Historiography: The Reseda High School Prom of 1982

For a graduating senior in high school, the second-to-last rite of passage is the Prom.

No matter where you live or how many are in your graduating class, the prom is a familiar sight. It is the one time prior to the graduation ceremony where you can live it up like rock stars – if only for one night. The ritual itself is the same: Asking for the date, going to get your dress or tuxedo, securing transportation and buying the tickets – not all in the same order. It is the only chance for the popular clique to shine and the shiest, geekiest, nerdiest guy to get a chance to live in the spotlight.

Where it deviates is the locale. Some towns may not have the luxury of a banquet center or hotel to hold their prom in as they do in larger communities. The gym is the safest place – assuring that school rules are adhered to onsite. The wealthier the communities, the stakes are raised. Only the best hotels, the best limousines and the best outfits arrive in style.

Not to mention the level of nonsense that you would find at proms are raised according to community as well.

So, in essence, the 1982 Reseda High School Senior Prom, held at the Sheraton-Universal hotel next to Universal Studios, was just like any other prom anywhere across the country. For the sake of argument, it was.

In preparing for my prom, I knew I was going. I knew what I was driving. There were a group of women that wanted to go – most of them not seniors at Reseda High. However, I will say that, in retrospect, I made some not so good decisions.

Mom always taught my brother and I to live right. We had a moral upbringing that was rooted in Jewish teachings and simple common sense. I figured the way both of us approached our proms were safe – though mine had a bit of a deviation. Yet, I would rather if some stories were never to be told for good.

One story had to be told – the car. My brother owned a 1974 Ford Mustang II Ghia hardtop coupe. I may have talked about it on this site, but bear with me as I parse out the details. It was a lime green car with an avocado vinyl roof. Inside was a two-tone vinyl in both avocado and lime green hues. Under the hood was the Cologne 2.8litre V6 connected to an oft-recalled three-speed automatic gearbox.

Remember, the Mustang II was built off of the same platform as the Pinto. Was this a recipe for disaster? Surprisingly, it was not, but only for that evening and a few days prior to the start of my ownership a couple of years later.

Driving your own car is cool if you had your own car. At rival high schools, especially ones with more wealth, seniors had no qualms taking their Volkswagen Rabbits, Jettas and Sciroccos – some converted with European body kits and engines and paid for by their parents several times over. Others went in their own limousines.

Some of us at Reseda drove in our own vehicles to the Sheraton-Universal. Others did the limousine route, but not solo. One thing about Los Angeles at that era was the plethora of stretched limousines available to anyone. In a stretch, two or three couples could split the costs rather easily. You might even say that it was a very sustainable and fuel efficient way to get the prom.

Some of my fellow Regents were even smarter. Why drive when you can get a room several floors up? Even more sustainable and efficient – that is until you get the bill.

The point of all of this was, even as a budding automotive enthusiast, I had a limited point to start from in order to make this work. Did I take the wrong girl to the prom? I will admit it – yes. Knowing what I know now, the whole heterosexual thing was not going to work someway. Did I choose badly when it came to dressing up? Light blue tuxes with a big bow tie screamed the 1970s – of course I did! You will never see me in any form of formal wear anymore. The best outfit I would wear is a sports coat, slacks, a button-down dress shirt, dress shoes and a tie. Heck, I am not even comfortable in that, either.

The car was a different story. Had I had more money, I would have splurged on a rental. Then, again, who rented to 18-year-old in 1982? In essence, the Mustang II was apropos – the light blue 1970s tux, her yellow dress and a bad attempt in being a winner rather than a loser.

Again, had I known what I know now…

It could have been avoidable if I chose not to go to the prom. But, as a character in Armistead Maupin's Tales of The City once said, "it's an obligation, you turkey!"

Looking back at the Reseda High School Class of 1982, the most appropriate point of that time was the song we chose to represent our class. It was "The Best of Times" by Styx. I cringe when I hear it today.

It explains why I had not been any of the reunions since – a trend that continues with this one coming in August. Don't get me wrong – there are several whom I would love to see again after three decades. These people remain connected to Facebook. Some are just like me – either auto enthusiasts or simply out.

Some of us have changed with the times. It is not just about spouses, children, homes, jobs and such. Rather, it is how we view the world with a partial lens back to Reseda. The snapshot of the Prom and everything else that occurred from August of 1981 through June of 1982 still is a part of DNA.

Can we do it over again? I am afraid we are unable to do so. There are no "do-overs" for proms, either.

Cover photo courtesy of the Ford Motor Company

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  1. Randy, I think a lot of us would rather not remember our Proms. Most people had no clue what they were doing or why they were doing it. I look back and realize that it is a meaningless event that some how many of us get sucked into doing. Really 10, 20, 30 or even 50 years later who cares who you went to prom with or what you wore. Unless you ended up marrying the girl / guy it really doesn't matter in the scheme of things

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