Elvis never made the call to the hot line

Claude McIntosh
Elvis never made the call to the hot line

This week – Aug. 16 – marked the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s passing at age 42. Hard to believe that The King of Rock and Roll would be 87 years old if alive.

Many of us who grew up listening to Elvis can recall where we where and what we were doing when the news of his death was announced.

It’s called the anniversary effect, events that are stamped into our memory bank.

Same with John Kennedy’s assassination and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

For an older generation, there was D-Day, V-E Day and the death of King George.

Michael Terry (aka The Big ‘M’) former host of the Sunday afternoon Solid Gold Show on CKON was working at CJSS 1220/CFLG in the 1970s (and 80s and early 90s).

He was doing his Drive Home Show when a member of the newsroom slipped him a teletype (now there’s a blast from the past) bulletin that announced Elvis had died. He remembers that it was a Tuesday.

The news guy told Terry, the non-news guy, “Here’s a story you MAY want to use.”

“I read it and told him to go to the news booth and I’d play the news jingle for him to read it as a bulletin. He said ‘No, I’ll read it at the top of the hour.’ “

That top of the hour was about 50 minutes away.

So, Terry, the DJ with more news sense than the news guy, took matters into his own hand and cut into a song to read the death of Elvis as breaking news, which is what every radio and TV station in the free world was doing.

The phones lit up like a Christmas Tree.

“I was shocked by all the women calling and crying on the phone. I started to record their voice clips and used them at the top of the hour,” recalled the Cornwall native now living in Ottawa.

It was the biggest reaction (to a news story) in Terry’s long broadcasting tour of duty in the radio biz.

One of the calls was from a woman who while sobbing confessed on the air, “I loved Elvis more than I love my husband.”

Conspiracy theories claimed that Elvis didn’t die and was alive and well living with a new identity.

After a couple of reported “sightings” of Elvis in the Capital the Elvis Sighting Society was co-founded by Ottawa Sun columnist Earl McRae and Westboro restauranteur Moe Atallah in 1989.

A red telephone – The Elvis Hot Line – was installed in a booth at Atallah’s “Moe’s World Famous Newport” eatery in Westboro that McRae frequented. McRae, one of the country’s top newspaper columnists, claimed that Elvis had promised to make a call to prove that he was alive and well. McRae even made a guest appearance on the Jerry Springer Show that featured weird Elvis conspiracy theories.

The telephone never rang. Perhaps Elvis lost the number.

The society managed to have the laneway next to the restaurant named Ruelle Elvis Lives Lane.

The society faded away after Atallah retired and a heart-attack claimed the 69-year-old McRae.

BLAST FROM THE PAST-1953: St. Lawrence Park annual field day cross-river swim winners included Roger Lemieux, Paul Gratton, Rheal Lafrance, Carmen Cartier, Jimmy Booth, Yvon Lemire and Jean-Guy Martin. Gilles Bourdon was the pie-eating contest champion. … August wrapped up as one of the hottest and driest month on record in the city and United Counties with little rain and temperatures exceeding 90F for several days. With wells on farms running dry, farmers were hauling water for their livestock. … A father and son were sent to jail for liquor offences. The father got three months for his third offence of consuming liquor while prohibited, while the son received one month for his second offence of consuming liquor while under the age of 21. … Winners in the OCOT annual pet parade included Fred D’Alessio, Bonnie Cook, Carol Hutt, Kathleen Russell. Grand prize winner was Margaret Ann Roberts and her Great Dane “Von Frederick”. Pets in the parade included dogs, cats, rabbits, a turtle and black bear cub owned by Edmond and Edward Thibeault. … An offer by the Claude Nunney VC Legion Branch in Lancaster to pay for construction of a sports centre was rejected by village ratepayers who said “now was not the time.”

HERE AND THERE: Former city councillor Denis Thibault joined the hole-in-one club last week, when he aced the 13th hole at Upper Canada Golf Course. … Hard to beat this for a noon-hour snack: a thick slice of ripe tomato plucked fresh from the garden and laid out between two slices of toast adorned with lettuce and mayo. … Putin’s mistake was that he didn’t invade Ukraine while Trump was still president. Trump would have handed it to the Ruskies for a hotel in downtown Moscow. … Okay, what did she do to tick off CTV brass? Lisa LaFlamme has been terminated as the network’s chief news anchor.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Woolworth’s opened its first Cornwall store in 1918 on Pitt Street. In 1994 the Woolworth chain was purchased by Wallmart.

TRIVIA: In 1995 Bob Pearson retired to a farm near Dalkeith in North Glengarry. On July 23, 1983 he performed a feat that made international news and was made into a Hollywood movie. Canada’s change to the metric system played a role in the incident.

AROUND AND ‘BOUT: This gives new meaning to the one-armed bandit. In California last week an armed thug tried to hold up a convenience store but got more than he could handle from the 81-year-old owner who announced, “Sorry buster, wrong store!” and blasted him with a shotgun she kept under the counter. The guy left on the run but was arrested few hours later by the cops who said his wounded arm had to be amputated.

LAST POST: SD and G Historical Society /Cornwall Community Museum lost a strong supporter with the death of city resident Frank Wilson on the weekend. … One of the nice guys I got to know in this business was city businessman Jim Chiccini who died on June 23. Always upbeat and positive. .. Two members of the Standard-Freeholder (44 Pitt St. era) alumni Sue Lebano (sales) and Hughie Kyte (composing room) left us, both on July 23 . Hughie was one of the last surviving members of the “backshop” composing room that was replaced by the computer age.

QUOTED – “You know horses are smarter than people. You never hear of a horse going broke betting on people.” – Will Rogers

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