Power To The People, Baby!October 22, 2008
Seeing that Free John Sinclair Rally poster (below) made me think back to a time in high school when many of us, as the hippie activism days began to wane, would get all worked up over perceived injustices. 36 years ago this month (October 1972) a large group of students at Orrville (Ohio) High School (myself included) got fed up with the strict dress code that was enforced at that time. Girls had to wear dresses or skirts, no pants and certainly no jeans. Boys could not have their hair over their collars. You get the picture.
After several of the girls made polite inquires about allowing girls to at least wear pantsuits was denied, one girl, Debbie L., showed up one day in a pair of jeans only to be confronted by the assistant principal. That resulted in Debbie being told by the assistant principal to go home. Word spread quickly throughout the school to all of us ‘hippie-types’ and emotions became heated. At the same time the black kids at the high school wanted a black girl chosen for the homecoming court (believe me, there were plenty of beautiful black girls at OHS then!). Things all came to a head that October day and a walk out (referred to as a ‘riot’ by administrators… it wasn’t) occurred.
Between the two issues that bubbled up that day, and with ‘unofficial coordination’ and inspiration by several young ladies at school (like Cindy M., Debbie L., Kay S., Vicky C., and Gail W., primarily) approximately 60 of us walked out of school and staged a protest in the city park next to the high school. Word quickly made it to the Wayne County Joint Vocational School and many of the Orrville students there left school and came back to town and joined us. Even the local media showed up.
We’ll let my pal, Cindy M., (Cid-Mor) explain, as she was one of the ‘ringleaders’ who had the guts to help initiate things:
“Debbie L., had worn a pair of blue jeans to school and the assistant principal had pulled Deb’s long hair and told her to go change. Well, the rebels that we were, it pissed us off and staged a ‘riot’. Many of us left the school building and went to the pavilion at the park. I guess the ‘joint’ (Wayne County Joint Vocational School) got wind of it and they left school, too. Pretty soon we had a lot of kids there.”
“Well, at that time there was also something else happening at the high school. It was football season and homecoming time. The black kids wanted a black girl on the homecoming court. Well, why not? Seemed it was just a popularity contest as the ‘smart’ rich kids were always on it. Well, they (the black kids) walked out too. In the end we got to wear jeans but they stopped having homecoming after that.”
The next day school administrators met and suspended most of us that participated for four days. Eventually the student council and administrators met, read our ‘demands’ and alterations were made to the dress code. Girls could wear jeans and the guys could grow their hair a bit longer. So, thanks to the initial efforts of Cindy M., Debbie L., Kay S., Vicky C., and Gail W., students at OHS got to dress and look like kids everywhere else.
The bad part of it was homecoming being cancelled from that point on because school officials feared a ‘race riot’ which was ludicrous because at that time in particular almost all of the black and white kids got along great. Hell, they all grew up together and any issues were usually personality driven, not race driven. Remember, there was still the buzz of peace, love & understanding in the air at that time and we were all ‘brothers and sisters’.
As for consequences at home, my parents weren’t too happy but I was never ‘punished’. Caught some hell for a few minutes but that was about it. Cindy M.’s parents never found out at the time. As she explains:
“I got up and acted like I went to school along with some buds and one of my friends stayed home and of course in the mail came the suspension notices for our parents. My friend got in my mailbox and got mine before my parents could see it. What a great friend (Kay S.)! My parents never knew until about 10 years ago (laughing)!”
By the time I got out of high school four years later I believe I may have had the longest hair in the high school and everyone pretty much wore what we wanted.
In the words of my pal Cindy M: “What a long strange trip it’s been….”