Looking back on the dance

Readers recall prom dates who disappeared, showed up just in time - and some who stuck around forever

Prom night has come and gone at area schools, but the memories are still fresh.

That seems to be true for some people whether they attended the rite-of-passage dance last week or 40 years ago.

We invited Journal-World readers to think back on their proms and share stories and photos that captured their recollections. We expected to get at least a few horror stories about bad satin dresses and even worse dates.

Quite the contrary, however, those who responded - incidentally, they were all women - retain fond memories of the evening.

One spun a classroom crush into a prom date and, later, an engagement. Another embarrassed her boyfriend with her "provocative" moves inspired by the film "Dirty Dancing." Another can't even remember her date's name. And a few others are celebrating 27th and 30th wedding anniversaries with their high school sweethearts - who happened to be their prom dates.

We enjoyed their stories. We hope you will, too.

My boyfriend is AWOL

By Lisa Greenwood


Special to the Journal-World

Lawrence resident Lisa Greenwood, right, attended the Wichita North High School prom in 1988, the year after "Dirty Dancing" hit theaters. Pictured with a friend, Greenwood scared off her date with her "provocative" dancing.

As formal season approached and I listened to my teenage students make plans about who was asking whom, what everyone was wearing and how many people could fit into the limo, I was reminded of my own senior prom. What a magical night. And I tell my students the story of a night full of promises of romance and : my disappearing date.

The Wichita North High School junior/senior prom of 1988 was a unique prom for me and my classmates. Having our prom on the last Saturday of the annual River Festival in the Indian Center meant that our magical night would be punctuated by a spectacular fireworks display, viewed right from the banks of the river. How many people get fireworks for their prom? But when it came time to stroll to the river and watch the display, my prom date was nowhere to be found. Not so romantic.

My best friend Julie and I had spent weeks agonizing over details, as most girls do. Mom found a decent dress for me on the clearance rack at Dillard's (I never had a formal dress that we paid full price for), and I had a gorgeous necklace that I found at my favorite vintage store downtown. Julie and I spent the afternoon of prom having our hair and nails done before we met our dates for dinner.

I was escorted by my boyfriend, and Julie was accompanied by a friend of a friend for whom she'd been harboring a crush for several months. We rented a white horse-drawn carriage that met us downtown, drove us through Riverside Park, where we were cheered on by a variety of festival-goers, and delivered us to the red carpet awaiting our entrance. Because of the River Festival, the carriage company wouldn't keep the horses out past a certain time, so we had to arrive at prom unfashionably early. In fact, our foursome was the second and third couple to arrive. How embarrassing!

Reader poll

How would you rate your high school prom experience?

  • It was a magical night that I'll never forget. 17% 9 votes
  • Stands in my memory as one of my worst dates ever. 25% 13 votes
  • It was OK, but I had more fun partying afterward. 34% 18 votes
  • I didn't go. 23% 12 votes

52 total votes.

Inspired by the release of "Dirty Dancing" the previous year - and a whole lot of great '80s tunes - we had a blast on the dance floor. At some point in the evening, my very conservative boyfriend warned me that I was making him uncomfortable with my "provocative" dancing, which I know was really quite tame compared to how I see my students dancing these days. I couldn't help it. What teenage girl didn't want to live the fantasy of Jennifer Grey's character, even if my dance partner was less than willing?

I had to leave him to do my duties as the announcer for the king and queen candidates, and when they were duly crowned, my date was nowhere in sight. So I had to go down to the river solo to watch the fireworks, dodging questions about what happened to my date. Someone told me they had seen him storming out of the building and asked what we'd fought about. An hour later he showed up, still angry that I had embarrassed him (so he said) with my shimmies and gyrations. He stuck out the rest of prom, rather perturbed, but I continued to dance the night away. I did agree to tone it down for his sake, which felt like not moving at all.

My boyfriend and I dated for another year before we broke up after I moved to Lawrence for college. So as spring approached and my students started making their plans for a night they would never forget, I didn't remember who was crowned at my own prom, or what specific songs we danced to. But I will never forget the fireworks both on and off the dance floor.

The nameless date

By Mary Loveland


Special to the Journal-World

Mary Loveland, of Lawrence, attended prom in 1966 at St. Teresa's Academy in Kansas City, Mo. Try as she might, she can't remember the name of the kind young man who agreed to take her to the dance at the request of her friends.

This is a picture of me and my date from my high school prom in the spring of my senior year. Our three daughters used to love to give me a hard time about the fact that I can't remember the name of my date. (Our son Doug was, mercifully, uninterested). The girls always acted as if this was evidence that I was the weirdest person on earth - how could a person who can still quote lines from "The Song of Hiawatha," learned in sixth grade, not remember the name of her date to prom?

Perhaps I should take the picture to my 40th high school class reunion this fall, in case my classmates can remember his name. The issue is that I was "fixed up" for the dance by my good-hearted friends who didn't want my high school memories not to include attendance at the prom.

I had several strikes against me as far as dating was concerned during my high school years. I commuted farther than anyone else to attend St. Teresa's Academy, from my family home in Merriam to the campus about 10 blocks south of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo. The academy was an all-girls school, so there weren't opportunities to meet boys during my very busy high school life. I was an excellent student and had been intimidating boys academically and intellectually since grade school. Due to the awkwardness of my distance from school and limited car availability, I just didn't get to hang around with my friends that much outside of school unless I could convince my parents that it was an official school activity.

So as my senior year was winding down, my friends convinced one of their male friends to escort me to the prom. My father's employers had given me a gift certificate to Swanson's as a thank you for tutoring their son when he was adjusting to the rigors of high school, so I used it to buy my dress. My grandmother had just moved to an apartment near the Plaza (after 20 years in downtown Chicago), so I arranged to be picked up and returned there so as not to mess up the curfews of the rest of the group.

I remember a very pleasant evening. I remember the pleasure on the faces of the other diners at the restaurant when we arrived in formal dress. I have the picture to remind me of my escort's face and smile. I just don't remember his name.

And every time my daughters give me a hard time, I think of the guy who was not intimidated by my intelligence when we started dating 37 years ago. He kissed me for the first time on a foggy December night across Lilac Lane from KU's Fraser Hall as we walked home from a student government meeting. And I smile.

An engaging escort

By Mallory Richardson


Earl Richardson/Special to the Journal-World

Mallory Richardson, left, and her escort to the 2003 Free State High School prom, Alan Martinez, began dating about a month before the dance. They're now engaged to be married.

About a month and a half before the Free State High School prom in 2003, I was without a boyfriend and, more importantly, without a date to prom. Now I would have been more than happy attending the dance with two of my best friends, but being as it was prom, I thought a date was in order. So the next step was finding a guy to take me.

There was a guy in my English class whom I had a bit of a crush on, so I asked one of my friends to talk to him and find out his plans for prom. As luck would have it, he did not have a date yet. My friend let him know that I was interested in going to prom with him, and the next day after class, he asked me. By that weekend, we had our first date, and by the time prom rolled around, we had been dating for about a month.

While many people did not enjoy prom, I loved every minute of it! Before we went to the dance, my date, my friends and I went to the Plaza for dinner, followed by frozen custard. We then arrived at the dance and ended up dancing together the entire time. After the dance, we all came back to my house to watch movies and ended up staying up until 4 a.m. My date fell asleep within 15 minutes of arriving at my house and was disappointed that his prom night ended so prematurely.

But the best thing that came out of my prom experience was the relationship I developed with my date, Alan Martinez. We just celebrated our three-year anniversary, and even better, we just got engaged and plan to marry next summer after I graduate from Kansas University.

Assertiveness pays off

By Jeanne Gardner


Special to the Journal-World

Rex and Jeanne Gardner

Rex and I met when we were 15 years old, fell in love and planned to get married as soon as we finished high school. I was a sophomore at Mount St. Scholastica Academy in Atchison, and he was a junior at Maur Hill Prep. We "broke up" about a year later. He graduated and went to college at Pittsburg State University.

I called him in March 1974 and asked if he would go to prom with me. He accepted, and we've been together ever since. This June, we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Our oldest son, Zach, will be attending his first prom this year at Free State High School, and his brother Kyle, hopefully, will also in three years.

I'm always thankful I called and asked HIM to prom, or the whole course of our family history would not have been the same.


Special to the Journal-World

Becky Hegeman and Steve Grammer

High school sweethearts

By Becky Hegeman

What I remember about our prom (Lawrence High School, 1978) was Steve (Grammer) borrowed his dad's car to take me. He brought me flowers and a gold bracelet. We had dinner at the Eldridge House with some friends. Then we went to the prom at Knights of Columbus. I married my prom date a year later. We have been married for 27 years now.


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