A friend sent me an article about the demolition of the Colony Theater. It saddens me greatly that it is now gone. Many small towns and cities are tearing down some of their history to make room for something new, or to remove a financial burden and leave a scar. Same thing happened to the Hillsboro High School. What a shame.
My name is James Staten. My dad was Al Staten and he owned the Koffee Kup restaurant. I am not originally from Hillsboro, but adopted it as my hometown in the early 1950s when my dad took me with him after his day job in Wellston to his night and weekend job in Hillsboro as the theater projectionist at the Colony Theater. My dad also was the maintenance man and fixed the projectors and some of the other equipment.
Coming from Wellston, a small town in a very poor region of Ohio, my first impression of Hillsboro was that it was a wonderful and beautiful city. I was impressed and loved it when we moved there in 1955. I met and made many friends and have attended most of our class reunions (I graduated in 1959).
My first real paying job was at the Colony Theater (there were two theaters in Hillsboro, and the other was the Forum). I was a ticket taker, usher (we even had uniforms), popped popcorn, janitor and I put up posters/pictures and the movie titles on the marquee. My dad taught me how to splice the trailers of coming movies to the news reel to show before the main feature. He also let me help repair the projectors and to re-cover the torn seats in the auditorium.
Movies were usually changed on Saturday night after the last movie started. Sometimes one of my buddies, usually Charles Elliott, helped so we could Saturday Night Cruise Hillsboro, Greenfield and the “Y” restaurant near Mowrystown. I made 50 cents an hour and my take home pay was around $11 per week. However, it was the start of my working life and I was grateful for a job at the Colony Theater. It helped me buy my first car for $150 from Banyas Buick. Later, I worked at Hilliard’s Men’s Wear and I learned a great deal from Lyman Hillilard about clothing and selling.
Hillsboro had many great teachers. Mr. Glenn Knechtly taught math. I still remember him today as I use math in my job. Mary Murphy taught English. I remember she had a tragic loss when her son was killed in an automobile accident. I felt sorrow for her and her loss, but later when an accident took my 11-year-old daughter I realized the full impact it has on parents. No words can describe the grief or emotions she had or I have even to this day.
I moved to Cincinnati June 15, 1959, just a few days after graduation. I couldn’t afford college and the only job I could find was as an apprentice with the Cincinnati Milling Machine Company. They paid for evening college at UC as long as your grades were “C” or better.
I would visit my dad throughout the years after graduation until his death in 1989. I noticed during these visits how much of Hillsboro had changed as businesses were no longer in business. Millers, Hilliard’s, Limes Jewelry, the pool hall, Elberfelds, Litts, Bowles Book Store, Gabriel’s Meat Market, Fettro’s Clothing Store, Lang’s, The Skyscraper, The Chatterbox, The United Department Store, Kaufman’s Clothing Store, Ellison’s Men’s Clothing, Fairley Hardware, Ayres Drug Store, The Cities Service gasoline station across from the Colony Theater, the list goes on. Some businesses closed from competition from Wal-Mart, Kmart, strip malls and proximity to large shopping malls in Cincinnati. Each of these businesses was vital to the community and their losing slowly eroded the quality of life and our city.
Parents make mistakes as we all do sometimes. My dad moving to Hillsboro and working at the Colony Theater was not one of them. I am forever grateful for working there. It is too bad we only appreciate history just before we become a part of it. It never crossed my mind to thank my dad for this beginning before he died. I would love to be able to thank him for this and may other things.
I apologize for rambling, but the demolition of the Colony Theater brought many things to my mind of my youth in Hillsboro. Hillsboro was a big factor in my growing up and I appreciate how much it meant to me, and especially the Colony Theater. Sometimes all we need in life is a good start. The rest of our journey is based on the decisions we make, our friends, our education and the lessons we learned early in life. In Hillsboro I was fortunate to receive a great start.
James Staten currently resides in Mason, Ohio.