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High School Prom Memories

Mar 08, 2011 ● By Anonymous

A prom was not always a high school ritual of pomp and pageant dresses.  Back in the mists of time – around the late 1800s – it was a college event, a dance for middle class students designed to rival the elite, high society debutante balls of the era. Under the watchful eyes of chaperones, couples would promenade in their Sunday best. By the 1920s, The Promenade jumped to the high school social scene and had been shortened to The Prom.  Its popularity as a late spring ritual spread across the country.  Even during the Great Depression, in the mid-1930s, the prom was a big end-of-high school rite for American teens as it morphed into a formal or black tie event.  During the post-World War II boom of the 1950s, prom went high style: Sunday best gave way to floor- or matinee-length evening dresses and boys bought or borrowed tuxedos.   Teens and chaperones alike dressed up for the big dance, which featured a live band.  It was usually held in the school gymnasium, decorated for the evening with swags of twisted crepe, balloons and posters. Some early traditions still endure.  Elected prom kings, queens and courts are still reigning at many schools.  Boys continue to pick out carnation corsages to adorn their date’s wrist – and small boutonnières for their own lapels. The Age of Aquarius nearly put an end to The Prom.  Seniors at high schools across the country questioned the wisdom of dancing the night away while the War in Vietnam was going on.  Teens at many schools cancelled their proms, their way of rejecting their parents’ bourgeoisie lifestyles.  Older baby boomers, now parents (and grand-parents) of teens, have never experienced the euphoria and angst of prom night. Proms returned with a vengeance in the 1970s, moving out of the gym and into fancy hotel ballrooms and upscale local locales.  In 1975, Susan Ford, then a student at the Madeira School in McLean, VA, offered to hold the prom at her home – the White House.  Her dad is the former president, Gerry Ford. “Dynasty” and “Dallas,” popular TV shows in the mid-1980s, depicted lifestyles of lavish ostentation, over-the-top designer formalwear and “routine” dinners in black tie attire.  Teen girls took notice, wearing dresses that imitated every poufy ruffle and sequin worn by actress Joan Collins. Controversies dogged the resurging enthusiasm for The Prom.  As integration became the norm, some southern school districts held separate proms for white and black students.  In Charleston, Mississippi, segregated proms continued until 2008, when Morgan Freeman funded an interracial prom night.  Gender issues came to the fore in South Dakota in 1979 when two young men were the first known same-sex couple at a prom.  In 1980, a young man sued the principal of his Cumberland, Rhode Island high school for the right to bring a same-sex date to the prom.  He won.  But, not every school district gets the message.  Last year (2010), lesbian high school senior Constance McMillen wanted to take her girlfriend to their prom at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi.  She also wanted to wear a tuxedo.  The principal rejected both requests.  In the ensuing international publicity, the prom was cancelled.  An “official” prom was hastily arranged – which Constance, her girlfriend and five other students attended.  School parents had organized a secret prom which all the other teens attended.  Though the parents denied it was a real prom, the teens’ Facebook postings betrayed their hypocrisy. There is also the annual kerfuffle over dress code violations, and, at some Christian high schools, strictures against dancing. The prom can be an expensive evening.  Estimates vary, but prom couples generally spend from $500 to $800 for gowns and tuxedos, accessories, hair and nail styling, pre-prom dinner, prom tickets and limousine rentals.  It has also become a tradition at many high schools to head to a rented beach house to continue the party.   Some principals have responded to the excesses by scheduling the prom on a school night – and warning students of the consequences of arriving at school late the next day, or not at all. In this area, most schools (or PTAs or parent volunteers) organize “prom breakfasts” that go into the wee hours after a prom.  Youth are encouraged to stay with offers of tempting door prizes, goodie bags, live entertainment and plenty of food. Before mandatory assemblies for prom ticket holders at some schools, local insurance agents, police officers or members of MADD provide graphic images that are the result of drinking, drugging and driving on prom night.  As an embellishment,  at Annapolis High School it has become a tradition to give a demonstration  show the difficulty of “The Jaws of Life” removing a person from a wrecked car. The prom night has become interwoven in our cultural history, immortalized in coming of age films like “Pretty in Pink” or seared into our nightmares with “Carrie.” The internet plays a part in the prom, too.  At some schools, girls organize a prom dress website.  To help ensure no two girls turn up wearing the same dress, girls post photos of the prom dress they have purchased, or those they are interested in buying.  Teens have even gathered up dresses and accessories they’ve worn to previous proms and donated them to organizations that offer the outfits to less fortunate girls for free or at greatly reduced prices. The prom can be a part of every teen’s memories.  There are proms for youth at special education schools or those serving teens with physical challenges.  Home schooled teens often take part in the prom scene, too.  Often, proms are organized by regional home school groups that are as lavish as the proms at nearby public and private high schools.  And, for those who missed out the first time around, there are even proms for senior citizens. Visit our website next week for the next installment of Prom Memories

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Chris and AJ's Prom Memories

Mar 07, 2011 ● By Anonymous

Prom Traditions and Memories What’s Up? Magazine asked several adults for their prom memories.  Here are some of their comments. “Back then, there were no prom breakfasts in the ‘70s!” declared Chris Nemarich of Arnold, who has seen two of his teens off to proms at Broadneck High School and has one more kid to go.  “We all went home after the prom was over,” he said, “ changed out of our ruffled tuxes into more comfortable clothes and then stayed out all night.” “I went to Paint Branch High School in Burtonsville in Montgomery County and graduated in June 1976. I'd have to look at my old prom picture but I think it was a Senior Prom. I do remember that there was no separate Junior Prom so maybe we had a Junior and Senior Prom. I hung out in a large group of guys and girls and we just paired up to go to prom. I think there were six or seven couples in our group. You should see my Prom photo. I had the ugliest brown tux with a ruffled shirt and huge bow tie! It was very 70's!” “Funny thing,” he said.  “I had a job interview at the old David Taylor Research Center in Annapolis the day of my prom and I was offered a summer engineering apprentice job - which I accepted,” said Chris. “I spent the next four summers working there and then went to work there after graduating from Michigan. I've lived in this area ever since!” “One of the cool things for me and my friends was we each got to drive our dates in our parents' good car - not the clunkers we had. I got to take my date to the prom in my dad's brand spanking new Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme! I felt like I was on top of the world!  Now, if I could only remember where our Prom was held!” AJ Eckert, a residential and commercial realtor with Coldwell Banker and a member of the rock group the Magnetics attended Northfield Mount Herman School, a Massachusetts boarding school. The proms at Northfield were called “The Chat,” shorthand for ‘chateau.’”  AJ recalls it was a beautiful, old Victorian lodge which burned to the ground in the early ‘70s.  He claims he was so hip, he “blew off” his senior prom in 1970 and, instead, “to visit my girl friend. Of course this was summarily frowned upon by the school elders and I'm sure I paid for my transgressions with some unsavory work detail in the School kitchen - It worked for me.” Of course, his daughter’s prom is coming up in a few weeks …

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Andrew and Claire's Prom Memories

Mar 07, 2011 ● By Anonymous

Prom Traditions and Memories What’s Up? Magazine asked several adults for their prom memories.  Here are some of their comments.   Andrew Mertz, a regional youth and young adult program director for his church, attended a Junior and Senior prom, in the spring of 1998 in Woodstock, Virginia.  Voting for the prom king and queen had taken place the week before and the results were announced in school.  Andrew wore a tuxedo he borrowed from his father, his date dressed in a black and white dress.  Before the prom, Andrew, his date and another couple headed out to a fancy dinner.  Afterwards, they changed into their prom clothes and went to the prom.  When the prom ended, they “attended the after prom party organized at the high school, which consisted of carnival type games, moon bounce, and other active games.  I think I sang karaoke.” The two teens also had Andrew’s safety in mind.  “Because we were in a rural area, after I took my date home, I spent the night at her parents’ place as a guest instead of driving home tired.  This was pre-arranged.” Claire Kelly, assistant director of the Arnold Senior Activity Center, said, “Yes, I went to two junior proms and a senior prom.  In 1975 I went to a junior prom at my high school, Perkiomen Valley, Trappe PA. and to my friends’ prom at Methacton High School in Eagleville, PA.” Claire arranged it so the girls and the guys paired up to go to the two proms together, “so we all had a ‘date’ with a friend.  Half of us went to one school, and the other half were from the other school.  We all got to meet at the prom and sit together.  We each were then able to go to the proms at both high schools.” “We all wore long gowns,” Claire said.  “The tradition was to have the classic prom photo taken at the prom with your date.  We did not have a pre-prom activity since there was a meal at the prom.  My date, Al, picked me up at my home and drove me home after.  He came in and met my parents before we went out.  I think we gathered and took photos at someone’s house before all going to the prom.  I remember my date was so nervous to ask me out and he seemed so nervous meeting my dad.  It was all very sweet.” The senior prom was in 1976.  A senior at Perkiomen Valley High, her date that year was a high school graduate who lived about 90-minutes away in New Jersey.  “He picked me up at my home and we went to the prom.  We sat with my friends and went to a small party after at the home of one of my friends.  We did not stay long, then he took me home.” Claire said:  “The guys wore tuxes and the girls wore long gowns.  There were no organized events before or after.  It sounds boring but it was all a lot of clean, harmless fun.  They are fond memories.”

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Iris, Kent, and Nushi's Prom Memories

Mar 07, 2011 ● By Anonymous

Prom Traditions and Memories What’s Up? Magazine asked several adults for their prom memories.  Here are some of their comments. “I went with Ray, my Italian boyfriend, the tight end for the football team both junior and senior years,” recalled Iris Krasnow, an Annapolis resident and author of the best-selling book, “Surrendering To Marriage.” For the first prom in 1971, Ray wore a white polyester jacket with black trim and a peach-ruffled shirt.  He wore a double breasted brown linen jacket and a very cool mustard-colored shirt to escort her to the 1972 prom.  Iris explained: “His elevation in style came because, for the second Prom, I chose his outfit.  My Junior year I wore a bright orange halter jump suit splashed with red and white flowers, with wide legs and a low neckline. Senior year, I wore a cotton candy pink jump suit, in the same style. Bright zoot suits that tied behind the neck and billowed around your legs, you may recall, were the rage in the early 1970s.” “My parents would never have let me stay out all night, and thankfully there were no ‘prom breakfasts’ I had to miss. Pre-prom we ate at his father's Italian restaurant named Caesar's and went to a drive-in movie after one prom. Don't remember what we did the other year; after all, this was a lifetime ago. We traveled in his red 1967 Ford, no stretch limousine.  And, if we did imbibe just a wee bit I'm sure it was pink Ripple wine that matched my dress.” Kent Brasloff, a longtime Manhattan resident, who is the owner of Ask Kent and Co., his own interior design firm, and Co-Founder of The Independent Interior Designers’ Forum, recalled his senior prom back in St. Louis in 1978.  “I wore a rental suit that never got altered and was a size and a half too big.  My mother had to pin me into it so that it wouldn't fall off.  My boutonnière kept flopping over and it was definitely a ‘bad hair’ day,” he sighed.  “My date, who was a swimmer, initially couldn't find a dress to fit her very broad shoulders and very tiny waist all at the same time.  In the end, she wore a very pretty, all white, Mexican peasant dress with a stretchy shoulder line and some flowers in her hair.” The evening had a promising beginning, but quickly went downhill:  “We went to a fancy restaurant at the top of a mid-town building.  My date, who had had dental work done the day before took one bite of her pasta, which was VERY hot, and was in agony the rest of the evening.”  The couple left the prom early and didn't attend any after-parties. “Back then, there were no prom breakfasts or after-parties,” said Annapolis resident Nushi Carrera .  She went to the Senior prom in Alexandria,VA., with her boyfriend, who, thirty-three years later, is still her main squeeze and husband. “He wore a black tux and I wore a halter top, long solid black dress.  If you know what people wore those days you can imagine how we stood out!” laughed Nushi. My boyfriend and his dad cooked a high end steak dinner, complete with a white table cloth and candles, and served it in their family room for just the two of us,” s he smiled.  For her son’s prom in 2003, Nushi was part of the after-prom committee which arranged for a game company “to bring tons of casino like games to our school gym.  We had almost all prom attendees there. It was a great safe way to keep an eye on them.”

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Lori, Desiree, and Patrick's Prom Memories

Mar 07, 2011 ● By Anonymous

Prom Traditions and Memories What’s Up? Magazine asked several adults for their prom memories.  Here are some of their comments. Lori Phelan attended Southern High School as a member of the Class of 1976.  She went to proms her junior and senior years.  She attended the first prom with a senior who had broken his collarbone during a lacrosse championship earlier in the day.  The prom was held in the ballroom of what was then the Hilton, now known as the Marriott Waterfront Hotel. The balcony had a swimming pool in it.  “. I wore a silky blue printed gown. Dinner was served there. He wore a powder blue tux and looked like Prince Charming - but on painkillers. For my senior prom, I wore a powder blue dress which was very hot for its day -- think Jennie Lind. He wore a white tux with tails. It was held in Lanham. We left early and hung out in downtown Annapolis before heading off to Ocean City and staying up all night - the tradition of the day.” Thirty years later, her oldest child, Allison, now a 2006 graduate of Mt. DeSales Academy in Catonsville, attended her senior prom.  Son Craig, currently attending the US Air Force Academy, is a member of Severn School’s Class of 2009. “Both of my kids had afterprom school held/planned events with co-ed sleepovers after that. Pre-prom cocktail parties were held for large groupings. I don't remember that happening for me back in the day,” said Lori.  She explained how the 2009 sleepover worked.  “A dozen kids came back from Severn (where the after party was) around 2 a.m. - half boys, half girls. They had already changed into sweats at school. They pretty much all fell asleep sitting up.”  The chaperones didn’t fall asleep until the teens had zonked out.  “The deal was I took keys, no one was to leave before breakfast, no alcohol and I had spoken to all parents. It was a very tame event but so much fun! Someone from Severna Park High School stopped in the morning on his way home from another sleepover. He woke us all up. I made pancakes and we all hung out for another couple hours.” “So much fun!” Lori enthused. MORE High School Prom Memories Annapolis resident, artist Desiree Holmes Scherini never attended a prom or homecoming dance.  “I was asked once, in ninth grade, by a senior,” she said.  “I said ‘No’ because he ‘liked’ me more that I ‘liked’ him.”  Desiree didn't want to deal with the “goodnight kiss thing!”  She eventually married a Naval Academy graduate, though she did not attend the fabled Ring Dance until 2004.  She laughed: “I made up for not going to the prom later with all the military balls.  I have a closet full of formal gowns still. I should throw a formal party." The principal of Severna Park High School, Patrick Bathras, is a member of Old Mill High School’s Class of 1988.  His senior prom was held at Martin’s West in Windsor Mill, complete with a sit-down dinner.  Afterwards, they headed over to the high school for a prom breakfast in the Old Mill cafeteria.  Patrick wore a white tuxedo accented with pink; his date wore a white and pink gown.  “Some students rented limos, some drove their dates,” he remembered.  “I drove my date to the prom.  The prom theme song was ‘I’ve Had the Time of My Life.’” It was the closing, deeply romantic song in the movie “Dirty Dancing” starring the late Patrick Swayze.

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