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Elvis on display at Depot

Thursday, January 11, 2007

(Photo)
Anne Forbis, a volunteer at the Sikeston Depot, adjusts an Elvis photograph.
SIKESTON -- For Southeast Missouri residents wanting to catch a glimpse of local Elvis Presley memorabilia collections, it's now or never.

To mark the Presley's 72nd birthday, which was Monday, and the 30th anniversary of his death in August, the Sikeston Depot Museum created an exhibit, "Elvis! Is In The Building," which is on display through the end of the month.

Betty Johns of Sikeston, president of the Sikeston Cultural Development Corporation Board of Directors, came up with the idea for the exhibit at the suggestion of her husband, Vanice.

"We just hope everyone comes and sees it," Johns said about the display.

Included in the display are albums, memorabilia and the history of Presley's connections to Southeast Missouri. Presley performed at the Sikeston Armory in 1955. But perhaps Presley's most significant connection to the area is his relatives in Sikeston -- the Floyd Presley Sr. family.

Floyd Presley Jr., 54, said when people find out he's related to Elvis or that his last name is Presley, almost everyone has an Elvis story.

"It may not be their story -- it may be their mother's, sister's or somebody else's that they love relating to you," he said. "I've had more interesting conversations with people on their memories and experiences about or around Elvis, and everybody is always very upbeat. I've never heard a bad story on him."

The Depot also has on display a family tree of how Floyd Presley Sr.'s family is related to Elvis; they're descendants of Rosella Presley, who was never married and had nine children. She was the grandmother of Floyd Presley Sr., who was first cousins with Elvis' father, Vernon Presley.

Floyd Presley Sr. said when he was about 10, he moved to East Tupelo, Miss., to live with his uncle because his mother had tuberculosis and went to a sanitarium for treatment in Booneville, Ark. His uncle's house was within walking distance to Vernon Presley's house where Elvis grew up. Floyd Presley Sr. said he spent lots of time with his cousin Vester, who was Vernon Presley's brother.

Floyd Sr., 84, said he knew Vernon and Elvis Presley, although he didn't see them often. In Elvis' early years, Elvis made trips to Sikeston to visit his family members.

"You have to understand how poor people operate," Floyd Sr. said. "They don't get too far from where they live. And if you happen to live 250 miles from another one, you very seldom see them. It has to be some kind of get together if you did."

Once Elvis became famous, others took notice of the Presley name.

"When he (Elvis) really got famous, customers would see my name on (my sales and service) truck and ask, 'Are you related to Elvis?' And I'd say yes. They'd say, 'Oh, I don't believe it.' I said I don't care whether you do or not -- cause I never tried to prove nothing to nobody." Floyd Sr. laughed.

Marty Presley, 46, remembers attending Vernon Presley's funeral with his father, Floyd Presley Sr., his uncle and cousin in 1979.

"Vester was showing us around the house (Graceland) and we went into kitchen. ... Three ladies were sitting at a table, and he introduced us to Priscilla (Presley). . . . As soon as he did that, that it could've been Raquel Welch beside her -- I have no idea who the other two were. All I remember is Priscilla," he said, adding he also met Lisa Marie Presley.

The Presleys in Sikeston said after all these years, they haven't tired of the Elvis inquiries from strangers.

"I've never had a bad experience with it," Floyd Jr. said.

Floyd Jr. said he thinks the Depot's display is very appropriate.

"Elvis played here, and he's had relatives living here for quite some years, but it's mainly because everybody has an interest -- and it's people of all ages," he said.

The Depot is located at 116 W. Malone Ave., and admission is free. Operating hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For information, contact the Depot at 481-9967.