- Associated Press - Monday, June 6, 2016

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - He bought the house to tear it down and build a parking lot, but wouldn’t you know it, Elvis Presley may have lived there for a time.

The city’s most famous son left traces of his early years across the area. His birthplace remains one of the top tourist attractions in the state. Plaques, markers and monuments dot the local streets and tell the story of the boy from East Tupelo.

Now, Buddy Palmer may own a house once occupied for a few years by Elvis and his family.

Palmer himself is a fixture of the East Tupelo community, mostly because of his long association with Palmer’s grocery store, which has been in operation on East Main Street since 1957. He’s also the city councilman for Ward 5, which includes East Tupelo.

The store led to Palmer’s present predicament. More precisely, its parking lot.

Palmer bought the store from his father in 1977. In turn, he sold it to his sons Damon and Jason in 2003. Earlier this year, the name changed from Palmer’s to Shoppers Value Foods.

A gray house with shake siding sits at the back of the store’s parking lot. Its address is 1241 Kelly St.

It’s been there a long time, and Palmer has been looking at it a long time.

“I knew if ever this house was going to be sold I’d like to have it in case I wanted to expand my parking lot,” Palmer said.

He got his opportunity earlier this year and seized it. The plan? Bulldoze the old home and let his sons take the lot for parking.

There were rumors, though. Rumors that sat in the back of Palmer’s mind.

A George Thompson owned and lived in the house for years. Palmer knew that much. Thompson’s children even worked at Palmer’s for a time.

Stories circulated that Elvis, while once visiting the city he knew as home, paid a visit to Thompson.

During the trip, Elvis reportedly described living in the house to Thompson.

Rumors seemingly solidified once Palmer bought the home, solidified under the testimony of a firsthand account.

“I spent a night or two or three or four when the Presleys lived there,” said Guy Harris, well-known in the area and to Elvis enthusiasts as a childhood friend to the singer. “I would have been about six years old, or seven.”

Standing in front of the house this week, Harris rattled off the names of the street’s one-time residents.

Seventy-seven-year-old Harris was born at a home on nearby Adams Street.

“It was like a big old family out here,” Harris said. “You’d run from pillar to post doing this and doing that.”

The house has changed since the mid-1940s when Harris would have been in it, but he readily described what the landscape would have been like in those days.

A local Elvis researcher and a friend of Palmer’s, Julian Riley, believes, based on his own research, the Presleys moved into the home in 1943 and lived there two years.

The decades have not been kind to the house, however. It is deteriorating, and Palmer isn’t eager to take on the task of restoration.

“I’d like to see it left in Tupelo, and we might be able to work it out to leave it here, but I am not a landlord,” Palmer said. “A lot of people said ‘make it a bed and breakfast, do this, do that,’ but I am just not a landlord.”

Palmer has offered the home to the city of Tupelo, free of charge, if the city will move it. But he doesn’t think that’s likely. Palmer also offered the house to the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum, as well as the Elvis Presley Fan Club, but both organizations declined.

Demolition remains a possibility, though not Palmer’s preference. Based upon a posting on an internet auction site, Palmer said he’s received some interest in the home from as far away as South America.

“This is a very important piece of property,” Palmer said. “I just wanted to be sure that I had exercised every opportunity I had to let this stay in Tupelo. And I’m going to give it a little more time, but sometime before the summer’s up I’ve got make a choice.”

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, https://djournal.com


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