Teen-agers face discrimination “worse than anything in Little Rock” anytime they try to hold a dance, Vancouver disc jockey “Red'” Robinson charged today. The 20-year-old impresario of Rock’n’Roll hit back at a Columbian report of a “near riot” at his Saturday night rock session at the New Westminster Arenex.
“It was the best dance I’ve ever held. There was no trouble. There were parents, members of church groups and parks board officials there, and they had no complaints,” said Robinson. “At one time a bank of lights shorted the wiring and left the whole place in darkness for almost 15 minutes. If there was going to be any trouble, you’d think it would start then. But everyone acted wonderfully, just waited patiently until the lights came back on,” he said.
He charged that the Columbian story was based on “the impressions of a police officer who was there.” But Columbian photographer Ken Orr said a leatherjacketed gathering of youths congregated around the entrance of the building barred his entry and threatened to take his camera as a “free pass” into the rock session.
Robinson said over 1200 people were in the Arenex and a further 500 were turned away due to fire regulations governing the number permitted in the building. “It seems that anywhere on the Lower Mainland when teenagers get together for a dance, they hit discrimination. I noticed some people ‘approved’ of the Junior Chamber dance for teenagers Friday night. I also notice it didn’t draw the crowd. I had asked the Jaycees to sponsor my dance and they turned it down. I don’t know if there is any envy in these statements of ‘approval’, but I do know you can’t draw teenagers with adult music. You’ve got to give the kids what they want, if you don’t provide the recreation they want, you’ll have ‘Amboy Dukes‘ gangs here,” said the disc jockey.
He denied that he had been barred from Lester Pearson high school for putting on a “rock” dance in the gymnasium last year. “We weren’t allowed to put on a dance, just a noon hour concert. The kids weren’t allowed to dance and that was what caused the trouble.” Robinson said that bootleg rock sessions would spring up if “discrimination continued”.
“The more you ban a thing that teen-agers feel is exclusively theirs, the more they’re going to feel that all their ideas are being discriminated against.”
New Westminster Columbian – September 25, 1957