PLUNK GENEALOGY -- see "Family" label on this blog and/or write Mike at

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tupelo -- Birthplace of a King

We had some business to do in Tupelo, MS so Mike and I took the hour and a half drive over there on Saturday. As we left the freeway and were heading toward our destination, Mike spotted a sign pointing the way to Elvis’ birthplace. We knew that we’d have to check it out before we left town.

I had known that Elvis was born in a modest, frame house, and I’d seen photos; but I hadn’t realized how tiny the house really was until we walked up to it. The small house had only two rooms, no bathroom and no electricity. The story goes that it was built to accommodate electric wiring, but it had never been hooked up because the Presleys couldn’t afford it.

Vernon and Gladys Presley, Elvis’ parents, were married in 1933. When Gladys discovered in 1934 that she was pregnant, Vernon borrowed $180 and built the little house with the help of his brother Vester and his father J.D. Vernon’s father lived next door in a “spacious” four-room house. As most of you know, Elvis and his stillborn twin brother Jesse were born in January 1935.

Unfortunately, the family didn’t get to live in the house for very long. In 1937, Vernon was arrested for check forgery. He spent six months in jail awaiting trial. J.D. apparently posted bond for another man arrested along with Vernon for the forgery. No bond was posted for Vernon. According to some accounts, J.D. had never liked Vernon very much and had kicked him out of the house when Vernon was 16.
In 1938, Vernon was sentenced to three years in Parchman Penitentiary. Accounts differ from eight months up to 18 months as to how long he actually spent in Parchman before an early release due to good behavior. It was on a visit with his mother to see his father in prison that Elvis’ first photo was taken.

With her husband in prison, Gladys was unable to keep up payments on their diminuitive home. She and her baby had to leave and move in with relatives.

The City of Tupelo eventually bought the house, refurbished it and opened it for tours along with the adjacent museum and gift shop.

I sat on the worn, front porch swing for a few minutes and wondered if Gladys had sat there with her baby boy telling him that life would get better for them.

1 comment:

Willow Goldentree said...

After reading that, it almost makes sense that Elvis would have such a lavish home as Graceland, after that. Thanks for posting this, as I'm sure you know, I'm a fan of Mr. Elvis.