Evolution of high school proms

By: 
Dennis Warden
Publisher

It was the fall of 2003 when Connie became the librarian at Owensville High School. Part of her duties as the librarian was teaching a class on videography. Because of that class, and other duties, she attended every prom from the spring of 2004 until her retirement last year.

That adds up to 14 proms. I was lucky enough to dance with my beautiful wife at each of those occasions. Not many couples can make that claim.

In the spring of 1977 I was part of the junior class in Owensville that worked on our junior/senior prom. Just like prom from the movie “Back to the Future,” our’s was held in the high school gymnasium. Another similarity with the movie was a live rock and roll band. But, I don’t remember them playing “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry.

The gymnasium was closed for most of the week before prom. The wooden floor was covered with plastic. To the right of the stage was a round galvanized stock tank filled with water and decorated as a wishing well complete with a roof and sides painted to look like rocks. Around the well were white cast iron love seats perfect for photos.

In the opposite corner, where everyone entered the room, we created a waterfall going down the side of the bleachers into a plastic tub. Next to that was a bridge going over a make believe stream.

In the center of the room was a chandelier hanging from the ceiling made of silver tinsel with what must have been miles of crepe paper hanging from the center to the four exterior walls.

As I remember our class spent over $500 (this was 1977) on plants and flowers to round out the decorations.

At our prom one attendee wore a tux with a top hat and cane. The rest of the young men, myself included, wore a suit and tie or just dress pants with a shirt and tie. We did purchase a nice corsage from the local florist for our dates.

No one came to prom in a limousine.

The 2004 Owensville High School prom was the last one held in the gymnasium. Since then they have been held off site. This year’s OHS prom was held at Lost Valley Lake with the dance floor a concrete patio under the stars.

I went again this year as the newspaper’s official photographer, something I do every year.

Typical prom decor, that I’ve witnessed, is now some table decorations and maybe a couple of props purchased from a catalog to represent the prom’s theme.

While the decor for proms seems to have waned over my lifetime, the time and money students spend has increased, with prom becoming a big business. 

According to a survey from Visa, American families spent an average of $919 on their prom-goers in 2015 —that’s an average. 

I’m sure that price is much higher for families of young ladies who purchase a dress for the occasion, not to mention hair and makeup, plus shoes to match. Shoes that are exchanged immediately at prom for more comfortable shoes.

I’m guessing I spent around $60 in 1977 — $10 for my date’s corsage and $50 for our dinner in Jefferson City. It’s not that I was cheap, in the 1970’s that’s all that was expected.

Gone are the live bands. Every prom I attended with my wife, since I graduated, has had recorded music by a DJ.

From my experience, here’s how a typical prom day progresses. Young ladies start at around 9 or 10 a.m. getting their hair and makeup done. This can last up to two hours.

Then their dates pick them up at around noon for photos at her family’s house. From there they go with friends and have other photos, some taken by a professional, at scenic locations.

Large groups are then picked up by a party bus or limousine and driven to a nice restaurant for the evening’s dinner.

Prom, in Owensville, officially opens at 8 p.m. By 9 p.m. most of the prom-goers have arrived, with some not showing up until 9:30.

The students usually stand around the dance floor talking, only stopping to dance for a slow dance or a line dance. We danced at our prom.

Somewhere between 9:30 and 10 p.m. the king and queen are crowned. Ten minutes later 95 percent leave to attend after prom parties.

In all actuality the average student spends less than two hours at prom in a 12 hour prom day.

If you would like to see some photos of my 1977 prom visit http://www.gasconadecountyrepublican.com/content/new-adventure-prom-photos

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