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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Apr 3, 2023

There was a time when there was a magazine that covered the area's high schools' social scenes, when you got your 15 minutes of fame issue by issue. It, however, could not survive social change. Just press play to hear the whole story ------ 

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Podcast Transcript: I’m Andrew Wanko, Public Historian of the Missouri Historical Society, and Here’s History on 88-one, KDHX. ———

Humans have been turning 13 years old since there have been humans, but in late 1940s America, achieving that passage of time gained you a new cultural label. You were now known as a “teenager,” and teenagers would determine the coming era’s dress code, musical tastes, and even language. It was tough keeping up with it all, but for the teenagers of St. Louis, Prom Magazine made it no sweat. ———

Created in 1947, Prom Magazine covered the dances, parties, football games, and spring musicals from more than 65 public and private high schools around the St. Louis region. It was like a local junior version of Life Magazine, except the stories happened in your cafeteria, and the photo essays featured your friends. If you showed up in Prom’s pages you were nearly guaranteed local teen celebrity status – at least until the next issue came out. ——— 

For just 10 cents a copy, St. Louis teenagers could drop in on the hallway chatter at every high school in the area. Each school had dedicated student beat reporters, bringing you updates about the “Roosevelt Ramblings,” “Mehlville Murmurs,” or ”Wellston Wig Wag.” Other features gave teens the scoop on fashion and music trends, like “Strictly off the Record,” a music column penned each month by a different St. Louis disc jockey. ------ 

By the mid-1960s, Prom Magazine claimed that over 90 percent of St. Louis’s teenagers were regular readers. But Prom’s last dance was on the horizon.  The magazine’s wholesome and simplified portrayal of teen life avoided pressing topics facing young people at the time. Sex and drinking were never discussed, nor were issues like the Civil Rights movement, feminism, or being drafted for the Vietnam War. These complex conversations were on teenagers’ minds in the late 1960s, but missing from the magazine’s squeaky-clean pages. With readership falling and advertisers pulling out, Prom Magazine quietly stopped production in 1973. Former publisher Julian Miller would go on to spend decades fighting teen substance abuse through a local non-profit devoted to that cause. ———

Here’s history is a joint production of the Missouri Historical Society and KDHX.  I’m Andrew Wanko and this is 88.1 KDHX St. Louis. ------