He said his late father gave him some sound advice over the years:
• Don’t mess with the pizza recipe we’ve been using for decades.
• Don’t forget where you came from.
• If you are fortunate enough to do well in life, be generous enough to give back to the community.
That first lesson has long been gospel for Roger Glass, who runs the popular nine-store pizza business — Marion’s Piazza — that has become a beloved Miami Valley institution since his dad, Marion, began it in 1965.
“We haven’t changed a thing with the pizzas in 51 years,” Roger said. “The only things we’ve done are add five sandwiches, lasagna and a few salad dressings to the menu. Otherwise, it’s the old thought, if it’s not broken, you don’t fix it.”
As for Roger’s embrace of the latter two lessons, that will never be more evident than with a series of activities that begins tonight right next to Chaminade Julienne High School and continues to play out with gala events Friday and Saturday, as well as in the Eagles’ season-opening football game with Marion Local the following Friday night (Aug. 26) and then on into the years to come.
Tonight the brand new Roger Glass Stadium — the football and soccer home of the CJ Eagles — is unveiled just west of the school in downtown Dayton. The private pep rally for students and parents — called “Meet the Eagles” — begins at 7 and includes a blessing of the field.
Friday night’s “Kids Under the Lights” program is open to all sixth-grade students from across the Miami Valley and Saturday’s grand opening will include boys and girls junior varsity and varsity soccer games against Vandalia-Butler.
The games will be played on the 2,150-seat stadium’s eye-catching, new green-and-blue turf field with the big white eagle in the center.
The stadium’s backdrop features a spectacular view of the downtown Dayton cityscape, as well as nearby Emmanuel Catholic Church, which has the city’s oldest parish, dating back to 1837. As for an accompanying soundtrack, there are the occasional freight trains that rumble over the upraised trestles not far away.
Just to the south of the stadium is another full-sized practice field — Eagle Field — that will be used by everyone from the football team to the marching band and also be home to CJ lacrosse. In addition, the Dayton Dynamo pro soccer team has signed on to play at the stadium next year.
“This little school made a commitment to downtown Dayton a couple of years ago and I think this further entrenches their footprint in the city,” Glass said. “I think it really changes the dynamic of CJ and downtown Dayton.”
The stadium project cost $6 million and Glass donated a significant amount of that.
He did so in part because of that same maxim he applied to his pizza business. Only in this case things were broken and needed fixing when it came to CJ’s outdoor athletic facilities.
The Eagles never have had a home football field or, for that matter, a decent place to practice next to the school. Their teams have traveled all around the near-downtown area to find places to hold drills.
And going back to Glass’s days at the school (he graduated from Chaminade in 1960), he played trumpet in the band, which was forced to practice at night in the parking lot of the long-gone Sears store across downtown on Patterson Blvd. at Monument.
“I’d bet almost every student who went here thought at one time or another, ‘Gee, it’d be nice if we had a home field to use,’” Glass said. “I did.”
Dad set example
Marion Glass, who died a decade ago, grew up in Dayton, the son of Polish immigrants.
“From the time he was 8 years old, he worked in the fields in the summer to help support the family,” Roger said. “There were 12 kids and the family had nothing.
“My dad’s first real job came when he was 12. He worked at the old Elite Theater on Troy Street. He did everything from pop popcorn and clean up to work in the box office and run the films. He only went through his junior year at Kiser (High School) and then quit to work full-time.”
His father started a printing company and published two small weekly newspapers — The North Dayton Chatter and The East Dayton Chatter — on the side.
In 1935 he opened Marion’s Ice Cream and Sandwich Shop on North Main. But with the later emergence of chains likes Frisch’s, the ice cream shop suffered and Marion switched to pizza.
To set his place apart from the few other pizza businesses around the area, he had in-house dining and called his store a piazza.
As he prospered, he shared his good fortune.
“He did a lot of things that people don’t know he did because he did it quietly,” Roger said.
He helped the University of Dayton when the Fieldhouse was built. He supported Hospice of Dayton, local parochial schools, especially some of the inner city, and helped Catholic churches from Holy Angels to St. Adalbert off Valley Street, where he and his wife Irene were married.
“Dad never forgot where he came from,” Roger said, “and he tried to instill that into my two sisters and me.”
‘Icing to the cake’
When CJ began its recent LIFT (Leading In Faith Today) campaign to make $20 million in improvements to the school, including the state-of-the-art STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math and medical) Center, Roger was on the steering committee.
As far as the old practice field next to the school, which had once been a coal storage lot for Dayton Power & Light, “the initial plan was just to spruce it up a bit,” Tina Wagoner, CJ’s director of communications and marketing, said Wednesday with a bit of a chuckle. “Roger obviously had a little different idea.”
As he was taking part in the improvement campaign, he remembered his dad’s directive about doing well in life.
And he had done well. After CJ, he had graduated from UD, briefly taught school and then joined his father in business.
“I’m not married. I have no children, so I had nobody to really leave it to,” he said. “This was my way to give back to the community and especially the school which had been so good for me.
“We had remodeled the whole school, but to me it was like a building that still needed a roof to complete the project. A football field would be the icing to the cake, so to speak.”
His lead donation was followed by others and included significant contributions by DP&L, RTA and Vectren.
“This turned out better than I ever imagined,” Glass said Wednesday as he walked around the stadium where workers were putting on finishing touches. “These guys did a magnificent job erecting the whole thing.
“This isn’t for me — it’s not about that — it’s for the students now and for generations of kids to come. They’ll have a field here where they can do all sorts of things in the future.”
He started to smile:
“Hopefully, one of these years they’ll beat Alter out here.”
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