Saturday, August 16, 2008

Elvis died 31 years ago today on August 16, 1977. Do you remember where you were when you heard it? I do.

I was working a 3 - 11 shift as a long distance operator in Tupelo. The switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree – literally. People heard the news, picked up the phone to talk about it, some of them making long distance calls, some just to talk to the friendly local operator they always got by simply dialing zero. Some were crying, some wanted to verify the accuracy of the news, some were frantic as though their world was coming to an end. It was a wild day. And by the end of that shift, I had heard all the details of the story plus several conspiracy theories. Our supervisors told us to be polite, but to cut short any conversations that did not involve a long distance call being made.

My oldest son Ricky, who was 12, had been on a trip with the church youth group to Wilson Lake(?) in Alabama, and he was saddened by the news, but absolutely astounded that a couple of girls on the trip were bawling about it. "Mama, they didn't even know the man, and they were crying," he said, incredulous of their emotional reactions.

A crowd always gathers around Graceland in Memphis during the week of this anniversary to memorialize once again "the king of rock and roll." There was a short clip on one of the news programs this morning, commemorating the date, and they showed a group of "pilgrims" with candles touring the Presley estate in the rain. I've never been so enamored of any celebrity that I went out of my way to see them, dead or alive. Yes, I liked a lot of his music, and for anyone to die such a tragic death so young is sad, but isn't it time we just let the man rest in peace?


Suz said...

Just wondering if you might have known my mom...she also worked as a long distance operator in Tupelo from about 1968-1978. Her name is Elizabeth Walker, although she goes by Bettye. She transferred to the Jackson telephone office in 1978 when they started downsizing in Tupelo. She usually worked an earlier shift so that she could be home with us in the evenings, but it's possible that you two might have crossed paths at some point! Such a small world! I still remember one summer when CWA went on strike and my mom had all five of us kids out on the sidewalk in front of the telephone office carrying picket signs, since she couldn't afford day care for us. We just liked getting to drink the Kool-Aid from the big Igloo coolers.

Suzanne in Glendale, AZ

C J Garrett said...

I remember that name but cannot put a face with it. Do you have a picture of her from that time? This will bug me until I remember who she was. (Small, brunette, pretty face?)

It was during one of those strikes that the local TV station interviewed my husband Don and me, both of us striking employees of the phone company, with 5 kids between us. After I heard myself sounding so "country" that night on the news, I vowed never again to talk to another reporter who stuck a microphone in front of me.

Suz said...

I uploaded a couple of photos to my Flickr site at One is from around 1975 and one is from 1982. Look familiar?


C J Garrett said...

She does look familiar but I did not know her, probably because she worked early hours. I worked a lot of later shifts due to taking classes at IJC and MSU in the mornings.

So you were the only girl among 4 brothers? I guess you saw my family picture on 5/26 of the same configuration. You've got some great paintings and photos on your Flickr site.