Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tupelo, Mississippi

On our drive through Mississippi Friday John notice one interesting road sign, and I another.  As we passed the town of Scooba I read the town's welcoming sign which noted that it is the home of the world champion turkey caller.  Who would have thought there was such world prize?  What other country calls their turkeys?  Further on down the road John read : "trucks turning, watch for long logs".  Up to that point we had not seen logging trucks, and it seemed to be a strange sign.  We later learned that the Tupelo gum tree is used for construction and, as those trees grow in the area of the city,  the city was named after them.
There is a Civil War battlefield in Tupelo, as well as a Buffalo Zoo, but the town's biggest tourist attraction is Elvis Presley's birthplace, pictured above.  His dad, uncle and grandfather built it, but unfortunately it was repossessed about three years after Elvis was born because his dad forged a check and was sent to prison.  Elvis returned to the town in 1956 (age 21years) for a concert, and while here bought the land around the park for a playground, the city bought the house.  When Elvis was a young boy that part of Tupelo was the wrong side of the tracks and there were no parks for children to play in.
Besides his birth home, there is a museum on the Birthplace Complex as well as the church (Assembly of God Pentecostal) where his family worshiped.  The church had been had been moved from a couple of blocks down the street.  In the church there is a multi-media presentation by which we could experience a typical 1940s service, and see it through the young eyes of Elvis.  The pastor is intense with his message and lively gospel  music is provided by the choir.  I could see in the showmanship of the preacher how Presley got his rock and roll movements ten years later!  The pastor also played a guitar during the services and taught Elvis how to strum a few chords. At the age of about 5 years Elvis was singing for the services.
At the age of eleven Elvis was in a hardware store with his mom planing to purchase a gun (that store is still in business).  It was to be his birthday present, however his mom, with the help of a clerk, persuaded him to buy a guitar.  At age 13 he won fifth place in a talent contest at the Alabama Mississippi state fair.  During the seventh grade he started bringing the guitar to school and singing for his classmates.  The school is still a place of learning for east Tupelo.  A picture of a guitar standis in front of the building.
Elvis played a lot of country music in his younger years, but slowly he blended that with gospel, jazz and blues. The African American neighborhood next to his influenced the latter music for Elvis.  One last note here, the birthplace of Presley gets almost as many visitors as his home in Graceland, and they come from around the world.  While we were there we met met people from Austria and Turkey.  The Presley family moved to Memphis when Elvis was about thirteen years old, however Tupelo was never forgotten as his childhood home and the place where he first started crooning and strumming.

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