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WOSTER: Prom in the past

One afternoon shortly before the high school prom my junior year, the class advisor called us into his room and gestured to a table set with glasses of water and packets of saltine crackers.

"That's what the prom banquet menu will be if you don't start selling,'' he growled.

Selling meant magazine subscriptions or something. I remember the moment with the crackers and water clearly, but I can't recall exactly what we were supposed to sell. Whatever it was, it was supposed to help fund the cost of the prom, apparently. Whatever it was, we hadn't been diligent in our sales, again apparently.

Even though I don't remember what we were selling, I'm pretty sure I hadn't been diligent. I don't sell well. I am the guy — it's a fact — whose first attempt to sell ads for the weekly newspaper included the approach, "I don't suppose you want to buy an ad this week?'' So if we were selling magazines, I probably hit up my mom to subscribe to something she didn't need, and I probably tried Minnie across the street and that was it.

Like most of the other guys in my class, I wasn't fretting ad sales. I was fretting how to ask my girlfriend to the prom. Even though we were dating, even though it was a given we'd go to the prom together, it was required that I ask. Why was that hard? Ask any 16-year-old and he'll tell you, "I don't know, but it is.'' That's the only way I can explain it.

Somebody in the junior class must have upped their game, because we had a prom, preceded by a banquet in the basement of a nearby church. I'd like to say the theme was "Enchantment Under the Sea,'' but that was George McFly's dance in "Back to the Future.''

My senior year, my yearbook tells me, we had an enchanting evening in "the garden of Camelot.'' I had a beautiful date, I remember, same as the year before. The only negative I recall was sitting out a dance to sip punch. It was a requirement or something. You had to leave one empty space on the dance card to sip punch. You name me one teenaged boy in the entire world who wants to sit in a cardboard garden and drink flavored, sugared water from a dainty cup.

The only banquet I really remember was the one my sophomore year. Kids don't have formal, arranged banquets these days, I gather from pictures on Facebook. They rent limos or borrow VW buses and go out in style to a restaurant or night club. We ate in the church basement, and members of the sophomore class, my class, served.

Who thought it was a good idea for a bunch of 16-year-old guys to carry pitchers of water and trays of vegetables and plates of meat and mashed potatoes around? The cooks must have allowed for spillage. I do remember "serve from the left, take away from the right.'' Or, jeepers, maybe it was the other way. See? I don't remember today any better than I did when I was a sophomore.

That was 1960. What I remember besides a terrible case of the jitters at the banquet was that Russia had just shot down a U-2 spy plane of ours and was holding Francis Gary Powers, the pilot. Kids were outside washing their parents' cars for the prom and listening to news reports over the car radios, while their dads told them they'd better not wear down the battery.

One other prom memory: I took Nancy both junior and senior years. We have two or three snapshots. Parents took few pictures back then. Parents of the girl would use a little box camera to snap a picture or two when the boy picked up their daughter. A week or a month later, whenever the rest of the roll of film was used, the pictures would be developed and shared with the other set of parents.

I don't remember a single classmate with a camera during the banquet or dance. How absolutely quaint.

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