Thinking back to a couple of months ago at the Weedsport Central School alumni banquet, several of us were talking about what we had enjoyed most about attending school at Weedsport. One of the things that always comes to mind at these times is the fun and excitement that we used to have putting on and attending the two formal dances held each year.
The senior class annually sponsored the Junior Prom for the junior class, and they in turn sponsored the Senior Ball. The dances were held in the school gym, which had been beautifully decorated for the occasion by the sponsoring class with help from parents, the school administration and townsfolk.
In the week preceding the dances, gym classes met elsewhere if the weather did not allow outdoor classes, as the gym was strictly off-limits to any but the sponsoring group. The theme had been set months earlier, and considerable work had already been done prior to that week, including purchasing crepe paper, slitting the paper to the proper width and then rolling it into rolls to facilitate the stringing of the streamers, which often included working from huge stepladders. There is an art to stringing crepe paper, which involves, among other things, making sure the twists were always the same, since it looks strange if done otherwise, and also that you have to pull it pretty tight, or the humidity and moving air from the heating units would cause it to sag unbelievably. Other tasks done ahead of time included making hundreds of tissue paper roses, borrowing such items as garden furniture and arbors and the like, and the engineering of any "special effects" that would be included. Some of the designs over the years were amazingly beautiful. The Friday before the dance was the grand unveiling, as the entire school was trooped through the gym accompanied by many "oohs" and "aahs."
Another item of great importance was the selection of the orchestra. Yes, that's what I said, an orchestra. Not a DJ with their million watts of amplifier and silly patter, not two guitars and a drum set, but a bona fide five- or seven-person orchestra. A couple of local dance orchestras included Hal Baker and Frank Lentini, among others. The orchestras played big band music and early rock 'n' roll all evening, with a short intermission. During intermission cookies, punch and tea sandwiches were served by local parents. After the dance, the involved class would either go to a particular place for further entertainment, or sometimes the Zimmer family would open up their Weedsport Recreation Center, where the class could enjoy movies at the theater, or go next door for bowling, billiards or food without having to endure the logistics of today, arranging limos and the like.
While there was obviously some expense involved (the girls had to have a new formal gown, and oftentimes the boys a new sports jacket), corsages and boutonnieres and usually a meal somewhere, I'm sure it was insignificant compared to the expenses of today. Transportation usually involved borrowing the family sedan for the evening, since it was always newer, more reliable and generally cleaner than our cars, if we had a car. Those who did not doubled up with those who did and it always worked out. The classes of today are missing out on some of the best fun and the satisfaction of putting on one of these gala formal affairs.
Our class (1957) was the first to attend school in the Brutus Street building. We were anxious to put on a good show and that we did, although it was a challenge compared to the relatively small gym at the Jackson Street building. We decided that in order to break up the huge expanse of the gym floor we would put a garden setting in the middle of the area. Accordingly, one of our classmates whose parents ran a nursery brought in many potted and balled trees and shrubs. Artificial grass was borrowed from a local undertaker and arbors and garden furniture was obtained from local townfolk. We decided to include a fountain in our presentation and accordingly sheet plastic was laid down to protect the floor from accidental water spillage and a large kids wading pool was installed compete with fountain and large goldfish. The problem of power for the pump and indirect lighting was solved by removing a volleyball net anchor plate from the floor and dropping a wire down into the sub-basement. It worked perfectly and was talked about for years.
I mentioned that the gym and decorating was a closely held secret which was respected not only by the other students but the administration as well. The only staff that had seen the gym during this week had been our class advisers, Miss Palmer and Mr. Gasket. Not until the Friday afternoon before the dance did Principal William F. Lampman lead the underclass students into the gym and see a water fountain operating in the middle of a brand new hardwood basketball floor. You can only imagine his reaction. After we explained the precautions that we had taken he calmed down and there was no problem whatsoever. By noon on Sunday everything was dismantled, borrowed items were returned and other classes began thinking about how they could top our presentation.