Letters to the Editor

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PROM: The year when prom was free

Letter by Bernice L. Youtz, Tacoma on April 26, 2012 at 12:53 pm with 79 Comments »
April 26, 2012 1:04 pm

Re: “Prom as a budget buster” (editorial, 4-25).

The editorial cites a source saying that the average family of a 2012 graduate will spend $1,078 on prom expenses. The writer muses that those who recall more modest times are “old . . . Very old.”

I graduated in 1943. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Los Angeles School Board canceled all evening activities, citing the possibility of “blackouts.” By June 1943, there had been no “blackouts” for more than a year, but the rule prevailed.

Our “prom” was a noon sock-hop in the gym, followed by return to afternoon classes. I do not remember what cotton school dress I wore, but cost was not a factor. Graduation was also at noon on the football field.

Many of the boys in the class came in uniform, home on leave; others were already overseas. Their names were read and diplomas were accepted by a family member. The remaining males would report to induction centers the next morning.

That evening there were, of course, private parties and dates, limited by the amount of rationed gas in the family car. We girls would soon go to college or find jobs, and write letters to boys with APO addresses. But it was far from a sad event. With the high spirits of youth, we may have found those days as rewarding as today’s elaborate celebrations – at little cost to our parents.

Leave a comment Comments → 79
  1. Thousand-dollar proms are just another sign of our times, Bernice. PLeasure-seeking is the name of the game.

    Our proms, inthe sixties, were still heald in the gym; no limos in sight, certainly no dresses that cost hundreds of dollars. Likewise no senior trips to Aruba, etc. etc.

    Parents have fallen for this nonsense and have only themselves to thank, and the sad part is, many of them get all tickled pink over these affairs.


  2. in what will likely be the only time I will ever agree with sozo on anything, I agree with sozo. it is one thing to make prom a ‘special occasion’ and quite another to overindulge kids with expensive, unnecessary, high priced items or trips and fancy frills. I feel the same way about families who take their kids to somewhere like Hawaii for spring break…in the past Hawaii was a honeymoon trip or a once in a lifetime experience, now 8 year olds are going for spring break? man, the bar just keeps getting higher and higher….things are out of balance, IMO.

  3. tree_guy says:

    Thanks for your exceptional letter to the editor, Bernice. It was a refreshing return to the simple joys of our past.

  4. It all depends on how you raise your kids. Some of us can laugh at those who value social events over education.

  5. itwasntmethistime says:

    It’s so hard to take people seriously when they say they cannot afford to save a penny for their child’s college education.

  6. LornaDoone says:

    Yeah…and I remember when churches were just plain buildings without jumbotron TVs and pastors flying in via helicopter…..

    We won’t discuss that, though.

  7. took14theteam says:


    You are a piece.

    Go tickle some ivory.

  8. bobcat1a says:

    1965. The senior class voted to not have dates and try to insure that everyone in the class attended. It was a great experience and cost next to nothing per person. Spending a ton of money to pretend you belong with Paris Hilton proves nothing but imbecility.

  9. concernedtacoma7 says:

    What a classless comment from the resident progressive.

    Great letter. Our priorities as a society are certainly out of whack.

  10. Frankenchrist says:

    I can remember when pastors didn’t wear $1,000 suits, fly around in Gulfstream jets, and lead billion-dollar corporations while fleecing their frightened and deluded followers of their retirement savings.

  11. My prom was in 75 – I’m thinking that this all started changing in the 80s, when “greed is good” became the mantra of the land.

  12. LornaDoone says:

    As I expected, “excess” is fine when you are talking about a kid’s prom, but don’t mention it in reference to a “church”.

    In this day and age of “cultural divide” and “personal responsibility” why should anyone begrudge kids and parents who can afford a lavish party or vacation?

    If we speak of Mitt Romney’s wealth, its “culture war”. Let’s talk about kids proms instead.

    Who is bringing up “manufactured issues”???????

  13. LornaDoone says:

    beerboy – I can still remember spending hours washing and waxing my 59 Chev, going to the barber and picking up my cheesy tux (why can’t we just go basic black????) on the day of my prom. These were our rituals that we embraced. I still don’t begrudge todays youth. It wouldn’t be happening if someone wasn’t marketing the idea to them.

  14. That two of you, the predictables of course, would go from this discussion to lambasting chuch spending speaks volumes about why very few people take either of you seriously. We get it. You love to spar for a fight, a virtual one of course so no blood will be shed. You fancy yourselves well-read and eager to enlighten others when the truth is you just want a little dust-up to give your day meaning, a chance to spout off.

    bBoy, I think you are correct that the prom thing hit its stride in the 80’s. Likewise, where we had witnessed numerous simple, low-budget and beautiful weddings in the 60’s and 70’s, suddenly brides were hitting up daddy for $10,000 base line. That too strikes me as unsavory, mostly because it’s all just pretense, play-acting. It’s just sad sort of affirmation of other, deeper issues I think.

  15. Just say no to prom. I did. Stayed home and watched the King & I with my visiting Grandmother. I grew up to be a stable, responsible adult with a car, home, and day job. These rituals to put families into increasing debt only teach children that in order to live “the good life” they need to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, as well.

  16. Oh wait, I should add – my family never would have forked over cash for an expensive dress, dinner, and limo to prom. However, when those same grandparents died, they left me enough money to put a downpayment on a house.


  17. LornaDoone says:

    “That two of you, the predictables of course, would go from this discussion to lambasting chuch spending speaks volumes about why very few people take either of you seriously.”

    Despite your attempts to make this personal, I’m sticking to my point that excess and opulence attitudes cross all areas of life, but that certain people will defend churches excess (under the guises of “we need money for the poor”) while attacking such issues as proms, family vacations and such. I’ll go so far as to mention that SOME NON-PROFITS are guilty of excessive spending on fundraising so that their affluent target market feels “comfortable” at the party.

    Your desire to eliminate that from the discussion is more of the hypocrisy I’ve come to recognize from the Rightists.

  18. LornaDoone says:

    Has anyone, who is here for the purpose of complaining about excessive spending on events, realized that we don’t have 1960’s prices today?

    My 1971 wedding reception was held at a facility that cost about $100. Today, you can’t get that place for less than $500 and if demand is up, they jack the prices.

    How about food and beverage for your guests? Do you think you could feed people for a couple of dollar each? Have you looked at the cost of ONE BOTTLE of liquor (oh, I know the price will be going down, right?)?

    The dress that was $50 has gone up to $2000. Does it really cost that much more? Nope, but in our capitalist society it’s good to skewer the profit margin on a “one time” item as much as possible. Heck, there are TV show about purchasing wedding dresses to encourage excess.

    The list goes on, but my point is that if you are going to have a real discussion on the issue, sitting back throwing stones at kids’ proms without the intellectual honesty of looking at other excesses in society is worthless.

  19. I am always surprised to hear what folks spend on their kids prom experience. I don’t know about all of you, but my motivation with prom was the hope of sex after the dance.

  20. Many facilities have regular prices and then their special wedding prices.

    After rejecting many possibilities due to the insane prices (this is in 1991) we accepted the matron of honor’s offer to rent the community center in a Los Gatos, CA development in the mountains for $50 – during the reception there was dancing inside, eating and drinking outside, and swimming at the pool. A friend, a gourmet chef with a SF restaurant, prepared the food at his cost. And we asked friends and family to help with various elements (having professional entertainers as friends was very helpful). Almost everything – from the rings to the flowers – were bought wholesale by friends in the business. Instead of formal pictures we bought disposable cameras (this was before digital was mainstream) and asked guests to take pictures as they felt so moved. It was a great wedding – my 8 year old nephew said, “this is the least boring wedding I’ve ever been to” – extremely affordable, great food, great drink, great entertainment, great site – but more importantly, the fact that so many participated in helping to make it happen created a community feeling that oftentimes is missing in many of the highly formal, fancy and expensive weddings we attend.

  21. LornaDoone says:

    “the hope of sex after the dance.”

    Nothing is free.

  22. Offer the bride the cash and then see how much of it gets spent on the wedding.

  23. My son and his GF opted to go to Disneyland instead of their Senior Prom. At $33 for each, it was cheaper than the Prom ticket. Not to mention they had alot more fun.

  24. wildcelticrose says:

    My prom was in 1980.

    I probably got my (very lovely and in fashion) dress at JC Penny for a reasonable price.

    Ten of us (5 couples)drove up to Santa Barbara for dinner (less than a half hour drive) and then back down for Prom (which was held at a community center, not a fancy hotel)

    Afterwards, we went to a friends house; where we stayed up all night playing games and such in their extensive basement family room which had table games, a jukebox and soda fountain among other fun things.

    The next morning, our friend’s father, a prominent local attorney came down and cooked us pancakes for breakfast on a portable griddle at their soda fountain.

    No Hotels, No Limo, no ridiculously expensive dresses despite the fact that some of the kids came from well to do families. Dinner cost a bit more than average, but was well within reason for a special occasion.

    I still look back on that night fondly; it was a great time without all the added stress/pressure/expense that is put onto the event now.

  25. wildcelticrose says:


    They Disneyland thing wouldn’t have worked with us.

    Our school participated in Disneyland’s Grad Night. After Graduation, we loaded up on buses and headed South with a bunch of other schools.

    High School really was fun.

  26. “I’m thinking that this all started changing in the 80s, when “greed is good” became the mantra of the land.”

    Everything went to hell in the 80’s, the conservatives ruined a great nation.

  27. Golly kluwer – I was hoping to slip that little insight past them without them really noticing and you had to go and elaborate on it!

  28. aislander says:

    If that’s what passes for “insight…”

    What about the limo drivers, the florists, restaurants and their staffs, and the tailors (although I can assure you a tailor has been nowhere near a “$1000 suit.” That came from a factory) and everyone else who earn their living from what some condemn as excess?

  29. My prom was in 1964 and nobody rented a limo or other vehicle; the lucky ones got to borrow their family car for the evening.

    My wife’s wedding dress was borrowed from her college roomates mom for the cost of having it dry cleaned. (That dress had been worn by the roomates mother, older sister, and later by the roommate and the roommates daughter)

    You think proms and weddings are expensive – check out the cost of quinceanera and sweet sixteen parties.

  30. RLangdon says:

    Proms should be outlawed. Students should be required to wear uniforms, attend worker orientation classes, be assigned to lifelong jobs based on testing results.

    Proms are early form of “CLASS WARFARE!”

  31. bobcat1a says:

    Just curious. If fools want to spend $1000 plus on a silly high school evening out, why do any of you care? Fools will be separated from their money one way or another anyway.

  32. Frankenchrist says:

    Poor RLangdon couldn’t get a prom date. ;-)

    My folks paid for my tux. I had to pay for the killer bud, though.

  33. Frankenchrist says:

    I escape gulag with help from Moose and Squirrel. Then go to prom with hot ballerina who told RLangdon “nyet.” Prom dress come off and ballerina blast off like sputnik. Suddenly, good Communist girl talking to God.

  34. aislander – an economy based upon Cinderella’s ball is hardly sustainable. Next you will be telling the poor step-sisters to cut off pieces of their feet so they can fit in the glass slipper and they can marry the prince….

  35. And…..the irony (or is it hypocrisy) of someone who blamed the economic crisis on poor/middle income folks taking on loans they couldn’t afford now celebrating absurd spending on high school fantasies is just too blatant.

  36. “We get it. You love to spar for a fight, a virtual one of course so no blood will be shed. You fancy yourselves well-read and eager to enlighten others when the truth is you just want a little dust-up to give your day meaning, a chance to spout off.”

    Is there any thread you don’t try to top your previous hypocrisy?

  37. “Just curious. If fools want to spend $1000 plus on a silly high school evening out, why do any of you care?”

    Because they are conservatives and you know they can not stand ‘personal freedom’, if they can’t/won’t do something then no one should. If they have to have the Govt pass laws, or better yet a Constitutional amendment, to control the masses, then that is what they will do.

  38. Frankenchrist says:

    The Republicans are trying to make the G-spot illegal.

  39. aislander says:

    So…by your reasoning, beerBoy, the spending that occurs surrounding various holidays isn’t valid economic activity, either.

    And, in a free country, people get to spend their money for non-beerBoy-approved purposes…

    No one said people should spend more than they can afford, but they do face the consequences of their decision to do so. That also happens in a free country. It will occur eventually. For everything.

    Just look at Greece and Zimbabwe…

  40. “And, in a free country, people get to spend their money for non-beerBoy-approved purposes…”

    But apparently NOT for non-ailander\extremist rightwinger approved purposes…

    Hypocrisy, thy name is aislander.

  41. I love the Rocky and Bullwinkle bit.

  42. aislander says:

    See…there is a tiny difference between deciding how to spend one’s OWN money and mandating how other people spend theirs…

  43. Congress is mandating that our money is spent on oil companies, tax breaks for wealthy, corporate farms and wars with no purpose.

  44. So overspending on prom is a good thing because it supports the economy but overspending on housing is a bad thing…..OK…got it, aislander.

  45. aislander says:

    So…how is ShortBread able to edit his posts?

  46. aislander says:

    I agree, BillieJ, that none of that should be occurring. A flat tax, with no deductions would cure it.

    beerBoy: If people go into debt–as they might if the prom were put onto a credit card–and then default on that debt, then that is ALSO a “bad thing…”

  47. aislander says:

    And, BillieJ: that also includes, oh, I don’t know, “green energy.” Right?

  48. Natasha makes nice dress in black, to put shame to all gurlz at prom. Moose and Squirrel at prom too. Guess vitch vun is in dress?

  49. PROM …


    The only PROM really worth anything is Programmable Read-Only Memory!

    The Prom: What a silly subject!

  50. alindasue says:

    aislander said, “See…there is a tiny difference between deciding how to spend one’s OWN money and mandating how other people spend theirs…”

    No one here is mandating anything. We are merely discussing the foolishness of spending $1,000+ and going into debt for a one day event when the “memories” could be just as wonderful for under $100.

    That $1,000+ could buy a student a full semester (10+ credits) of tuition at TCC.

    Now, if you all will excuse me, I have three daughters attending a formal ball next Friday and only one suitable formal dress between them. We’re on our way out the door to the thrift store. Hopefully it won’t come to more than $30. (I’m not telling the girls yet that I might be able to go up to $50.)

  51. Flat tax – O’Joy for the rich, Damnation for the rest.

  52. aislander says:

    alindasue: I was responding to a drive-by posting from k****r (10:36 AM)…

    xring: EVERY flat-tax proposal I have seen–Steve Forbes’ is a good example–makes accommodations to ensure “fairness” (God, I hate that word!) for the non-rich…

  53. Aislander no flat tax is fair to all income levels.

  54. aislander says:

    So…if a family making, say, $35K pays no tax whatsoever, how is that “unfair?”

  55. How fair is some one making several million dollars a year paying a lower tax rate than someone laking less that $100,000 a year?

  56. aislander says:

    We’ve had this discussion. You KNOW the rich person pays more. I think it is a travesty that we have a tax system that punishes productive behavior and rewards the opposite…

  57. LornaDoone says:

    “aislander says:
    April 28, 2012 at 10:58 am So…how is ShortBread able to edit his posts?”

    Because I’m running the blogs at the News Tribune. Muuuuaahahahaahah. I make you say all sorts of dumb things by editing your posts, too.

    Heck, as long as there is paranoia, I might as well contribute to the cause.


  58. aislander says:

    I was serious. Your post about the thousand-dollar suit was edited, and I’d like to be able to do that, too. So, give…

  59. No Aislander – Simply put, so you may understand, while the rich pay a higher amount they pay a lower rate.

  60. Flat tax,
    Joy to the Rich,
    Damnation to the poor,
    Fodder for fools.

  61. So…if a family making, say, $35K pays no tax whatsoever, how is that “unfair?”

    How do they avoid the sales taxes?

  62. aislander says:

    Sales taxes are mitigated through the rebates that are part of the flat tax…

  63. “A flat tax, with no deductions would cure it.”

    And bring about the goal of the extreme right, the end of America as we know it.

  64. ““fairness” (God, I hate that word!)”

    Yes we know, you are after all a ‘conservative’.

  65. “No Aislander – Simply put, so you may understand, while the rich pay a higher amount they pay a lower rate.”

    She knows that, but if she admit it, she loses the argument….again.

  66. aislander says:

    xring: How is, say 20%, lower than 0%?

  67. aislander, I hate to rain on your parade, but those poor people you claim pay 0% are actually taxed at about a 32% rate. Their problem is that after determining their incomes actually fall below the poverty level, and their adjusted income is really 0 or even less than zero, it turns out they have NO TAXABLE INCOME, and thus 32% of $0 is 0% and $0 owing in tax payments. (Math rule, anything time 0 is always equal to 0)

    The fast fading Middle Class is paying between 29% and 34% on average in taxes on their adjusted income, whereas the rich (like Mitt Romney) are paying between 21% to 12% because much of their income is considered non taxable through legal loopholes. (Some rich are paying even less, and some even 0%, after hiding money and assets off-shore and utilizing other tax deferring and/or evading loopholes to their advantage.)

    Don’t get me wrong here, you are correct that the rich do pay more in actual tax dollars than the Middle Class, when the rich do pay taxes, but they do not pay the same rate against their actual income. So, it can be logically argued that the rich are NOT paying their fair share. (Sorry, I know you hate that word.)

  68. aislander says:

    The top 1% pay 37+% of the total, while receiving about 18% of the income. There is no wealth tax (until you die), but if there were and it were all confiscated, the receipts would run the government for less than a year and could never be repeated, of course.

    The Organisation for Economic Co-operation rates the US tax system as the most progressive of any major nation, which I view as a shame rather than an honor for the land of the “free.”

    We should all be equal under the law, but imposing equality in other spheres in inherently UNfair…

  69. aislander says:

    The reason I hate the word “fairness,” by the way, is that is used as a pretext for all sorts of abuses, and its definition and application is inherently arbitrary and capricious…

    Only God can guarantee perfect fairness, and the national motto has it right.

  70. “The top 1% pay 37+% of the total, while receiving about 18% of the income.”

    But aislander, that 18% is comprised of only the IRS defined straight income which EXCLUDES investment income which you, and I both know pays a far lower tax rate than straight income.

    When you add their investment income to their straight income, then the rich people who comprise the 1%ers actual income figures rise to between 62% to 77% depending on which source you cite. Again, at 37% tax payment they are not paying their fair share by a very long shot.

  71. She knows that RL, but she can’t admit it, that would mean she would be admitting defeat and then she wouldn’t be as perfect as she thinks she is.

  72. aislander says:

    Nope. That’s AGI, and while interest, dividends, and capital gains are taxed at different rates, they are included in the total. Those adjustments are made within the return…

  73. alindasue says:

    While this long tax debate is all well and good, how the heck did we go from the wisdom, or lack thereof, of spending $1,000+ for a Prom to who pays more taxes?

  74. alindasue – its the weekend – pure anything goes blogging.

  75. LornaDoone says:

    “Only God can guarantee perfect fairness”

    Thus “only Christians” are going to Heaven.

    You just gotta laugh…….

  76. LornaDoone says:

    aislander says:
    April 28, 2012 at 10:21 pm I was serious. Your post about the thousand-dollar suit was edited, and I’d like to be able to do that, too. So, give…

    You’re like George Bush. No matter how wrong you are, you’re staying wrong.

    I’d love to continue playing with your mind, but frankly, I don’t have the slightest clue as to what you are talking about when you say “editing comments”.

    Maybe it was “selective reading”.

  77. Honestly? This is wht we’re arguing about?


  78. aislander says:

    I could be mistaken, but I thought, when you were describing the “sins” of mega-churches you wrote first of “pastors in thousand-dollar suits.” I wanted to copy and paste that line, so I found the post in which (I thought) it appeared, and it seems to have been changed to “helicopters.”

    If you were able to edit, I want to know how to do that, too! If not, I must have seen something on a different thread…

  79. Aislander,
    Thought one aspect of both Fair and Flat tax schemes was to reduce/eliminate the IRS?

    So who is going to process these rebates?

    Simple, and there for more workable, would to allow deduction of sales and other state/local taxes.

    Oh, so silly of me, another aspect of both is the elimination of deductions.

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