Monday, May 19, 2014

Going to the Prom

In the early days of high school proms, the night time dance served a similar function to a debutante ball. Early proms were times of first: the first adult social event for teenagers; the first time taking the family car out after dark; the first real dress-up affair; and so forth. Proms (promenade) also served as a heavily-documented milestone in which the participants were taking an important step into a new stage in their lives.  

Proms worked their way down incrementally from college gatherings to high school extravaganzas. In the early 1900s, prom was a simple tea dance where high school seniors wore their Sunday best. In the 1920s and 1930s, prom expanded into an annual class banquet where students wore party clothes and danced afterward. As Americans gained more money and leisure time in the 1950s, proms became more extravagant and elaborate, bearing similarity to today’s proms. The high school gym may have been an acceptable setting for sophomore dances (sock- hops), but junior prom and senior balls gradually moved to hotel ballrooms and country clubs. These days’ limousines have become compulsory for the event.

Competition blossomed, as teens strove to have the best dress, the best mode of transportation, and the best looking date. Competition for the prom court also intensified, as the designation of “prom queen” became an important distinction of popularity. In a way, prom became the pinnacle event of a high school student’s life.

My husband Keith and I graduated high school in 1968 but from different schools.  When I asked him if he went to his senior prom, he emphatically replied, “No!”  I had already known this as we have been married 44 years, but it was fun to ask him again. “Why,” I teased. “Money! Why would I spend my hard-earned money on a girl I didn’t know or care to know?” His response still surprises me because he was the “all-time campus great guy . . . Varsity Basketball Player of the Year, Honor Student, and darn right handsome. Even his best friend tried to convince him to go as a double-date. His snarky reply, “Ah, right. You and her up in the front seat necking like crazy and me sitting in the back seat with some girl I did not want to kiss or anything else! Forget about it!” Having gotten this off his chest once again, he said, “Now if I had known you then, I would have taken you to the prom.” How sweet.

My high school was small by today’s standards. My graduating class had less than 300 students. It was a very traditional high school. Perhaps this is not a common lexicon to use regarding schools. The reason I say this is because all the seniors received a very formal invitation from the Junior Class. It stated,

“The Junior Class of Lincoln-Way Community High School requests the pleasure of your company at the Junior-Senior Prom, Friday, the twenty-fourth of May at eight-thirty in the evening at the Chateau Bu-Sche in Oak Lawn, Illinois.”      

Wow! A formal invitation sent to me! It came in the mail and even had a smaller card in the envelope. Obviously it was not an R.S.V.P. card because I still have it. Never-the-less, it was quite something and impressive. I wonder if high schools today send out such lavish invitations. 

Prom day was looming in fast and I waited until the last minute to be asked, but alas, I was not. So when push came to shove, I asked Don, a nice guy, very shy, but sweet as could be. He wore a white tuxedo, looking as uncomfortable as I am sure he felt. He presented me with the corsage; I pinned the boutonniere on his lapel. I can recall how he shook with nervousness.

My mother picked out my prom dress. I did not like the color (brown) but the style was in. A straight sleeveless crepe dress with a high-neck jeweled collar. I was really crazy about the shoes. They were a shiny brown patent with stack Lucite heels. Cool! A small clutch of some kind and not much jewelry. Pierced ears were not of the fashion yet, but bouffant hairdos where. All decked out, ready to go, but I can’t remember how we got there, but we did.  

The prom was quite extravagant. Being that my high school was located in the land of farms and start of suburban sprawl. The majority of students were from farming families and sophistication was not a strong trait among the masses. So to have the prom at a swanky dinner club (remember those) and in a populated suburban area, it was quite special. Most of the dating couples came by motor caravan driven by parents and chaperone's. After being dropped off at the entrance, we were escorted to the tables, beautifully decorated with flowers. A program described the menu, evening activities (Welcome, Invocation, even a skit and farewell) letting us know what to expect that evening. We danced to The Buddy Everette Orchestra. No disc jockey. The only disc jockeys known at the time were on the radio. Though I can’t remember what they played, I’m sure it was the music of the day. On the table there was also a tiny red-velvet tasseled booklet that served as a keepsake. The theme of the prom was . . .
                  “Moonlight and Roses 1968”
Inside the booklet was listed the class officers, coordinators, sponsors, chaperone's and honored guests. In the back was a poem. It read:

Moon-light and Roses, 
Bring wonderful mem’ries of you.  
My heart reposes, In beautiful thoughts so true.      
June light discloses, Love’s olden dreams sparkling a new. Moon-light and Roses, Bring me mem’ries of you.”

Do you remember your senior prom? Share if you do.  

Next Post:  Class Trips & Class Rings

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