Do you think their hair is too long? Adults in '66 said 'yes' and kicked the 'hippies' out of school
Fargo North High administrators told seven students to leave school until they could get a proper haircut. The boys had another idea.
It had been two years since The Beatles set foot in America, shocking clean-cut folks everywhere with their mop-top hairstyles. And it seems in 1966 the administration at Fargo North High School was still not embracing the new look.
That year, seven boys were suspended from North High for “failing to have conventional haircuts.”
They were told not to come back until they got a haircut.
The personal appearance code in the North High handbook back then stated, “Neither boys nor girls will affect freakish or bizarre hairstyles.” Were these looks "freakish or bizarre?"
Duane Langness, now 74, was one of the boys suspended. He recalls what happened 57 years ago.
“We were getting hassled about our hair,” he said. “I think we were right on the edge where they didn't like that hair. They wanted everyone to have a heinie (crewcut) and we didn't see it that way.”
In fact, in Langness’s world, his locks were pretty tame. Both he and another suspended student, Dennis Oscarson, were in a band called The Little People during their high school years. They even had some big gigs opening for both The Who and The Beach Boys at the Fargo Civic. Langness said other musicians definitely pushed the boundaries more than they did.
“The main guy in our band had real long hair. He was out of school but he had hair down past his shoulders. That was kind of the style,” he said.
Nonetheless, the style that Langness and his friends wore as they walked the hallways of Fargo North was deemed just too long. The boys were suspended. They could only return when their hair was shorter.
A 'ridiculous' rule?
Langness said they were all frustrated by the hairstyle rules.
"None of us were troublemakers or had gotten into any kind of trouble all through school,” Langness said. “I took gym class five days a week. Dennis (Oscarson) was a math brain and (Dave) Parsons was a super-intelligent guy. He probably had straight As in every class he had and Andy (Moir) was a real intelligent guy as well.”
Most of the boys' parents agreed and felt the situation was “ridiculous.”
Dr. Jesse Parsons, Dave’s father, told The Forum in 1966 “We’re not interested in encouraging them to break the rules. We want them to obey the rules but we want to get the rules changed.”
He added that the rules were nebulous, leaving the definition of "freakish or bizarre" hair to the judgment of school officials.
Andy Moir’s mother added that the long hair was just a form of self-expression and in touch with the current fashion of the day. The parents also objected to “the tremendous urge for conformity” in society and questioned how their sons’ hairstyles impacted learning.
“The youngsters should be in school for an education, and any teacher who can’t handle a class where hairstyle is a distraction maybe is not too good a teacher,” Dr. Parsons said.
Mrs. Moir also said when she visited the school she saw girls clearly breaking the dress code with short skirts, but they were not being suspended.
Uh-oh, the media gets involved
The situation really blew up when Andy Moir told the other boys that his dad, who worked for The Forum, was willing to do a story on the situation. So the boys went to The Forum for a “before” photo before they got their required haircuts.
Then, after their visit to the barber, they returned to the Forum newsroom for an "after" photo. It's pretty clear to see it wasn't exactly a dramatic makeover.
The next morning the story, with both photos, appeared in the paper.
“I remember when I got up to go to school that day and my dad kind of flings the paper and says ‘you think you're pretty smart. I think you might be in for some trouble today.' And I kind of chuckled,” Langness said.
But Principal J.R. McElhinney was not laughing. And Duane’s dad was right - trouble was coming.
“As soon as the school bell rang for class to start, over the speaker all four of our names got called to the office,” Langness said. “And Principal McElhinney just went bananas. I mean he just got so angry pounding the desk.”
But he obviously pushed a button with Parsons.
“He was a real studious guy. He always carried a whole bunch of books, you know? And he stood up and he threw his whole pack of books at Principal McElhenney knocking him off his chair backward. And the rest of us thought, ‘Oh, no, things are going bad now,'" Langness recalls.
Langness said he thinks the principal was initially upset because the before and after photos in the paper were so similar.
“There was almost no difference. I think it made the rule look kind of foolish. First of all, they kicked us out, then after just a trim they let us back in?” Langness said.
The suspension was just one day long.
Nonetheless, Langness said they didn't really grow their hair much longer after that. He said their “before” picture was about as long as it ever got. But the kerfuffle with the boys might have spurred change in the strict rules about hair length.
“Yeah, I think we were the last of the Mohicans on that. I think they realized that it should be changed right after that,” Langness said.
What happened to the “hippies”
Both Langness and Oscarson graduated and continued playing in bands for the next 20 years or so. Oscarson died in December of 2022. Langness lives in Fargo and works in construction, selling steel buildings.
Langness said he lost touch with Andy Moir after high school and ran into Dave Parsons a few years back at a class reunion. He said the studious Parsons did well for himself, working in the concrete business in Minneapolis.
The irony, of course, is that just a handful of years later, the hairstyles Langness and his friends wore in 1966 would be considered conservative for teenage guys in the ‘70s, who were more likely to wear hair down to their shoulders.
So Fargo North's "hippies of ‘66" paved the way for all of you who graduated later. Langness laughs about it now.
“Yeah, we were real rebels.”
STEP BACK IN TIME WITH TRACY BRIGGS
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