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Newspaper column #73: Adventuring over the summer
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Enjoy a trip into 1970’s prom land. I jotted this down years ago for the entertainment of some friends. Perhaps I should have gotten the permission of the parties involved, (oops) but that didn’t occur to me at the time. I can’t say (like on Dragnet) “the names have been changed to protect the innocent” because other than Josh and Robyn, well and Barb, no names were used. I hope you (you know who you are) are not offended that I have shared this, it was totally on a whim with the only thought being sweet memories. Please forgive any falsehoods told here, certainly not intentional, but the work of an old brain’s memory and the result of the perspective one gets when looking back.
Many people have memories of bad prom nights. If you are one of those people, I’m sorry. I was utterly fortunate concerning my prom nights. My dates for Junior and Senior prom- (God bless them both in their powder blue tuxedos!) could have gone with any girl from a long line, but somehow it ended up being me and I felt extremely lucky. My memories of both Prom nights are splendid.
One winter night during my Jr. year I woke up with an acute case of stomach flu. I spent the night hugging the toilet until the sun came up. Being unable to go to school, my mother called me in sick and sent me to bed. I awakened shortly after noon and when it was determined that I was feeling quite fit, my mother informed me that there was a sale at Goldsmiths and we should go check it out. She said the school day was almost over, no need to go in for the few classes that were left, then she took me shopping! On the sale rack we found a beautiful Gunne Sax rose toned floral gown with a giant ruffle on the bottom and decorated with beige cotton lace at the totally demure square neckline and modest long sleeves. I was thrilled! With high expectations of maybe being asked to Jr. Prom I shelled out $12 for the most beautiful dress I’d ever owned. Well, my First Communion dress was beautiful, too, but it wasn’t mine, it was borrowed from my older sister: as was the wonderful veil. Which leads me to the next thing I needed to complete my ensemble; a big, floppy, straw hat! I blame that fashion quirk on two things: one- my brother’s girlfriend wore a big floppy hat to their Sr.Prom and I idolized her and wanted to be like her. two- I like the idea of wearing things on my head (maybe it’s from a love of Halloween and costuming)-whether it be a hat, a wimple, a tiara, a veil, a set of bunny ears, a nurses cap.
The months passed and I was asked by an adorable, intelligent, intense, funny, sweet boy to go to Jr. prom. I got myself a big floppy hat, ordered a pink sweetheart rose boutonniere and decided to model my gorgeous outfit to the family. I took the plastic storage bag off of the dress, slipped it over my head and asked my sister to do the long zipper for me. She obliged, or rather tried to. It zipped an inch or so when she told me to “suck it in”. I did, but it still wouldn’t budge. Remember, months ago when I bought this dress I had been sick all night, woke up, went and bought a dress? Rule #1 for dress shopping DON’T BUY A DRESS AFTER PUKING ALL NIGHT!!!! Fortunately my mother had made much of my childhood clothing and my sister was a Home Ec. major in college. So…. the two of them performed miracles with the side seams and zipper allowance. Whew!! It zipped. Prom night arrived, we were joined by my very best friend ever (whose mother was hemming the green floral chiffon of her dress as we walked out the door) and her date. We made the trip to each parent’s house for the obligatory posing and smiling. My handsome date in his powder blue tux, with his long blond hair falling in front of his eyes fumbled and managed to pin my pink rosebuds on my dress without sticking either of us.
Now that I am a parent I can understand the wistfulness in all of the parent’s eyes that night. I think though, that wistfulness is preferable to the sheer panic that must be in the eyes of parents today as they watch their sons leaving for prom with girls whose dresses are plastered to their bodies and barely covering the parts that should be covered. As a female, I am a little jealous of these girls in their glamorous gowns. Granted, my body was more suited to the calico and ruffles: the dresses of today would have needed to be taped to my body to have stayed up!
Our prom called “Somewhere In Time” was at the Sheraton Hotel and there were tables of hors-d-oeuvres, including caviar that looked like miniature blueberries. I didn’t have the nerve to taste it, but there was a bit of a spitting incident when somebody- with the initials of J.G.- convinced somebody else to taste the tiny “blueberries”. Come on, who would believe Josh?
We had our pictures taken on a white swing and slow-danced in circles, swaying back and forth.
We went to dinner after prom at the “ Plantation ” with a group of friends. Much to the chagrin of one of the gals, we were seated under a mural depicting a nude woman.
Why I remember this when I can’t tell you where my car keys are half of the time I can’t say, but my date ate Veal Parmigiana with Spumoni for dessert. Perhaps it sticks in my craw, because I had never heard of either. I come from a farm family and we always ate fully grown animals. I don’t remember what I ordered, except for the fabulous Plantation salad; (Robyn said I shouldn’t because of the garlic, but I did anyway) I was halfway through that yummy, creamy salad when it felt like my dress was going to burst at the seams. I wasn’t about to leave my dinner uneaten, so I went to the bathroom dragging Robyn with me; I decided the only thing I could do was have her unzip my dress so that I could breathe AND finish eating.
Fortunately, I was really styling with my ecru colored crocheted shawl that night. I draped it around my shoulders, hiding my exposed back and enjoyed the rest of the night. Well, I enjoyed most of the rest of the night. We finished our night with a party at Josh’s house. The not so enjoyable part was the embarrassment of Barb (as we referred to Josh’s mom, because it made us think we were smart to not use the Mrs.) coming down the front stairs into the living room and finding me with my dress unzipped to my waist! EEEK!! My explanation didn’t seem very plausible and I’m sure my face was as red as the towels in her Bicentennial bathroom!! Perhaps my dress was more demure and modest than I.
Does anybody remember summertime company picnics? (this part has nothing to do with prom, simply sets the stage for how I ended up with my date)
The place where my father worked had such a picnic each summer. The employees brought their whole families and Ronald McDonald would be there making balloon animals. We would have gunny sack races, three-legged races and other relays. We would feast on fried chicken, but the most exciting thing of the company picnic was the pop! — (Each month when I was little my mother would buy a case of pop bottles: 15 Pepsi and 9 Teem. We were allowed one bottle of pop a week.)
Parents didn’t hover over the children at the company picnic, they were having too much fun visiting, smoking, drinking and being free from needing to tend to the children. The children were running, playing games and digging into the trough for pop. It was a big farm type trough filled with ice, water, and bottles of pop. There was every type of pop imaginable: strawberry, grape, orange, root beer, cream soda… anything a hot, thirsty kid would want. As the day wore on the ice would melt and when I’d bend over the trough to get a bottle of pop my arm would be lost in the freezing, dark depths, groping for a bottle of strawberry. I could only stand it for so long and then have to bring my arm out and shake it off really fast to make it warm enough to dig back in.
At these picnics was the son of a man my father worked with. We didn’t really know each other very well, but I’d smile at him across the trough or toss ice cubes at him when I pulled my cold arm out. Maybe we’d be put on the same team for wiffle ball or have quick conversations when my older brothers weren’t near enough to tease me.
I don’t remember how it happened, but for some reason this smart, funny, handsome, generous, kind-hearted, good-natured son of my father’s co-worker asked me to Senior Prom. My father told me HE was the one who set it up, that he made sure I would have a date.
Neither of these happened, but when you think about the statistics for loss of virginity and drunk driving on prom nights, it is odd to remember that we started our prom night drinking wine with our parents while exchanging flowers and posing for photos. I was thrilled that he was so bold as to take my hand and to slip his arm around me in front of our parents who were nibbling appetizers with us before chaperoning our dance. Our parents were as dolled up as we were and were having a jolly time. My date, resplendent in his powder blue tux, held the door open so I could slide into his luxurious new dark green Thunderbird.
We joined a group of friends for a pre-prom party in the park-like yard of a lovely old Tudor style home. It was a beautiful warm May night, perfect for my gauzy spaghetti strapped dress. It was a Gunne Sax by Jessica McClintock, purchased at the Chateau. As usual it was found on the clearance rack and I loved it. The bodice was laced up in the front, with a large ruffle on the bottom. There were tiny nosegays spattered about the indigo colored gauze and instead of a corsage my date had presented me with a precious white daisy nosegay—–perfect!
We continued on to the dance at the Scottish Rite Cathedral and were photographed on a makeshift bridge. I tried to think of something to write about my friends, because they were a huge part of most of my high school memories, but I don’t remember much about them that night. The strongest memory of that night was the feeling of being cherished. It’s a pretty powerful feeling. I think the word “smitten” applied to both of us that night.
Again, was this crazy business of going out to dinner after the dance. We joined another couple at Jumer’s. We ate our salads, then waited and waited to be served our dinners. We couldn’t wait too long or we would miss the post-prom boat ride that we had planned to take. We waited more and then decided that we had to leave without our dinners.
We went back to his house where his mother made us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to stave off our hunger. Then we joined the rest of the prom party to cruise on the Mississippi. Being wrapped in the arms of a hunky companion with stars above and water below is what a prom night should be like.
I didn’t know that the Village Inn ever closed, but there is a certain time of night that if you arrive at that time, it won’t be open and you’ll have to wait in your car in the parking lot until they reopen, (is that true? Or was I just gullible?) then you can go in and have breakfast. We were really ready for breakfast since we had essentially missed dinner. It’s a good thing we had those sandwiches!
For years and years my father would say that I had a date for Sr. Prom because of him. I used to want to ask him how much he paid my date for that night, then tell him that the night had been worth FAR more than he could have afforded!!!
Many years later at a class reunion I found out that my father had been taking credit for years for something for which he had nothing to do. I had been legitimately asked to prom.
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