St. Michael's Hall
Cleveland, Ohio

The building that was St. Michael's Hall at 10004 Union Ave. Cleveland
Photo manipulation to resemble c1950s appearance

Not to be confused with the St. Michael's Catholic Church in Cleveland, the St. Michael's church that resided in Cleveland at 10000 Union Avenue was a Russian Orthodox Church who's history began after the turn of the century on the east side of Cleveland when "large groups of Russian, Carpatho-Russian and other Eastern Slav immigrants poured into the Cleveland area looking for work in the steel mills, clothing factories and in a thriving coastal port." Originally members of St. John the Baptist Church, they separated from the "Unia Faith (or Eastern Rite Roman Catholics)" and in 1922 founded the Archangel Michael Church.  They completed construction of their own church building in 1927 on the property purchased at 10000 Union Avenue.1  That same year the Rev." Fr. Vladimir Prislopsky and many far-sighted laymen and clergy organized the Federated Russian Orthodox Clubs (F.R.O.C) as a national organization uniting Orthodox Christians in faith, fellowship and service."2

F.R.O.C. Conference - date unknown
Photo courtesy F.O.C.A.

Under the direction of the Rev. Fr. Prislopsky, who was assigned to the parish in 1933, the parish flourished and a social hall with an auditorium and bowling alleys was built at 10004 Union Ave, next to the church. In addition to use by the parish, the hall was also rented out for use by the public and several of Cleveland's first rock-n-roll shows were said to have taken place there.

Pat Boone ca. 1955
Photo courtesy Goldmine Magazine

On the night of October 20, 1955, Elvis, Scotty and Bill performed there on a bill that featured acts filmed earlier that day at the Brooklyn High School Auditorium by Cleveland DeeJay, Bill Randle.  The other acts were said to include Pat Boone, Bill Haley and the Comets, The Four Lads and Priscilla Wright. Elvis, Scotty and Bill had performed in Cleveland the previous evening at the Circle theater with Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells.

Elvis on stage at St. Michael's Hall - Oct 20, 1955
Photo Bill Randle Collection courtesy "The King on the Road"

In 1980, Randle told Cleveland reporter Jane Scotty, "We went to St. Michael's Hall at E. 100th and Union and shot a concert for 1,000 there that night. It was something like an Agora show." 3  Peter Guralnick wrote that unlike the scene at the high school, where the kids were restrained by the looming presence of their teachers (the athletic director, Mr. joy, held the doors to keep the students away from Pat Boone), here the girls screamed without restraint and fought to get to Elvis and Boone as they performed. When Presley broke the strings on his guitar, Randle said, and then smashed the guitar on the floor, "it was mass hysteria. We needed police to get him out of the hall, clothes torn, a sleeve ripped from his jacket. Boone also got the same response." 4

Elvis backstage at St. Michael's Hall (Mary Ann and Nancy at far right) - Oct 20, 1955
Photo by Tommy Edwards courtesy Christopher Kennedy

Randle's recollections or embellishments are evidently a bit of an overstatement.  First of all, Elvis didn't smash his or any other guitar that evening.  Secondly, no police were needed to get him out and as photos from the evening show he was actually very approachable.  The hall itself was a very small place and likely couldn't seat a thousand people.  At 17 years old, Nancy Piechota (then Nancy Durica) was a senior at Lourdes Academy in Cleveland.  She used to listen to Bill Randle on WERE and after hearing on the radio that Pat Boone was going to be appearing at St. Michaels, she, along with her friend, Mary Ann Zurwell, drove across town to attend the show.

Elvis backstage at St. Michael's Hall - Oct 20, 1955
Photo courtesy Nancy Piechota

Of all the acts said to have performed there that evening, Nancy only remembers Pat Boone and Elvis performing.  In 1997 she told her story to Country Weekly. "We were there to see Pat Boone," admits Nancy. "We had no idea who Elvis was. Nobody did. I'll bet there were no more than 300 people in that room. “After the concert, Mary Ann and I slipped backstage with no trouble. Pat Boone might have had security, but Elvis sure didn't. Needless to say, our photo soon became a hot item with our Friends at Lourdes Academy and Marymount High School - everyone wanted copies.  We saw him once more in Cleveland, when he was a much bigger star, but this is the concert I remember because it was so personal." Nancy still has the autograph she got from Elvis when she took the photo. 

El Haza Temple # 28 & Grenadier Club - Sep 2008

Fr. Prislopsky ran the parish until his death in 1970. Overtime most of the parishioners had relocated to surrounding suburbs. By 1977 the Union Avenue location was sold and the parish relocated and constructed a church on  new property ten miles south of downtown Cleveland in the suburb of Broadview Heights where it resides today led by the Rev. Fr. John Memorich, the Rector since 1996.

Stage at St. Michael's (El Hasa Temple) - April 9, 2009
Photo courtesy Robert Alexander

Fr. Memorich said, "although we eventually transplanted the parish to our new local in Broadview Heights, the original church building and parish hall are still standing at 10000 Union Ave. Some of our older parishioners were at Elvis' concert and remarked that, "he was the first person I ever saw who wore a pink shirt." I have been contacted on numerous occasions as to the whereabouts of a film that was supposedly shot of this event. The film, I am told, is still one of the "holy grails" of Elvishood."

View of Auditorium from the stage at St. Michael's (El Hasa Temple) - April 9, 2009
Photo courtesy Robert Alexander

He added, "one interesting piece of trivia: because his show seemed to be such a success with the youth, Elvis' agent asked our hall manager if he could book a second night. The hall manager, looking around at all of the screaming kids said, "Nah....I don't think so." This gives us the distinct honor of not only being one of the very first venues for Elvis, but also probably one of the first to turn him down also!"

the rear of El Haza Temple # 28 & Grenadier Club - Sep 2008

Today, the original church and parish hall are still in use. The church at 10000 Union Ave is now the "Wings of Deliverance Faith Temple" and the hall at 10004 is now the El Hasa Temple #28 - Grenadier Club, and the Bezaleel Consistory No. 15, fraternal members of the Shriner's Organization.  The building still has the bowling alley in the basement, though the basketball hoops are gone from the auditorium the stage is still there and, and as in 1955, is occasionally rented out for functions.

El Haza Temple # 28 & Grenadier Club - Sep 2008

Aerial Photos courtesy Microsoft Corporation © EathData

page added April 10, 2009
(updated with Christopher Kennedy Photo July 14, 2011)

Special thanks to Nancy Piechota, Fr. John Memorich, Raymond Blair and Robert Alexander for their input and assistance.

Be sure to check out 1950s Radio in Color: The Lost Photographs of Deejay Tommy Edwards.

1 courtesy Archangel Michael Church Broadview Heights, OH
2 history courtesy Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America
3 excerpt from "Elvis Movie is Missing" by Jane Scott - The Plain Dealer May 4, 1980
4 excerpt from  "Last Train to Memphis" by Peter Guralnick
5 courtesy Country Weekly  August 1997


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