High school proms have changed a lot in the past 45 years

Forty-five years ago (ouch), I graduated from Nathan Hale High School. I spent three wonderful years at the best school in town with the sharpest teachers and the finest friends you could ever ask for.

Make that, “for which you could ever ask,”

We will have our class of ’72 45th reunion July 22-24 here and I am looking forward to talking to old friends and reliving priceless memories.

Our prom was at the Camelot Inn, a spectacular hotel that was on Peoria Avenue (the “restless ribbon”) near 51st Street. It was so swanky, President Richard Nixon stayed there once and so did a lot of notables.

My date for the prom was Carla Sue Longmire, a wonderful young lady that I had known since grade school. We really weren’t interested in each other romantically but we both wanted to go to the prom and it was a convenient date.

I rented a tuxedo for $25 from Al’s Formal Wear at 4020 S. Yale Ave. The parents of a friend from school owned the store at that time and they treated me like royalty (hey, I was headed to Camelot) when I came in for my fitting.

I got a long, dark blue dress jacket with wide lapels, a bow tie, cummerbund, black slacks and shiny black dress shoes.

I bought a corsage and went to pick up Sue at her parents’ house. I think her parents were more excited than we were. Her dad took a bunch of photos of us. I kept waiting for him to ask what my future plans were but he knew better. This wasn’t a “courtship date” – it was just two friends going to the prom.

We joined up with another couple and headed to Shadow Mountain Inn, which used to sit atop the hill at 61st Street and Sheridan Road, right in front of the water tower. That was almost out in the country back then. They served a fine steak dinner and I think I spent less than $20 for two dinners (tip included).

Obviously, we danced at the prom. But I didn’t know how to dance. Hardly anyone did. We just kind of jumped around, doing our versions of the Twist, the Locomotion, the Hanky Panky, Do the Freddie, the Monkey and others.

Alcohol was forbidden at the prom but some of the guys sneaked in some bottles they had lifted from their parents’ liquor cabinets or stuff that an older brother had bought for them at a liquor store. I tried liquor a couple of times in high school but did not like and I didn’t drink anything at the prom.

I ran around with a church crowd and was oblivious to some other the things that were going one in the “in crowd.” Apparently, smoking marijuana was a big attraction in 1972. I never did and never have. In fact, I have only seen marijuana a few times.

There was a faction among the boys at my high school that felt that prom night should be the first time to sleep with a girl.

And I am sure that some accomplished that dubious goal. Some of those guys have been married three or four times. My close friends who didn’t fool around on prom (or during high school) have been married once – ‘til death do they part – for up to 40 years.

There was one tradition that we did keep and that was to party all night and watch the sun come up. Afterwards, the four of us went to Denny’s on Yale Avenue near 51st Street and had a “grand slam breakfast.”

After that, we graduated and I have never seen Sue again. Someone told me that she married shortly after high school and moved out of state. I have not run into her at previous reunions.

A few weeks ago, we got tickets on the Showboat Branson Belle and about a third of the seats were taken by a nearby Missouri high school who were celebrating their prom on the lake. That was pretty cool and something they will never forget.

My kids are all out of high for several years and they all had nice prom experiences.

I shudder to think what some high school proms are like now.

In my generation, no decent girl would get a tattoo – especially if it wasn’t covered by her prom dress.

I imagine prom dances would need at least a minimum amount of security theses days. And instead of spiking the punch with vodka, there might be some more potent drugs involved. And undoubtedly, there are boys who come to the dance looking like girls and vice versa (that would never have happened in public in 1972).

And I am sure there are some schools with wonderful prom celebrations. It is a benchmark for young people.

And something to talk about 45 later at a reunion.