The Class of '64's
by Tommy Towery
Which video above most reminds you of your Senior Prom?
Last week marked the 50th Anniversary of the first Senior Prom ever held by Lee High School. The Class of '64 had no traditions to follow and no examples of what was expected, so they blazed a trail in the wilderness trying to find the best way to accomplish a difficult task. I made a note of this anniversary on Facebook and many people "liked" the comment, but very few gave any personal insights into their own memories of this historic event, so I shall take the initiative and do so on my own. I would very much like this to the spark that gets at least a few of you to share your own memories of one of the most significant elements in a high school student's senior year.
I will start of by saying I do not have one single picture in all my collection of high school memorabilia of anything to do with the senior prom. I do not even have a photo of me and my date for the night. I don't have a picture of the site, the band, or even the invitation if there was one. If anyone has any photos taken at the dance that night, I would love to see them. I would also like to hear from anyone who was on the committee that made the arrangements and learn what was suggested and why the things that were selected were chosen, such as location and the music. It was not like the video from "Grease" that is shown above - nothing like that to my recollection. My memories are more like the mood in the Mills Brothers' song.
Below I am attaching part of the draft of the book I am currently working on and the reflections of the event as seen through my memories after 50 years have passed. In the journal entries, the names were changed, so it will do no good to try to picture who I am talking about. Only the ones who are actually a part of the story may recognize themselves. Some of them I have not seen since high school, but to keep from embarrassing them I elected to change the names in the entries.
If any of you would like to expand upon this subject with your own memories I would love to hear your comments and see your pictures if you have any. Did you attend the Senior Prom for the Class of '64 either as a senior or as a senior's date. If so, who did you go with and what is your relationship with that person today, if you care to answer.
Here are my own comments:
Friday, April 24, 1964
115th Day - 251 days to follow
School was as usual. Went up town after school; bought some English Leather. Came home; Troy came over and we went and cashed Grandmother's Social Security check. Took a bath and cleaned up.
Troy picked me up at 7:00 P.M. then we went and picked up Helen K. and Jean. Went to school then to the '64 Senior Prom. "Dixie Belle and her Combo" played, mostly slow music. I bought Jean a corsage of orchids - $5.50, Aunt Helen paid for them. We left the prom the dance before the last dance, 12:10 A.M. Went over to Helen's then and the girls changed clothes, Troy and I changed after that.
Went to a party at Helen M.'s and stayed there till around 2:00 A.M. Then went parking till 4:00 A.M. Took Jean home then - she lost her key and had to get her dad to let her in. KHGN. Went over to Helen's for breakfast then came home. Got in at 5:15 A.M.; went straight to bed. Very good day.
Before I comment on the prom I have to write a few words about the English Leather cologne I purchased to wear for the big dance that night. The country was still in the early stages of the British Invasion and anything British was in style. I learned of English Leather from Troy and prior to that did not really use any “expensive” aftershave or cologne. If I had any other scent it was a bottle of some Avon offering or Old Spice, which was the most common brand of aftershave known to man at the time. Other cologne brands that became popular around the same time were British Sterling, 007, Brut, Canoe, Hai Karate, and Jade East, and over the next few years I tried them all. I still have to question the marketing concept of Jade East when they released their aftershave in a green plastic bottle in the shape of a Buddha statue with a pop-off head to get to the pour spout. The politically correct advocates would have a field day with that today. Early in my Air Force days I started wearing Canoe, primarily because I got it cheap in one of the shops in Ciudad Acuna, the Mexican border town near the base where I was first assigned. Today there are many choices of expensive smelling fragrances for men, but I have found none of them smell as good to me as the scents of my younger days. Of all the masculine smells in my life, I still prefer English Leather, but was surprised to find what I once thought of as expensive cologne in the Sixties can now be purchased at a Dollar General store today, cheaper today than it was in 1964.
The dance for which I purchased the cologne was 50 years ago tonight. While most people look back upon their senior prom with warm feelings, my experience was somewhat of a letdown. I cannot remember the make of car Troy drove, but it was our transportation to the prom. We picked up our dates, gave them their corsages and drove to the dance. Though not noted in the journal entry, I will never forget exactly where my senior class held our senior prom, the first senior prom of the new high school. It was in the lunchroom at the school. Yes, the lunchroom; not even the gymnasium. I suppose some of the planning committee thought it would be more intimate and probably easier to decorate the lunch room than try to host the event in the much larger gym. And of all the great bands available in our hometown, ones we had paid to dance to on many Friday and Saturday nights, none were selected to provide the music for this most memorable night. Instead, a musical group called “Dixie Belle and her Combo” provided the dance music for the night. Tonight, 50 years later, I used the power of the internet to search all the documents known to man and collected over the last half-century and the only mention in all the recorded knowledge about Dixie Belle was a story I did myself when I wrote an article about my senior prom on my high school website 10 years ago. There is no other documented information, no photographs, no recordings available about the combo selected to play for our prom that night.
Sometimes I wish I could look back at my own prom night and have memories of it being like the closing dance of “Footloose,” but that is not the case. The combo played slow dance music and we acted the way we thought high school seniors were expected to act, all grown up and sophisticated, instead of enjoying the final moments of our youth as we should have been doing.
I do not even have a picture of the venue and even worse, I do not have a picture of me and my date to that most important of dances. I do not remember if there was a photographer available for formal photos that night or not, but if there was, I did not get a copy of the picture. Since we had already received our yearbooks for our senior year, there are not even any pictures of the activity in that book of knowledge.
There is little more to the entries I made that night in the journal to expand on. Though we went parking, it was not a romantic interlude for me and my escort, since we had not even dated before and had absolutely no deep feelings for each other.
Today high school proms are much more memorable than the one I experienced in 1964. Girls start shopping early for expensive prom dresses and guys rent tuxedos if that is the current fad, or just dress up nice if tuxes are out. Kids get together and rent limousines and make as much of a big deal of getting to the dance as they do of the prom itself. Little expense is spared in providing elaborate decorations and the music provided is what the seniors want to hear and dance to. The corsage my aunt paid $5.50 for me to give to my date today would cost $27.50. Almost everyone today has a smartphone with a built in camera and internet connection and hundreds of prom pictures are uploaded to social sites on the web before the night is half over. Photographers with floral backdrops and commercial lighting capture professional quality 8x10 photographs and videographers record the night’s activities in high definition video.
To me, my concrete memories of the night are the few lines I recorded in my journal and amplified in my own personal memories of the event which took place 50 years ago tonight.
I “went to school then to the '64 Senior Prom."
Memphis, TN - If you think the above story is a plea for some active participation in Lee's Traveller, then you are very smart. I know we are coming up on the 50th Year Reunion for the Class of '64 and I would love to have some pictures of those times to share in our preparation for that event.
TV Westerns of the 1950s and 1960s
Class of '65
This week we look back at "Maverick" which ran from 1957-62, perhaps the first TV Western with a sense of humor. Bret and Bart Maverick (usually separate but sometimes together) were well-dressed gamblers who traveled across the West looking for a good card game, trying to make a lot of money and stay out of trouble. Poker was their favorite game, usually 5-card draw, but they were not above more exotic contests such as 3-Toed Sloth.
What made these characters so refreshingly different from other TV Western heroes of those days was that they dressed well, preferred playing cards to engaging in any sort of manual labor, and if trouble came up, they preferred to leave town rather than stay and fight. Perhaps this show was where the phrase "to get out of Dodge" originated.
TV Trivia Questions:
1) Bret Maverick was played by James Garner, Bart Maverick by Jack Kelly. Late in the series, they were joined by their English cousin, Beau Maverick. Who was the actor who played Beau?
2) Bret always kept something sewn into the lining of his suit jacket; what was it?
From Our Mailbox
Subject: Last Week's TV Trivia
Barbara Wilkerson Donnelly
These were once again right up my alley! The Chinese cook on Bonanza was called Hop Sing. Pernell Roberts starred as the title character in "Trapper John, M.D." Michael Landon (Be still, my heart!) was the best werewolf ever in "I Was a Teenage Werewolf."
LEE HIGH SCHOOL
FIRST GRADUATING CLASS 1964
50 year Reunion
We will be celebrating the First Graduating Class of one of Huntsville’s Historic High Schools on
September 26-27, 2014
WELCOME ALL 1965, 1966, AND OTHERS
ACOMMODATIONS AVAILABLE: Blocked Rooms at the Embassy Suites: 20 suites blocked; 1964 1ST priority;
$119.00/night, must reserve early; rooms will not be held until Sept; specify LHS 50th Reunion Code#636