The other day, half listening to some oldies, I was reminded of the great times me and Elvis had hanging out together in Sarnia.
He would sing, “You may have a pink Cadillac, but don’t you be nobody’s fool.” And I’d tell him that in Sarnia, unlike Memphis, a pink car would be more than a little conspicuous.
Indeed, my father had bought a 1955 three-tone, four-door DeSoto hardtop with a gearshift on the dash from Jack Reid Motors at Front and Exmouth streets.
But it wasn’t pink.
Back then, my parents and I would listen to CHOK Radio, ‘The Voice of the Chemical Valley,’ on a black kitchen radio that played as much static as music: That Singin’ Rage Miss Patti Page with Allegheny Moon, and Perry Como crooning Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom).
In the evening, we’d eat supper on folding tables in front of the TV, a Philco 17-inch black-and-white purchased from Keelan’s. Most people had rabbit ears; we had a roof aerial.
My favourite shows were the Mickey Mouse Club (yes, Annette) and Wrestling From Chicago (yes, Gorgeous George). And as a family we’d watch The Honeymooners, Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and The Ed Sullivan Show.
In 1954, the Grand Ole Opry told Elvis to forget about a career in Nashville and go back to driving trucks. And the next year he was rejected for an appearance on Talent Scouts.
Nevertheless, on Jan. 28, 1956, Elvis first visited me, right there in our Sarnia living room. The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show came on before The Honeymooners, and that night, there was Elvis, dressed in a black shirt and white tie. He sang Shake Rattle & Roll, entered my life, and rattled my pot and pans.
Fame came to Elvis later that year on The Ed Sullivan show, when the camera operators were famously told to shoot ‘Elvis the Pelvis’ only from the waist up.
I can still recall how liberating those rock and roll moments were. Much to the mystified amusement of my parents, I danced around the living room. Badly because, after all, we were Baptists.
But Elvis didn’t care. He’d been a Baptist too. Just like me.
He visited me in my own room with his first LP, and I learned ‘I Forgot to Remember to Forget’ and a pile of other songs you don’t hear much any more.
Later on, he joined the army and made some questionable movies and mostly terrible songs. And except for one TV special, when we got together and reminisced for a couple of hours, we kind of lost touch, drifted apart.
This year Elvis would have turned 83. I’m sorry I missed his birthday in January, again, but I do recall the good times we had hanging out together in Sarnia, before they became fewer and fewer.
Somebody told me he heard Elvis had visited some people in Petrolia too. But, believe me, those are just unsubstantiated rumours.
Bob Boulton is a Sarnia writer and the creator of a blog for new and renewing writers, bobswritefromthestart.blogspot.com