During a normal year, a right of passage for high schoolers is the opportunity to attend the big year end dance called the Prom (short for promenade) and if movies set in high school are to be believed it’s where the hero and heroine of the story fall madly in love and live happily ever after.
I don’t know about you, but my Senior Prom and Junior Prom were a lot less eventful than they were in those films. It was more like let’s get an expensive meal, hang out with friends, pretend we can dance, take a lot of photos (with an actual camera!) to mark the event (and then find said photos in a box in your basement decades later) with a “I’ll see you at school on Monday” to your date once the big dance was over. So yeah…not as life affirming as it was in those movies.
With that rant out of the way, and those semi-priceless memories in mind, I got to thinking about when the first Junior Hop or J-Hop/Prom-like mention of a dance was held at Manistee High School. So, after much perusing, I was able to find an article published in the Manistee Daily News on April 16, 1894 that provides a wonderful description of the first ever local J-Hop:
“The first hop ever given by the Junior Class at the Manistee High School was a most decided success. For several days before the event the Juniors and Seniors were seen struggling toward the Armory Hall (formerly located at 413/415 River Street and pictured above) with numerous mysterious looking packages. The Armory was a picture of beauty in its trimmings of evergreen and white and green bunting draperies.
“Under the gallery the tables were covered with silver and glass with smilax and white carnations tastefully interwoven. To the left of the tables was a large cut glass bowl filled with lemonade where the Misses Young served the delightful beverage to all.
“At 9’clock the grand march was formed and to the strains of a beautiful march, about one hundred couples went through the various formations. The ladies’ costumes were varied and beautiful. The program consisting of twenty dances and six extras was finished about 1:30 and all left for home in the best humor and thinking the Junior Class was a success as entertainers. The music was furnished by Professor Chaffers’ orchestra and was fine.
“We sincerely hope that in the years to come the Junior Class will keep up the custom now started and give a hop as a social feature to the high school.”