is a mainstay among locals
know him from his
50 years at the Ohio Theatre
(January 2013) The Ohio Theater in downtown Madison,
Ind., offers many attractions to the movie-loving public the
historic setting, the fresh popped popcorn, the competitive ticket prices.
One of the greatest attractions may be ticket-taker, Richard Ashby,
a theater employee for more than 50 years.
Everyone has a Richard story, says Nancy Cutshall, who works
with Ashby at the Salvation Army in Madison. If youre between
ages 30 and 50 and grew up in Madison, you have a story of Richard and
the theater. Everyone knew him. He was always catching people doing
what they shouldnt. Yet, the same people who complained about
Richard as kids, now they cant say enough about him as adults.
Everyone loves Richard.
by Don Ward
recently retired from
the City of Madison
but still sells tickets
at the Ohio Theatre.
Ashby, 63, was born on Walnut Street in Madison. He was
number 14 out of 15 children. At age 11 Ashby began working the variety
of jobs that would both define him as a man and his contributions to
Madison. He first began working for the local Boys Club, doing a variety
of cleaning jobs. John Paul, who ran the Boys Club, was friends with
John Galvin, who owned the Ohio Theater. Paul recommended Ashby for
work there. The 50-year streak began.
Ashby began by passing out fliers to advertise the coming shows. I
also had to walk down Main Street in the winter in my pajamas carrying
signs to advertise, says Ashby, laughing and grimacing at the
same time. He moved on to ushering, then running the projectors.
During the summer, he also worked at the Skyline Drive-In, which was
then located on Hwy. 62. He first worked as a soda jerk then as a security
guard. When asked what kept him at the theater for so many years, Ashby
says, I love working with the people. The free movies are nice,
too. But the people are the reason Ive stayed.
He shares that he felt a little lost when the theater closed for two
years. It was like a second home. I didnt know what to do
with myself. Then, it re-opened, and I was back.
Though Ashby loves the people who come to the theater, he also acknowledges
that there have been challenges. When I was ushering, I hated
Friday nights. It seemed like the teens got together and had a meeting
to see how long it would take for me to kick somebody out. It was like
a contest or something. But the rest of the time was OK.
Ashbys greatest hope is for people to support the Ohio Theater,
which has struggled economically in recent years. People were
shocked when it closed. They begged for it to re-open and promised to
come. But they need to come more. If people dont help raise the
money the theater needs, it cant stay open. People just need to
Tony and Laura Ratcliff own the theater now and have been very creative
in keeping the theater doors open. As for Richards many years
of contribution, Laura said, Richard is wonderful to work with.
Hes very lively. He always has a joke to tell or question to ask
that keeps you on toes. He is extremely dedicated and you can rely on
him no matter what. The theater cant be open without him.
Ashby hasnt limited himself to the theater. He recently retired
after 32 years of service to the City of Madison, most recently by driving
a garbage truck in the sanitation department. For 20 years he worked
the back of the truck, and then he switched to driver. Ashby credits
a high school teacher, Mr. Freeman, with getting him started at the
Some kids were making fun of garbage collectors, and Mr. Freeman
spent the class giving a sermon on how important garbage collectors
were. I went out and applied for a job.
Ashby said he loved his time with the city, especially serving the people.
Ashbys other main endeavor likewise involves serving people. An
active member of the Salvation Army church, he volunteers in a number
of ways. Richard does it all Christmas, cleaning and
odd jobs, says Cutshall. Whatever we need, hes ready
Ashbys primary role involves heading the emergency response team
for the Salvation Army. The team assists fire departments and first
responders as they go to fires, tornados or other emergencies.
Ashby began his role in 1996. During the flood of 1997, he organized
more than 1,800 volunteers to respond for more than eight weeks.
Both the city and the theater let me take off the time to cope
with that disaster. I was amazed by the response. Those same kids that
gave me fits at the theater came and jumped in and did whatever I asked.
People really care when the chips are down, he said.
The fire departments were so impressed with Ashbys organization,
they asked the responders to come to all the fires. Volunteers are on-call
24/7. For fires, the team provides refreshments for the fire fighters
and help victims however they can with shelter, food and whatever
else they need.
We are now teamed with the Red Cross. Together, we are able to
do so much, says Ashby.
Steve Cull works on the response team with Ashby and cant offer
enough praise for his leadership. Richard was in the military,
as I was. He knows the chain of command and how to follow it. That keeps
everyone on the same page and everything running smoothly, says
Ashby served two years in the U.S. Army. Ashby also has the gift for
keeping folks focused in tough situations, according to Cull.
Hell be all serious and focused, then without changing expression,
hell say something that cracks everyone up. He lightens the mood
so we can keep going. Then hes right back to serious, says
Ashbys greatest challenge in leading the response team is finding
volunteers. Where many volunteered in the past, he now has great difficulty
finding volunteers. He would love interested folk to call the Salvation
Army and be part of the endeavor.
Cull agrees: Theres nothing like seeing those firefighters
come out all hot and smoky. They see the cold Gatorade, and you know
they really appreciate it. We need to be there for them.
Some people simply go through their days killing time. Others invest
their time. Ashby has invested his life in serving the people of Madison
from serving firefighters to helping keep the city clean
to simply ensuring teenage boys dont put their dirty boots on
the seats of the movie theater.
As Cutshall noted, Everyone has a Richard story. Everyone loves
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