Elvis Presley, the Student

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Welcome to the official blog of Elvis Presley’s Graceland! You can take Elvis-inspired quizzes, get first-looks on events here at Graceland and how-to guides on everything you need to know about Elvis and his home. Like Elvis, we come with a little southern charm

Elvis Presley, the Student

Get your No. 2 pencils out - it's back to school season.

The stores are full of supplies and school bells are ringing, and surely, Elvis fans everywhere are wondering: what was Elvis like as a student?

Elvis is often described, especially in high school, as a "fair" student, earning a lot of B's and a few C's. He graduated high school in 1953, not long before his incredible career took off.

But of course, Elvis' school years began in Tupelo, Mississippi, where he was born. He began first grade in the fall of 1941 at East Tupelo Consolidated School on Lake Street.

Elvis continued his elementary school years in Tupelo, mostly uneventful, until the fifth grade. October 3, 1945, was Children's Day at the Mississippi-Alabama State Fair, and all of the schools were let out for the day. Elvis' fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Oleta Grimes, entered Elvis into the fair's talent show after hearing him sing in the morning prayer program at school. He sang "Old Shep" with no accompaniment. He won fifth place, and the prize was a few dollars worth of ride tickets. Elvis would later recall that his mother, Gladys, gave him a spanking that day too, probably for riding the more dangerous rides and giving her a scare.

Elvis entered sixth grade at Milam Junior High School, which is still there, in Tupelo, in September 1946. His classmates remembered Elvis as a shy boy who didn't fit in very well, but that he loved music. He often sang gospel favorites and songs he learned from listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio.

Gladys bought Elvis his first guitar in 1946, and by the time Elvis entered the seventh grade at Milam, he was bringing that guitar to school with him most every day. He'd play during recess and lunch time for his classmates. His classmates were mostly indifferent to his performances - and a few were even hostile. During Elvis' eighth grade year at Milam, a group of bullies cut his guitar strings. Elvis' classmates knew how much Elvis loved his guitar, and some of them took up a collection to buy him another set of strings.

A few months later, the Presley family moved to Memphis, where Elvis was enrolled in the eighth grade at Humes High School. Vernon later recalled that Elvis looked very nervous as he walked his son to the new school on his first day. That year, Elvis was present 165 days, absent 15 and was never tardy. His grades were: A in language, B in physical education, spelling and history, and C in arithmetic, music and science.

In Elvis' ninth grade year at Humes, starting in September 1949, Elvis received mostly B's and a few C's. In the tenth grade, in September 1950, Elvis enrolled in the ROTC, in which he received a grade of C for the first term and B for the second. Elvis received B's and C's that year, except for an A in English and an F in typing.

The young star began to blossom in his junior year, which started in September 1951. His self confidence grew, and he began to take great care in his looks. He began to dress more flamboyantly and he was obsessed with making sure his hair looked perfect - with the help of Rose Oil hair tonic and Vaseline. This year, Elvis' report card was filled with C's, and he was tardy three times.

Elvis' senior year at Humes began in September 1952. As mentioned last week, Elvis had, by this time, started working at MARL Metal Products furniture manufacturers from 3:00 - 11:00 p.m., and he was so tired from the job that he would fall asleep in class. Gladys made him quit the job so he could focus on his senior year studies. Elvis appeared in another school talent show that spring, singing "Til I Waltz Again With You." He wasn't popular before his performance, but he was after.

Elvis graduated from Humes High School on June 3, 1953. Later that summer, Elvis waltzed into Memphis Recording Service to record his first acetate, containing "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin." And the rest, of course, is history.

While Elvis may have been considered a "fair" student in school, he excelled in his English classes and loved to read. He kept a library of his favorite books at Graceland and often took a trunk of books with him when he toured. Learn more about Elvis' book collection on this episode of the Gates of Graceland.

If you want to learn more about Elvis' childhood, visit Graceland! Elvis' mother Gladys kept quite a lot, so artifacts on display include report cards, school photos, a box of Elvis' colors and more. Get a little closer to the King of Rock 'n' Roll today!

Posted by Elvis Presley's Graceland at 10:40 AM
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