Twenty and Other Pluses


Princeton Club, Burnside Town Hall, 1969. The band played Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and a blonde-haired, green-eyed girl wearing a blue dress tapped her right foot impatiently on the other side of the room. I asked her to dance.

I was still awkward with girls and rarely got beyond ‘Do you come here often?’ by way of conversation. Then I’d thank them for the dance and escort them back to their places at the end of a bracket. I was never asked to stick around. But now we – already we – slipped outside and I started blurting out a lot of stuff about Hitler which was about as weird a conversation opener as could be. She said she sort of dug Hitler, a hint that at least she didn’t want me to shut up. In time we might pursue normal subjects.

When I was twenty a good week meant breaking 80 at the North Adelaide golf course, my football team winning, and getting a kiss after a dance. Breaking 80 at my golf club was the easy bit. Even though the course played long at 6000 metres, par 71 I was consistent and in one streak put together sixteen sub-80 rounds in a row. I can’t remember my footy team, Norwood, managing anything like sixteen wins in a row. Indeed, they’d fallen on fallow times, times so fallow that I gave up barracking for them for a couple of years and supported Sturt instead. Kisses were few.

Kisses were few because I didn’t drive and thus didn’t have a car. Not having a car meant being a loser, a social leper. A girl wanted to go places, do things. A girl wanted to be treated right even if that sometimes led to being treated wrong. After we’d stopped talking about Hitler I figured I needed to tell the blonde-haired green eyed girl in the blue dress about my means of locomotion or lack thereof. ‘So what’s a car?’ she said and I fell head over heels in love at that very moment.

I only went to Princeton once: there was no need to return.

My favourite dance venue up to that time was the Twenty Plus Club housed in a three storey brick warehouse on the corner of Moonta and Grote streets. I often used to walk there and back from my boarding house in North Adelaide cutting through the golf course on the way – a somewhat spooky thing to do if I think back on it.

To enter Twenty Plus you walked up narrow curved stairs to the first floor. The bands played from a stage against the Grote Street wall in front of a large dance floor with a handful of seats around the edges, most in another section of the room at the rear. The walls were painted red, Chinese paper lanterns provided light and the predominant colour was orange. Sometimes if there was an extra good band the management installed a stroboscope. The top floor was empty. You’d no reason to go up there unless you wanted to pash a girl or have a smoke and chuck your butts out the window.

The club cost $2 to get in, was open Thursdays to Sundays and I usually went three times a week although once I made it all four nights. It boasted an impressive line-up of rock talent over time: Johnny Farnham, Sounds Incorporated, an English instrumental group who’d supported The Beatles on their 1964 world tour, Max Merrit and the Meteors from New Zealand with Stewie Speer on drums, mod pop singer Dinah Lee (another Kiwi), Zoot and The Twilights were former Adelaide bands then interstate, while among the locals Barry McCaskill and the Levi Smith Clefs had a gutsy rhythm and blues sound, The Harts played a lot of Beatles covers, Travis Wellington Hedge  (whose name sounded more like a firm of chartered accountants) had a following, while Farenheit 451 and Nosmo King were reliable outfits. It did well for a dance that wasn’t licensed but collapsed when the pub discos took over – Fiesta Villa at the Findon – and those at the football clubs started up – Sam’s at the Redlegs Club the best with a pie floater on the Parade to end the night.

I never thought of myself as being in with the In Crowd but Twenty Plus was the place to be. It was simply rock n’ roll and I liked it, you could make your own moves. My mate Pete and I usually met there and then there was this feller from my cricket club who had a peculiar way of relating to girls. He’d ask for a dance and if they refused he’d say ‘Well, you can get fucked too.’ I guess it gave him satisfaction. He’d just started playing A grade as a fast bowler and one week he bowled Greg Chappell. The same night he didn’t do any better at the dance than usual. Pete was amazed. ‘How come a bloke who bowled Greg Chappell can’t get a dance?’ It was hard to credit.

I had one date with a tall long-limbed girl who could’ve been a fashion model and as we drank our fantas and cokes I, at least, was intoxicated. She asked me what I thought of Jimi Hendrix and I, not realising that the giant tone drop out poster at the top of the entrance stairs was a picture of the guitar hero himself, replied, ‘Who’s he?  I wasn’t going to get far with her.

When I started going out with my blonde-haired green-eyed girl I still didn’t have a car so we didn’t make it to Brownhill Creek or Windy Point. Instead, we kissed all over town – the beach, the river, the parklands, the golf course, even behind the zoo – a freaky place I have to admit. And we returned to Twenty Plus where we kissed under a table until our amours so offended other patrons we were asked to desist.

Nothing was ever so bad as being asked to desist.


From a forthcoming memoir.

©Bernard Whimpress, August 2014

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