elvis presley

Sometimes, I am amazed at what you can “sell” people. In 1977, one of Elvis Presley’s assistants saw an opportunity when Elvis didn’t finish a glass of water after a concert. The assistant held an auction and sold the few drops of water left in the glass for $455. And then, there was the two golf balls that were sold for $1400. So, what made these golf balls so special…well, they were swallowed by a python. The snake had to have surgery to remove them, and they were sold after. A British artist, after going through a period of depression, during which she simply stayed in bed, decided to sell the ensuing messy bedroom “furnishings,” so she auctioned them off for $150,000 after calling them “My Bed.” And let us not forget that on March 6, 2012, a woman from Nebraska sold a three-year-old McDonald’s Chicken McNugget for $8100 because it resembled George Washington. She was raising the money to send children to summer camp. The auction site apparently eased its rules on selling expired food for the woman, so that she could raise money to support her cause.

Granted these items are novelties, and some went for a good cause, but seriously…people will pay good money for the strangest things. It actually makes me want to look through my own possessions to see what oddities I might have that would bring in millions of dollars, because apparently, they could sell. You just never know. What is it that makes people decide that they need a few drops of water left in a glass after Elvis drank from the glass, or a McNugget that looks like George Washington, or the many food items that have looked like the Virgin Mary? I suppose that if these things are for a good cause, maybe they are simply donating for the purpose of helping the cause. Or maybe they actually see value in the item or items they are bidding on.

I suppose that in the case of “seeing value” in an item that almost no one else sees value in, I would have to say…to each his own, but that for the amount some of these items went, there must have been a few people who could see value in something seemingly worthless…at least to me. That said, I decided to go out to an auction site to see what “treasures” I could find. I was somewhat disappointed in that I found no expired food items, or famously worthless celebrity use items. Mostly what I saw were items that did have some value, depending on your need…things like bags full of vintage doll clothes, old pitchers and glassware, belt buckles, automobile emblems, vintage cigarette lighters, coins, and vintage toys. Some of these things could very easily have great value, in that the vintage items could be rare collectables. Nevertheless, I didn’t see anything I couldn’t live without, nor did I find anything that was going for a very high price. I suppose that it would be a rare thing to come across something that cost you nothing, but sold for millions. Still, the idea of selling something for big money isn’t a bad one. It’s just a matter of finding the right item, presenting it to the right audience, and finding yourself feeling very shocked when it sold for the big bucks.

uss-arizonaMost people know that the USS Arizona was one of the ships that was bombed when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The USS Arizona’s sinking took with it, 1,177 men…almost half of the total of 2,403 people killed at Pearl Harbor. The Arizona was one of 20 American ships and more than 300 airplanes lost that day. We know that the attack woke the sleeping giant that is the United States, and we joined World War II with the Allies to stop the tyranny that was Japan and later Germany and Italy. Most people know that the Allies were successful in World War II, and after four long years and the loss of over 400,000 lives, the war was over. There are a few facts about the USS Arizona that many people might not know, however.

Twenty three sets of brothers died aboard USS Arizona. In all there were 37 confirmed pairs or trios of brothers assigned to the ship. Of the 77 men in those sets, 62 were killed. Only one full set of brothers survived. Kenneth and Russell Warriner survived because Kenneth was away at flight school in San Diego, and Russell, while badly wounded, lived. Also on board were father and son, Thomas Free and his son William who served and were killed aboard the Arizona that day. While no regulation exists, US officials discouraged siblings serving on the same ship after the Pearl Harbor attack. In addition to these men who died, the USS Arizona’s entire band, all 21 members, known as US Navy Band Unit (NBU) 22, were lost in the attack. Most of its members were up on deck preparing to play music for the daily flag raising ceremony when the attack began. They instantly moved to man their battle positions beneath the ship’s gun turret. It was the only time in American history that an entire military band died in action. In the years following the attack, and following the decision to leave the dead in the USS Arizona, it was decided that a memorial should be placed there. That is a known fact, but what I didn’t know was that in March 1961, Elvis Presley, who had recently finished a two year stint in the US Army, performed a benefit concert at Pearl Harbor 2Pearl Harbor 3Pearl Harbor’s Block Arena that raised over $50,000. That was more than 10 percent of the USS Arizona Memorial’s final cost. The monument was officially dedicated on May 30, 1962.

One of the most surprising facts about the Arizona, however, is related to the fuel. The day before the Pearl Harbor attack, the Arizona had taken on a full load of fuel…nearly 1.5 million gallons, because it was set to make a trip to the mainland later that month. When the Japanese bombers attacked, that fuel played a major part in the explosions and raging fire that followed the bombing. After the fires were put out, there were 500,000 gallons of fuel left in the ship. Now, 75 years later, the Arizona continues to spill up to 9 quarts of oil into the harbor each day. In the mid-1990s, concerns for the environment led the National Park Service to commission a series of site studies to determine the long term effects of the oil leakage. Some scientists have warned of a possible “catastrophic” eruption of oil from the wreckage, which they believe would cause extensive damage to the Hawaiian shoreline and disrupt US naval functions in the area. They continue to monitor the deterioration of the wreck site but are reluctant to perform extensive repairs or modifications due to the Arizona’s role as a “war grave.” In fact, the oil that often coats the surface of the water surrounding the ship has added an emotional gravity for many who visit the memorial and is sometimes referred to as the “tears of the Arizona” or “black tears.”

As surprising as that is, there is still one more fact that many people didn’t know. The bonds between the crewmembers of Arizona have lasted far beyond the loss of the ship on December 7, 1941. Since 1982, the US Navy has allowed survivors of USS Arizona to be interred in the ship’s wreckage upon their deaths. After a full military funeral at the Arizona memorial, the cremated remains are placed in an urn and then deposited by divers beneath one of the Arizona’s gun turrets. More than 30 Arizona crewmen who survived Pearl Harbor arizona-memorialhave chosen the ship as their final resting place. Crewmembers who served on the ship prior to the attack may have their ashes scattered above the wreck site, and those who served on other vessels stationed at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, may have their ashes scattered above their former ships. As of November 2011, only 18 of the 355 crewmen who survived the bombing of USS Arizona are known to be alive. I knew that the Pearl Harbor attack had a deep impact on the lives of the survivors, but I guess I didn’t fully understand that it was a life changing event, and it would never really leave them.

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