‘Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind’

By TIM BEELAND,

Most folks my age, and older, can tell you where they were and what they were doing 40 years ago today, August 16. I was sweeping the floor at the A&P grocery store in Newton when an older gentleman came through the front doors with tears in his eyes. “Elvis is dead,” he said. Just like that. I remember it as clear as a bell.
I was a junior in high school in 1977 and pretty much not interested in Elvis Presley. That was then, this is now. After Elvis’ death I began to listen to his music more and very soon found that I was a fan. Not so much those movies, but the music, oh yeah!
Today we have a large playlist of Elvis CD’s at our house and we have several original Elvis albums. The vinyl kind! Blue Hawaii and Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite to name a couple. Did you know that “Via Satellite” is part of the formal name of that concert?
So, you can say I am an Elvis fan!
Thirty years ago on the tenth anniversary of Elvis’ death, wife Danny, and I were living in Clarksdale, Mississippi just outside of Memphis. A group of our friends from around the state came to spend the weekend with us and we all made the pilgrimage to Graceland, Elvis’ Memphis home.
The streets and shops in the complex surrounding the popular tourist attraction were packed with people from everywhere. And, when I say everywhere, I mean every part of the globe. Lots of them were dressed up like Elvis with pork chop side burns and big seventies style sunglasses.
To be honest we did make fun of quite a few of the diehard fans and once on the tour inside Graceland for the first time it was a bit hard to keep a straight face. In 1987 the decor including two-knuckle deep shag carpet on some walls and rooms draped in bright fabrics seemed very outdated.
Oddly enough about 10 years or so ago we were back up in Memphis on a press convention and some of us opted to tour Elvis’ house again, and that time found parts of it back in style. Odd cycle, don’t you think?
But back to ‘87.
That year — the 10th anniversary year — the news coverage was monumental. There were satellite trucks parked everywhere and morning news programs broadcasting live from the grounds. It was quite the site to see.
In addition to the swams of tourists on site there were also huge floral arrangements that had been displayed along the drive and around the meditation garden where Elvis and his family are buried.
When I say huge, I mean huge. There was a hound dog that was taller than me and a red and white Elvis style jumpsuit made from carnations that was lifesize if not bigger. The  Elvis piece did look a little strange because he had a little bitty head.
There were flowers everywhere. It seemed that every one of the thousands of people there that day had brought a bouquet of some sort to leave on the graves. We picked some flowers out of the yard before leaving home and wrapped them in a wet paper towel. Elvis probably would have liked them the best. He liked simple things as well as the extremes.
Saturday afternoon Danny and I were sitting around the house listening to all those Elvis CDs playing on the stereo and reminiscing about our trip to Graceland. I dug out the old picture albums from 80s and found the ones from our trip. Looking at ourselves and our friends in the photos it became pretty clear, pretty quickly, that we’re a lot older now than we were then.
My younger brother was with us on that trip and I swear he looked like he was just a teenager and we didn’t look much older. Danny mentioned it first and sent him a message on Facebook where we had posted some of the pics for old time sake.
“How old were you Richard, 15,” she asked. He said he had just turned 21. I suppose it is fair to say we let time get away from us too easily these days. Unless, that is, we are taking a walk through Graceland where time never changes at all. Even if it is just in the “memories pressed between the pages of my mind.”

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