My JR.Prom: The Bataan Death March Was More Fun

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I’m in the midst of dealing with this major chasm in my life.   

There’s Laurie at 14  and she’s standing on one plateau and like a Chuck Jonesroadrunner1 Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon, I’m on another plateau.  We’re standing  face to face…maybe 25 yards apart, but the drop is deep…20, 25–50 miles deep.  I’m in  the process of learning to fill that abyss with feelings and appropriate reactions to those feelings.

Psycho-babble, I know.

The metaphor of which I speak, is a lot like the photo above, only I don’t actually have an ACME Excocet rocket attached to my body.  

You get my drift.

I’m reflecting on things such as this because I have reason to do so.   My oldest friend Cheryl (who I’ve known since Kindergarten and as fate would have it, out birthdays are one day apart. We’ll both be 50 this April) sent me some photos of certain events that occured in our youth.  Events in which Laurie, The Younger was prominently featured and/or served a pivotal role.   Seeing these pics spurred some memories and made me realize how much has changed….and in some ways, how much things haven’t changed a bit.

More on that in another post.

Be forewarned:  if the title of this tome didn’t properly indicate, this will, in fact,  be a post about my High School prom, so allow me to preface things with the following:   I hated High School.   I’ve had  four horrendous periods in my life…..High school was the fifth one.

Know what I mean?  

Back then, I was operating on nothing but glands, teenage angst and misguided youth. It was the mid 70’s and probably one of THEE tackiest times in American history.   I can prove that with the photos you are about to see.  Most of the ones Cheryl sent were from our Jr/ Sr. prom.   It was either late April or early May of 1976.   We were Juniors then and feating the graduating Seniors was what every Junior class did at the end of every  school year.  Banquet first, then prom and the theme of the prom my junior class produced was entitled, “An Evening  In Japan.”

OR…..

“Mothra Cut One”…I really can’t remember, but it was Japanesey.

The difficulty we had in coming together and assemblying all that was necessary to produce a prom worthy of the Senior class ahead of us, was actually trying to come together on this project.  You see, our class was never particularly chummy. It was divided into clicks,  and while a few new faces might have rotated in and out, the clicks themselves never changed.   It was,  I’m sure,  not unlike other classes in other cities in the year of our Lord, 1976.

There were the Cool People–Dopers or Heads as they were called.  Jocks (male and female).   Squares and Straights.  Cowboys.   The shy , modest chicks who loved studying  science and chemistry;  who bathed everyday and dug art that included folksy, homespun ducks  waddling amuk in blue gingham bonnets and then of course, there were Band Nerds.

My Freshman year, I was all of them–save for the ducks and gingham bit.   The inertia of my life , coupled with my need to try to be all things to everyone had to have been  exhausting.  In retrospect, I don’t know how I did it.    Then again, I was young , needy and considerably thinner with a metabolism that rivaled any nuclear reactor.

Getting back to the prom now.  

It was Saturday.  I met with other Juniors at the HS cafeteria early that morning to paint, strip, tape, build, construct, glue, nail, draw and bitch and moan about  having to do all of these prommy things.

There we were:  kids from a rural netherworld in South Texas; none of us had ever had real Asian food (Chung King doesn’t count), much less ever seen an Asian person.  

Oh yeah…Wait!!! courtship_of_eddies-father  There was Mrs. Livingston  from ABC’s, “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”, but she don’t count neither.

That Saturday flew by.  We all  toiled on the floor of the cafeteria and out on the sidewalk.   But as the afternoon waned on, we all knew we had dates to prepare for…Maybelline God Awful Aqua eye shadow to apply, followed by a spritz or two of Estee Lauder Youth Dew, Ambergris  or Patchoulli—the fragrance  we applied depended on what was in store regarding the evening’s “extra-curricular activities”.   Patchcoulli, I remember, was perfect to cover up the smell of a million different teenaged evils.    

Most of the kids left by 4pm, insisting they needed to go home and get ready.   Guys too…they had cars to wash and endure the chore of trying to make brown shoes and a black tux work.     

Fine and dandy, but there was 35-feet of cafeteria wall that was left unadorned.  We had run out of decorations–the class didn’t have much money in the first place and someone on their way out the door suggested that we dig around in the bowels of the storeroom and find some English Ivy and Magnolia wall paper that was used year before  in the 1975 Jr/Sr. Prom entitled, “A Night In Dixie”.   

Like yeah, that would work with a Japanese theme.  To that,  Cheryl and I cried bullshit.   

We had dates, too but we looked at each other and both said, “a half assed Jr/Sr prom won’t happen on our watch!!’   So at 4:45, the cafeteria was empty, except for three very pissed off classmates left holding the decorating bag.

Cheryl,  her then boyfriend,  Bruce and I found some butcher paper, a few bottles of Tempra paint, brushes and with sheer will, duct tape and very little time, we pieced together some of the tackiest,  hastily produced decorations in the history of promdom.

This was one of the walls.

prom1 Slapped together Asian banners on which random lettering was was placed. We copied words and letters on the back of some imported packaging for Japanese lanterns.  We had no idea what we were drawing.   For all we knew, it could’ve said, “Pat Morita Was A Hack”, or “Bombing Pearl Harbor Was Our Imperial Right”.   

I don’t remember who drew the dragon (or is that a random tree limb jetting out of nowhere?)  but he or she was a far  better artist than I. 

Want proof of that?  

OK, for the first time in 33 years and the first time this century, I will display my first artistic prom offering before God and man… in its full mural glory.

prom3

This mural took up the bulk of the 35 feet that needed decorating.   I went to the library to look up a photo of Buddha.  I took paint brush in hand,  and ended up drawing Jay Leno in eye-liner and a black turbin….pleasuring himself with a slammin’ double fister, smack dab in the middle of his Lotus position.

I remember drawing this at at 5:45 pm.  Time was running out.   I really didn’t care.  

Ok, see this?   This was the epicenter for our prom.  

japanese-garden

A little white bridge where happy couples stood to get their prom photo taken.   I seem to remember that I drew the bulk of the actual backdrop which was a copied from the artists’ rendering of the actual pond/bridge scene on the floor. See?  It’s almost identical.   This, like the Buddha above, was drawn free hand.   Artistically, I’m clueless.   I screwed up on the top branches of that steroided out Bansai tree.   Poor thing didn’t know whether it was drawn in front of the rice paper screen or behind it.  I had depth perception issues.

Here’s a photo of two of the architects of this non-Occidental rubbish.   In the lush hormonal forest that is adolescent growth spurts or the lack thereof,   Bruce is the Sequoia; I’m the stump.

Yeah, I’m short. 

bruce-lk2

The bargain basement band that played for our prom had an excrutiantingly limited repertoire;   it knew Three Dog’s Night’s, “Joy To The  World” relatively well and faked its way through a couple of  endless Carpenters’ songs .    They played, we gagged, they repeated.  It was horribly, horribly sad.

And last but not least….

prom2

This pathetic WTF pond still makes me laugh.  It greeted couples as they entered the Land of the Rising Sun. As you can plainly see, it was a kiddie pool with a couple of rocks in it and  ivy of some sort barely covering the blue plastic.   I think I remember, it had goldfish in it too….for a while.  

We were ignorant in the ways and means of domestic marine life and put tap water in the pool.   We  hastily threw the fish in at 6:19 pm; they were, I’m sure,  belly-up before the clock struck 6:20.  

The prom started at eight.

No one noticed their demise until clean-up the next day.

So, as I rapidly approach 50…that cursed half-century mark…I reflect back in my life and yes,  I have a few regrets.   This tragic prom is one of them.  Over the years, I’ve often  wondered why I’ve had very little contact with members of the Senior Class of ’76 and now, I think I understand why.

They’re still pissed.

Then,  I look at the photo of that poor excuse for a limpid, Asian pond and I  think… Jeez, just how much pot did we smoke back then?

15 comments

  1. I have the prom picure of you and Albert somewhere. You two were a very cute couple-your dress ensembles coordinated together very nicely. I didn’t realize Bruce was so tall or that you were so short.

    Ah, the high school cafeteria. I didn’t eat there although I heard wonderful things about the food. Back then, everything was made from scratch and it made all the difference-now it’s prepackaged slop these kids have to eat. Some of it doesn’t look fit for animal consumption.

  2. People let me tell ya ’bout my best friend, he’s one boy cuddly toy my ups my downs my pride and joy …

    Bill Bixby, god rest his soul, has nothing on you Kendrick. Certainly My Favorite Martian was not his best work, but if he could have come to your prom, well … I think Laurie Anderson said it best …

    Paradise is like where you are right now. Only much much better!

    Thanks for this wonderful reminiscence, with photos. Gosh you were cute as a button!

    ♥ 🙂 ♥ 🙂 ♥ 🙂 ♥ 🙂

  3. This was great! All of the old memories came flooding back. I still think the picture scene is kind of pretty.

    But that pond, butt ass ugly. I really don’t know what we were thinking. I know you and I didn’t do that. We were too damn busy trying to cover up that blank wall. My mom was so mad at me when I got home. I don’t think she believed me when I told her we were still decorating. You and I had probably less than an hour to pull ourselves together for our dates.

    What did our senior prom look like? I don’t even remember. Did we stand in front of a horse buggy or something for our pictures?

    .

  4. I think I had 45 minutes to get ready before zero hour. I wore a brown, cream and turquoise floral dress and it was rather pretty. Albert wore a brown tux with cream shirt and we were well color coordinated. I have a picture of us somewhere and I’ve got a weird look on my face because Z-man was pinching my butt the entire time…right in front of the Olan Mills in my family–my father. I’ve always hated corsages, so he bought me pretty nosegays made of white roses, both years. I loved that.

    Cheryl, honestly, I can’t remember ANYTHING about my Senior prom. Things were so screwed up in my house that my parents didn’t even take pictures. I don’t even think they were home that night. I had such a strange upbringing….maybe that why I’m the way I am today.

    Funny, but I have only one vague memory of the prom our Senior year and that was of Albert and me, sitting at a table and I’m wearing a blue dress. I only know that because of a picture in the yearbook.

    I have no memory of that prom at all. I have no pictures of it. I don’t think that Albert and I took standard issue ‘happy couple’ photos at the prom, either. I think there was a decorated buggy somewhere, but I have no clue as to what the Junior class’ theme was. But I’m sure it was better than ours, the year before.

  5. Now days these kids have their proms in luxury hotel ballrooms and the tickets can set them back over a hundred dollars(probably a lot more today). There is no particular theme (I don’t think)and no decorating by underclassmen. It’s a different world. The proms of yesteryear were tacky, but boy did we have fun(and stress)getting ready for them. I suppose everyone has a story to tell. I found some of my pictures and they are so faded I can’t make them out. BUT they were in color!!!Gosh, you don’t feel old until you go back to those teenage-high school years. Wouldn’t trade them for the world…….

  6. These pictures bring it all back, this is hilarious. I don’t remember helping decorate but then I don’t seem to remember a lot of things. Great article Laurie, love ya!

  7. Wow, LK. It is amazing how much you sound just like me. All the way from hating highschool, and right down to the detail of being short…

  8. That’s because I was a button.

    Thank you, David. You are sweet and kind and in telling me that, you’ve performed your weekly mizvah.

    Shall loam, Sveethot
    LK

  9. Great post–my prom was one of those glitzy deals at the Hyatt Regency. Not because my HS had any money but because we sold the crap out of suckers and popcorn tins. We had a hideous ice sculpture of the number ’86 and of course we were all dressed in 80’s poof and color. It was actually fun–but looking back–it seems hideously silly.

    I have to say though–I would have had much more fun if that pond had been there.

  10. 1982….”Through the Years” by Kenny Rogers. It narrowly edged out “Flying High Again” by Ozzy Osbourne. Good Times!

  11. I just don’t get the pond. I can’t quit laughing. Who even thought that was pretty?

  12. Yup, we were separated at birth, which means it would have been nice if you could have WARNED me how much Jr.High and high school were going to suck. We’re about 11 years apart (I’ll be 39 in April – I’m an early Taurus), but boy so many of the feelings are the same. If I had the ovaries to identify myself by face in my blog, I’d scan in a photo of the most Asian non-Asian hairdo a promgoer could ever wear. It might as well have had chopsticks in it.

    And I think your Buddha drawing rocks. Heck, I’d put it up in my room right now.

  13. Laurie, there isn’t much to add other than based on her response, “Robert” certainly writes like she’s chunkier than I recall and if memory serves, I wouldn’t be surprised if she STILL needs drastic wardrobe advice.

    Do you miss Smolik’s? What I wouldn’t give for some of that sauce!

  14. I hope you don’t mind my commenting on some of your older posts, but since I just discovered you a few weeks ago, I’ve lots of reading (and even more laughing) to do. You are a gem! You captured both the hilarity and the awkwardness of prom perfectly.

    I am still negotiating with my parents to give me all pictures and the negatives from my prom before my kids get a hold of them. My parents are holding out for the highest bidders who seem to be my children at the moment. Dammit!

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