We were on vacation for a week, renting a bungalow at a place called The Holiday House in the Catskills. The grounds were beautiful with a nice creek that ran past the back of our bungalow, and I could hear it running all night long from my bed.
It was always a treat making the trek upstate from Woodhaven. We got to sit out late with a fire in the hibachi to keep the mosquitoes away. My dad was always teasing me that there was a bear out in the woods. And every day we went swimming in the pool.
That week there was a family from the Bronx staying in the bungalow next to us. The kids were a bit older and even though we were different from each other, the local kids that hung around the pool saw us all as “city kids,” so we bonded and became fast friends.
One of the kids was a nice girl a few years older than me (I was 12 and she was 15). Down at the swimming pool she wouldn’t take off her tube socks, even when she went into the water.
Being a kid, I teased her about that, but her brothers warned me not to and hinted that there was a really good reason why she kept her socks on.
That night, while I lay listening to the creek, I wondered what it could be. “The Man From Atlantis” was a hit show on TV at the time and told the story of a guy with webbed hands and feet.
By morning I was convinced she was hiding webbed toes under those socks and I desperately wanted to see them.
It was late in the afternoon and I was with her at the swimming pool when a woman came out of one of the bungalows screaming that Elvis was dead. It didn’t seem possible. He was so young, only 42 years old, still in his prime and just about the biggest name there was.
That night I was glued to the cheap black-and-white television set in the bungalow. Reception was spotty and we only got three stations, but they were all covering the news.
Late that night, one of the stations ran “Jailhouse Rock” and “Roustabout,” two of his films. I watched them deep into the night with my dad.
The next day at the pool it was all the kids were talking about. Even the local kids came over and spoke with us city kids about it. The cute girl with the socks told me that her mother had spent most of the night crying.
We spoke about what it must be like to die. She was afraid of fires. I was afraid of plane crashes.
I guess after sharing our fears, she felt comfortable enough to share her secret with me that she had six toes on each foot. She thought it was something to be ashamed of. I thought it was ten times cooler than webbed toes and told her so.
It was a long time ago, but it’s a sweet memory from my youth and I doubt it would have happened had the King not died that very week. It’s hard to believe that 40 years have passed since that day.
The Woodhaven Cultural and Historical Society will be marking the occasion with an Elvis Blue Hawaii Party on Monday, August 28, on the second floor of Emanuel United Church of Christ at the corner of 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard.
We’ll have classic rock-and-roll music, trivia, and a showing of the Elvis classic on our King-sized screen. We'll have a snack bar with hot dogs and popcorn. Free leis will be given to everyone, and we’re asking people to dress up in their finest Elvis or Hawaiian Shirts for a chance at the Best-Dressed Prize.
And through some video magic, everyone who comes will be able to hang ten and take a wild ride on a surfboard!
The doors open at 6 p.m. and the movie starts around 7:30 p.m. Attendance is completely free and we hope to see you there.