TRIMBLE — The back door opens slowly; a short white-haired man in a dark navy blue rain jacket struts around the corner, stepping up into the entry, as he ignores the “Employees Only” sign.
Through the chaos of a Friday night, he enters Kaslers Country Kitchen in Trimble, carefree, observing the cook who is moving swiftly beside him. He slows him down, he then mentions what he’d liked to eat.
Stepping back slowly he leans against the sidebar counter. Looking to his right, he gradually pulls his hand out of his pocket, handling something within his fist and shakingly slides over a brightly colored 29-cent Elvis stamp given to him years ago.
Charles “Charlie” Grinstead, 88, of Millfield by way of Murray City, was drafted by the United States Army at 22. Grinstead was sent to Fort Hood, Texas in 1958, where he completed 16 weeks of Basic Training and met Elvis Presley.
Grinstead was assigned to Kitchen Patrol or Kitchen Police, otherwise known as “KP Duty,” where soldiers were in charge of meal prep. As he peeled and cut potatoes, he experienced a “dream” as he described.
“I was pulling KP, cutting up potatoes in the field when I first ran into Elvis; Oh my God, I was in Heaven,” Grinstead stated.
Before he met Elvis he’d always admired what he could do for an audience in his early stages of becoming an artist. Grinstead dabbled in music and played different instruments himself but he said he didn’t have the voice for it.
“I would’ve traveled with him, but that wouldn’t have been possible,” Grinstead joked.
Grinstead said Elvis was like every other soldier; they had “man talk” — about women and cars, that he could remember.
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“He (Elvis) entertained them and sang to the guys in the kitchen during KP,” Grinstead’s daughter, Elizabeth Taylor, said.
In addition to the needed distraction of private shows inside the kitchen, Elvis performed small shows in Germany after basic training, which Grinstead also attended. Grinstead said Elvis performed with such liveliness. Feeling the music and “wiggling” to the beat left people amazed, angry, and speechless; even at small shows for fun. Elvis always stuck to his same movements.
It doesn’t matter how Elvis made people feel; it’s the impact of feelings he could leave on people, including Grinstead.
“My first wife’s mother said she thought Elvis was one of the most vulgar person there ever was; the way he gets up on that stage and wiggles around,” Grinstead said. “I couldn’t pick a favorite song; I loved all his songs. I wish I could do what he could.”
A few years ago, at a local restaurant, Gigi’s, Grinstead sat beside an older man on a 3-foot-high tan barstool leaning against the wall. He overheard the man making claims such as “Elvis never did anything.”
Grinstead let the man have his peace before he finally had enough, and he decided to torment the man asking him a series of questions about how he knew and met Elvis. The man was flustered, Grinstead recalled. He told him he knew nothing about what Elvis went through during basic training.
Even years later, Grinstead still defended Elvis’ name and kept a hold of what memories he could and the little things such as the stamp that was a reminder; and wished he still had the main proof that he once had.
During Basic Training, Grinstead knew Elvis and the rest of the men would split apart quickly.
“Elvis was signing a lot of autographs. A lot of people wanted it, wouldn’t you?” Grinstead asked.
But that wasn’t the main reason he wanted to obtain the signature. He had asked for many names and addresses that he kept in an old journal he wrote in throughout the years. He wanted to keep in contact with the other men and possibly stay in touch with Elvis.
Although Grinstead never communicated with nor saw Elvis again, he still HAD the autograph on an old ripped-off piece of journal paper.
“When me and my first wife split, where do you think that autograph went…” Grinstead said pointing south. Taylor claimed the photographs they once had from Fort Hood were thrown away also.
“If I still had it, maybe people would believe me, but I never lied about it,” Grinstead said.
Alabama Martin is a student journalist with Tri-County Career Center and High School’s New Media+ program. This article originally appeared on The 360, a publication of the New Media+ program at Tri-County Career Center.
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