Friday evening’s “Second Chance Prom” was billed as a fundraiser for the St. Peter Chamber of Commerce. It was much more than that for some of us.

I went to four proms during my high school days. That’s really four more than one should have to endure, but it always seemed like the right thing to do. While we all know there’s a Stairway to Heaven, those steps certainly weren’t through a prom night.

When I look back at my attire during those younger days, I wonder, “What in the heck I was thinking?” One yellow outfit, another peach jacket and matching pants, and at least one pretty awful plaid bow tie.

At least I didn’t go for the cane and top hat look. But I did have shoulder-length hair, which my old football coach hated. I could use some of that today.

One of those four proms was at the old Cat ‘N the Fiddle supper club in rural New Ulm, with that wonderful checkerboard dance floor. I was an outsider at that one, as a Winthrop High School student attending a New Ulm prom.

I was back there at the Cat ‘N the Fiddle a couple decades later for the 1994 Minnesota Music Hall of Fame inductee concert by the late Michael Johnson. That one was intimate, too, but that’s a different story.

At old Winthrop High, those proms were held in the dark basement of the secondary wing. It was the best we could do; it really didn’t matter, as long as we were with friends.

Proms grew to be bigger and bigger during my children’s years, particularly with those after-prom parties. As the six Melius children made their way through high school, I recall advocating for less and less. One year, I even advocated for no prom, instead suggesting that dollars which would have been spent on it going to some better cause.

That didn’t muster much support. Since then, I’ve also advocated the same regarding weddings, sending the bucks spent to some charity. But after four straight summers of Melius weddings from 2014-17, I’ve come to accept these things.

For Friday’s chamber event, I was struggling to decide what to wear. “Prom-themed dress” at age 61 could be a problem, maybe even a huge mistake.

“Come however you feel comfortable,” the flyer stated. That, unfortunately, wasn’t going to be easy.

I buy most of my clothes at thrift stores, so that seemed to be the best option. But waiting until the last moment, there was nothing that felt quite right and certainly not comfortable. One, two, three thrift store purchase failed.

Still, there was hope for me. My son Billy is inventory manager at Fun, Inc. in North Mankato, the Halloween and costume place, and Friday placed an order for a bright orange jump suit. I’m sure glad it didn’t fit — too tight — because I would have stood out like a 1970s prom-goer. Most men showed up in suits. Orange was not the new black.

I also hid the retro jean jacket in the coat rack, which I had found in the Melius home closet and thought might work for the Second Chance Prom. I was really never into denim. I never gave it a first chance, other than those big bell-bottom jeans.

Still, it was a very good evening of talk, friendship and reliving memories. I was likely one of the few vegetarians in the group, forgoing the prime rib. But the horseradish on bread had a good kick, even though some in the crowd mistook it for butter. They’ll remember those bites.

That prom flyer also suggested that attendees “Tell Me a Story!” I had a few, which remained untold.

But at least one of my past proms worked out, meeting my future wife. Kim just wasn’t my date at that prom.

We’ll leave that story for another day.

Reach Dana Melius at 507-931-8567.

Regional Managing Editor, Adams Publishing Group--Southern Minnesota/Western Division: St. Peter Herald, Waseca County News, Le Center Leader, Le Sueur News-Herald

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