Last weekend one of those things, which occasionally remind me that I’m a product of a bygone era, came along. The event was the Junior-Senior Prom for Eastside High School, where my wife has taught science since it opened just before the close of the 20th century and from which our two youngest children graduated. My wife teaches mostly seniors, and I’m currently serving as a substitute teacher in classes containing mostly juniors and seniors. So we both looked forward to seeing the kids in their finery and maybe to sneaking in a dance if, by some miracle, an old familiar tune happened along.
A quick aside, please.
Substitute teaching is seldom easy. Jumping back into the classroom is a far cry from jumping back on a bicycle after many years away. You can pretty much remember how to make that bike work, although you might wobble a little bit at first. But appearing before 100 folks over the course of a day, establishing a rapport with them, maintaining a sense of decorum while along the way managing to actually teach the material?
Need a reason to feel a little wobbly? Whoop, there it is.
At any rate, as the big day approached, I asked my wife where the prom was to be held. You see, back in my day, the prom was always held in the school gymnasium. The junior class worked feverishly all week long decorating the gym, having already procured the band, the photographer, and the food and beverages, which were always served by underclassmen selected by faculty members as deserving of the honor.
The senior class didn’t hit a lick at a snake that whole week. They’d done their grunt work the year before as juniors; now it was time for them to enjoy being treated as royalty.
I was quite surprised to learn that the Eastside Junior-Senior Prom would be held in Atlanta at Turner Field’s prestigious 755 Club. I’ve attended numerous baseball games since the venue was converted into a ball park following the 1996 Olympics, but never had occasion to visit the 755. And the high school prom was being held there?
I felt a little more wobbly.
Nonetheless, last Saturday night I managed to squeeze into the black suit I normally wear only to weddings and funerals these days, and away we went. Arriving, we found the parking lot staffed not only by Turner Field security, but with resource officers assigned to Eastside by the Newton County Sheriff’s Office. Additional security was present at the main gate and, again, in the 755 Club office serving as the point of entry.
We found the prom in full swing. I realized right away that the day is past when kids decorate a gym and hire the best band available for the lowest price. A disc jockey blasted contemporary music over a sound system that possibly registered somewhere as a minor earthquake, really happy kids gyrated wildly on the dance floor, and flower arrangements throughout the hall vibrated in place.
One large room contained enough food for a small army. And the dessert buffet? I gained 10 pounds by just looking at it! The roughly 1,000-square-foot Champions Room served as the photography studio, which freed the main room of the 755 Club for placement of tables, dance floor and DJ.
Now, I have to tell you, honestly, that what qualifies as dancing these days is a long, long way from what it was 40 years ago. What passes as dancing these days would’ve been called foreplay in the 1960s.
Whew! Talk about wobbly…
Anyway, after making our first pass through the dance hall to greet the kids, we made our way out onto the balcony overlooking left field. The 755 Club really did a great job managing the whole spectacle for the party, you see. A couple of the big light banks cast a soft glow over the manicured major league field; tables and chairs were arranged on the upper tiers so folks wishing to catch some fresh air and a little peace and quiet could find a solace there.
Refreshed, my wife and I made another swing past the dance floor, watched the crowd celebrate the crowning of the Prince, Princess, King and Queen, chatted a little with other faculty folks, and eased out of the 755.
Navigating toward home on I-20, I reflected as to how the Junior-Senior Prom has changed since I was a kid. In a moment of melancholy, realizing that we’d not gotten our dance in, I reached for my wife’s hand.
She was already snoring.
Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.