High school proms are generally held to celebrate the end of the year. The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, however, held one to celebrate the beginning of The Year of Business.
While the annual meeting is held in December and officers are elected at that time, the Chamber’s gala is the time when the reins of the organization are passed from one Board to the next. The chairperson who will lead the Chamber through the Year of Business is Joan Renner.
Joan Renner is a certified public accountant who, along with her husband John and Joann Rodgers, form Renner and Company. The firm is located on Fairfax Street in Alexandria. Renner is a graduate of T. C. Williams High School and has two sons.
“Tonight is not all about me,” Renner said at Saturday night’s party. “Tonight is about Alexandria business…I am so grateful to live and work in my hometown of Alexandria…We know that Alexandria has always been a commercial town. We know that Alexandria business has been a part of Alexandria’s history for more than 200 years. I look forward to celebrating Alexandria business throughout this year and for many years to come…”
After speaking to the group, Renner joined the rest of the girls in their crinolines and the boys in their tuxes and danced the night away to the tunes of the ‘50s. Tunes, by the way, that many of the participants only remembered as oldies.
While it was a night to celebrate business, it was a night to reminisce about real proms of the past. Many Chamber members were juniors and seniors in high school in the ‘60s.
In 1966, John Komoroske, a member of the Alexandria Planning Commission, planned the junior-senior prom at T. C. Williams High School with Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney, S. Randolph Sengel. It was the first prom ever to be held at the new high school.
“We held it in the gym and the theme had something to do with something oriental,” Komerosky said. “I remember painting lots of oriental figures on screens with Randy Sengel. I think we had dinner at the Fort Meyer Officers Club.”
In 1966, Lonnie Rich, too, was attending his prom in Memphis. “It was at a hotel,” he said. “I was such a nerd that I don’t remember a lot about the evening. I probably wore some kind of a sport coat.”
In 1965, Lynn Hampton’s prom was held at the mall. “Malls were a big thing then,” she said. “My date was a fraternity man and he drove. We went back to his fraternity house for a party after the prom was over.”
Mayor William D. Euille attended the T. C. Williams prom in 1968 with a friend from grade school and high school, Marlene Gray. Euille drove his grandfather’s 1957 Chevy to the prom, which was held at the Fort Meyer Officer’s Club.
“We went to dinner at Steak and Ale and had a great time. I wore a tuxedo and she wore a red gown. The theme was 'Have Fun,' and we did,” Euille said.
Superintendent of Schools Rebecca L. Perry, also has fond memories of her prom. “We had a great time,” she said. “After the prom, we had a party at my parents’ house and it was great.”
SKIP AHEAD to the 1980's. Cathy Puskar attended T. C. Williams and went to the prom in 1985. “We had dinner at 1789 and the prom was held at the Mayflower Hotel in D.C.,” Puskar said. “We went in a limo and had a great time.”
Amanda Winter was Puscar’s friend in high school. “I went to the prom with Cathy’s brother, Chip, who is now a star in Hollywood,” she said. “We had a great time.”
In 1989, Councilman Rob Krupicka attended his prom in Seattle. “I went with my best friend,” he said. “We had a great time. She now has a PhD. in psychology.”
The music may not have been the same, but a prom, after all, is a prom, and everyone who attended had a good time and looks forward to the Year of Business.