New club for teen-agers to open in basement of Elks Lodge

Here's a typical Friday night for Kris Schmautz and his friends: It starts with shooting pool at the University Center, then progresses to cruising the Higgins Avenue "strip" to see and be seen, then winds up with a video and maybe pizza at someone's home.

It's an OK way to spend an evening, says Schmautz, a junior at Hellgate High School, but it gets a bit tiresome. For teens who don't have a friend's house to hang out in, those endless rounds about Circle Square can get even more tedious - and tedium, he says, can lead to trouble.

"There's a lot of things going on that people aren't aware of," he said.

Enter The Whole, a teen dance center opening this weekend in the spacious basement that once housed a bowling alley in the Elks Lodge in downtown Missoula. Equipped with a pool table, dart board, snack bar, living-room-style seating area and a big, shiny dance floor, The Whole aims to relieve the restlessness of teen-age life in a small town where the mantra seems to be "nothing to do."

Lisa and Tyler Jourdonnais founded the club after years of teaching youngsters and hearing their longings for a gathering place.

"There's such an immense need for a positive social outlet for high-school kids beyond the school functions, beyond the YMCA functions," said Tyler, a high school swim coach. "They don't really have a place they can call their own."

For Schmautz, The Whole could fill that bill. "It's our place," he said last Sunday at the new center, where he and other teens gathered to help the Jourdonnaises arrange furniture and paint to prepare for the club's May 4 grand opening.

It's a play on words, The Whole, referring to the dance center's basement location, yes, but also to its potential as a spot for teens of all ages and from all parts of town to meet and mingle. The Journdonnaises, while not strictly religious, see theirs as a spiritual mission; their Oneness Corp. aims at "proliferating the truth of our oneness," Tyler said.

"Promoting a good attitude," Lisa explained.

As for attitude adjustments, certain kinds are discouraged, the couple says. Teens who show up with booze on their breath will be turned away at the door, and the Jourdonnaises say the club will be thoroughly chaperoned. To discourage "coming and going" they'll ask guests to pay a $5 cover each time they enter and re-enter. Missoula police officers also plan to walk through every now and then, the couple says.

Will rules like these keep teens away from The Whole? Cori McIntosh, a Sentinel High junior who's been doing a lot of the painting in The Whole, thinks not. Her friends are all excited about the club, she says.

If it succeeds, The Whole will be in the minority. Like Montana summers, teen clubs seem to disappear almost as fast they arrive. This one, though, will be different, its organizers hope.

For one thing, it's a teens-only club: Adults will chaperone, but discreetly, and anyone over 19 won't be allowed in the door. "There's not, like, adults around all the time telling you what you're doing wrong, or whatever," McIntosh said.

"And there's the fact that teens are involved in putting it together."

Since the club is in the basement of the Elks Lodge, it offers parents a lounge upstairs in which to socialize, as well, Tyler said.

What's more, the club costs so little to run, it doesn't need a lot of business to keep going; the Elks are providing the space for a very low rent, the Jourdonnaises said.

"We've got the Elks who are supporting this in the building. We've got a room that's a wide-open room," Tyler said. "There's not a lot of things that could happen."

If you're interested

The Whole, in the basement of the Elks Lodge, Pattee and Front Streets, offers music and dancing for teens ages 13 to 19 in its grand opening celebration from 7:30 to 11 p.m. Friday. Admission is free. Regular club hours will be 7:30 to 10 p.m. Thursdays starting May 10 and 7:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays; admission is $5. Teens only are allowed; adults chaperone. Call 542-5151 or 327-8889.

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