As previously mentioned, Struthers Field House was the largest covered structure in our county and was host to many events that attracted a large audience. In the Fall of 1960, the television series, "Route 66", filmed an episode there, which was a block away from my house.
Being 5 1/2 years old, I was pretty clueless about what was going on. I do know my older sisters were awfully excited about having the stars, George Zaharis and Martin Milner appear at their high school. The community was encouraged through the newspaper and television news to attend the filming, as a large crowd was needed for the prize fight scene that were staging there. "Attend and you just might appear on the episode" was the claim of the advertisements. Hundreds of Camera-Hungry Citizens showed up on a daily basis during the week of filming.
Between scenes, Zaharis and Milner were more than gracious with signing autographs in the lobby of the field house. They would usually perch on a railing at a ticket window and all the Teenie- Boppers in their Saddle Shoes and Pony Tails would encircle them. Marty Milner got very upset I remember at one point, because in all the flurry of activity, someone stole his shoe laces.
At my young age, the only reason I knew what an autograph was, was because of one of my sister getting an "Autograph Hound" for Christmas. A stuffed fabric Dash Hound that you had your friends sign their name. I began collected autographs from the two stars, being patient and polite and besides, who could resist a cute five year old!
Word traveled around the event that I was able to obtain autographs at anytime, from my now perceived buddies, George and Marty. People actually began to come up to me and offer me money if I would get the stars to sign something for them. Never passing up the opportunity to make a Buck, I obliged them. I must have got fifty autographs that week. The ultimate signature I requested was between takes in the Boxing Ring that was assembled three feet above the middle of the field house floor.
When they stopped filming a scene with George Zaharis dressed as a Boxer, I went to his corner where he was resting on a stool. I yelled up to him to get his attention. He looked down, smiled, but shouted he couldn't hear me because of the crowd noise. I held up a piece of paper and a pen and he reached down and lifted me by one arm up into the ring with him! Everyone was laughing as he remarked he couldn't sign anything with Boxing Gloves on. I told him to do the best he could. He cracked up, grabbing my pen and started signing my paper. "Your a persistent Little Bugger, aren't you?", George exclaimed. I got my autograph and off I went.
Unfortunately, the TV series was filmed long before the advent of video tape. I'm sure the Nielsen Television Ratings for "Route 66" were off the charts in our area, the night they showed that episode. I recall seeing several neighbors in the background. I was miffed George and Marty didn't include me in a scene! Recently, I received an E-mail with about a fifteen second snippet of the famous Corvette from the show tooling down Poland Avenue in Struthers with the long-closed Steel Mills billowing smoke in the background. George and Marty had the Convertible Top down that day. I hope that white interior didn't get too much soot on it.