Jenks Prom Through the Decades: A Look-Book

By Mara Winters

A night to remember, the dance we have all been waiting for, a final goodbye to high school: however you might remember it, prom has always been a big deal for high school students. The importance of prom will most likely never change, but a lot about prom has: fashion, themes, music, and I’m pretty sure no one in the 50s did a prom-posal. 

The first recorded Jenks prom was in the 1950s, and each dusty yearbook held in the Jenks library is filled with pictures, memories, and a lot of big puffy dresses. After a deep dive into the yearbooks and some research about each era I can now walk you through what prom looked like during the ancient decades! So let’s look through and see how things have changed and what has stayed the same over the past 70 years of Jenks Prom!

A Collection Of Prom Photos In The Yearbook

Prom Theme:

Jenks prom of 1958 was the first recorded prom for Jenks High school, and unlike prom now, it was not limited to only Seniors–Seniors and Juniors got to attend the “banquet prom!” The yearbook did not include any theme, but the prom consisted of dining (yes dinner was included) and of course dancing, which was most likely held in the Jenks High School Cafeteria. 

Prom Music: 

The kids in the 50s did the jitterbug to upbeat songs like “Teach Me Tonightby Sammy Cahn and of course each couple had their romantic slow dance to “Earth Angelby The Penguins. The High Schoolers either danced to a local band or listened to their turntable for the music. 

Prom-Posal:

The 1950s is when prom became available to more schools and grew into an extravagant classy event. But “extravagant” for the 50s was a dance in the high school gym and wearing a nicer dress than your school dress, so prom-posals weren’t a thing yet. Usually, a boy from your school, or your steady (slang for boyfriend), would walk up to you at your locker and casually ask you to prom (of course after asking your father for permission and promising a chaperone to be with you and your date at all times). Dating in the 50s was a group activity, so prom was the perfect place for you to spend a special night with your special someone. 

Prom Fashion:

Each girl wanted to hit each important point when picking her prom dress; an innocent, romantic, and of course glamorous look. To meet each requirement girls would pick a dress that emphasized their waist in the bodice and a skirt that flowed to a tea-length or if you wanted to go all out a skirt with a bigger-the-better length. The dresses were made of silk, lace, and tulle and most likely decorated with flowers, beads, or embroidery.

A Collection Of Prom Photos In The Yearbook

Prom Themes:

Jenks’s 1967 prom theme was Moonlight and Roses which perfectly embodies the romantic night hosted at the Ramada Inn which is currently still in business. The Junior and Senior class as well as The Board of Education members, their wives, faculty members, and their spouses danced the night away. The room was filled with beautiful roses–white tablecloth tables with long candles set a romantic mood. After being fed dinner, they danced the night away and even had speeches from students.

Prom Music:

The Ramada Inn was filled with music from The Contraband, a local band from the 60s. They most likely danced the Twist, the Loco-Motion, and the Stroll, while faculty members were either appalled by their devilish dance moves or reminded their students to leave room for Jesus!

Prom-Posals: 

Whoever you were dating, courting, or going steady with was the person most likely to ask to prom. Of course, dating was a group activity, so you and your friends would be invited to the bowling alley or the movie picture and your dates would ask you to prom. Of course, he had to be a very respectable young man in your parent’s eyes and had to knock on the door to pick you up for the prom, bring flowers and pay for your prom ticket. 

Prom- Fashion:

The 60’s prom dress was elegant and classy. They prefer longer ball gowns colored with metallic, gold, silver, and black silks. The girls wanted an empire waist and a sleeveless bodice. The classier the better, the shinier the better, the smaller the waist the better! 

Prom Themes: 

The ’70s were all about fighting for rights and peace, so the Jenks 1971 Prom Theme, The Impossible Dream perfectly highlights the 70s ideals. The buffet and prom were held in the Elks Club which is still currently open! The room was decorated with stars, balloons, and streamers. The Juniors and Seniors ate at long tables then played the piano, sang, and danced for the remainder of the night.

Prom Music:

There was no band recorded in the yearbook but there were pictures of students playing the piano and singing from a songbook. The popular songs of the time were “Close To You by the Carpenters, “Brown Sugar by Sticky Fingers, and “American Pie by Don McLean. 

Prom-Posals:

In the 70s the best way to get a prom date was to “brush off” flirtatious advances and play hard to get. Once you successfully seem uninterested, your crush would come up to you at your locker and ask you to prom. Congrats you have a prom date! 

Prom Fashion:

The popular prom dresses of the ’70s were shimmering fabric, floral patterns, belle sleeves, and maxi-length dresses. Throughout the 70s prom style, dresses did change from empire waist with bold hippie prints to granny dresses inspired by victorian era fashion to a slinky disco dress. 

A Collection Of Prom Photos In The Yearbook

Prom Theme:

Tonight’s The Night was the groovy prom theme in 1980 for Jenks High School seniors. The dance started at the Warren Duck Club where the students ate dinner catered by The Fountain and La Cabane. After dinner, the groups headed back into the limos and drove to The Westin Hotel where the couples danced the night away!

Prom Music: 

The Ushera Tulsa band played for the stylish teens all night. They most likely played songs like “Take On Me” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” for an upbeat song and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” for a romantic slow dance. The boys dazzled their dates with the Moonwalk dance they probably rehearsed in their mirror before the dance and of course the Running Man. 

Prom-Posal:

We’ve all seen the romantic movies of the ’80s but let’s face it no one in the ’80s actually had a “meet-cute” story like Pretty in Pink or Dirty Dancing, especially when it came to asking a girl to prom. Maybe you’d get a note in your locker or the boy who makes awkward eye contact with you in calculus would ask you on a date to the movies and casually drop the question of prom on the way to your mom’s minivan, but nothing more extravagant than that!

Prom Fashion:

To pick out your prom dress the first thing girls had to do was look in their monthly edition of Seventeen Magazine for some inspiration. The dresses had to be pink, pink, pink! Your dress also needed a big hoop skirt, lots of lace, and bare shoulders. The girls wanted to look like Scarlet O’Hara or Madonna. 

My mom’s senior year prom in the ’80s compared to me wearing the same dress my senior year
A Collection Of Prom Photos In The Yearbook

Prom Theme:

The Last Hurrah was the theme that the class of 1998 chose. 600 seniors piled into the Doubletree Hotel downtown around 8:00 pm. The room was decorated with balloons, lights, and lots of streamers. Most of the students ate before Prom at high-class restaurants or to save a little money, the dinner that someone’s mom made.

Prom Music:

The Prom Theme song of the night was “My Heart Will Go On” and when the song came on every couple at the dance stormed the dance floor. Other songs played were “Waterfalls” by TLC and “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It ” by Will Smith. A popular dance move during this time was the Macarena and every girl knew how to Vogue

Prom- Posals: 

Asking someone to prom in the 90s was not as elaborate as it is now. If your date took the time to send “prom?” on your beeper… it was a pretty big deal. Other very romantic ways people were asked to prom was on a phone call begging your mom to get off the other line because a super cute boy is calling you or through the game MASH, kinda like a fortune cookie but cooler. 

Prom Fashion: 

The famous shoulder pads we now cut out of our thrifted tops and dresses were actually once admired, especially in the 90s. The shoulder pad dresses were extremely popular as well as off-the-shoulder dresses and a sleek minimalist look took over high schools after the movie “Ten Things I Hate About You” popularized this look. 

90’s Prom Dress In Jenks Yearbook
A Collection Of Prom Photos In The Yearbook

Prom Theme:

Y2K is a classic era and Jenks had an even more classic prom theme, Upon a Time. It’s short, it’s sweet, and you definitely get the point. The prom was held at the Greenwood Culture center and the STUCO class had spent countless hours decorating the room to look exactly like a dream-like fantasy. 

Prom Music:

NSYNC and Brittney Spears got the girls to force their dates to come and dance with them on the dance floor but don’t you guys worry the DJ had lots of fun music for the guys like “Hot In Here” and “Stacy’s Mom”. The kids danced all night doing a dance called the “Krump” and “Electro Dancing”. 

Prom-Posals: 

Finally! The 2000s was the first time that the word “Prom-Posal” was used and it was serious. Asking your date to prom was now a bigger deal than the actual dance. Students asked their dates to prom over the loudspeakers, leaving trails of rose petals leading up to a sign that says “PROM?”, and even yards filled with balloons. Go big or go home!

Prom Fashion: 

Every girl in 2000 needed the prom look, which included; a spaghetti strap dress, kitten heels, a shawl, a teeny tiny bag you can only fit your Smuckers lip gloss in, hair accessories, cubic zirconia jewelry, eyeshadow matching your dress, and finally to top it all off a combination of curly and straight hair! 

No matter what decade you attended prom or how big your prom dress was, prom will always be a fabulous high school memory. Jenks High School is preparing for its 63rd annual prom and though prom has definitely changed since the 50s one thing has stayed the same, prom will always be a night to remember!

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