Purchasing soft drinks with your dinner at your local restaurant could land the server in jail for a few days. At least that is what the law says.
While times have changed, a handful of ordinances have not in Rexburg. City officials confirmed the following ordinances are still active; however, they are not often, if ever, enforced. These laws are also listed at rexburg.org under its ordinance tab.
A post this past month, in the I <3 Life in Rexburg Facebook page, shed light on one of these ordinances, established by the City Council over a 100 years ago.
To be sure, Rexburg is not alone in having laws that once served a purpose, becoming outdated, but never leaving the books. Entire websites, such as dumblaws.com and stupidlaws.com list scores of purported such laws.
In 1948 Pocatello Mayor George Phillips passed a ordinance making it illegal not to smile. Now known as the “Smile Ordinance” Phillips hoped to bring some light to the comunity during a severe winter.
Here are some of the laws in Rexburg that once served a purpose, that no longer are enforced but that you may have violated:
Ordinance 87 – No bowling for minors
According to the city’s website, “An ordinance making it unlawful for proprietors, operators or owners of bowling alleys, billiard tables or pool tables or allow or permit minors under the age of eighteen years, or for such minors to play any of said games or sit or frequent places where such games are played, and providing a penalty for the violation thereof.”
Mayor Eli McEntire and the city council passed and approved this ordinance on Jan. 23, 1905. Those found in violation of this ordinance would be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, once convicted, are fined in no excess of $25 and will be held in police custody until the fine is paid.
According to the book Rexburg, Idaho: The First One Hundred Years, 1883-1983, the issue of youth bowling came from Ezra Christiansen Dalby, former principal of Ricks Academy, who felt the youth community wasted too much time in establishments like bowling alleys and saloons.
“As long as they (bowling alleys) are licensed by the city, and keep within the law, their business is legitimate,” Dalby wrote. “The thing to do is to provide something better for those who patronize them. Preaching is all right. Encouraging the young to stay away from these places is all very well, but putting something good in the place of them is much better.”
His solution was to build a library where the youth could spend their time reading books and further their education.
Ordinance 141 – Soft drinks not permitted for sale after 12 p.m.
According to the city’s website, “An ordinance declaring all places within the City of Rexburg where intoxicating liquors are sold, bartered or given away in violation of law, or where idle or dissolute persons are permitted to congregate for the purpose of drinking intoxicating liquors to become nuisances; to regulate cigar stores, billiard and pool halls soft drink stores and places, restaurants and other like places of business, and to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors in the city of Rexburg.”
Mayor Thomas E. Ricks and the city council approved this ordinance on June 14, 1910. The ordinance prevents the opening of bars in city limits, however, there are other restrictions in place by this law:
“Selling or dealing in soft drinks or bottled goods, shall close or cause to be closed, such place or places of business at the hour of 12 o’clock p.m. and keep the same so closed until the hour of 6 o’clock a.m.”
Those found guilty of selling soft drinks during prohibited hours are deemed guilty of an offense and, upon conviction, will be punished by a fine not less than $75 and additional fees and not more than $100 and additional fees. Individuals also found guilty, “shall be imprisoned in the city jail one day for each one and one half dollars of the fine and costs.”
The ordinance was passed to prevent “speakeasies” from being established in the city concealed as soft drink establishments, according to Rexburg, Idaho: the first one hundred years, 1883-1983.
Ordinance 175 – No dancing
According to the city’s website, “An ordinance providing for the prohibition of immoral dances known as, Ragging, Tango, Bunny Hug, Texas Tommy, Turks Trot, Three Step, Grizzly bear, or any other immoral dance or performance, vulgar in its nature, within the corporate limits of The City of Rexburg, and holding any owner, proprietor, lessee or person conducting such dance or performance or any person engaging therein, responsible therefor, making the same a misdemeanor and providing a penalty for the same.”
Ordinance 175 was approved on Jan. 3, 1914, by Mayor Robert G. Archibald and the city council. Those in violation of this law “shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor if he, she, or they, allow or permits any of the dances or conduct prohibited in section one of this ordinance to be engaged in such hall or other place of amusement and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined in any sum not less than $5.00 nor more than $50.00.”
It also states each violation is deemed a separate offense.
According to the City of Rexburg, an ordinance is a law passed by a municipal government. Rexburg has the power to enact these ordinances for the public safety, health, morals and general welfare of its citizens.
Rexburg was settled in the late 1800s under the direction of leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The values and morals of the community followed standards set by teachings of the Church, creating what many would call unusual laws even for the times.