Intersection Column | My High School Prom
by Susan Anne Mason
Picture the setting—the late 1970s, an all-girls high school run by nuns, an upcoming senior prom. The plot of a new book, you ask? Not at all. This is the story of my own prom fiasco and how the venue played into my new historical romance, A Feeling of Home.
Attending an all-girls high school was fun in many ways. However, when it came time for my Grade 12 Senior Prom, it meant being set up on a blind date. I wasn’t thrilled about the idea, but if it meant being able to go to a formal dinner/dance at the famous Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto, I would gladly suffer the torment. Torment is right. First, I worried that my blind date had stood me up. When he finally arrived, very late, he claimed he’d gotten lost trying to find my house. Then, after posing for several uncomfortable photos, we drove into the city.
The Royal York was as grand as I had imagined it to be, with vaulted ceilings, curved staircases, and marble floors. However, it became the scene of my utmost embarrassment when I tripped over my long dress and fell up the stairs. My gallant date helped me up, and we made our way back to the ballroom. Once there, he must have been disappointed that his date didn’t know how to ballroom dance, and he was forced to teach me the basic box step on the dance floor. (Personally, I’d rather have rocked out to the Bee Gees or something more fun.) Once our time at the beautiful Royal York was over, we went on to a friend’s house for an after-party, where my date ended up ditching me. Ouch! Well, he did make sure I had a ride home with another friend, but I was still quite insulted. All for the thrill of attending an event at the Royal York.
Who knew that many years later, when writing A Feeling of Home, the Royal York would play such an integral role? My heroine, Isabelle Wardrop, is from a well-to-do Toronto family, so when she loses her fortune and is forced to seek work, I tried to imagine what kind of job a rich heiress might end up doing. I wanted Isabelle to experience how regular working-class people lived. I eventually decided that a hotel maid would be the perfect job for her, and right away I thought of the Royal York.
My main problem then became how to find out what a hotel maid’s job in the 1940s would entail. Through online research, I found an archived article in a 1944 issue of Maclean’s magazine that detailed the inner workings of the hotel at the very time I was writing about. This was a gold mine for me, because it didn’t simply talk about the usual amenities of the hotel but delved into the behind-the-scenes activities. One of the jobs I had considered for Isabelle was a switchboard operator. I discovered in the article, however, that it took a full year of training for the forty-five girls they employed as operators. So, I decided to stick with the maid job. Much simpler.
One pertinent detail that wasn’t mentioned in the article was whether vacuum cleaners were used at the time. I’d never really considered when people started using these devices, so it was extremely interesting to research the history of the vacuum cleaner. I found out a lot about William Henry Hoover and his invention! And I enjoyed using that knowledge to enhance my story.
I had a great time writing the scenes set in the grand hotel, bringing the history of this amazing Toronto landmark to life in my book. It definitely made my less-than-stellar prom experience all the more worthwhile!
I hope you’ll follow Isabelle’s journey as she is forced to rely on her wits, her faith and the kindness of others to make a new life for herself and her younger sister in a world that is totally foreign to her. Of course, the handsome doctor who helps her navigate her way adds another layer of fuel to the fire!
P.S. In case you were wondering, I never saw that blind date again!
About the Author
Susan Anne Mason’s historical novel Irish Meadows won the Fiction from the Heartland contest from the Mid-American Romance Authors Chapter of RWA as well as the Christian Retailer's Choice Award for Debut Novel. A member of ACFW, Susan lives outside of Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two adult children.
About the Book
Isabelle Wardrop's well-to-do life has completely unraveled. Within months, she's lost both her parents, her fortune and her home. Desperate for work but having no qualifications, Isabelle is forced to accept help from Dr. Mark Henshaw, the very man she blames for her mother's death.
Did You Know?
A study by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978 at Georgia State University indicated that high-achieving women often suffered from the imposter phenomenon. The term is “used to designate an internal experience of intellectual phoniness that appears to be particularly prevalent and intense among a select sample of high-achieving women.”
Detoxing from self-limiting beliefs helps us:
Release the emotional toxins: We all have self-limiting beliefs that freeze us in a place of defeat and discouragement. Choosing to replace deceptive thoughts with truth is a commitment. God has called us into His marvelous light. Commit to moving forward. Come out of darkness and into the light.
Realign our priorities: In whatever season of life, women can feel inadequate where they are and in what they are doing. As we prioritize God and His Word over self-limiting thoughts, we will begin to embrace God’s peace.
Realize God’s best for our lives: Not our best, but His. Expect peace and joy that is beyond all understanding. God wants what’s best. Peace is best. God’s fingerprints are all over our lives. We only have one life for God to work in and through us.
Devote your heart to Jesus. God’s truth will renew our minds. Our souls will yearn to become more like Him. Our relationship with an almighty God continually reveals our purpose in His plan.
-Billie Jauss, Distraction Detox
Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore
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