Veterans Memorial Auditorium
Columbus, OH


The Vetererans Memorial Auditorium in columbus, OH - ca.1955

The Franklin County Veterans Memorial Auditorium at 300 W. Broad St. (US 40) in Columbus, Ohio was officially dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 1955.  The lush at the time, 3,916 seat auditorium is the largest in Columbus and was designed to host concerts, fund raisers, plays and such year round.


Ad for show in the Columbus Dispatch - May 23, 1956
courtesy Columbus Metroplitan Library

The following year, in 1956, Elvis, Scotty, Bill and DJ performed two shows there on their tour of the Midwest that May.  Having performed the previous day in Detroit, this was their first appearance back in the state of Ohio since the previous October when they performed in and around Cleveland at the Circle Theater, the Brooklyn High School and St. Michaels Hall.


Ad for show in the Columbus Dispatch - May 25, 1956
courtesy Columbus Metropolitan Library

On May 25th, the day before the show, the Ohio State Journal wrote "There are many seats still available for both performances of the Elvis Presley show which will be presented at 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. this Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Building. Tickets may be obtained at Heaton's Music Store until 5:30 p.m. the day of the show. After that the box office at the Vets Memorial will be opened.  In addition to singer Elvis Presley, the show will feature Jackie Little; the Smoky Mountain Boys; the Flaims; Frankie Connors and Phil Maraquin."1 They evidently confused the name and referred to Scotty, Bill and DJ as the Smoky Mountain Boys instead of the Blue Moon Boys.


The Flaim Bothers: Rick and Emil at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium - May 26, 1956
Photo by Phil Harrington © Evan Harrington, corrected Oct. 16, 2014


Oscar Davis plugs the sale of Elvis Presley Juke Box Favorites between acts - May 26, 1956
Photo by Phil Harrington © Evan Harrington, corrected Oct. 16, 2014


Elvis at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium - May 26, 1956
Columbus Dispatch Photo courtesy Columbus Metropolitan Library

One review the day after in the Columbus Dispatch read:

'COOL CAT' IN GREEN COAT
Presley Sends Crowd At Veterans Memorial

Elvis Presley, a "cool cat" in a Kelly green coat and Navy blue trousers, sent the crowd at Veterans Memorial Saturday night.
Long hair flying, he bumped and rolled through half a dozen numbers amidst piercing screams from a house three quarters full. The audience was teenagers with a heavy sprinkling of adults.
The 160-pound six-footer from Tupelo, Miss., drew screams each time he gesticulated, or contorted his lanky body. His mouth was moving, but you couldn't prove he was singing above the near hysterical din.
BESIDES THE green coat and navy blue trousers, he wore a dark blue shirt, red socks, and blue suede shoes. It is alleged he mouthed one ditty urging people not to step on the latter.
A light wood guitar dangled from the loose-jointed 21-year-old's neck. He picked at it now and then, but relied largely on a raucous three-man combo to provide the beat.
Presley's appearance is the finale in his show. There were two Saturday night, one at 7 and one at 10 p. m.
Also appearing were The Flaims, the Jordonaires, Phil Maraquin, Jackie Little, and Frankie Connors.

Columbus Dispatch May 27, 1956 page 18a courtesy Columbus Metroplitan Library

The Columbus Citizen's Theater Editor wrote a somewhat lenient, if not more favorable, review than just about any written on that tour when he wrote, Mr. Elvis Presley, a young gentleman from Memphis. Tenn., presented a voice recital last night at the Veterans Memorial.  About 2000 music lovers attended the first performance. A somewhat smaller number of folk music devotees were present at the second. THE ARTIST was tastefully attired in a Bright green jacket, crimson socks, a tan guitar, and black shirt, trousers and shoes.

No tie. This was somewhat of a departure from normal concert attire, but we mustn't be stuffy about such things, must we? No.2


Elvis at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium - May 26, 1956
Columbus Citizen Photo courtesy Columbus Metropolitan Library

WELL, IT WAS RATHER obvious that his audience is more than somewhat devoted to Mr. Presley, in that it was screaming, gasping, cheering, clapping and stomping the moment he stepped on stage, and before he sang that first note. It continued throughout the recital.


D.J., Elvis and Bill at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium - May 26, 1956
Photo by Phil Harrington © Evan Harrington, corrected Oct. 16, 2014

As a result of this vocal enthusiasm, one didn't get much of a chance to hear the artist. The spectators applauded and gave forth with joyous noise even while he was singing--unforgivable recital conduct. Mr. Presley, however, didn't seem to mind a bit. Fact is, he apparently was expecting it.


Elvis and Bill at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium - May 26, 1956
Photo by Phil Harrington © Evan Harrington, corrected Oct. 16, 2014

AS THERE WAS no printed program, one cannot report what he sang. However, one occasionally would catch a fragment of a lyric about a hotel or motel--a plaintive sort of thing.

And when the artist admonished his audience not to tread upon his blue suede shoes--my! 2


Fans at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium - May 26, 1956
Columbus Citizen Photo courtesy Columbus Metropolitan Library

IF ONE CANNOT hear Mr. Presley for the racket, one can watch him. In fact, his behavior on stage seemed to elicit more response -- in the form of an ear-splitting soprano's scream -- than his music.


Elvis at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium - May 26, 1956
Photo by Phil Harrington courtesy Look Magazine

He is restless. This is expressed by continual flexing of the hands. gyrating of the knees, and facial expressions suggesting an acute appendix condition. One could not help being touched.


Elvis and DJ at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium - May 26, 1956
Photo by Phil Harrington © Evan Harrington, corrected Oct. 16, 2014

THE ARTIST, however, seems at home on the concert platform. For example, he occasionally would delicately brush a vagrant eyebrow hair back to its proper place with his finger tips, or somewhat less delicately wipe his mouth and nose with the palm of his hand. So informal.


Scotty and Elvis at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium - May 26, 1956
Photo by Phil Harrington © Evan Harrington, corrected Oct. 16, 2014

Most of his action, however, stems from the hips. In fact, devotees of the burlesque circuit will recognize his basic technique as "grind-and-bump." This normally is practiced by young ladies of the burlesque, but Mr. Presley has adapted it to the concert stage, with little sacrifice of its innate vulgarity.2


Fans at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium - May 26, 1956
Columbus Citizen Photo courtesy Columbus Metropolitan Library

HOWEVER. the artist has a tremendous appeal for the feminine element in the audience. One young lady had to leave the hall; it seemed that she was all overcome. A policeman came to the aid of the white-faced, trembling girl.


Elvis and Bill at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium - May 26, 1956
Photo by Phil Harrington © Evan Harrington, corrected Oct. 16, 2014

"Oh, I'll be all right in a minute," she explained. "Itís, just that I can't stand much of this excitement. I want to rush right up there and grab him."

A GENTLEMAN standing by, who had left for a somewhat different reason, nodded in agreement and muttered softly: "So would Ióaround the throat." 2


Fans at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium - May 26, 1956
Columbus Citizen Photo courtesy Columbus Metropolitan Library

The review days later in the Ohio State Journal read:

Presley's Technique Wows the Womenfolk
By Clyde D. Moore

Elvis Presley, the guitar twanging boy wonder from Memphis, did something or other in the Veterans Memorial Saturday night, we're not exactly. sure what. The ex-truck driver with the hog calling technique had a lot of young females screaming hysterically at every gesture and body quiver. And of quivers, there were many, both suggestive and vulgar.

MR. PRESLEY carries a guitar held by a thong around his neck. Whether or not he can-play-the guitar was never clearly demonstrated. He stroked it frantically a few times, but the surrounding clamor was so great that we can't even vouch for the fact that the guitar had strings. A three-piece combo supplied the music.

ATTIRED in a bilious green jacket, navy blue trousers, red hose and blue suede shoes, and with his sun tanned guitar chastely draped across his seldom quiet abdomen, the patron of "Heartbreak Hotel"' manipulated himself in a series of bumps and grinds such as are usually associated with burlesque queens. He also has a tricky left foot which he flings nervously hither and yon, possibly a hangover from pedal pushing days. ∑ There were times when one had the impression that Mr. Presley had been seized by a kingsize attack at St. Vitus Dance. But it was this motion rather than his singing, for one seldom heard his voice above the din, which made the females wild. Ever hear 1500 girls scream?

THERE was a constant procession of unchaperoned girls running down the aisle to snap his picture. Photo bulbs were flashing like lightning bugs. One girl by actual count ran down six times. Some admirers even ran down without cameras. Counting the audience participation, it was an astounding show. This included five specialty acts in addition to Presley's presentation.

Ohio State Journal - Monday, May 28, 1956 courtesy Columbus Metropolitan Library

The next day they concluded their tour of the Midwest in Dayton.  That year the Auditorium also hosted shows by Eddie Arnold, Bill Haley and the Comets, Nat King Cole and Harry Belafonte.  Since then it has also welcomed the likes of Conway Twitty, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, The Doors, Barry Manilow, David Bowie, Rush, Duran Duran, Beck, The Clash, Chicago, REM, Brittany Spears and Ní Sync!.3


Dave, Sergio and Arnold at the 1970 AAU Mr. World competition Columbus, OH
Photo courtesy Built report

In 1970 organizer Jim Lorimer, aided by Dick Brentlinger, staged the "Mr. World" Weightlifting Championships before 5,000 enthusiastic spectators in the Veterans Memorial Auditorium.  ABC's "Wide World of Sports" was there to record the event for television, the first time such an event was seen on 50 million screens across the world. Arnold Schwarzenegger placed first for the Mr. World title. Sergio came in second and Dave Draper third.4


The recently renovated auditorium
Photo courtesy Franklin County Veterans Memorial

The auditorium was recently renovated and remodeled at a cost of over 11 million dollars, which included new seats, new carpet, new acoustic tiles and wall coverings. Exhibition halls have been built and added to expand the facility which include the 65,000 square foot North Hall and the 45,000 square foot East/West Hall.3


Aerial view of the Franklin County Veterans Memorial
Photo © Microsoft EarthData


Aerial view of the Franklin County Veterans Memorial
Photo © Microsoft EarthData

There is also a 5,000 square foot multi purpose room equipped with a 16 by 27 foot stage and sound equipment used for sales meetings, seminars, banquets, lectures and receptions and 10 additional rooms with capacities of 70 to 150.  It has parking lot with over 900 parking spaces and an additional 1,800 across the street.3


California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger congratulates Iris Kyle after she won the Miss
International body building competition during the Arnold Sports Festival - Mar. 6, 2009
AP Photo by Jay LaPrete

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Lorimer held the first-annual Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic in 1989. Today the Arnold Sports Festival is recognized as the largest multi-sport festival in the nation and the greatest sports-fitness experience of a lifetime.  The finals are held on the Veterans Memorial Auditorium stage, the same stage where Arnold won his Mr. World title in 1970.5


The Franklin County Veterans Memorial - Sep. 26, 2009


The Franklin County Veterans Memorial - Sep. 26, 2009


The Franklin County Veterans Memorial - Sep. 26, 2009

page added October 24, 2009
 

All ads and articles courtesy the Columbus Metropolitan Library.  Phil Harrington's photos appear on this site with the permission of Evan Harrington with respect to his father and family and for which we greatly appreciate their use.

1 from "Presley Ducats" - Ohio State Journal, May 25, 1956 p17 courtesy Columbus Public Library
2 from "Ozarks - Phenomenon Screaming? Elvis Presley Was Here" by Norman Nadel, Theater Editor - Columbus Citizen p1 - May 27, 1956
3 excerpts from the "Franklin County Veterans Memorial" website
4 according to "1970 MR. WORLD CONTESTS" by Oscar State -Muscle Builder, Vol 12, Num 10, Page 13, May 1971
5 from The 2010 Arnold Sports Festival website

 

All photos on this site (that we didn't borrow) unless otherwise indicated are the property of either Scotty Moore or James V. Roy and unauthorized use or reproduction is prohibited.

 
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