Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

“The King” still Reigns in Faulkner Country

with one comment

11tupelo05AElvis at 13

Story & photo

By Sandy Katz

  Mature Life Features

TUPELO, Miss. —- The two-room dwelling where Elvis Presley came into this world still stands in a park here. Other local sites important to the formative years of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll include Milam Jr. High, where he won his first talent contest; the Tupelo hardware store where he bought his first guitar, and Tupelo fairgrounds, where he performed early in his career.

There are other aspects of culture and heritage of the Magnolia State handy, such as the nearby Tupelo National Battlefield, a reminder that many of the Civil War’s fiercest battles were fought on Mississippi soil. North and west of here is Holly Springs with its historic antebellum homes. Between these two communities is Oxford, immortalized in writings of William Faulkner, and the picturesque campus of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss).

The Depression Era house where Elvis Presley was born in January 1935 was built by his father, a dairy farmer, for $180. Originally wallpapered with newspapers, each room now has flowered wallpaper and one lightbulb. In a 1957 hometown concert, Presley donated the proceeds to buy his birthplace and 15 surrounding acres. Elvis Presley Park now includes a memory walk where residents detail their recollections of the singer, a museum that traces his road to fame through a collection of his clothing from riding boots to a Las Vegas jumpsuit, a chapel, and an “Elvis at 13” bronze statue depicting him as a young boy in overalls with guitar in hand.

An annual Elvis Presley Festival the first weekend in June brings music, food, and fun to downtown Tupelo. Musicians from around the country play the music that influenced Elvis and music that he influenced. Among the festival events are a motorcycle show, pet parade, movie-
poster exhibit, and recliner, walking and bicycle races. When not singing, Elvis collected cars, often giving them away to friends. The Tupelo
Automobile Museum complements the nearby scenic made-for-cruising Natchez Trace Parkway. The 100-plus vehicles in the museum range from seven-horsepower models that could barely make it up hills to juiced-up Thunderbirds, Plymouths and Pontiacs. From the Fabulous Fifties,
there is a Corvette the color of Marilyn Monroe’s Technicolor-red lips, Mercurys and Buicks the color of lemons, and Packards and Edsels that really were lemons.

The Natchez Trace Parkway Visitors Center and Headquarters includes a giant mural depicting the history of the 444-mile route linking Natchez to Nashville. Designated a National Scenic Byway and an All-American Road, it is open year-round for motorists, hikers, and cyclists and offers visitors the opportunity for an unhurried trip through time.

With 64 antebellum properties in a landscape dotted with historic sites, magnificent homes, and wrought-iron fences, nearby Holly Springs draws thousands of visitors annually during the last week in April for the Holly Springs Pilgrimage. Guests are greeted by locals dressed in period costumes who provide detailed history about the homes, such as Walter Place, which was home of General Ulysses S. Grant.

Just off the town square is Graceland too, which attracts music fans to what possibly is the largest collection of Elvis Presley memorabilia on the planet. Owner Paul McLeod, who has been called the world’s number one Elvis fan, has spent more than four decades collecting every conceivable item related to the King. He and his son, Elvis Presley McLeod, offer tours every day around the clock.

Faulkner fans flock to Oxford hoping to tap into what’s left of the Deep South and the Southern psyche. Downtown Oxford still looks like it did when Faulkner used it as a stage for his characters. The Nobel laureate was born in nearby New Albany and spent the last 32 years of his life here at Rowan Oak, a stereotypical antebellum home on the edge of the Ole Miss campus. The house has the rumpled appearance of the author, who wrote here such masterpieces as “Absalom, Absalom,” “Light in August,” “The Sound and the Fury,” and “Fable,” an outline of which scribbled in the author’ hand remains on the study wall. The university library’s Faulkner Room contains his Nobel Prize and some of his original manuscripts.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2005

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Written by Cecil Scaglione

November 25, 2013 at 7:35 am

One Response

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  1. Cecil,

    Thanks and happy thanksgiving!

    Travelin’ Sandy and Gerry

    Sandy

    November 26, 2013 at 9:03 am


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