Dakota Datebook


Tuesday, November 9, 2010


North Dakota is not exactly known for its gang activities. However, in the spring of 1958, a gang was forming within the Mandan school system. Members of the gang called themselves the Deans, after James Dean. They wore black leather jackets with his name emblazoned on the back. In fact, the gang was said to have started as a fan club for the actor, who died five years prior in a car accident. Furthermore, the gang was made up of a group of girls.

Authorities broke up the girls’ “fan club,” ordered the removal of his name from their jackets and put them under probation, but when school started up again in the fall, they regrouped under their hero’s name, in a way the Mandan Pioneer emphasized, would have made James Dean sick.

The girls got into real trouble. Other children were beaten up, and no one wanted to talk about it for fear of retaliation. Nor was this reported to be the only girl gang. While investigating who was involved, the authorities discovered through a tip that the Deans were involved in a brawl with a girl gang from Bismarck on the banks of the Heart River. The Bismarck police chief denied knowledge of an active girl gang in the city. However, he did mention that five girls had recently shown up at Bismarck High School with black nylon jackets, with “Th ‘Qs,’” or “The Queens,” printed on the back. He said that “club” was disbanded immediately by authorities.

On this date, the authorities in Mandan quashed the gang, before it could spread out again. Two of the girls, ages 13 and 15, were even sent to the State Training School until they were 21, and two more of the same age were sent to a correctional institution in Iowa.

With bullying so prominent in the news of late, it is perhaps important to remember that it can happen anywhere, at any time—a stone’s throw away from the Pink Ladies of Grease, even under auspices of celebrating a “Rebel Without a Cause”—and even in North Dakota.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


Mandan Daily Pioneer, November 10, 1958

Mandan Daily Pioneer, November 11, 1958


This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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