvis was actually a blond? He died his hair black to better fit his “image.” One of his movies he plays two roles (I can’t remember the name, but you probably do) as cousins – one a blond and one a brunette. The blond was his natural look. I always found that hilarious. I’m a fan, too, although I would never have waited for hours just to meet him. I love his voice and his easy style of singing.

    ~~The movie was Kissing Cousins. Although I didn’t know it at the time I met him, it is my understanding, Elvis had blond hair as a child which became a lighter brown. Then in the mid 50’s he dyed it black. Some say he did this as a tribute to his mother, while others say it was because he admired Roy Orbison. I find it fascinating both Elvis and his mother died at age 42. I know he was very devoted to her, but to die at the same age, especially since it was such a young age, is kind of spooky. Cricket

  4. November 11, 2008 8:30 am

    I got a little thrill of excitement when I read this. I am an Elvis fan too. I have loved him all of my life. I think I would have passed out if I had ever met him or made a complete fool of myself.. What an incredible thing to have met him in person. This is such a fantastic memory. Thanks so much for sharing it.

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