Some prom memories are best forgottenMy sophomore year at Chamberlain High School, I had no prom date. Hard to believe, I know, but I wasn’t always this hip cat, often mistaken for Charlie Sheen down on Main Street. Many schools these days limit the prom to seniors and juniors. Chamberlain must not have done that, because my freshman year I took Mary Jane Chaussee. The relationship didn’t bloom, but her big brother married my big sister, so there is still, you know, a relationship.
By: Terry Woster, Republic columnist
My sophomore year at Chamberlain High School, I had no prom date.
Hard to believe, I know, but I wasn’t always this hip cat, often mistaken for Charlie Sheen down on Main Street. Many schools these days limit the prom to seniors and juniors. Chamberlain must not have done that, because my freshman year I took Mary Jane Chaussee. The relationship didn’t bloom, but her big brother married my big sister, so there is still, you know, a relationship.
Anyway, sophomore year, I was dateless and didn’t attend the prom. It still was the most humiliating prom-evening experience ever.
(Yes, worse than the year the CHS swing band played a few numbers during the banquet. When it came time for my guitar solo on “Swinging Down the Lane,’’ I didn’t come within two strings or five frets of a single correct note. These days, they’d call it a jazz lead. Back then, people stared in horror.
(That was a bad prom-evening experience, but not as bad as the year I spilled punch on my date when we took a break from dancing after about eight tunes.
That was a terrible moment, especially because we kept dance books in those days, and when the punch ran over her dance book, it made it difficult to read the penciled names of the boys who were supposed to be her dance partners for dances 10, 11 and 12. She missed dance No. 9 because she was in the ladies’ room drying her prom dress.
I was standing in the hallway trying to act cool while rivers of Lucky Tiger butch wax ran down the back of my neck. It took years before I realized the guys who were looking confident were insecure, too, just better actors.)
My sophomore year, I was among those chosen as servers for a banquet for a bunch of CHS juniors and seniors. Maybe the banquet was a tradition or maybe it was a one-time thing. I don’t remember that.
I remember it was in the basement of St. James Catholic Church, just down the block from the armory where Pat Boffman was warming up his orchestra for an evening of swing.
(Another digression: I was a sophomore in 1960. Rock and roll was in full cry, real rock and roll — Jerry Lee and Roy Orbison and Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins.
The CHS prom orchestra didn’t do a lot of messing around with “Blue Suede Shoes’’ or “Pretty Woman,’’ and I’m sure they never considered a big-band version of “Matchbox.’’
They knew slow, dreamy ballads, though, and up-tempo jitterbug stuff, and it was better than a phonograph. Having said that, the phonograph music at the sock hops in the back of the Rainbow Café was pretty decent in those days.)
Back to the story in which a gawky, clumsy 16-year-old serves a formal dinner. Why in the world would a group of administrators or teachers or parents or whoever organized the thing — folks who spent their days around teen-agers and who supposedly understood a bit about young people — why would such a group ask sophomore boys to serve a formal meal to a bunch of dressed-up upper-class guys and dolls?
What twisted thinking would make an adult believe that could turn out well?
I think it was an honor to be chosen. Dressed in black slacks, a white shirt and a black bow tie, I was supposed to whirl between the tables of diners like Patrick Swayze, singing “I had the time of my life …” That just didn’t happen.
My knees shook every single second. My butch wax ran, coating my forehead and fogging my thick, horn-rimmed eyeglasses. I dropped buns and knives and spoons, two saucers (only one broke. The other clattered across the tile floor, drawing the attention of every diner) a plastic water glass and one stack of dirty plates and silverware (after I reached the kitchen door).
I dripped water on at least two guys’ suits and one girl’s dress.
I was relieved when the banquet ended. So were the guests.