Thursday, September 29, 2011

The King and I

"Do you have a piece of wood that Elvis stepped on?" my pal, Bobby Glazier, asked on the kickball court in 1956, as though it were a common question.

"What does that mean?"

"I don't know," Bobby replied. "My brother got one. He sent off to Jiffy Pop."

I was in the fourth grade at Roosevelt Elementary in Tampa. Instead of walking home that afternoon I went straight to Kwik Chek, the only grocery store between school and home. I found the popcorn aisle and grabbed a jar of Jiffy Pop. There was no mention of any Elvis wood on the label. I frantically searched the other brands and found nothing. I decided to take my chance and purchased the jar. I took my purchase home, copied the manufacturer's address on an envelope and taped a quarter to a card on which I sent my request for a piece of wood that Elvis Presley had stepped on. Of course none of this made any sense but I had no other information.

Weeks went by and nothing. I was pretty much used to the idea of mailing off quarters and receiving nothing. Usually from Kellogs. I still don't know whether to distrust cereal companies or the postal service.

Finally an official looking yellow post card with a green border came with a sliver of wood attached. Burned into the little slab was "Elvis Stepped Here." The card certified that the company had purchased the little shack that Elvis had been born in in East Tupelo, Mississippi and torn it down. They guaranteed that the wood came from the home and that Elvis had stepped on it. Man!

I tore the little treasure off the card and pasted it prominently in my rock'n'roll scrapbook.

Years went by and I saw a story on the evening news that the home that Elvis had been born in had become something of a tourist shrine. I was not happy about having been cheated. Still makes me mad. I didn't want to ruin the page in my scrapbook, however, so I left it on the page.

More years went by. I was in Crystal River talking to Elvis. He was in Florida filming "Follow That Dream." I think it was 1960. I would manage to find someone old enough to drive to take me the sixty or seventy miles every day to spend time with my idol.

On this day he was poking through the scrapbook and came across the little wood piece.

"What's that?" he asked.

I told him this same, stupid story. He laughed, tore it off the page, bent down and placed it on the ground. Then he stood on it while he signed souvenirs and pictures for all of us.

I keep it in the box with my rock'n'roll scrapbook today.