Monday September 10, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- There were a few gray hairs in the audience and the drink of choice was bottled water, not Miller Lite.

But the lights were down, the music was great and a little of the magic had also seeped into the Pittsfield Boys and Girls Club on Sunday for the Lighthouse Reunion.

The Lighthouse was a club for high school-age teens. It was located in the basement of the Pittsfield Boys and Girls Club from the 1960s to the 1980s. Today, the space in which the Lighthouse was located is a lounge/meeting room. On Sunday, the reunion music was played on the gym floor of the club. But visitors eagerly trooped downstairs to the old Lighthouse space.

Danny Murphy plays drums for the Berkshire Beatles.
Danny Murphy plays drums for the Berkshire Beatles. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

Organizers estimated that more than 1,600 people would pass through the doors Sunday afternoon to hear the music of 15 local bands from noon until 6 p.m. The bands included Shenandoah, The Marksmen, Cornucopia, the Chasers, the Zarvis Allen Band, the Corvairs and a host of others.

All proceeds went to the club.

Some people brought their children. Most brought their memories.

"The cars used to line up in front of the Boys Club, and the line would snake around onto North Street," recalled Charles Hessler, one of the organizers. "And a car would pull up to the club and the kids would get out. And at the end of the night, the cars would be out to North Street again, as the parents waited for their kids."

"The girls used to walk in a circle around the room," said Jackie Moffatt, now of West Stockbridge, but years ago a Pittsfield girl. "And they'd walk around all night. I'm not 100 percent sure why. It was a Pittsfield thing."

The girls would indeed traverse the room, according to several recollections. But they wouldn't necessarily walk. They would stroll, and preen, and giggle and smooth out their skirts and pull their sweaters down, snapping their gum.

"You wanted to see and be seen," said Moffatt.

"It was where the people were [on Friday] night," said Mark Sachetti, a former member of The Revelations. Lest Revelations fans lament missing the combo, Sachetti noted that most of the band members now lived elsewhere and the band didn't play on Sunday.

"This was where everybody came," said Mark Reynolds, of Pittsfield. "Our parents were OK with it because there were chaperones. And, a lot of us could walk here."

"It was safe. It was chaperoned. Our parents knew they didn't have to worry," said Steve Valenti, now a local businessman, then a drummer in a band.

Valenti was quick to point out that in addition to the local performers, the Lighthouse offered its share of national acts, including the Beach Boys, the Turtles, Mitch Ryder, and Paul Revere and the Raiders.

"I remember getting a piece of Paul Revere's guitar," said Valenti with a chuckle. "He smashed his guitar on stage."

The Lighthouse was also, said organizer Ric Fetridge (who also played on Sunday), a key player in the cultural history of Pittsfield.

"In the 1960s, the only place you would see bands was on The Lloyd Thaxton Show, Dick Clark or old man Ed Sullivan," said Fetridge. "But if you wanted your live rock 'n' roll fix, you got it on the hardwood floors of the Boys Clubs and YMCAs of America in the 1960s."

Valenti agreed, and noted that the Lighthouse also contributed greatly to the evolution of many Pittsfield musicians. Younger, aspiring musicians would see local or national bands at The Lighthouse, and be inspired themselves.

"Pittsfield has had a lot of great rock 'n' roll bands over the years," he said. "We have a very rich history. The Lighthouse contributed to that."

And yet, as many recall, The Lighthouse was a distinctly Pittsfield experience.

"I remember only coming here once," said Claudia Austin Curry, now a Pittsfield resident, formerly of Adams. She and her friend and former Hoosac Valley High School schoolmate Eileen Sorel were on hand Sunday to listen to the music.

"Yeah, we came once, to see the Youngbloods," said Sorel. "I don't think I came here more than that one time. This was a Pittsfield thing."

"I would say that's true," agreed Sachetti. "I don't known why it didn't spread out to the rest of the county, but it didn't."

Fetridge emphasized that all the musicians donated their time.

"This isn't a fundraiser so much as it's a friendraiser," he said.

To reach Derek Gentile:
dgentile@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile