From Lynn O’Malley: Inspired by our Christmas post in which we published a list of Lynn Valley residents’ wishes, publisher Jim Lanctot and I got talking about what we’d ask for if we could wave a wand and make something good come true for our community.

He thought that more programs for youth might be a fine thing; I wondered if kids – like the rest of us – have perhaps too many entertainment choices and are hungry instead for a way to get involved in something more meaningful. (In fact, as reported recently in the Globe and Mail, youth are more likely to volunteer their time than people in any other age group!)

Thinking about ‘kids these days’ made me recall tales of the Lynn Valley Crabs, a gang that roved these streets many decades ago. Thanks to Google, I was soon reading this first-person account of a dance going sideways at the Lynn Valley Community Hall, a building now replaced by the more aesthetically pleasing Lynn Valley Rec Centre. It’s written by Dave Jenneson, singer and front-man for The Burner Boys, the homegrown band playing that night:

“We had horrified one of the biggest bands in Vancouver but still our problems were not over. We immediately got a new gig at the Lynn Valley Community Center. It looked more like a bunker – a low squat cinderblock building at one end of a playing field that was covered with graffiti, but Lynn Valley’s notoriously troubled youth had to make do with it. It was almost as if the City Fathers had purposely drafted a recipe for disaster. One can imagine them at a planning meeting: ‘Let’s hold an unsupervised dance for bad teenagers at a remote spot, but within two blocks of a liquor store.’

The crowd was young and belligerent and within 15 minutes I could hear the sound of beer bottles shattering against brick walls. On the dance floor they writhed like a bag of snakes, but seemed less intent on the music than on mayhem. During the first break I walked across the dance floor, my feet crunching on broken glass. We’d just started the second set when a kid approached the stage. I leaned over to hear him.

“The Ant Hill Mob is going to wreck your van.”

I ran outside between songs. Sure enough, the van was jacked up on one side with blocks of wood and empty beer cases. It would only take a little more effort to turn it over and trash it. There was no way we could guard our van and play at the same time. The Ant Hill Mob was the second most powerful gang in Lynn Valley, but their attitude was that of every second banana organization – ‘we’re number two but we try harder.’

I ran back to the stage and got on the mike. “The Ant Hill Mob is trying to wreck our van. What are the Smiling Crabs going to do about it?” I was appealing to the better nature of the first most powerful gang.

Amazingly that produced a cheer – the first one we’d got. 

“The Burner Boys dedicate this gig to the Smiling Crabs!” I shouted. “WE RULE TOGETHER!”

Jenneson goes on to describe the ‘Smiling Crabs’: “The Smiling Crabs – actually the Lynn Valley Society of Smiling Crabs – were bigger, older and more numerous. It was a remarkable organization in that many of its members were extremely intelligent – a tragic fact considering many died young from drug overdoses or car accidents.”

Boy, it makes today’s Lynn Valley youth scene look pretty wholesome, doesn’t it? The writer, Dave Jenneson, was a fellow I met briefly at work a long time ago; at that point I had no idea about his hard-rockin’ past. Unfortunately, Dave passed away early in 2009, but luckily for us the Lynn Valley native has left behind and freely shared a fascinating account of his band’s place in North Van’s 1970s free-wheeling counterculture.

The passage above is taken from Chapter 7 of the online work, but I bet you’ll enjoy reading a lot more of this well-written, colourful autobiography. A Band is a Beautiful Thing is even accompanied by audio files of the band in its heyday. Enjoy!