St. John's Hollow
Tiffin, Ohio
1978 - 1980

Article & All Photos By Stephen J. Hartzell

The original t-shirt design, 1978

St. John's Hollow opened in 1978 on land owned by Albert J. Allman near St. John's Bridge, just across the river from the former site of the mid 1800's mill of Henry St. John on County Road 6 that gave the area it's name. At the time I lived about 1 country block from the site.

The concert area was constructed on a hillside on a 30 degree grade, and provided a natural amphitheater effect with dynamic acoustics. The first concert at the site was a Bluegrass Festival held in the parking lot on June 18, 1978, which was attended by about 250 people.

The first real test of the site came on August 5, 1978, with Pablo Cruise & Journey scheduled to appear. At that time, on the strength of the highly successfull "Infinity" album, Journey was one of the top concert bands in the country. Many of the residents were very concerned about this event, as the still fresh memory of the ill fated Boogie Hill concerts, east of Tiffin, had left a bad taste in their mouths. A  Fleetwood Mac show scheduled for the same day in Cleveland was canceled, so the attendance at the St. John's Hollow show ballooned to an estimated crowd of 15-20,000 people.

Even with the huge crowd, the event went off smoothly. It proved to be a well organized event with plenty of parking.

The site was in use for several more years before it was finally abandoned.

The success of St. Johns Hollow echoed similar successes across the country. Concert attendance was at it's peak in the late '70's, and promoters generally found that they could schedule a big show on any day of the week. Fans were obsessed with their music, and concert promoters were ready and eager to feed that obsession.

The Journey/Pablo Cruise show was definitely St. John's Hollow's shining moment. Organizers were able to prove every doubter wrong, including nearby neighbors and law enforcement. This show really put St. John's Hollow on the map in the eyes of concert-goers throughout a large area. All in attendance, including the writer, witnessed an outstanding, very memorable show that day.

The pictures below offer a stark comparison between the site as it appeared in 1979 and as it appeared in August of 2008. It was with great difficulty that I navigated the thick, thorny undergrowth and trees to take the 2008 photos.

As I navigated the site, many great memories of a younger, more carefree day came flooding back. Like the memories themselves, the site revealed only remnants of what once was at this place. Nevertheless, I was happy to revisit this old friend after the passage of so many years. I could almost hear Steve Perry's remarkable voice echoe across the hill...

Here I stand so patiently
For your lights to shine on me
For your song inside of me
This we bring to you

In the shadow of love
Time goes by leaving me helpless
Just to reach and try
To live my life
These are my reasons, so
Here we stand so patiently
For your song inside of me
For your lights to shine on me
This we bring to you

("Patiently",  from the album "Infinity" by Journey, 1978)

Some ticket stubs from St. John's Hollow shows

An original concert poster, 1978

A view of the crowd on the hill at the Beach Boys show, July 8, 1979

The same view in 2008, 29 years later

A view of the St. John's Hollow stage at the Beach Boys show, July 8, 1979.
This stage consisted of a concrete slab, with wooden platforms to each side to hold the speaker cabinets. The roof consisted of a structural aluminum framework with a tarp cover, which was suspended overtop of the stage by cables. After each event the roof was lowered and stored on the concrete slab intact.

The Beach Boys at St. John's Hollow, July 8, 1979

The legendary Brian Wilson on piano at St. John's Hollow, July 8, 1979

August, 2008, the roof framework lies silently upon the stage where it was lowered for the last time a generation ago.

A view out of the front of the stage. The hill, from which 50,000 fans roared their approval in 1978, is now completely hidden from this view by the trees.

The corner of the stage left speaker platform.

A privacy fence surrounded the concert area to discourage free onlookers. This is a section of that fence as it appeared in 2008.

The entrance to St. John's Hollow off of county road 6 in 2008. The path to the left leads to the concert amphitheater. The cornfield straight ahead was large enough to park the cars of over 50,000 fans, and was the site of the small bluegrass show of 1978.

Friends share a laugh & some great music at St. John's Hollow, July 8, 1979.
This was the golden age of Rock's most creative era.
It was a time when a generation of young people shared an unprecidented love affair with their music.


Would you like to share your memories of these venues with other visitors of this site?
CLICK HERE to submit your stories, thoughts and memories.

Reader Submitted Information

Photo by Walt Szablewski
This is a great view of the stage area with county road 6 behind it during the Beach Boys show.
Notice that it is a pretty tight turn for the semis to back through from the left to get backstage.

Recollections submitted by GB, formerly of Fostoria, Ohio

I was tickled to find your website about St. Johns Hollow.

I was at the Journey/Pablo Cruise show in ‘78. I was 13, and it was the first real rock show that I ever attended. And while I got away from those two bands pretty fast within a year or so, I loved that whole day.

I remember a few things:

Robert Palmer missed the show due to illness, or so they announced. I was very disappointed, since he was pushing Double Fun at the time, with the hit single “Every Kind Of People”.

There was an unbilled opening act, which I believe was called ‘Carillo’, after the leader, who I think was named Tony Carillo. Something tells me they were from Pittsburgh, but I never heard of them again.

The whole thing was over well before dark, since there were no stage or crowd lights at all, or so I recall.

Tractor-trailers backed down the hill during Journey’s set, first to get Pablo Cruise’s stuff and then to be ready to load-out the Journey gear the very second they were done. The crew and drivers had an intense look of “we want to get the hell out of here” on their faces, and the noise of the diesel motors could be heard between songs.

The guitar player from Journey, Neal Schon (formerly of Santana), was pretty clearly baked. He smiled the whole set like a guy with a newborn baby and wore the most ridiculous silk shirt I have ever seen. But they played very, very well, and as your article mentioned the hill actually had pretty good sound characteristics. Journey, at the time, boasted the great Aynsley Dunbar on drums, and ex-Santana singer and keyboardist Gregg Rolie. After those two guys split the band, I never listened to them again.

I remember that I could walk all the way up the hill and around the back rows of the crowd pretty easily and return to my friends down low on the hill without getting lost.

I’d guess that I have been to over 300 organized rock, blues and jazz shows since (I worked in radio for a while and most concerts were free, and in the 31 years since 1978, I bet I average 10 ticketed shows a year). And that Saturday in 1978 was, without a doubt, the greatest example of (smoking)  proliferation that I have ever seen, even to date. People walked in with HUGE water pipes and set them up, picnic style. Some of the folks from neighboring towns had made flags from bed sheets to collect their tribes, so to speak, and the one for Fostoria had a big spray-painted pot leaf over the name of my hometown. Man, I wish I had a photo of that. The real kicker was watching everybody light up while a couple of dozen sheriff’s deputies in riot gear stood out on the road looking in. They never swarmed the show of course, but were clearly there to nab anybody they could on the way out. Despite that, I don’t recall any big reports of arrests or trouble.

The following morning, I was in church with my parents, sitting in one of the last rows, trying to look awake. One of the elders of the congregation got up to lead a prayer or something, and rambled his way into a rant about how there had been “a nasty, evil rock and roll concert” over in Seneca County the night before, and one of his cop friends said that all law enforcement was told to stay out of the fenced-in area because they would be “torn apart” by the ( ) crazed freaks inside. He also thanked God that none of the kids from our church had been led to this Devil’s Den. I had to leave the sanctuary to keep from laughing out loud.

I never made it to another concert at St. John’s hollow. I believe that the first ‘bluegrass’ show had Larry Coryell on the bill. I tried to make the Beach Boys’ appearance, as much to see opening act Jay Ferguson as to see the headliner, but it didn’t happen.

Sometime around 1987, I was driving around with my girlfriend when we stumbled on the place. The concrete stage was still there, and a single work light hung over it, suspended from four poles. I found a power box near the stage, but it looked like it was disabled.

I never saw any of it again until today.

Thinking back, I suppose that if I had not had such a blast that day in ‘78, listening to middle-weight rock bands, watching chicks in bikinis get high, and learning to shoot bottle rockets out of my hands, I might not have ponied up for other shows down the road, and my love of live music might not have grown. Who know? I may have even made something out of myself, and invested in Microsoft instead of spending all my money on Elvis Costello records. Whatever. Anyway, August 5, 1978 was a pretty big day on the calendar for me. That’s when it all started for me.

Thanks for your site and reminiscence

I am looking for vintage photos & video clips of Tiffin concert venues & bands of the '60's & '70's including Boogie Hill, St. John's Hollow, St. Francis and the Club 224. If you know of any such photos, please contact me.