Proms Bring Magical Memories, Mishaps

Not everyone can say they took a future first lady to the senior prom.

But David Upchurch, a customer sales representative from Colorado, took Michelle Obama to their prom at Whitney M. Young High School in Chicago in 1984.

A friend of her brother, Upchurch dated the former Michelle Robinson for a year before she went off to Princeton and Harvard universities and went on to meet her presidential prince.

He won't reveal if he ever gave her a good night kiss, but Upchurch told London's Daily Mail newspaper that even then, he knew she was "special."

Why is it that the high school prom looms so large in the memory and even decades later one can recall that night of magic -- or mishaps?

"Proms are an absolutely critical time in people's lives," said Dr. Judy Kurianski, an adjunct professor at Columbia University's Teachers College. "It's a time of transitioning from boyhood to manhood and from girlhood to womanhood."

"It's a stage in your life when you first figure out how attractive you are as a person, your dating eligibility and what your worth is," she told ABCNews.com. "That's why it gets stuck in your craw. We carry those crushes on through life."

King and Queen Become Husband and Wife

Such was the case with Jon and Carol Tomson, both 60, who were the king and queen of their Rochester, N.Y., prom. They met just before the junior prom and that date -- April 10 -- has more significance than their wedding anniversary.

"Jon had broken up with his girlfriend and he and a friend sat down with the yearbook and thought I'd be a good candidate for the junior prom," said Carol Tomson, who works in public affairs for a New Jersey company.

Tomson remembers picking out a black cocktail dress and fish-net stockings, rather than the pastels her classmates had chosen. She forgot the boutonniere, but got the man. "It certainly clicked," she said.

The couple went on to different colleges, then graduate schools and dated others, but eventually married and had two children.

"Prom represents the big dance, the big event and the big date," said Tomson. "You went to the high school gym and it was transformed with crepe paper and exotic dresses."

Prom, the magical night when girls and boys don gowns and tuxedos for a fairytale-like rite of passage, has been immortalized in top-grossing movies: from the 1976 horror classic, "Carrie" to the 1986 sentimental favorite, "Pretty in Pink."

Proms Date to 1880s

Proms, which derive their name from "promenade," have been around since the 1880s, according to Prettyfor Prom.com.

The first ones were held at the elite Northeast colleges where parents saw them as a way to teach social etiquette. They were simple affairs, but with the arrival of cars in the 1920s and 1930s, teens gained more freedom and access to luxury items.

First mentioned in high school yearbooks in the 1930s and 1940s, proms evolved into more formal dances in the 1950s. Today, they are all-night affairs with stretch hummers, expensive hairdressing appointments, pre-prom dinners and after-event activities.

Socially, prom is a climactic point in senior year where relationships either blossom, as was the case with the Tomsons, or wither.

Remembering the senior prom can be like uncovering rocks, never knowing what memories will crawl out.

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