FROM HEARTBREAK HOTEL TO LAUDERDALE COURTS By June Robertson
I first became an Elvis fan at the age of 8 in 1956. We were outside playing in the street and my mother had placed the radio inside the windowsill so we all could hear the music. Suddenly, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ came on and I ran to listen. It was so different from everything we had heard before. The announcer said it was a new ‘singing sensation from America, called Elvis Presley’. I was amazed not just by his voice but, by his name. ‘Elvis’ - A magical name. And, when I finally got to see his photograph, I was mesmerized. From that moment on, my life changed.
Up until this point, I was a daddy’s girl and loved my dad totally but, as soon as I started to carry Elvis’ picture with me (and put it under my pillow at night) I could see he did not approve. By the time I was a teenager, I was so loyal to my idol that I ended up in several fights with other kids who hated him and preferred Cliff Richard or other Elvis ‘wanna-be’s’.
I wrote my first letter in his defense when I was 13. There was a very popular program on television in the early 60’s called….Juke Box Jury. A panel of so-called experts would spin several new singles out that week and judge them a ‘hit or miss’. The new Elvis song was a release from the Blue Hawaii album and it got totally slammed. Well, I wasn’t going to have that! I wrote a letter attesting to the fact that it would climb the charts no matter what, as we Elvis fans loved everything he did and who were they to judge for us. Two weeks later, as my mother and I are watching the show, they mentioned my name and read parts of my letter out loud. My mother’s face went white and she said some not so complimentary things about my embarrassing the family but, I didn’t care as I was floating off the ground.
For weeks after this episode I had to take a lot of ribbing from kids in school and other people in the neighborhood. But, I felt wonderful. I had come to the rescue of my hero and was very proud of it. Since then, I have written hundreds of letter just like it and will continue to do so until the end of my life. As teens, my Elvis buddies and I would purchase the new singles and go to our local café and have the owner put them in the jukebox. This ensured that we were able to play all of his new music each time we were in the café and help promote him among the unbelievers.
I announced that I was going to live in America, when I was 16. My family was not surprised but, I was told in no, uncertain terms, that it was impossible………..I finally succeeded when I was 19.
By the early 70’s, I was living in San Francisco, married with two children, and heard my hero was coming to perform at the Oakland Coliseum in November, 1972. The tickets had sold out in an hour or so but, the local radio station had a contest going on and I won two tickets! It was such an amazing experience that I could hardly speak for weeks. Elvis was in great form and we found out he was staying at a nearby Hilton hotel so, went over there after the show and hung around for an hour or two before security asked anyone who wasn’t staying at the hotel to leave All of the rooms were booked or we definitely would have stayed that night.
1977 crept up fast. When I heard that my hero had died, I was so devastated that it took me about a year to truly accept it. I put all of my Elvis records away, took down all of my posters and whenever I heard Elvis on the radio, turned it off. It wasn’t until1983, that I took it all out again.
In 2001, I had been living and working in Los Angeles for several years. By now, divorced and my children off to college, I was free to consider a job offer in Memphis, TN and couldn’t believe my luck in being there. My employers were Elvis fans themselves and took me to Graceland for the first time in my life. At the age of 54, I had waited a lifetime and come a long way to see my hero’s home.
In my spare time, I drove and walked all over Memphis searching for Elvis history. It was so wonderful and very difficult to contain the emotion I felt on finding any little bit of Elvis’ real life.
In 2002, I heard that the old Lauderdale Courts complex was to be renovated and I determined to be the first Elvis fan to move in. When the doors opened in 2004, I was one of the very first tenants. My apartment was two floors above the one where Vernon, Gladys, Minnie Mae and a teenage Elvis had lived from September, 1949 to January, 1953. As I carried my Elvis memorabilia collection up to the third floor of 185 Winchester Avenue, I realized the significant of bringing him back into the building.
Every day, I walked up and down the same stairwell that Elvis had used, went in and out of the same front door and looked out onto the same neighborhood through my windows. I walked in his footsteps each time I set off from Winchester Avenue or Lauderdale Street heading out onto Main Street, going all around the downtown area and into the Pinch district. I would often sit outside on the steps of 185 and imagine him with his family, doing the exact same thing. I realized how lucky I was and opened my door to as many Elvis fans as wanted to visit with me. I met hundreds of terrific people, from all around the world and all we wanted to do was talk about Elvis. I was there for 4 years and can honestly say that those years were the happiest of my life.
When my job ended a year ago, I came back home to the UK but, since then I have come to realize that my true home is wherever Elvis was………I will go back someday. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SHARE YOUR MEMORIES ON E.E.R... We would love to hear your memories of finding Elvis and how he became a big part of your life. Just send your story to us at E.E.R firstname.lastname@example.org