A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

by Gordon Eskridge (Feb 2012)


I have had a strange and wonderful day. Today is January 8, 2010, the 75th birthday of Elvis Presley and while everyone else was at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee where Elvis was supposed to have died on August 16, 1977, I came to Tupelo, Mississippi where he was born.

Dick Guyson, the Elvis Presley Museum director, and I had met that morning for breakfast and he had told me that a couple was flying all the way in from Hawaii for a private tour of the birthplace of Elvis Presley and would be here soon. Because I was sent here to cover the "75th birthday of Elvis," for Rolling Stone Magazine, he said that I might as well go on the tour with them.

On the evening of August 14th 1977, Elvis had a motorcycle accident. Elvis had just left the dentist office on his Harley Davidson motorcycle and was riding too fast on that rainy evening just outside of Memphis. His motorcycle slid off the wet road on a curve. His body slammed into a tree where the right side of his face and right shoulder were turned into hamburger.

Elvis awoke the next afternoon and was told what had happened and that it would take several months of recovery to reconstruct his face. His right arm would never be fully useful again. Elvis had been moody for several months and he decided to end this life now while he had the chance to escape. He told the local papers that he had died in the accident.  

Elvis changed his name to Aaron Garon using both his middle name and that of his twin brother Jessie Garon Presley who was stillborn. Several weeks later Elvis was flown to Kaua'i Hawaii, where he bought a villa near Waimea Canyon known as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." He married a local Chinese - Hawaiian beauty by the name of Dorothy Wong and they had five children.

Dorothy had always wanted to visit his birth place and so on his 75th birthday they returned to Tupelo to celebrate. In Tupelo, Mississippi at 306 Elvis Presley Drive, they were met by Dick Guyson the executive director of the birthplace and me, a would-be writer.

Aaron and his wife Dorothy were a happy looking couple. Aaron looked to be about 75 years old, white with a dark tan, gray mustache, medium height, and weighed about two hundred pounds. His wife Dorothy was a beautiful Hawaiian about sixty years old with dark hair and eyes and a quick smile. They held hands his right and her left. He would often lean down and whisper in her ear and she would then stroke his right arm and smile up at him.

Dick started the tour by telling us that the city had purchased the humble, two room house and property. The house was built for $150.00 in 1933 by his father, Vernon Presley, his brother and Elvis's grandfather.

On January 8, 1935 at 4 a.m. the twin boys Elvis and Jessie were born to Vernon and Gladys Presley in this house. Elvis was first and Jessie was stillborn. The Elvis Memorial Museum has been recently upgraded to better inform visitors about the way rural Mississippi had influenced Elvis's life and his music.

The Story Wall displayed a collection of personal anecdotes from people who knew Elvis as a child. As Aaron traced his hand over some of the messages I overheard him as he whispered to his wife "I remember this," and I took a second look at him.

This man had some thin scars on the right side of his face and so I moved to his left side and imaged him thirty years younger with coal black hair instead of the gray and mentally removed the mustache, and dark sunglasses. Guess who I found?

You are right, it was "Elvis". I must have flinched and Aaron saw it because he turned to Dick and asked "Was the church here when Elvis lived here?" And Dick said "No it was moved here just a few years ago purchased by fans. It was the church where Elvis grew fond of gospel music. The minister, Brother Frank Smith, had taught Elvis how to play 0, A, and E cords on the guitar."

The "Walk of Life," was a line of granite blocks representing every year of Elvis's life from 1935 to 1977. From 1940 to 1946 Elvis attended Lawhon Elementary School on Lake Street just a few blocks away. In 1945 Elvis made his first public radio broadcast at the Fair in a youth talent contest. He sang "Old Shep," and won the second prize of $5.00 and free admission to all the Fair rides.

In 1946 Elvis had wanted a .22 caliber rifle or a bicycle, but his safety conscious mother, Gladys, offered him a guitar as a compromise. It was just a moment in time, but it would change his life forever. The guitar was purchased for $7.50 from the Tupelo Hardware Store on Main Street.

Elvis's favorite place to eat was Johnnie's Drive-In on Main Street about 3 blocks from his house, where he could for fifteen cents get a cheeseburger and a RC Cola. When Dick mentioned Johnnies there was a smile on Aaron's face like he was remembering something.

As we passed on down the walk the years rolled by. I saw a reaction on Aaron's face and each time Dick related some new information Aaron would smile or whisper to his wife. In 1953 Elvis graduated from Humes High School in Memphis and he spent many nights on Beale Street in the Rhythm and Blues clubs. In 1953 Elvis recorded "My Happiness," at Sun Records. At the 1977 block he flinched again.

Dorothy and Aaron thanked Dick shook his hand and mine, then they said good bye to us. They turned around and walked hand in hand back down the hill to their car.

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