Agnes Williams

  City of Birth:
New Orleans

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Agnes's Story > Chapters > Life in the South

"My Sweet 16" 


Date Range: 01/01/1950 To 12/31/2007   Comments: 6   Views: 14,859
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When you lived in New Orleans, you had to have a Sweet 16 birthday party. Now I have to admit one thing here - recently one of my young grandchildren showed me a TV show something about My Sweet 16 and these extremely rich, extremely obnoxious young girls who get lavish parties with famous rock stars and new cars and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Now our parties were not on that scale of massive extravagance, but we had some downright big big parties. We would rent out the local halls and the bands would play (bands are a dime a dozen in New Orleans even back then as well as today although less today-today of course given our city is not back on its feet).

Girls would decorate the halls with lights, bells, flowers and balloons. The balloon guy was our favorite, as we'd suck in the helium and talk funny. Plus it made you dizzy and giggly.

I can't find any pictures of my dress, although I may have some buried elsewhere, but I found one eerily similar to the one I wore on this neat site

I must say that I was gorgeous that night. Do you remember back when you were 16? Your skin was so perfect and dewey, your body young and fresh. Ah, what I would give to go and relive those perfect, perfect days. I had on a simple tiara that my own mother had worn at her Sweet 16 and a necklace of diamonds and orange sapphires from my Aunt Dorothy.

My Sweet 16 had Bart & the Tones playing. We called them Bart and the Toads because two of the members had warts all over their faces. But these fine gentlemen could really bring down the house. They knew how to work a crowd.

My father had since passed so my Uncle Dewey was the one who led my first dance. My dance card was filled for the entire evening. It was a hot night but we set up big fans so the night air cooled us, along with lots of tea and punch (whiskey for the men, mint juleps for the lovely ladies).

I didn't have my first kiss that night but certainly was Cinderella.

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Member Since
Feb 2009
MaryHelen Cuellar said:
posted on Feb 17, 2009
Felt like I was there

Agnes; your writing is so descriptive I felt like I was there; couldn't help but feel sad for the 16 year old that didn't have her Dad....related to wishing some parts of me were 16 again, but if you're like me, don't want to repeat some of the years in between!  (If we could just relive the good parts) Love your stories, MaryHelen

Member Since
Aug 2007
Agnes Williams said:
posted on Feb 17, 2009
Oh MaryHelen

Those memories are what keep me going in some long, dark days. I have already blotted out the bad parts as they don't exist to me. I suppose if I were to see a therapist today he'd tell me I have "issues" as the kids say! I don't want to BE 16 again, but I sure wish I could visit for a while.

Member Since
Jul 2009
Alice Shapiro said:
posted on Jul 04, 2009

Hi Agnes -

I'm going to send you an email, but I happened to notice this story you wrote and felt compelled to comment.  Your New Orleans Sweet 16's were quite a lovely event.  The dress is fantastic and reminds me of the costumes I saw in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  I lived up North when I was young and our parties were mostly back-yard to-do's with 45 or 78 records on a plug-in record player as musical entertainment.  My Sweet 16 remains in my memory most vividly as a dance I had with an attractive older boy.  I even wrote a poem about it and published it in my book.  

Member Since
Aug 2007
Agnes Williams said:
posted on Jul 09, 2009

I read your poetry on your site from your story and it's lovely. Is that poem on there?

In the south, these parties were THE social scene. They meant much more than they should have, now that I'm older and find such things fun but hardly the social status reminders that we used them as back then.

The dresses though were quite lovely, as were the settings. Everything moves a little differently down here in the south. The thing I"ve come to learn is that it matters WHO is at the party (friends & loved ones) not what the party's favors or location are. I feel blessed for finally learning this lesson. Some here never do.

Member Since
Oct 2009
Christopher Mitchell said:
posted on Apr 02, 2010
Having been

Raised in the South, my status as somewhat of a rake and a hellion did not draw many invitations to Sweet 16 parties but I did manage to escort one youg lady on her "coming out."
You writing makes me wish I tamed my naughty side, I think I would have liked to have attended one of those

Member Since
Aug 2007
Agnes Williams said:
posted on Apr 06, 2010
Oh, you didn't miss much

Looking back now, they were pretentious and elitist, but they were fun. We all had blinders on when we were young to bigger issues at hand, but for a few moments it was fun playing Cinderella :)