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Hay's Daze: Leather doors and strobe lights

I wonder if the words “Le Chat Noir” mean anything to you. How about the “Junior Activities Building” aka the “Creative Arts Building”? Or, here’s a good one: “The Happening”.
Harley Hay

I wonder if the words “Le Chat Noir” mean anything to you.  How about the “Junior Activities Building” aka the “Creative Arts Building”?  Or, here’s a good one:  “The Happening”. 

If you said to yourself, “What’s he on about now?” you probably didn’t grow up in good old Dead Rear, and/or quite possibly, you are not of a generation that is, shall we say, extremely experienced.  That is, perhaps you aren’t a fossil like some people I know.

Clubs.  The above three aforementioned were local clubs that Central Albertan teenage mutant high school partiers would frequent way back when young rock bands and Honda motorcycles ruled the land.  Back when young guy humans were trying their best to sneak out of the house with long hair and young girl humans were trying their best to sneak out of the house with short skirts.

“Le Chat Noir” as everybody knows is French for “You Talk A Lot”, which is a great name for a nightclub.  Kidding of course, “The Black Cat” was the coolest place in town.  It was the first teenage club that I personally knew about, and anybody who was there will remember that the door to the club was covered in – get this:  leather.  A harlequin patterned leather door of puffy diamond shapes with tacks in the points of the diamonds – how radical is that?  Really rad, right? 

It was smack downtown, on 49th street across from Kovac’s Shoe Repair shop and it was up some dark narrow stairs which somehow made it even more radically cool.  You could go hear a local live band and sit at one of the little round tables and sip on a Fanta, and if you were a girl you’d probably live on the little dance floor.  I believe it was the first time I ever heard “The Lanlords”, the best band in the land at the time.

When Le Chat Noir closed down after a fairly brief stint on 49th (apparently black cats weren’t welcome downtown, har har) the namesake “club” was relocated for a once-in-a-while basis to the Junior Activities Building beside the old Parkvale Arena.  It was there that my reprobate friends and I got to see the other best band in the land, “The 9th Wave”.  As legend has it that’s where our wiseacre smart aleck friend (actually named John not Alec) said to the service club ladies taking admission:  “The 9th Wave, eh?  Do I need a swimsuit to get in?”  I guess you had to be there.

Many may remember the hippest of hip clubs called “The Happening”.  And man, it was really happening at The Happening.  It was down some very wide stairs underneath the Red Deer Steam Laundry building across the street west of the Central School field.  What made that teen haunt so groovy was that the whole room was painted black and white checkerboard and had the wildest light show - strobe lights!  Strobe lights that fried your brain with the flashing intensity of a nuclear bomb that may or may not have explained the behavior of many local club goers in years to come (including yours truly).  We got to see the other, other best band in the land, “The Obvious” who, as I recall were also as loud as nuclear bomb in that flickering cement room.

Good times.

As the years rock and rolled by I got to play drums in many clubs far and wide with some of the members of those three aforementioned iconic local bands, and some of us became fast friends who still make musical noise together to this day.  And it all started with the clubs, even thought I gotta admit, strobe lights have always given me a headache.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Reach out to Harley with any thoughts or ideas at