My song today is ‘Treat Me Nice’. This song was recorded by Elvis Presley. The song was featured prominently in the film ‘Jailhouse Rock’. The single was the B-side to ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and both singles became Number 1 hits in the USA in the Fall of 1957 and in the UK in early 1958.
When I was a teenager, aged between 11-16, my energies were spent learning to walk again and regaining my balance, following a bad accident I incurred when a wagon ran over me and put me in the hospital for nine months with life-threatening injuries. One of my major injuries included a damaged spine that suggested I would never walk again. Over a two-year period, I have over fifty operations breaking and resetting my legs which had been badly broken in many places.
During my mid-teens, a new boy came to live with a relative on Windybank Estate where I lived. His name was Tony Walsh, and he came from a village in Ireland called Carrick-on-Suir which was the neighbouring village to Portlaw where I was born. Being Irish and Catholic, we became the closest of friends, and for several years before Tony eventually returned to his home village in Ireland, we would spend most of our spare time together.
I needed four dozen leg operations on my left leg which had been broken on the knee and in several places when the wagon which knocked me down wrapped my body around the main drive propeller shaft. Because of many leg operations, growth in my left leg over a two-year period was stunted. As these operations occurred at a phase in my life when my body was in a growth spurt, I eventually found myself with two legs of unequal length to each other. My left leg was now three inches shorter than my right leg, and naturally, this left me with a pronounced limp each time I took a stride. The medics naturally recommended a built-up boot with metal rods down the sides to strengthen and stabilise my walking. I adamantly refused and insisted that I would deal with the discrepancy of leg length by more natural means. At that time calipers were more common as Polio was still a prevalent condition.
Between the years 11-14, I was unable to walk or stand unaided. Between the years 14-21, once I was able to walk again, I engaged in every sporting activity I could, especially those activities which helped me to improve balance, as it was my balance I needed the most help with. Such activities involved boxing, wrestling, tennis (lawn/court/table), rugby, running, etc. By not wearing built-up footwear, my hips gradually realigned themselves to a diagonal slanted position. For many years, I used imagination exercises/auto-suggestion/relaxation training methods to assist me to achieve a more acceptable walk. I was able to develop a ‘rolling action’ of walking instead of taking deliberate stepping motions. My friend Tony had been a national boxing champion, and he taught me how to box better, which involved showing me ways of addressing my slanted stance in the boxing ring. We would also go out on evening runs a few times weekly.
During the late fifties and the early sixties, the new dancing craze was to hit the dance halls was Rock and Roll. I had always loved dancing and longed to return to the dance halls, but knew that I would never again possess the poise, balance, and grace to glide around the floor with the fleetness of foot required to do the foxtrot, quickstep, and tango to competition level. The advent of Rock and Roll provided me with my means to get back into the dance halls for pleasure. Bopping was a dance where I could participate on equal terms because of its freestyle moves that enabled me to disguise my unequalness in leg length on the dance floor by gyrating my hips and other body parts.
My romantic teenage years were spent with my best friend Tony Walsh and the rest of the Windybank group of young men drinking, dancing, and fighting. We would attend ‘Cleckheaton Town Hall’ every Saturday night, and we would either go to a dance in Batley, Dewsbury, or Halifax during the week. Every dance night was an opportunity to court young women, to have a decent drink, or to round the evening off with a large fight between different gangs of young men in the area. In most of these activities, Tony and I would be alongside each other. We would often go out on a double date with a couple of young women we met at a dance. Whenever a fight with another gang happened, however much we were outnumbered, we would always have each other’s back. As regard to drinking, neither of us drank as much beer as our other mates, because we were more into sporting interests.
Our paths separated before I went to Canada for a couple of years at the age of 21 years, and Tony (who was younger than me) returned to his Irish birthplace where he met his own beautiful colleen, Lily. He fell in love with Lily, married her, and had a lovely family. Sadly, when my best friend Tony died last year, his departure from this world took a significant part of my early years with him. God Rest his soul and God bless his widow, Lily, and his children and grandchildren.
Tony’s favourite singers were Billy fury and Elvis Presley, and during the past three years when I have been engaged in my daily singing practice and putting up a recorded song on my Facebook page, I have usually dedicated any Elvis Presley songs to my friend Tony. Tony loved this song which I initially planned to dedicate to him at a future date. Sadly, Tony died last year, so he is mentioned in today’s dedications. Tony Walsh, I hope that you are allowed ‘listening in time’ from up above to hear your old pal sing you one of your favourite Elvis numbers. And send down some heavenly blessing on today’s four birthday celebrants, Helen Hickey, Jimmy Hogan, Onora Grace, and Susan Collins.
Love and peace