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Culture Couch is WYSO's occasional series exploring the arts and culture scene in our community. It’s stories about creativity – told through creative audio storytelling.

Miami Valley Residents Bid Farewell, Share Memories of Hara Arena

Hara Arena hosted many events over the years including Hamvention
Flickr Creative Commons
Hara Arena hosted many events over the years including Hamvention

If you have a ticket to go to Hara Arena Saturday August 27 for the Comic and Toy Show,  you have a ticket to the historic complex’s last event ever. For 60 years, Hara’s various buildings have hosted sporting events, concerts, gun shows and the annual Dayton Hamvention. People in the Dayton area are on a first name basis with Hara, and as Community Voices Producer Lauren Shows found out, they have a lot to say about it.

It seems all you have to do is mention Hara Arena, and Dayton-area folks will come out of the woodwork with stories. I meet Pat Moorman at the Fairborn Sweet Corn Festival, and he tells me he worked the penalty box for hockey games at Hara for 22 years. His personal history with Hara goes back even further.

"I went to my first hockey game in 1969, I remember getting a hockey puck, and that was always great fun," says Pat.  "Most of my memories of Hara are from a hockey perspective. And the thing that’s great about Hara, and watching hockey at other places, at Hara you were right there. There was no glass, no wire, anything at first, the players were just right there, and so it really put you right in the action."

Pat’s brother, Chris Moorman, stops by, and people stop to listen as he adds his own memories of up-close action at Hara in the 70s.

"The game, I think it was in the first period, and the puck came flying into the penalty box, I thought I was going to die. It missed me by a fraction of an inch, and then I finally realized what I’d gotten myself into," he says. "Another thing I remember is the 10 cent beer nights. For a dollar you could have 10 16 ounce beers. Everybody would get drunk and there would be fights everywhere. Then they’d start harassing the hockey players, and the hockey players would come up in the stands fighting with the people in the stands, so it was very, very rowdy back in the day."

After the Sweet Corn Festival, I head to Wilmington, where Marianne Adams tells me about the Hara complex’s grand beginnings. She says she went to a party in Hara’s first building, the ballroom, soon after it opened in the late 50s.

"My husband and I went there for a New Year’s Eve. And I can remember that they had big bands there, but I can’t remember now who they are, because I’m 86! But we had a good time, and we danced a lot. I think we had to take our own drinks, or something. It was a nice crowd that would go there. I don’t know how it might have ended up after all these years."

Marianne’s niece, Susan Gray, chimes in, too, and says she first visited Hara in the early 70s, to see a teen idol:

Susan: My dad took me and two of my middle school friends to a concert there, Bobby Sherman. And he took us up to the door, gave us money for refreshments and all that. My recollection was that he then just went back to the car and waited. All these years, I just thought that was so sweet. And then just a couple of days ago I found out that he actually went down to the Elks Lodge and waited on us. Of course it was mostly high school kids, and we were a little bit younger, but we thought we were just so cool. Then I found out Bobby Sherman, even though he was super cute, really was kind of old. But we didn’t care, we still loved him anyway.

I’m at Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, and at the checkout counter, there’s a stack of cards advertising the Comic and Toy Show, Hara’s final event. The store’s manager, Jared Whittaker, tells me his first memory of Hara Arena is tinged with childhood fear:

Jared: It was 1986, and my dad took me to see then WWF wrestling. Greg “Hammer” Valentine and Brutus Beefcake vs. the British Bulldogs in a steel cage. And as a kid I was freaking out because I was thinking that blood was going to splatter on me and scar me for life.

Jared returned to Hara many more times. He saw Nirvana play there, the Beastie Boys, Rob Zombie, Tori Amos, Nine Inch Nails. He says Hara wasn’t the most state-of-the-art facility during his time there, but that it was all part of Hara’s charm:   

Jared: It was a grimy hall. Security was sparse enough that if I didn’t have a ticket to get on the floor, I could sneak on the floor. It was an ice skating rink underneath so, if you fall down during a show, you’re basically falling down on ice. But at the same time it’s like, so what? I had a lot of fun there and it’s from a bygone era because there aren’t places like that anymore.

I hope to make it out to the Hara’s last hurrah on Saturday, where a lot more stories are still waiting to be told.