Hot Dogs, Herbs & Hickory Sticks

It’s prom season around here and this is really the first year that I’ve been close enough to it to see what an insane madfest it is. My daughter’s best friend is graduating high school and for months I’ve been hearing all about the drama, the angst, the preparations, the financing, the planning –ye gods! the planning!

When I was in high school, we didn’t do prom. I don’t know if that was just the era or the rural location of our high school, but to us, prom was something dorky teenagers used to do back in the 1950s. On our last day of school, we piled into and onto a bunch of cars and pick-up trucks and motorcycles and headed to the Upper Falls of Balls Falls, a local recreation/camping/nature park.


We fired up a few of the onsite BBQ pits and threw on some dogs and potatoes. We had some chips and Hickory Sticks  (the snack of choice for rural hippy teens) and a few bags of strawberries from our farms. Everyone brought beverages and “herbs” to…. um…garnish the meal. Someone cranked their car stereo up and we listened to the same couple dozen tapes over and over because we didn’t have 10,000 bands churning out tunes back in the olden days.

Our “outfits” were cut-offs and bikini tops or halter tops for the girls (no bras) and cut-offs and bare, slightly fuzzy chests for the guys. Our hair was long and completely product/flat iron free. On our feet we wore Indian water buffalo sandals, (I still have mine. They were indestructible), or flip-flops, which we used to call “thongs” before thongs meant tiny underpants.

And so we whiled away our last day of being high-schoolers. Basking in the sun; jumping off the top of the falls into who-knows-what below; eating hot dogs and strawberries. We stayed up all night talking about stuff; being mellow; making out a bit; just being goofy. As soon as the sun was up the next morning we piled back into and onto the cars and pick-up trucks and motorcycles and headed home – where we’d work on our family’s farm for the rest of the summer.

My daughter’s friend, Jen, started hunting for just the right prom dress months ago. She finally found one in Montreal; on sale for $300. She and her boyfriend of 2 months bought prom tickets months ago signing a contract that stipulated that no one but the purchaser would be allowed to use those tickets. The boyfriend rented a limousine with 3 of his friends. They paid a deposit on hotel rooms for an after the after-party party.

After the prom dress and shoes and assorted accessories were assembled, Jen had to find a dress (plus shoes) for the after party and a new outfit (plus shoes) for after the after-party party. She has an appointment to have her hair done the morning of prom and another appointment for a manicure and pedicure the day before prom. These arrangements (and deposits) had to be made ages ago because it’s prom season.

Of course last week the boyfriend dumped her and decided to go back to his old girlfriend.

“Now what?” you might ask.

Prom is ruined, apparently. The same scenario is being played out over and over in high schools everywhere. People without dates simply cannot go to the prom. Well, they can, but they’ll look like losers. Better to just not go at all. Jen is inconsolable.

Some local schools have cancelled proms altogether because of all the “mischief” the darned kids tend to get up to after the ceremony. (carousing, consuming of alcohol, boisterous activity, sex play, lots of forced fun).

I’m kind of hoping all the schools cancel prom before my kid has to go through all that. Then maybe the kids can just find a simple, unstructured, fun way to celebrate this milestone with their closest friends.

Of course, I’m not sure if that’s possible anymore. Everything seems to demand a Hollywood-style blowout. Just when you breathe a sigh of relief that all the over-the-top elementary school birthday parties are over, along come the Sweet Sixteen parties. Each is more glam than the one before. Even the guys are throwing Sweet Sixteen parties for themselves – renting a hall, laying on a buffet, a DJ, formal dress, a guest list of 100 – the works!

I can’t imagine what kind of money the parents are laying out for this stuff. And every time I ask the kid how the latest party was, the responses range from “okay” to “totally lame”.  

That’s the worst of it. All this panic and planning and money and pressure and no one seems to be enjoying themselves anymore.

I LOVED – LOVED my last day of high school. I’ll never forget it. It was perfect. I really want my kid to have a day (and night) like that to remember. Not some over-priced, high-stress formal affair. But maybe I’m just seeing things from my own narrow perspective.

Did you or anyone you know really enjoy their prom?


36 responses to “Hot Dogs, Herbs & Hickory Sticks

  1. My sister enlisted in the military and was already in boot camp by the time our prom rolled around. I didn’t want to go to the prom without my sister (we were going to go stag with a group of female friends) so I never went. There wasn’t an option for something like you had, though most prom attendees ended up at one of the local beaches after the prom for the requisite all-night after prom bonfire/party. (And I probably wouldn’t have gone for what you had — sun and outdoors were generally things I avoided.) I probably played canasta with my mom instead. (Good times.)

    Did I mention I am a spinster? 😉

  2. Since I was an anti-social nerd in high school, I didn’t go to any high school dances or proms. It seemed like a load of bollocks to me and on grad night, I spent the time stargazing instead.

    But what is with people these days that they make such a big deal about it? Planning it like its a wedding? Kids should just relax and enjoy the night.

    I don’t think your perspective is narrow, I think its smart.

  3. I loved my prom! That night was great, and a whole bunch of us went to the beach all day the next day and THAT was awesome.

    And I STILL spend my days drinking at the beach all day, 25 years later…..

  4. Like dropping the “u” from the end of certain words, saying “zee” instead of “zed”, calling a “dressing room” a “locker room” and a hockey “sweater” a “jersey”, today’s proms are courtesy of that big ol’ galoot of an elephant to our south.

    I graduated in ’76 and there was something called a “formal”. None of the cool kids went to it (I was one of those back then!) and instead we did pretty much what you did, XUP… One of the kids lived on a lake and had a cool beach. And that’s where we spent the afternoon and night – quaffing some Ex and Canadian, eating burgers and using that special, uh, herb, for seasoning.

    Simple, eh? No big plans. No dresses, limos or tuxes.

    And, like you, I will never forget that day.

  5. You paint a romantic picture of your last day of school. Sounds like something I may have done… trouble is I just can’t remember 😉

  6. Cause I grew up in greater metropolitan St Catharines I did indeed attend proms. Mine and then my girlfriends a couple of years later. We went all out, she got a dress but not at wedding dress prices, did her hair at home like always. I wore the same suit I wore to church. About a dozen of us went to a nice restaurant for a nice dinner after the dance and we were allowed to stay out later than usual.
    No one I knew rented a limo, no one stayed out all night or rented a motel room.
    There was as always a certain amount of illicit sex and drinking and drugs during the evening but it was essentially like most of our dances but just a bit dressier.
    We also all had the “grade thirteen picnic” where we ditched the last day of school in spite of being warned that we would be flunked if we did so.
    Ours was at Long Beach on Lake Erie instead of Balls Falls but that’s just how we rolled.
    Hardly anything was more fun than taking 7 people on the drive to the beach in my 1960 vauxhall victor.

  7. Louise – Your sister was going to be your prom date? Hmmm. And how did you manage to finish high school by 16?

    Hannah – Ya, it seems so damn stressful. In fact, most of the stuff the kids get up to these days seems fraught with organizational dilemmas. Endless planning and complicated arrangements. They don’t seem to understand spontaneity

    Zoom – Good avoidance tactic. I don’t think I’ll suggest it to the child, however.

    Ellie – Did you have an all-out prom with the big dress and everything? Or was it just the beach part that was fabulous?

    Trashee – Ex and Canadian; Blue or 50. Wasn’t life so much simpler when you only had a handful of choices for everything? Let’s start a movement to take back our End of High School celebrations — no more American-style proms. Let them all go get mellow in nature instead.YA!

    Skylark – It was very romantic. Most of the kids were pretty restrained in their consumption of obliviators on that particular day. I’m very sad that you can’t remember your last day of High School. Maybe you could ask some classmates to provide you with memories.

    Bandobras – Of course your prom would have been long before mine when there was still some residual 1950s traditions. You probably weren’t wearing a pony-tail either, right? Long Beach? Is that the same as Crystal Beach?

  8. No prom. Not in high school, not after Cegep and in university a bunch of us just had a “regular” party with jeans and beer. Of course proms weren’t that big back then. And I just never really saw the point.

    But then I loathed my high school years, so maybe that explains it.

  9. I went to an American high school for grades 11 and 12 and graduated in 1975. Oy. It was a very small school and there were 52 of us in the graduating class so everybody went to the prom. The geeks among us (of whom I was one) got together in a group and went. There were no limos to rent anyway so I think our parents drove us. And after prom, we the geeks went to one of the kid’s houses (with parents in attendance) and played bridge all night long. I think I fell asleep. We had two tables, so 8 kids but I think by the time 6 am rolled around, no one was playing anything. It was fun and I do remember it but it wasn’t earth shattering. I also went to several formal grad dances at Queen’s and I still have one of the dresses I wore – I guess it’s “vintage” now! I should give those dresses away – but you’d have to be 5′ 2″ for them to work.

  10. I hated my prom. I took my ex-boyfriend with me as my date. Big mistake. My best friend and I were having such a horrible time dates, that we left early. Went to coffee time, smoked cigarettes and talked about what a bad time we had.

    Luckily, I had choosen a nice dress, that I was able to wear 3-4 times since prom and have had nicer memories with that dress, than not.

  11. Separated at birth, XUP. Our last day of high school blowout was at someone’s cottage at Holiday Beach on Lake Erie. We swam, we barbecued, we ‘garnished with herbs’, and I distinctly remember watching the sun rise from a tree house. I was probably wearing those buffalo sandals (I’d totally forgotten about those, they rocked, especially for a 5’10” girl who didn’t want heels. And we called flip-flops ‘thongs’ too.)

    I did do the prom, but my outfit cost cosiderably less that $100, I did my own hair, and my mom drove me and my date to the prom. I don’t remember if we went to an after party, but if we did it was in the same damn clothes.

    But I’ll never forget the beach day/night.

  12. I went to prom my jr and sr year. both times I went with guys who were my friends. It was okay. I lived in Charleston and my sr prom was on the battleship The Yorktown. could have been cool but I don’t know. I remember it as high anxiety rather than fun.

    the most fun was senior cut day when we all skipped school one day at the end of the year and went to the beach, surfed and laughed and cooked out, threw frisbees, hand ball. We stayed from 8 in the morning (because we were supposed to be at school) until late into the night. Good ole fashioned fun. 1980

  13. P.S. we went to nice dinners out before the prom. I bought a dress and new shoes for one and borrowed same for another. no limos but it was still an expensive night for the boys.

  14. I didn’t go to my prom. I didn’t enjoy high school, didn’t care for the people who went there and didn’t see a point in wasting money to spend a few more hours with them.

  15. She wasn’t going to be my date. We were going to go as a group with a bunch of our dateless friends. Oh, wait, that sounds worse than it was. In any case, without my sister going, it seemed like a lot more trouble than it was worth (especially given the guilt I would have felt had I attended when she couldn’t — it was her prom, too) so I chose to just not attend.

    As for the graduating at 16 thing, skipping a couple of grades (in hindsight, something I really don’t recommend) will do that to you.

    BTW thanks for the buffalo sandals mention. I absolutely loved those things but haven’t had a pair in years. Might just be time to go buy a pair. Might make me like summer a little more. 😉

  16. @Chris – EXACTLY.

    XUP – LOL!
    “flip-flops, which we used to call “thongs” before thongs meant tiny underpants.”

    I *still* made this mistake, until recently. WTF?? the word ‘thong’ was already taken, people. “Butt floss” is more accurate anyway.

    No, I didn’t go to a prom (or really, any school activity that wasn’t strictly required), and had no desire to go to one, either. It seemed painfully apparent even at my tender age then that it was a stupid consumer-whore show with no winners but the merchants peddling prom crap. And as Chris pointed out, you’d have to really be interested in your classmates to want to spend more of your time with them than you already were; I was not one of them.

    XUP, your last day of school eclipsed mine in style and joy by a factor of six thousand and five. I would have traded you, but I guess I was born too late. Or I should have been Canadian (I always took milk in my tea, and people looked at me weird for doing it).

  17. Ah Memories

    I was a rural kid too – same thing

    You only missed one part

    The car blasting out the tapes needing to be boosted to get started because of the toasted battery 🙂

  18. Pony tails on a guy?
    What do you think I was a commie or something.
    And long beach is about 20 miles west of Crystal beach.
    No amusement park but there was and is a provincial park. Dunes, fires swimming in a lake that wasn’t yet too polluted to get into and a few places with bushes for any required privacy.

  19. Sky – Lots of people seem to break up with their bf/gf just before prom. I guess it helps to heighten the whole stress factor for them.

    Jazz – Ah…jeans and beer…the perfect combo.

    Julia – Bridge? Really — bridge? You should write a short story about this.

    Dr. Monkey – Yes, I think I remember reading something about your proms on your blog. It wasn’t pretty as I recall.

    J – I can never wear clothes again that I had a horrible time in. They sit in my closet until I get sick of looking at them and then they go to goodwill.

    Alison – If it weren’t for the toast thing I’d never be able to tell us apart. Well, that and the fact that you’re a tall, leggy blond and I’m not.

    Lola – Interesting how the most fun thing about everyone’s prom seems to be the party on the beach afterwards and not the fancy dress and formal dance.

    Chris – You didn’t like anyone in high school? That must have sucked.

    Louise/Anonymous – Ah, thanks for clearing that up. And I don’t think they skip kids anymore, probably for the reasons you would say. They also don’t fail kids anymore either, but that’s a whole other blogpost.

    AuntieHallie – Six thousand and five? Well….it WAS pretty good..but gee, I’m sad about whatever horror show your last day of school must have been like. (PS: I like my tea straight up)

    Elliott – Some of those cars the guys had back then needed boosting pretty much every time they tried to start them up. Only a handful of guys had cool cars, the rest had old heaps that would usually get them from A to B and, most importantly, was a place they could put their stereo.

    Bandobras – Ya, I think I’ve been there. The pony-tailed guys were probably after your time –they were the ones that made old timers like you say “gee, this younger generation sure has produced some ugly girls.”

  20. I went to my Junior Prom. It was held in the high school gymnasium (that was before they were anal about their floors – not that they shouldn’t be, but—) We had tons of sock hops in that gym too. For the prom, there was a decorating committee and we begged, borrowed or, if your parents had “money” you bought a dress, I borrowed, and he bought you a carnation and you might buy him a boutineer. Then two couples usually shared a car and I had a blast.

    There was no $100 a plate dinner, as they do down here in the elephant below Canada. No offense taken, as we really act like a raging bull elephant at times. There was no $500 prom ticket, nor $300 dress. Maybe with the economy people will get back to what is important again and not trying to impress each other with how much money they can throw away.

    EMT son went, as a sophomore and a Junior to our prom because he had friends who were dumped right before prom and also had $300 dresses. He said it was “okay.”

    Oh, we did finish the whole experience, when I was their age, by going to the Dunes State Park the next day and also grilling hot dogs and junk. Someone usually had a nip or two to share and there was music to listen to and screaming as you ran down the dunes hills or attempted to swim in Lake Michigan in early June. A good time was had by all, on maybe $30.

  21. Yeah I think this generation has it all wrong.
    Our proms were at the school and although what with dinner it was sort of an expensive night it certainly wasn’t over the top like it is now.
    I think formal dresses and dinners and guys in tuxedos at hotel ballrooms should be saved for important things like chastity balls with your father not wasted on proms.

  22. I went to prom, I enjoyed it. But it wasn’t the big blow-out thing that it is now. It was all pretty reasonably priced and it was pretty fun. My daughter just went to prom. I’m thinking because we live in such a small town, the event was a big deal but nobody spent all that much money and nobody stayed out all night. There’s nothing to do and nowhere to go and the police and state troopers here are always on the lookout for curfew infringements, so prom weekend they were probably everywhere watching. I don’t recall hearing about any of the kids spending alot, staying out all night or getting into any trouble. *sigh* This is a boring place to live.

  23. i went my year and the year before as someone’s date. it didn’t seem much different from any other weekend – giggles, goofing around, having fun. i did wear a fancy dress, but it was from a vintage store and dirt cheap. it was a little different than what the other girls were wearing, i felt pretty nonetheless.
    sounds painful what is happening these days. there is no need for it to be that crazy. i think i’m going to try and pay off my girls when the time comes for their prom and weddings. give them some cash to have fun with their friends and skip all the broohahaha.

  24. LOL!
    No offence intended, savanvleck!

    The “elephant” reference comes from a quote uttered by one of our Prime Ministers:

    “Living next to the United States is a little like sleeping with an elephant. You always wonder if they will roll over on you.”
    P.E. Trudeau

  25. I hated high school and was very glad it was over. Which could be why I have blocked most of it out of my memory. We didn’t have a ‘prom’, we had a ‘grad’. Most of us went ‘dateless’. I remember going to the old Inn on the Park and having a dinner dance, then wanderin (somewhere??) with a group of friends and eventually ending up in someone’s basement. It was for most of us (maybe even all of us) our first all nighter. THAT was a big deal. I also remember we took cabs – another first for me.

  26. We called it ‘grad’ and it wasn’t as big of a deal. We graduated in the morning and then our dance was that night. Sure, you got dressed up and (maybe) your hair done but most of the times you went in groups or had a friend as your date. Supper at a restaurant before, then to the school where the dance was held in the gym.
    After there was either someones cottage to go to on the beach or just the beach. Of course there were drinks passed around (it WAS the east coast) but everyone was always good about the no drinking and driving…as well as no drinking and getting it on with that horrible person that you shouldn’t!

    Of course leading up to the actual graduation ceremony for about a week there were various “Safe-Grad” functions. Everything from a day at the beach to a harbour cruise in the evening.

  27. I went to prom. Actually, I went to a couple of proms. Mine and my friend’s at another school. I can’t believe my mom actually let me buy two dresses even though they weren’t at the same place. Ours were always at an off-campus location, and dinner was never included. There were shoes, hair, nails, corsages…But as much money as we spent (I worked and had to plunk down my share), it’s much worse now. I can’t believe how out of control it is.

    After prom we did what you did—drove out to Santa Cruz beach in Northern California, brought some snacks, a boom box and wore sweats and shorts, camped out all night and drove home the next morning and it was so much better than wearing a dress that was too tight to sit comfortably, shoes that pinched and spending too much money.

  28. I went w/ a bunch of friends – no dates … and then I left early to meet up w/ another bunch of friends and we spent the night at the beach, w/ guitars and singing and bonfires … it was really nice.

  29. My prom was awesome. We decided to go at the last minute. It wasn’t my school, it was my guy friend’s. Did it on the cheap. Looked fabulous. Stayed just long enough to say hellos and eat. Left and went to a nightclub. It was great. And the best part? It was 1979 and we do not look like the 70’s in our picture. We were too cool for school.

    Also prom was not the last day of school. That’s something totally different. And I did graduation TWICE. Here in Texas when I graduated and back in North Carolina three days later when my friends graduated and Dad threw the party. Then the whole NC party moved to Myrtle beach the next day. It was all good and I do not remember a whole lot of it.

  30. Savanvleck – Ya, prom should just be the beach/park part. Forget the dumb dress-up dance thing. They’re rarely as “magical” as the hype.

    Bandobras – It’s true. Proms really take away from that special day when you vow your chastity to your daddy, in public, in a white dress, in a hall full of phallic symbols.

    Charlene – I’ll bet there’s all sorts of wild and crazy stuff going on behind the scenes. There usually is in these “quiet” small towns. (see: Desperate Housewives)

    Meanie – What an excellent, brilliant idea — paying off the kids to have fun instead of doing all that prom stuff. I’m going to try that with mine, too. I like it a lot. Thanks.

    Trashee – Gotta love P.E.T.

    Violetsky – Woooooo…cabs!! Cool. Cabs are really just smaller, grungier versions of limos anyway, right?

    Helen – They still have the “safe grad” functions there. Boring. The whole fun of prom/grad night is staying up late or all night away from adults — not dining politely in the company of your parents.

    Mo -Who came up with this whole prom thing anyway? Dress shops? Limo companies? And why do people keep going along with it? Especially when the whole actual “prom” part is just something to be gotten through so you can get to the good part.

    Louise – I don’t know?

    Olivia – That sounds perfect.

    Geewits – Ha ha. Sometimes the best times in life are the times you don’t remember. Maybe it will all come back to you when you’re old and senile?

  31. i never attended prom, not a one of them. have often wondered if i’d missed out on something, but i think not. they are like mini weddings to me and i’m not fond of big weddings either. think of the money you can save by opting out! and the peace of mind, etc.

    i love your description of last day, that sounds preferable to moi.