North Allegheny hosts annual Senior Citizens' Prom
It's prom season and high schools all over the country are opening their doors for the biggest dance of the year.
On May 11, about 200 senior citizens converged on North Allegheny Senior High School for theirs.
The Senior Citizens' Prom has been held every year by members of NA's Junior Class Council. Students transform the cafeteria into a ballroom, and a deejay plays waltzes, polkas, and favorites from the Big Band era from 7 to 10 p.m. Light refreshments are available and an official prom photo is provided to every senior attendee. The event is free.
Marty Snyder, 73, brought his wife, Elsie, as a birthday gift. She was turning 78 and this was the first time she had ever been taken to a prom.
“We love the music,” Marty said.
One table was filled with friends who had met at Silver Sneakers, a senior citizens fitness program. They attend the prom together every year. Another table was occupied by 30 senior citizen line dancers from “Body Tech Boot Scooters.” One of them, Elsie Milsick, 85, from Etna, had never attended a prom until she started coming to NA's Senior Citizens' Prom about three years ago.
“My mom wouldn't let me go to my own high school prom. She was very protective and she'd heard rumors that you stayed out all night with the boys,” she said. “I guess she didn't trust me.”
Ripping up the dance floor was a couple — Garry and Elaine Cunningham, 67 and 63, respectively — who had come all the way from New Castle. Betty Murphy, 94, came from nearby Vincentian Villa, a retirement community in McCandless.
“I can't dance anymore because of my knees,” she said. “Still, I enjoy the music and watching others dance. It makes me feel young again.”
A favorite moment was when the senior citizens taught the high school students how to dance the jitterbug, polkas and waltzes, then the students, in turn, taught the senior citizens how to do modern dances like the Electric Slide and Cupid's Shuffle.
“The highlight was getting to connect with senior citizens and having them teach us new dances. I'm pretty sure they had a different dance for every song,” said Junior Class Council member Emmanuelle Satcho, 16, of McCandless.
“I thought the funniest moment was when we were all dancing and one of the senior citizens danced better than we could. It showed me that these people are still youthful and know how to have a good time,” added Joy Fu, 17, of McCandless.
North Allegheny has offered the Senior Citizens' Prom for nearly 20 years. The Junior Class Council holds fundraisers throughout the school year to help offset the costs, which are estimated to be about $600, according to Kristy Loeffert, advisor of the Junior Class Council. The High School Post-Prom Committee donates left-over supplies from the high school prom and Metz Food Service donates cakes.
“The big expenses are the decorations and cookies,” Loeffert said.
To the senior citizens in attendance, however, the dance is priceless.
Carolyn Dennerlein, 95, of Masonic Village in Sewickley, asked her friend, Al Kowalski, 90, of Ross Township, to this year's event. They met about eight years ago while dancing at the Coraopolis VFW.
“I wanted to ask Al to the prom years ago, but before I could ask him, another man asked me to go,” she said with a wink.
At the end of the evening, they were crowned Prom King and Queen, based on how much fun they were having and the memorable impression they made on the teens in Junior Class Council.
“All I can say is ‘Wow,' ” Carolyn said. “I got a tiara and a banner that read, ‘Prom Queen.' Al got a crown. We got such a charge out of that. We laughed all the way home.”
Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.