From a Simple Home - Elvis
I confessed in a previous post - Elvis, and a Woman Named Marion - to not being the biggest Elvis fan.
Just to be clear, I do like Elvis, I’m just not the biggest fan.
None-the-less, when I found myself traveling near Tupelo, Mississippi, on a recent trip back from Alabama well, fan or not, I just had to stop and check out the King’s birthplace for myself.
Elvis, literally, looks down at the place from above. He’s immortalized in a life-size statue, resting high on the hill behind his boyhood home.
It’s a pose we all recognize and remember. Arms spread wide, head thrown back, almost Christ-like, wearing his Las Vegas sequined costume.
Seated at his feet is a second statue, one of Elvis the child holding what was probably his first guitar. In what has to be a shout out to Blue Hawaii, a large blue and white lei adorns young Elvis’ neck
I have to admit I was pretty impressed with things. For whatever reason I was expecting to see little more than the house in which Elvis was born and that would be all there was.
Instead, the grounds are quite large and, in addition to the home, include a museum, Elvis’ childhood church, memorial chapel, indoor theatre, outdoor amphitheater, reflection pond and the overlook pavilion with the previously mentioned Elvis statues. Events, both large and small, are frequently held on the grounds.
Elvis’ birthplace is a simple shotgun-style wooden house, bedroom/living room in the front and kitchen/dining room in the back. That’s it, two rooms.
Elvis was born in 1935 to Vernon and Gladys Presley. A twin brother was stillborn.
Papa Presley worked as a share cropper and the owner of the farm loaned him the $180 he needed for the house he built himself with help from with his father, Jesse, and brother, Vester.
Sadly, Vernon and Gladys struggled financially during what were still the Depression years. At one point Vernon went to jail for forging a check and the family lost the home after just a few years.
As the story goes, Vernon sold a hog to the same farm owner who loaned him the money for the house. The owner wrote the check to pay for the hog for less than Vernon believed they had agreed to, so Vernon changed the number on it to the greater amount. He served nine months of a three-year jail term for forgery before being released.
The actual building where young Elvis and his parents attended church has been moved to the grounds. It’s where he sat down beside the church’s minister, Brother Frank Smith, learned to play the guitar and sang his first gospel song, Jesus Loves Me.
Heck, I remember singing that song countless times myself but for some reason I never became internationally famous. Maybe it’s because I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.
Sitting inside the church for a presentation, large screens roll down in front and either side, covering the walls, and an old time 1940s Assembly of God service appears around you.
Having sat through a couple of those services back in the day (and no, not the 1940s, more like the late 1970s), I can attest you really do feel like your there.
Wanna Get Married?
You can do that here. Probably not in the church but how about the Elvis Presley Memorial Chapel?
Elvis dreamed of having a “place of meditation” at the park. Unfortunately it didn’t happen until 1979, after his death.
Stained glass windows were specifically designed for the chapel. The pulpit from the Elvis’ Assembly of God church sits at the front with Elvis’ bible resting atop it.
By the way, you really can get married there. If that’s not big enough, there’s also an event center on the grounds that seats 160, and a theatre with full stage and lighting that seats 126.
Museum, Story Wall, Grounds
There’s a lot more to the park. A small museum with photos and videos of his life was renovated in 2006.
I got a kick out of the Story Wall. Quotes from people who knew Elvis as a youngster are posted on the exterior walls around the Museum and Events Center:
The grounds behind the museum, atop which sits that Elvis statue I mentioned in the beginning, is 15 acres in size with an event lawn area, with plenty of space if your event is too big for the events center, separate picnic pavilion and a large “Reflections” pond.
All-in-all, it’s definitely worth the visit, even if you aren’t the biggest Elvis fan.
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