On November 3, 1958, Private Elvis Presley traveled with his scout platoon to the U.S. Army Training Area at Grafenwoehr for six weeks of reconnaissance maneuvers. This was the main training area in Germany for all U.S. troops and is located near the Czechoslovakian border. During those six weeks, Elvis would meet a German-American girl who became very special to him. (Notably, Elvis wouldn’t meet Priscilla in Germany for another 10 months.)
[The following article includes excerpts from the new book, ELVIS: The Army Years Uncovered: Behind The Scenes of the Two Years that Changed the King of Rock and Roll’s Life by Trina Young]
Elvis was a frequent visitor to the movie theater on the base. One night at the movies, he met a German-American fan named Elisabeth Stefaniak. Her mother was German and her stepfather was an American Army Sergeant. Elisabeth and her parents and younger sister lived in dependent housing on the post. She had been coming every night to the theater to try and meet Elvis, who was always accompanied by Rex Mansfield and another GI named Johnny Lang.
After about a week, Elisabeth got the opportunity on November 20 to ask Johnny if he could get Presley’s autograph for her. As a result, Elvis told Rex to go get Elisabeth and ask her to join him while watching the movie. It was a prelude of things to come as Rex Mansfield walked Elisabeth down the (movie) aisle. However, all of Elisabeth’s focus at the time was on Elvis. She had been a huge fan of his since seeing him on The Ed Sullivan Show.
“I thought I was going to faint,” recalled Elisabeth who was 19 years old at the time. “All I wanted was his autograph, and now I was invited to join him. Not even in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine this would happen. I was shaking from excitement and had butterflies in my stomach that wouldn’t settle down.”
Elvis and Elisabeth hit it off that night. He was very taken with her. For the next six nights, Elisabeth would meet Elvis at the theater and then he would walk her home. Elisabeth’s German-speaking skills would come in handy ensuring that her relationship with Elvis would not end once he left Grafenwoehr.
Elvis felt at home with Elisabeth and her family and would come over for breakfast while he was in Grafenwoehr. “He had a certain way he liked his food,” Elisabeth explained, “and of course the army wasn’t going to serve him anything different, so he’d come to the kitchen and he’d say to my mother, ‘Ella, would you fix me some bacon, eggs and toast?’ He had to have his bacon almost burned, and his eggs had to be flipped over 10 times. He’d come by in a Jeep, and I could hear the Jeep coming.”
On November 27, Elvis dropped in unannounced for Thanksgiving dinner with Elisabeth and her family. This would be the first Thanksgiving Elvis spent without his mother.
Elisabeth sensed that Elvis was missing his family: “I could see how much Elvis loved and adored his mother by the way he described how special she was and how much he missed her,” Elisabeth explained. “He painfully mentioned that his dad was already dating other women, which brought tears to his eyes.”
Before Elvis left Grafenwoehr, the U.S. Army scheduled a press conference for him at 10:00 am on December 16, 1958. However, Elvis was nowhere to be found. After a rough six weeks of field training, it seemed that Elvis had been prematurely indulging in some R&R (rest and recuperation).
He finally showed up behind-the-scenes looking disheveled with lipstick all over his face. According to Sgt. Jones, the soldiers in his platoon rushed to Presley’s aide and helped clean him up so he would be presentable to all the reporters waiting. Elvis indicated later that the girl he had been kissing was Elisabeth Stefaniak.
Soon after Elvis left Grafenwoehr, he would arrange for Elisabeth to move in with him and his family in Bad Nauheim. She would be his fan mail secretary handling the letters from German-speaking fans, as well as his secret live-in girlfriend.
Find out what happened in the next 15 months between Elvis and Elisabeth in my new book, ELVIS: The Army Years Uncovered: Behind the Scenes of the Two Years that Changed The King of Rock and Roll’s Life.
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