BY FRANK KOOTSILLAS
As I sit here listening to the plans of my grandchildren, preparing for their prom this May, I realize how different times are now. There were no stretch limos, reserved hotel suites or glitzy tuxes. Our class was all hands-on.
In the mid-50s, our class was joyously planning our “spring junior prom” and the theme was to be “An Evening in Paris.”
I worked in the print shop and the ticket design was left up to me. The class wanted an “Eiffel Tower” to be the centerpiece of the ticket. In going through our entire collection of icons and type images there was no image of the Eiffel Tower to be had, although our library had produced several pictures of “That French Erector Set.” I was given a blank printers block and told to “carve” an Eiffel Tower. The challenge was it had to be less than 2 inches tall!
This was a job for a microscope and a jeweler’s loop, both of which were unavailable to me at the time, but with a little bit of eyestrain I did make a satisfactory sketch of the Eiffel Tower on the block. The hard part was just beginning. I armed myself with razor blades and various-sized pins to carve the relief on the block. After about a week and even more eyestrain the tower was complete.
The class was happy with the centerpiece and selected a glossy dark blue and silver ticket stock. The lettering was an antique white in old fashioned Lacey type font overlaying the black Eiffel Tower and the entire ticket. It was a masterpiece and almost mysterious in its presentation.
Some of my classmates were involved in the “grunt work” for the prom. They borrowed a couple of pickup trucks from their dads and went looking for “donated” lumber after dark. There was no Home Depot or Lowes in those days, however there was a large amount of building activity on Grosse Ile at this time. (I disavow any participation in this expedition!)
Our school sponsored an island-wide canvas selling tickets to our junior prom. I was hoping some of the island builders would buy tickets to our dance so they could see their “missing lumber” in a more “creative mode.”
The final results were amazing! In the corner of the gym there stood a giant Eiffel Tower, rising from floor to ceiling. It was decorated with numerous lights, an overpowering sight. The lumber used in this structure was probably equivalent to a two car garage. The first level of the tower served as a bandstand. Yes, a real live professional band! D.J.’s were not on the horizon in this era.
For one night, Grosse Ile was “An Evening in Paris.” We had the Eiffel Tower in our gym and “the River Seine” (the Detroit River) flowing past the front of our school. This was our “spring project,” and one our class will always remember. However, someone is still looking for their two car garage.
Au revoir, for now.