Proms were simple affairs

Summer seems to finally be ready to make an appearance in our area. The bright sunshine has a warmth to it that calls to gardeners, striper fishermen and promgoers.

Prom season is just past. It didn’t happen this year and that’s sad. In a normal year the malls are crowded with herds of anxious mothers and frantic daughters searching for the proper prom attire.

Clothing for the young male isn’t a problem — any tux rental store can meet their needs. The hunt for a limo, on the other hand, can raise their stress level.

All this social stress is compounded by the financial strain on the families involved. The average promgoer spends close to $1,000, according to the news program I was dozing through the other evening. A handsome sum, but then it’s something you do only once in your life, unlike a wedding.

The memories will last your whole life. I still awake in the wee hours in a cold sweat remembering mine, and that was 61 years ago. Mine didn’t involve limos or fancy country clubs, it was a simpler time.

It started around Easter in my junior year in high school. The head of the prom committee came on the morning announcements and asked for volunteers to help decorate the gym for prom. I carried the coming of prom news home and told my mother it was coming in two weeks. She said I needed to get a date.

I sat and pondered the very short list of nubile maidens that might consent to attending the social highlight of the school year with 126 pounds of butch-waxed masculinity. I narrowed it down to Beverly, a girl whom I had admired since third grade for her arm wrestling and football playing prowess, and Marilyn, a round, pleasant girl who lived a few farms down the road and who had once sat with me on the bus when no other seat was available.

I opted for Marilyn since I wasn’t really sure Beverly was female and Marilyn had smelled good when she sat near me. I told my parents about my decision and Dad was delighted; a clean, round girl who could cheerfully pull a plow was his idea of the perfect date.

Mom took on the job of making me socially acceptable by undertaking the job of teaching me how to dance. Three or four sessions in the living room with Frank Sinatra were about all her feet could take before she announced that I was ready.

She ordered a wrist corsage from the local florist and I was good to go. I helped turn the gym into a wonderland with about eight miles of green and white crepe paper and the stage was set for the big night.

On the day of the big night, I washed the family limo, a 1955 Chevy station wagon. Mom drove me to the florist where I stood in line to pay the $4.50 for the required flowers.

Back at home, I ate an early supper, showered for an hour or so, shaved the one or two hairs I could find, applied three coats of butch wax to the front rows of hair and dabbed on a gallon or two of Old Spice aftershave.

I slipped into my new chinos with the belt in the back, pulled on a clean pair of white socks, slipped into my suede bucks with the red rubber soles, my white shirt, Dad’s best tie and my church sport coat and I was good to go. Dad drove me to Marilyn’s house, I went in with the flowers and said hello to her parents.

She came down the stairs, a vision in acres of crinoline. I presented her with the flowers and escorted her out to the awaiting chariot. Dad motored us to the high school.

We sat at a table with friends, drank punch, tried our best to act like we thought adults would and occasionally took a dogged walk up and down the gym to the records chosen with care by the prom committee.

The affair ended at 10 and we went out to the crowded parking lot and climbed into our waiting limo and were whisked away to the Malone Diner, where we imbibed their finest ice-cream sodas, chatted with fellow revelers, then back to the cars.

I walked Marilyn to her door, thanked her and hopped back into the car for the short trip home. A night to remember, an evening of memories for the paltry sum of $6.50, which included the sodas.

I wonder if Marilyn still has the flowers?

Thought for the week — Why is it that at class reunions you feel younger than everybody else looks?

Until next week, may you and yours be happy and well.

Reach Dick Brooks at

Johnson Newspapers 7.1


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