Rondeau Pavilion 1964

November 11, 2009




Club: Rondeau Pavilion
Year: 1964
Built in 1952 by Maurice Smyth (Date noted from article online)
(Update 2017: I have been notified by a personal source that it was actually 1958).
Location: Rondeau Park Ontario
What: Hottest dance club around for decades.

Note: People would drive from a hundred mile radius to party at the Pavilion, and there is no way I could do the Chatham Music Archive without mentioning this place and what I have been told about it. Nothing was like it for miles and miles and the kids would do anything to make it every night.

  • The club drew 1,500 on average every Saturday night
  • People came from Sarnia, Windsor, Detroit, London and everywhere in between
  • Ages 12 – 20 were the scene for the infamous dances held
  • The rules were strict but were respected and followed by patrons
  • Bands included The pharaohs, The Fiends, Sally and the Bluesman, The American Breed, MC5(in 1969)
  • Bob Seger and Alice Cooper played there regularly as struggling musicians before becoming famous
  • The Hops (DJ’s spinning what the kids wanted to hear) were the high lights for the kids
  • Popular Dj’s for the years the Pavilion were most packed were Bill Saunders and Paul Dusten
  • Bill Saunders became the DJ in 1964
  • The place is also memorable for its closing song “The Sand and the Sea”
  • Girls waited against the wall for a guy to ask them to dance, that was the era
  • The guys constantly walked clock wise around the hall
  • Mr. Smyth sold Rondeau Pavilion in 1975, attendance was dropping as policies changed to the park
  • The pavilion was the third and last dance hall at Rondeau
  • Rondeau is Ontario’s second oldest provincial park, which was established in 1894, a year after Algonquin Provincial Park.
    Main Source: The Weekender, May 10th 1980 By S. Dudley

    Email your info & pictures to:


  1. Actually Rondeau Provincial Park was established in 1894, not 1899.

  2. Just surfing the web tonight and came across this article. Sure brings back some memories. Noticed that my name is correct, but Paul’s last name is Dusten not Dustin. The article you are referring to by Stephanie Dudley appeared in The Chatham Daily News. I was the city editor of the News at the time and gave Stephanie an assignment to write a Weekender on a place that meant so much to me and thousands of others during our teenage years. About a month later the Pavilon burnt to the ground. It was a sad day for many or us.

    • Bill, do you have a copy of that article

  3. Thanks for the insight Mr. Saunders. Also, the correction has been made. Thank You.

  4. I remember attending dances through the mid 60s, records Monday through Thursday with a DJ and a band on Friday and Saturday night. I definitely remember the slow dances – the Canadians danced slow to almost everything. The dancing flowed counter clockwise as the crowd walked around the outside in a clockwise loop – everyone checking out everyone else. The crowds were huge on Friday and Saturday night – 1500 – 2000 is my estimate. The mirror ball above the dance floor, the wax shavings on the hardwood surface, the shutters open to the breezes off the bay. The girls sat on the benches on the outside of the dance floor. Fast music dancing involved more girl-girl couples than boy-girl – most of us were not that coordinated to keep a beat and move our feet at the same time. The evenings always ended, in my memory, with a series of slow dances, the final song being Percy Faith’s Theme from a Summer Place. If there was to be an evening after the dance, you needed a partner by this time or you were headed home alone. Believe me, all the girls started looking like beauties by this time.

  5. Just read Bob’s note above and while most of the facts are correct the one about the last song of the night is not.
    Paul Dusten and I not only DJ’d the dances from 64 to 66 (Paul also worked 67 from Maurice Smyth the owner)we were also roommates at Port Huron Junior College and we actually played three songs – all slow — as the last three songs of the night. The third last one was The Theme From A Summer Place, the second last one The Enchanted Sea by The Islanders and the final, and by far the most popular was The Sand and The Sea by the Duprees.
    Even today, 45 years later I still get people asking me about that song.
    Rondeau was a wonderful place for years through the late 60s but unfortunately all good things had to end.
    Bill Saunders

  6. By the time I attended dances there in the early 70’s, the girls walked around too! Yes, we waited for the guys to ask us to dance, we we did a lot of walking around too. I got my first kiss in the parking lot!
    I remember Bob Seager saying to me at the snack counter “You’re cute”. I replied “Thanks, but you’re married.”

  7. I’m researching a band that played for nearly 50 years – from Georgian Bay/Collingwood area. They’re called Ted Ormsby and the Toe Tappers. A radio broadcast I found said they played in Holland Center in the early 60’s weekly. Is this likely the Rondeau Pavilion? Any answers or looking into that Band would be hugely appreciated. Ted is 92 and the onyl one left and I am doing his Life Story Film. Thanks very much.

    • Rebecca I spent my teen years at Rondeau and I don’t remember a place called the Holand Centre. As far I know there was the Lakeside Pavilion on Lake Erie inside the park and the Rondeau Pavilion just outside the Park on the Rondeau Bay side.

  8. I attended many concerts at the Rondeau Pavilion and the picture above is not the Rondeau Pavilion that held the hard rock concerts. The picture above looks like one of the dance halls inside Rondeau Park. The pavilion that held the rock concerts was not on a gravel road, the pavilion above appears to be on an unpaved road. This looks like one of several dance halls on the Lake Erie side of the park. The rock concert pavilion was on the bayside and was located just outside the park entrance. The concert hall was a bit controversial in the late 60’s and early 70’s. My recollection was there was some opposition to this venue during the turbulent 60’s and early 70’s and I highly doubt the Ontario park service would have put up with the long hair hippie crowds and bands like the MC5. The OPP always had a presence near the concert hall on weekends. The crowds were quite large and at times the atmosphere outside the pavilion could be a bit tense with the OPP’s presence. That being said I don’t recall many problems at any of the shows I attended. I’ve searched the internet for any pictures of the Rondeau Pavilion without success. I believe the hall above was called the Rondeau Park Pavilion where as the rock concert venue just outside the park property was called the Rondeau Pavilion.

  9. I have memories of the rondeau pavillion located inside the park which burned in the early 70’s. my father was a member of the Kiwanis Club in Ridgetown. The club sponsored and ran dances there on Saturday nights. we would go there on Sundays and clean up.I recall the beautiful dance floor stage and wooden interiors. it was full of beautiful best wood chairs and tables

  10. Like so many Southwestern Ontario teenagers, I grew up at Rondeau in the 60’s. I’m not certain whether 1964 or 1965 was my first summer at Rondeau Pavilion, but I clearly recall the memories shared by Bill Saunders and others above. My best friend, Ron Hanley, and I succeeded Bill Saunders and Paul Dusten as the DJs, occasionally subbing for Paul and then taking over from him in September ’67 when he returned to PHJC. Ron and I shared the deejaying in 1968 with Don McMillan partnering with Ron in 1969, although I may have made one or two appearances in 69/70. Ron and I perpetuated the same last three songs of the night and extended it with an additional five or six “hangin’ on” songs in what we titled “A Time for Friends and Lovers”. Like, Bill Saunders, I am amazed how many people still talk about “The Sand and The Sea”. I never hear any of those three songs that I don’t think of Rondeau Pavilion and the many friends we made from all of those high schools in Kent, Elgin, Lambton and Essex counties, as well as Michigan. I also recall 3,000+ teenagers at the Pavilion for Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Bob Seger, CCR and the American Breed. And, of course, who can forget The Little Sisters from Grosse Point, The Volcanoes from Sarnia, London’s Bluesman Revue, featuring future Juno award winner, Kim Mitchell, and so many other great bands from Southwestern Ontario and Michigan. Best of all, I met my wife, Bev Hamilton, there during my first summer home from college and shared that last dance with her.

  11. Great website. Does anyone have a picture of the true Rondeau Pavilion that backed up to Rondeau Bay just outside Rondeau Provincial Park entrance during the mid-to-late 1960’s through into 1970 or so. Like so many other Southwestern Ontario teenagers, I grew up at Rondeau in the mid-to-late 60’s and on into 1970. Does anyone know when the Dance Pavilion burned down? I would like to know when that happened! I believe 1965 was my first summer at Rondeau Pavilion. I recall Ron Hanley as being one of the DJ’s who ran the music for some time during the years I attended the pavilion dances. I have great memories of artists and bands such as Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Bob Seger, CCR and the American Breed along with many others I do not recall at the moment. I learned to dance at the pavilion and learned how to meet and eventually successfully date girls while attending the teen dances at the pavilion. I enjoyed and still remember my kisses and other encounters in the parking lot late into the night during and after the dances. My most memorable experiences were meeting young women from the United States. Most American girls I met during that period were from Detroit, Port Huron and other American cities just across the border in the U.S. Rondeau Pavilion was a fabulous place to meet and experience time with young American women who seemed, in my mind at least, to have more easy-going attitudes toward relationships and yes even sex, than the typical Canadian young women of the same age during that period. I now live in the Toronto area but every time I am in the Rondeau Park area of Ontario and Rondeau Bay I make a conscious effort to make a pilgrimage to the former location of Rondeau Pavilion. There are now two modern homes built on the site of the former pavilion and its parking lots that back onto Rondeau Bay. Next door and just a few feet further outside the Rondeau Park entrance is a local Pub. The current name of this pub is Joe’s Pub. Joe’s was in operation during the summer of 2015, at least on weekends, when I was in the area. My last visit to this site of my fond teenage memories was yesterday October. 2, 2015. I usually drop by the former Rondeau Pavilion site and rekindle old fond memories and keep my early male – female encounters alive in my mind. I have been doing this ritual return to the site since the pavilion burned down in the early 1970’s as I remember the time frame to be. CAN ANYONE TELL ME THE DATE AND YEAR IT BURNED.
    By: J.W.G. now 65 plus years old. Written Oct. 3, 2015

    • @ John Corvette. From something I found on the internet a few years ago. Rondeau Pavilion the last of 3 dance halls at Rondeau was built in 1952. This was the dance hall outside the park entrance with the other two dance halls being much older and inside the park. The Rondeau Pavilion burned on Halloween night 1980, the cause was most likely a cigarette in a garbage can. My family has a cottage at Rondeau and my memory was always that it burned down in the very early 80’s.

      • John M,

        Thanks for the update on the date of the fire that destroyed the “Teen Dance Pavilion” just East of the entrance to Rondeau Park and also backing onto the Rondeau Bay. It was a great source of pleasure for me as a teenager. I am sad that it is now gone. I wish it was still there so we could attend some “oldies dance nights” there now that I am retired and have lots of time to spare.

        John G.

    • Don’t know the actual date but I believe it burned down in 1981. My parents actual met at that pavilion and when it burnt down and the lot went up for sale they bought the lot and built their retirement home on it!

      • Sorry I meant 1980

  12. Long happy memories of the great Dance hall outside the parkespecially the M c 5 kick out the jams mf

    • I was at the mc5 show,it was fantastic.They were so loud they could hear them in Erieau 5 miles across the bay.I saw them exit their stretch limo in a cloud of smoke,Rob Tyner’s huge afro! Little Steven does a great rap on the MC5.It was a great venue.

  13. What year did Rondeau Pavillion, inside park on the lake, burn down? I thought it was a log building. First time I went to Rondeau I was 15 in late 60’s. I was from small town Blenheim but we met a lot of people from all over Ontario and the US. Loved it. A lot of good memories.

    • The year was 1980. Read the comments above for more info.

  14. Shelia,
    I just realized you may not have been asking about the Rondreau Pavillion just outside the park entrance. But rather the dance hall inside the park on Lake Erie.

  15. I’m writing my mother’s story and have discovered that my parents rode my Dad’s Harley to the Rondeau Pavilion when they were courting in the early 40’s. I went to those dances, too, as a teenager in the early 60’s. They never told me. So neat that we shared the same experience of the warm breeze blowing off the Bay as we dance under that big shiny ball. Such great fun! Too bad our kids won’t experience the same.

    • Hi Karen

      There were two dance pavilions at Rondeau. The one your parents would have attended (as did my parents) was the pavilion inside the park gates on the Lake Erie side, which was operated by the Ridgetown Kiwanis Club. Interestingly, it was BYOB. (The Kiwanis Club sold the ice and mix.) One of the bands that played there frequently was the Chateau Gay Orchestra, lead by Glenn Rumble of Rodney.

      The pavilion that we, teenagers, attended was outside the park gates and backed onto Rondeau Bay. It was built in the mid-to-late 50s and had the mirrored ball you mentioned. Ron Hanley and I were the disc jockeys there circa 1966 to 1968. Many of our fellow WEDHS students were “regulars” there.

      Hope that helps,

      Dave Garton

      • Dave, you and Ron Hanley may have been DJs at the pavilion but not in 1966 or 1967. I am from Dutton and went to West Elgin as well and know Ron. Myself and Paul Dusten of Dresden were co-DJs from 1964 through 1966, and then Paul was the DJ in 1967. I am sure Larry Smyth can vouch for this.

      • Hi Bill

        I wasn’t exactly sure which summers Ron and I were the DJs (thus the reference to circa 66 to 68), but based on your years, it must have been 67 to 69. I recall taking over from Paul when he returned to PHJC in September for the last few weekends of what must have been 67 and then, for the summer of 68. Ron also did the next year with Don McMillan and I subbed for them a few times. Ron and I started deejaying at West Elgin in 65-66 for the BAA dances.


  16. Hello,
    Correction. The New Rondeau Pavilion outside Rondeau Park was built in 1958/59. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: