By Ginanne Brownell Mitic July 2017
The Tuesday night teen dance memories of my youth have congealed together in my head. I can’t remember one specific night per se but I remember certain distinct moments. Like, I can recall Tim Royle, wearing a green and white Benetton rugby, getting really excited when the opening beats of a Police song—maybe it was the remixed version of “Don't Stand So Close to Me” or maybe it was “King of Pain”—blasted through the speakers. I also remember, years later, grabbing his sister, Megan (Carrella), and our friends Martha Errthum (Evans) Sarah Brown, Molly Bazzani (Campbell) and other friends as we headed for the middle of the dance floor when Moby Disc (aka Bill Howard), popped on a song like Erasure's "A Little Respect."
After my freshman year of college, when I should have had one foot vaguely planted into adulthood, I still went to the teen dances partly because my younger friends were still going and also because it still remained the place to get the best gossip for who was dating who and what was going to be happening after the dance. Each week the teen dance was social Mecca for my generation—and for many generations before and after me. “When you're a teen up north for the summer, you have the occasional bonfire, maybe you're lucky enough to stay out late and go to the drive in, or tell your parents you're going to the drive-in just to stay out later, but those Tuesday nights were a great excuse for everyone to be out between 9-11,” recalled Andy Campbell. “And you got to get down too. If you like music and enjoy dancing, which I do, having a once a week venue to do that? Pretty sweet.”
Judy Stewart Rodes recalled that as a 12-year-old, she could not wait to be 13 so she could attend the teen dances back in the early and mid-1960s. “It was super crowded,” she told me in an email, “and I remember it being very hot and swimming in the lake after.” She says the songs she most looked forward to—which were played by local bands—were ones by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, especially “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Judy, like many teen girls and boys from all generations who attended teen dances, also said she remembered taking time deciding what to wear. That was especially important if you had a crush that you knew would also be attending the dance.
Back in the earlier days of the teen dances (post-record players and pre-DJs), it was all about local bands that would come and play. “The teen dances I attended were 1965-1969, and were absolutely mobbed,” recalled Jep Gruman. “Young people from as far as Glen Lake, Torch Lake and Petoskey would come down for them, have picnics on the Crystal beach or in the woods by the ball field. Glenn Schulz would try to discourage beer, but usually to no avail. The State Police parked their cars at the Crystal View. The ball field was filled with cars. The music was VERY loud and kids were dancing out among the cars.” He says he remembers cover songs being played like “Light My Fire” by The Doors, “Summer in the City” by Lovin Spoonful and “Wild Thing” by the Troggs.
Dean Rusch, who owns the Freeland-based Rusch Entertainment (the company that Bill Howard still works for) asked me in an email: “Do you remember Jim Buzzell? He started hiring my band CEYX in the summer of 1971 and we played through the early 1980s, then switched to the DJ format.” It was likely CEYX who would play songs like Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” that Holly Freeburg recalls almost literally bringing the Assembly building down back in the early-1970s. “Everyone was stomping on the floor so hard that there was talk of having to shore it up,” she said. “I can’t hear that song today without smiling and thinking about going to the teen dance.”
Jim Buzzell was a fixture at the teen dances for generations, stamping people’s hands when they came in and he somehow had a sixth sense if people were getting up to something they weren’t supposed to be getting up to. He had some sort of internal honing device and could miraculously track where to find what was not supposed to be happening. In the 1980s and 1990s admission was $2, but often people, if they knew the right people, could sneak in—a teenage version of getting on a VIP list at a popular club. “When I was on the CSA staff I worked at the door to collect the cover charge,” recalls Beth Congbalay. “Two friends (who will remain nameless), always got in for free. I felt a little bad about that but they were CSA kids too and we were very loyal to our friends.”
Over the last few years, some CSA friends and I would joke about setting up an adult “teen” dance, with the two major components being it had to be held when most of our friends be up and finding Bill Howard, who seemingly had his finger on the pulse of 1980s and 1990s music. Molly Bazzani recalled his name and Megan Carrella remembered he was based in Bay City. A few searches on Google later and I found Rusch Entertainment. When contacted, Dean Rusch told me that Bill, when he found out the CSA wanted to hold a nostalgic “teen” dance on Friday July 28, he cancelled the wedding he was booked to DJ that Saturday in Detroit so he could come spin the tunes for us.
Though the dances petered off in the early 2000s when young people wanted to hang out more in the parking lot and chat, the teen dances still had some solid years in the mid and late 1990s as well. “Songs like ‘Feels Good’ by Toni, Toni, Toni, the “Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground, and “Poison” by Bel Biv Devo were mainstays,” recalled Andy Campbell. “Super Sonic" by Salt 'N Peppa always got Sarah Brown going. In 1993 “Daisy Dukes” was a big jam, and anything by Naughty by Nature was in the mix. 'Rump Shaker' by Wreck'n Effect always put me in a good mood. As always Moby Disc would finish with 'You Spin me Round' by Dead or Alive. Lots of folks at the CSA don't like change and somehow he understood that and closed every dance with that song regardless of year.”
Jep recalled that the fun of the dances did not stop when the bands packed up their equipment: "After the dances a bunch of us would go up onto the knoll above the Crystal View and play music (guitars), or go down to the CSA Michigan beach for a bonfire for more guitars and singing and star gazing...we would sing Donovan or Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, Tom Rush, Joni Mitchell, not the pop music we'd just been dancing to. Not so much pairing off but rather as a large pile of puppies. Then wandering back to the cottage, darkly, without flashlights because it was not cool to have a flashlight. Somehow we were supposed to find our way without them... lots of stubbed toes!” The songs may have changed over the generations but the fun times that have been had, and the memories made are one of those great continuities of the CSA. Here’s to more memories being made on the 28th!
By Julia Davis - August 19, 2016
As Tevye passionately states in the beloved musical, Fiddler on the Roof, “without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as…as a fiddler on the roof.” Here at the CSA, this is something we live by. As times change, our traditions come and go. Let’s take a look back at some CSA traditions of the past.
The Monday night children’s dances have seemingly gone on since anyone here at the CSA can remember. But when Jane Cooper was young, there would be social dances for thehigh school and college students after the children had cleared out on Monday nights. Music was played from a record player, and there were chaperones that would sit around the edges of the community room in the Assembly Building. Jane was there during some of the earliest days of rock and roll, so the music was still relatively traditional, and they would dance to songs like “Blue Moon” and “Stardust”. Square dancing on Wednesdays was another hugely popular tradition during that time. “Everybody knew how to square dance,” Jane recalled. “And you wouldn’t have thought of not going.” Just like in the film “Dirty Dancing” dancing was a major part of the social life at the Assembly in the 1950s, but faded out around the 1960s when it became less popular.
However, the teen dances had a resurgence in popularity in the 1970s through to the early 1990s. In the 1970s when Holly Freeburg was a teenager, the dances were huge. She remembers hearing “Smoke on the Water” and everyone stomping on the floor so hard that it felt like the floor might open up and swallow all the revelers. Up through the early 1990s the teen dances continued to be an Assembly staple. Ginanne Brownell Mitic recalls a DJ out of Traverse City –who went by the moniker Moby Disk – playing all the 1980s hits, including “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by The Police and “You Spin Me” by Dead or Alive. Teens from the CSA and the surrounding community would come to these dances, so it was a great time to make new friends and spend time with old ones.
Another tradition Ginanne remembers from growing up in the 1980s was the “Come as You Are” pajama parties, where the youth activity leaders and volunteers would surprise kids early in the morning, dragging them out of bed to go for breakfast at one of the beaches or in the Assembly building. The youth leaders would call the parents the night before to make sure their kid wore something appropriate to bed, but Ginanne recalls one time when one boy’s parents either forgot to tell their son or couldn’t convince him to wear pajamas to bed, which caused major embarrassment when all the kids showed up to pick him up the next morning and he wasn’t wearing anything. “They were fun because of the element of surprise…that you knew it might happen in the summer but were never sure which day,” Ginanne recalled. Another traditional youth activity from further back in time was going hiking on “The Crater”, a large, sandy, bowl-shaped area on the top of a dune overlooking Crystal Lake. Kids would pack a meal and then trek out to the Crater to eat and play games like Capture the Flag. There also used to be overnight hikes for middle school to high school students, led by the youth leaders. They would hike near Point Betsie, or even go as far as South Manitou Island to camp. Jane remembers bringing an army-style blanket roll for these overnight trips instead of a sleeping bag.
On the ball field, the bachelors vs. married men softball game that we’re used to having as part of the Fourth of July festivities used to be a weekly event. Another ball field event Doug Fuller recalls was the annual Mallory vs. Clemens family football game. There were many additional rules to the game, aside from the basic set. The most important rule was that the game had to end in a tie. Doug remembers seeing one team dancing with each other on the field while they were in the lead in order to let the other team score a touchdown and thereby even out the score.
The typical day-to-day CSA uniform are comfy shorts, a t-shirt, and very sandy flip-flops, but back in the day church wasn’t the only thing people dressed up for. The Women’s Association used to host traditional bridge games, for which formal attire was a must. The women had to wear white gloves and dresses, and they would have proper tea served on a silver tea service. And on Sundays, nobody used to swim after church. Instead, people remained in their formal church attire and would usually go to Sunday dinner at the Dining Hall (now known as the Assembly Building).
Our traditions are what keep us coming back to the CSA year after year. It’s comforting knowing that next summer, people will be sitting at the beach in the same spot they always sit, that there will be potluck dinners, operettas, and old friends.