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Pretty in pink: A prom memoir

by Linda Hiller

Last night was prom night, which means several Carson Valley residents awoke this morning to a different world than they knew the night before.

I’m talking about parents waking up to wrinkled, rented tuxedos and formals in a heap on the floor, pieces of fabric and lace all over the house from the last-minute sewing blitz, the smell of hair spray still hanging in the air, wilting corsages and boutonnieres on the kitchen counter and credit card receipts piled high on the desk.

Whew! I never knew it took so much of a team effort to get a kid off to the prom. And the money … I want to formally thank my parents right now.

My prom memories from good ol’ Pullman High School in Washington state are generally pretty good. Don’t think I’m bragging about going to the prom all four years – in our small town, everyone went all four years, date or no date.

– Freshman year. The first year I went was as a freshman, and my date was Mike, a senior who was in a band called Captain Crunch and the Cereals. They sang dangerous songs like “Norwegian Wood.” which I didn’t understand, but knew it was pretty deep.

I wore a pink satin dress that my mother made, with long white gloves that went over my elbow, and dangling rhinestone clip-on earrings. It was a fun night, but I did get tired of my date’s friends calling me “kid.”

– ‘Southmore’ year. The next year for prom, my “southmore” year, as mom, the Norm Crosby of Pullman, calls it, I’d had my eye on dreamy Carl all year for a potential date, but Steve L., the preacher’s son, and ever the go-getter, asked me three months before the dance.

I wore a pretty yellow dress with lace – store bought – which are two words that in my family meant “yee-haw!” We re-used the long white gloves and rhinestone earrings, and had my hair done professionally at Gertrude’s Beauty Parlor (another yee-haw!) in a fancy updo.

On the way to the high school gym (where else in a small town?), my date, who was tall and lanky, showed me how he could steer his dad’s Buick with his knee. For some reason, that image of staring at his knobby knee on the huge steering wheel is etched in my mind as one of my more bizarre teen memories. Other than that, the prom was fun. I had just made cheerleader that week, and was still reeling from that. You can tell from the picture accompanying this column, take in (gulp!) 1967.

– Junior year. My third prom, this time as a junior, was in another home-sewn dress made by my wonderful mother (thanks, mom!).

This one was pink again, with long organza sleeves – a perfect opportunity to try my hand at fake fingernails. So off to the Corner Drug I went for some temporary long fingernails.

Going from my short, chipped and peeling fingernails to those gorgeous long, pink beauties was almost paralyzing, it turned out. All I could do was stare at my hands and barely got dressed in time for the big dinner out at the fanciest restaurant in town, the Hilltop. Sitting at the table, looking over the menu, I remember the horror of discovering that one of my nails had fallen off.

My date, Steve C. the professor’s son, hadn’t yet noticed how fabulous my nails looked, so in quiet desperation I searched for the missing pink nail. Discovering it on my lap, I snatched it and pushed it hard onto my stubby-nailed finger just in time to order the prawns, being careful not to pronounce it “prongs” like my mother does.

– Senior year. My last prom was as a senior going with a friend, Sam, who was also a senior. He was the brother of one of my best friends – a sheep ranch boy who is now richer than all of us.

Mom took my old pink satin freshman dress, cut it in half and put a green velvet top on it and then some pink sequined tape for decoration. For the picture, Sam and I put straw in our mouths and pretended to be hicks (we didn’t have to pretend).

If you never experienced prom night as a date, never mind, you can always see it through the eyes of your children, but remember it’s really just a big expensive dance. Now, go thank your parents.

– Linda Hiller is a staff writer for The Record-Courier. Her son, senior Blake, attended his last DHS prom last night and “southmore” daughter Casey dutifully performed in a conveniently-scheduled piano recital (thanks, Gwen!).