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Pa. museum exhibits Elvis memorabilia

January 19, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Even diehard Elvis fans are surprised to learn that Elvis was naturally a blond, according to Bonnie Shockey, president of the Allison-Antrim Museum in Greencastle, Pa., which is hosting an exhibit of Elvis Presley memorabilia.

An early photo in the exhibit shows The King as a blond.

The collection is on loan from a friend of the museum who wishes to remain anonymous, Shockey said.

Shockey said she got the idea for the exhibit when State Line resident David King performed a benefit concert of Elvis' music with Elvis' original back-up group, the Jordanaires.

"The audience was packed," Shockey said. "A lot of people are interested in Elvis' music. Seventy people came through here last Sunday, it was non-stop."

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Shockey said she set up the exhibit as a time line, starting in the dining room of the 1860 Greek Revival home that houses the museum, and continuing in the parlor and an upstairs bedroom.

"January is a good time for an Elvis exhibit because he signed his first recording contract on January 1, 1950, with Sun Records, and he was born on January 8, 1935," she said.

The collection includes private, uncirculated photos of Elvis, including one from his days in the U.S. Army in Germany. He was drafted in December 1957.

Visitors move from room to room as Elvis' music plays in the background. A neon Elvis clock hangs on the dining room wall, changing color every few seconds.

"That's my favorite piece," Shockey said.

Newspaper clippings about Elvis' 1961 benefit concert in Hawaii for the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor may be viewed in the parlor, along with records and other memorabilia.

The exhibit includes a sheet of first-day issue U.S. postage stamps honoring Elvis on Jan. 8, 1993.

About a dozen visitors have had their photo taken with the life-size poster of Elvis in the upstairs bedroom, Shockey said.

Beside the poster depicting a smiling, guitar-playing Elvis is a grim reminder; a copy of the Memphis, Tennessee Commercial Appeal dated Aug. 17, 1977, with coverage of Elvis' death at age 42.

Greencastle resident Nancy Gembe viewed the exhibit Thursday along with her husband, Gary, and son Greg, who collects records and CDs of Elvis' music.

"He grew up hearing that music," Gary Gembe said.

Nancy Gembe said that while she never made it to a concert, she had many of the singer's records. She recalls that she and a girlfriend screamed upon learning Elvis had returned to the U.S. after his tour of duty in the Army.

She said she and her husband visited Graceland in 1979, and also Elvis' two-room birthplace in Tupelo, Miss.

"He got kinda mixed up at the end," she added, "but I believe I'll see him in heaven."

Tours to see the Elvis Presley exhibit are by appointment through Jan. 22. Groups are welcome, no admission charge, donations accepted. Most of the building is handicapped accessible. Allison-Antrim Museum, 365 South Ridge Avenue, Greencastle, Pa. Phone: 1-717-597-9010.

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