SOUTH WHITLEY, Ind. (AP) _ Although David Hockensmith never went to his high school prom, he now attends several each year all over the country as creative director of a supplier for backdrops, sparkle powder and spotlights.

''A prom is a rite of passage, something that proves you're grown up. People always remember their proms,'' said Hockensmith, 49, of Stump Printing Co., which has festooned school gyms in all 50 states since 1926.

Hockensmith, responsible for developing new products and themes for proms, says he reads teen-age magazines to pick up trends.

Proms differ from region to region. In the heartland, dances are generally in school gymnasiums. But on the East and West coasts and in large cities, he said, dinner-dances at hotels are in vogue.

''Kids in Arizona have an ocean theme, while kids in Nebraska have the big- city theme. We have a high school in Alaska that is having a Southwest theme. It's always some place you're not,'' Hockensmith said.

And this season's most popular theme?

''This year, all of our Cinderella-related items are selling well,'' Hockensmith said. ''That's because it's a fantasy of everyone.''

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BOSSIER CITY, La. (AP) - Sue Merritt, principal at Curtis Elementary School, moved her desk to the school's rooftop Friday to pay off a bet with pupils.

At the beginning of the school year, she told her 480 fifth- and sixth- graders that if they would read for 1 million minutes, she would run the school from the roof for a day.

Mrs. Merritt announced the pupils' victory at an assembly.

''I am very, very proud of you,'' she said. ''You were right and I was wrong. So today I am going to take my rightful place in my office.''

She and her desk were hoisted onto the roof by a fire truck as Curtis cheerleaders yelled: ''Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar. All for Mrs. Merritt to go up on the roof, stand up and holler.'' During the day, students read book reports to her, recited poetry and sang, sometimes shouting over the roar of planes taking off from nearby Barksdale Air Force Base.

The hardest part was the ride up, she said.

''I throw up whenever I ride on the ferris wheel.''

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NEWARK, Ohio (AP) - The city parks department received a $1,400 bank check Friday from ''an ex-mischievous kid'' who said the money was designed to make amends for about $100 worth of vandalism done some 35 years earlier.

''Isn't that amazing? It made quite a nice ending to the week,'' said Mayor William Moore.

Moore said the check arrived Friday morning. He said there was no name on the check, but it was accompanied by a note.

The note read: ''The check is a gift to you as a payment for misdeeds done about 35 years ago. Even though the misdeed was only about $100 worth, I added on the interest.'' The note was signed, ''An ex-mischievous kid. Thanks for your patience.''

Moore said the money would go to the parks foundation fund in this central Ohio city.

He said he had no idea what the ''misdeeds'' mentioned in the note might have been.

''But anybody else who'd like to do this, we want them to know they're welcome,'' he said.