With the new school year just beginning, the reality is that the year’s end will arrive in incredibly short order. Football, basketball, and track will be over, and before we know it, the high school students are getting ready for prom again. Everyone wants their prom to be that wonderful dance that is unforgettable…one that they can carry the memories of forever. Proms are usually held in the school gym, or maybe at an events center, and on rare occasions, a hotel, but in 1975, in Washington DC, was held what could only be called the ultimate prom!! And don’t think your school could duplicate this particular prom, because they couldn’t. This particular prom was held at the White House!! It was the only prom ever to be held at the executive mansion, which makes it an odd event in White House social history.
Our president at the time was Gerald Ford, and he had a 17 year old daughter named Susan. Like most daughters, Susan knew that her daddy wanted to make her happy. So, she asked him if her high school could hold their prom at the White House. It was the first and only prom ever to be held there…and not something that is likely to happen again. Susan went to school at the Holton-Arms school. The prom was held on March 31, 1975, and President and Mrs Ford were on their way from Belgium to Spain as part of a diplomatic tour of Europe. In their place was the president’s sister-in-law, Janet Ford, “a small figure in a white lace dress, casting a tolerant but observant eye on the proceedings.”
Over forty years later, the students who attended the regal prom still carry those wonderful memories of a very special prom that could never be equaled. They even got to take a sunset cruise on the presidential yacht. Many parties have been held at the White House, but none quite like this one. The White House was rockin’ that Saturday, with Susan Ford. her classmates and their dates, dancing the bump and the hustle in the East Room until 1:00am. Susan had been a student at the Holton-Arms School, an academy for girls in Bethesda, Maryland, since her freshman year. “The members of the class of 1975 paid the cost of the prom…$1,300, after raising funds at bake sales and school fairs. Tablecloths were made out of floral pink and yellow sheets. The menu included Swedish meatballs and quiche, as well as a nonalcoholic punch made of tea, lemonade, soda, grape juice, and sugar. Susan and her classmates assembled the centerpieces, candles in a setting of daisies, tulips, lilies, sweet peas, and ming fern.”
“The girls wore long dresses, light makeup, casual hairdos, and, in many cases, orchid corsages,” the Associated Press reported. “Many of their escorts, in black or white tuxedos, wore boutonnieres and below-the-collar length hair.” “Susan, at that age, was strikingly beautiful,” says Sally Alexander, a retired English teacher at Holton-Arms, who was one of six chaperones. “And it’s a great deal of fun to watch a bunch of beautiful young girls with handsome young men, all dressed up. They were clearly excited about being where they were, but they were not uncomfortably awed. It was a beautiful affair.” And of course, the media was there to document the entire historic prom. So, if you want your prom to be this cool, you had better start planning now…or maybe several years ago.
As the time for the school dances arrives again, I am reminded of my oldest daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin, and the dances they went to. They fell in love when Corrie was just 15 years old, and one of their favorite things to do was to go to the Co-Ed Ball and Prom. They went to both of them each year from the time the began dating until Corrie graduated. They were like Cinderella and Prince Charming. Theirs was a fairytale romance…love at first site. My beautiful little girl was becoming a beautiful young lady. She looked so pretty.
The pictures done, they headed out to their romantic evening, with eyes only for each other. Love blossomed at those dances, as well as their other dates, but it is always those special evenings that stand out in your memory. The dance committees had created an evening of moments with balloons, crepe paper, cardboard, and spray paint. An evening to remember.
With each new year and each new dance, they grew and changed…blossomed really. I remember that I was always so proud of the handsome couple they made. But, along with that thought was the little feeling of sadness that my little girl was growing up so fast. You know the one. That feeling that you suddenly want to put on the brakes and slow down time, but you know that you can’t. So you smile and wipe away a tear or two, and send them on their way to their evening to remember.
Every year these dances come around, and a new set of students head out, all dolled up. A new group of parents think back to the day their child was born and wonder how it could be possible that they are already heading out for their high school prom, or other such dance, and wish they could turn back the clock, so that their little one could still be their little one.
When we are young, we think that life is a long time. We wonder when we will get to be the grown up one, heading out on that special date, and before we know it..we are already sending our own children out on an evening to remember.