Elmore City, Oklahoma, United States

Town that banned dancing for 80+ years inspired Footloose

At "the buckle" of the Bible Belt, Elmore City, OK (pop. 653) had no movie houses, no bars and 1 tiny liquor store. Dancing was banned from its founding in 1898.

Saturday Night Fever (1977) then inspired Elmore City High School (100 N Muse Ave) students in February 1980, to request the ban be lifted, sparking a debate as intense as that for gun control.

On one side stood class President Rex Kennedy, 17, desiring a prom.

On another side stood Rev F.R. Johnson of the United Pentecostal Church and locals who believed dancing would increase high school pregnancies.

“No good has ever come from a dance," shouted Rev. Johnson. “If you have a dance somebody will crash it and they’ll be looking for only two things—women and booze. When boys and girls hold each other, they get sexually aroused. You can believe what you want, but one thing leads to another.”

One local predicted a rise in pregnancies caused by dancing, stating for the record, “because when boys and girls breathe in each other’s ears, that’s the next step.”

School superintendent Dale Kirby, staying in the middle, suggested parental supervision: "There are only two things that can control them—Momma and Daddy.”

The school board approved the prom by a narrow 3-2 vote.

Lester Elmore, 86, grandson of the town’s founder came back for the prom in full support, traveling from Alamogordo (NM).

Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin was the theme song.

Lacking practice dancing, most guys and gals preferred the slow songs.

This story would inspire Fame (1980)'s Oscar-winning lyricist Dean Pitchford to write the screenplay for Footloose (1984) which became the highest-grossing film for February in film history after its release Feb 17, 1984.

He also co-wrote every song on the soundtrack which produced 4 Top 40 songs. The album hit #1 bumping Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Town that banned dancing for 80+ years inspired Footloose