The (Philadelphia) Arena
Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Arena
courtesy Flyers History

In January of 1920 the New York Times reported that management of the new Auditorium and Ice Palace located in-town at 45th and Market St. in Philadelphia had announced a tentative completion date and opening night set for the following February 5th. With a rink that measured 220 feet by 101 feet, it replaced an older "Ice Palace" that had burned down 19 years earlier, in 1901. Several colleges had applied for matches at the new "Palace" which included Lafayette and Cornell.1 In actuality, the Palace, built by George F. Pawling, of George F. Pawling & Co., Engineers and Contractors, opened to the public on February 14, 1920 and the first college hockey game was two days later between Yale and Princeton.2

Philadelphia Ice Palace - 1921 from ad for Von Duprin self-releasing Fire Exit Latches
courtesy eBay

It was renamed the "Arena" in 1925 by its new owner, Jules Mastbaum, owner of the Stanley Company of America theater chain and then sold to Rudy Freed and Maurice Fishman two years later. In 1929, Peter A. Tyrrell became the Arena's boxing matchmaker and subsequently the facility’s publicist.2 The Canadian-American Hockey League's (CAHL) Philadelphia Arrows had been playing at the Arena for several years when they were joined by NHL's Quakers in 1930. The Quakers played their first game in the Arena on November 11, 1930. They found themselves losers at the box office to the more popular minor league Arrows, mainly because the Arrows won games, and by September of the following year the franchise was suspended. Though the Arena was only ten years old it could only seat about 6500 fans for hockey, had poor sightlines, and was outclassed by the newer, larger rinks that housed the other NHL teams.3

Hockey at the Arena in Philadelphia

In 1934, when the partnership of Freed and Fishman was placed in receivership the court named Tyrrell a friendly receiver-in-equity who then became general manager.2 The Arena also saw regular use each season for the Ice Capades and Ice Follies in addition to rodeos, circuses, roller skating and other sporting events and spectacles. For boxing and wrestling events it could accommodate about 10,000.

Ice Follies at the Philadelphia Arena

In the final year of the CAHL League, the Arrows played as the Ramblers, renamed by their NHL parent club -- the New York Rangers. The Ramblers also won Philadelphia's first professional hockey championship that year, in 1935-36. The Ramblers folded in 1942 as a result of America's entry into World War II, playing their final AHL season as the Philadelphia Rockets.4

The 1930 CAHL Arrows - ca. 1929   Standing - Wrigley, Trainer; George Nichols, "Dee" Klein, Lloyd Andrews, Moose Cahill, Frank Peters, Arthur Coulter, Herb Gardiner, Manager. Seated - Clark Bradley, Vic LaPointe, "Morrie" Roberts, Art Taylor, Roy Lassard

Photo courtesy Broad Street Hockey

The 1939 CAHL Ramblers - ca.1938
Photo courtesy Broad Street Hockey

Prior to America entering World War II the Arena was the site of one of famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh's speeches before an America First Committee Meeting, on May 29, 1941.5 Founded in September of 1940, the America First Committee with over 800,000 members was the most powerful isolationist group in the country who wanted to keep America neutral and attempted to influence public opinion through publications and speeches.6

Lindbergh addresses the sold out America First Committee meeting - May 29, 1941
Photo courtesy Charles A. Lindbergh: A Human Hero

Lindberg, drawing on his experiences and observations during years abroad in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, provided Americans with a portrait of the war in Europe that differed substantially from the one conceived by the Roosevelt administration and interventionists in the United States. He saw a divided responsibility for its origins rather than an assignment of the total blame to Hitler, Nazi Germany, and the Axis states and was skeptical of the ideology and moral righteousness of the British and French. America First was dissolved four days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.6

Roy Rogers Rodeo Philadelphia Program - 1947
courtesy Hydroponic

In January of 1944 television first came to the Arena when Philco television station WPTZ, pioneers in the field of remote pick-ups, concluded plans to pick up the Friday night wrestling matches with plans later to pick up circus, rodeos, ice shows and boxing later in the season when other events got going. Their technique at the time called for a combination of radio to transmit the picture images and regular telephone lines to carry the sound. In 1946 during Roy Rodger's Rodeo, his third year of twenty at the arena, a performer died suddenly during a show, unknown to the viewing audience.7 Billboard reported:

Girl Bronk Rider Dies At Rogers Rodeo, Philly

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 21.——Jane Anne Greeley, 27, died suddenly at the Philadelphia Arena Friday (13) night after she had ridden a bronk in the opening performance of the Roy Rogers Rodeo. She collapsed near the stables when she bent down to unfasten her chaps. A rescue squad, called by police, applied artificial respiration for 20 minutes. More than 4,000 spectators at the show were unaware of what had happened.
Before the body was taken to Sidney, N.Y., for burial, a special ceremony was held here Sunday (15) in her memory. Rodeo-mates filed past her casket while her Palomino horse stood by with an empty saddle embossed with her name. Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers sang Round-Up in the Sky.

Billboard - September 28, 1946

In 1945, Walter A. Annenberg, owner and publisher at The Philadelphia Inquirer purchased WFIL Radio in Philadelphia. It was an AM station that was experimenting with FM, but mostly Annenberg was attracted to the fact that WFIL Radio had the right to build a television station.8 In June of 1947 Annenberg bought the Arena though Peter Tyrrel remained as president and general manager. He commenced building studio facilities on the property adjacent to the arena to house all the activities of WFIL television, AM and FM.7

WFIL-TV demonstration at studio in the Widener building - May 25, 1947
Photo by Edward Nicodemus © Temple University Libraries

On September 13th WFIL-TV debuted "regular" program service with the telecast of a Philadelphia Eagles-Chicago Bears football game from Franklin Field and grabbed up many of the events that the Philco station carried in the past.7 WFIL-TV became the 13th TV station on the air in the U.S.8 By the end of the year sales to sponsors became completely sold for its schedule of major sporting events. WPTZ was out of the Arena.7 The new building at 4548 Market Street was completed in 1948 and received a major addition in 1952. It was one of the first buildings in the country designed specifically for television broadcasting.

In July of 1952 a fire at the arena that started in an outside storage shed spread to the roof and burned a hole in it. Though thousands of dollars worth of equipment, including a sectional basketball court and 1,500 folding chairs, were destroyed in the fire service was not interrupted since no events were scheduled until fall. That October, Annenberg's paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer announced that they would stage what they called the First Annual Rhythm Dance at the Philadelphia Arena in December. It was essentially a four and a half hour charitable event targeting teen-agers with area teen-age dance bands, composed of members under 20 years of age, battling it out to record for RCA, the final judging televised on WFIL-TV.7

Lee Stewart and Bob Horn on Bandstand - 1953
Photo courtesy Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia

The announcement coincided with the debut of Bandstand, produced and broadcast from WFIL's studio next door. Initially a radio show on WFIL hosted by Bob Horn, it replaced a show called Parade of Stars, which essentially resembled MTV in that it mainly featured short musical films of pop stars. Bandstand debuted on Monday, October 6, 1952 hosted by Horn with sidekick Lee Stewart where they talked, played records and aired a few publicity interviews. A year later, Stewart was removed from the program, the music took to the foreground with local neighborhood kids dancing in front of the cameras to top-40 records. In July of 1956 Dick Clark, already on staff at WFIL, replaced Horn as host.8

Daily News - April 1, 1957
courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia

Ad for contest to meet Elvis host by Bandstand - April 2, 1957
Philadelphia Inquirer ad courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia

In April of 1957 Elvis, Scotty, Bill and DJ, along with the Jordanaires, completed their first of three short tours that year with four shows in two nights at the Arena. They had started in Chicago and had played shows in St. Louis, Fort Wayne, Detroit, Buffalo, Toronto and Ottawa.  Ads in the Inquirer plugged a contest run by Bandstand for a chance to meet Elvis when he performed in town, though he was not scheduled to appear on the show.  Not everyone, as evident, were fans.  An article that appeared in the Daily News on the day of the first show described a "reputed" plot by college students to cut his hair:

Dear Elvis: We Foiled a Hair Raid

Memo to Elvis Presley:
You were going to lose your well-preserved hair tonight. All of it, Even those dreamy sideburns.
But you're safe now. Thanks to the Daily News. Our reporters unearthed a dark and devious plot that, if successful, would have made Yul and Zsa Zsa (no mean baldies themselves) more than envious.
The self -appointed barbers were to be 15 University of Pennsylvania undergraduates. Five were girls, obviously no fans of yours.
The hair raid was scheduled for sometime during the night, after you finished up at the Arena. The best considered time was 3 to 5 a.m.
THE PLOT was well laid, the Daily News learned. Even the first contact with a representative of the clippers' syndicate was a dark, dank mystery. It took place on the Penn campus behind Houston Hall just .off 36th St.
The mystery man delivered the startling news from behind a bush. No one saw his face. Only when he mentioned your name could the reporter detect a glow --of hate.
Subsequent contacts were equally devious. But the details weren't. These guys and gals had it in for you, but good. Had been planning the whole thing since they first learned you were coming to Our Town for two days.
The way they had it fixed they weren't "all shook up." Sure you've heard that phrase before. We have, on juke boxes.

THE PLOT details go something like this:

The gang of 15 are Penn freshmen. The fellows are members of the same fraternity; the gals belong to the same sorority.
The idea first was breached by some upper classmen who also think you have little talent.
(You're weak out there, Elvis. You ought to do something about it.)
The initial plan called for four guys to rush you from different angles while you're holding forth on the Arena bandstand. They were to shear off as much hair as they could and take off.
THIS, HOWEVER, was discarded as too risky.
They decided on a more elaborate scheme. Four students were to rent a room on the same floor of your hotel. The five gals were to engage a room on another floor. Two freshmen were to join them there, stage a mock riot to divert the attention of hotel officials and any police assigned to guard you during your stay here.
With all this commotion going on, the boys on your floor would be joined by four others sneaking up the back stairs or on a self-service elevator.
The eight either planned to pick the lock on your door or break it down, Four of the eight were described as husky-lads. Their job: to hold you down and keep you from sounding an alarm.
The others had five minutes, plus sharp shears and clippers, to make you the latest convert to the baldy craze.
The phone would be ripped out. You were to lose your clothes to discourage pursuit.
THEY WERE to bring along a bag to cart off your wavy locks.
The hair was to be offered to gals on the campus anxious for a fond remembrance of your more hirsute personality. For a fee, of course.
There was no mention or what would be done with the money.
Reasoning behind the shearing session:
It would be a great thing for the fraternity; get it some publicity. Also it sure would be a wild time.
We're sure. Elvis would sure be wild.

Philadelphia Daily News - April 5, 1957 courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia

The appearances were covered by the three Philadelphia newspapers: the Daily New, The Inquirer and Bulletin.

Press Conference: High School Reporters Keep Their Poise Interviewing Elvis


ELVIS PRESLEY, sharply dressed in black and wearing spotless all-white shoes, met the press Friday day night at the Arena — but in a way he never had before.

The sideburned singer. wearing a big gold medallion that "some little gal gave to me," was interviewed by a dozen high school reporters from this area, aged 14 to 18.
And there’s no two ways about it: The youngsters gave him the business. Questions were quick and to the point.
True, there was a gag of incredibility when Elvis himself, preceded by five tough-looking protectors, actually strolled into a room backstage set aside for the interview, which preceded his first of two evening shows. The singer concluded his two-day engagement here last night, presenting his fourth and final performance before leaving for hi palatial new home in Memphis. Tenn.
But after the initial shock of his preview - there was no introduction — the youngsters snapped back quickly for their school paper interviews.

BEFORE Elvis showed up for the interviews, some of the teenagers had confided that he was the "most." Others said he’s fading. One said "I like Pat Boone."
But the teen-age reporters showed no undue emotion when they came face to lace with their idol: no worshipful attitudes.

Elvis interviewed by high school reporters backstage at the Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo source David English

HERE are some of the things the so-called neophyte reporters got the 22-year-old singer draped comfortably over a chair, to tell them:
Question: What did you think of your movie “Love Me Tender?"
Answer: It was pretty humble. Acting’s not something you learn over night. Ah knew that picture was bad when it was completed. Ah'm mah own worst critic. But mah next picture is different. Ah know I done a better job in it. It’s called "Loving You" and it's gonna be released August 1.
Q. Do you think rock 'n' roll will last?
A. It's sure gonna take something mighty good to replace it. Maybe Ah won't be around forever, but rock 'n' roll is here to stay for awhile.
Q. Do you think rock 'n' roll is causing juvenile delinquency?
A. No music can do that. It’s from something else. lf there's riot or some trouble, rock ’n' roll has nothing to do with it.
Q. What's your favorite record?
A. "Don't Be Cruel."
Q. What do you think calypso?
(This was obviously a touchy subject. Elvis looked to one of his managers for the go-ahead. He got it.)
A Calypso's good. Who am Ah to say it's not?
Q. How long do you plan to keep your hair that way and what do you think of boys and girls who cut their hair the same way as yours? (This from Linda, one teenager who could hardly be classified as non—partisan. She was wearing a Presley haircut, sideburns and all.)
A. Wahl, Ah like to think people would wear their hair the way they want to. But for my next picture Ah have to get a crew cut 'cause it's a prison picture.
(Chorus; Oh, Elvis, don't get your hair cut!)
Q. When will you be drafted? How long will you serve?
A. Everyone thinks Ah've been drafted already but Ah haven't. Ah only passed the physical. But A’m not definitely going in. If Ah do go in Ah’ll serve two years. But Ah'll continue making records.
Q. What are your most memorable high school experiences?
No answer from Elvis.
Q. Well? Didn’t you have any?
A. Well, it wasn't a very exciting life. A few dates maybe.
Q. Did you ever go steady? (This from a girl 17, who does.)
A. Yes, Ah went steady twice. Once for two years even.
Q. What do you think of Ivy League clothes?
A. Ah wear them all the time. (Laughter).
Q. Are you going to appear on television anymore, even though they only show you above the waist?
(Once again a look at his manager). A. Ah dunno.
(He shrugged).
Q. Are you nervous now, before a show?
A. Ah’m always nervous before s show. Right now Ah have a real bad cold so it’s worse.
Q. How did you rank in your high school class?
A. Rank? Watta ya mean?
Q. You know, what were your marks?
A. Oh, a C-plus or B-average. (Smiles from the students.)
Q. Is it true you can’t get married before you're 23 — that it’s in your contract?
A. No. Ah can get married whenever I want.
Q. (From a pretty blonde). What do you think of Natalie Wood?
A. She is a girl no different from anyone else. That’s what all the stars are like - the same as everyone else.
One of his boys told Elvis the interview was almost over, that disc jockeys, and reporters from the newspapers were waiting for him outside.
There was time for one more question. It came from Rochelle.
"What are your plans for the future. Elvis Movies? Records?"
"Ah just take every day as it comes," Elvis told her. "Ah don't plan too far ahead. There'll be record albums, of course, and movies too. Don‘t know anymore; maybe Ah’ll go back to driving a truck."
The interview was over. The teenage reporters had conducted themselves admirably. But they are still teenagers: suddenly they all surrounded him - even the boy who likes Pat Boone - and asked him for his autograph.
He gave it. And then the high school press representatives went to their auditorium seats — to hear Elvis Presley sing.

Philadelphia Evening Bulletin - April 6, 1957 courtesy Ger Rijff's Long Lonely Highway

The Jordonaires and Al Dvorin onstage at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo source David English

2,300 Fans, 130 Cops Turn Out for Elvis Here


There must have been about 60 of us (the President wouldn't have drawn a bigger press conference) sweltering in a sideroom at the Arena, waiting for Elvis.
In the auditorium a disappointing crowd of about 2300, )about one-third capacity) was on hand for the first Philadelphia appearance of the singer. What this audience may have lacked in size and maturity it more than made up in noise and sustained frenzy.
The President couldn't have been given better security arrangements. The photographers, newsreel cameramen, reporters and the TV and radio interviewers first trooped to the Arena's publicity quarters. There they were given personal cards to enable them to get past the gauntlet of police guarding the conference room.
The police precautions were elaborate. Inspector Maurice Pilner had 65 foot traffic and highway patrolmen on hand. Capt. Harry Fox, of the Juvenile Aid Bureau, marshaled a squad of 50 plainclothesmen and 15 police women in the hall.

The conference room at the Philadelphia Arena  - April 5, 1957
courtesy Keith Flynn

THE PRESLEY STAFF and hangers-on take it big; but the boy himself is modest and winning. He came in garbed in the familiar jet suit and black shirt open at the throat. He sat on a table, raised one leg and wrapped his arms tightly about it.
"I haven't got to the point where I'm completely at ease with this sort of thing," he said, looking at the press contingent.
A battery of hand mikes was shoved in front of his face to record every word on tape. How did he feel about it all? "Well" he said (he says "Well" a lot) "It was boom! Overnight. And here I am."
One radio gentleman asked him bluntly. Did he believe anyone would come to see him five years from now? Elvis took no offense. "I won't predict the future. They may not. People get tired of you. you don't stay hot forever."

Elvis backstage with the press at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo source unknown

HE WAS ASKED about the story in yesterday's Daily News about Penn undergrads plotting to clip his hair. "I read that and I don't see no point in it all. They're college men-supposed to be tomorrow's leaders. What are they trying to prove?"

Elvis backstage with the press at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo source unknown

HE DIDN'T believe any form of music could cause juvenile delinquency. "The kids might dance and yell a little, but they aren't robbing anybody." Elvis doesn't mind the yelling. "It covers up the mistakes I make."
Elvis most certainly wouldn't object to marrying one of his fans. "I would just have to fall in love with somebody." What quality did he look for in a woman? "She must be female, I guess."

Elvis, Jimmy Velvet and Ken Moore backstage in Philadelphia - April 5, 1957
Photo courtesy Ana Fernández Sangil

THE PRESLEY TOUR is covering eight cities and the singer is getting a flat $120,000 for the 10-day jaunt.
Last night in Philadelphia was the first setback for the promoters, who have already racked up grosses of $41,000 for a night in Chicago; $53,500 for two shows in Detroit and $28,000 for a single performance in St. Louis. They expect to recoup here with the two performances at the Arena today.
The star was on 40 minutes, singing about a dozen of his hillbilly, rock and roll and blues chants, and the bedlam never abated once.

DJ, Scotty, Jimmy Velvet and Bill Black backstage in Philadelphia - April 5, 1957
Photo source David English

WHEN HE WENT into an arm-flailing, hip-wriggling, floor-crawling finale with "Hound Dog," the hysterical mob broke out of its seats. Fortunately, there were enough cops and plainclothesmen guarding every aisle to get them all back again.
Personally, I like Elvis.

Philadelphia Daily News - April 6, 1957 courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia

young fans, and mom, at Elvis' show at the Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo courtesy eBay

Elvis and Bill onstage at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo source unknown

Hysterical Mob Drowns Out Elvis' Rock 'n' Roll Songs

Of The Bulletin Staff

Elvis Presley sang here last night. But nobody listened.
The audience screamed, yelled, clapped. stomped and popped flashbulbs at the Caruso of rock 'n' roll. Anybody who wanted to hear Elvis had a pretty hard time.
The shrieking was so loud that there wouldn't have been an eardrum intact if there had been a full house at the Arena, 46th and Market Sts.
Less than half of the 6,500 seats were filled at each of the shows last night, at 7 and 9 P.M.

Buttons Sell

Those who did come weren't buying. Vendors reported a poor turnover of Elvis picture albums and scarves. They did only slightly better selling "I Like Elvis" buttons. Even buttons inscribed "I Hate Elvis" and the more succinct "Elvis is a Jerk" weren't moving, the vendors moaned.
The crowd only wanted one thing - to see Elvis.
They screamed with cheerful vehemence for an hour's worth of preliminary acts at each show.
They were whipped into a frenzy as each new introduction proved to be someone other than their idol.
Then Elvis appeared, and tried valiantly to be heard over the bedlam.

Black Silk Suit

The former Tennessee truck driver was dressed in a black silk suit, white shoes and socks and a black velvet shirt open halfway down his bare chest, exposing a three-inch gold-and-silver colored medallion on a chain around his neck.
He told reporters the medallion was handed him by little girl in the crowd at Ottawa. Canada, where he appeared last.
Elvis hung a "guitar over his neck. Then there followed a half-hour of rubberlegged gyrations as he poured rock 'n' roll lyrics into a microphone, thrusting arms and knees at the audience.
Every new gesture and wiggle brought a variance in pitch from the howl of the audience, mostly young girls. It was rare that a word could be discerned even by those standing only a few feet from the stage.

Staggers Around Stage

There were a few breaks when Elvis sang something more sentimental, clutching the microphone close to his lips and staggering around the stage.
Even when he recited tenderly a few lines of "That's When Your Heartache Begins," he was drowned out by the crowd.
As he sang "Love Me," girls throughout the Arena stood up and stretched out their arms toward the stage. Elvis grinned and kept singing.
There was little disturbance, except for the earsplitting screaming. Policemen stopped a few girls from rushing down the aisles on several occasions. One girl in black slacks, bright red sweater and black leather motorcycle jacket had to be led so the rear after neither police nor her friends could restrain her from rushing forward, arms outstretched.
The less violent beat time with hands or feet, or watched through field glasses which were selling at $1 per pair.
Some held their hands to the sides of their heads as though the ecstasy of seeing Elvis was sweetly painful. One girl stopped screaming, sat down and wept quietly as Elvis concluded his concert with "You Ain't Nothing but a Hound Dog."

Extra Police

There were more than 83 plainclothes policemen and eight policewomen inside the Arena, and over 50 uniformed officers keeping order outside and in the subway trains.
Even Elvis, asked what he thought of the Philadelphia crowd, admitted "They're kinda wild."
But wouldn't he just once like his audience to stop screaming and listen to him?
"Ah likes things the way they are," he drawled. "It covers up the mistakes."

The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin - April 6, 1957 courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia

Scotty, DJ, Elvis and Bill onstage at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo by Robert Coldwell courtesy Ger J.Rijff Jan Van Gestel*

DJ and Elvis onstage at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo courtesy Elvis Album

DJ, Elvis and Bill onstage at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo source unknown

Fans react to Elvis at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
AP Photo by Bill Ingraham courtesy The Telegraph

Scotty, Elvis, DJ and Bill onstage at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo courtesy eBay

Neal Matthews, Gordon Stoker, Elvis and Scotty at the Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo source unknown

Gordon Stoker, DJ, Elvis and Bill onstage at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo source unknown

Bedlam at the Arena
Elvis Rocks, His Fans Roll

Elvis Presley made his Philadelphia debut last night by singing to himself as several thousand teenage followers drowned out his voice with frenzied applause for their idol's bumps and grinds. The man with the runaway sideburns kept the bobby-soxers waiting nearly an hour while chatting with the press in his dressing room before walking onstage at the Arena to touch off an explosion of pent-up emotions that rocked a considerable area of surrounding West Philadelphia.

He was nearly blinded, however, when he threw his first half-nelson on the microphone and more than 200 youngsters stood up in their seats and banged away at him with flash cameras.
From then until he completed the first of two appearances last night it was one continuous intermingling of squeals, screams and shrieks - all in high C - foot stomping, hand-clasping and occasionally discernable cries of "Oh, you, Elvis!"
Even the star’s popular :Heartbreak Hotel" was submerged in the frenzy which gripped his audience, the majority of which was comprised of girls.

Elvis and Bill onstage at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo by Robert Coldwell courtesy Ger J.Rijff Jan Van Gestel*

Bill and Elvis onstage at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo by Robert Coldwell courtesy Ger J.Rijff Jan Van Gestel*

Elvis, Scotty and DJ onstage at the Philadelphia Arena - April 5, 1957
Photo source unknown

However, they seemed to like him. even though they couldn't hear him.
Elvis arrived in the city sometime during the day but his whereabouts before 7 P. M. was a secret guarded by his manager, Col. Tom Parker, an ex-medicine man.
Sixty reporters, photographers and radio men were on hand to greet the 22-year-old singer when he appeared at the Arena surrounded by four outsize city detectives. Somehow, all crowded into the confines of the dressing room where powerful Klieg lights were focused on an empty chair while Presley waited outside the door biting his fingernails. He were a black suit and open-neck black velvet shirt complemented by white socks and while buckskin shoes.

Finally, with the impatient wails of the rock 'n' rollers in the main auditorium ringing in his ears and at least a dozen tape-recorder microphones thrust into his face, the entertainer billed as "Mr. Dynamite" settled into the empty chair for his interview.
"I don’t know,’ he said candidly, "whether I am going to last. My future is uncertain but I simply take one day at a time and take whatever comes with each."
As the 22·year·old ex-truck driver leaned forward to respond to questions, a silver and gold medallion, roughly the size of a coffee cup saucer, popped out of his shirt front. It hung from a golden chain about his neck.

Elvis Is Greeted By Din, Squeals

"That?" he said. "It was given to me last Thursday night in Ottawa. What its significance is I wouldn’t know?
The giver, he said, was a girl fan. This led to a question concerning a possible romantic interest in his life. Elvis replied: "There is none——period."
"However," he observed, “I have only one qualification for a wife. That she be a female"
With reporters, detectives and press agents sweltering under the lights, Presley halted proceedings to accept a small brown-and white teddy bear from Jeanne Mount, 14, of 1717 S. 56th St.
“Thank you," he said as she thrust the toy into his hands.
He said his hobby is collecting stuffed animals and his collection now numbers more than 200.
Among other things, Presley said he owned eight automobiles including "three little o' bitty" sport cars, that he’s always nervous onstage and that he spends most of his leisure time on the road watching TV and at home "shooting pool with my Pappy."

The Philadelphia Inquirer - April 6, 1957 courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia

The reviews for the second night's show were as follows:


Inquirer Ad - April 6, 1957
courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia

Neal Matthews and Elvis onstage - 1957
Photo by Harris Radin source David English

Elvis Egged at Arena- 'Gittar' Gets the Yolk

While teen-age girls went to the Elvis Presley show at the Arena last night to shout, squirm and gyrate, four Villanova University male students attended for still another reason—to pelt the performer with eggs.
Lt. John Ford. of the Juvenile Aid Bureau, said Presley was doing a number at 9:40 P. M, when a barrage of eggs sailed toward the stage. There were no direct hits.
About five of the eggs splashed on the stage. Another struck the gold - clad performer's "gittar" which was on the floor.
The egg found its way inside the instrument and put it out of commission for 10 minutes while musicians labored backstage to clean it up.
Presley called the thrower an "idiot" and announced, "I'm ready for him any time."
Ford asked the spectators where the eggs came from. Numerous fingers readily pointed at the four students.
In the pocket of one, William Quinn, 20, of New York City, Ford said he found a still unthrown egg. It was seized for evidence.
Quinn and his companions—_William B. Oates. 21, of Brooklyn; James Stark. 20. of Greenport, N.Y.; and John Eidt, 20, of New York City——were hustled out of the Arena and to the 55th and Pine sts. station.
They were charged with disorderly conduct and will have a hearing this morning before Magistrate William Cibotti.

Police handled still another case arising from the show, but this was of an entirely different nature.
It seemed that Marion Shanhart, 14; of Rochester, N, Y., had $14 and a yen for Presley. Leaving her home at 4 A. M., she arrived in Philadelphia 13 hours later by
bus with just enough left to buy a ticket for the show.
After the show, she gave up to police. A policewoman called her parents who arranged to get her this morning. She spent the night in the Hearth, a girls' shelter, at 5th and Pine sts.

The Philadelphia Inquirer - April 7, 1957 courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia

Tossed Egg Misses Elvis
Hits Guitar Player As Girls Scream

Of The Bulletin Staff

Elvis Presley, was throwing 5,329 people into a frenzy at the Arena last night when and egg came sailing at him from the balcony.
The egg missed him by a good three- feet, and landed with a splash on the guitar of Scotty Moore, one of three instrumental accompanists.
Presley's sideburned face darkened into a frown, but he managed to finish his song, "All Shook Up."
"He got egg on his guitar," Presley told the audience. "Whoever threw that will never make the Yankees."

Screaming Girls Point
The master of the grind and the bump, by this time, appeared to be "all shook up" himself a little.
Turning to the audience, he said again:
"Most of you people came here to enjoy the show. The guy who threw the egg will never make it."
His blue eyes flashing, Presley turned toward the direction from which the egg came and remarked with emphasis: "I mean it, Jack. We're just trying to put on a nice show."
By this time, police were racing up the balcony, where a group of screaming girls were pointing to four youths.

Biggest Crowd
"That's them! That's them!" the girls yelled.
The cops grabbed the four youths. One had an egg in his pocket. Several other eggs were found trampled under their feet.
The four youths were hustled out of the Arena, at 46th and Market sts., and taken to the 55th and Pine sts. police station where they were slated on disorderly conduct charges.
The egg throwing incident was the only unforeseen occurrence in Presley's final appearance which drew the biggest crowd of his two-day stand here.

More Couples Attend
By actual count, 5,329 people were in the Arena, which normally accommodates about 6,500.
Last night's audience seemed to be generally somewhat older than the fans who streamed into the arena on Friday and yesterday afternoon.
There were more couples on dates, and more parents with children. But there was hundreds of teen-age girls, too, and they accompanied Presley with customary ear-piercing shrieks.
For his final appearance, Presley, a one-time truck driver, wore a gold braided jacket with white sequins on the cuffs, pockets and lapels. He also wore a white, satin shirt, black pants and gold shoes.

Some Even Cry
As he strode onto the stage for the start of his performance, the audience went wild with screams. Hundreds of camera flash bulbs went off.
From time to time as Presley warmed up to his act, many of the girls went into hysterics. Some burst into tears.
After the show ended at 10:15 P.M. about 20 policemen rushed Presley off the stage and into a waiting automobile parked at the curb on 45th st.
Fifty girls watched their idol being hustled into the car and fought to get near him. They yelled and rushed the police, attracting groups of other girls who came running.
As the car drove off, escorted by the police in another car, the mob of girls gave chase. They ran for more than a block, then gave up.

Deny Egg Throwing
The four youths arrested in the egg throwing incident gave their names as William F. Quinn, 20, and John E. Eidt, 20, both of New York City; William B. Oates, 21, of Brooklyn, and James Stark, 20, of Jamesport, Long Island. They said that they were Villanova University students.
All denied that they threw the egg, although Quinn admitted that he carried an egg in his pocket, which the police found.
"We don't like Elvis," Quinn said. "But we went to see what he is like. He is repulsive. He's alright for the teen-agers. The egg was thrown from behind us. I think it came from some Penn students."
A policeman in the station house had a final say in the affair.
"The only thing I'm mad about," he said, "is that they missed Elvis."

The Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin - April 7, 1957 courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia

Elvis 'Yeggs' Land Sunny Side Up

Four Villanova University students, arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after they allegedly hurled six raw eggs at Elvis Presley during an Arena performance Saturday night, were released with a warning by Magistrate William A. Cibotti at a hearing yesterday in the 55th and Pine sts. station.
The four, who were given a lecture on public behavior, are: William Quinn, 20, of New York City; William B. Oates, 21, of Brooklyn; James Stark. 20. of Greenport, N. Y., and John Eidt, 20, of New York City. Police said the eggs missed Presley, but one "gummed up" the guitar of an accompanist, causing a brief delay in the show.

The Philadelphia Inquirer - April 8, 1957 courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia


Man About Town
By Frank Brookhouser

THAT GUITAR STRUMMING, hip-swinging, hillbilly Elvis Presley left his imprint on the town over the weekend and there was little doubt about where he stands with one segment of out youthful citizenry.
He doesn't occupy such a lofty position, however, with still another branch-the members of the Germantown Boys Club. As part of the Boys' Club Week activities last week, the organization polled 400 of its members on their opinion of Presley.
Close to 75 per cent of the boys, who are from nine to 14 years old, turned thumbs down on the national teenage rage. A few were undecided about his virtues or vice versa. The rest approved.
Those who disapproved didn't hedge at all. Some of the comments:
"He's just a big boy who's never grown up," noted one 14-year-old. "I think he wiggles too much and the girls are nuts to like him," said an 11-year-old. "He's a terrible singer," said a third. And perhaps the unkindest cut of all: "He needs a haircut."
In Presley's favor, there were comments like these:
"He is just a young star-trying to put on a show." "He wiggles real good." "He hasn't done anything to me, and its not wrong to make money."

The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin - April 8, 1957 courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia

Elvis Assailed As 'Golden Calf'

A Philadelphia pastor had a word for Elvis Presley Yesterday: A Biblical Golden Calf.
But he had more than just a mouthful for Presley's hero-worshipping young followers. And for their parents, too.
The Rev. W. Carter Merbreier, pastor of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, 628 N. Broad St.. was most articulate on the subject.
He observed, first-hand, Elvis' one-man. two-day "riot" at the Arena as a delegate of the Police Juvenile Aid Bureau.

THE REV. MERBREIER was a bit unhappy about his seat. He was surrounded, he reported, by a group of "nervous, giggling girls who went so far as to even kiss the hand that shook the hand."
On teen-agers generally (those whose emotions he observed), the Rev. Merbreier waxed eloquent. Ht saw them:
“Screaming, falling to their knees as if in prayer, flopping limply over seats, stretching rigidly, wriggling in a supreme effort of ecstasy."
Juke like Moses coming down from Sinai and finding the children of Israel in religious emotion before the Golden Calf.

TURNING to their parents, he had these words:
"To condemn these teen-agers is to more strongly condemn those idiotic parents who would permit their children to participate in such an emotional orgy.
"Indeed, any parent that would allow a daughter to leave the house dressed, without regard for dignity and even morality, as were some of these youngsters, should have their heads examined."

THEN CAME the clincher--the Rev. Merbreier's estimate of Elvis' performance. Said he:
"A mere flick of this boy's thumb increased a shattering sound which seemed unincreasable. By leaning his body to the right or to the left, he brought forth a new burst of frenzy. Every act and gesture of the girls in the arena were, without question, forms of actual worship."
The Rev. Merbreier rested his case.

The Philadelphia Daily News - April 9, 1957 courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia

Several months later, WFIL talked the ABC Television Network into a five week trial for Bandstand, commencing in August of 1957, as a summer replacement show at which time it was renamed American Bandstand and was an immediate national hit.8 The following year the Arena was purchased by a group headed by Tyrrell.  Elvis, Scotty, Bill and DJ would perform on two more short tours that year and then Elvis was drafted.

Dick Clark on American Bandstand, Elvis in Germany
Photos courtesy Dick Clark Productions and MBC, EPE, Inc. - Interview courtesy KOOLFM

Elvis never formally appeared on any incarnation of Bandstand though in early 1959, around January while stationed in Germany, he conversed with Dick Clark over the phone for American Bandstand.  In the conversation Dick mentioned that in the annual American Bandstand popularity poll the kids voted Elvis the favorite male vocalist along with favorite record of the year for 1958.  The show celebrated its second anniversary on ABC the following August 5th with another phone call with Elvis on  American Bandstand.

NY Times ad for 2nd Anniversary American Bandstand broadcast - Aug 5, 1959

[Dick Clark] Hello, Elvis?
Hello, Dick, how are you?
[D.C.] Fine to talk to you. We've had a little trouble getting through to Germany. But finally glad that we could make it.
I guess the lines were. . . were kind of busy, uh?
[D.C.] I imagine so, and I would imagine they' ve got you kind of busy these days, don’t they?
Oh yeah, well we're gettin’ ready for a big inspection. A new inspection, so we’ve been workin’ pretty hard for that.
[D.C.] Elvis, so many of us here are interested in your activities and I think probably the big question on most people’s minds these days are when and if and everything goes right, you’re out in February, what will be your plans?
Well as you know I have a contract with ABC.
[D.C.] Uh-huh, the ABC Television Network.
Yes, that's true. . for some television. I don’t know exactly what it will consist of yet. I don't know what Colonel Parker has arranged.
[D.C.] Um-mm.
Or what kind of program [it] will be. And then I have the three pictures to make; one for Mr. [Hal] Wallis, and then the other two for Twentieth Century-Fox.
[D.C.] Those are the three motion pictures?
Yes, uh-huh.

[D.C.] Elvis, I’ve got some good news. I imagine by now they've passed the word along to you. With the latest RCA Victor recording out, “[A Big] Hunk O` Love" and “My Wish Came True," you got yourself another Gold Record to add to the collection.
That's great, Dick. That sure is nice. I was surprised to hear it, really.
[D.C.] I’ll tell you what. We're gonna show it to the folks here on American Bandstand, then I'll forward it down to Colonel Tom Parker, and he can save it for you when you come back.
Okay, that’ll be fine.
[D.C.] Elvis, do you have any idea of how many Gold Records you have now in your collection?
To my knowledge, Dick.. .this one will make thirty-one, I think.
[D.C.] Boy, that is a fantastic record. There's no getting away from it.
I’ll ask my daddy to go down and (laughs) and recount them to make sure (laughs).
[D.C.] (Laughs.) Well alright, we’ll get the latest count then.
[D.C.] Elvis, one more quick question that might interest the gals in this country. I know probably you don’t have too much to yourself but when you go out amongst the German people, what is the thing that strikes you as most interesting? Are they very different than the people back home?
No. The main difference is naturally the language barrier there. It's kinda hard to talk to most of 'em, especially older ones because a lot of 'em don’t speak English at all and I don’t speak any German.
[D.C.] How do you find the reaction of young people toward you...mainly the girls? Do they know who you are and so forth?
Well it's, ah (laughs), that's kind of a hard question.
[D.C.] That’s real difficult. It’s a leading question, Elvis, because I know, of course as I guess everybody else does, that they go pretty crazy for you. Do you get along well with them?
Yeah, I get along real well. Every day when I finish work and I come in, well there's always a lot of people at the gate, from all over Germany, you know.
[D.C.] Uh-huh.
And they bring their families. Especially on weekends, I have a lot of visitors here from all over Germany. . .all over Europe in fact. They come here and bring pictures and take pictures and everything.
[D.C.] Must be a fairly exciting thing that’s happened.

Yeah it is. It's kind of exciting trying to keep up with that life plus the Army life too, you know (laughs).
[D.C.] I imagine. You're kind of a man torn between two careers, both of which are very, very important. Elvis, I did want to thank you very much for calling on this day. As you probably know, this is our special anniversary day.
Oh, well congratulations! How many years it make, Dick?
[D.C.] And many, many thanks and we all look forward to your return.
Thank you very much. You don’t know how I'm looking forward to my return.
[D.C.] Elvis again, thank you for calling...and bye-bye.
Bye-bye, Dick.

courtesy "Elvis Word for Word" by Jerry Osborne

Elvis would return to Philadelphia to perform several times in the '70s with the TCB band, but not to the Arena.  Those appearances however were a bit better received.

Tyrrell kept the Arena until retiring in 1965 at which time it was sold at auction to James Toppi Enterprises, a sports promotion concern. The year before, 1964, WFIL-TV had moved from their 46th & Market Street location to new facilities in Philadelphia and production of American Bandstand, along with Dick Clark moved from Philadelphia to the ABC Television Center in Los Angeles. Clark hosted American Bandstand on ABC until 1989.7

Williams vs. Terrell (2nd meeting) at the Arena - April 13, 1963
courtesy Peltz Boxing Memorabilia

In 1967 the Spectrum in Philadelphia opened which became the new popular venue for large acts and sporting events, though both Jimi Hendrix and The Doors would perform at the Arena in 1968. The Arena had housed numerous basketball and hockey teams through the years, but it was best was probably best remembered for boxing. Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Frazier, and Gene Tunney all fought there.8

Posters for Jimmie Hendrix, and the Doors at the Arena - Mar 31 and Aug 4, 1968
Ads courtesy Wolfgang's Vault and web

In 1968, the FCC established a "one to a market" which effectively prevented companies from owning newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same market though several were "grandfathered" in. Unfortunately, Annenberg's cluster of the Inquirer, Daily News (purchased in 1957) and WFIL-AM-FM-TV, was not. In 1969, he sold the Inquirer and the Daily News and by 1971 after complaints from Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp against him, was forced by the FCC to sell WFIL and his other broadcasting properties.7

The Philadelphia Arena - June 10, 1977
Bulletin Photo by Michael J. Maicher © Temple University Libraries

Though the building fell out of popular use in the '70s it saw some life with championship wrestling matches, both for the NWA and the WWWF. Stan "The Man" Stasiak actually won the WWWF championship belt there in 1973, at that point the only time the belt ever changed hands outside of Madison Square Garden.2 In 1977 the building was again sold at auction and by 1980 had fallen into a state of disrepair.

The Philadelphia Arena - June 10, 1977
Bulletin Photo by Michael J. Maicher © Temple University Libraries

In 1980, Mark Stewart, formerly the business manager for the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers, in a money laundering scheme persuaded Larry Levin, who had made his millions in selling drugs, to purchase the Arena and the minor league Lancaster Red Roses of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA). He moved them into his new arena, renamed the Martin Luther King, Jr. Arena and named the team the Kings.9

The Philadelphia Arena - June 22, 1977
Bulletin Photo by Richard Rosenberg © Temple University Libraries

At the end of the 1980-81 CBA season, the franchise and the arena had become a financial sinkhole. The team was sold and relocated back to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where it became known as the Lancaster Lightning. Lavin and his partners stopped giving money to Stewart who subsequently botched a plan to burn down the arena on October 4th. The blaze only destroyed the building’s roof. Damaged and vacant it sat unoccupied until August of 1983 when a second suspected arson finally burned the building to the ground.9

View of Townhouses along Market St. in Philadelphia - 2011
Photo © Google Streetview

View of Townhouses at 45th and Market St. in Philadelphia - 2011
Photo © Google Streetview

Both Stewart and Lavin eventually went to jail, for numerous offenses.9 Today the property at 46th and Market where the Arena once stood is now a townhouse complex. The adjacent studio building has since seen other use uses.

4530Market.jpg (237377 bytes)
Aerial View of former Arena and studio property in Philadelphia - 2010
Photo © Microsoft Earthdata

Page added December 30, 2011

All ads and articles courtesy of the Free Library of Philadelphia, except where noted. Special thanks to David English for accumulating many photos of the Philadelphia appearance, several of which were used here. *The proper Photo credit for these, where noted, are courtesy David English.

1 according to Ice Palace Opens Feb. 5 courtesy New York Times - January 20, 1920
2 according to wikipedia: Philadelphia Arena
3 according to Flyers History - Philadelphia Quakers
4. according to What jerseys should the Flyers wear in the 2012 Winter Classic? by Travis Hughes courtesy Broad Street Hockey
5 according to or excerpt from Charles A. Lindbergh: A Human Hero by James Cross Giblin
6 according to or excerpt from Charles Lindbergh - An American Aviator
7 according to Billboard Magazine various issues
8 according to or excerpt from American Bandstand - WFIL AM/FM/TV history
9 according to or excerpt from Philly Sports History and Fun While It Lasted


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