I’ve mentioned “The Barn” in a number of prior posts, as place where we used to party back when I was growing up, and I always say, “That’s a story that deserves its own post.” This is it. The Barn was never just a place; it was a state of mind… a magnet for the young people of Monclova, Ohio. If those walls could only talk…
In later years, the shed behind the garage became the actual garage for my little Honda Civic. It fit just perfectly… I always felt like I was in the Batmobile, pulling out of sight and into the Bat Cave when I’d come home.
I helped my sister (4 years younger) convert the other tool shed into a “playhouse” for her and her friends. They would hang out there, giggling over pictures of boys in teen magazines and trying to avoid getting tormented by my brother (2 years younger).
The barn was another thing… a big, hulking space that we didn’t know quite what to do with.
The short end coming off the big end started with a workshop area for Dad’s tool bench and whatnot. Off that were a couple of horse stalls. The room on the end had chicken coops. We ended up turning that into a cozy little office for my mom, where she could get away from the rest of us and write.
The main room was really something… a long room with a bar and an oven at one end. The walls were cinderblock and the floor was concrete. It had a big gas heater too. The previous owner had been courteous enough to leave a little black and white photo of a topless pinup girl on one of the wood support beams. Whooooo!
For the first couple years we lived there, we didn’t really do much with the barn. We put our old living room couch out there, when the parents upgraded… we had a ping-pong table and some old hook rugs, but there really wasn’t much to do.
Side note: there was also a gas heater in the workroom, with which I learned a valuable lesson. To wit: when you have to light a gas stove, always light the match BEFORE turning on the gas. I got my ass blown across the room one afternoon when I turned on the gas and then started fumbling around with the matches. By the time I got one lit, a nice little gas cloud was waiting for me to stick the match into the pilot light area. KA-BOOM!
Lesson learned. Nowadays, it would have been on YouTube 10 minutes later.
Somewhere along the line, I began meeting some people at school. I met Rik in Spanish class, Mark, from down the street and John from the bus. I found out that Rik knew John and Mark, but he didn’t know that they knew me. We all had hung out individually but never realized that we all knew each other. We all started hanging out and saw that we all just fit together.
I’d been pretty much of a square in school. My buddies most definitely were not. But we came to a happy medium… they loosened me up, and I calmed them down. Together we found a happy medium and had some great times.
A year or two later, we met another guy, Billy, who was in my newspaper class, senior year. He was a mellow guy like me, but was just hilarious… the best guy I ever met at coming up with crazy shit for us to do at the drop of a hat. He seemed to be the final piece of the puzzle.
The spring of our senior year, everything came together. As spring fever hit, we started acquiring sofas and stuff to outfit the barn and make a place to congregate. We covered the walls with posters, got a stereo out there and started wiring speakers into the ceiling beams. We tore speakers out of transistor radios, TVs, cars… if it had a speaker, we wired it up in the ceiling. It sounded crappy, but it gave us a sense of accomplishment. Once I started working at the local record store, I had access to all kinds of decorative swag, and a ton of it ended up out there. We also scored a number of beer lights from various sources. We also used Christmas lights as well. The whole place was just the coolest little “clubhouse” that you could ever hope to have.
Through the course of that summer, our little group kind of sucked in the kids from the neighborhood. We would get a couple of cases on a Saturday night and just sit around in the barn talking and carrying on. Especially fun were the nights when we’d break out the cassette tape recorder and record our bull sessions. That’s where Billy would just go nuts… master of ceremonies, group therapist and improv artist.
My mom used to say we became a tribe out there. I can’t say she’s wrong. We had the elders, the soldiers, the medicine man and the young bucks. That summer is when the barn became The Barn.
We had our first Barn Party in September of 1979, as a goodbye party for Billy, whose family was moving to South Georgia. It was the start of an epic string of Barn Parties that became the stuff of legends.
We ended up with 5 couches out there, so there was always a contingent of people that would just stay the night. In the morning, we’d let the dog in to go wake everyone up. I had the advantage of home court, so I could always crawl up the stairs to my own room. Then I’d wake up to the smell of cinnamon buns and coffee. I’d come downstairs and survey the human wreckage sitting around the kitchen table… dudes with bedhead huddled under blanket, nursing their coffees. Then would come the spirited game of “I Did What??”