Tag Archives: George Klein

Elvis Week’s Best Kept Secret

Elvis-Presley-Memorial-Trauma-Center-Sign

Have you ever heard of the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center in Memphis? If you a member of an Elvis fan club, you probably have. If you are just an Elvis fan with no club affiliation, perhaps not. I’ve been to Elvis Week four times, but I never knew about this trauma center until a few weeks ago.

 Outside View of Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center

 

So, I also didn’t know they had an annual fan reception during Elvis Week. This year, it is one of the 45 events listed in the official schedule of events on Graceland.com.

Announcement of Trauma Center  Fan Donor Reception

Maybe the receptions were not listed in the schedule of events for those four years when I was there, or if they were, I just skimmed past looking for something more interested to do. That was very short sighted of me.

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First a little background. The Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center is part of a huge hospital system called Regional One Health.

Regional One Health

Regional One Health Entrance

A scene from the 1997 movie The Rainmaker was filmed here with Matt Damon and Danny DeVito going up the steps and into the hospital

Established in 1983, the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center was named in honor of Elvis by then Memphis Mayor Bill Morris, a personal friend of his. When it was dedicated, many loyal Elvis fans conducted a fundraising campaign and donated $50,000 to the hospital. The Trauma Center is the only free-standing building that bears Elvis’ name and the only healthcare institution named in his honor.

Elvis fans and fan clubs have continued to contribute to the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center for the past thirty years. To express its appreciation for this generosity, the center holds a fan reception each year during Elvis Week. If you are heading to Memphis in the next four days, you should definitely take in this event.

 

Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center Fan Reception

As you can see, the guest speaker this year is George Klein, one of Elvis’ closest friends, and someone who knows a treasure trove of great stories about Elvis. Klein’s book Elvis: My Best Man is full of them. Klein does several events during Elvis Week each year, but the Trauma Center fan reception has one difference. It is free.

Plus they are serving “Elvis-style” refreshments.  I have it on good authority that this includes fried peanut butter and ‘nanner sandwiches done the way Elvis liked them.

The notice in the official Elvis Week schedule of events says that tours of the facility will be conducted. This includes the lobby and the Elvis family waiting room, full of large photographs of Elvis engaging with various charitable organizations he supported during his life.

Waiting Room at Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center

Next up would be the shock trauma rooms (if they aren’t in use) and the ambulance bay.

Inside Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center

Two interesting walls complete the tour. The Mural Wall is covered with huge reproductions of Elvis photos showing him in various stages of his life and arranged in chronological order.

Mural Wall 1

Photo credit — Andrea Zucker Photography

Mural Wall 2

Mural Wall 3

Photo Credit — Andrea Zucker Photography

The last part of the tour is officially called the Donor Recognition Wall, but fans know it as the Wall of Honor. It is covered by more than 300 brass plaques honoring those who have made a donation of $1,000 or more to the Regional One Health Foundation for the Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center.

 

Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center Wall of Honor

Pamela Castleman, Regional One Health’s Nursing Director, in front of fan plaques in this 2009 photo

Some of the $1,000 donors are individuals, a few are corporations, but most are fan clubs. And many of these fan clubs are based in other countries.

Fan Plaques at Wall of Honor

The Wall of Honor is anchored by a bust relief of Elvis in the middle. Note the size of this in the photo above.

Brass Plaque of Elvis at Trauma Center Wall of Honor

 

The Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center maintains an email list of all donors, not just those who gave over $1,000, but also those who have contributed any amount. These folks get updates each year about the date of the Fan Donor Reception and who will be the featured speaker. However, the event is open to all fans, so if you are at Elvis Week this year, consider attending.

We all know how generous Elvis was giving to charities. Now you can see how his fans are following in his footsteps. Elvis has reached people all over the world, and they still love him and do generous things in his name. Don’t be surprised if you come away motivated to join that list of donors.

 

© 2014 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net

 

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Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

 

Check out the Facebook page for the Regional One Health Foundation. If you “Like” them, you can keep up on any news regarding the Trauma Center.

In case you don’t know what trauma center means, it is a multidisciplinary team of highly trained specialists: surgeons, anesthesiologists, trauma nurse practitioners, certified registered nurses, anesthetists, nurses, respiratory therapists, orderlies, x-ray techs, and lab techs. They care for injuries caused by motor vehicle collisions, falls, poisonings, burns, suffocation, and drowning. Injured patients treated at trauma centers have a 25% greater chance of surviving 30 days than patients treated at non-trauma centers. The Elvis Presley Memorial Trauma Center serves over 6,000 patients a year.

Many thanks to Joe Brandenburg, Director of Development, Regional One Health Foundation for much of the information and some of the photos used in this article.  The two professional photographs of the Mural Wall are provided by Audrea Zucker Photography.

 

Memories of Elvis — By His High School Classmates, Part 5

When I discovered the website www.humeshighclassof53.com, I knew there was enough material there for several ElvisBlog articles.  It had been created for the Humes High class of ’53 prior to their 50th reunion in 2003.  Classmates were contacted to send in memories of their high school years.  These were posted on the site, and about half of these memories included some mention of Elvis.

As I went through all the memories to extract the Elvis comments, I was surprised to see that George Klein made no real mention of Elvis, just a reference to him in describing a TV project Klein had recently worked on.  I was not absolutely clear on all the details of Klein’s connection with Elvis, but I was sure it went from their high school years to Elvis’ death.  So why no memories of Elvis in his piece on the class website?

 

Here is what Klein did say:

“My years at Humes were the golden years of my life.  Being elected president of the senior class was a great honor I still cherish.  Mrs. Louchrie, the speech teacher, put me on the road to my dream.  My experience as editor of the Humes newspaper and yearbook helped me immensely.  Working in the radio booth at WHHM at Humes football games got my foot in the door for my radio career.  I could almost write a short book about my life at Humes.

“Whenever I see Coach Boyce’s wife, I think of coach Boyce and all those glory days in football.  I often see Tommy Young and L.D. Ledbetter and we flashback to the good old days at Humes.  I return to my old neighborhood from time to time when I am filming some footage on Elvis – last time was two summers ago for Belium TV.  It’s so sad to see the area run down, but the old school is still standing, and we need to keep it there for history’s sake.  Rock on Humes Hi.”

Humes Class of ’53 Officers — George Klein — Top Center

I found Klein’s memories rather strange.  While most folks told interesting little stories of their time in high school, Klein used the occasion to review his many accomplishments — class president, newspaper and yearbook editor, football broadcasting team.  To his credit, he did it in a skillful way that didn’t seem like bragging.

Although it bothered me that Klein did not tell of any Elvis memories, I knew there was a way to find out what connection they had in high school – get a copy of Klein’s book “Elvis: My Best Man.”

 

Within the first few pages of the book, it was obvious that George Klein and Elvis Presley had very little contact in high school.  When it really started for them was July 1954 when Elvis recorded his first record and Klein was an up-and-coming disc jockey.

However, Klein’s book did shed some insight on Elvis the teenager, starting with the only Klein memory where he talked about Elvis and him being together.

“When the Mid-South Fair came to the Memphis Fairgrounds in 1950, a few buddies and I figured out that there was a spot behind some carnival tents where you could climb a cyclone fence to sneak in and save yourself the fifty-cent admission charge.  One night, I was halfway up the fence when I felt something give it a shake.  I looked to my left and there was Elvis, halfway up his section of fence and just as happy to be saving his fifty cents.”

That Fairgrounds experience occurred in ninth or tenth grade and wasn’t the beginning of a tight friendship between the two.

“I scarcely got to know him until the tenth or eleventh grade.  I think he felt more at ease with teachers than with kids.”

Klein also had three general observations about Elvis that could have been made without any interaction between the two.

“Elvis wasn’t quite as handsome in those years as he would become – he hadn’t quite grown into his looks yet.  So, most Humes girls weren’t sure what to make of this very different classmate.”

“In his senior year at Humes, Elvis had worked as an usher at the Loews State movie theater in downtown Memphis.  In that position he had the chance to watch the movies that played there over and over, and he became a real student of film.  He watched James Dean, Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando and saw how they moved and spoke and got the greatest impact with the littlest gestures.  He paid enough attention to pick up an intuitive knowledge of the medium that would later surprise the Hollywood folks when Elvis started making his own movies.”

“But, when Elvis wasn’t watching the big screen, he apparently spent a lot of time watching a very pretty girl who worked behind the candy counter – a girl who responded to Elvis’ attention by giving him free candy.  When another, jealous usher reported the candy giveaways to the theater manager, Elvis and that usher ended up in a fist fight, and Elvis was promptly fired by the manager.”

And finally, Klein recounted a great story about Elvis and another classmate who would someday become part of Elvis’ inner circle.

“Elvis had let his hair grow out and had it combed back high.  And he had those sideburns… Some of the guys at Humes felt that someone so different deserved to be given a hard time.  One day he was cornered in a Humes bathroom by a tough group who brandished a pair of scissors and said they were going to cut off his hair.  He tried to fight them off, but his pompadour was only saved when one of the strongest, most fearless guys at Humes, Red West, happened to walk into that bathroom and saw what was going on.  Red told the would-be barbers that if they wanted to cut Elvis’ hair they’d have to cut his first, and that was the end of that.”

Red West and Elvis in 1958

 

One more thing about George Klein’s book, “Elvis: My Best Man.”   After reading the few pages about the Humes High School days, I found I couldn’t put the book down.  Klein and Elvis became very close friends and had many adventures together over the years.  It gave me a greater insight into some events I knew about generally, and it introduced me to many others I had no idea about.

I notice that Amazon gives “Elvis: My Best Man” four-and-one-half stars.  I give it five.  If you have limited money to spend on books about Elvis and don’t know which of the zillions of Elvis books to buy, let me recommend this one.  It is not a tell-all, not an effort to cash in on Elvis.  George Klein was true friend, and he wrote a terrific book, even if it doesn’t contain many high school memories.

 

©  2012    Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister    All Rights Reserved    www.ElvisBlog.net

 

 

Elvis, Elvis Presley, and Graceland are registered trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.