Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Day Elvis Presley Came to Town

On August 16th, America observed the 29th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death.

I saw him once. In 1958, Elvis was drafted into the Army. At that time, I was a sophomore in high school, wearing full skirts with big petticoats, bobby socks, and loafers. During our morning break, someone burst out on the schoolground yelling, "Elvis Presley is goin' through town on the train in twenty minutes! He's on his way to the Army! We've gotta get down there!"

About fifteen of us piled into three or four cars and barrelled down to the train station. The train was there already. Somebody directed us: "He's down at the end, on the caboose!" Breathless, we ran as fast as we could go over the rocks in the track bed, to the caboose. Sure enough, there he was, standing on the back portico (or whatever it was called), grinning at us. We huddled in a group, wide-eyed, speechless, and panting from all that exertion.

He was smaller than I thought he would be, somehow. He had longish hair that appeared to be dyed black and slightly greasy, hanging in his face. His eyes were friendly but shy, and he had a nice, crooked smile. He didn't really match what we considered to be the best "All-American boy" image; the young man in that picture sported a very short flat-top, never greasy. Nevertheless, he was THE idol of the moment, and there he was in our town.

We looked at him, and some of us murmured things like "Hi." Mostly, we couldn't say a word.

He said, "Hi," and waved at us. The train began to pull away, and he stood there waving. We all waved and waved until the train went around the bend and he was gone. That day gave us a story to tell from then on.

When I saw this story on ABC News, Elvis Fans Mark Anniversary of Death, I thought about how he changed and how we changed through the years, and about how short life is.

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