This museum, located on the grounds of Fort Chaffee, is dedicated to that important moment when Elvis got his famous sideburns trimmed upon induction to the Army.
The room that housed the barbershop has been redone, with photos of Elvis’ haircut on the walls and a cut-out of him in one of the barber chairs.
A display reads:
Elvis Aaron Presley, US 53310761, arrived at Fort Chaffee on the night of March 24, 1958.
He reported to the installation for induction processing. The Army planned a low-key affair, but Presley’s manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, had other plans.
According to reports, Parker turned a routine military procedure into a media circus, much to Presley’s chagrin. On March 25 the installation barber shop at Building 803, was filled with army recruits and press coverage from all around the world in addition to local photographers and reporters. Everyone was waiting for the sideburns to fall to the floor.
To make sure that souvenir hunters did not make off with any clippings, the hair was swept up with the other recruits’ clippings and military personnel then escorted it to a waiting garbage truck.
In addition to the haircut, Presley also received his uniform issue and inoculations. Almost every move he made during his three days at Chaffee were under the watchful eyes of the media.
After his stay here, Presley was shipped to Fort Hood, Texas for training as a tanker. After training, he served with the 2nd Armored Division in Germany in September 1958. Reports say that Presley was a good soldier and was promoted to the rank of sergeant on January 20, 1960, shortly before his discharge in March.
The bit about not wanting any to grab his hair as a souvenir struck me as a bit much.
They even have one of the cameras used to take the photos!
One of the reporters suggested that Elvis blow some of his hair out of his hand. He did, quipping, “Hair today, gone tomorrow.”
Anyway, reports online suggest that the museum often isn’t open when it’s supposed to be, but I got lucky. I arrived just as a tour from a local old-folks home came by. I joined the group without waiting for an invitation and, although I got a few odd looks, nobody questioned me. Beside the Presley barbershop display, there are other bits about Fort Chaffee and it’s history, but those mostly consisted of unlabeled artifacts and photographs. I didn’t stay long.
It was all ridiculous, of course, but in a harmless, fun way. After all, it’s more significant than the monument in northeastern Arkansas to the time when the Beatles changed planes.