In Velva, it was customary for the Junior Class to organize and pay for the annual prom, and then invite the Senior Class to attend; it was called the “Junior Prom” for that reason. The only rule for attendance was that at least one half of each couple had to be a junior or senior at Velva High School. The Junior Class was in charge of all of the concessions at Velva High School athletic events, and they used the revenue they brought in to pay for the prom, and if they had enough remaining, a Senior Class trip the next year. The “Class of 1981” had a very shrewd class president, Jami, and if I recall correctly, we had enough funds to pay for both events, and still turned some over to the school when we left.
We held a class meeting to determine the theme for our prom, and “Through the Eyes of Love” and “Sharing the Night Together” emerged as the two frontrunners. Then we considered bands to hire for the event; with costs ranging from $100 – $500 for booking. Heated debate erupted over both of these items, but Jami, with wisdom well beyond her 17 years, quickly called for a vote before things got too nasty. “Through the Eyes of Love” was selected, after which we decided to contact a band called “Daviet” about playing. Although I was a huge fan of “Sharing the Night Together,” I came to greatly appreciate the lyrics of “Through the Eyes of Love,” and actually chose it as one the musical numbers at my own wedding five years later!
I didn’t really think I would end up going to the prom that particular year. I had never asked a girl out, and just the thought of it terrified me! The only girls I really felt comfortable talking to were a couple of my classmates, but they already had older steady boyfriends taking them to the dance. I also knew some of my sister Debbie’s friends pretty well, but they were freshmen, and quite frankly, neither characteristic (sister’s friend or freshman) was especially appealing to me. I was approached by a younger girl who told me that a friend of hers, a sophomore named Lori Lee, wanted to go to the prom with me. She also said I better hurry, because a senior named Ward was thinking about asking Lori to go with him. The plan worked: When I saw Lori walking towards me after the next period, I quickly asked her if she would go to the prom with me, and she said “Yes.”
I remember helping Shelley and Donald with the after school decorating the week before the prom. There were miles of crepe paper to twist, and hundreds of balloons to inflate before the big day. Every decoration came together around an old wooden bridge that had been used by every junior class in recent memory, and is in all likelihood still being used today! Donald had a portable stereo playing while we worked, and we heard the album “Candy-O” by “The Cars” over and over again with the auto reverse feature. “Candy-O” remains one of my favorites to this day!
My Mom helped with some of the finer details that go into planning for a prom. She placed an order for a corsage with a florist in Minot, and purchased a new shirt and tie to wear with the three piece suit I had gotten the previous year for my confirmation. She told me the restaurants would be busy, so I should probably make reservations for where I wanted to take Lori. I called up “Jakes Club,” the local steak house, as well as the fanciest restaurant in Velva, and booked a table for two. I also realized at the last moment that I also needed to ask Lori for directions to her family’s farm, as I didn’t really know where she lived.
I showered, and got dressed hours before the prom on that Saturday, and went to Minot to pick up the corsage. I then drove out into the country on the other side of Velva from where we lived, to pick up Lori, my stomach in knots! Her mother answered the door and invited me inside to wait while Lori finished getting ready. I already knew Lori’s Mom and Dad, but it was still extremely unnerving talking to them while I waited to take their 16 year old daughter out for the evening. Finally, Lori emerged from her room in a light blue formal dress, and I presented her with the corsage, which her mother promptly pinned on her strap. We posed for a few pictures, before we exited the house for my car. I opened the passenger door for Lori, and made sure her dress was fully inside before closing it.
We made it to Jake’s Club and had to wait only a few minutes for our table. I don’t remember what we ordered, but I do recall that we were both so nervous, that neither of us finished our meals. I paid the check, and we headed over to the school about an hour before the Grand March was scheduled to begin. Lori held my arm while we walked from the car, but quickly disappeared into the ladies room with some friends once we got inside. I looked around, and there were at least a dozen other guys in suits standing along the hallway, all waiting for their dates to exit the age-old traditional female sanctuary.
Finally, it was time for the Grand March, and the 48 couples lined up in the same order that we had submitted our reservations for the formal event. It was customary for the Junior Class President to lead the Grand March, and Jami began the procession by stepping forward with her date for the evening. Lori and I were somewhere in the middle, and after about a five minute wait, it was our turn to walk over the bridge. Camera flashes went off, although I haven’t ever seen any actual pictures of the Grand March in the years since. After the parade was over, the visitors got to stay and watch the first dance, which was to the song “Through the Eyes of Love.” After the slow dance was over, and Lori and I stepped apart, a relative of mine rushed forward and snapped the only picture I have to remember the night by.
The night was full of dancing, as well as clusters of girls together talking about their handsome dates, no doubt! We drank mint green punch, a concoction I believe Jami had discovered, while we munched on mints and nuts. It was customary for the seniors to quickly become bored with the junior’s prom and leave about halfway through the evening. It was also customary for the juniors to hang around until the very end, and during the final number, pull down every piece of crepe paper and pop every balloon. It was a job we relished far more than putting up the decorations in the first place! It was over: Our Junior Prom had been a success!