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Written May, 1965


Background:  When I was a teenager in the early 1960s, I didn't see the point of playing around just for the sake of having fun, not when there were more important things to do.  Nor was I a social person.  I had not yet spread my wings.  I didn't date.  Nevertheless, I attended two Junior-Senior Proms in my last two years of high school.

The customs have probably changed, but back then, we began with a dinner in the grade school cafeteria.  At first it had been a sit-down dinner; later it became a buffet.  Next came a program in the high school gymnasium, after which the chairs were cleared away for dancing.  Photos were taken and other activities were available, ending with an informal "sock hop" dance.  The idea was to stay up all night and have a good time.

As a junior, I was in charge of the decoration committee, so I had some work to do.  Our theme was "Mississippi Moon."  We created elaborate Southern scenery for the stage in the gym, and Sherry Keigley sang "Summertime" from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.

The following year, as a senior, I observed.  I wrote down my impressions in this series of vignettes, that last month of spring 1965.


Crowded into the basement hall of the elementary school like so many wide-eyed sheep . . . eagerly anticipating . . . hoping . . . waiting for the doors to the cafeteria to open and the evening to begin . . . .

 "I feel so uncomfortable," says a girl who once played the part of Eliza Doolittle.  "I'd never make a lady."

She's wearing a thin-strap evening gown and long white gloves, with her corsage pinned to the left glove.  "So that's what you do with it," someone says, pointing to the corsage.  "I guess there isn't anyplace else you could put it."

"Yeah, we didn't have any idea where it was supposed to go," replies the girl's escort.  "Her mother told us."  The girl smiles sadly.

Standing here, waiting, talking, even homely girls look prettier than usual.  But of the girls who try to make themselves look elegantly beautiful, only a very few succeed.  They are not yet women; they are only little girls dressing up in Mommy's clothes, and most look out of place.

The line is moving!

Formal smorgasbord eating isn't designed for hungry people.  On the tiny plate go a piece of chicken, a few green beans, a deviled-egg half, a little salad, and a roll; then it's to the table to nibble awhile and to drink a glass of milk.  More food is available, but getting it is a matter of going through the line again — and the line is still a hundred people long.  Oh, well, it's no longer called the Junior-Senior Banquet, anyway.

Now everyone returns to the high-school building for the rest of the evening's events.  First is the program, a humorous presentation intended to honor the senior class.  The juniors do a good job on their part, but the seniors have a few problems:  the Will runs too long, and the History is little more than a recitation of names.  Most people are glad when the hour is finished.

"Uh, we're ready for the formal dance now.  In your program you'll find blanks for the various dances.  Each girl is supposed to fill these out so that she has a boy for every two blanks.  That'd be a partner for every two dances.  . . . Do you understand?

"All right, everybody out on the floor and dance.  Come on."

"Okay, both of you look right up here, now.  Right at me.  That's right.  Now let's see a nice big smile, huh?  Come on; t-h-a-t's it!  Okay!  Now, folks, will it be one picture or two?"

She smiles, holds up a finger.  "One."

Anyone for ping-pong?  How about bingo?  You've got to do something; this thing lasts till dawn.

The movie is shown in a hot, stuffy upstairs room.  An electric fan whirrs ineffectively; the projector grinds monotonously; the sound is terribly distorted.  It might be a good place to sleep if it weren't so hot.

Think of all the work that the juniors put into this night of entertainment!  Think of all the hours and hours of planning and of preparing.  Think of all the hours and hours of designing and of constructing.  Think of all the money.

A Junior-Senior costs about eight hundred dollars and more than a thousand man-hours.  That's for one night.  Such an effort could save how many lives from starvation or disease?  Ten?  A hundred?  A thousand?  And we squander it all on "pleasure" for ourselves!

The juniors are to be here at 2:00 tomorrow afternoon to tear down all the decorations.

A boy and a girl hurry out the front door of the high school a little past midnight.  "Have fun!" someone calls after them.  They hop in his car and drive away; someplace, somewhere, they've got something better to do.  "Have fun."

"Have fun."


    and the livin' is easy;
Fish are jumpin',
    and the cotton is high . . .

On another May night just a year ago, there was another Junior-Senior here, this one with a Southern theme.

I remember the dawn last year.  The sky was just beginning to be lightened with gray, although the streetlights were still on.  Breakfast, the last event in the ten hours of enforced high spirits, was over.  And, as the restless morning wind howled and rustled in the trees, there came an echo from hours before:

One of these mornin's,
    you're gonna rise up singin,'
And you'll spread your wings,
    and you'll take the sky;
But 'till that mornin',
    there's a-nothin' can harm you
With Daddy and Mammy standin' by.


Fun . . . have fun.

I hope they did.

I hope someone got more from the evening than a table favor and a few scraps of crepe paper.




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