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Life Lessons Learned from Elvis’ Time in Tupelo


1. Elvis wanted a rifle but got a guitar instead. (Sometimes you don’t get what you want but everything happens for a reason.)

For Elvis’ 11th birthday, his mother, Gladys, took the young boy to Tupelo Hardware to purchase a birthday gift. Originally, going in, Elvis was going to get a bicycle, but when he got inside he saw a rifle and he just had to have it. His mother told him she wouldn’t buy him the rifle, but Forrest Bobo, a family friend that worked at the store, let Elvis strum a guitar to help persuade him into something else. After some persuasion, Gladys ended up buying her son a guitar and the rest is history.

Many people fear what the future holds and make plans in attempt to control the future. However, those attempts rarely go how we envision. Once he got into Tupelo Hardware, Elvis knew what he wanted to walk out of the store with. A flood of exciting scenarios had likely entered his mind once he saw the rifle from taking it through the woods to showing it off to his friends.

Sometimes you don’t get what you want, but everything happens for a reason. Elvis got that guitar because it was his destiny to be one of the most legendary artists of all time. So, next time your plans go astray – don’t worry! There’s a reason everything happens, so when one good thing doesn’t work out, hold on because something great may be coming soon.

2. Elvis placed fifth in a local talent show but later became a Grammy award winning singer. (Never give up and always keep bettering yourself.)

After impressing one of his teachers, a 10-year old Elvis entered the talent show at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair & Dairy Show, the yearly fair in Tupelo. Elvis performed one of his favorite songs, “Old Shep,” but ended up placing fifth in the competition. However, Elvis would later go on to win three Grammy awards in his lifetime.

We all have dreams and aspirations in life. Motivated by our passions, we seek to achieve greater success in the things we love, although sometimes, we fall short of our own personal goals. Despite falling short, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. There is no aspect of our dreams that doesn’t have room for improvement. You can always do something to better yourself and your skills. There may be difficult times when you fall down, but always get back up and keep trying.

3. The Presley family was poor during their time in Tupelo but relied on their neighbors and community to help in the difficult times. (There’s no problem too large for a community to support.)

During their time in Tupelo, the Presley family had difficulty making ends meet and Elvis’ father, Vernon often bounced from one odd job to the next. They relied on the help of their neighbors and the surrounding community to help for any kind of support they could find.
Elvis’ childhood friends, Guy Harris and Sam Bell, still live in Tupelo today and attest to how the community would surround the Presley family, and other disadvantaged families, during difficult times to provide help in any way. Often times, it wouldn’t be financial help, it would be something as simple as sharing food, watching someone’s kids while the parents worked or even a car ride to get where they were going faster.

There is no task too large for a community to offer a helping hand. Tupelo has seen this first hand in how our community came together after the 2014 tornado that hit Tupelo. Although, in a time of need anything helps, offering assistance doesn’t have to be monetary or anything big, it can be as simple as being a listening ear to a friend in a time of need. Coming together as neighbors and fostering community is what makes a neighborhood or a city strong. It strengthens the bond between people and helps make life a little bit less heavy.

4. Elvis returned to Tupelo to perform for his hometown. (Never forget your roots.)

In 1956, Elvis was hitting his stride as a performing and recording artist. As part of the Mississippi-Alabama Fairy and Dairy show, Elvis agreed to return to his hometown and perform two-shows. Banners, a parade, cameras, reporters, and hundreds of adoring, screaming fans greeted him. And again, in 1957, he returned to perform a benefit concert to help build a Youth Center and park in Tupelo.

Elvis never forgot where his home was. Even after his family moved from Tupelo when he was 13, Elvis still visited Tupelo when given the opportunity. Guy Harris, one of Elvis’ childhood friends in Tupelo, recalls the Presley’s driving to Tupelo on Sundays to spend the day with friends and family, even after Elvis’ success had really taken off. The last time Harris saw Elvis was in 1970 when Elvis was visiting Tupelo.
You’re never too big to remember from where you came. Your hometown will never change. It’s a part of the story you’ve been given and it’s the story that you get to live. Embrace your roots and be proud of it, because no matter the circumstances, there’s always something to be proud of. For most people, their hometown is still filled with people they love and care about. Never deny where you’re from or your roots, because any negative light cast on that town can be changed by one person’s positive outlook.