Above: In this 1980 file photo, Elmore City High School students dance at the school’s first prom. (Photo by J. Don Cook/The Oklahoman Archives) Below left: This poster advertised Elmore City High School’s first prom in 1980.
A version of this story appears in Friday’s The Oklahoman. It is by BAM and and my fine colleague Sheila Stogsdill.
Community dance to honor pair
Stories about Elmore City High School’s first prom and the struggle the students went through to have the dance have been handed down throughout the years.
“We realize it was a big deal to have a prom,” Julie Harrel said. “Some students look at (the 1980 prom) and know it was a huge accomplishment.”
In 1980, the Elmore City school board narrowly voted to allow the junior class to organize a prom, despite an 80-year-old city ordinance banning public dancing. The story became the inspiration for the 1984 hit film “Footloose.”
On April 9, Elmore City’s 31-member senior class had its prom in the school gymnasium, complete with dinner, dancing and an after-prom party.
“I’ve seen ‘Footloose’ three times,” said Harrel, 18, who serves as the senior class president and student council president. “DJs use to play the songs from the movie (at school dances), but they don’t do that anymore.”
Leonard Coffee, one of the junior class officers who campaigned for the 1980 prom, said the legacy left behind at his alma mater makes him proud.
“Thirty years ago (when) we started out, the prom was approved for one year, and they said, ‘Don’t mess up.’ So we had everything to lose. To this day, 30 years later, they’re still having a prom. I am so proud of that fact. … The students for the past 30 years, they have respected the fact that we have a prom. Hopefully, they won’t take it for granted,” Coffee said.
Coffee, who now lives in Lindsay, and his high school sweetheart Mary Ann Temple-Lee, who lives in Maysville but operates her family’s ranch in Elmore City, will be guests of honor at the 30th anniversary celebration the community is planning Saturday at the Elmore City Community Center. Music from “Footloose” will be played as the town revisits the 1980 prom, with the catchy theme song opening up the dance floor.
Elmore City will mark the 30th anniversary with a public celebration starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. The event will include lawn mower races, dance contests, class reunions and a 3 p.m. parade. The dance will begin with promenade at 5:30 p.m., then the re-created 1980 high school prom will start at 7 p.m. at the Elmore City Community Center, 104 S Main Street. South Main Street will be closed to let dancing to spill into the street.
The anniversary event will be the second prom of the season for both special guests: Temple-Lee’s 16-year-old daughter Mary D. recently attended her prom in Maysville, while Coffee’s 18-year-old daughter Cheyenne is going to her prom tonight in Lindsay.
Both the guests of honor plan to bring their entire families to the anniversary celebration, though they plan to leave their 30-year-old prom attire at home.
“I don’t think it’s gonna fit anymore,” Coffee said of his tuxedo. “No, that’s put away.”