The forecast for Tuesday was clear and cool, a great day for a car ride 60 miles north to Tupelo Mississippi, the birthplace of Elvis Presley.
I have to preface this by saying that when we researched Elvis’ birthplace there were some negative comments. Our findings were that visitors enjoyed the area, but were let down on the customer service and the amount that was charged to enter the home, museum, and church. Because of the negative comments we just about decided to skip going. I am glad we went. It was easy to get to, just a few minutes off Interstate 45 with signs marking the way, and we enjoyed our visit.
We had decided to check out the Events Center complex first, and see the movie about his early childhood before making the decision to pay for entry to the exhibits. The Movie was a local production, not like the Elvis movies of the 50 and 60’s, but well done and informative. What really caught my attention was during the ending credits, an Elvis song that I was not familiar with, played. Many of the audience sang along. These are “hard core”, Elvis fans.
Cynthia, my wife “Dearest”, and I walked the grounds and took in the views. From the movie we saw what the house and church interiors looked like and did not pay the extra $17, $14 for seniors, to enter.
Elvis Presley was born on January 8th, 1935 in a two room house built by his father Vernon, with help from Vernon’s father, Jessie, and his brother, Vester, in 1934.
Vernon had borrowed $180 from his employer to finance the building, which had a single light bulb in each room.
A fact that isn’t publicized is the Presley family only lived in the house about 3 years. Vernon couldn’t make the payments and had to move into a different part of town. That move may have influenced a young Elvis even more, because he had to walk through a part of town called “Shake Rag” that had honky-tonks, and it was there that he was introduced to Blues.
Embedded into the walk around the house are stone carvings that contain facts about each of the 13 years that Elvis lived in Tupelo.
The statue of “Elvis at 13” was created by the sculptor from pictures and measuring the brick and mortar to make it life-size.
Something else that I found interesting was the fact that the original home has not been moved. It is on the location it was built. In 1957 Elvis donated the proceeds from a concert in Tupelo to help purchase the area and create a park for young people. The story is that as a young boy Elvis and his friends would play in this area. Statues at the top of the overlook depict Elvis as a young boy and a guitar and then the larger than life Elvis the entertainer.
As we were getting ready to leave the birthplace we stopped to ask where we should go for lunch. Both the ladies behind the counter said “Johnnies”.
Just a couple blocks from Birthplace Park is Johnnie’s Drive-in. It’s a local burger joint and as we walked in Dearest asked me “Do we just sit or wait for them to seat us?”. The gentleman that was behind us said “Just find a spot. They’ll take care of you.” We did and as the waitress was taking our drink order she also said “Would you like to sit in the Elvis Booth? I just cleaned it and it’s open.” We said sure, and moved to the spot that Elvis would sit when he ate there. The special was called a Doughburger. A mixture of flour and meat that extended the meat. This has been a staple since the opening of Johnnie’s in the 1940’s.
After a great lunch we headed into town and stopped at Tupelo Hardware. A real hardware store that has something for everyone. It’s where Gladys Presley bought Elvis’ first guitar as a birthday present. I stood on the spot Mrs. Presley stood when she purchased that guitar. We also found some items that we could use on the boat.
It was a great day and a lot of fun.
Some of the information I used in this blog was taken from the Elvis’ Birthplace visitors guide, and the Tupelo Visitors Guide.