Inside Lauderdale Courts 2011
   Elvis Presley was a working class boy. He labored  to buy things a teen age boy wants and, sometimes,  to help pay family bills. We have a fair idea where he worked and what he did. Nearly all his employed positions were factory work, which was labor he did not wish to do the rest of his life. After high school graduation, he completed an application and interview with the Tenn Dept of Employment Security and there he made his preferences known. On display to the left is that application, along his 1953 income tax form and a Precision Tool pay stub. It was the kind of work that his family had known in Tupelo and Memphis. His parents, and many of their siblings moved to Memphis from Tupelo because of the available number of jobs in the city.
Elvis Presley Story 1956
 Only one of his jobs gave a hint to his future career, and that was at Loews State Theater on South Main. At age 15 Elvis became a movie usher and by all accounts, he enjoyed the job. He had always enjoyed watching movies. For a brief time he was paid to do so. Elvis and another boy were fired by Arthur Groom, the manager for fighting. It is a oft told story. A girl at the candy counter gave to Elvis popcorn and snacks. The jealous opponent told Mr. Groom. Elvis  then challenged the boy to a fight.
   Six years later Elvis allowed the Memphis premiere of his first movie, Love Me Tender to take place at Loews State. Mr. Groom was still the manager. (See my blog about  Loews State).
  It is difficult to arrange the precise order of workplaces for accounts of Elvis' life disagree. To the best of our knowledge, this is the order of Elvis' employers for the next few years.
Precision Tool, 1132 Kansas Street, Mclemore and Kanas. Elvis went to work here because his father,  several of his uncles and cousins already had jobs here. Precision Tool was a military contractor during the Korean War. The company manufactured nickle plated artillery shells. They worked in an assembly line and had to meet a quota.  Gene Smith said that he and Elvis started there in June 1951, and worked the morning shift. Elvis would have been sixteen. One story has it that Elvis was let go because he was too young. But he would also work there in 1952 and 1953, verified by the his income tax form and pay stub shown above. Precision Tool  was a hot and dangerous place to work. Robert Smith, Gene's brother, was scalded to death at Precision Tool in 1969. 
  Marl Metal, 208 Georgia Avenue. This company manufactured metal and plastic furniture. This photo from a high school annual displays the company's breakfast room furniture. Elvis worked a shift from 3 PM to 11 PM during the school term. He would miss a lot of school activities to work jobs like this. He was also missing his rest. One of his teachers  told his parents that he was falling asleep in class. Gladys forced him to quit this job.
  During the summer, Elvis would have no such difficulty working the late shift. It seems likely that Elvis returned to Precision Tool.

The next workplace, though, is said to be another summer job, in fact a job he took after graduation from Humes. He recieved the job through the assistance of the Tennessee Employment  Security Office (122 Union Avenue. M B Parker, had a contract to take apart flame throw regulators for the Memphis Defense Depot, replace the "O" rings and reassemble. It was hot work, dirty work. It was around this time that Elvis visited Memphis Recording Service for the first time to make a record.  Some people have said that in Elvis's early visits  to the studio he appeared to be unkempt, as if he had finished a hard day of labor. 
 M B Parker building today at 1449 Thomas Street.
 The job was a temporary and Elvis  returned to the Employment Security Office. He made it clear to his case worker that he want to keep his hands clean on his next job.
   Another client, Crown Electric,  needed a delivery  driver. James and Gladys Tipler were electrical contractors who recently opened their business. They were told that Elvis was a good boy, and not to put off by his hair and clothing style.
   Crown Electric would become Elvis' last job before the entertainment career began to pay off. So much has been written about Elvis' experiences there, that Crown Electric deserves its own blog. It is worth noting that a lot of sources, including myself, may have listed the wrong address for Crown Electric, when Elvis worked there. Clearly, in the 1953 and 1954 city directories and phone books, the company was located at 475 North Dunlap. In  1956 Crown Electric was listed at  353 Poplar Avenue, near present day Danny Thomas Blvd and Poplar. Fan magazine reporters  first interviewed the Tiplers about their now famous employee at the Poplar Avenue address in 1956. Researchers ever since have listed that address as the one where Elvis worked. It may be that Elvis  never worked at 353 Poplar.

Graphics at Lauderdale Courts created by the management of Uptown Square with the assistance of Elvis Presley Enterprises. Photo of the graphics board  by Sue Mack.
For more information about Uptown Square and Lauderdale Courts please visit their website at Lauderdale Courts

Memphis Elvis Style. Mike Freeman and Cindy Hazen. John F Blair, Publisher. Winston-Salem, NC. 1997.
The Real Elvis Good Old Boy. Vince Staten. Media Ventures. Dayton, OH. 1978.
Elvis' Man Friday. Gene Smith. Light of Day Publishing. Nashville, TN. 1994.
Early Elvis the Humes Years. Bill Burk. Red Oak Press. Memphis, TN. 1990.


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