My Time in Memphis
It was but a few years but they were oh, so memorable years.
In 1971, when I was fourteen, I moved, with my family, to Memphis Tennessee. Having moved there from my little two-horse town of Jena, Louisiana, was something of a culture-shock, to say the least. I went from Jena Jr. High, with it's two buildings of classrooms, to Kingsbury High, the first school I ever attended whereas each student was issued a map, to find their way to each class. There were five buildings of classrooms and the study hall seated 400. I don't think I ever saw the entire cafeteria while there.
Kingsbury High was also the setting for my first-ever "true love." She entered our English class one day, as a new student and the only available desk was directly behind mine. I couldn't tell you what happened in the front of the class, from that day on, if my life depended on it. I was officially "head-over-heels." Nancy Hagen was her name and she became a DJ at the in-school radio station. Yeah, that was yet another surprise to this country bumpkin. The school had a radio station that played music and school news to those in study hall hour. Nancy would dedicate songs to me and my few friends, at the time, were beyond jealous. Unfortunately, I lost touch with Nancy when we left Memphis in 1974. I've since learned that she is an RN and happily married to an MD in Georgia. Kudos to them both!
In 1973, I dropped out of high school in the tenth grade (with my parents blessings). The reason was that my parents needed help, financially, and I was the oldest. I went to work, full-time, at Dreifus Jewelers as an engraver of fine jewelry. They taught me the "art" of engraving and I learned it well enough to earn a pretty decent raise in about three months.
In the same year, we lived at the Shelby Apartments, located at the south-end of Memphis International Airport, near the intersection of Shelby Drive and Airway. It was there that I met my best friend, at least in Memphis. Ricky Taylor and I hit it off from day one and we were inseparable. There was a patch of woods to the north of our apartments and having sorely missed woods, from my days in Jena, this was a welcome "escape." Ricky and I learned every trail (and made more than a few of our own) in short-order. We were in those woods, from one end to the other, on a daily basis.
Ricky's Mom (I don't recall her name other than Miss Taylor), was single and raising Ricky by herself. She liked me as she felt I was a good friend and even better influence to Ricky. Poor misguided lady but I didn't argue. One day she called my Mom and told her that she had obtained two tickets to the Elvis Presley Concert, at the Mid-South Coliseum and wanted to know if "Ronnie" could accompany Ricky to the concert. Well, Mom was as jealous as all get out but she conceded and Ricky and I went that evening to an unforgetful venue of music, as only Elvis himself could deliver. Little did we know, at the time, that we were witnessing his last live event in Memphis and that he would pass away just four short years later.
One thing about living in Memphis was the fact that if you went anywhere, at least at the time in the early 70's, you almost always passed by Graceland, Elvis's home. We didn't live far from the mansion, so it was something I saw on a regular basis. I said that to point out that, to me, it was just "another place" and not the "shrine" it appeared to be to the tourists who were taking photos of the "musical gates" and seeing if Elvis' uncle was on duty at the guard house.
Now, on occasion, we would see Elvis and a small entourage, on the grounds, riding horses or motorcycles. It wasn't altogether an uncommon thing either, as he felt quite comfortable in Memphis. My one "Elvis sighting" (aside from the concert and behind his fence at Graceland), took place at Shipley's Donuts (I think that was the name) on Elvis Presley Blvd., not to far from his home. I was standing at the counter, with my uncle and he was about to pay for our order, when the female clerk's mouth dropped open and she and her bugged-out eyes looked past us into the parking lot.
Of course, my uncle and I turned around to see a motorcycle (Harley Davidson), park, and a man wearing black leather, had already gotten off and was helping a beautiful blonde off the back of it. It was Elvis and his girlfriend, Linda Thompson. They entered the donut shop, smiled and he shook hands with my uncle and I and said, "hi, how are y'all doing? I'm Elvis Presley." Well, no $*!# Sherlock, I would have never guessed!! And no, I didn't say that but was thinking pretty close to it. Anyway, he and Linda both were super nice. Linda was the designated "donut caddy" as they rode off.
We moved out of Memphis in 1974. I never saw nor spoke to Ricky or Nancy ever again. Such instances and situations were the single largest downside of living with parents who possessed a "Nomadic nature," for a lack of a better way to describe it. You made good, solid friends and *poof* they were gone. I have searched and searched for Ricky to no avail. I did have a nice conversation with Nancy's mother, who, at the time, was residing in south Florida. She updated me on Nancy and left it as my choice if I wanted to "touch base" with her. I simply asked her to tell her I said "hi and was truly happy to hear she was doing so well." I thanked Mrs. Hagen and that was that.
If you've read this far (God help you), I'll close with this.
From the time I was born, in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1957, to the day I turned 20, in Baton Rouge, I lived in thirteen towns/cities, in four states (and my parents were not military). I dropped out of school, in my second month of the tenth grade and during the course of those ten years, I attended eleven different schools. I remain mystified, to this day, as to how I managed to never fail a grade. I mean, if you know me, I'm far from being the brightest bulb in the pack. I suppose the Lord knew I was destined to be a police officer and since that didn't require being a brain surgeon, He didn't feel compelled to have me repeat a grade.
Some folks (few as they are), who know of this "past" have wondered, out loud, how I turned out the way I did (now, I assure you I was looking from the positive aspect of their thinking). All I can say for sure, is that I know, that I know, that God had my back and everything that took place over a cumulative thousands of miles, made me who I am today.
I'll leave you with two of my all-time favorite "remastered" videos of Elvis. I hope you enjoy.
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