Decorating the Gym

No telling what dance these students were preparing for. I started to put names to faces, but realized the only one I was sure of was Jim Stone. These look like they were shot for The Tiger or The Girardot, but I don’t think any of them were ever published. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Since Jim was Class of 1965, it was unlikely he was decorating for the Class of ’66. Ditto the Class of 1967 Senior Prom.

Where are the coaches?

I can’t believe there’s no coach around to complain about abuse of hoop. When we visited Central at the last reunion, we kept expecting someone to chastise us for walking across the basketball court in our STREET shoes. Of course, by 2010, it was a junior high school and it was the practice gym, so maybe nobody cared.

Okeechobee High School Prom

I wish I had been able to put my hands on a photo story I shot at the Okeechobee High School Prom. I had a shot very similar to this in it. I decided I wanted to shoot an old-fashioned prom held in a gym, not a fancy coastal one held at the Flagler Museum or someplace equally high falutin’.

Okeechobee is a rural community about an hour west of West Palm Beach and on the north rim of Lake Okeechobee. I liked it because it had real trees and real people living there.

The two biggest industries were cattle and dairy farming and supporting retirees who came from the Midwest for the bass fishing. The high school advisor was very protective of her students. “I don’t want you coming out here and making these kids look like a bunch of hicks. This is a big deal for them.:”

I assured her that wasn’t my style and that I had grown up in a town not much bigger than Okeechobee.

I had to sell the story

My next task was to “sell” the story. Photographers worked for both the conservative afternoon paper, The Evening Times, and the liberal morning paper, The Palm Beach Post. The Post generally gave us much better picture play, so it was my first stop. The features editor was interested and threw out the name of the reporter he was thinking about assigning to do the words. His approach would have been exactly the one the advisor feared, so I said that I’d get back with him.

The two newspapers were separated by a walkway and a five-foot wall that was painted, we said, affectionately, Post-Times Puke Green. I crossed over.

The Times, being the underdog, liked to stick it to The Post whenever it could, so its feature editor loved the idea of snatching a good story out from under the morning paper. The only problem was they didn’t want to send a reporter. No problem, I said, give me a section front and I’ll shoot the pictures, write the copy and lay it out.

It was a blast. The student body was divided into the hippies and the cowboys. I knew immediately that I had made the right choice in not having The Post’s writer come out. He wouldn’t have been able to resist turning the kids into caricatures. I ended up with a couple of shots I like to this day. The best part was the advisor was happy when she saw the paper.  I didn’t want to disappoint her.

2 Replies to “Decorating the Gym”

  1. Third picture down standing Tall is Phil Lewis…good guy! I was in Boy Scouts with Phil…he was the troop leader.

  2. Speaking of the 1967 Prom,(Brad’s , I’m much younger 1968:)) am I having a senior moment or was the Bob Kuban Band there?

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