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The Turret


In January 1976, a community dance organized by [[GAEGala|GAE] on the third floor of the old Church of England Institute building, 1588 Barrington Street, now known as the Khyber Building. That dance led to another and then another until finally the space became Halifax's second (along with the GreenLantern) and for many years the only, gay bar, The Turret, amed in reference to the most distinctive architectural feature (which, at the third floor level, housed the bar's DJ booth) it became the social, political and even cultural center of Halifax's gay and lesbian communities for the next five years.1

In the summer of 1982 GAE closed the Turret and re-opened its private club at 1586 Granville St and renamed it Rumours.

There was also the AlternateBookstore, the only gay bookstore east of Montreal located on the second floor of the Turret building. This bookstore was first located in the GreenLantern building and then moved across the street in 1978 to the second floor of the Turret with the same name.

AnonymousPerson01 writes: The Turret hosted the last national conference and meeting of gay organizations and people from across Canada in 1976.

picLogo designed by RandGaynor.

There is some information about the history of the building here.

pic DanielMacKay has, in a photo album somewhere, a ticket, a pink balloon, and a photo, memorabilia of the performers at practice for the play TheNightTheyRaidedTruxx by PaulLedoux, maybe the first gay play performed in Halifax, certainly the first by a local gay troupe, mounted at the Turret June 28 - July 6, 1978.

picTurret Membership Card (Front) 1982

picTurret Membership Card (Back) 1982

picPhoto: TonyTrask

China left over from the SanpakaRestaurant, used for anything requiring dishes, including ashtrays, at The Turret. The background of the photo is the menu cover from the restaurant, and is a drawing of the front wall of what would later be the dance floor of the Turret.


Someone writes: it was a great place and very innovative for its time. They had a great light show, lots of dance space but snug when it was crowded (it was crowded most of the time.) They had the best dance music in Halifax at the time. It was a place of freedom and a place where we could feel secure and be ourselves and just relax and have a good time. Many were not out of the closet except when they were at the club. The Turret and The Green Lantern [ed: CondonsBar] paved the way for the open and free society which we have today and allows us to have so many choices of bars.

DanielMacKay writes: when I first came to Halifax as a closeted student completely unsure of my sexuality, in '81, the Turret was well known - I think my brother warned me about it and I'm sure there was scuttlebutt about it at KingsCollege? where I was a student. I would walk down Barrington St at night and look wistfully waaaaay up at the tower at the red and green flashing lights and the shadows of people dancing in the windows. I can remember lurking across or down the street to see what kind of people went in and out. The Turret closed the next year, but by then, with the help of JimDeYoung, I was out of the closet, connected with everyone who was anyone in the community, and helped build the first incarnation of Rumours.

AnthonyWallace writes: in the fall of 1976, I was at Dalhousie University briefly. At that time it served the gay community as a coffeehouse on Friday ,and Saturday nights to dance.

But The Turret was not the first "gay place" I found. My "official coming out" was late Friday evening, October 18, 1976, when I took myself to Barrington Street after phoning the GayLine for directions. I finally got my nerve to enter The GreenLantern Building, up to the third floor to TheeClub.

I was a jumble of nerves. Growing up in rural New Brunswick, I had never been to a disco or any kind of nightclub. A stainless steel dance floor! Great big glittery revolving disco balls splashing myriads of light patterns all over the walls and floor and dancers! A hearty bass thumped from the speakers! KC and the Sunshine Band, Donna Summer, Tina Charles, Lady Bump, Tattoo Man ! The music was fabulous.

A smiling elderly small woman dispensed soda pop at the counter in the "Chill Room". She seemed to be having as good a time as everyone else. One night she offered me a glass of pop after I had been dancing a long time. I heard later she was DavidGray 's mother. Quite a hip lady!

I went to the Turret for the first time in May, 1977. BobStout was managing The Turret then. He had been looking after it also in 1976.

From February to May, 1978, young RobertRamsay and myself cleaned the Turret on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. If I recall correctly, BillMitchell? managed the Turret for awhile in , 1978. His partner BillGordon was the DJ. BobErtel managed it in 1979 and 1980.

As part of The Turret's Gay Pride Day Cabaret in February, 1980, AnneFulton had written a spoof of Gone with the Wind, called "Blown With The Wind". Anne was Ms. Scarlet. WendallEnman had the part of Rhett Butler. BillMitchell? was Ashley. Instead of Prissy, I had the part of "Sissy". Melanie and Scarlet fell in love with each other. Then Rhett carried Ashley offstage. The audience laughed a lot, especially at the end. A woman costumed as Anita Bryant came onstage and protested to the audience with a wagging finger: "It ain't fittin'! It just ain't fittin'!"

JimMacSwain and a woman performed a very funny sketch. Jim played the part of Alice B. Toklas and the woman played Gertrude Stein. They "strayed" into the Turret, and came in talking to each other among the audience. Gertrude asked Alice where on earth were they? Who were all these people? They sat at one of the round tables on the main floor. Alice suggested to Gertrude to calm down."Here,have one of my hashish brownies." Gertrude looked around and saw a lifesize soft sculpture (by artist Donna Gallagher) suspended over her head. The sculpture was of a female made of fabric, wearing a dress, sunglasses and hat, sitting in a chair. Gertrude boomed out:"Alice! WHAT IS THAT?" Alice assured her that it was art. And then, "After all, Gertrude, a rose is a rose is a rose."

Your Turret Story Here!!

For more stories about The Turret, see the story cycle "Peanut Butter And Jam Sandwich (Thru My Eyes)" on the page RegGiles.

This page is part of the HistoryProject.