LAURINBURG — While some dream of a white Christmas or gifts piled high under a tree, Joyce Caulder dreams, as always, of Elvis Presley, and the tree in her living room is hung with scores of miniatures of the King of Rock n’ Roll.
“I was an Elvis fan from the first time I ever heard him, and I mean the first time I ever heard him,” said Caulder, recalling the first time “Blue Suede Shoes” was played over the television airwaves.
“Something about him just drew me to the TV set.”
With Elvis figurines and portraits scattered throughout every room, one of which is devoted solely to her collection of memorabilia, and a likeness of him on nearly every flat surface, Caulder’s home is a shrine to the performer who defined popular music. A radio, tuned to an Elvis station declaring “Elvis lives here,” is not far off the mark.
But the 80-year-old former military wife and current apartment complex manager and Walmart phone operator does not hold with any theory that Elvis may still be alive, tucked away in obscurity after an elaborate but phony funeral.
“I do not believe that he would leave Lisa Marie and not see her or his grandbabies,” she said.
Caulder’s collection began around 1970, when her husband noticed a few Elvis bubblegum records in the Army post exchange when he was stationed in Germany. Since then, she has added such items as an Elvis checkbook, collage of photos from age three until his death, Elvis shoes, Elvis scrubs and shirts, Elvis mugs, and a model of Graceland, as well as several dancing Elvis models and a life-sized bust equipped with chips to play all of his movies.
“Elvis is about to evict me,” Caulder joked. “I have a son-in-law who’s an over the road truck driver and he finds a lot of stuff.
“It is an obsession with me, I admit it. My children tell me Elvis comes first.”
Though Caulder saw Elvis perform live on several occasions, her most potent memory is of a concert she could not attend, to which she and a friend sent a wreath of roses.
“There must have been 200 roses, we paid $700, but he threw them out to the women that made the concert,” she said through laughter. “That’s most memorable: my money threw out to other women.”
Though she would have remembered the time anyway with perfect clarity, her job managing record distribution for the Air Force kept her busy in the time following Elvis’ death.
“We worked all night long for three days and nights to have enough records and all on the market.”
Caulder will spend Christmas at home this year, showing Elvis fans young and old through her collection.
“You’d be surprised at the young people that call or show up at my door on weekends when I’m home and want to know if they can walk through and look,” said Caulder.
And though the King died more than 35 years ago, Caulder can still walk into her Elvis room, sitting either on a bed draped with an Elvis comforter and inlaid with matching material or in an Elvis folding chair, and all the things she loved about the star flood to the forefront of her mind.
“Even though I know he’s gone, I can come in this room and play his music and it’s like he’s somewhere around — that’s crazy isn’t it,” she said wistfully. “Elvis had a way about him that touched the lives, the hearts and souls of many, many people and it’s hard to turn loose your memories of Elvis. It’s like there’s a part of him that’s here.”
Mary Katherine Murphy works for Civitas Media as a staff writer for The Laurinburg Exchange.