Auntie Lila had open heart surgery and she wasn't doing so well. I knew I needed to ask her to tell me her favorite stories--my favorite stories, actually. I am so happy that I took the time to write them down. A few years ago, not long before she died, I sat with her, with my computer on my lap, and took down her words.
We had a lot in common. One thing was a love of jazz. And Nat King Cole. She shared with me her favorite Nat King Cole memory:
It was 1953. Lute and I had been married for ten years and we'd never had a vacation. I saved and saved that year. I made candy and I went door-to-door peddling wrapping paper and cards and my candy. Finally, I'd saved two hundred dollars. Thora and Gene watched the kids. All we had was the old red pick-up and we had seven days driving time to get down and back from San Francisco.
I wrote to the Chamber of Commerce and we found a hotel where we could park and walk around town. I called the Fairmont and we got tickets to the Nat King Cole show. He was with his trio then. I was so excited. It was a very posh place. The had place cards on the tables that said "Nat King Cole Trio" on them. But our table didn't have one, so I got one of the busboys to get me one and I put it right in my purse.
The band played for a while and it was just wonderful. I remember he sang "Straighten Up and Fly Right", of course, because he wrote that one, and he also sang that cute song about a Calypso Girl. I had the album with that song on it. I still have it. Anyway, the band took a break about halfway through and I went to visit the powder room.
Well, I went into the most posh bathroom I'd ever seen and I found out it was a pay toilet. I had no money for a pay toilet! So I just primped and fluffed my hair a bit and left.
When I got back out into the main hallway, there he was with his trio, walking right toward me! I pulled out my little place card and said, "Mr. Cole, do you think I could have your autograph?"
He was so nice. He said, "Sure." And he signed my place card! I was so excited!
Happy Thanksgiving, Auntie Lila. I have no doubt that Nat King Cole is seated at your Thanksgiving table.