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Yesterday, if he had lived, Elvis Presley would have been seventy five years old. I was a child in the fifties and grew up with Jailhouse Rock ringing in my ears. My Dad had all of Elvis’ records and when he played them on the hi-fi I made him dance with me. My cousin Jeanne (on the right in the photo above) was five years older than me and the perfect age for Elvis fever. And Jeanne had the fever, big time.

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When Elvis was drafted into the Army in March 1958 he got his ears lowered at the Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, Reception Center, which is near my hometown. My Uncle Max took my cousin, Jeanne out to Chaffee so she could have a closer look at Elvis. The barbershop where Elvis got his GI styling is now a museum.

Jeanne remained an Elvis fan and saw him in concert in Kansas City sometime in the mid seventies. By that time, he had bulked up but his voice was still rich. Jeanne and her husband, Junior had taken a tape recorder into the concert and still have that treasured audio tape of Elvis.

When I was nine years old our family made a pilgrimage to Elvis’ home, Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. I remember writing my name with a pencil on the Great Wall of Graceland surrounding the home and worrying that the pencil writing wouldn’t last. We were allowed onto the grounds and my Dad had his movie camera at hand but he was so excited to be at Graceland that all the movie footage he took was upside down. Later, when we watched the movie, our necks ached from holding our heads cocked in order to see it.

I remember gathering acorns from the estate while my Dad talked to a man who claimed to be Elvis’ Uncle. People still write their names on Elvis’ wall.

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Elvis is still King of the South so it matters not that the North is bereft of hero musicians and California still suffers under the Michael Jackson regime.

Elvis still lives in the memory of those who love his music. In 1995 a friend and fellow teacher, Jan Honeycutt, sought to convince area leaders and officials that the old Fort Chaffee reception center (and barbershop) should be restored and made into a museum. She had discovered that building 803 was slated to be demolished after Fort Chaffee was to be closed in 1997.

Jan and her students began to lobby local officials to save the reception center and barbershop. They began to raise funds for the restoration. After over a decade of work, in August of 2008, the dream came true. The old Reception Center, where thousands of GI’s were processed on their way into the Army is now housing three museums, The Elvis Presley Barbershop, The Vietnam Veterans Museum, and a Doll Museum. The Chaffee Museum is on Twitter.

Happy Birthday Elvis. We miss you.