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Elvis Presley Vowed to Buy Mom a Home When They Shared 1 Bed in Shack — She Wished To Be Poor Again after Moving

Olawale Ogunjimi
Jul 25, 2022
02:10 A.M.
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Elvis Presley and his parents, Vernon and Gladys, had spent the better parts of their lives living in poverty until he rose to fame at 19. However, his mother struggled to get accustomed to living in a mansion afterward and the fame that came with her son's stardom.

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Elvis Presley is a name widely recognized in the entertainment industry for what he achieved during his life. However, before the money and the fame, Elvis grew up very poor as his parents, Gladys and Vernon, struggled to make ends meet.

The pair met in 1933 at a Pentecostal church in Tupelo, Mississippi. Gladys, 22, was five years older than Vernon, 17, and she was working as a sewing machine operator in a local clothing factory. Vernon, on the other hand, did anything he could find to make money.

Two year old Elvis Presley poses for a family portrait with his parents Vernon Presley and Gladys Presley in 1937 in Tupelo, Mississippi. | Source: Getty Images

Two year old Elvis Presley poses for a family portrait with his parents Vernon Presley and Gladys Presley in 1937 in Tupelo, Mississippi. | Source: Getty Images

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They got married that same year and moved into a two-room shack bereft of electricity or running water. After a while, Gladys got pregnant with twins, but she could not get proper health care because the family could not afford it.

Sadly there were complications with her birth on January 8, 1935, and they had to call a doctor who a charity eventually paid. Tragically, Elvis's twin Jesse was stillborn and was later buried in an unmarked grave in the local cemetery.

The Tupelo, Mississippi home of Elvis Presley. | Source: Getty Images

The Tupelo, Mississippi home of Elvis Presley. | Source: Getty Images

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Meanwhile, Gladys had also lost a lot of blood and was rushed to the hospital with her surviving son Elvis. After leaving the hospital, Gladys did not return to the clothing factory; instead, she went cotton picking, which was a more demanding job. However, it gave her the chance to bring Elvis along.

Sadly, things got worse for the family when Vernon received a three years prison sentence for altering the amount due to him on a cheque; at the time, Elvis was just three years old.

ELVIS AND MOM STRUGGLED WITH HOMELESSNESS

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After Vernon was sent to prison, Elvis became Gladys' sole responsibility. She could not afford the house rent, and they were subsequently evicted.

Mother and son had to move from one house to another until 1943, when they finally settled in a house in East Tupelo, Mississippi.

View a window and flowerbed at Elvis Presley's childhood home, Tupelo, Mississippi, 1995. | Source: Getty Images

View a window and flowerbed at Elvis Presley's childhood home, Tupelo, Mississippi, 1995. | Source: Getty Images

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The house built in the late 1920s by Vernon's uncle Noah Presley for his son Eack became their safe haven. The house with cobalt blue planks and white framed windows served as Elvis's childhood home, where he and his parents enjoyed some stability.

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Vernon, Gladys, and Elvis lived together in this house after the former got released from prison. The house located at 1241 Kelly Street in East Tupelo is just around the corner from the house where Elvis was born.

ELVIS'S STRONG BOND WITH HIS MOTHER

Elvis Presley with his parents Gladys and Vernon | Source: Getty Images

Elvis Presley with his parents Gladys and Vernon | Source: Getty Images

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Although Elvis grew up with both parents, he was more connected to his mother, Gladys, than with Vernon. As a child, he always believed he would be the one to take his parents out of poverty, and once, when he heard his parents worrying about rent, he said to Gladys:

"Don't worry, Mama. When I grow up, I'm going to buy you a fine house and pay everything you owe at the grocery store, and buy two Cadillacs, one for you and Daddy and one for me."

Wherever they lived, the trio always slept in the same room, but whenever Vernon traveled to other states for work, Elvis and his mother shared a bed and conversed in their own baby language.

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 A tour guide who would only identify herself as Juanita sits in the restored room where Elvis Presley was born January 8, 1935 during Elvis Week August 14, 2002 in the singer's hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi. | Source: Getty Images

A tour guide who would only identify herself as Juanita sits in the restored room where Elvis Presley was born January 8, 1935 during Elvis Week August 14, 2002 in the singer's hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi. | Source: Getty Images

Gladys also took religion very seriously, and whenever she and Elvis lay in bed, she would read him stories from the children's Bible. She would narrate the stories of Jonah in the belly of a whale and Joshua's battle at the wall of Jericho.

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As a child, she encouraged him to believe he was destined for greater things, and she believed although his twin died, Elvis would grow up with the additional qualities of his twin.

Singer Elvis Presley kisses his mother, Gladys, on the eve of his induction into the Army and at left is his father, Vernon. | Source: Getty Images

Singer Elvis Presley kisses his mother, Gladys, on the eve of his induction into the Army and at left is his father, Vernon. | Source: Getty Images

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Whenever Elvis followed his mom to work and the sun came out at two o'clock, he would promise to buy her a fine house and pay all her debts at the grocery store.

Elvis and his mother were so close they would call each other pet names or use gestures whenever they wanted to talk and put their faces close together. According to some neighbors, Gladys worshiped Elvis from the very day he was born, which indicates how close the two were.

A tourguide is seen in the birthplace of Elvis Presley on the 30th anniversary of his death, 16 August 2007, in Tupelo, Mississippi. | Source: Getty Images

A tourguide is seen in the birthplace of Elvis Presley on the 30th anniversary of his death, 16 August 2007, in Tupelo, Mississippi. | Source: Getty Images

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Since his birth, Gladys dreaded being separated from her son, and she would even race to the grocery store to ensure they were not apart for more than five minutes.

Whenever Elvis was not with her, Gladys felt intense pain. Although maternal love is common for mothers and most often outgrow it as their kids grow, Gladys remained scared every time at the thought of Elvis ever leaving her.

ELVIS' MOTHER STRUGGLED TO GET USED TO HIS FAME

Rock and roll singer Elvis Presley poses for a portrait with his parents Vernon and Gladys Presley in circa 1956. | Source: Getty Images

Rock and roll singer Elvis Presley poses for a portrait with his parents Vernon and Gladys Presley in circa 1956. | Source: Getty Images

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Elvis rose to fame at 19 when he was signed by a record label in Memphis called "Sun." He would appear in the Grand Ole Opry, a weekly Country-and-Western concert broadcast live on the radio.

All the money Elvis got from the show he sent home to his parents, and his mother saved the money in a box. By the time he was 20 years old, Elvis had fulfilled his promise and was already taking care of his parents.

Exterior view of Elvis Presley's house Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee, United States, 2018. | Source: Getty Images

Exterior view of Elvis Presley's house Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee, United States, 2018. | Source: Getty Images

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In 1956 after scoring his first hit, "Heartbreak Hotel," he was able to buy a ranch-style home in Audubon Drive, a serene residential area in Memphis.

The singer moved in with his parents, but his mother struggled with living in such a big house, considering where they came from.

Elvis Presley's living room at Graceland is seen during Elvis Week on August 12, 2002 in Memphis, Tennessee. | Source: Getty Images

Elvis Presley's living room at Graceland is seen during Elvis Week on August 12, 2002 in Memphis, Tennessee. | Source: Getty Images

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She would often remark how the house looked like a palace, and although encouraged she would get used to living in the house, Gladys never did. When they first moved in, Gladys would invite some neighbors over for a cup of lemonade and use their pool.

Before long, fans started coming over to the house and climbing over the fence, and Elvis and his parents were not used to this. Also, some neighbors started complaining about Gladys, where she washed and dried her clothes.

Elvis Presley, on his first leave from the Army, escorts his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Presley, from their mansion here to town for a sneak preview of the entertainer's latest movie, June 1st. | Source: Getty Images

Elvis Presley, on his first leave from the Army, escorts his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Presley, from their mansion here to town for a sneak preview of the entertainer's latest movie, June 1st. | Source: Getty Images

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At a point, the neighbors started working on a petition for the families to move out of the neighborhood. During this time, Elvis overheard his mother on the phone saying:

"I wish we was poor again, I really do."

The statement broke his heart, and Elvis subsequently moved his parents to Graceland, a mansion in Memphis where his mother could have all the privacy she wanted.

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