Memories of Elvis
New movie about King of Rock premiers June 24 in US theaters and spurs thoughts about the night in Temple when Elvis left the building.
Elvis Presley lived in Bell County for several months while serving at Fort Hood, and he often made his way to Belton and Temple. Here’s a 22-year-old Elvis getting a haircut at Jackson’s Barber Shop in Belton in 1958. He also attended a concert at the Temple City Auditorium and made a surprise departure.
Denise Karimkhani | June 13, 2022
A new Elvis Presley biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Austin Butler will be released on June 23.
The movie explores Elvis’ life and focuses on the relationship between the superstar performer and his manager, Col. Tom Parker. The movie has received mostly positive reviews with Butler being widely praised for his portrayal. Tom Hanks stars as Colonel Parker.
The Army drafted Elvis at the height of his early fame in 1958, and at the Memphis induction center he received his shots, his buzz cut, and his orders: Fort Hood, the Second Armored Division, Gen. George S. Patton’s “Hell on Wheels” wild bunch.
When he received his draft notice, the Army, Air Force, and Navy offered to let him serve in “Special Forces” as an entertainer or recruiter. It was Elvis’ desire to be just another GI and not receive special treatment because of his celebrity status. As soon as the other soldiers saw he was just another recruit, he became one of the guys.
Private Simon Vega recalled: “I thought he was gonna get special treatment, but he did KP, guard duty, everything, just like us.”
Most people know of Elvis Presley’s mansion called Graceland in Memphis, but fewer people know that for a time, Elvis lived in a house in Killeen.
Once basic training was over, the Army allowed soldiers to live off base if they had dependents living in the area. It was not long before Elvis’ parents, grandmother and one of his right-hand men headed to Killeen where they found a three-bedroom home to rent from Chester Crawford, an attorney who charged an outrageous $700 a month.
Elvis and his parents rented a nondescript 1950s ranch-style house at 605 Oakhill Drive. Soon crowds began showing up on Oakhill Drive to catch a glimpse of the young star. It was common for him to stand outside and talk to fans for hours.
Occasionally, he detoured through neighbors’ backyards to avoid the crowds, and according to neighbor Janie Sullivan, the clothesline in their yard once caught Elvis and the dog bit him.
Not everyone was thrilled by Elvis’ presence in the neighborhood. Some Oak Hill residents called the police to complain about the clouds of dust stirred up by the cars and the carnival-like atmosphere.
Meanwhile Elvis put in long days at Fort Hood learning to be a tanker. During his off hours, it was not unusual to spot him in Temple or Belton.
The late minister, journalist and historian Roscoe Harrison recalled seeing Elvis at a grocery store in Belton, and he was photographed at Jackson’s Barber Shop on East Street getting a haircut.
Temple had an Elvis sighting that year, too. Elvis made an impromptu appearance at a Johnny Horton concert at Temple’s City Auditorium. A local band, the Downbeats, opened for Horton.
Jim Lawrence and Gaylon Christie, members of the Downbeats, recalled: “We were hanging out backstage, when this young man came up the stairs. He asked me if it would be all right for Elvis Presley to come backstage and visit friends from the Louisiana Hayride. Of course it was all right, so Elvis, his father Vernon, and his two friends came backstage. All Elvis asked was that no one knew he was there.”
Gaylon Christie couldn’t pass up the opportunity to introduce Elvis, so he called him out to say hello to the audience. According to Lawrence, a loud roar was followed by a stunned silence, and then before you could blink, Elvis was gone. Some say he escaped through the tunnels under the city, but in any event, Elvis had left the building.
After 25 weeks of training at Fort Hood, Presley joined the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany. During his final days at Fort Hood, large crowds gathered outside his house, and some nights a hundred people kept vigil. The last night, Elvis and his gang gathered at the home to make the drive to the troop train that would take him and 1,360 other GIs to Brooklyn to sail for Germany.
Biographers and friends reported that Elvis’ time in Bell County and in the Army was among the happiest of his life. For a time, he was almost “just another soldier.”
Everyone agreed that Elvis was a good soldier, one of the best in the company.
Elvis said later: “I learned a lot about people in the Army. I never lived with other people before and had a chance to find out how they think.”
A longtime girlfriend, Anita Wood, said: “He had finally found himself.”
today’s best bets
Sweatin’ With The Oldies at Sammons Community Center. 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Join Kathy Patterson as she leads these extremely popular exercise sessions designed especially for those with mobility issues or who have difficulty standing while exercising. Slow stretches and comfortable balance exercises, while seated or in contact with a chair, will help tone and strengthen muscles to increase mobility and flexibility. Gradual use of hand weights and stretch bands is also incorporated. Easily adaptable for those with physical limitations. Two convenient session times to choose from. For more information, call 254.298.5403.
Trash to Treasure Totes, Sammons Community Center. 1 p.m. Go green and create a unique tote bag from plastic bags! Becca Bash will be teaching this fun and creative way to recycle and reuse those endless plastic grocery bags that get stashed away to create a beautiful, one-of-a-kind bag that could have a variety of uses. Watch that bag evolve into your own creation. Knowledge of basic crochet stitch is encouraged. A size K crochet hook is recommended. For more information, call 254.298.5403.
$1 Summer movies at The Beltonian Theatre. 10 a.m., 1, p.m. 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday. Space Jam: A New Legacy
Lonesome Dove photo exhibit at Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum through June 25.
To include your events in What’s Happening, email information to OurTownTemple@gmail.com. Photos are welcome to for use in the publication as space permits!
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On this day in 1898, Israel S. Campbell died in La Marque. Campbell was born in Kentucky in 1815 and came to Texas as a missionary in 1866. In 1867 he reorganized the African Baptist Church (now the Avenue L Baptist Church) in Galveston, the first completely independent black Baptist congregation in Texas after emancipation. In 1868 Campbell and John Henry Yates helped organize the Regular Missionary Lincoln Baptist Association, the first association of black Baptists in Texas. Campbell also wrote the constitution for the Baptist State Missionary Convention in 1872. By the time of his retirement, in 1891, he was popularly known as the father of black Baptists in Texas.