Thursday, June 11, 2015

Girls in white dresses - Friday photo update

I love summertime
 the season of graduations 
debutante balls

Some months ago as I was researching a post for Throwback Thursday, (Throwback Thursdays are wonderful for us older folks as it gives us an excuse to reflect) I happened upon some photos of debutantes in a newspaper article.

While the word "debutante" may conjure up images of fluffy gowns, waltzes and high society ladies "coming out", it was not that way for me as a debutante in 1968.

In 1968 I had never heard of the Owl Club, and as the daughter of an Air Force Sergeant, definitely was not from a well-to-do family.  In fact, I had no plans to become a debutante, until one day, I was called into the Principal's office and notified that they had received a letter of nomination for me to apply for a spot as an Owl Club Debutante. 

The Owl Club of Denver: is a premiere organization in the state of Colorado. It is an all-male social and service organization which was founded by eight men back in 1941. They later decided to do something for the community and educating young Black women became their priority.

They began hosting balls in 1951. The Owl Club recognizes outstanding African-American, college-bound high school seniors.

Area high school principals, college counselors, and deans present the Owl Club with lists of potential debutantes.  Young ladies must meet rigorous academic and community service requirements, possess leadership skills and moral character. 

To succeed in obtaining the debutante title, the young women must be prepared to go through a formal selection process, which includes an intense interview with Owl Club members before being chosen. 

(In Denver there are 7 annual debutante balls. Family ties are a consideration in the selection process for every ball except those hosted by the Owl Club of Denver and the two alumnae chapters of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority.)

An "Unofficial" photo of the 2015 Owl Club Debutantes - Having a little fun!

The club receives more than 140 applications from young women, of which approximately 50 are selected for interview. To make a long story short, that year there were 155 applicants. I completed the application and the interview process and was selected as one of the 29 debs for 1968. 

I remember shopping with my mother for my dress, which of course was white - no strapless, or spaghetti straps, little if any sequins or fancy embroidery, floor length and it must be "belled out" (no form fitting dresses) white pearls, elbow length gloves and white pumps.

After many, many evening practices of learning the dance and the special curtsy, the cotillion was held at a local hotel. Each girl had an escort and was presented by her father. My father was not available for the ball and so I was presented by a local Denver judge. It was a wonderful experience.

It has been 47 years since the ball, and I have raised 2 children and lived in many different places. Somehow and at some point, I misplaced the "official" photo which I received. I moved from Denver in 1974 and off an on over the years I have tried to obtain a copy of the photo, with no luck (remember the days of no internet).

This year when I read the article I decided to try again. I noticed that the Owl Club now had a website and a Facebook page. And I saw this photo above. They display on the walls inside the club the offical photo from each year (there have now been 64).

Hooray for progress!

I made a phone call but reached no one and as a last ditch effort I sent an email to the address listed on the website (the email was a new addition). To my surprise several days later I received a phone call from Reggie Norman, the Debutante Committee Chairman. He explained that the club has an upcoming project to digitize all the photos but promised that in the interim he would go to club and take a picture of the photo from my year. He also advised me that starting this year the event would include an alumni recognition segment "where are they now" and asked if I would like to participate. Which of course I was thrilled to do.

I'm in excellent company

Not every debutante will go on to change the world, but there are doctors, lawyers, dentists, actresses, Peace Corps volunteers and politicians among them.

Notable debutantes (besides me of course)
Owl Club Debutante: former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 1971.

There are future plans to archive the photos and make them available publicly

Ta Da 
after all these years
Here it is!

can you guess which one is me?
I will post the answer tomorrow

Thank you Reggie for all of your help!

Update  - 
Did you guess correctly?
It's me top row center

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