Photo: Elvis at Prestwick Airport, Scotland.
On March 3rd 1960, Elvis Presley landed for a few hours at Prestwick Airport, Scotland on his way home from Germany. It was the only time he ever visited the UK.
He is still playing with his hair and listening to the radio when his mother kicks the door open.
“You haven’t heard a word I’ve said Jimmy. Get to work - those animals won’t cut themselves up.”
And just like every other day, she follows the kicking of the door with rushing down the stairs and then leaving the house, and just like every other day in a now empty home, Jimmy turns up the radio volume to maximum.
“There is a large crowd here to watch Elvis wave goodbye to his 16 year old girlfriend, Priscilla Beaulieu” says an excited radio announcer.
Elvis, the man, the god, the father, son and holy ghost is leaving Germany and flying back to the States. His time in the army is over and he’s going home to make more records, to make more movies and continue dating the daughter of a soldier he’s met in a club. Elvis and Priscilla have only been seeing each other for six weeks but Jimmy and Susan have been going strong now for a full three months.
Across the street from Jimmy’s place, in one of the newer bungalows, Mister Andrews stares out of the window. Neither happy nor sad, he watches as Jimmy’s mother passes by and in a friendly manner he slowly raises a hand to wave but she looks straight ahead and disappears around the corner.
“There goes Mrs Baker, always in a hurry. I tell you what Brenda love, it’s such a beautiful day I think I’ll wash the car.”
Mister Andrew smiles to himself because he’s made a decision about something and that pleases him. Across the street he can see that nice young girl hurrying to Jimmy’s front door.
Susan is agitated as she pushes her spectacles up her nose and rapidly knocks on the door. She can hear the music from Jimmy’s room above, so she steps back and enthusiastically waves to him but Jimmy just smiles and continues with sorting his hair. Susan tries another method by banging and kicking the front door, this time it brings Jimmy downstairs. As he opens his door, he’s caught between saying ‘where’s the fire’ and leaning forward to kiss her but Susan just rushes straight past him and into the small kitchen.
Most of the time Jimmy’s mother has to work double shifts, so Susan has gotten to know where everything is located.
“Mum’s already made up my lunch.”
“You’re not going to work, not today” says Susan without raising her head.
“I’m not? So what am I doing then, eloping?”
“That’s not funny”. She’s already wrapped up the first sandwiches in a brown bag and hands them to Jimmy.
Jimmy knows what will happen if he doesn’t turn up for work today; he’s already been late three days running.
“Well, I’ll just go and see him myself then, shall I?” and Susan kisses Jimmy on the cheek and leaves the room. Jimmy, forever the lost boy, follows her out, “Who, for crying out loud, are you going to see?”
Across the street Mister Andrews is already washing his car in the March sunshine and even he stops when he hears Jimmy shout out ‘Elvis Presley’ quickly followed by a hooting noise. Dogs bark, birds scatter – it seems the whole of the town has just heard.
A few minutes later and Mister Andrews stands back and admires his handy work as he lets the car dry in the sun. Just up the street a touch, Jimmy and Susan are hiding behind a wall. Jimmy wants to know where Susan got the information about Elvis and she tells him from her father who is a baggage handler at Prestwick airport. He’s heard that Elvis’ plane is to land in the west of Scotland to refuel.
“But you better get here quick” was her father’s parting words.
Jimmy asks "if she's sure her father is telling the truth?" and she says that he has sworn on her Mum’s life and that is good enough for her and it should be good enough for him too. Then she tells him about her plan, the one where they borrow Mister Andrews’ car.
“It’s not stealing if we’re going to bring it back”.
Mister Andrews is at that stage where he’s proudly polishing his pride and joy.He takes a step back, sees another blemish and continues rubbing. Susan rushes up and asks him if she can "please, please, please use his toilet". He’s not happy about this turn of events, but she seems so desperate and Jimmy and his family have already gone to work. Mister Andrews says it’s okay but she has to take her shoes off before entering the house. He follows her in, dusting any part of the wall or furniture she may have accidentally rubbed against; he doesn’t want to seem fussy but he knows he probably is. He stands outside the toilet door but feels it may look a little weird and so he moves down the hall a few steps.
Mister Andrews doesn’t hear the sound of the car horn the first time around but Susan does. She’s been waiting on it. She rockets out of the toilet handing back Mister Andrews one of his towels then shooting out through the front door. Shocked at first, it takes the second car horn for Mister Andrew to realise what’s going on. He, too, rushes out his house but just in time to see his car, the girl and Jimmy from across the street driving it away. Well maybe driving is an exaggeration; they are more pointing the car and making it hiccup along the road.
“Oh dear - oh dear, oh dear, oh dear” says Mister Andrews as he wanders back into his home.
“I’ve just stolen a car”, declares Jimmy.
“Borrowed” Susan adds “and I’ve just left my shoes back there”.
Standing once more at his window, Mister Andrews is worried about to what to do next. This wasn’t meant to happen, you make a decision and things shouldn’t deviate, but deviate, they have.
“They’ve taken the car Brenda love, do you think I should telephone the police?”
Mister Andrews whispers, “oh dear, oh dear, oh dear” then adds, “You’re probably right Brenda love, you always are.”
Jimmy knows the only way to get to the airport in time to see The King is to use the village High Street but just as he turns in to the road, Susan spots Jimmy’s mother and Jimmy’s boss talking to each other outside the butcher’s shop. That is why Jimmy’s mother sees an empty car driving past her along the High Street, Susan and Jimmy are well hidden.
“Isn’t that Mister Andrew’s car?”
She soon dismisses what she thinks she’s seen and continues with her conversation.
At the other end of the High Street where it turns into Observatory Road, old Webster and Hamish are in the village garage. It’s tea break time and this involves looking out the window while dunking their biscuits in their cracked cups. Old Webster checks with Hamish that he’s also just seen Mister Andrew’s car passing driver-less and sure enough he has.
“Mighty me” says old Webster as he picks up the telephone, intending to call the police.
Five minutes later, ten at the most, a policeman appears in front of Jimmy’s car with his hand raised in the 'stop' position. I suppose if there are people reading this in later years and are wondering why a policeman would do such a thing, well in March 1960 in the United Kingdom, people still obeyed the law.
Except Jimmy and Susan drive straight on, causing the constable to have to jump out of the way in order to save his life.
It is only as the car crawls to the top of the hill and disappears over the other side, that the screaming starts. Mister Andrews may have had a clean car but the brakes aren’t of any use for stopping. Twice Jimmy bashes his head on the roof as these are the days before seat belts and such like.
Luckily as they shoot across the main road and into the airport they fail to hit anything and come to rest in a ploughed field at the side of the runway. Jimmy and Susan sit for a second to catch their breaths and then undeterred by the lack of Susan’s shoes, they run towards the airport reception.
“Ow, ow, ow” as Susan steps on every rock possible, Jimmy suggests she takes his shoes and although they are a whole lot larger, she finds it really does stop the pain.
It will be worth it in a minute when they get to the reception, she thinks to herself, except when they get there, the hall is empty, that is except for the rubbish scattered everywhere. An old man slides back a dirty glass partition.
“If you’re here to see that Mister Elvis fellow, then you’re too late. He’s been and he’s gone and it’s me who’s going to have to clean this mess up. Do you know what he said?”
Apparently Elvis had asked where he was, which caused the old man much laughter and mirth, so the old man felt he had to put Elvis right and tell him he was in Scotland.
“Where am I? What kind of question is that for a grown man?”
So that’s that. Who knows when Elvis will pass this way again? And with shoulders slumped, Jimmy and Susan leave the building only for the old man to call after them that he’s heard that Elvis was going up to that local cafe. There is a god.
To call the Brigadoon Tearooms anything but an old hut would be a kindness, except Susan is sure she can hear Elvis singing inside. Her heart begins to palpitate but Jimmy is only worried about avoiding sharp things on the ground since he’s walking in bare feet. He doesn’t notice Susan run ahead, storm the Brigadoon Tearooms and shout “Marry me Elvis”. He hears her the second time ‘though.
“What do you mean he’s gone?” Susan is almost crying as the jukebox plays on.
“Oh he was dreamy, wouldn’t take his cap off ‘though – ‘no Mam, I can’t do that’” says a giggling girl who had also wanted to marry Elvis .
Susan is talking to a girl who has talked to Elvis and it hurts.
As it grows dark, Jimmy and Susan haven’t spoken to each other for a few hours now. The only communication they have had is when Jimmy takes his shoes back.
“You would have run off with him to America - and married him”
Susan has no defence and simply says “I would have invited you to the wedding”
Jimmy is just about to take his turn at crying when a car turns up beside them. It’s Mister Andrews in his borrowed car and he rolls down the window.
“I brought you these, they’re Susan’s shoes. Hop in and I’ll drive you both home. You can tell me all about it on the way”
Susan puts on her shoes then asks Jimmy if he’s coming.
The next day is a glorious one as Mister Andrews stands by the fireplace.
“You’re looking a little grubby today, Brenda love” and Mister Andrews polishes the urn that keeps Brenda's ashes safe. Once she’s gleaming, he turns satisfied to look out the window again.
“Now you’re ready to face the world”
Jimmy’s mother comes out of her door and crosses the street towards Mister Andrews’ house. For the first time ever she waves to him and he waves back.
Mister Andrews smiles.
bobby stevenson 2014