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Hay’s Daze: Everybody needs a clubhouse

Everyone should have a clubhouse—especially if you’re a young, rabble-rousing loser. It could be a backyard shed, a tree house somewhere, or a very special place that just you and your friends can go and hang out. I was lucky; I’ve had quite a few of these.

We called ours “studios” and they became a big part of our lives since we were teenage punks. Our first paid gig as a band was our own 9th grade graduation dance at Central School Downtown. We had a little instrumental combo and our English teacher, Mr. Morris Flewwelling (yes, he) kind of took a chance and hired us. We thought we were rock stars and we managed to get through our tiny song list so well that Mr. Flew later hired us to play his actual wedding!

And of course, to even put this band together, we needed a place to practice. No basement for us. John’s father had a sign shop downtown that even had a paint-splattered piano, and Mr. L. let us run the shop one night a week. Our first studio! And the little old building is still there, now a tattoo parlor (coincidence?)

In high school, our busy part-time job consisted of dancing everywhere and falling asleep in class. We traveled in our 1951 Buick Flxible hearse (yes, a retired hearse) that we got from Sorenson’s for $300. And as the band grew and we decked out our own rock ‘n’ roll school bus, we finally had our own studio, which, believe me, became the best clubhouse a 17-year-old could ever ask for. There were a number of buildings on Bettenson’s sand and gravel lot near the hospital and our band rented one building and Jim Murphy’s band rented the building next to it.

We had a TV room there with a beat up old couch and a black and white tube the size of a fridge and a proper fridge (for Pop of course), a separate rehearsal room with all our gear and – as a bonus – a working bathroom! And even when (especially when) we weren’t working on tunes, it was a sanctuary – a clubhouse to go to when you really needed to get away from life’s complications for a while. Oh, and there were also quite a few epic teenage social events at the studios, if you get my meaning.

This studio was our home base when we played our first dance on the comp (now known as “thurber” among young punks) and our memorable shows at Varsity Hall on Sylvan Lake. That’s where we discovered that a rock band could have a horn section (e.g., the band Chicago) and that’s where my lifelong addiction to colas (first Coca-Cola, then Pepsi) began because of Murph, always a six-pack of coca Coke to the band rehearsal.

Years go by and bands disband and new bands get together and new clubhouse studios are formed. We found a good one on the truck route south of the water treatment plant and sometimes there was more club housing there than actual music and it made all the difference when you needed a place to belong.

I’ve been thinking about all of this because yesterday I was downtown and stopped by our old studios for a moment. Two are gone now, as the song goes, because someone “put up a parking lot.” But the memories are still there, and I almost started humming that old “Thanks for the memories” tune out loud.

Harley Hay is a writer and filmmaker at Red Deer. You can send him column ideas to [email protected]

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