Prom Throughout the Decades

Throughout the decades from 1946 to 2023 many things around the world have changed, but Prom at STA still remains the night to never forget.


Senior Sophie Cuda, left, dances with seniors Allie McDill and Meg Duffy at prom April 7. McDill was wearing a mask because the theme for prom was “masquerade”. photo by Anna Louise Sih

by Lina Kilgore, News and Sports Editor

“It [Prom] was really magical and fun and you looked forward to it,” said STA Alumna Virginia Bagby. “[It was] always just a night of dreams and you’d have a fabulous time.” Bagby, a member of the class of 1948,  recalled as she reminisced on one of the most memorable nights of the high school experience. For her, this night of dreams was one she would never forget. In the years from 1946 to 2023, many things in the world have changed, but Prom at STA has been a constant throughout the decades.

The earliest noted STA Prom was in 1946, and covered in the yearbook (at the time called “The Avila”). Originally the Prom was for juniors and seniors, although juniors organized the dance while seniors received the invitations. The date chosen was on April 23 and the students danced the night away at the Little Theater of the Municipal Auditorium with assistance from Jim Lenge and his orchestra. 

Just two years later “The Avila” shared insight on the 1948 Prom as it was again held by the juniors for the seniors, except this time the venue was Blue Hills Country Club. However, that was not the only detail highlighted in the yearbook. A pre-party for the Prom, similar to today’s held annually at STA, was at the home of STA student  Barbara Florian.  Bagby attended this Prom her senior year and recounted her night and the events leading up to it.

“We had a fabulous time and took some wonderful pictures,” said Bagby.

Similar to today, the importance of choosing which dress to wear at Prom almost outweighed Prom itself, except dress websites and on-line stores were not available to Bagby.

“We went to Mrs. Witherspoon and she was a seamstress over in Kansas,” said Bagby. “They would rustle with some tape measure and make me something.”

This notorious dance did not stop in the 40s but continued into the 50s with special emphasis on the Prom Queens. Contrary to today, for each Prom, three girls would be granted a special honor. One senior would be voted by the juniors to reign as Prom Queen, while two juniors would be granted the honor by the senior class to be Attendants to the Queen. At that time, Prom Queen material in STA’s eyes was described in “The Avila”  through the election of 1958 Prom queen Kathy McCarthy:

“Kathy McCarthy was chosen by the junior class because of her school spirit, friendliness, and sweet smile to reign as the Queen of the Junior-Senior Prom.”

The students of the 60s continued the crowning tradition with the addition of what is now known as Pre-Prom, as students would present their dates to the faculty and proud parents before the dance. Specifically, in 1966, the Prom was held at UMKC’s Pierson Hall with the assistance of Warren Durret and his orchestra. The night was one to never forget as it was commemorated by the seniors chosen song of “An Affair to Remember” by Nat King Cole and the juniors chosen song “Softly” by Henry Mancini.

In 1973 with the theme song of “I Need You” played by a band called The Salem Witch Trials, the Prom remained a dance for both juniors and seniors that lasted all night. Students would go to King Louie West after Prom for the opportunity to ice skate, bowl or play pool. These activities would go into the early morning hours and sometimes be followed by other festivities as described in the  “Teresian” from 1973:

“At four o-clock, those who remained [at King Louie West]  left for further partying or just to go home.”

Much remained the same for the 1976 Prom, with the addition of various ties to present-day Prom. 1977 graduate and STA alumnae director  Paula Holmquist recounts that even months before the actual dance, there was a huge importance tied to getting ready for Prom.

“The anticipation for Prom is almost as big as Prom because you look forward to it so much,” said Holmquist.

Holmquist found that the excitement of Prom also came with the anticipation for the After- Prom party.

“There was a tradition back then that the girls would take their dates to an After-Prom and it was usually at King Louie’s out on Metcalf,” Holmquist said. “It was bowling, billiards, ice skating and you could play pool. Sometimes parents would have After-After Prom or they’d have breakfast for us, and invite us and we’d all have breakfast, so it was an all-night event.”

These traditions transitioned well into the 80s as the “Teresian” yearbook of 1989 recalls the events from a direct quote from a senior at the time, Kiran Chandra:

“There is something really neat about Prom night–you don’t get tired,” Chandra said. “Right before After-Prom, it seems like everyone gets a second wind, and it takes them clear through the next morning.”

Going back to 1986, the stars enjoyed “An Evening in Paris”  complete with pictures next to the Eiffel Tower and a revolutionary change from a band to a disc jockey. Kim Hinson, a junior at the time, expressed her agreement with this change.

“A band wears out and a disc jockey plays way better music with more of a selection,” Hinson said.

Even a decade later the STA Stars still knew how to make Prom a night to never forget. The dance theme, as recounted in the 1996 edition of the “Teresian” was “Nothing Lasts Forever.” Students attended Deer Creek Country Club, which differed from 1995’s event, where a boat was the dance venue. However, no matter where the dance was held, the Stars made sure to dance the night away–after the DJ requested that people on the dance floor remove their heels because the impact on the floor was causing the CD to skip. And although the night could truly not last forever, the Stars certainly made memories they would never forget.

Similarly to today, the 2000s embraced the Pre-Prom held in the auditorium where students walk across the stage with their dates and are subjected to countless videos and photos being taken of them. In 2006, the Pre-Prom began at 6:00 with an hour and a half left until the doors opened to the actual dance. Much like today, many girls would go out to dinner or take extra pictures in the time they had to spare.

From 1946 to 2023, many things have changed around the world, whether it be various technological advances or the style of a dress, but one thing is for certain:  Prom at STA is truly an unforgettable experience.

“It’s one of those landmark things that I think you will never forget because it is so different than any other thing you’ve done,” said Holmquist. “It was that privilege of stepping into the adult world, being responsible and having a great time.”