Prom night

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 24, 2004

In the good old days we attended junior and senior proms that we created, enjoying the preparations for our evening of festivities. We were privileged to also enjoy a sense of safety that we shared with parents and teachers because they didn’t have to worry about our traveling on dangerous highways during the biggest social event of our young lives. To attend a prom today a student has to have a driver’s license, be close friends with a fellow student who drives, or his or her parents have to foot a large bill for limousine services.

In contrast, today’s changing times seem to have produced boredom, and they certainly have changed the way in which a prom is staged. These times seem to have also brought on new ideas about where to have proms, which in turn, brings new risks.

I was under the impression that high school proms were still being held in our local high school gymnasiums. My grand-nephew, Corey Banks, is a senior this year at Lakeland High School; my sister and his grandmother, Earlene Banks, informed me that his prom will be held at Grand Affairs in Virginia Beach on April 30.

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I then called the school board office and talked with Bethanne Bradshaw and learned that proms held out of town have been going on for a few years. I learned that they have been held at Grand Affairs in Virginia Beach,, on boat rides aboard The Spirit of Norfolk in Norfolk and at the Chesapeake Conference Center in Chesapeake. I only consider it a blessing that something tragic has not happened on the highways to and from these events.

I still consider it a great risk when proms are held so far away for a number of reasons – some teens are too young and inexperienced to drive the major highways; some will still drink and drive; and some may not follow traffic regulations.

Bradshaw also said that the reason proms have been held this way is because, kids felt as if they were still going to school with proms at school and when they are being held out of town at other places, it makes them feel a little special. In addition, some schools or PTAs will also sponsor after-prom parties back at their schools to give the kids options, but it is up to the individual schools or sponsors to decide what activities they will have.

To their credit, the school furnishes many chaperons and school personnel discuss prom activities with care and responsibility before the scheduled event. But no matter how much these topics are discussed, parents should take a personal responsibility to make sure that their kids stay safe.

Corey’s mother and my niece, Charlene Banks, is one of those parents who take responsibility for her children’s actions. She said that at first she didn’t exactly know where Grand Affairs was located and took a couple of wrong turns finding it but she and Corey made a pre-prom trip to familiarize him with the directions and will do it again if he wants to be more comfortable on prom night.

Other alternatives that kids have been using on prom night are limousines and car pooling.

When I attended my proms during my junior and senior years in 1962, the events probably would have cost my escort about $75, including my corsage and his tuxedo rental. Now, and especially if the couple is renting a limo, the event can cost both about $250 apiece if they are sharing the ride and that’s not including her dress, her corsage and his tuxedo. Charlene also told me that some prom dates have dinner after the event with dinner costing as much as $80 if the guy is paying.

The Rev. Isaac Baker was a proprietor of his own limousine service and now drives school buses for the Suffolk Public School system. He agreed with me that the way proms are being held out of town now is risky and can be expensive business.

He said that when he transported kids to proms he only charged $75 an hour. However, to get more kids off the road, he encourages at least three couples to team up to cut the cost by asking each parent of the six to divide the cost which would probably total about $550 to transport six people.

A designated safe driver, or limousine transportation may be the best for your child to go to the prom if you, the parent, have any reservations about your child’s safety or ability to drive on prom night.

So now, students, even though you are celebrating in a different way during a different time than I, I only hope that you enjoy your prom as much as I enjoyed mine.

Evelyn Wall is a staff writer for the News-Herald. Reach her at 934-9615 or at