The King is Dead
My parents would take us kids – all seven of us – to Saratoga for a week’s vacation.
Sometimes we’d stay at the Holiday Inn at the corner of Broadway and Circular. Sometimes we’d stay at the Adirondack Motel off Ballston. Sometimes we’d stay wherever the heck they could find us a place.
But in 1977, when my Dad (Ray Kerrison) had a full time gig with the New York Post as their racing columnist and handicapper, my life changed for ever.
A life rich with blessings, I was about to receive it’s greatest one to date.
You see, Dad’s job was to go to the track each morning, visit the barns, and talk to horsemen, jockeys, agents and the like. In the afternoon he’d sit in the air conditioned press box, write a column and handicap the races.
That was his job.
I’m not saying it wasn’t work from time to time, but let’s be honest here. The old man had a pretty nice gig.
The greatest of these blessings? We got to tag along.
If that wasn’t enough, the Post would put us up for the month. They’d pay for a rental house, expenses (i.e. breakfast at the track or Mother Goldsmiths, dinners at The Old Firehouse), the works.
Mom would work with a realtor and early each summer she’d see a number of Polaroid photographs of the houses available to rent.
Like I said, Dad had a pretty good gig.
Eight years old and excited to spend a month at The Spa, I was a little uncomfortable staying in a strange house.
My most vivid memory of that house actually had nothing to do with horse racing, oddly enough. Nor did it have anything to do with the town of Saratoga Springs. But it did come while sitting in front of the television in the living room.
One afternoon, as we drove out of the racetrack’s main gate, we had the radio on WGY and listened to the news like we did after every race day.
It was August 16th. Elvis had died.
I remember sitting in the back seat, behind my Mom in our Oldsmobile Delta 88 and seeing my folks turning to look at each other, clearly taken by surprise.
When we got home I turned on the news. Mom and Dad watched along with me. It hadn’t taken long before the legions of fans stood outside Graceland, keeping vigil for their fallen King.
It didn’t really resonate with me then as it did with millions of others. Everyone talked of what a legend he was. What I kept seeing was footage of a really fat guy in these ghastly white suits with an eagle in rhinestones on the back…and he was always sweating.
As wonderful as my first full meet at Saratoga was, the death of The King is what invariably first comes to mind when thinking about that meet and that nice little home on East Avenue.