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Elvis Presley's Boyhood Home  (Tupelo, Mississippi) 

(Reprint from News: June 29, 2001)

June 29, 2001

 

The skies were clear the next morning as I pulled back onto the empty Parkway and continued driving north.  A few hours later, I drove into the bustling city of Tupelo, Mississippi which, of course, is the hometown of Elvis Presley.  I'm not a big fan of The King and I'd never been to Tupelo, but since I'm interested in Americana, I wanted to see where this guy was born.  Besides, Elvis had obviously downed at least a few Krispy Kreme donuts in his life so I felt a kinship with him and wanted to pay my solemn respects.  

 

Here's The King singing Return to Sender.

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It takes a while to get to The House of Elvis, since it's on the outskirts of town and you have to keep your eyes peeled for the small directional signs, but I finally made it.  The small, two-room house where he was born sits there next to large, modern museum.  No, it's not at all like Graceland, the glitzy mansion where Elvis lived and is buried, but since I wasn't planning to visit Memphis on this particular trip, it would have to suffice. 

 

After walking into the museum, I paid my $5 admission fee and started walking around the glass-encased displays, when a 50-ish woman staff member walked up to me and, in a southern twang, asked if there was anything in particular that I wanted to see.  By her eager smile, I could sense that she was a big Elvis fan and from her nicely-coiffed appearance, I could tell that she had probably been a Southern Belle in her younger days.  Not wanting to disappoint her, I didn't admit my indifference to Elvis' music (except for "Return to Sender" which is one of my favorites) and feigned interest in all the Elvis memorabilia.

 

 

Above:  Elvis (center) with his parents, Gladys and Vernon.

 

Apparently taking her cue, she proudly pointed to something in the display which, to me, looked like an old hammer.  Silly me.  As she proudly proclaimed, this was the actual hammer that Elvis' father, Vernon, had used to build the nearby house back in 1935, just before the King was born!  Incredible!!  In all seriousness, though, I was polite and I even asked her a few questions, and after a while she left me alone.  Actually, the museum was kind of interesting but after a half-hour, I'd seen enough sequined jumpsuits to last a lifetime, so I made an exit through the gift shop.  However, before escaping, I just had to plunk down $2 for a replica of Elvis' first driver's license. 

 

After leaving the museum, I strolled over to Elvis' tiny house, which lies about 50 yards away.  As I walked in, I was greeted by an elderly woman sitting in a wooden chair near the door, who started giving me a well-rehearsed spiel about Elvis while staring blankly off into the distance.  This poor woman was obviously very bored -- maybe Elvis isn't as popular as he used to be -- but nevertheless I found her story, which she was reciting for apparently the 985th time, kind of interesting.  

 
 

Above:  Pondering which sequined jumpsuit to wear.

 

But then I made a big mistake:  I asked her a question!  It was a simple question, too.  I merely wanted to know when Elvis moved to Memphis.  However -- and this was where I goofed -- the women was still talking about Elvis' childhood, and this well-intentioned question threw off her entire monologue.  After answering my question, she tried to regain her composure (apparently, no one had actually asked her a question about Elvis before) but I could tell that she was flustered.  She was obviously shaken but she stammered through the rest of her routine. 

 

After I strolled through the two rooms (a living-room/bedroom and a kitchen), I politely bade her a good day and opened the creaking screen door to leave.  "Have a nice day," she said to me as I left.  As I walked out the door, I could tell by her smile that she enjoyed talking to someone who was actually interested in her story.  Well, sort of interested.

 

Altogether, and despite the plethora of sequined jumpsuits (not to mention Vernon's old hammer), I was glad that I saw the Elvis house and museum.  After fueling up in Tupelo and getting my oil changed at Jiffy Lube, I continued heading north and, in a tribute to the King, downed another jelly-filled Krispy Kreme.

 

       

Above left:  It takes a while to find it, but the Elvis Presley Museum on the outskirts of Tupelo is worth seeing.

Above center:   The Elvis Presley house sits a few yards away.

Above right:  Elvis' dad built this house in 1935 just before the King was born.  It costs only $2 to see it, but then there are only 2 rooms.  Beware, though, of the old woman in the living room.

 

   

Above left:  Getting my oil changed in Tupelo, Mississippi.  Well, o.k., I mean getting my truckís oil changed.  My oil didnít need changing.

Above right:  In the South, God is almost as popular as Elvis and football.