Woodbury teachers remember proms pastWoodbury and East Ridge high school teachers reflect on their best prom memories.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
High School proms have been an annual tradition for students for many decades.
However, over the years prom has changed as societies have changed – in fashion, in traditions and in location.
Several high school teachers reflect back on proms past.
The hometown prom
Back in 1974, prom was the social event of the year, said East Ridge High School science teacher Nancy Berg.
She grew up the small town of Platteville, Wis., and prom had a very different look and feel to what it is today.
“In retrospect, I think what we had was much more memorable because it was the highlight of the year,” she said. “It was a culminating thing.”
Berg’s prom would begin months before the actual night when she would go with her mom to pick out the fabric for her dress.
“Everyone had homemade dresses, nobody had their dress off of a rack – we didn’t have the glitz and glam,” she said. “The moms made all the dresses.
“Now, I bet you there isn’t a girl at the prom who has a homemade dress, and back then we all did.”
The boys at prom also had different fashions than those today.
“Nobody had a tuxedo, the guys wore their dad’s suit,” she said. “They’d have shoes on too big because they didn’t have dress shoes.”
The dresses and bowties weren’t the only handmade items at the prom, however.
In addition to making their own dresses, the high school girls were responsible for making and decorating the cafeteria.
Berg and all of the junior girls would spend hours making flowers out of tissue paper for decorations.
“Now it seems like those flowers wouldn’t be good enough,” she said.
On prom night, rather than renting a limo and heading into the prom, Berg drove her father’s car to the dance since her date couldn’t yet drive.
“I remember having on my prom dress and getting in my dad’s big Pontiac Catalina,” she said.
Similar to today, Berg’s high school held the grand march in the school gym, however at that time the entire town came out for the event.
Today, going out to a nice dinner is almost a staple of the prom, but Berg said that wasn’t the case in 1974.
“We ate at the prom,” she said. “All of the food we had was brought in by the moms”
Berg had an extra responsibility during her 1974 prom since she was a member of the prom court.
“The prom court was like the Miss USA Pageant back then,” she said. “It was a popularity contest like it is now, but it was taken very seriously – you were the representatives of your class.
“Nowadays it’s more of a relaxed atmosphere.”
Berg said seeing today’s high school proms bring back a lot of memories, but they also bring about a sense of lost traditions.
“I think it’s kind of sad in a way because I think that hometown community feel is gone and it’s become an elitist social event,” she said.
Prom to remember (or forget)?
Woodbury High School English teacher Nancy Schrank remembers her prom very fondly, but not necessarily for the good memories.
“My guy was a clod,” she said. “He was a lovable, clumsy guy, and kind of clueless.”
Schrank’s 1983 Anoka High School prom kicked off the night with her date coming to pick her up at her house and pinning on her corsage.
“When he was sticking me with the corsage, he drew blood,” she said. “Here you are wearing this fancy gown, bleeding and having to make sure it doesn’t touch the fabric.”
The corsage ordeal wasn’t the end of Schrank’s prom mishaps.
While going outside to get into her date’s car, Schrank came to a startling realization – her car door didn’t have a handle.
Rather than opening the door for her from inside the car, Schrank’s date impatiently waited for her to get into the car.
“That’s not very romantic, not at all what you expect,” she said.
On the way to dinner Schrank came very close to having a Cinderella moment when her shoe almost fell through a rusted out hole in her date’s car.
The prom troubles didn’t stop there.
Schrank and her date went to dinner at a fancy restaurant in St. Paul where they both ordered very expensive meals only to learn that her date at forgotten his wallet.
Luckily, Schrank’s date had a friend he could call for help.
His friend went over to his house, broke in through the window, and grabbed his wallet only to find it empty.
So the friend has to rush over to the bank to take out some cash before reaching the restaurant wearing his mechanic’s uniform, no less.
Three years later in 1986, Schrank’s date, the same boy from 1983, struck again at the prom.
Schrank’s date had become the jokester after having graduated from high school, so he decided to pull a prank. He filled a fountain at the Town Square – where the prom was held – with liquid soap, thus causing the fountain to turn to bubbles.
“The night culminated with the boys from my senior class trying to chase down my escort,” Schrank said. “But I guess it was unfair to blame him for what I thought was going to be a perfect night.”
Prom in the ‘90s
Even though the 1990s seem far away for today’s high school students, prom really wasn’t that different back then, East Ridge High School physical education teacher Bridget Plante said.
“To be honest, I don’t think it’s changed that much,” she said. “The dance is essentially the same, just different music.”
Plante, who attended prom in 1999 at Park High School, said one difference in her prom and today’s prom is the transportation.
Today, party buses and limos are almost expected, but during Plante’s prom they weren’t that big of a deal.
Another difference in today’s proms and the proms from the 1990s were the events the following day.
Plante and Woodbury High School physical education teacher Jennifer Olsen said the day after prom would consist of some other exciting activity such as camping, golfing and horseback riding.
“The kids don't do that sort of thing anymore,” Olsen said.
This year’s Woodbury and East Ridge high school proms will be held April 21. The WHS prom, “All the Lights,” will be held at the Landmark Center in St. Paul and East Ridge’s prom, “Simply Sweet,” will be held at the Prom Center in Oakdale.
Both schools will hold grand marches at 3 p.m. in the school auditoriums.
East Ridge’s prom will celebrate the sweet tooth with a candy bar, a chocolate fountain, lollipop bouquets and desserts.
WHS’ “All the Lights” theme will include brightly colored decorations and lights.
Both Plante and Olsen, who are the prom committee advisers, said they are excited about this year’s prom.
“I’m excited about just knowing that they’re stepping into this day and coming out with things that they’re going to remember forever,” Plante said.