A walking cane thrown across the tablecloth at a senior citizen's prom Wednesday meant a night of merriment was about to begin.
Alice Harris, 76, shook out her blue gown and got ready to boogie.
"I have a cane, but I'm going to be the first one out there," shepromised.
At the first free city-sponsored Annapolis prom for theover-60 set, more than 300 showed up, all spiffed up and shining with fun.
Groups of elderly ladies in shawls and pearls joined couples in formals and tuxedos at round tables in the Loew's Annapolis Hotel dining room.
After an elegant dinner, Hal Kauffman whisked his wife, Jane, onto the dance floor for the first dance on their first prom together.
He's 72; she's 68. They've been married 5 months.
"She's a little Irish Catholic, and she's a devil," chuckled her new husband. The two met last summer after Mr. Kauffman, a retired Navy captain, parked his RV in a Midwestern park and asked his neighbor -- also a Marylander -- if the young man knew any nice women in Annapolis. The fellow traveler had dated Jane's daughter and passed on the family's phone number.
The Kauffmans married in December, and they've been partying ever since.
Across the room, Alice Oster of Annapolis folded her hands like a queen and smiled at the bright balloons and streamers festooning the dance floor.
"Do you know why I'm here?"she asked.
"I'm here because I'm 97 years this month, and I cameto the Mayor's Ball. I'm having a wonderful time."
So was everyone else, from the look of it. Zastrow Simms, a city community relations specialist, took the dance floor, resplendent in a purple tie and awildly checked blazer.
As the band played love songs, women looking like debutantes swayed cheek to cheek with their spouses.
Pink paper carnations -- made by the city's Planning and Action committee -- blossomed on lapels and necklines.
Jean Tyler, one of the volunteers, sat at a table with her mother and half a dozen friends from Ezra United Methodist Church.
"It feels like a high school prom, with the balloons and all," she said. "And the ladies all dressed up look beautiful. I've seen people tonight I haven't seen for years."
The evening didn't start quite like a teen-ager's prom. During the first hour, seniors could attend a drug-education discussion focusing on managing medications, with volunteer pharmacists giving informal consultation.
But the laughter in the room proved that the seniors were, as the prom advertisement promised, young at heart.
Jacky Rouse, a city employee who helped with the prom, said she realized the importance of events for seniors after she started traveling with her mother, who is in her 70s.
"They need to have fun things to do, not like old people's stuff," she said.
The prom was set to start at6 p.m., but by 5 o'clock more than
100 seniors were waiting in the hotel lobby, some from as far away as Shady Side, Green said. By evening's end, more than 325 people had arrived.
Ada and Jack Sullivan drove from Mayo, smiling all the way.
"It's a grand idea," she said. "We're really into being seniors. I
think seniors get younger as they go on."
Mrs. Harris, too, reveled in her status as a senior citizen.
"I don't mind telling you my age," she said. "God wasgood to let me live this old and have times like this!"