A large crowd gathered Wednesday afternoon (Mar. 25) to commemorate the anniversary of the day that Elvis had his worldfamous haircut when he went to the army. Jimmy Don Peterson, the son of James Peterson, the barber who cut Presley’s hair, was on hand to provide free “G.I. haircuts.” Jimmy Don, a licensed barber, was accompanied by his mother, Edith Peterson. Jim Kell didn’t like Elvis Presley. He was more into Tommy Dorsey and Sinatra. But his assignment was to interview this new singing sensation who recently wowed television audiences on the Ed Sullivan Show and was now at Fort Chaffee to begin his two-year stint with the U.S. Army.
But Kell changed his mind about Elvis after a 15-minute interview. A few minutes into the interview, the film broke. Kell, knowing Elvis was pressed for time, needed to start the interview again. “It was no problem. He agreed to start over. He was very nice about the whole thing,” Kell recalled. Kell became a fan during the interview. And it’s the continuing charm of Elvis that resulted in the creation of a Barbershop Museum in the same building at Fort Chaffee in which Elvis had his U.S. Army induction haircut. “I just can’t believe how popular this has been.
We have a true bonafide tourist destination here at Fort Chaffee,” said Ivy Owen, executive director of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority. The museum will soon be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and is staffed by volunteers from the Fort Smith CVB.
The museum opened Aug. 22, 2008. One of those volunteers is Jack Cleavenger, who was a photographer at the Southwest Times Record when Presley had the haircut. It was Cleavenger who suggested Presley blow his freshly shorn hair out of his hand. Presley obliged, and it became one of the most famous pictures of Presley. “(Presley) was the nicest person. Everything with him was ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir,’” Cleavenger said prior to Wednesday’s ceremony.