Memories from the Auditorium
We are doing lots of fun digging into the social history of the Auditorium these days, looking for memories and interesting stories that are buried in the archives and people’s memories. We know a good deal about the building itself - but we are really interested in finding out more about people’s connections to the grand space over the years. Did you celebrate the High Holidays there? Did you attend a particularly memorable concert there? How about a wrestling match? Basketball game? We’d love to hear your personal stories about The Aud. Share them below in the comments or email us at email@example.com
We are thankful for our friends at the Worcester Historical Museum and the Worcester Public Library for their recent help! We are so lucky to have these institutions in our fair city.
Here are a few fun story snippets we’ve been collecting over the past months.
Jake Sanders had the chance to connect with local hero Bob Cousy earlier this year - a big one for the Boston Celtics legend. The 94 year-old was honored as part of the NBA 75 in February, and recently helped open the second season of baseball at Polar Park.
Cousy has a lot of fond memories of the Worcester Auditorium, starting when the Holy Cross Crusaders made the move there after playing their games at South High School for many years. Cousy remembers this as a really big deal: suddenly, they could have an audience of 3,000, with a few hundred more fans in the Little Theater.
Another fun memory? In 1950, Cousy finally answered the local call to put up a team against local famed basketball star, Ziggy Strzelecki, a Clark alumni and a local teacher with a big reputation. The local press had been pestering Cousy to play Ziggy for years - sure that the Holy Cross star had nothing on Strzelecki. It turns out that Cousy vs Ziggy was a hot ticket - they sold out two nights of basketball. No word on who came out on top.
A few years later, Cousy returned to the Auditorium with the Boston Celtics, who were interested in testing the waters in Worcester. Cousy remembers it wasn’t as big of a draw as the Ziggy Strzelecki games.
Picture this: it’s 1975, you’re a college student at one of the many Worcester schools. A Bob Dylan promoter pushes a handbill into your hands - Bob Dylan will be playing a show at the Worcester Auditorium next week for $8.50 a ticket. Joan Baez will be opening the show. As the Telegram reported: “Dylan would be doing a tour of the Northeast at the smaller auditoriums and coffee houses to ‘play for the people, the ones who never get to see him.” The show sold out in 5 hours.
Our favorite bit from this blurb? This quote from Cliff Robertson, manager of the Auditorium:
“I don’t know this fellow Dylan. And I’m 63 now and not about to learn. But somebody told me he could even fill an auditorium with 10,000 seats.”
And here’s a bonus: Bob Dylan, singing Hurricane, at the Worcester Auditorium at that very concert. How about those acoustics!?
Another fun find from the archives: in 1956, the Worcester Auditorium played host to a Fats Domino concert that apparently had the police force on edge. Reports from other concerts around the country had been coming in that Fats Domino’s brand of rock n’ roll was so exciting that his young crowds often took to the aisles to dance - a big no no at the time.
From the Worcester Gazette:
“One young man leaped into an aisle and gave a demonstration of Elvis Presley’s shivers that was surprising in its accuracy. Another group in the rear of the hall, thwarted from dancing in the aisles, pushed rows of seats to one side so they could dance within the circle of seats formed. But the police eventually got in there too… When it was all over, the officers must have enjoyed their signs of relief. One said he dreaded to think what might have happened if Fats played another 15 minutes.”
Architectural Heritage Foundation (AHF) is working to preserve and redevelop the Worcester Memorial Auditorium as a cutting-edge center for digital innovation.