This is the time of the year when seniors are graduating from high school all over the country. Fifty-nine years ago, Elvis graduated from Humes High School in Memphis.
When the Humes High class of ’53 approached their 50th reunion in 2003, a few of alumni created a website called www.humeshighclassof53.com. Classmates were contacted and encouraged to send in memories of their high school years, and these were posted on the site. (Editor’s note: The website no longer exists.)
About half of these memories included some mention of Elvis, from one sentence to several paragraphs. These stories revealed new information about what Elvis was like as a teenager. I found them fascinating to read, and so will you. Here is Part 1 of Elvis memories by his high school classmates.
“I had study hall with Elvis Presley (the flirt). He would blow kisses across the room at me. Once I thumbed my nose at him and said some smart remark back. Everyone knows how Elvis loved “GOSPEL MUSIC.” At Ellis Auditorium, the Statesmen Quartet felt sorry for him because he couldn’t afford a ticket and let him in the back door. My brother Jerry, my sister Darlene and I were called “The Eddleman Trio.” We started singing acappella at ages 7, 8 and 11. After Elvis became famous, it occurred to me that “we” were singing on the stage while Elvis was sneaking in the back door. He later sang on the same stage at benefit concerts.”
“Elvis Presley and I were good friends and he liked to come over to my house because my mother would make him toasted cheese sandwiches and his beloved peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
After graduation, when Elvis was beginning to make a name for himself as a singer, I received a phone call from Miss Ginny Allensworth asking me to come over to Humes and help Elvis with his English because he had been invited to sing on the Ed Sullivan Show. I laughed and said, “Miss Ginny, Elvis wouldn’t listen to me when we were in school and I doubt if he would listen to me now.” I did meet Elvis at Humes and he agreed to let me coach him. After talking for a while, he said, “Well, if you are so intent on helping me, why don’t you come to New York, too, to be sure I do it right.” I ended up backstage at the Ed Sullivan Show and got to see Elvis perform.”
“Elvis and I weren’t buddies outside school hours, but we did have a few good moments at school. In Miss Allensworth’s 12th grade English class we had assigned roles in one of the ever popular Shakespearean plays. Elvis, who sat behind me, and I, when our speaking parts came up, would pour it on with exaggerated southern accents. Miss Allensworth warned us once, but being the showmen we were, we couldn’t resist doing it again. She sent us out into the HALL for the rest of the period. Being sent in the HALL during class without an excuse was like being sent to purgatory – and if Mr. Brindley happened by – well watch out. Fortunately, it was close to the end of the period and we escaped unscathed. This was probably an early example of Elvis at his showmanship best.”
“My cousin, Dorothy Jackson, and I were monitors stationed outside the entrance to the library to make sure that students checked out their books properly and to maintain order in the hall between classes. Whenever Elvis Presley walked by we would look at each other and laugh and giggle. (We both had a crush on him.)
One day he walked up to Dorothy and asked her why we laughed when he walked by. She was so dumbfounded that she blurted out “It’s because we think you are so good-looking.” I guess he was surprised also; he just broke into a grin and walked away. I was just sitting there with the reddest face that a girl could ever have. From then on whenever I would see Elvis coming down the hall, I would stick my face into a book and not look up.
Elvis and I were in Miss Alexander’s homeroom in the 11th grade. She taught music, so the classroom was a music room. She divided our class into an “L” shape with boys on one side and girls on the other side. Elvis sat in the front row next to a guy sporting a Mohawk haircut. I sat in the second row of girls so I could see him very well and I often stared at him because there was something about him that I really liked. He didn’t dress or act like the rest of the boys. He always had a lock of hair hanging to the side of his face.
He had a serious expression most of the time during the beginning of the school year. But, later in the year, he surprised us by playing his guitar before school several mornings. He didn’t sing; he just played. We really enjoyed the impromptu jam sessions. Elvis was very polite and respectful to all the teachers. He always addressed them as “Maam” and “Sir”. He seemed very shy and I identified with him since I was shy, too.
I remember him driving a maroon convertible; I believe it was a Lincoln. Sometimes he wore dark colored pants with a stripe down the sides. I found out later that they were part of his movie usher uniform.”
“I met Elvis at Humes but I knew him better at the cafe. He was a very polite young man who neither looked nor acted like the rest of the guys. He would come into the cafe with a bunch of young girls from Lauderdale Courts and play the juke box, eat chips and drink cokes. His hair hung down in his face and he was often dressed in very bright colored pants. The girls liked him even then. He always called me “Champ”. The last time I saw him was right after his mother died. We ran into each other on Beale Street. We had a nice chat, shook hands and he said “Bye, Champ” and got into his waiting limo.”
“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.”
George Blancett (No Photo)
“Larry Curle and I had Miss Moss’ 5th period American Problems class together with Elvis Presley. One day Miss Moss got so fed up with Larry and me she told us to take the rest of the day off and go to the athletic room. She allowed Elvis to tag along. The three of us went riding in Larry’s red 1940 Studebaker that didn’t have a reverse gear. During our ride around town, we went somewhere to get Elvis’ guitar; he sat in the backseat playing and singing. Larry and I were both impressed with his songs. We talked about the upcoming talent show where Larry and I were appearing with several boys doing gymnastic things. Elvis said, “I’ll warm them up for you.” When that night came, he did warm them up! After a couple of his scheduled songs, the audience response demanded he sit on the apron and sing a few more. The show really finished when Elvis did, but we went on and performed our act without much distinction.”
“I was President of the History Club in Miss Scrivener’s 12th grade class. She assigned me the task of getting Elvis to sing at our class party at Overton Park. He did and we all enjoyed the party and the singing. A few of us, including Elvis, climbed into L.D. Ledbetter’s car and went downtown to enjoy the Cotton Carnival. We rode the rides and hung out on the steps of the downtown library to listen to Elvis sing again. This attracted a crowd – the police came along and dispersed the crowd and we went home. Later, when we were signing yearbooks, we laughed about that night. Elvis wrote in my book ‘Remember Me – Elvis’.”
“I have in my office right now a magazine rack that Elvis and I made together in woodshop.”
“Virginia Eddleman’s family had beautiful voices and sang gospel music. She took me to hear them once when Elvis was singing on the same program. Soon after that my sister June and I ran into Elvis at the Suzore #1. He sat down beside me and after a while I felt his arm slide across my shoulder. I was so scared that we moved to another row. One night he was singing at the Humes Talent Show. My friend Rose left me to watch the white elephant booth while she went up and checked out the talent. Elvis sang while I was taking care of the booth so I never did hear him sing at Humes.”
“Elvis was different. Most boys had crew cuts and wore tee shirts and blue jeans. Elvis would appear at school in a pink jacket and yellow pants and a duck tail haircut. He was quiet, very courteous and largely stayed to himself. I did play touch football with him on the triangle at Lauderdale Courts. He was not fast, but he had very quick movements. He had those swivel hips even then. When he caught the ball, he was difficult to tag. He could swivel out of reach in a moment. To tag him, a player had to grab him and hold on until he could apply the tag.
Elvis and Warren Gregory were close friends. During the summer months Elvis and Warren would sit on the street curb, strumming their guitars and singing country songs. Frankly, in their early attempts, they were not that good. It was at the Humes Talent Show in April, 1953 that I realized that Elvis could really sing. There were no swivel hips. His props were a chair, a guitar and a loud costume. He put one foot on the chair, strummed the guitar and sang his heart out. To me, that was when rock and roll was born. The ovation was thunderous and long.”
“Elvis Presley was our neighbor in Lauderdale Courts for many years. He really liked my mother’s homemade hot Greek bread, and ate more of it than I did. Mama liked him, but did not understand the way he dressed. Elvis worked at Loew’s State and I worked at the Malco, so we exchanged free tickets. We had a lot of fun with that. He made sure I got the best seat available. We had several classes together and in our senior year, we were in the same homeroom. He sat behind me and threw gum wrappers at me to get my attention.”
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