It is hard to realize today, when teenagers go to their proms in limousines and plan to spend a thousand dollars plus to attend, but in 1938, it was a whole lot different. It was in the ancient days, during the Great Depression and before World War II, when I was a young boy approaching manhood. The Junior Prom at Los Gatos High was approaching and my buddy, Bill “Fish” Hildebrand and I discussed attending. (When I was in high school, nearly everyone had a nickname. Bill was always called “Fish” and I was known as “Snakehips” because I was so skinny that if I turned sideways to the sun, I didn’t create a shadow.) Bill and I were both on the football team and had earned our block sweaters and felt it was time to impress the ladies. (Bill was a pretty good player and I kept the bench warm.)
The proms were always held in the tiny school gym, which was decorated with crepe paper for the event, and the bids cost $3.50 per couple—a fortune at the time. In our family, there was no such thing as an “allowance,” and while I had heard the term from some of the rich kids, we had to work to earn the fee. In fact, in my family, I always thought that an allowance meant that your folks let you spend the money you earned for school supplies and clothes.
We invited two girls we had our eyes on. Bill invited Lois Lane, or “LL” as we called her, short for “Luscious Lips,” and I invited Shirley “Twin Peaks” Macadoo (she had earned the nickname for obvious reasons). To our surprise, the girls both accepted and we were full of anticipation.
The week before the dance, the gossip around school centered on what corsage each of the girls would wear. White gardenias were the most popular choice, while some of the rich boys were giving their dates a beautiful orchid. There was much discussion amongst the girls and panic set in with Bill and me. This was an unexpected expense and we had already spent all our money to pay the three and a half bucks, and it was out of the question to ask our folks for this extravagant waste of money.
Bill’s mother came to our rescue two days before the event. She had once worked in a flower shop and even had two unused gift flower boxes. Mrs. Hildebrand said that if we could locate suitable flowers, she would make the corsages. We immediately set out to find flowers and stopped to see neighbors who had a lovely garden. After we described our plight, they generously offered anything they grew. Mrs. H. wanted the flowers to be fresh, so on Friday afternoon, Bill and I picked the most beautiful gold and pink, double hibiscus blossoms and rushed them to the Hildebrand house. Mrs. H. did us proud and made beautiful corsages—so big that the girls had to wear them on their wrist instead of a breast.
LL and Twin Peaks were duly impressed, so much so that they bragged to the other girls about what their escorts had given them. Everything was going wonderfully and Bill and I were the toast of the ball until about 10 p.m. when the damned hibiscus blossoms thought it was night and closed themselves. Of course, the first to notice were the other girls, and pointed remarks were cast in our direction. “What happened to your flowers, dearie; are they supposed to look like that?”
Our dates couldn’t wait to get rid of the two cheapskates they were with and it was our last romantic adventure with Luscious Lips and Twin Peaks.