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For some, this was a trip back in time. And a lot of fun.
A group of 30 Liberty High School students, members of the school’s Key Club, created an entertaining evening for Elks Home residents by sponsoring what they dubbed “a senior citizens prom.”
“I had seen the Second Chance Prom [in Lynchburg] and thought ‘Why not make it older?’” said Melanie Smith, a senior and president of the Key Club.
That’s how the idea came about. The Second Chance Prom is for people 20 and above. The Key Club decided to do something for a group of local seniors. They decided that the Elks Home would be the best place to do this and that there would be plenty of residents there who could participate.
They were right. One resident, Sheriden Besosa, 83, even taught Smith to do the Jitterbug, a dance popular 70 years ago.
Key Club members got in touch with Sharon Jones, the Elks Home’s activities director. Jones gave them days and times that would be good, then she and her 8-year-old son, James, came out the afternoon before the prom and helped the teens decorate.
“She’s been here all day, she’s great,” Smith said.
They also got a hand from Fredrick’s Flowers. Frederick’s donated the helium for the party balloons and helped the teens get them all inflated.
The teens, however, did all the planning, setting up three committees to do the work.
“Let’s step out of what we think a prom is,” Smith said, explaining how they met the challenge of planning a prom for people a couple generations removed from them.
They pulled in a variety of resources. Smith said one club member asked her grandmother about dances. A major resource, however, came from within the club. Lauren Mason brought CDs with oldies — tunes that date back 50 to 70 years ago. She really likes this music and knows it well enough to pick out a good mix of songs for all tastes.
The residents enjoyed the event.
“Yeah, it’s fun,” commented Doris Gills. “I like to see these young people have a good time.”
And the teens did enjoy the opportunity..
“This is my favorite event so far,” commented Smith, who said that she has been involved with Key Club since she was in ninth grade.
Sometimes what was good was a listening ear. Mariel Messier pointed out a gentleman who, she noted, spoke five languages. Michael Jaesson spent 40 years as the engineer on merchant ships, starting in 1942 sailing on Atlantic convoys during World War II. His World War II experience included serving on a Liberty Ship, powered by a triple-expansion piston steam engine. Think about the engine room scenes in the movie Titanic, and you have an idea what a triple-expansion steam engine would look like in operation.
“They run very good, Jaesson commented. “It was easy enough to operate if you were agile enough.”
Jaesson’s 40 years on merchant ships of all types, including ocean liners, took him all over the world and he shared stories with the teens, such as the time an albatross followed his ship from Cape Horn to the Cape of Good Hope. The garbage that the ship’s kitchen crew regularly pitched off the stern made fine dining for this large (some varieties have an 11-foot wingspan) sea bird.
The residents appreciated the efforts of the local LHS students.
“It’s very generous of these young people to do this for us,” commented Madeleine Soler. “It’s nice when people come in and do stuff for us. We appreciate this.”