The Queer History Bus Tour takes a two-and-a-half hour trip through central Edmonton, Canada, to more than 110 sites linked to the development of the city’s gay community.
The bus pauses outside a pub on 101st Street which was home to Club 70, the city’s first established gay bar. “The owner didn’t realize it was a gay bar. When he found out a few weeks later, he locked the doors and wouldn’t let them in,” says guide, author and drag queen Darrin Hagen. “It was 1969, but they decided to call it Club 70 because they thought 69 sounded saucy.”
The bus cruises downtown locations where men went to meet other men, including the bathroom at the Via train station in the CN Tower basement, the stroll along the top of the river bank from 100th Street to 102nd Street, and Victoria and Government House parks. “I won’t say much about that because the media is here, but if you drove down there and turned on a red-and-blue (police) light, you would hear about 45 gay men say ‘here, kitty, kitty, kitty.’”
Old coal mines near Rossdale were used as late as the 1940s for occasional assignations, according to police records showing men arrested for “nefarious behaviour”. And the tour notes the former home of Harvey Jones, a 1970s wrestler who performed what they call “homoerotica for homophobes” in a life later immortalized in a play Hagen help put together called PileDriver! Jones, who died of AIDS-related causes in 1995, was part of an act described as a “busload of homo wrestlers driving around redneck Alberta beating the hell out of each other for straight guys.”