Regulars step out at senior ‘prom’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 20, 2000

FERRIDAY, La. — It’s not what most people would think of as a senior prom, but it suited regulars of the Ferriday Senior Citizens Center just fine.

On Friday night more than 30 senior citizens, along with several center volunteers, converged on the center for a &uot;prom&uot; complete with refreshments, rhythm and blues music and, yes, dancing. &uot;This is just grand,&uot; said James Powell, 72. &uot;It shows that age is all in your mind.&uot;

He added he did not come to dance, simply to &uot;visit with people and listen to Bootleg spin records.&uot; He was referring to deejay Al Watson, who was busy at the front of the room playing 45s from the ’60s and ’70s — mostly for people in their 60s, 70s and 80s.

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At the start of the night, Powell sat in a rocking chair at the back of the room, visiting with friends and watching as people filed through the door in fancy hats, flowing dresses and neatly pressed suits.

The prom started out like most, with people sitting on the sidelines, everyone waiting for everyone else to start dancing. But soon center volunteer Beatrice Brown started moving to the music. &uot;Really?&uot; Brown said in response to compliments about her dancing. &uot;Well, I have been practicing all week.&uot;

After a half hour of dancing, Brown was ready to take a breather but at 7:30 p.m., the rest of the crowd was just getting started. A couple, and then a small group dancing together, hit the dance floor, showing onlookers moves some hadn’t seen in years. Two teenage volunteers picked ladies from the audience as their dance partners.

With onlookers laughing with the dancers, and the dancers’ laughing at themselves, it was sometimes difficult to tell which group was having the most fun.

&uot;Put on something hot!&uot; Brown shouted to Watson, adding her voice to those who called for faster music. Watson went to his car to retrieve more records. &uot;Shoot … I don’t know what they want me to play,&uot; he said.

For some, like Joehelen Lee, it was an opportunity to do something they had never had the chance to experience before. &uot;I never got to go to a prom when I was young,&uot; Lee said. &uot;I only went to school through the fourth grade.&uot;

For others, like Irma Turner, it was an opportunity to recall the proms of yesteryear.

&uot;When I was 13, we went to a prom down in Baton Rouge,&uot; Turner said. &uot;We put our hair up and dressed in long gowns, and just danced and had a good time.&uot;

Leg problems prevented Turner from dancing this time around, but she still came to the prom and even brought a date, Herman Williams. &uot;Actually, I asked him out,&uot; Turner said. &uot;I knew him when we were young, and he liked me but I didn’t pay much attention to him. But now, we’ve kind of gotten together.&uot;