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November 7, 2012

Local girl who stole Elvis’ kiss reveals story

Athens — Margaret Ann Hollis was 5-years-old when she kissed a king.

She was wearing patent leather shoes and a crisp white dress covering layers of petticoats. Silk flowers adorned her tightly curled hair — done up just for the chance to see Elvis Presley as he passed through Dallas on April 19, 1960.

On the back of a train car, Presley took her into his arms, and she planted a kiss on his cheek.

A Dallas Morning News photographer captured the moment — and then it was all but forgotten.

But in August, about the time of the 35th anniversary of Presley's death, Morning News photo editor Guy Reynolds came across the picture in the newspaper's archives while searching for another image.

He wrote about the photo online: "Margaret Ann, if you're out there (or someone knows of her whereabouts), people are wondering about your recollection of the day."

The search soon garnered attention online from Elvis fans worldwide and media such as National Public Radio and The Atlantic.

Presley had just ended a two-year stint in the Army when he took the two-day train trip from Memphis, Tenn., to Los Angeles to film GI Blues.

He was uncertain whether he would still have fans after being out of the spotlight for so long, said David English, who chronicled the trip in his recent book, Elvis From Memphis to Hollywood.

Although Presley's 25 stops drew local coverage in many towns, it went mostly unnoticed in the national media, English said.

In Dallas, Elvis made a 20-minute stop at Union Station. English included the picture of Margaret Ann in his book but didn't have any luck tracking her down.

Several people emailed suggestions about how to find Hollis, who had married. Public record searches pointed to the most likely candidate.

After several unsuccessful calls to Hollis and possible family members, it took an old-fashioned letter to reach her.

She was hesitant to respond at first.

Most people would find a way to bring kissing Presley into any conversation, but it's an experience Hollis — who goes by Margie — has told few about.

"It was just a personal thing for me," says Hollis, 58, who has since divorced and is engaged. "I guess that's how special it was. It's not something you go around bragging about."

Hollis' mother, Margaret Howard, had spotted a short notice in the newspaper saying the train, which was dubbed EP1, would make a stop in Dallas between 7:50 and 8:10 a.m. Howard's stepfather, Jesse Curry, who was Dallas' police chief, confirmed the train was Presley's.

Howard knew Margie would want a chance to see Presley. She was always singing along to his records.

Hollis remembers getting up at 4 a.m. to get ready. Her mother spent hours curling her hair and dressing her up in a new outfit in their Far East Dallas home.

Mother and daughter made their way to Union Station early that Tuesday morning. They stayed toward the back of the group of 30 screaming fans — Margie perched on her 5-foot-tall mother's shoulders waiting to catch sight of Presley.

Blinking and rubbing his eyes, he made his way to the back of the train car to greet the fans who loudly cheered for him.

"They just kept screaming," Hollis says of the crowd of teenage girls. "That never stopped."

As Presley started signing autograph books, some girls tried to snatch his watch and rings. He stepped back.

"Be keerful there . the other day in Nashville a girl almost pulled off the back of the train like this," he said, according to the Morning News' account, which was written by Jim Lehrer, who later became co-host of PBS' MacNeil/Lehrer Report.

When Presley leaned back, he spotted Margie.

"Hand her here. Hand her here," he shouted across the crowd.

Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, helped clear a path as Howard carried her daughter to the front. Presley hoisted Margie over the railing.

"He said, 'Hi. Give me a kiss,'" Hollis remembers.

Howard was surprised to see her daughter go so willingly into Presley's arms, because she didn't ever go to strangers.

"Boy, she grabbed him," Howard says. "It was great. It was absolutely great."

Presley showed Margie inside the train car after joking with her mother that he was taking her to California with him.

"He didn't set me down," Hollis recalls. "He carried me the whole time."

Once back in her mother's arms, Margie exclaimed, "Oh, Mom, he smelled so good."

She still remembers his smell, though she can't describe it other than to say it was a little sweet.

Howard couldn't help falling in love with Presley, too.

"He was handsome, but there was something about him. I cannot explain it. It was his eyes," she says. "When he looked at you, you knew you were being looked at."

These days, Hollis is the marketing manager at the Groom and Sons' Hardware store in Mabank.

"She's Elvis all the way," says Hollis' fiancé, Jack Bynum of Eustace. "Who couldn't be an Elvis fan?"

Hollis says she left Union Station a bigger fan than before.

"Time stopped. He was just so nice. I kissed him, and he kissed me," she says. "I did not wash my face for a long period of time.

Margie (Margaret Ann Hollis)  Crawford was born in Dallas and moved to the Cedar Creek Lake area in 1991.

She has worked at Groom & Sons’ Hardware in Mabank since 1994.

Her parents are Margaret and Henry Howard of Gun Barrel City and Margo McCarter of Dallas.

Her daughter is Kelly Crawford of Gun Barrel City.

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