2021 Memphis Adventure – Tupelo

Let’s continue on with more from my Memphis Adventure. This will be the third post — if you haven’t seen the other two: Graceland and Walking in Memphis, scroll down after you finish this one and catch up.

On Friday, I took the Day Trip to Tupelo offered by Graceland. It is a bus tour that goes down to Tupelo, Mississippi every Friday so Elvis fans can see where he was born and lived as a child. It was a very nice tour. There were five of us on the bus that day…..the guide said that sometimes they go with a full bus and sometimes they go with only one or two. I like that it was a small group.The bus left the Guest House at Graceland at 8:30 am and took an hour and a half to get to Tupelo. It was a beautiful day for it, too!

Big bus for just seven people – 5 passengers, 1 guide, and 1 driver

The ride down went by quickly as we watched a video of “hidden secrets” at Graceland and then an Elvis concert — I think it was the one he did in Hawaii — if memory serves!

Our first stop was at the Tupelo Welcome Center for information and a rest stop.

We then went to the Tupelo Hardware Store where Gladys bought Elvis his first guitar. The store is still in operation and owned by the same family – it has been handed down through the generations.

This nice gentleman told us all about the day Elvis was there…….he had saved up his money and went there to buy a bike for his 11th birthday. He soon found out he didn’t have enough money for the bike he wanted. He then set his sights on a bb-gun rifle and wanted that, but his Mom said no!

The “X” marks the spot that Elvis stood that day.

The story goes on to say that Gladys apparently rarely ever said “no” to Elvis, so he proceeded to “pitch a fit”. The store clerk at the time, took a wooden crate and stood it up behind the counter — just like the one there behind the counter in this photo. He brought Elvis around and sat him down on the crate. There was a guitar on display on the shelves behind the counter and the clerk gave one to Elvis to distract him from his little hissy fit. Elvis began to strum on the strings — of course, not really playing it, just pretending. His mother watched and finally said something like “you really like that, don’t you?” and Elvis smiled and said he did like it. So, Gladys told him that if he promised to go see the reverend at their church to take lessons, she would help him pay for the guitar. And….the rest, as they say…..was history!!!

The store still sells guitars to this day……

Then, we went to the fairgrounds where Elvis returned to his home town in 1957 to perform for a photo op with a statue. Elvis donated the proceeds from this concert for the purpose of purchasing the home he was born in and the surrounding property to make a park for fans to visit his birthplace.

From there, we got a city tour — we drove by the library where he loved to spend time reading, his elementary school and his middle school…..at both Elvis was bullied and picked on for being “different”. Elvis didn’t take the bullying lying down…..he gave as good as he got and fought back…..which ended up with him taking notes home about his behavior a few times. We saw other points of interest in Tupelo.

Our last stop of the day was the house that Elvis’s father built for his family. Elvis was born in the little house. Vernon and Gladys were not aware that they were going to have twins. When the first baby – Jesse Garon – was still born, they were devastated! And, then the surprise came 35 minutes later when Elvis made his presence known.

We enjoyed a boxed picnic lunch and then got to wander around the property and tour the buildings.

After Gladys became pregnant, Vernon Presley borrowed $180 for supplies to build a home for them. The home is pictured here – a two room shot-gun style house built by Vernon and his brother. As stated earlier, Elvis was born in this house on January 8, 1935. The house had no indoor plumbing or electricity and was insulated with newspapers. Unfortunately, the home was repossessed in 1939 for non-payment of the $180 that was originally borrowed. When Elvis was 3 years old, Vernon spent some time in prison because he sold a pig for $4 to his landlord that loaned him the $180 for his home, but decided that wasn’t enough, so he altered the check to $40. While he was away, Gladys and Elvis went to live with relatives and by the time Vernon was released, they had lost the home – never to return. They moved several times around Tupelo before they moved to Memphis when Elvis was 13.

The home is in the exact location it was when built and has been restored to it’s original appearance. Vernon helped pick out furnishings that resembled those they had in the home at the time they lived there.

The front room had a bed and a sitting area with a wood burning fireplace.

The back room was the kitchen.

Around the home are stepping stones with a major event in each of the thirteen years Elvis lived in Tupelo – here are just a few:

Originally, the property only had the home. Later, the Assembly of God Church that the Presley’s attended was moved to the property and restored to look like a church of the early 1940s. The property also now has a museum and gift shop, a chapel, a fountain, and statues……..and an outhouse!

We were given a time to be at the church. When we arrived, we had the option to get our photo taken at the prayer bench and then were asked to take a seat in the pews. After a brief history review of Elvis’ time at the church and how/when the church was moved to it’s current location, the screens came down and we were in a “surround” showing of a reenactment of what a church service that Elvis attended there would be like — it was really very cool!!! We were not allowed to photograph or video the show, though.

It was the pastor of this church that taught Elvis how to play the guitar – only three cords, but enough to light a musical fire within him. The pastor also encouraged Elvis to sing in the choir and the quartet. Elvis’ teachers at school also encouraged him to sing to overcome his shyness.

This was recreated from a photograph taken while Elvis attended this church…..it shows the attendance “that day” to be 66 and the offering collected was Five Dollars and Thirty One Cents ($5.31)!

Also on the property was this car – a replica of the one that the Presley’s drove when they moved from Tupelo to Memphis in 1948.

Remember from the post about Graceland…….this is the actual steamer trunk that held everything the family owned when they moved.

Statue of Elvis at 13

There was another statue on the property….it is located up on top of a big hill that overlooks the house and church buildings. It is called “Becoming” and it depicts Elvis at 11 sitting on the crate in the hardware store holding his first guitar and the entertainer Elvis behind him – together, they represent where he began and what he became. There were so very many steps to get up to the top of the hill that I didn’t dare try to climb them with my bad knee…….I was disappointed I didn’t get to see it in person, but I did find these photos of it on the internet…….very impressive and emotional!

That’s Tupelo, Mississippi……..one more post to come — in that one I’ll share photos I took at the Monkees Farewell Tour Concert at the Soundstage at Graceland.

2 Comments on “2021 Memphis Adventure – Tupelo

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