Joe Trimmer

You may have seen a movie about the life of Johnny Cash. It's not too bad, if you can accept the star acting as him is about a foot shorter than the real Johnny Cash! There's one scene in the movie that I actually did in real life.

In late 1956 and half of 1957 I was stationed just outside of Memphis going to aviation electronics school. On many weekends I would go to Memphis and wander around. That's how I found Beale Street and Sun Records. Big deal, you might say, so what? Well for one thing, Beale Street is world-renowned for being the home of the blues. 

I don't pretend to be that knowledgeable about any music. I just know that I like old country, early rock and roll and some blues. So when I saw the Sun Records sign, my interest was piqued. Elvis had hit it big and this little studio had started it all. I looked in the window and saw pictures, that I assumed were recording artists. Most of them I'd never heard of. 

As I turned to leave, a convertible pulled up and parked. A tall, lanky guy with a mop of hair got out. He opened the trunk and started unloading several guitars. I asked him if he needed any help. "Well sure," he drawled. 

I picked up a couple of them and followed him around to a side door, where another man was waiting. " 'Bout time, Jerry Lee!"

I hesitated and said to myself "Jerry Lee!" and looked at him. Jerry Lee ... Lewis? I knew the name and his music but hadn't really seen a picture of him. His songs were OK, his singing so so, his piano playing was great! I don't mind saying I was starstruck.

We set the guitars down and he held out his hand "thanks pardner." We shook and he disappeared inside closing the door. In the movie, Johnny Cash played my part!

Over the years I've met some famous and at least one, in my book, infamous. Harry Truman shook my hand at one of his whistle stops. Likewise, with no hand shake, future President Eisenhower.

I've written about Walter Cronkite filming a segment about our squadron for one of his shows. Bob Hope did his Christmas show from the hanger deck of my ship, the Forrestal in 1958 and found me sitting atop one of our planes and waved!

Some of best and one of the worst, also crossed my path. For about nine years I was principal of a middle school in Robinson, in a brand new building. It was an open concept building meaning it had few walls. The junior college sponsored a series of plays and used our school for rehearsing for the minor stars.

One of the nicest was Ann B. Davis and really a joy to meet. Likewise, the husband from the Donna Reed show, Karl Betz, a real gentleman. Cathy Garver was a sweetheart. 

It didn't really surprise me one of the obnoxious ones, was Edd Byrnes, Kookie of "77 Sunset Strip." He almost demanded that he be catered to and had a hissy fit if it wasn't forthcoming! He nearly had my secretary in tears. I told the college sponsor he needed to apologize to her or he was no longer welcome in my building. He did. 

And then, there was my pursuit of Zsa Zsa Gabor, what? Out of space, maybe next time. 

Joe Trimmer is a retired educator and a Decatur historian.

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Joe Trimmer is a Decatur historian.


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