I really didn't become a "motor coach travel addict" until my 75th birthday. The particular destination for that occasion was Myrtle Beach, S.C., one of the most beautiful places in the world. The hotels are fabulous, and the entertainment is unbeatable. The big stars are there or will be there soon, as soon as they return from Branson, MO.
On my last tour we went to Georgia, visiting Macon, Savannah, the Golden Islands(St. Simmons & Jekyll Islands, etc), and then to Columbus & Calloway Gardens (at Pine Hill). Georgians have a lot to be proud of in their beautiful state.
On our 56 passenger bus (the latest by Bluebird) we only had 31 passengers; 27 were females (most were widows) and 4 were males (three of them were married--two had their wives with them & the driver's wife wasn't with us). Being the only single guy along, I of course got all the attention and care one could handle.
While we were in Savannah I got to see "Emma." Of course we're talking about the "Emma," Emma Kelly, an 82 year old lady who does her thing at the "Pelican Perch," which sits atop "Pirate's House Restaurant"(20 E. Broad St., Savannah, GA). I was there Tuesday night, March 30, 1999 and Emma was in intensive care because of a stroke suffered two weeks earlier. She told her doctor, "Tonight I am opening my 42th season at the 'Pelican Perch,' and if I die tonight it's not going to be in this hospital, but over at my piano." The doctor knew she meant what she said, and knew that's what she was going to do, so he told the nurses to get her ready and rolled her out to the ambulance, making her famous appearance at 7:00 pm on schedule. As Emma made her way through a packed house Joe Jones was strumming the bass--"stum, stum, stum...," you know. Everybody was screaming and trying to get Emma to give them her autograph and/or play a request. When she finally got to the piano bar (where she plays) I was sitting at her feet. The young 18 year-old white girl who now helps Emma (Emma's like me--she can't always remember) told her my name was Ed Summers, from Hartselle, Al, and Emma said "Hi Ed." What a charming lady. I had already talked to Joe before Emma got there, and he told me we were going to help Emma until she gets back to her old self.
So, Emma went on to say, "I know you want me to play 'Stars fell on Alabama'--and that's one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. It's requested eight, nine, or ten times every gig I play." Emma begins the session with "Back Home Again in Indiana" for two ladies sitting next to me. Emma stopped playing and asked them where their husbands were. And they said ,"home in Indianapolis. They don't like these junkets. Emma said, "are you sure they are home?" As everybody is yelling and screaming, cameras flashing, and camcorders rolling, Emma smoothly glides into " 'Stars Fell on Alabama,' for my good friend Ed Summers." She says "stand up and wave, Ed," and goes on to tell everybody,"I'm going to tell you all about Ed Summers. Not only the town where he lives but: his street address, his zip code, his email address and website so that you can stop by, call, or email him 24 hours a day." I'm standing there in my Crimson Tide jacket (which I bought inT-town at the Paul "Bear" Bryant Museum) & she says, "Ed says he's 77 years old but doesn't look over 60 to me. Isn't he sexy looking, girls??" I'm about to drop my false teeth (no I can't do that now, because I have implants)
But the best is yet to come. And it wasn't long in coming. Emma was playing the great songs for great people when a beautiful model from Manhattan came up and plopped down in my lap. She says "Hi Ed," and I was speechless. I first said "how did you know my name?" She replied, "We check out any people that we are going to use in any of our shoots before we approach them. Some people lie, cheat or sue us." "So," I say, "I guess I must have passed the test." "With flying colors," she said. So I say, "You don't want a 77 year old guy in your shoot, do you?" and she said "Ed, it doesn't matter whether you're 7,17, or 77; if you've got it you've got it"(as she hits me in the belly). She says "that's hard for an older man ," as she rubbed my belly more. I'm really going crazy then and ask her who she works for and is shooting for. She says "you are going to be in the August issue of Lands End's catalog. You know Land's End don't you? And to answer your other question, I am my own boss, and this is my shoot--so get busy, Mr. Summers. See those two Oriental looking guys over there?" (as I see the light was on & the camera was pointed right at us) So she says "we agreed on what sells, what people look for & want. Sex, sex, sex." She puts my hand on her face and whispers, "don't you want to feel me, Ed? I worked hard to keep myself in good shape." I told her she was in perfect shape.
Well, I cooled down later and she didn't go back to my motel room with me (although she said that she really wanted to) but had to wrap the shoot by4AM and fly back to New York. Maybe you will see us in the Lands End August issue; maybe I'll end up on the cutting room floor. In any case, we departed Savannah the next morning for St. Simmons & the remainder of the town.
The "Golden Islands" are so beautiful. We arrived at our motel in St. Simmons as the sun was sinking in the West. Such a beautiful time of day--and such a beautiful place; people are there from all over the world (all friendly at least while in the beautiful part of God's creation.) I, of course, arose early and walked some a long time before sunrise. I stopped in the lobby & talked with the night clerk and a female security guard. Both had lived an exciting life and had high hopes for the future. I asked what time the continental breakfast is served and the guard said the waitress is getting things ready; however, she hadn't been informed of a bus tour group, so she went back and got our stuff out. As our group and others started coming into the lobby we were all saying "good morning," discussing where we were from and where we were going.
Later that morning we went to the world-famous lighthouse on the island. I climbed up the stairs (all 155 of them) and took some camcorder shots from the top--and unbelievable sight. You may have forgotten that this Thursday was April Fool's Day-- April 1,1999. Many of us had forgotten this but remembered as the security guard and I talked, so when "our gang" drifted in I got the first April Fool's joke on them for the day. Of course they got the last one on me as the day ended.
We next went on our way to Columbus, where we stayed at the Days Inn I-185 & Macon Rd. That's when we saw six big chartered buses loaded with troops (heading to the airport)from Fort Benning. The buses were escorted by blue lights and sirens moving through the aread at 60 mph. We thought they were on their way to Kosovo; we all said a prayer for our young men and women on this occasion. On Friday, April 2nd, we headed a short drive away to Calloway Gardens. Calloway Gardens has grown so much and is still growing (several sights under construction) as we toured through this five mile square site. I shot camcorder shots of so much of it, but,moving along in a bus it's hard to make good pictures. Around 1:00 PM we left beautiful Calloway Gardens and headed home. When Tarzan gets the word to "take us home" he gets a little more excited, and we roll And we did roll it back in Hartselle around 4:30 CDST as everybody said their goodbyes to both old and new friends they had spent the week with. The week began on March 29th and ended on Friday afternoon where we started.