I mentioned in a previous post that I went to the Prom three times, twice in high school, and a third time a couple of years after I got out of the Army.
I went to Loyola High School in Missoula, MT. With a name like Loyola, you know it has to be Catholic, and it has to be Jesuit. It was an all-boy school, but right across the street from Loyola was Sacred Heart Academy, an all-girl Catholic high school.
LHS and SHA were essentially one high school in everything but name, and buildings. Loyola was a nondescript two story brick building that looked like an outhouse compared to Sacred Heart.
Sacred Heart was an huge, antique-looking wooden building, three or four stories high. It wasn’t just a school, it was an historical landmark, and I think it used to be a convent. If you wandered the hallways on the top floors, you could find the rooms where the nuns or acolytes used to sleep. There were beds in some of the rooms. It was one of the coolest buildings in Missoula, ever.
The two schools shared classrooms and faculty. The cheerleaders for Loyola’s sports teams came from Sacred Heart. And the Loyola boys tended to date the Sacred Heart girls. LHS and SHA merged to officially become one school the year after I graduated, and moved to a new location.
The Loyola building is still standing, empty. It’s kind of sad. The old Sacred Heart building is now a parking lot for St Patrick Hospital, and that is very sad. I just about went into shock the last time I visited Missoula in 1999.
So many memories, good and not so good; that relatively idyllic time so long ago–before life started kicking me in the balls and my first dreams died–all turned bittersweet and more poignant in the realization that time waits for no one, and nuns can be even more mercenary than me.
It’s really too bad they were allowed to destroy that building, but they saw their opportunity to get rid of it, and they took it, those bitches.
* * * *
I wasn’t planning on going to the Prom when I was a junior. I didn’t have a girlfriend. And I was ridiculously shy around any member of the opposite sex. Well, it was high school… There was one girl I wanted to ask out, but she was way out of my league, and there was no way I could even think about asking her out without dying to death in the process.
On the night in question, I was with my good friend, Andy Hyde. We dropped in to see one of our lay teachers, a skinny gal with long curly hair. I think her name was Rose, maybe… I can’t remember how the subject of Prom got into the discussion, but it did.
I think Andy already had a date, MaryAnn Marshall. She was a rather buxom blonde who didn’t attend Sacred Heart. And I think he was probably trying to get me to go to the Prom because I had a car, and then he and his date could ride with me and my date.
I had a 1963 Dodge Dart stationwagon back then. I was the only one of my group of friends that had a car, so…
At any rate, following the strong encouragement of everyone in the room, I called Colleen Dowdall with the telephone in Rose’s kitchen and asked her to the Prom. It was a jump ball as to which of us was more surprised. It was probably the first time I had ever spoken to Colleen in the three years I had been going to school with her.
Colleen was a tiny girl with very long brown hair. She was attractive, and super smart. I had some classes with Colleen, so I knew who she was, and she knew who I was, and that probably surprised me. I saw myself as essentially invisible most of my time in high school.
I was probably the Guy Most People Would Forget in my class.
Colleen didn’t have a date for Prom. She was thrilled that I called to ask her. And that’s how I ended up going to the Prom the first time.
* * * *
Prom Night! I wore a powder blue tuxedo, and I totally rocked that sucker. Andy and I picked up our dates, Colleen and MaryAnn. We went to the restaurant at the Edgewater Inn, which might have been the nicest restaurant in Missoula back then.
Missoula has probably become the hipest, most eclectic city in Montana, and there are a lots of fine dining venues available now. But way back then it was a cowboy university town, and I doubt there were many hip places anywhere in the state.
I think some of the menu items were written in French, and I probably tried to impress my date by ordering in French because I was taking French in school, Je vais avoir l’éléphant à la mode, et un ordre de parapluies sur le côté. Thank God the restaurant was out of elephants. And umbrellas. Our server suggested I try one of the steaks instead.
After a delicious meal, we probably drank some beer in my car before we went to the Prom to dance the night away. And then a funny thing happened. Colleen and MaryAnn went to the bathroom, and when they returned, MaryAnn sat next to me and Colleen sat next to Andy.
“We decided to switch dates.” MaryAnn explained. “Colleen really likes Andy, and I think you’re really cute.”
So Andy and I and Colleen and MaryAnn kind of made history by being the first Prom date swappers at our high school.
And to crown the night off, we all went to the Go West Drive In Theater. Andy and I worked at the Go West, so we went there to show our gay bosses our dates. I think our gay bosses fell in love with dresses our dates were wearing.
I spent the rest of the night in the backseat of my car kissing my new date and playing with her ample chest. My time with MaryAnn would be brief. She would meet another guy she thought was really cute, my other good friend from high school, Dave Nelson, and MaryAnn and I were fini.
* * * *
Fast forward to senior year. I was dating my high school sweetheart, the beautiful and talented Maureen Ann Browne, the girl I didn’t think would give me the time of day one year earlier.
In one of those odd twists of fate, Colleen and Maureen were the best of friends, and I think it was Colleen who suggested I ask her friend out. I did, and I couldn’t believe she said, Yes! We kind of hit it off, and we went out a few more times, and then we really hit it off. We started seriously dating, and were a couple throughout our senior year.
I remember it as one of the happiest times of my life, and that simultaneously brief yet endless time with Maureen was probably the most head over heels in love that I would ever be with anyone. That whole first love thing, you know…
For my second Prom experience, I wore a light gray tuxedo. Maureen and I would double date with Andy and Colleen, but I think my buddy, Dave Nelson, and his date also rode along with us. I don’t think he was still dating MaryAnn. She probably dumped him for yet another really cute guy…
However many of us there were that night, we all went to eat at the restaurant at the Edgewater Inn again. Our server recognized me said he could check with the chef, but he was pretty sure they had just received a shipment of elephant. And umbrellas.
I ordered a steak. In English.
We probably drank beer in my car after our meal. Or Boone’s Farm! Remember that shit? God, that stuff was awful. But we drank it by the fuckin’ gallon. And then we danced the night away.
There was most likely another trip to the Go West, and our gay bosses fell in love with a different set of Prom dresses.
I know I spent that night kissing Maureen. She was very good at kissing. Almost exactly one year later, I would see Maureen for the last time in my life when we decided to break up.
I would shed tears like unto an hurricane of heartache and grief and loss. I had never cried like that before. Or since. And because I was young, stupid and heartbroken, I would try to intentionally take my life.
* * * *
Fast forward four years. I would go to the Prom for the last time in Minnesota, and I can probably thank Shorty Girtz for that.
Shorty owned and operated a service station in Rice, MN. And all the local potheads and misfits tended to congregate there. Shorty tended to bring home strays, I think that’s how someone described it. And one of the strays he brought into his station was Meredith.
Meredith was a senior in high school, and Shorty gave her job standing behind the cash register. I don’t know if she even knew how to open the cash register. She described herself as Shorty’s office manager, whatever the hell that meant. She may have tried to organize Shorty’s business, but it would’ve been easier to to colonize Mars. By building a bridge to walk there. From Earth. Meredith didn’t last long in any capacity at Shorty’s.
At any rate, there was a reason Meredith worked at Shorty’s, and she fit in perfectly with all the other misfits. And then came the day that I dropped in at Shorty’s to find his office manager crying uncontrollably in her boss’s office.
“Hey! What’s going on, Meri?” I decided to ask. I had a tendency to do stupid stuff like that, especially if a woman was crying. It would take me a few years working as a psych nurse to not be effected by a woman’s tears.
Somehow, between sobbing breaths, Meridith was able to inform me that she hadn’t been asked to the Prom, and she more or less wanted to die.
“Is that all? Hell, I’ll take you to the Prom if you’ll stop crying.”
And that was how I ended up going to the Prom for the third time.
I rented a black tuxedo, and took Meredith to a really nice restaurant on the Mississippi River called Portside. I asked our server if they had elephant à la mode.
“I could check with the kitchen…” she said. And she was serious. I ordered a steak, and a bottle of wine. I think I was able to talk our server into allowing my date to drink a couple glasses of wine, even though Meridith wasn’t of legal drinking age. It was the Prom!
I don’t really remember much about my last Prom, except I fell in love with Meredith’s best friend, Jackie. I would end up dating her for several months. She was a lots of fun for awhile there. When Jackie and I parted ways, I started dating the Banana Split Girls.
I won’t be going to another Prom in this lifetime, not even as a chaperone. I don’t think they have Proms in Mexico. I should talk to someone about that. It would give the Mexicans another reason to celebrate, and I have never seen a group of people that loves to party as much as the Mexicans do, including bikers.
I have to say I had a good time at all three Proms I attended, and I hope my four dates had a good time, too.