FIFTY YEARS OF THE HOUSTON FIELD HOUSE
I was born and raised in Lake Placid, N.Y. While in high school and in my early college years at St. Lawrence University, I worked summers at the Olympic Arena working on the ice sheet, making ice and giving lessons during public skating sessions. Jack Garren was the manager of the arena and had been since he built the facility in 1931 in preparation for the 1932 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid. Garren developed the summer ice session in Lake Placid into the nationís finest, attracting most of the top figure skaters and best skating instructors in the U.S.
In the late 1940s he was hired by Rensselaer to develop the Navy warehouse into an ice rink and events center. I transferred to RPI from St. Lawrence in the summer of 1950 after completing a pre-engineering program. I wanted a summer job so went to the Field House and asked Garren for a job.
Garren asked if I would be able to work the ice sheet in the winter during school. I had the experience he needed and told him yes. I rode the plane behind a jeep, scraped the ice and pushed the 50-gallon barrel to flood the ice surface between periods of hockey games.
During this time the Troy Figure Skating Club was formed. Dr. Livingston Houston, the president of RPI, and Dick Schmeltzer from the administration building, attended their sessions regularly. The U.S., World, and Olympic champion menís figure skater at the time was Dick Button. Dick came to the Field House to see Mr. and Mrs. Garren, whom he knew through his many summers skating in Lake Placid. The two men shared mutual admiration.
During my years at RPI the hockey team went from two lines, three defensemen, and the lacrosse goalie to a top Eastern Collegiate team under the direction of Ned Harkness. Nedís dad did a lot of scouting for aspiring Engineers who were playing in the junior programs in Southeastern Canada.
The basketball team also played their games in the Field House on a tongue-and-groove flooring that was placed over the ice sheet and then removed after the game for skating the next day.
The rink included a skate rental area and a skate sharpening shop for the hockey players. RPI also supported an amateur hockey league of teams representing the cities in the surrounding area.
When the ice was removed in the spring, the building was used for many shows that were touring the country, including the Boston Symphony, the NY State Sportsmen show, Gene Autry, George Shearing, and Bob Hope. This addition of culture aided in bringing the university and the community together.
Harold Anson í52 Florence, Ore.