Dances over the decades: Prom used to be as cheap as $4

March 9, 2010 — by Robin Liu and Tiffany Tung

$4 might not seem like a lot, but when used wisely, it can go a long way. Go back 45 years to 1965. Junior-Senior Prom bids were only $4. The theme? A Knight in May.

Besides the huge increase in cost to around $90, today’s junior and senior proms are held separately, unlike years ago.

Dances have come a long way since 1959. Marry ‘n Sam booths were always present at Sadies for those who wanted to get “married”, but from a time when sock hops and fox trots were popular, similarities to today’s dances still existed. Parent Amy Williams, who graduated from Saratoga in 1982, remembers the way dances were back in the day.

“Dances were popular social events. All types of people attended, from the nerds to the jocks to the druggies,” said Williams, whose daughter, Emily, is a sophomore. “I think the majority did attend, even if standing around and not dancing happened more times than not. We had [dances] in the gym and it was always very crowded and dark.”

The misdemeanors that plague dances today were emerging during the 1980s.

“Teenagers will always find a way to misbehave and we were typical teenagers,” said Williams. “We don’t recall inappropriate dancing, but people would make-out while slow dancing to ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and there was definitely some hiney holding, but no freak dancing.”

Although there were dress code issues, they were much different 20 years ago.

“One [of my] friends remembered dressing up with her date as a streaker,” said Williams. “They wore clothes but decorated themselves with inappropriate fake body parts and got kicked out of the dance.”

Of course, dance styles have completely changed since the 80s, a time when school dances looked like a scene from the movie “The Breakfast Club.” The robot was a common dance, along with dorky dancing with a white man overbite. In addition, bands always supplied the music.

“We were terrible dancers, but we always had fun,” said Williams. “‘Stairway to Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin was a song that was played at every dance.”

Going into the ’80s, a regular dance cost between $3 to $5, while the Senior Prom was between $40 to $50.

“Guys always wore tuxes with ruffles, mostly colorful ones [like] light blue burgundy to match the girls’ dress,” said Williams. “The boys always gave us a corsage—either on the wrist with elastic or pin on to the dress; we always got them a boutonniere.”

Themed dances often led to funny costumes at a time when everyone dressed up. In 1982, the Mediterranean Fruitfly threatened the fruit industry in northern California. Helicopters would occasionally fly all over the area in the middle of the night, making it sound like a war zone, and sprayed malathion (a toxic chemical) to eradicate the fruitfly. Williams and her eventual husband Dave, who also attended Saratoga, got creative for a Sadie Hawkins dance during their senior year with another couple.

“My husband and his friend wore gas masks, wings, and army fatigues, and my friend and I obtained the chemical make-up of malathion,” said Williams. “[We] blew up balloons and put the chemical compounds on the balloons and attached them all over our bodies with the slogan ‘Catch the Medfly.’ Kooky but fun!”

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