The Hampton Coliseum celebrated its Golden anniversary this year and John T. Castelloe has been a part of that history from the beginning.
Castelloe has worked as a part-time parking attendant since the first event to supplement his income. His full-time job was in surveying and engineering.
Technically, Castelloe has worked at Hampton Coliseum for more than 50 years. His first day on the job was Hampton Coliseum’s first event, a basketball game between William & Mary and North Carolina State held on December 1, 1969, almost two months before the venue’s dedication ceremony in January 1970.
“The temperature that night was below freezing—super cold. In the north end of the Coliseum, they had not put in the windows and that north wind was blowing a gale. It was so cold, the players elected to wear their warm up suits to play in. William and Mary scored 84 and NC State scored 93. People were freezing but they stayed. It was a full house,” he said.
During that time, it cost 50 cents to park a car, he added.
Most of the time the parking lot ran smoothly but once the traffic got pretty backed up. “Mr. C.E. Johnson was city manager at the time and he came out to check on how the traffic was running. With operations backing up everybody to Mercury Boulevard, he told us to let the cars in for free and let them loose,” he said.
The configuration of the Coliseum’s parking lot changed in the mid-2000’s with the establishment of the Hampton Roads Convention Center across the street. Castelloe said in its heyday, the far parking lots would hold 60 to 70 buses from up north that came in for the Hampton Jazz Festival.
Besides the remodeling of the parking lots, not too much of the property has changed. For Castelloe the most noticeable change at the Coliseum is the way people dress for events. “People used to dress in suits and now they dress in jeans,” he said.
His favorite shows are Disney, then called Disney on Parade, Elvis and The Virginia Squires basketball team.
His brush with Elvis didn’t stop there. He denied the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll a chance to party at his house: “My wife, her brother, his wife and another couple met Elvis the first time he came to Newport News. The couple that knew him went to high school with him in Memphis. So when he came to Newport News, they had five tickets to the show. I didn’t go, but I said I didn’t want to go because of all the girls screaming and hollering back then. But the other two couples and my wife went to see him.
After the show Elvis invited them backstage. “He thought my wife was super cute. He told the other couple that since he was here ‘let’s go have a party at her house.’ Of course, they came back to my house about 12 o’clock at night and they said ‘guess who’s coming for a party? Elvis!’ I said not here!” The party moved to the other couple’s home in Buckroe. Shirley was disappointed she couldn’t attend. It became a running joke throughout their marriage until her death in 2015.
Prior to the pandemic, he maintained a regular work schedule at the Coliseum. With fewer events recently, he’s had more time to focus on what’s most important to him – family.
“It’s been a great ride,” he said. “It’s been a great life.”
Congratulations JT for a wonderful 50 year of happiness
Rick lassiter says
One of the greatest persons on the planet! I might be a tad jaded due to JT being my father in law, but if you ever get the chance to meet him, I think you’d agree.
Love this man. Congratulations JT!
Ps. While in college on a weekend break, The Rolling Stones were playing at the coliseum and JT got me in the back door. Amazing experience!