May 14th...”TELL ABOUT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL PROM AND FORMAL DANCE NIGHT.”
A delicious effervescence exudes from the aura of one’s first love in our High School days. And even though life may take each of us down our own separate and destined paths, those romantic memories are delectably imprinted within our hearts. Cherished are those times that I enjoyed with a lovely young lady as we experienced those magical moments at the Battle Ground High School Junior/Senior Prom.
As is tenderly common among you couples “in love”, I, and my girlfriend, Derra Abernathy, had gifted each other with loving nicknames. Derra bequeathed me with the cognomen of “Dimples” from the fleshly divots in my cheeks as I smiled. I, in turn, gleefully tagged Derra with the sobriquet of “Pinky” because one Summer, while we were picking strawberries at Tsugawa Farms, I teasingly had smashed a juicy strawberry all over her chin, which stained it PINK for the rest of that day. 😉
Since 8th Grade, the two of us had dated and gotten to know each other deeply. So, by the time of our Junior year and 1971 rolled around, I had become totally twitterpated by this lovely young soul known as Derra.
We were both in our Junior year, as the Spring of 1971 came waltzing by, and it was time for the annual Junior/Senior Prom. For the benefit of young readers here, the word “Prom” comes from the full word of “Promenade”, which is from the French language and has the meaning “to lead out, or take for a walk”. You see, it was tradition at these dances, to show the finery that you were wearing for that special evening. Couples would present themselves to the chaperones of the dance and queue up two by two. At the beginning of a song, columns of handsome couples would then walk around the perimeter of the dance floor so all in attendance could gaze upon and applaud the lovely clothing that these fine young people were adorned with. Some schools would then enhance the moment by having the promenading couples link elbows in a side by side arrangement for now a four abreast promenade. When all in attendance had enjoyed a stroll or two around the dance floor, the promenade was completed and individual couples would then enjoy dancing and fellowship with other students around them.
Unlike the generation of today, who somehow manage to afford limousines and tuxedos for a Prom, we two lovebirds were determined to dress as elegantly as we could within the reality of our cash on hand. Derra’s mother either made her gown for the evening, or saw to it that it was modestly priced when purchased locally (but I think it was home sewn).
Rather than spend an exorbitant amount of precious dollars on a limousine, my parents had a better idea. Knowing their love-struck buck was in need of a car for this gala evening, they allowed me to use our family “chariot” (a Dodge Coronet 500) which was bought brand new by Dad n Mom in 1967. For this illustrious occasion, I scrubbed, sparkled and waxed that princely coach to a royal sheen for my queen to ride in.
Prince ZITalot….alias me…..after donning my suit and tie, slipped inside that turbine-bronze Dodge coach and turned the ignition key to rev up those 318 “horses” under the hood. With the “reins” of the steering wheel in my hands, I was off like a flash to the “castle” of my “princess”. Having arrived at the “castle” of my teenage “princess”, I dismounted my metal steed and ventured inside to greet my lady and her family. My breath was stolen from me, as if a tempest had just blown by, when I saw how lovely Derra was in her Prom gown!! Her hair being done to perfection, coupled with that floor length gown made her a delight to the eyes. Such a gentle feminine frame she possessed and with her bare-backed gown, her beauty was sweetly accentuated.
As the Coronet “coach” pulled up to the High School bearing “Prince” Elliott and “Princess” Derra, our ears could already hear the music of our era throbbing from inside the school cafeteria where the dance was held. Once inside, we enjoyed the live band on stage that was playing a nice mixture of happy dance tunes, as well as slow, romantic songs so that couples could cuddle close on the dance floor when the lighting dropped to suit the mood of the music.
Cuddling, of course, was limited to what our teacher chaperones would allow. To be safe, we decided we’d enjoy mingling with the other couples there that night and enjoyed the overall ambiance of the wonderful evening.
Even though I’m no dancer, I devoted as many wiggles and moves as I could to make the evening as fun as possible for my lovely lady. It was one of those warm moments of joy for a boy and a girl caught up in making sweet memories that are still there to this day for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.