On the Road with USGlass

The King’s Love of Glass

Key VP Holly got a kick out of the King's classic cars.

I was in Memphis a few weeks ago getting ready for Auto Glass Week this fall. Upon our arrival, my colleagues Tina Czar, Holly Biller and I found ourselves with two unscheduled hours of time, mainly because we had one of those rare trips where nothing went wrong or got delayed.

“Let’s go to Graceland,” I said, unable to stop myself. “That way we will be able to answer questions when people who are coming to Auto Glass Week want to know what it was like.”

Our VP Holly Biller is very gifted musically. She has even produced a series of her own CDs, but I am not sure Holly was even alive at the same time Elvis was. And I expect Tina Czar, ever the great event planner, was humoring me, but off we went.

What surprised me most about Graceland is how little land there is around it. You can look out Elvis’ backyard and see the six or so other suburban backyards it abuts not more than a stone’s throw away. There is also an Elvis clothing museum, car museum, two of his airplanes (the big one is a hoot), a few gift shops and, of course, the  gravesite. One of the gift shops even has a jazzed up jukebox in the corner that says it’s the Elvis channel broadcasting live on XM radio from Graceland. Indeed.

It seemed Elvis had a thing for fine glass in his era.

If you ever want to see what ’50s kitsch would look like if it mated with ’60s gaudiness, visit Graceland. But somehow it worked … in part, because of the glass.

That’s right, it seemed the King had a thing for fine glass of the era. His large (though not enormous) living room sported two custom-made stained glass windows of peacocks that let the light shine through. The dining room had a very unique custom mirror on the walls and the jungle “rumpus” room in the back sported a ceiling-almost-to-floor glass wall pre-cursor. The racquetball building featured a complex series of glass railings that were ahead their time as well.

I had a hard time believing the kitchen was the nerve center of the house that the tour guide had described because it had no windows. Together with that dark ’60s paneling, it seemed less welcoming and more a gloomy cavernous retreat, peanut butter-banana sandwiches and other comfort food not withstanding.

Graceland reminded me how there are always stories in the glass even at the King’s house … and except for seeing the leather suit that he had worn in his “Elvis in Hawaii” special in 1968, the glass was the highlight. I’ve loved that suit since I was 13 years old, watching him wiggling in it. So in a rare occurrence, the glass came in second on this trip. All in all, we had a fine time.