Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Two Proms and One Prom Dress

In 1966 and 1967 the president was Lyndon B. Johnson and the VP was Hubert Humphrey. A loaf of bread cost 22 cents, a gallon of gas 28 cents, a new auto $2,425, a new home $40,000 in New Jersey and probably $12,000 in Chelsea. The average income was $6,120. So in short the cost of a prom dress was of utmost relevance to a working class youth making 50 cents an hour plus tips. My way of cutting the cost was to wear the gown two years in a row, to both my Junior and Senior Proms. Being a thrifty skin flint I had no shame. Going with a different boyfriend each year perhaps helped make it less embarrassing, not that guys cared less about a twice worn prom dress.

My dress was bought in Tulsa a few weeks before my Junior Prom in April 1966. My Grandfather Robert took me and a couple of my friends 50 miles south for a day of shopping at Tulsa’s new Southland mall. We girls found our dresses while Grandpa waited patiently in the car smoking his Swisher Sweet cigars while we shopped the day away. On the way home we all stopped and ate our first ever pizza at Tulsa’s new Shakey Pizza Parlor. Again Grandpa opted to stay in the car and smoke and we brought him  a slice to go. Grandpa was special, a true work of art.

My first prom, the Junior Prom was held at Alvin Gledit’s Café on Highway 66 in Chelsea. As Juniors it was our mission to prepare the prom for the senior class of 1966. We earned the class money throughout the year washing cars among other typical activities to put on the prom and put on the prom we did. We decorated the event with a Roman theme in purple and gold, complete with columns and a mini fountain. Gledit’s Café was familiar stomping grounds for me. It was the home of my first job as a waitress a year before where I earned a whopping $3 plus tips for an 8 hour shift until lucking out and getting a better job of $4 plus tips for 8 hours at Marie‘s Café. At any rate the menu at our Junior Prom was fried chicken with mashed potatoes, etc. It was messy as all get out to eat, especially with all of us teens dressed in our Sunday plus best “go to meeting” type clothes, but we survived. Ironically a couple of years later the dark dreary Gledit’s Café was converted into a funeral home. What significance that has God only knows.

At our Junior prom there was a local band that played some of the popular songs of 1966 that included: “Good Lovin” performed by The Young Rascals; “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones; “We Can Work It Out” by The Beatles; “When a Man Loves a Woman” by P. Sledge; and the ever popular “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes. In 1967 the hot songs of the day that we would hear and dance to were “Daydream Believer” performed by The Monkeys; “Happy Together” by the Turtles; “Light My Fire” sung by The Doors; “Penny Lane” by The Beatles; “Respect” by Aretha Franklin; and the ever popular “The Letter” by The Box Tops.

 Our Senior Prom was held at the McIntosh Grade School cafeteria. It seemed to be a bit more enjoyable than the first, perhaps because we were the invitees and had nothing to do but be there, see and be seen and enjoy the party. However as Juniors it was rewarding being able to get out of class to decorate the dreary Gledit’s Café and future funeral parlor site. That preparation for the prom between buying a dress and decorating is what remains most memorable.

Memoir - Mary Alta Phillips Buckingham, 4/25/2012


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Gypsy Boho. How are things going with you? Where you at and what are you doing. I look at your blog and see what is up.
      Best Regards, "Alaska" Mary
      Listening to the Rolling Stones

    2. I'm back home after a week at the beach. It's getting hot here so I stay indoors pretty much all day. Won't be going anywhere till after summer.

    3. What beach did you go to? We went on a Road Scholar trip to San Diego in March and want to move Coronado Island, laugh out loud, not likely, but I live in San Diego in 19555 before they had the bridge to Coranado Island. Love the average age of 77 and no skate boards allowed.
      But I like my snow, so I don't know. Probably stay here and visit.

    4. I live in south Louisiana, about an hour and a half from the Gulf of Mexico, where there is a state park on the beach. I go there often.

      Alaska sounds great. I would love to experience snow for a season.