A little girl lost

Memorial Day weekend is a time for remembering those who have served our country in the armed forces. But, sometimes, memories of others are stirred, too . . .

Helen Bishop is not your traditional subject for a Memorial Day weekend editorial. She never wore a uniform or fought in any wars.

No, Helen, was a teenager in the mid-1950s in the desert state of New Mexico. She was our older sister’s best friend. When we first met her, she was 11 or 12 years old – as a 6-year-old, we were entranced by her. She was sitting right next to that older sister – Ellie – picking away on our upright piano and singing the refrain to “Heart and Soul.”

She was a friendly, lovely little girl.

A little while later, there is the hazy image of that same Helen giving us a 45-rpm record. The blazing Sun recording label is burned in our mind – our first Elvis Presley record. The two sides were “I Forgot To Remember To Forget Her” and “Mystery Train.”

We’d told Helen how much we liked Elvis’ records on the local radio station’s “Platter Party.” She responded by giving us one of her prized possessions – that Sun record.

We remember Helen telling Ellie about traveling down to Texas and getting autographs from James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson during the filming of the movie “Giant.” She was gushing as she related the story.

In those days in rural New Mexico where we lived, one could get a driver’s license at the tender age of 15. Like everyone of that generation, Helen did so.

Just a few weeks after getting that prized license, Helen and another friend of my sister’s, Kay MacLean, went for a drive with two boys from their high school class. Our parents told us that Helen oversteered when her car hit the shoulder on the side of the road. The car turned over.

The two boys lived – Helen and Kay were killed.

The high school yearbook for 1957-58 was dedicated to Helen and Kay. Everything was over at the tender age of 15. Some would say she never had a chance to live. Yet, her kindness to the runt brother of a friend – the thoughtfulness of a truly wonderful little girl – and her smiling face live on in a 57-year-old memory.

Perhaps, it wasn’t the original intention of the holiday, but every Memorial Day we think of Helen. As Elvis would have sung, we forgot to remember to forget her.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.