This is the second installment of Elvis memories by his classmates at Humes High School in Memphis. As I stated last week, these quotes were excerpted from the excellent website www.humeshighclassof53.com, which was created in 2003 as Elvis’ graduating class approached its 50th reunion. Many members of the class of ’53 contributed their memories and thirty-six of these contained mention of Elvis. I found them fascinating to read, and hope you will too.
Please note, if you are a classmate of Elvis’ and do not want your Humes High yearbook photo published with this article, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and your photo will be removed.
“When Elvis first started to Humes, he was really poor. The office sent a letter home about a classmate who couldn’t come to school when the weather was bad because he had holes in his shoes, had no warm coat and needed a haircut. It didn’t name him, but we all knew who it was. My mom gave me a whole dollar (WOW!) and a jacket she had bought for my brother Bill. I was so proud to take the jacket and the money to the office.”
“I don’t have too many memories of Elvis, but I do have his signature in my yearbook. I remember him at the Annual Minstrel Show. I invited my boyfriend, Jim Simpson, who was pretty bored until Elvis walked out on the stage with a chair in one hand and his guitar in the other; then he got interested. Elvis put his foot on the chair and started playing. The PA system was poor and we couldn’t hear his voice very clearly, but we were impressed. Jim likes to claim that he made some comment like, “That boy will go far. “My sister once double-dated with Elvis and his girlfriend. They went to the Fairgrounds to ride the roller coaster. Elvis borrowed 25 cents from my sister for one of the rides. After he became famous we used to tease her about writing him and asking for interest on her loan”
“At school I didn’t have much contact with Elvis, mainly passing in the hall. He lived upstairs at Lauderdale Courts and I visited a family downstairs in the same building frequently. I remember him in the talent shows. The most vivid experience I remember was at an English class party. Elvis sang and the first time he twitched and moved, the bunch broke out laughing. We had never seen it before and did not expect it.”
“I was in Miss Mildred Scrivener’s 12th grade home room with Elvis. He never had any school supplies. He borrowed paper from someone every day. He looked so different from the other boys who had crew cuts and blue jeans. He wore black pants and his hair always hung down in his face. He was always very polite.”
“I would go with Carolyn and Rosemary to a dance club in East Memphis. Carolyn was an excellent dancer. The person who taught Carolyn to dance was Elvis Presley. I think he had a crush on her for a while. He would find us in the hall and at lunch and various other places. He always wanted to talk to Carolyn, so I made myself scarce. Sometimes I had to walk to my sister’s apartment when my mother had to work late. Elvis and I would walk along together since he lived close by. We were both fairly quiet and did not say much. I found Elvis to be a nice boy who was a little shy.”
“I knew Elvis about as well as anyone in the class, having met him in 1948 when he moved to Memphis from Tupelo, Mississippi. His family settled in the Lauderdale Courts area and he enrolled at Humes. Later we attended church together at the First Assembly of God Church on McLemore Ave.
“In the eleventh grade Elvis and I were in Miss Thompson’s Civics class. He was a class clown and in the middle of our mid-term exams with everyone concentrating on the test, he called from the back of the room in a loud voice “Miss Thompson, Miss Thompson,” “What Elvis?” she answered. Then he asked “Why did the chicken cross the road?” The whole class broke up laughing except, of course, Miss Thompson. She quickly replied “See me after class, Elvis!”
“Elvis dated my cousin, Jonell Johnson, a few times while they were both at Humes. (She was younger than he). Once when he went over to her house, they used her dad’s car for a date. When they got home, her dad checked the mileage and they were both in hot water for a while. Elvis brought my brother home on his motorcycle once. He was really a thoughtful guy.”
“I had study hall with Elvis and a couple of his friends. He was very shy. We had English together in our senior year. I remember we acted out a Shakespearean play “Julius Caesar”, I think. Elvis was assigned the biggest part because of his deep, rich voice.”
“I am an eye witness to the fact that Elvis would make those moves (that only he could make) when he was walking down the halls of dear old Humes. He complimented me on a solo I sang for the Honor Society. We were in a talent show together and I liked to brag that I shared the same stage with him and didn’t have to pay to see him perform. Billy Wooley, Dwight Malone, Sydney McKinney and I were a quartet. Everyone in the talent show got to make a trip to the University of Mississippi. I saw a bunch of students hassling Elvis about his hair and odd clothes and I didn’t take up for him. I always felt guilty about that. I wonder if those kids remembered that incident after Elvis became the most famous entertainer of our time. He was and is unique.”
“Since Elvis lived nearby, I did see him quite a bit, but we weren’t close friends. We were in the same homeroom and had a class together in the 12th grade. I remember one funny story. We were invited to a wiener roast at Mattie’s house. I rode with Elvis and his friends because they didn’t know where she lived. When we arrived, Mattie’s dad was “supervising” the festivities. When Elvis got out of the car and started, well, being his usual nutty self by taking off a silly floppy hat and slapping it against his leg and dancing around to the music, Mattie‘s dad was not terribly amused. He was sure that Elvis was drunk. We convinced “Dad” that Elvis wasn’t under the influence; he was just “normally” that way!
“After Elvis became well known, I saw him in Lowenstein’s Department Store. I didn’t want to bother him (I figured that enough people were doing that already) so I walked on by. Then I heard him say “What! Aren’t you speaking these days?” I turned and said “Sure- I just figured you wouldn’t want to be spoken to!” He laughed and said “My friends will ALWAYS be my friends.” We had a nice chat, right there in the middle of the store. It was nice to catch up.”
“I never thought much about Elvis. He was just a classmate I didn’t know very well. But now the attention I get when people discover that I went to school with “Elvis” is fantastic! It is instant celebrity status.”
“One year, I think it was the 10th grade, he sat in front of me in the big study hall. His hair was extra long. We were talking and I asked him why he didn’t get a haircut. He said he had nothing to get one with. I walked around with the cigar box that pencils were stored in and collected enough for him to go to the barber shop. The next day when he sat down in front of me, I asked him why he didn’t get his haircut with the money. He said he did. He only had it trimmed. That was Elvis!”