Debutante Ball

The true past departs not  no great accomplishment ever dies or can die; but all is still here, and, recognized or not, lives and works through endless changes. How delightful it is to transport ourselves into the spirit of the past, to see how wise members have thought before us, and to what a glorious height we have reached. As we celebrate the ANNUAL DEBUTANTE BALL, we pause to reflect

THEY THREW THE SAND AGAINST THE WIND Twenty active members of the Alpha Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, directed by EVA HOLMES, and guided by the former president and FOUNDER of the Debutante Ball, MRS. SUSIE VICK PERRY, conceived an idea of a scholarship effort. The result was the FIRST DEBUTANTES ASSEMBLY, a subscription dance held on DECEMBER 31, 1937, in the Private Dining Room of the old ARCADE HOTEL on Hargett Street. There the sorority presented eleven young ladies to the society: MISSES NAN DELANY, GLORIA KEY, WILLIE PERRY, VERA LEWIS, LEOTA TRIGG, LULA WILLIAMS, INEZ KAY, MAE HAMLIN, EVA FRAZIER, and PAULINE FRAZIER. At the door, guest presented tickets costing THIRTY-FIVE, and SIXTY-FIVE CENTS. And thus was the dawning of the DEBUTANTE TRADITION by those kindred spirits who in 1937 THREW THE SAND AGAINST THE WIND.

AND EVERY GRAIN BECAME A GEM From the ARCADE HOTEL (1941) to the COLONNADE in the Masonic Building (1942) to the RALEIGH MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM (1948) to the RALEIGH CIVIC CENTER (1977) to the J.S. DORTON ARENA (2005), to the RALEIGH CONVENTION CENTER (2008), the ball took on new luster. Continuing in the tradition of the visionaries, the sorority polished the debutante program. GEMS sparkled through the dedication and sacrifice of the presidents, chairmen, and committee members. With each new setting, the JEWELS multiplied into a TREASURE CHEST of creative and dynamic ideas. The ball dates, changed from DECEMBER to JANUARY to NOVEMBER. In 1949 the DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING became the ANNUAL DATE of the Debutante Ball. The number of debutantes increased, and the scholarship fund grew  all because the small grains became GEMS.

AND EVERY GEM BECAME A STAR As the STAR glistened on the horizon, the sorority sought to preserve the debutante tradition into the FORGET-ME-NOTS of the future. There was DEBUTANTE CONTEST. Twelve debutantes under the leadership of MRS. MARGUERITE RUSSELL COOK participated in the contest. The young lady securing the most patrons reigned as QUEEN. The first QUEEN was JULIA PERRIN in 1947. The first QUEEN from outside Raleigh was GWENDOLYN HARRIS in 1949. Both of these QUEENS joined the sisterhood of ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA SORORITY. In 1951, the sorority honoured two QUEENS: RUTH ANN CARTER, the IN-TOWN QUEEN; and SARAH C. WILLIAMS, the OUT-OF-TOWN QUEEN. The later selection process prevailed until the 1987 BALL when the sorority returned to honouring one queen  exactly FORTY years after the crowning of the first debutante queen. The STAR PERPETUALLY SHONE ON THE DEBUTANTE CONTEST.

deb ball 2AND EVERY STAR BECAME A LIGHT  As the LIGHT kindled in the eastern and western skies the debutante ball attracted its beams. Twenty young ladies debuted at the RALEIGH MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM in JANUARY 1948 and formed the first IVY LEAF FIGURE. Designed and directed by Mrs FANNIE VICK LATHAM, the figure has graced the floor for SEVEN DECADES! In 1949, the first APPRECIATION GIFTS appeared; the QUEEN received a radio; the MAIDS, gold bracelets; the other debutantes, gold lockets. Gifts were to run the gamut from televisions to stereos to luggage sets until the sorority discontinued large gifts in 1982 in favour of higher scholarships. However, debutantes continued to receive engraved charms. The LIGHT followed the DEBUTANTE SOUVENIR BOOKLETS from their inception in 1952. At first there were no pictures; pictures appeared in later books of the late fifties and early sixties. The size changed from 4 x 6 to 8/2 x 11; pictures of all debutants appeared. Featured also was the present cover, a replica of the ball gown worn by M. LLOYDINE PERRY, designed and drawn by her aunt, MRS FANNIE VICK LATHAM. The LIGHT blazoned on the debutante program.

AND EVERY LIGHT BECAME A TORCH … Further achievements of the debutante program spread its GLOW. The first EMCEES of the ball were MESDAMES SUSIE VICK PERRY and JULIA BROWN DELANY. In 1950, adding dignity to the occasion, John D. Lewis, Jr., arrived as the OFFICIAL ANNOUNCER and served through 1995. Eric Curry became the Official Announcer in 1996. Several illustrious SPEAKERS from all walks of life welcomed the debutantes to society. The WALTZ and GRAND MARCH complimented the IVY LEAF FIGURE in the fifties; the Foxtrot and the Cha-Cha in the nineties! The sorority sent the first ball INVITATIONS in 1952. SPECIAL PATRONS LISTINGS began in 1968. The CAROLINIAN first covered the ball in the forties; the paper also highlighted scholarship winners and all of the other debutante activities. The first coverage by THE NEWS AND OBSERVER and THE RALEIGH TIMES was in 1972. These publications have helped in public relations forums of the debutante program. The early seventies saw FATHERS serving as CHIEF MARSHALS. Over the decades, MOTHERS passed the torch and presented two or more daughters or granddaughters. Through community and other service projects, the debutantes left their mark on their surroundings. With TORCH HELD HIGH, the members of ALPHA THETA OMEGA levels of young women. PASS ON THE TORCH WE DID NOT LIGHT ITS GLOW!

They THREW THE SAND AGAINST THE WIND  Twenty members in 1937 inspired a LEGACY  A LEGACY to which the chapter has remained faithful. Over ONE HUNDRED QUEENS have presided over the festivities. From Eleven young ladies presented in 1937, the sorority has presented over a HUNDRED debutantes during specific years in the sixties, seventies, eights, and nineties. FORTY-TWO members have served as CHAIRMEN of the ball; EIGHT, as EXECUTIVE SECRETARIES. FORTY FORMER DEBUTANTES are active members of the Alpha Theta Omega Chapter. FIFTY-ONE active Alpha Theta Omega members have presented one or more daughters in the ball. Of that number, thirty-two of those daughters have joined the sisterhood of ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA. And, most importantly, evidence of the vision has been stored in the NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA at CHAPEL HILL, WILSON LIBRARY -0248, and CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA. As the DEBUTANTES stand in the archway, gowned in the traditional white and carrying red roses, poised to make their bows to society the ALPHA THETA OMEGA CHAPTER OF ALPHA KAPPA ALPHA SORORITY, INCORPORATED, pauses to remember those PROGENITORS who THREW THE SAND AGAINST THE WIND, for THE WIND BLEW IT BACK AGAIN!

—Muriel Waters Allison *