Saturday, May 26, 2012

Young Elvis Visits Tupelo's Hardware Store

We all know that chance can change our lives: an accidental meeting, buying a lucky lottery ticket, being discovered by a Hollywood talent scout as you work in a drug store (former movie star Lana Turner), missing the last plane… you get the picture. In the tiny hill town of Tupelo, Mississippi, they attribute Elvis Presley’s enormous success to a piece of luck.

When I visited the store, the manager, Howard Hite, told us the story. According to a letter written by Forrest L. Bobo who was a clerk at the store at that time, Elvis’ mother, Gladys, brought him to the store for him to spend money that he had earned running errands for folks. Once there, ten-year-old Elvis wanted a 22 cal. rifle. Gladys wasn’t having any of that – she wanted him buy a guitar. Mr. Bobo showed him the rifle first, and then let him look at the guitar. Elvis played with the instrument for a while and liked it.

Unfortunately, the boy didn’t have enough money to purchase the guitar that cost $7.75 plus 2% sales tax. Gladys said that if he would take the guitar over the weapon, she’d make up the difference. That was the start of something big.

Mr. Hite weaves that tale and others when people stop by the store. He told us that 2,000 national and international tourists visit this old-fashioned hardware story each year, including the rich and famous. He said that Joe Perry of Arrowsmith bought a Sunburst guitar when he was there, and Prince Albert of Monaco, a big Elvis fan, stopped by. A busload of Japanese tourists had just been there the week before. When I was there, I met the Verheijen family from the Netherlands.
It’s an interesting place to stop in to browse, shop and hear some really cool stories whenever you’re in Tupelo.