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Seeing the beautiful pictures of the prom-goers in last week’s News-Democrat prompted some of us who participate in the walking program at the public library every weekday morning to reminisce about our own proms – back in the day.
I went to high school in Marianna, Fla., a town of about 6,500 in the Panhandle. Our class had about 200 members and one of the reasons we looked forward to our junior year was that it was our year to put on the prom. Our committee planned for months and decorated for days once we had decided on a theme.
The prom was held every year in the ballroom of the Chipola Hotel, a wonderful old edifice in downtown Marianna. Boys were much more likely to drive their dads’ cars; most didn’t have a swell ride of their own. Those who did usually had jalopies, so Dad’s car was the official prom car.
And back then, no one had ever heard of stretch limousines.
Our prom was always on Friday night, and juniors and seniors were let out of school at noon so that cars could be washed and hair appointments kept. Don’t faint when I tell you that one could get a wash and set — French twist being the most popular — for $2 back in the day. We didn’t start taking pictures at two o’clock in the afternoon. More likely, Mom or Dad would snap a photo of the handsome couple in front of the fireplace before they left for prom. Sometimes the film would stay in the Brownie camera for weeks before being developed. You had to “finish the roll” before sending it off.
Flowers were usually wrist corsages worn over elbow-length gloves. (I still have two pair and a beaded purse from my proms.) We wore white satin pumps that could later be dyed if necessary. I had a wonderful grandmother who would make a trip to Jenny’s or Giddings in Cincinnati and send me a beautiful dress so no one ever had one like mine.
The guys wore white dinner jackets and dark dress pants. There were no tuxedo-rental places in town, so every Southern boy owned a white dinner jacket/ They often were passed down through the family – sometimes for more than one generation.
The juniors did a lot of fund-raising to pay for the prom every year, and we always had a live band. My senior year, the band was The Crickets, led by a local fellow who was, at the time, a senior at Auburn University. His name was Bobby Goldsboro, and though later Dothan, Ala., would claim him as their own, he was born in Marianna and lived there through part of his high school years. He was not yet famous when he played for our prom, but in a very few years he was on Ed Sullivan singing his hit song, “Honey.”
His first cousin lived two doors down from me and tried unsuccessfully to teach me to play the guitar, so I felt I had a connection.
Prom was not a drop-in affair for us. It was three hours of dancing to the hits of the day, and if there was drinking, I never knew about it.
At 11 o’clock, the dance was over and girls were driven home to change into new sun dresses. Then the couples went from house to house for “breakfast” and we danced to records.
Of course moms were pulling duty practically all night, placing out all their best things and serving up their best dishes.
It was a tradition to go to Blue Springs, our local swimming hole, the next day. Good manners and sophisticated airs were forgotten as boys tried to push girls off the raft and girls complained about getting their hair wet.
My friend, Mary Ann, notorious about being tight with her money, would say with each splash, “There goes another fifty cents worth.” At $2, it didn’t take long for a French twist to be ruined.
I’ll be re-living some of those memories shortly as I will be traveling south for a big class reunion. Two days of activities are planned.
Think we’ll have anything to talk about?
Jarrett Boyd is the retired director of Carroll County Public Library and a resident of Carrollton, Ky.