Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

April 23, 2013

Oh, the magic of the high school prom

By Mike Redmond

— It is getting to be Prom Season, so naturally my mind turns to memories of my own prom, back during the Flintstonian Era, when the Lakeland High School gym was transformed into a magical wonderland and the evening lived up to its theme, "Disaster Under The Stars."

No, not really. I think the theme was "Moonlight and Magnolias" or something to do with the Antebellum Southern United States, which of course made absolutely no sense for kids living in Anabaptist Northern Indiana. I guess the prom committee had all seen "Gone With The Wind" before they voted. Good thing it wasn't "Guadalcanal Diary."

Lakeland had been open something like eight years by the time my class prom came along, which means it was already mired in tradition, such as having the VersaTones, a three-piece band from Elkhart (drums, sax, accordion), back to provide the music, and some cheesy stage hypnotist to make certain of us crow like roosters or revert to their kindergarten selves. As you might have guessed, the faculty chose the entertainment because we students could not be trusted to come up with something tasteful.

Of course they were right, but that's beside the point. Whose prom was it, anyway?

Another tradition was that we actually prommed. That is, at a certain point in the evening, a signal went out and we all lined up behind Mrs. Booth, the stern business teacher who chose the band, and clomped a few laps around the gym floor while our parents looked on from the mezzanine.

Most of our parents, I should say. My mother made it abundantly clear that she was not about to drive 12 miles into town to watch a bunch of kids walking in circles wearing rented clothes.

Oh, yes, the clothes. This was the era of sky-blue and Pepto-pink tuxedoes with lapels like car doors, Ricky Ricardo ruffled shirts, and bow ties the size of cecropia moths.

Except for me. As befits a shy, conservative type such as myself, I chose a plain black formal suit.

Compared to my pastel-hued classmates, I looked Amish. Wait. It was double-breasted. Make that Mennonite.

The prom itself went along as they all did back then. Couples pulled up in gleaming washed and waxed family cars, walked through the same doors they walked through every school day, and made their way to the aforementioned gymnasium-slash-wonderland, a beauteous riot of crepe paper and balloons with only the faintest whiff of sweatsocks. There we waited in line while some sophomore announced each couple to a room full of people who couldn't care less, all of us just having seen one another out in the hallway.

Oh, the magic of it all.

The evening passed in a blur of stumbling dances, tiny sandwiches, spilled punch, wilting corsages, tight collars, bruised toes, and the occasional bawling girl rushing off to the ladies' room with a bunch of her friends trailing after, all of them incensed over something said by some insensitive clod of a boy.

No, it wasn't me.

My insensitive clod moment came later, after the prom at Mike Pipher's house, where some of us had gathered to drink whiskey sours and feel grown-up. Disaster Under The Stars, indeed. But I'll keep the details to myself for now. After all, that was 40 years ago. It's someone else's turn to make disastrous memories now.

© 2013 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.