Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Senior Proms


Ken Stokes, CC BY-SA 3.0, Via Wikimedia 

It is prom season. These days, it seems a much bigger deal than it once was involving stretch limos and coordination of dresses and men’s wear, and sometimes elaborate after-proms.


Did you go to your senior prom? I did. I dated a girl (a sophomore) throughout my senior year at Chaney so we had both kind of expected to go. We went with another couple who did the driving. Those were the days where you bought a corsage that you pinned on the girl’s dress–always a bit of a scary experience! I think the wrist corsage is a great idea.

I don’t have any pictures from that night. Dad’s camera did not work for some reason when we came by to take pictures. Perhaps that was just as well. Crushed velvet was in fashion for tux jackets back then, and I had one in blue (which did match my girlfriend’s dress). I’m kind of glad there is no evidence!

We went out for dinner at Palazzo’s. I actually don’t remember much about the dinner except that the food was good, and I paid. Then we arrived at the prom. I think we made some kind of entrance as a couple. I have to confess that my memories are pretty vague here. There was some kind of seating of the prom court, lots of dancing, punch that really was just punch.

Eventually we made our way to the after-prom, which was at Wedgewood Lanes, if I remember. We snacked, talked to friends, bowled and partied until nearly sunrise. I think that was one of the really cool things–this was the night without curfew. I remember being so tired–a bit loopy by the end–and getting ready to bowl the ball only to drop it behind me. Watch out friends! You can tell that late nights were not my thing.

We dropped off dates, went home and finally caught a bit of sleep after a quick report of “fine” when our parents asked us how the prom was. Then it was time to get the tux back to the rental store. I have a hunch that with flowers, dinner, the prom itself, after prom and tux rental, I spent maybe $150, probably less. Wikipedia says that the average price of a prom in 2013 was $1139.

The truth was, by the time of the prom, the relationship between my girlfriend and I was strained. I suspect we were holding out so that we could have someone to go to the prom with–you could probably go without a date but I don’t know anyone who did. A month later, the relationship was history–probably a relief to both of us actually.

It’s funny how often it seems to work like this–although I also know friends who married, and are still happily married to, their high school sweethearts. I can’t say that my senior prom was that special of an experience. But it was part of the celebrations that marked this rite of passage from high school to young adulthood for many of us. It was a kind of entry into adulthood. The girls we saw everyday in jeans and t-shirts or sweaters suddenly appeared as beautiful women. And scruffy boys cleaned up and for a night looked like a young approximation of James Bond (that’s probably an exaggeration in my case!). It was a bit of a “Camelot” type of experience, before our entry into the world of work, or the preparations for a career in college and graduate school. We danced with the sense that all our life was before us.

This year marks 45 years since that prom and graduation. How does that happen? We’ve watched our son go through the same prom rituals (and this time the camera worked and we still have the pictures). Now we pass by homes where others are taking pictures, or we see the pictures on Facebook. And we think, there was a time…once we were young…what a couple we made!



8 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Senior Proms

  1. Wow! Brought back many memories! The only difference in our stories is I married my date! (Even went to Wedgewoid after prom ).Thank you for such a wonderful article !

  2. My experience was much the same as yours, I’m sure. I went to Wilson (Class of ’65) and was dating a girl from Chaney (Class of ’66). My senior prom was at that now-non-existant hotel downtown, whose name now escapes me. Dinner at Alberini’s (I was trying to impress), after-prom at a bowling alley on Youngstown-Poland road and breakfast for 30 at my friend, Bill Rotar’s house. I didn’t marry the girl and neither of us stayed in Youngstown but 52 years later we are still good friends and chat at least once a week.

      • Today in the Vindicator there is a story on the front page about hotels in Youngstown. I noticed the Voyagers picture is featured. Check it out on the website!

  3. Thanks for sharing your prom story. I never made it to my South High prom but my three girls had the prom experience here in Texas. Talk about overkill.

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