(This is the final installment of a five part series on Elvis Presley.)
As we were wrapping up our visit with air personality, Argo, of the Elvis Channel, he asked if we were staying at the Guest House.
The Guest House, is the astonishingly beautiful hotel, located adjacent to Graceland. It stands where the Hard Rock Hotel once was, having been completed about four years ago. Normally, during our Memphis visits, we stay at the historic Peabody Hotel but we had decided to stay one night at the Guest House before moving to the Peabody.
It turned out to be an excellent decision because it completes the Elvis Presley experience. His ex-wife, Priscilla, oversaw the interior design, decorating in the vivid colors that Elvis loved and using the mid-century styled furniture with which he had filled Graceland.
Hip, bold purples, reds, oranges, turquoises, stained glasses (like the custom-made ones at Graceland) and lots of gold splashes color up the hotel beginning in the circular lobby.
The hotel features a movie theater – where one of 31 Elvis movies airs nightly – big screen TVs playing the Elvis ’68 Comeback Special, his beloved gospel music fills the air and restaurants named Delta’s (for Elvis’ aunt, Graceland household manager) and EP’s Place serve delicious Southern food including a yummy fried green tomato sandwich with pimento cheese and bacon.
In the lobby nightly, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, an Elvis favorite, are served. It is a full Elvis experience and one I highly recommend, though we will continue to love the Peabody.
“Yes! We’re staying at the Guest House,” I replied to Argo’s question.
He clapped his hands. “Then you HAVE to meet Miss Anna. She’s the night manager and is a real treasure. She went to Humes High School right after Elvis. She’s a big Elvis fan and can tell you so much about him. You have to meet her.”
Then, by good fortune, I did. I was at the front desk, asking a question, when a dainty, sweet mannered woman stopped to speak to the young woman who was helping me. A beautiful, Memphis-born drawl dripped from her lips.
I perked up.
“Are you Anna Hamilton?”
She looked surprised then smiled welcomingly. “Yes, I am.”
“Oh, I’m excited to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you!” Not only had Argo told us about Miss Anna but when we were unloading from the car, Darius, the young man helping us, said “I’ve been here since it opened. I love my job, my boss, everyone. You should meet Miss Anna!”
She graduated from Humes High School in 1965 (Elvis graduated in 1953). “There was not one day that I went up those front steps into the school that I didn’t think ‘Elvis went up these same steps.’ Often, I would sit at a desk and wonder, ‘Did Elvis ever sit here?’”
Though she never met him, she saw him up close a couple of times. “He was so good to Humes. He gave us a gymnasium, he bought a washer and dryer for the boys’ locker room and outfitted the football team in uniforms dyed orange and white, our school colors.”
As a teenager, she worked for the company that owned the Memphian, the movie theater that Elvis often rented out late at night. The owner would sometimes let employees attend with the very strict warning that they were never to approach Elvis or they’d be fired.
“I got to go four times,” she said. “We sat where we could watch him. My biggest regret is that I didn’t speak to him and tell him I was from Humes, too.”
After decades spent in hotel hospitality, Miss Anna was hired for her dream job: A manager for the hotel that pays tribute to the iconic star. Elvis is everywhere she turns.
“I am so blessed to be here,” she said. “I can’t believe how fortunate I am.”
It’s impressive how many employees connected with Graceland say that. Elvis would be pleased.
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin’.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.]