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Elvis helps me courting


November 30, 1957, Brooklyn, New York:

Victor parked the car in front of her apartment house. He removed his RailRoad Conductors hat and leaned back in his seat.

Jenny saw his jaw set and knew he was going to say something important. He rubbed his nose.

"Can I take you out New Years Eve?" he asked.

Jenny felt butterflies in her stomach. If she broke the date shed made with Bernard, it would be a big step toward marriage with Victor. She wasnt certain she was ready. "I have a date," she said.

"Is it the same guy you ve been seeing? The one with the mirror on the back of his cars sun visor?"

Jenny winced. She had pulled down Victors sun visor to fix her lipstick but he had no mirror there. "Lets make a date for the Saturday after next," she said.

"Do you have a date with him this Saturday?"

"My family is having a reunion."

Without a word, Victor got out, walked around to her side and opened the door. He appeared grim. "You ll call me?" she asked, suddenly afraid she would lose him.

"Sure, Ive got a train to work."

He left without trying to kiss her and she was disappointed.

Victor drove away, hating the thought that she might have a date this Saturday and of someone taking her out New Years Eve, dancing with her, holding her, kissing her. "Damn!" He slammed the steering wheel. "I love her!"

Three weeks later, Victor arrived in trainmans uniform ready for work in Jamaica Terminal. He hadnt spoken with Jenny since. The message on the Long Island RailRoad sign-up board read: "December 22, 1957: Victor Webb, Reassignment: Report to Crew Dispatcher immediately."

"Youre in luck," the dispatcher said. "You are rear brakeman for a one-day job out of Jamaica to Long Island City. A special troop train. Its double pay. Get your lamps, canteen and hurry down to the storage yard, your train is on track three."

Victor set up the rear end of the train, gave a walking brake test with the engineer, then sat down to read a newspaper. He heard the conductor give two whistles and the train moved toward Long Island City, where fifteen hundred soldiers waited to board.

In the Long Island City Storage Yard, Victor watched soldiers line up in ranks with duffel bags between their legs. He was glad he hadnt re-enlisted in the Marines, but then again if he couldnt marry Jenny, it became an option. He hadnt called Jenny and couldnt think of an excuse for doing so. He watched a group of civilians hovering at the rear of the military formation. When the order was given for the men to break ranks and board the train, the civilians rushed toward one soldier. Flashbulbs popped and cameras were everywhere.

"Whats going on?" Victor asked a sergeant.

"Elvis Presley! He has shipped out to Germany with us!"

Victor almost knocked down several men as he rushed through the crowd toward the famous singing star. "All aboard! All aboard!" Victor shouted, although it was still thirty minutes to leaving time.

The soldiers made way for him but by the time he reached Elvis, the singer was boarding the train. Victor pushed and pulled soldiers aside, leapt up the steps and said "Mr. Presley?"

"Dont call me mister."

"Theres a private compartment at the end of this coach. Come with me."

"Im not looking for special privileges," Elvis said.

"But I am!" Victor replied and herded the singer toward the crews compartment. He unlocked the door.

"I told you I dont want anything the other guys arent entitled to," the singer insisted.

"One second," Victor said. He herded the first five soldiers entering the car into the room. "There!" Victor said. "Theres only one seat left. Please sit. I really need your help."

Elvis Presley heaved his duffel bag up into the overhead rack and asked, "What can I do?"

"My girlfriends sister loves you. My girlfriend is giving me a hard time about a date for New Years Eve. If I had your autograph, I could bribe her sister to help me get that date."

"Do you have something to write on?" Elvis asked.

Victor patted his pockets and one of the other soldiers offered a page of his writing paper. Elvis took it and asked, "Whats the sisters name?"


"Dear Esther," the singer wrote. "Love me tender." He scrawled his name, "Elvis Presley" and wrote the date.

Victor shook Elviss hand hard and often.

The following day at three oclock, Victor dialed Jennys number every five minutes until her sister answered.

"I just got home from high school," Esther said, "Jennys at work."

"I know. I want to talk to you."

"Me! What about?"

"A deal."

"What kind of deal?" Esthers tone was guarded. She knew how upset Jenny was that Victor hadnt called since their last meeting a month ago. Esther couldnt think of what he might want from her.

"How much do you like Elvis Presley?"

"What?" she demanded. "What kind of question is that?"

"Its my question to you?"

"I do not use the word like when it comes to Elvis," Esther said. "I love him! I adore him! He is the beginning and end of everything in my life!"

"Heres the deal," Victor said. "I get Elviss autograph, written personally to you. "Dear Esther. Love me tender. Elvis Presley." In exchange, you get me a date with Jenny for New Years Eve."

There was silence on the telephone line. Esthers voice came in a hoarse whisper. "Victor, dont lie to me. This is important."

"Im not lying."

"But Elvis Presley is on a boat going to Germany. How can you get his autograph?"

"Ive got it. Im looking at it. He addressed it to you. Elvis was on the troop train I worked yesterday."

"Oh my God," she whispered - then screamed: "Oh my God, I cant believe it!"

"Youll get the autograph only if I get the date. I dont want your sister going out with anyone else on New Years Eve. For that matter, I dont want her going out with anyone else ever again. I want to marry her."

"You will!" Esther screamed. "She wont! You can count on me to be a bridesmaid. She isnt going out with another soul! I promise! Ill kill for that autograph! Dont look too hard at it or too often. Put it in a plastic bag. Dont bend it!"

"Esther," Victor said. "Ill eat it and chew each piece a thousand times unless you get me that date."

"Victor," Esther said in a sober tone. "Look in tomorrows obituary column. If you dont see Jennys name, buy an engagement ring and make plans for New Years Eve!"


"Victor, I want to be sure weve got this straight. Im selling you my sister for Elviss autograph."


"What a bargain!" 

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