Of Proms, Moms and Memories Fond

With prom season upon us, perhaps you’re helping your daughter get ready for the big night. How much is your family prepared to pay for the all-important dress? $60, maybe? $160?

How about $16! That’s the amount Phyllis (Heffington) Ludwig remembers paying for her prom dress at the Mode O’ Day store in Durango in 1959. “I believe it was the first dress I ever bought,” she says. It featured a cascade of ruffles—quite the rage in those days. All the seniors decided to wear white that year. Why? “We were special,” Phyllis recalls. “At least WE thought we were.”

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Phyllis in her white ruffled prom dress

Families may not have had to budget as much for a prom dress 59 years ago as they do today, but moms “paid” in other ways. The Bayfield High School prom with the Eiffel Tower theme was held in the old gym that year. Several of the women, including Phyllis’s mom, Leona, who managed the little Hillcrest Courts motel on Bayfield Parkway, got together to prepare a huge banquet dinner for the party goers. Freshmen and sophomores served the meal.

The kids danced until about two in the morning, according to Phyllis. Afterward, they all went home to put on their jeans, then the moms fixed a senior breakfast in the wee hours!

Other adults got involved in making the dance a success for the juniors and seniors. The beloved school superintendent, William Hopkins (known to all as “Hoppy”), insisted that the boys not show up stag to the event. That way, the girls were more likely to have dates.

How did those pairings actually happen? Contrary to today’s tradition of “the big ask” – an event in itself – couples came together much more informally, relates Phyllis. She remembers discussing dates with a handful of her classmates. She told one young man, “I won’t go with YOU, but I would go with HIM.” The deal was sealed on the spot.

Phyllis’s senior portrait

Phyllis and the rest of the 31 seniors continued on the path to graduation in 1959, playing music together, going in carloads to the movies and getting their homework done in study hall. After getting over a huge fight the two had in typing class, Phyllis and Gerald Ludwig married and settled in Bayfield. The Ludwig’s have nine grandchildren in local schools today, from first through 11th grade.