For fans of Elvis Presley, there are several sacred sites that are must-see (Graceland, Sun Studios, Lauderdale Courts, and the Las Vegas Hilton, for instance). When I found a woman who would marry me, I had to balance the fact that finding another woman willing to marry me who was also an Elvis fan (or another woman at all) was statistically significant. I choose wisely. So, when I have an opportunity I have to take it. When traveling back from Atlanta, Georgia, I knew an opportunity would present itself to stop in Tupelo, Mississippi.
Let’s face it, Tupelo is not the center of the universe, so finding a reason to turn off of Highway 78 was not that easy. Here are my options. Number 1: Figure the exact mileage from Atlanta and adjust my speed and gas consumption to make sure we are forced to buy fuel in Tupelo. (This option was immediately ruled out since it involved math.) Number 2: Locate a tourist attraction, also in Tupelo, that could be considered unlawful to not take my wife and children there. (This option was immediately out; remember we are talking about Tupelo.) Number 3: Explain to my wife that seeing the birthplace of Elvis is on the bucket list of 9 out of 10 native Memphians. (She’s not from Memphis and has other priorities.) Number 4: Give my children Benadryl so that they sleep for 4.6 hours, distract my wife by talking to her about my emotions for 4.6 hours, and test the durability of my bladder for 4.6 hours. (It worked!)
For those who haven’t figured it out yet, we stopped at the birthplace and first home of Elvis in Tupelo, Mississippi, despite my wife’s “really?” comment after I said we should check it out. With three well-rested and energetic kids, an empty bladder, and a wet pair of pants (from the tears I shed through an 4.6-hour emotional cleansing) we were ready to see something.
Tupelo is a quaint little southern town and the neighborhood surrounding the historic site (yes, it is) was filled with children playing and riding bicycles. Overall the neighborhood in Tupelo is much better than the neighborhood surrounding Graceland these days.
The park and gardens are very well cared for, inviting, and presented nicely. The visitor center holds a museum and collection but I have to admit, I was taken back by the $12 adult and $6 entrance fee to the museum (that also included access to the house, church, and chapel). For my family, a $42 admission is a lot to pay for something only two-fifths of the family was interested in (William always sides with me). They do offer free access to the grounds, exteriors of structures, and gardens, which is a nice alternative.
Here are some images and thoughts.
The site’s logo is found through out the museum. I liked it at first but it still seems like they are missing an apostrophe or something.
The Story Wall starts off easy and enjoyable, but turns into an exhibit with more text than I have ever seen in a series of wayside exhibits. They were well-written in the voice of the person telling the story, but after a few I was done with it and two of my children were moving the life-size bronze statue of Elvis at age 12. Gracie may or may not have thought the statue was Justin Bieber. These exhibits left me saying “Don’t Be Cruel.”
At least the type is left justified/ragged right, I guess.
I received a scalding look from the gift shop sales associate when I tried to take a picture of a sign that was an impressive use of Comic Sans. If I had that picture, I would insert it here and say something like, “After seeing this sign in the gift shop, I was Crying in the Chapel.” Okay, so maybe it is better that I didn’t get the picture. I now know how to silence the noises my camera makes.
The best thing to see there, as always, is the thing itself, or in this case, the house. I was happy having my picture made on the front porch and imagining how young Elvis’ life was different from mine.
For the most part, Tupelo has tried to capitalize on the fame (much like the hometowns of Paul and me, due to the popularity of the book/blog, minus the jumpsuits, countless gold records, and millions of worldwide fans) that a young boy has brought them as being the place where he was born. They probably don’t want to plant the seed that you have to leave Tupelo to succeed. The most compelling part of the site’s story is that Elvis came from Tupelo to be the king of rock ‘n’ roll.