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Thier First Prom



 Okla. School Finally Gets Prom

 Renee Ruble- Associated Press Writer

WELEETKA, Okla. (AP) - It had never happened at Graham High School: The gym lights went off. Students hurried to the floor's edge. A strobe light started and parents cheered.

The first dance in the school's 85-year history was under way. 

``We have a new millennium and a new tradition!'' the disc jockey yelled. 

And with that, the first song began - ``Footloose'' from the 1984 movie about teen-agers rebelling against a small town's ban on dancing.

Slowly, they walked out onto the floor, a few barefoot girls at a time. A pair of boys slid across the floor. Other couples began to bounce.

Seventeen-year-old Melissa Puckett waits for her date Aaron "Junior" Walker and his mother, Mary Walker, to put on her corsage Friday, April 7, 2000 in Weleetka, Okla. Walker was Puckett's date to the first Graham High School prom ending an 85 year dancing ban at the High School. (AP Photo/Mike Simons) It wasn't just the students' inaugural dance. It was also a first for many of the parents and faculty watching, those who graduated from Graham in years past without ever a fox-trot or twist, disco or moonwalk.

``I have never been to a dance in my life. I don't even know how to dance,'' said Debbie Puckett, class of 1971, whose daughter, Melissa, helped organize the event.

``I'm about as excited as the kids. I'm finally getting my prom.'' 

Through 14 presidents, generation after generation had mistakenly believed the deed for the land on which the school stands contained a ban on dancing. No one really knew for sure why dancing was banned, but no one really questioned it.

Until this year. 

Melissa Puckett, 17, watches for her prom date Friday, April 7, 2000, in Weleetka, Okla. Graham High School in rural Weleetka, Okla., is scheduled to have its first prom Friday night marking the end of an 85-year ban on dancing. (AP Photo/ Mike Simons) Melissa, a junior, and two friends circulated a prom petition, which the entire 60-student body signed. Faculty and local clergy approved, and Graham Superintendent Dusty Chancey even located the original deed - there was no ban after all.

``It's been prom crazy since,'' Melissa said Friday. 

Just like any prom, there were still the occasional mishaps - a date showing up late, the stiffness of new shoes, trying to put on jewelry with new long fingernails. And the frustrations of a bad hair day.

In the end, it all came together just like the prom's theme, ``A Dream for Us.'' 

``You don't look like Melanie. No really,'' junior Jesse Vansant, dressed in a black tux, complimented Melanie Puckett, Melissa's younger sister.

Johnathan Smith, 19, waits for his prom date Friday, April 7, 2000 in Weleetka, Okla. Smith and his date were attending the first prom ever at Graham High School marking the end of an 85-year ban on dancing at the high school. (AP Photo/Mike Simons) ``Well, you look nice too,'' the girl replied, holding Vansant's chin as she looked him over. 

The barn-shaped gym was dressed for the occasion, with more than 100 yards of gossamer, 100 spray-painted stars, and 20 strips of lights dangling over the basketball court.

Students took dance lessons, traveled miles to the nearest town for flowers and made sure the pickup trucks were shiny before they arrived to the school, which is surrounded by a corn field and a prairie.

Seventeen-year-old Cheryl Smith puts make-up on in preparation for Graham High School's first prom Friday, April 7, 2000, in Weleetka, Okla. The prom ends an 85-year ban on dancing. (AP Photo/ Mike Simons) The high school, about an hour from Tulsa and 10 minutes from the nearest town, is known for its basketball, 4-H and Future Homemakers of America, said Principal Alfred Gaches, who also teaches history and coaches girls basketball.

About 10 years ago, some parents rented a room at a hotel in another town and had a small gathering with dancing. But it wasn't a prom for the whole school. Last year, students held a bonfire party in place of a prom but there was no dancing.

All but one of Graham's 25 juniors and seniors signed up for Friday's dance. Their dates had to be a high school graduate or enrolled in high school.

Kynda Baker, 17, gave up her usual baggy pants and T-shirt for a $260 hunter green dress, 3-inch heels, makeup and tiny clips for her blonde hair.

It was only minutes into the first song before she bounced out on the floor, swinging in circles with a friend.

Nearby, 17-year-old Mike Gray slid across the floor in his rented black slacks. 

``Slow music, I'm a good dancer. But fast music, that's a little tricky,'' the junior said. ``It may not look good, but it'll be me out there.''

But now he has a chance to practice. 

``Oh, next year?'' he said. ``I'll be back.'' 

Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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