The following are some random thoughts I had during my stay in Memphis, June 18 and 19th, 1977. At 8AM, June 18th, I stood in front of the iron gates of Graceland, home of Elvis Presley. Grafitti was written all over the stone wall circling the 14 acres. Women from across the nation vowed their undying love. Cars were already parked out front along Elvis Presley Boulevard. People gawked curiously over the wall. Men looked slightly awkward, and middle-age women momentarily became teenagers again. People of all ages streamed by, old and young. "This is a shrine," I thought. Unexpectedly, the guard opened the gate and announced that Elvis was away and groups could be taken up to the house. Everyone would have to remain in the jeep, however. The guard provided some information on the ride up to the front door. Elvis bought the house in 1957. At that time, it was miles from anything. The area has been developed since. Elvis occupied the upstairs. His aunt and grandmother lived downstairs. They attended the church next door. When the guard mentioned that Elvis' bedroom was in the upper right corner of the house, a lady expressed her wish to know who took out his laundry. I guess she felt a need to ask a question. I asked if Elvis had his own studio. The guard said no, that when the (Moody Blue) album was recorded there, furniture was moved to make room for the equipment. The house has 23 rooms. A prominent feature is the set of lions flanking the walkway. The swimming pool is to the right. The guard took pictures for those who had cameras. About 10:AM, a parade of decorated cars passed by. The parade was sponsered by the fan clubs.
MSU is the prominent university in Memphis, and I was able to spend some time on the campus. Undoubtedly, it draws heavily on the Memphis school system but a school the size of MSU must be influential statewide.
Overton Park Zoo
These are observations made of the various animals:
The giraffe's neck whirls as if it were made of wire. The spots are large on its body. Those on its legs and neck taper and grow smaller. The entrance to its quarters is conveniently high to allow for its height.
The Kodiac bears are interesting. Their rounded, little ears, big snouts and thick necks make them look like real teddy bears. They stand on their hind legs and catch the food people throw them.
It is remarkable how much hippopotamuses resemble pigs. They are related. Hippos are aquatic and may remain submerged in water for lengthy periods.
The most impressive and hideous of all snakes are the python and the anaconda. The king cobra is long but rather trim.
Gorillas are not as large as the media have portrayed them.
I was struck by the awareness of the baboons. Their eyes dart to and fro and look as if they are studying you. They are reserved and bored.
The orangutans are the most bizarre of the anthropoids. Their arms are longer than their legs.
The tiger is easily the most intimidating of the big cats. The lion is smaller and more passive by comparison. There are two species of tigers: Siberian and Bengal.
The kangeroo uses his tail to form a tripod when he sits.
Llamas are found in the Andes of South America.
Timber wolves are lean, nervous creatures.
Zebras look like plump ponies with stripes.
Peacocks wander leisurely. Their variety of colors makes them the most beautiful of birds, blue necks and green tails. The noise they make will cause anyone to jump.
Brooks Memorial Art Gallery
The paintings here are of an international variety. The most striking are those from northern Europe. There are works by English, French and Flemish artists. One work by Peter Paul Reubens is called "Portrait of a Lady." To me, these old paintings are unrivalled. They seem to embody life itself just as great music is more than simply a mechanical arrangement of notes and chords. Their colors are rich and beautiful.
Pink Palace Museum
Museums reflect the areas in which they are located more so than libraries. Objects can not be duplicated or run off a press. The basic unit of a museum is the exhibit. The Pink Palace has two kinds of exhibits: those of natural history and those of cultural history. The agricultural and economic background of Memphians is emphasized. An early American drugstore is reproduced.
I went for a ride on the Memphis Queen. Hernando de Soto the Mississippi River. The Mississippi is to Memphis as the Ohio is to Louisville. Memphis has 3 riverboats offering rides to the public.
The Mississippi literally divides the country into east and west. It was romanticized by Mark Twain in his books. I briefly crossed the river by car to Arkansas. Later, I rode up Beale Street. This hot spot from another era was virtually abandoned.
Originally written, June, 1977
Karen and I went to Memphis, November 12 & 13, 1982. The Elvis legend is the one thing which had assumed a whole new dimension since I was there in June, 1977. Little did I know then that he only had two more months to live.
Graceland is open to tourists now, and for 5 bucks apiece we were escourted through several rooms. Karen liked the gold piano. We saw the TV room with the 3 sets, one for each channel, and the trophy room full of mementos. Dozens of gold and platinum records lined the walls. Outside were several cars Elvis had owned. Over by the pool is where he is buried along with his parents and grandmother. We walked to the gravesite before the tour began. Karen bought post cards of the inside of the house because no pictures were allowed. Souvenir shops were plentiful across Elvis Presley Boulevard.
Leaving Graceland, we went to the zoo. The Memphis zoo is my favorite perhaps because it was the first one I ever saw. It is well-planned. I like the way the primates, carnivores and reptiles are housed.
We took in the same things I did in 1977: the Brooks Art Gallery, Pink Palace and Memphis Queen. We got to the Pink Palace at dusk and could just make out that it was pink. It was cool aboard the riverboat, but the experience deepened my understanding of our nation's river system.
We drove by Sun Records.
We finished our trip the way it started, with Elvis. We drove to Beale Street looking for a statue of Elvis recently erected in an attempt to renovate the area. "There it is!" Karen shouted. It was night, but we lept from our car and ran to it.