Being around half a century since my teenage years, I started to think about all of the places we teens used to hang around back then. Our group seemed to consist of almost every teenager in the outlying suburb of Rochedale, which is about twenty kilometres south of Brisbane. There were also a few non-Rochedale ring-ins we knew from our high school.
In the early teens, the local shopping centre was a regular hangout. If we had some money, we’d buy a chocolate bar, or if we were really flush, we’d pool our money to buy some chips from the fish and chips shop before descending on them like a flock of seagulls. There was window shopping of sorts in the limited range of shops, but mostly we would ride our bikes around, avoiding the shopowners, who understandably took issue with our proximity to their glass shopfronts. As we became more adventurous, several local disused quarries became our stomping grounds. The granite outcrops and abandoned diggings provided a great backdrop for our improvised dragster bike stunts. The cigarette smokers in the group could indulge their vice away from adult observation while tucking their cigarette packs under their sleeves in the fashion of the times. We’d often spend all day there, taking minimal food and drink supplies with us or going to the nearest petrol station to grab a Picnic or Chokito chocolate bar to keep us going. One of those quarries is now a housing estate, while the other became a mega rubbish dump for the local council.
Later on, when many of us had trail bikes, we ended up spending a lot of time in the local state forest. These were mainly unregulated then, so you could freely ride for hours, sometimes without seeing another person. As with our pushbike days, we’d usually end up finding somewhere on the outskirts of the forest to grab a snack. One of these places was a petrol station that was at the front of an abandoned lion park and zoo. The daredevils in the group, me not included, used the disused seal pools to mimic the ‘globe of death’ stunts they’d seen at the circus.
Our high school was near a newly opened mega shopping centre, which was a massive step up from the local centre. If we ‘missed’ the bus outside the school, we had to go over to the shops to catch a later bus. This became a regular pastime with students, and the centre court area was awash in school uniforms. The management became concerned with this development and invoked a ‘no more than three’ rule, which had the novel result of the previous single mass of students splitting into herds of three. However, some of the food outlets were less concerned, as high school students with a bit of disposable income could usually be seen with something edible or a drink in their hands. There were no coffee shops or bubble iced tea bars then, but the milkshake bars and fish and chip shops selling frothy shakes and cups of hot chips laced with either vinegar and/or tomato sauce did a roaring trade.
In our early to mid-teens, the local roller skating rink became a regular meeting place. The atmosphere of the skating rink was a mixture for the senses. The smell of sweaty leather skate boots at the hire counter mingled with take-away grease odours from the snack bar. These odours were topped off by the boys with an overdose of Brut or some of their dad’s nicked Old Spice. The girls might add a touch of Charlie or something with a scent of musk. Along with the incessant sound of skate wheels on the painted concrete floor, the tinny tannoy speakers spread around the venue pumped out current hits like Melanie’s ‘Brand New Key’ or KC and the Sunshine Band’s ‘That’s the Way’. When speed skating started, ‘Wipeout’ by The Surfaris or ‘Apache’ by The Shadows would urge the brave skaters to go faster and show off that new jump they’d been practising. Not being one of them, I’d scuttle off to the side to have a ‘rest’. Like the movies, skating also had dark corners where young love could blossom. I did try ice skating a few times when I lived in Melbourne. Much the same atmosphere and experiences except a fall was rewarded with a wet bum and possibly a sliced finger from someone else’s errant skate blade. Skateboard parks weren’t really a thing then, and only a few dedicated skateboarders would hang out with their wooden, often homemade, skateboards at either the closest shopping centre or a stretch of street that had a steep incline. No 360s or Ollie’s. We were just glad to stay on without losing too much bark from our elbows or knees.
In our late teens, a few of us got our driving licence and a car, or at least a borrowed one. This opened up a whole new range of hangout options beyond walking distance or a scheduled bus trip. Hungry Jacks and MacDonalds were popular venues, but with our limited incomes that were already depleted by car running costs, our family restaurant purchases were small, so management was quick to ‘suggest’ that we move on.
The numerous new housing estates that were popping up were popular places for our impromptu teenage gatherings, both before and after we’d acquired cars. The burnouts that are so common now in these types of places were less of an issue then, probably because we would have had to fork out for new tyres to replace the rubber left on the road, rather than stealing a car, as seems to be the case now. The tracts of land beyond the estates were a great place for an impromptu bonfire. Some nights, after finishing my part-time milk run job late, I’d be unsure where my friends had headed for the night. However, in the pre-mobile era and without a phone call to guide me, I just had to look for the glow of the bonfire on the horizon.
Over the years, we seemed to rotate through numerous friend’s houses as regular haunts on a Saturday night, particularly if their parents were out. If they had a pool or a pool table, we had our entertainment sorted. If not, TV did the job with shows like Darryl Sommers’s Bandstand or the precursor to MTV, Night Moves. The local footy club was another venue where every now and again we’d gather for some event, such as New Year’s or an early engagement celebration. My mate played drums for a band called One Step Further and they often added the entertainment for the night as we rocked on until the wee hours.
Our drive-in movie get-togethers were pretty much the same as those depicted in movies like Grease and American Graffiti. There was lots of activity inside and outside the cars as you would expect. Where the drive-in wasn’t too far from civilisation, you could even walk there and claim one of the seats near the cafe for the night or even find a spot in the playground down the front under the screen. On one visit, a mate decided he’d try and sneak some friends in for free by getting them to hide in the boot. However, the ticket booth attendant noticed the back of the car sagging and demanded our mate open the boot. Quick as a flash, he told the attendant he had car parts in the boot but didn’t have the key to open it. The attendant played along and said that as long as my mate came back with the boot key and could show him the car parts, he wouldn’t call the police. While we watched the double feature, my mate spent the rest of the night hunting around for an old car engine to replace the weight of the two humans in the boot.
Nowadays, with social media and mobile phones, do teenagers still physically hang out as much and at the same places as we did, or are virtual meetings more common? Where did you hang out as a teenager?