2020-21’s high school seniors have been struck a blow by Covid-19. Prom has an / through it. Cancelled! All the planning, excitement, decisions about dates, outfits, pictures, dances, etc., gone in an instant. The event, marking the end of an era, will not happen. I know they will find creative ways to be “together” apart, but it won’t be the same. I felt for them as I thought back to my own prom (ancient history) something I had not done in a long time.
Prom, for me, was a double header! That’s an apt analogy because the guy who took me to my prom and the guy who took me to his was the same guy and did he ever love baseball. He played in high school (Taft H.S., Bronx NY)) and was a fervent Yankees fan.
We had our first date on March 31, 1959. How we met is a story for another day. I was a senior at the High School of Music and Art. M&A and the High School of Performing Arts merged shortly after I graduated and established a new school at Lincoln Center with the unwieldy name of Fiorello H. La Guardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. Whew! My date, Stanley Feld, was a senior at Columbia College. I know, he “robbed the cradle.” He also expertly wooed my mom and dad and came with a great recommendation from his aunt who knew my mother. What aunt wouldn’t give her nephew a great recommendation?
M&A and Columbia had senior proms sometime in May before graduation in June. Senior proms were generally held in May or June before the end of the school year. The end of an era! They were formal affairs with girls in poofy dresses and guys in tuxes. The dresses may have been strapless but unlike today’s affairs, not much skin showed elsewhere. Pretty sedate, actually, but very pretty with pastel colors dominating. Since I was going to two proms I bought two dresses, which was very extravagant for a middle class Bronx girl. Stan rented his tux for each night. Lucky guy! I never wore those dresses again. Did you know that “prom” is short for promenade? That makes sense – there was a lot of promenading about, checking out each other’s attire and dates.
My prom was an evening of dinner and dancing at the Copacabana, a legendary New York nightclub near Times Square. It’s still there, hopefully shuttered only temporarily, its bands playing more of today’s music for a hip crowd. Stan’s prom event was a bit more adventurous. There was probably dinner and dancing at Columbia (Manhattan). Neither of us can remember. The evening continued afterwards with a train ride (subway) down to South Ferry at the tip of Manhattan). No car, no Uber. It was some kind of crazy tradition. We rode the ferry to Staten Island and returned on the ferry at some god-awful hour of night/early morning. We took the train to the Bronx to bring me home, maybe taking a cab from the train to my house. I’m sure we didn’t walk. My date got me home sometime in the early morning. Fortunately, Stan’s house was not too far away. We were beat!
The 1959 school year concluded with the two fun and exciting proms and two graduations. Fall 1959 would see me starting Hunter College and Stan starting Downstate Medical Center. We would continue to date, get engaged, graduate from Hunter and Downstate and marry at the end of the four years (1963).
1959 was the end of a decade. The 60’s would be turbulent; JFK’s assassination, the Vietnam was (and its protests), LBJ’s Great Society legislation, including passage of the Civil Rights acts, and Woodstock.
A few years ago, as I was about to enter a restaurant in Dallas, I came upon a group of Prom revelers entering the same restaurant. I took a few pictures of them. Don’t they look grand, all dressed up and ready to party?
While we know the “new” normal will be different we don’t yet know how it will look. I hope the class of 2021-22 will be able to celebrate Prom in style. They deserve it!