By Harvey H.
A few years ago, down on the coast, the Student Government Association at a local high school put on a senior prom for seniors.
Yep, for old folks – which to the kids is anyone over 50.
For the SGA, it was an event to raise money for whatever SGAs do.
For the senior citizens, many of them “snowbirds” come South to escape the icy north, it is a chance to party.
The kids decorated the cafeteria, put together a playlist of 50s and 60s music, laid out heaps of food (made by Mamas and/or donated by local businesses) and displayed door prizes – also donated. Then, they spread the word to churches and senior centers that for $10 each, seniors could hit the buffet and dance the night away, at least from 6 to 9 p.m. when seniors needed to be heading home.
“Seniors,” tired of bingo and bridge, loved the idea. When the doors opened, they arrived in full prom regalia – long dresses, sport coats. One guy was in a dinner jacket.
Close to 200 seniors paid their $10 and hit the dance floor. Age had slowed them only slightly. Some couples had obviously been partners since the 50s and could still bop, shag and shuffle with style and grace. And when the music slowed, they held on to each other as only old lovers can and do. Time turned back and they were young again.
They got all worked up over drawings for the door prizes. Then they went after the food like locusts, for as everyone knows, an all-you-can-eat-buffet is a senior’s feeding trough.
On the dance floor, the kids joined in, leading them through
YMCA, learning OHIO from the Yankees, and twisting and shouting to “Twist and Shout.”
Sponsors had 9-1-1 on speed-dial in case one of the old geezers got down to “Gator” and couldn’t get up.
Senior citizens are into group participation. So are teenagers. It was a perfect match. Conga lines, circle dances, hand jive, one group of oldsters even broke into a modified version of the Electric Slide, and the kids struggled mightily to catch on.
Then at 9 p.m., the emcee called out “Last Dance,” and over cries of “more music” the strains of “Goodnight Sweetheart” floated across the room. The dancers, hardwired to go home after that song ended, took one more twirl around the floor and headed for the door.
The kids, worn out and happy, were also ready to call it a night.
As the senior citizens collected their stuff, they thanked the kids for the good time they had. The kids thanked them.
“This was,” one of the kids said, “more fun than our senior prom.”
I don’t know if a tradition was born that night and carried on in the years that followed. Obviously, with the pandemic, gathering seniors together like that is not a good idea.
But when this crisis passes, and pass it will, I hope “Senior” Senior Proms are revived. After all they’ve been through, seniors could use a party.
And being one myself, so could I.
Harvey H. (Hardy) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.