Alpena rocked with her own teen dance club | News, Sports, Jobs
ALPENA – It was a time apart.
By the mid-1960s, teens were finding each other. Society was going through social changes that impacted the young people of the time.
Rock and roll music has had a huge influence on this generation of baby boomers, who are now your parents or grandparents.
Part of the social life of this generation was attending teen dance clubs, a marketing technique used by disc jockeys to promote records.
According to the West Michigan Music Hysterical Society website, at that time there were more than 55 teen dance clubs in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. A number of mid-Michigan teenage dance clubs have been founded by Peter C. Cavanaugh and Bob Dell, of Flint’s WTAC-AM Radio, and Dick Fabian and Bob Dyer, of Saginaw’s WKNX-AM Radio.
Within the geographic area of northeast Michigan were Daniel’s Den in Saginaw and Prudenville, Blue Light in Midland, Band Canyon in Bay City, the Music Box in Houghton Lake, Teen Chalet in Gaylord, and Club Ponytail in Harbor Springs.
From the mid-1960s and early 1970s, the Alpena Armory (now known as Memorial Hall) joined this league of teen clubs.
Bill Eberline was the host DJ, playing the best hits of the time and some memorable rock and roll.
Eberline started his career as a DJ at a Caro radio station, where he hosted “Tunes for Teens” on Saturdays.
Now residing in Tennessee, Eberline recalled his post-DJ career by traveling with The Who, MC5 and other popular bands of the time. One of his most memorable stories was hosting a teenage ball in Unionville. He brought in Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band for a performance, at $ 35 overnight.
Another of Eberline’s memories was when he was en route upstate to the Alpena Armory. Just north of Oscoda, he remembered that he forgot to bring his records. When he arrived in Alpena, a local record store restocked him with a full collection of the best hits.
Eberline, who attended Alpena Community College, has a massive collection of over 6,000 vinyl records, which he plans to use with a classic rock station online.
The armory was built right after WWI. For the teenage venue, it offered a staircase leading to the gymnasium dance floor, surrounded by an upper balcony. Eberline was on the ground, with its stack of 45 rpm records, turntables and speakers. Next to him was a group stage with lights and equipment. Admission was $ 2.50 at the door.
With the dance floor filled with teenagers, others circled the outside perimeter of the gym like a flock of birds. Many with cigarettes between their fingers.
The general attire of the young women was a box-pleated skirt with a color-matched sweater or a Peter Pan collar blouse. While young men traditionally wore white Levi’s or blue jeans with a button down or tab collar shirt.
The hair of the young women was either very long and straight, or short, swollen with hairspray. Men’s hair styles varied from the Beach Boys to the Beatles. In addition, the men sported long sideburns.
Looks through the gymnasium were frequent. As the night wore on, some couples crept to nearby parking lots to fog the car windows or pull the tongue out of a can of beer. One of the adjacent car parks was located behind the town hall, where the Alpena Police Department was then located.
Many long-standing romances and relationships have blossomed in Alpena’s teenage dance hall.
Alpena resident Michael Spicer remembers that when Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs arrived for a performance at the Armory, he and his friends helped unload their equipment. At the end, they met the group and entered the show for free.
Gary Johnson is the founder of the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame, which in the first quarter of 2022 plans to open a large exhibit at the Historical Museum of Bay County, 321 Washington Ave., Bay City. In the meantime, you can visit Johnson’s diverse and in-depth website, michiganrockandrolllegends.com.
Classic rock from the 60s and 70s never goes away.
Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired healthcare CEO who frequently writes historical stories and editorials. He is a former resident of Alpena and resides in the suburbs of Detroit.
Performers who performed at the Alpena Armory
Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
The Earl and the Colony
Question mark and mysteries
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
Sir Douglas Quintet
Terry Knight and the Pack (later Grand Funk)
Frost (new bosses)
Source: In-depth interviews and Alpena County HIstory Facebook site