April 21, 2024

**Do Not Use**

New Director's Dialogue available now in ARC Event Library

Aqua Dress & Pink Roses

By Tom Watson

At Bay High the two most important social events of the year were the Christmas Ball, given by the seniors, and the Junior Senior Prom, given by the juniors. Members of the junior and senior classes were automatically invited. The only way an underclassman could attend was to be invited by a junior or a senior.

As a sophomore I desperately wanted to go, and one day after my English class a junior girl asked me to be her date for the Christmas Ball which was about three weeks away. I accepted enthusiastically. Anne Simmons was not the prettiest girl in the class. She was a little bit on the heavy side. Still I was pleased just to be asked. In fact, I could hardly wait to tell my sophomore buddies.

I was surprised by their reaction. Instead of congratulating me or saying they wished they could go, they teased me. “Going to the Ball with a fat girl!” they chanted. I should not have been so sensitive, but at fourteen I was not as smart as I might have been. Their teasing got through to me. I thought of ways to get out of the date, but never mentioned anything about it to Mom. I knew that if she knew about it, I would have to go.

Though I was embarrassed to go to the dance with her, I still wanted to give Anne time to ask someone else. I concocted a story that I had forgotten an invitation to go to Gainesville to visit Brownie Dunn.

I found Anne in study hall before school the next day and I asked her if we could talk. We went out in the hall and I told her that Brownie had been a friend in the eighth grade, and that his family had moved to Gainesville (true). Brownie, I told her, had invited me to Gainesville for the first weekend of the Christmas Holidays (not true). Therefore, I would not be able to go to the Christmas Ball with her. Anne accepted the story, said she was sorry I couldn’t go, and said she would invite someone else.

I felt awful for the next couple of days. I knew what I had done was wrong, and I knew I had been unfair to Anne. Moreover, I understood that I was cutting my nose off to spite my face. I really wanted to go, but I just couldn’t stand the flack from my friends. I became accustomed to the fact that I had blown my chance, and I forgot the Christmas Ball.

During my high school years Bay High and Panama City sponsored the Pelican Club for teens using the old USO Building. Every Friday night we had a dance, sometimes with live bands, but often with a jukebox. Nearly everyone went to the Pelican Club. Most went without dates. We just danced with everyone there and enjoyed each other.

The Friday night a week before the Christmas Ball I went as usual to the Pelican Club. I was between dances talking with some boys when a girl from our class came up to me and said, “Marie Buffington wants you to dance with her.” Wow! Marie was a senior, and drum majorette of the Bay High Band. She went steady with Ray Warren, the first team end on the football team. I was a third teamer. Why would Marie want to dance with me?

I asked Marie to dance, and we danced together the rest of the evening. She and Ray had “had a fight.” That was all the explanation she gave, and it was all I needed. Marie was a great dancer, and I walked around Saturday in a daze, this time the envy of my friends.

Sunday evening our telephone rang. Mom answered it and said it was for me. I took the phone and a voice said, “Tommy, this is Marie Buffington. Ray and I have broken up and he broke our Christmas Ball date. Will you go with me? I had such a good time dancing with you Friday night.”

I was trapped. I had to tell Marie that I was going to Gainesville to see Brownie Dunn. That was a terrible hurt, but it was nothing like the next Friday night when I stayed at home. Mom asked why I didn’t go to a movie, but I couldn’t go out at all because if I was seen my lie was exposed. I couldn’t even tell Mom my troubles. I learned the hard way not to get teased out of doing something I really wanted to do, and not to lie in a social situation.

I got a second chance when, in April or May, Joanne Silcox invited me to the Junior Senior Prom. There were girls I would rather have gone with, but I was afraid that if I didn’t accept Joanne’s invitation no-one would ask. I accepted the date, this time knowing I would be teased and vowing not to be affected by it. Anyway, by that time I knew that most of the teasing was the result of envy.

I was blissfully unaware of many things those days. About Wednesday before the prom, Mom asked me, “What color dress is Joanne wearing?”

I said, “I don’t know. Why?”

“Because you have to know what color her dress is to order a corsage,” said Mom.

I didn’t even know about corsages. Mom told me to call Joanne and ask the color of her dress. When Joanne told me that the dress was “aqua,” Mom suggested pink roses. She told me to call Wayside Nurseries. When I found out that a pink rose corsage would cost $3.50, I nearly fell over, but I went ahead and ordered it.

The Friday of the prom we got out of school at noon, and Hiram Gilbert and I drove out to Wayside Nurseries to pick up our corsages. When I saw the corsage my mindset began to improve. It really was pretty. I took it home for Mom to see, and she thought it was nice. She put the flowers in the refrigerator.

Hiram picked me up at about 7:30 that evening and we drove to get our dates. I was nervous as I carried the corsage up the Silcox’ steps. Would Joanne like it? When I saw Joanne in her dress I was stunned. She was lovely! Her mother helped me pin the pink rose corsage on her aqua dress, and I knew Mom’s choice was right. Then Joanne pinned a red carnation on my borrowed white dinner jacket, and Mr. Silcox took our picture as we left for the prom.

Joanne and I had a marvelous time at the prom. Before then I had never danced with her, but she was very good. The music was fantastic. The band was the “Auburn Knights” a sixteen-piece group. They played all the hits of the time – the big band tunes. Joanne and I jitterbugged all night long. We went out several other times. Playing it straight paid off.

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