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Disco Boy

Come in outta the rain!

By Jim E. Beer - Story writer of fact and fiction. Published 3 years ago Updated 10 months ago 19 min read
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Jim’s Woods Summer 1978 – Dunmark Park, Jerseyville/Alberton Area.

Disco Boy.

In case you hadn’t caught it in my last tale, I used to be into disco. I was ten years old and the movie 'Saturday Night Fever' had left a big impression on me. Huh? What? I'm not the only one? Phew, good okay, now I don't feel so embarrassed. Anyway, one day my Pop had come through Jerseyville to pick me up, so that we could spend time together. It always felt surreptitious to me, when my Pop would pull into our driveway with his Volkswagon van. I still love the sound of those engines, when you grow up with them, it is a very familiar and heart warming sound. My Pop, Randy, drove nothing but VW beetles or vans since I was little, until he moved to Thunder Bay, then he switched to a Lada, cuz they could handle the winters.

I'd be sitting waiting for him and I'd hear the van pull in and I'd rush out for a big bear hug. Just me. My mom and Step-Dad never came out to say hi. Ever. I guess it was still kinda awkward for everyone but me... and Randy. We'd take off and go up to Jocko's out on highway 2. I loved Jocko's truck stop, who didn't? I could have an order of Chocolate chip waffles with bananas, whip cream and raspberry syrup, or piggies in a blanket. Anything I wanted off that big old orange and brown menu. Man I've had some good times with him over the years. After brunch, we'd drive to his house on highway 53 and upper Wentworth. Back in the days before townhouse surveys and it was still countryside, when you might occasionally see a colorful pheasant roaming through the tall grass and old grapevines. We'd hang out at his house for a bit. If I were careful, I was allowed to play some records. Then we'd decide what to do with the rest of the day. Sometimes we'd just go over to mountain plaza mall. Video games were in their infancy then and I'd drop some quarters at the arcade in the mall and play Space Invaders or Asteroids.

They had a 'Sam's the Record Man' for a while there too, which is where I picked up my earliest record choices. We were at the mall together once when I spotted a record I just had to have. It was the 'Saturday Night Fever' box set. It was a restricted movie so I never had the opportunity to even see it. I'd seen clips of it on TV and heard plenty of the music on the radio, so I had been exposed enough to get disco fever. Even though the movie was released in 1977 and it was at least a year later, lots of the music was still going strong on the radio. What I ended up getting was a double album with a booklet containing all kinds of dance steps from the movie. I wanted it just for the music at first, I didn't even know there was an instruction book inside the box. My Pop got it for me after I begged him for it. Then after opening it and finding the booklet, I just couldn't wait to get home to listen to The Bee Gees and dance up a storm. I took it rather seriously too. Here I see in the movie clips, John Travolta and everybody else in the club, dancing fantastically well and looking super sharp in flared white pants, or shiny satin. Man, it looked pretty cool to me. Many of the dance moves in the instructional booklet were really hard for me to decipher. There were footsteps all over the page, with arrows pointing here and there. I tried to follow along to the music, but without a teacher, or even a partner for that matter, I had no idea which move was which. Of course I was so eager to dance like a pro, I jumped right into the most complex moves towards the back of the book. The only move I was ever able to master from there, was the very first one illustrated, the 'Box step'. Ridiculously easy, but legit as a dance move. I still use the box step today if I dance and because it is so simple, you can add your own flair. I eventually gave up on the instructions in favor of imitating Travolta, or even improvising dance steps. Whenever I wanted to practice, I'd go into the dining room where the stereo was and push the table and chairs to one side. This gave me room to spin, slide, kick and point. I'd fire up the record player and put on side one of my double album and disco dance. I thought I was pretty fair at it for a ten year old. Either way I loved it and had loads of fun. Nobody stuck around when I was practicing though, which probably worked out well for everyone after all. For a few months there though, disco ruled my life.

When we rode the school bus I signed up to be a bus patrol. I got to wear an orange nylon sash and was responsible for making sure that the kids stayed in their seats and faced the front of the bus. (mostly so they couldn't see what 'we' were doing), However, it also allowed my friends on the bus to get away with murder, because I'd just look the other way. Of course they can turn around and talk to their friends! Of course they could stand up in the aisles, or chuck something out the window, if it merited it! Damn... I'm a bus patrol. Not a Nazi. Our favorite school bus driver 'Wally B.' I won't say his last name out of respect for his family's good name, but I can safely say he was 'OUR' favorite, as far as bus drivers go. We'd play 'Roller Coaster', a game where the students make the clicking sound of a Roller Coaster getting pulled up it's hill, with all of our hands in the air...Then Wheeee..! We'd scream, as Wally would punch it on the way down the other side of the hill, yellow, full sized school bus, jammed with kids. We'd scream down the other side, engine roaring. He wouldn't do it on every hill, just the ones that mattered. Some of them were right before somebody had to get off, so then Wally'd hafta come to a screeching stop. With a school bus full of students. This was ALSO in the days before parent's sued each other over their children's 'Misadventure Suits'... If you got a chipped tooth, or broken nose, whoops! Guess you shouldn'ta been standin’ up in the aisle... No, it's actually THAT simple. In those days if you weren't able to look after yourself, people would look after you, for you. On the bus, at school, in the playground, wherever etc... If you WERE able to look after yourself, then... sorry about your luck. Fortunately I was a good enough bus patrol, that nobody ever got seriously injured under my command. I even remember the name of the girl that I inherited the bus patrol 'Title' from, her name was Gerta T... Remember? She was just a.. uh very, very strict person... With her, everything was "Turn around and face the front!” I think she actually left school to work the family farm. It was something you just might have to do, sometimes back then, out in the country. So when I took over, all of a sudden, it was a big change. Where their once were whispers, the whispers on the bus gained volume, which then changed to chatter. I didn't care, Talk! Laugh! We gotta go to school now! Or, equally, School's over now, talk, yell, laugh! You know? So I didn't care, Until I had to cross somebody over the highway and the mood would change. It would get all quiet like.. So the bus would slow to a stop and I'd get up. The students knew to follow me off the bus, I'd straddle the yellow line and point directly at cars to stop. The students would always wait for me to sweep my arm, while pointing to the other side of the highway, in that classic disco move, before they could cross. Oncoming traffic knew I was watching them too... Then all the kids could cross safely. I even won an award for my service. I was invited to an advanced screening of Rocky 2. Well it wasn't quite an award, cuz every other 'Bus Patrol' was invited too, they called it an award... but maybe it was more like a society invite...like the Masons. We even had our own, bus patrol dance the following year and talk about awkward? . . . Sheesh. I didn't dance at that one. In fact, I don't remember anyone dancing at all. We were just too young and too nervous. Anyway...That was how seriously I took disco. I used it in the middle of the highway, while wearing my orange bus patrol sash, to cross the kids from the school bus.

I practiced dancing and I practiced, until I felt fairly competent with my moves. I also thought about these dances that they held at Dunmark park. No that's not quite right, I didn't just think about these dances, where they played Copa cobana, I day dreamed about them. I've always been a bit of a dreamer, so I imagined some pretty fantastic scenes for Dunmark park, Not only was I a day dreamer, I had a couple other things that were working against me in this scenario. I was young and impressionable, as well as naive. So I imagined the trailer park dances might even bear some resemblance to the scenes from Saturday Night Fever. I pictured dedicated fans of disco dancing, dressed in their best satin and Saturday night finery. I imagined a full dance floor, a disco ball, maybe the Bee Gees blaring and everyone strutting their stuff. If I was going to answer the call, I'd better dress the part. I knew where to start too. Lucky me, I had white jeans! I also had a good pair of zippered ankle high dress shoes that were easy to polish to a high shine. All I needed now was a good shirt. Something flashy.

After we moved to Jerseyville, my parents had the attic renovated with three bedrooms and a bathroom, so that three of us kids could live up there. Those three kids were, my oldest brother Danny, Jason and I. To maintain some storage area up there as well, our rooms were built with a crawl space that ran behind our rooms along the outside wall of the attic. There was an opening to the one crawl space in the bathroom and that's where my mom had a trunk with old clothes and stuff in it that we sometimes used for dress up and Halloween. So I started to rummage through this big steamer trunk, looking for anything flashy that might complete my dance outfit. And I struck Gold. I found just the right match to my disco outfit. A silver satin 'blouse' with puffy, pleated cuffs. I didn't see it as my mom's blouse at all, I saw it as a perfectly flashy, silver disco shirt to go with my white jeans. It was a good fit too, ah sweet providence! This was going to be great. I wouldn't have to hike though the woods in my good clothes either. I knew another way to get into the park. If I walked up Sunnyridge road to the Shwedyks house, there was a treed lane across from them, that ran to the fence line of the park. All I had to do was hop the fence and I'd be at the beach. Walk around the beach and up the hill to the concession stand where the fancy dance would be. I made sure that week, as soon as I ran into Richard, the one who'd told me about the dances, I'd stop him and find out exactly when the next dance was to be. When I did, he assured me they were every weekend. This gave me about five days to brush up on my best moves. Besides, my Grandparents from Scotland were in town, my father's Mum and Dad and they were going to be watching us, while our parents went away somewhere for that weekend. I saw this as an opportunity to come and go as I pleased. So I practiced my dance moves daily in the dining room, with the chairs and table pushed out of the way. The stereo blasting 'How deep is your love?' by the Bee Gees. It was a disco inferno. The week flew past, but I told no one about the dance I planned to attend. I have always been used to doing things on my own. I very rarely asked for permission to do anything. Instead I'd just vanish and do whatever it was I'd planned to do. This time though, it was a serious miscalculation by me and almost cost me the dance. Since I hadn't told anyone about the dances, I hadn't shown anyone the outfit I planned on wearing either. So Saturday evening while my parents were away on their trip, I was busy upstairs getting dressed and ready to go to the dance that I'd practiced all week for. My Grandparents were in charge though and I'd assumed they'd just look the other way as I walked out the door. I failed to understand that as Grandparents in charge, they might want to keep their Grandchildren safe from harm. So when I came downstairs in my white jeans and silver satin shirt with puffy pleated sleeves, my Scottish Grandmother gasped.

"And whaur are ye going dressed like that?" She asked immediately.

At this moment I recognized my mistake of not having secured permission to attend the dance from my parents beforehand. At the same time though, Whenever I was afraid there might be resistance to my plans, I just kept them to myself, that way I wouldn't be denied. Just keep it secret and do it anyway. Here was the resistance I feared, but I didn't see anything wrong with what I wanted to do either. I only wanted to go to a nearby dance on a Saturday evening. Then again I was only ten and I was dressed like an underage Pimp. So my Grandma, Jessie, held me up.

I said, "I'm just going to a dance up the road. I won't be late."

"Do your parents know you want to go?"

See the wording there? Do they know you 'want' to go... not, do they know you 'are' going... because for all intents and purposes, I WAS going. If I had to argue with my Grandparents, fine, I'd sneak out later... I was that determined. So when she dug in her heels and complained that I should have asked permission from my parents and she didn't like the idea at all, etc. etc. My Grandfather, George, had been quietly sitting in a comfy chair, listening to everything. He gently eased his way in, saying, "Let the boy go Jessie, Let the boy go..."

He often said the same thing twice, to get his point across. To us grandchildren, he always seemed so kind and relaxed and ready to smile. Mind you my Grandma was the same way, I loved them both dearly, She was just a bit more cautious and protective of us and talked a whole lot more than he did. So Grandpa had to say things twice to be sure his point was made.

"He's just going to a dance Jessie! It's just a dance. Let the boy go Jessie, let the boy go, Jessie! Let the boy go now."

That was three times! But it worked like a charm.

"Alright, off you go then, but I'll be telling Alex that you were going to this dance without asking." She warned.

"Okayyy..." I said slowly, trying to sound a little worried.

Even though I knew, first off, she probably won't even remember by the time my Dad gets back. Secondly it's not going to sound any where near as bad as she thinks it might. So that's fine by me Grandma. If you say you're going to rat me out, just to see if I'm going to change my mind about going... I'm not.

"I'll be good." I said.

I always have to throw that in there. No matter what. Whenever you get tentative permission to go do something your folks are still a little iffy about, It's always wise to throw in an, "I'll be good." just before you turn to leave.

So off I went to the Copa! I was pretty keyed up and quietly prayed I wouldn't see anyone that I knew as I headed up Sunnyridge road. Anyone at all that I knew. It would shake my confidence with them asking me, "Where are you going?", especially dressed the way I was. I didn't see a soul though. The roads were clear in all three directions. I walked quickly. In fact it was getting kind of overcast and looked like it might rain. I wasn't worried a bit. I knew the dance floor had a roof over it, it wasn't going to get rained out and I'd stay dry. I was anxious to get there all the same, whether it rained or not. Eventually I got to the tree lined lane I had to turn down. It had trees on either side of the lane and the branches met up above, creating a creepy tunnel effect. I didn't have much choice but to walk down the old lane, because both sides of it were so overgrown and thick with pricklers and wild rose and even stuff that looked like poison ivy. I walked down the right hand wheel track as the sky got darker. Then I could hear the first raindrops hitting the leaves over my head and they started picking up speed. Yep. I thought, we got rain and not just a sprinkle either. I knew I'd be soaked by the time I got to the pavilion, so I walked quicker. The lane ended abruptly in a massive clump of brush, choked saplings and pricklers galore. It was the fence line to the park, so I cut through a spot that looked like it had been cut through a lot already over the years and hopped the fence. There was a brief patch of grass and then the sand for the beach started. So I trucked along the sand, as it curved at the end of the lake. By now it was positively pouring and the rain hissed on the surface of the water. I could barely see across the lake, but I could still make out the concession stand up on the hill and I could faintly hear music too. I was soaked to the skin though and the silver satin shirt stuck to my skin like wet newspaper. I was okay, the dance was right there and my excitement made everything worthwhile. Sure I was nervous, but I didn't have many doubts. A little fear can be a good thing. So I tried to keep a lid on it. I'll keep a low profile at first. Just kind of mingle a bit. I trudged up the grassy slope and it started getting slippery with mud. The grass was long here and the rain matted it down, so every step I took with my disco shoes on I slipped a little. They had no tread whatsoever, just a smooth hard sole. They were the worst possible things for a guy to wear, while walking up a rain soaked grassy slope. I could hear the music much better now and I thought I recognized the song. It wasn't disco though. I squinted my eyes, trying to see the pavilion through the rain, uphill. I could see people but it looked like they were just sitting down, no one was dancing. I wiped rain out of my eyes and looked again, suddenly I lost my footing and went down on my right knee. Ah shit! Embarrassing...I tried to recover quickly pushing hard with my left foot, when it skidded out from under me too and I had to save myself with my hands. Both hands hit the ground, gripping the wet grass, so now it looked like I was doing a push-up on the side of the hill. I guess I'd caught someone's attention up there too, because I heard laughter. I stood up a little wobbly and took a few more steps up the hill. The rain had slowed quite a bit, but was still pretty steady, at least now I could see a bunch of guys up in the pavilion. They were standing and watching me try to walk up the hill. I looked down and saw that, yeah both of my knees and most of my shins too had big double grass and mud stains on my white jeans. Oh no. I recognized the music now too and it was not disco at all. The song was Bad Company, by Bad Company, and those guys looked a little rough to be into disco, let alone dancing, period. Any confidence I had left after slipping on the wet grass, drained from me in a flood. They were laughing at me, so I froze. If I turned to leave now, soaked, muddy and defeated, they'd roar with laughter, they'd howl. I couldn't go up and hang out with bikers either, dressed like this. They'd totally want me to dance for a laugh. I didn't know what to do. I didn't have a clue, I just stood there in the rain, in my muddy white jeans.

Then they started.

"Hey disco boy! What are you doing down there, in the rain?"

"Disco boy! Hey disco boy!"

"Why don't you come in out of the rain?"

"Hey disco boy! Come in out of the rain!"

That was the favorite. "Hey disco boy! Come on in out of the rain!" Over and over.

Then I clearly heard someone say, "I wanna see his dance moves..."

Nope. Time to go. So I turned and left and they just kept calling out to me.

"Disco boy, come back! Don't go!'

By the time I got to the beach, they'd given up trying to get me up there. I wasn't so panicky anymore either, I was actually relieved. All the excitement leading up to this day had helped overcome some of my nervousness, but even though I tried to keep a lid on them, when I first hopped the fence going into Dunmark park I'd already started having second thoughts. It was pretty bold of me to think I could dress like this and sneak into a place I'd never been before, just to show off my disco moves. Especially when I would most likely be the only ten year old in attendance. I felt more relief than I did embarrassment, or regret. Of course the rain had stopped by now. In a way, I was grateful too that it had rained so hard. If I had made it all the way up the hill and into the pavilion, I'd have been completely singled out. Sure, no doubt they would have played some disco for me to dance to, but only so they could drink beer, watch me and laugh. This was a good learning experience for me. Some of the worst moments in our lives usually are. I learned that some scenes are best left to the movies and not everybody is going to be into the same things you might be. I had imagined a fantastic dance, where people were dressed to the nines, a disco ball spinning, there'd be bright lights and loud music. When actually, it was a trailer park, more suited to rock and roll, beer drinkers and hell raisers. That's fine too. Like I said, it was a great learning experience for an impressionable kid, a naive kid that thought Saturday Night Fever imitated real life.

I crossed the wet sand of the beach again, up the slope to the fence and hopped it. Looking back into the park, I shook my head, swearing to myself. I decided at that moment, this was pretty much it for disco boy. I liked a lot of different bands though and disco wasn't the only thing out there. I also knew that some people just couldn't stand the stuff. So not all was lost. I'd simply put away the silver satin shirt, my dance instruction booklet and change my tune a bit. No hard feelings. I walked home in the gathering dusk and came in the side door. Quietly I crept upstairs and changed into dry clothes. I gathered my muddy white jeans and the satin shirt and brought them down to the washing machine in the basement. I just left them hanging on the indoor clothesline to dry and went up to the kitchen to make a sandwich. My grandparents were both in the living room watching T.V. so I let them know I was home. My grandmother said, " Oh! I thought you went to a dance." I told her it had been rained out, without going into any detail. As I went back upstairs to my room, I heard my grandpa George say,

"See Jessie? You got excited over nothing, over nothing."

She just replied, "Ach George! Hush now."

I went into my bedroom and closed the door. I sleeved my Saturday Night Fever record and turned on my plastic Dorchester stereo. I flipped through some of the albums I had upstairs, many of them I'd borrowed from my Dad's record collection and put on The Who 'Happy Jack', from The kids are alright. I was lucky enough to have a father that liked rock and roll. He had a lot of good stuff to choose from too. It's my opinion that having an open mind is an important part of enjoying life. I've always liked different kinds of music, that's why my experience at the trailer park that night wasn't all that tragic for me. Embarrassing? Uh, hell yeah! When I told my friends in Jerseyville how the guys at the park had been yelling, "Disco boy! Come in outta the rain!", they all laughed so hard that unfortunately it stuck with them too. It took a long time for me to live 'disco boy' down. My only hope was to start growing my hair and adorn the walls of my room with every Zeppelin poster I could get my hands on. But when the eighties and 'New Wave' music showed up, guess who was there to greet it with open arms?

Childhood
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About the Creator

Jim E. Beer - Story writer of fact and fiction.

Raised in Ancaster, Ont. I write about what I know and survived. Apart from tales of my youth, I am writing a horror story for the Fiction-Horror section of the library. Met an old homeless guy He told me, "Everyone has their own story."

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  • Jim E. Beer - Story writer of fact and fiction. (Author)about a year ago

    It's funny, I pay around $14 CAD/mo. for a writer's platform, where nobody reads my stuff. That's fine, maybe I'm not that good a writer anyhow. I ain't gonna let that stop me though. Don't 'they' say practice makes perfect? I'ma gointer keep on tryin'!

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