When it was announced last week that Hara Arena in Dayton was closing its doors, I would guess that not too many young people thought much about it, unless they had gone there for some kind of computer show.
But way, way back in time when I was in high school, Hara Arena was the place to go.
It was the early 1970s, and there was no Nutter Center and no Rose Music Center. UD Arena was brand new. When a big name band came to town, it played at Hara.
I remember going to my first concert at Hara. I guess you could say my first rock concert was a full throttle experience. It was Black Sabbath. The opening act was Black Oak Arkansas.
We sat right in front of the speakers and they played “Iron Man” multiple times. My hearing has never been the same since.
Going to Hara was a big deal. We had Hobart Arena in Troy, but back then Hobart really didn’t do concerts. Yes, I know, Elvis came to Hobart in 1956 but I was not quite eight months old at the time so I missed that one. By the early 70s, Hobart was all about ice skating and basketball.
But Hara attracted all the bands you heard on the radio. I remember going to see Yes and Spirit there as well as some other bands. It was always an experience, since in the early 70s the security approach to concerts was to let everything go unless it became a fight.
In fact, that whole end of Dayton was a big drawing card for people from Miami County. The Salem Mall was the mall of choice … the Dayton Mall was new and places like Fairfield Commons and The Greene were still corn fields. We would go to the Salem Mall a lot and look in our favorite store, The Chess King. We also went to places like Spencer’s, which we thought was cool but eventually found out really wasn’t about making a social statement as much as finding new ways to separate teenagers from their money. And we went to the record stores, of course, where you could get the latest Jethro Tull or Wishbone Ash album. This was when you actually bought vinyl discs and put them on your stereo with speakers the size of a Volkswagen attached. Those were the days.
It was at the Salem Mall where I had the perfect pizza. There was a Cassano’s on the back side of the mall and my girlfriend and I stopped there one night for a pizza. We were really hungry and somehow they got it just right. I’ve never had another pizza like it. Of course, it could have been all about the girl. That pizza store is long gone but I still have the same girlfriend. She has outlasted the Salem Mall and now even Hara Arena.
Hara started out as a ballroom in 1956 and added an arena in 1964, long after Hobart Arena was built. I went to a few hockey games at Hara, but I was a lousy skater so I really didn’t have much interest. I think it’s interesting that for quite a while Hara eclipsed places like Hobart. But here we are in 2016 and Hobart is still going strong and even undergoing an addition, while Hara is going under.
Part of that is because Hobart is the big fish in a small pond. Hara started out as a big fish but ended being eaten by the big sharks that eventually were built in Dayton. No one is going to build another arena in Troy.
Another part of it is that Hobart is owned by the city of Troy and has had city support over the years, while Hara was family owned and was the object of ongoing court battles for decades.
True, Hobart is never going to attract the Rolling Stones like Hara did, but it seems to have found its niche and probably even will pick up a little business now that Hara is closing.
I can’t tell you the last time I was in that part of Dayton — maybe when my children were young and they thought Children’s Palace, the toy store located next to the mall, was the closest thing to heaven on Earth. I haven’t even been to Hara Arena in years.
I guess I won’t be going back now. It was kind of ironic that the same week Hara announced its closing I came across a brochure from somewhere that included a concert date for Black Oak Arkansas, one of the groups from that first concert. Maybe for old time’s sake and in memory of Hara Arena I should take in an encore almost 45 years later.
No, maybe not. Some memories are better left undisturbed.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]