Tourists at Elvis Presley's birthplace got a surprise bonus — a glimpse of the singer's ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, making her first visit since the last time she saw Elvis, in the early 1970s.
She was given the keys to the city Saturday, and said she was taken aback the first time Presley showed her his childhood home.
"There were no additions when I was here last, there was just the little house he was born in," she said. "Coming here for the first time I was so shocked to see the place. Two rooms! I don't know how they lived — and with his grandmother and father and, of course, Gladys."
Presley was 13 when his parents, Vernon and Gladys, moved to Memphis, Tenn., in 1948. He had his first recording contract in 1954, a year after graduating from high school.
Chonda Best of Jasper, Ala., made an impulse visit to the museum in Tupelo with her son Noah.
"We went to the flea market and then decided to swing by here so my son could see the birthplace of Elvis," she told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (http://bit.ly/1gtWaFO). "We were so surprised to see her."
Dick Guyton, director of the birthplace, said Presley took time to read the description of every item in the museum.
Presley, who met Elvis as a teenager in Germany, said he spoke often and fondly of his life in east Tupelo.
"He told me of his humble beginnings: the home he was born in, the Assembly of God church that he went to," she told the small crowd. "I got to learn a lot about him there because it was a delicate time for him. He never forgot Tupelo, Mississippi. He never forgot where he was raised."
Priscilla Presley turned Elvis' Tennessee mansion, Graceland, from a liability to their daughter's estate into a major tourist attraction after his death. She said she's proud of what Tupelo has done to preserve his early life and will send as much tourism there as she can.
Before the tour, Mayor Jason Shelton, with the aid of Elvis' second cousin Brandon Presley, gave Priscilla Presley the key to the city and read a proclamation naming her an honorary citizen of Tupelo.
"I was absolutely star-stuck," Shelton said. "To be able to present Ms. Priscilla Presley with a key to the city and make her an honorary citizen is certainly a highlight of my administration."
Guyton said he has heard Elvis would sit atop the ridge behind the birthplace museum with his guitar and dream. He showed Presley the mold of a statue of Elvis as a child, with guitar, that will be placed on the ridge along with another larger-than-life statue and a pavilion.
"We plan to have it finished in time for the 80th birthday" next year, Guyton said. "We would like to invite you to be our guest at the 80th birthday party."
Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, http://djournal.com