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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Saturday, May 15, 2010 • Posted May 15, 2010

Proms Now and Then…

Week-ends in America are electric with excitement this time of year, and one city where razzle is exceeded only by dazzle is Houston, Texas. It is the "prom time" of year.

Each crop of high school seniors, it seems, tries to outdo last year’s grads, who, in turn, were determined to "out prom" the class before them.

My wife and I, humming "oh-to-be-young"songs, watched the banquet room comings and goings of young ladies in glitzy formals and young men is garish tuxedos. In love with life, they strolled about as if garbed in everyday clothes thrown on a few minutes earlier. What we were seeing "up close" from our hotel lobby chairs was the culmination of several weeks of "prepping" by the young ladies, what with hair extensions, nail treatments, cosmetic applications, eyelash enhancements, dress coordination and much else. For the guys, of course, it was a different story. More likely they had picked up rented tuxedos a few hours earlier, then enlisted help for identification, then adornment, of the several tuxedo pieces….

* * * * *

We’ve paid for entertainment not nearly so good. What a parade of youngsters!

Hearing a growing chorus of "oohs and ahhhs" outside, we exited the revolving doors to check it out. We joined a crowd of gawkers watching a half-dozen couples emerge from what may have been a one-of-a-kind stretch limousine.

It was several shades north of Mary Kay pink, and, as a Hyatt Regency parking attendant noted, "Shut down the lights and it’ll glow in the dark."…

* * * * *

Our engagement in Houston was for a sedate church dinner honoring widows and widowers.

Mostly grandparents, their doting modes kicked in, shared photos, exploits and accomplishments.

One grandmother at our table requested prayer, explaining that it was her grandson’s 18th birthday, and that she had entrusted him with her new Cadillac for the evening. Maybe it was the one we saw later in downtown Houston—the one with Christmas lights on each side, blinking "Seniors ‘10.’"…

* * * * *

At least one "prom" more than 70 years ago was pablum compared to current extravaganzas. Norris Chambers, keen of memory at age 92, still writes delightful weekly commentaries in White Settlement, Texas’ newspaper, The Grizzly Detail. (Check out his columns at norrisc.com.)

"The Old-Timer," as he calls himself, vividly recalls his only "prom experience" 75 years ago, when he was a senior at Cross Cut High School in 1935.

His class of a dozen seniors was invited to attend a "prom" planned for seniors of the dozen or so schools in Brown County. Dressed in their Sunday best, Chambers and his classmates boarded an old yellow school bus—the kind with seats running lengthwise—for the hour-long ride over 20 miles of dirt roads to Daniel Baker College’s cavernous gymnasium in Brownwood. He claims that most of the 200 or so guests didn’t know a prom from a parking meter….

* * * * *

They were "wide-eyed" at a big lay-out of food and impressed that a live band was playing popular music, including a hit tune called "Wahoo."

Soon, a representative of the Presbyterian college welcomed the guests, his voice booming through a loud speaker. The youngsters were invited to form lines around the gymnasium and to parade "around and around" while enjoying the music.

He added a solemn warning: "Under no circumstances will there be any dancing."…

* * * * *

Chambers recalls that they were back on campus at a seemly hour, and no one felt short-changed.

Prom experiences make headlines these days. Some kids leasing a limo for their prom at the Oklahoma Aquarium were short-changed. They would have settled for an old school bus for the homeward trip, since the limo was repossessed right after they exited the vehicle. Surely they’d have welcomed use of the hottest-of-hot pink limousines that would have been the talk of Tulsa.

Or Grandmother’s new Cadillac, with twinkling lights spelling out "Seniors, ‘10" on the sides, would have been fine, too….

* * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com.

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