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Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

Back not that long ago there simply were things that could not be purchased on Sunday.  In some areas this still exists, but only regarding the sale of alcohol.  For example, in some places no alcohol in any manner can be sold on a Sunday, in others restaurants can offer it but not package stores, in still others only beer can be had on a Sunday, and in many there are no restrictions on the sale of alcohol.

In Arkansas, until comparatively recently, there were LOTS of things that could not be offered for sale on Sunday under pain of prosecution.  This was not confined to Arkansas, but it seems to have lasted longer there than in many places.

For a long time, it was illegal to operate a movie theater on Sunday.  That remained a long time in Fort Smith, then the revenues not realized became greater than the fines, so the theater operators would show motion pictures on Sunday and pay the fine on Monday, the fine being considered just as another cost of doing business.

The authorities finally changed the law to make it legal to open theaters of Sunday, both because the fines were nominal anyway and also because they had the wisdom to realize that keeping laws on the books that people just ignored was not consistent with good governance, causing otherwise law abiding citizens to make a conscious choice to ignore a law.  Colorado and Washington made wise decisions last fall to take steps towards legalizing Cannabis, for the same reason.

But this is supposed to be about Sunday sales restrictions when I was growing up, also know as Blue Laws.  Some of the prohibitions were downright bizarre, and almost all of them were quite arbitrary.  I am working strictly from memory here, and since I was pretty young for much of that time and thus did not do the shopping, I may get it wrong now and then, but I believe that this is pretty accurate.

Newspapers were allowed to be sold on Sunday, but not magazines or books.  So you could get a copy of the Southwest American (the morning edition of the paper) or the Fort Smith Times-Record (the afternoon edition) if you could find a place open.  In Hackett nothing was open, but at the time we had real paperboys who delivered them.  In Fort Smith you could get them at grocery stores and the like.

Food was OK to sell, either at restaurants or at grocery stores.  Once again, in Hackett you were just out of luck because, once again, nothing was open.  This became sort of problematic at times, though.  Cleaning supplies, personal hygiene products, and similar items were OK, too, so you could get things like soap, paper towels and napkins, and the like.

Now here is one of the bizarre situations.  Since personal hygiene products were legal to sell, you could buy sanitary napkins on Sunday.  But garment sales were forbidden, so if you did not have the belt device to use with the sanitary napkins, you could not buy one.  Go figure!

You could buy gasoline and oil on Sunday, but not auto parts.  If you blew a tire on Sunday, if you did not have a spare you were out of luck until the next day.  In Hackett you could not even buy gasoline because all of the stations (BOTH of them!) were closed.  That was not such of a problem in Fort Smith, since more places were open, but you still could not get a battery or a tire or such.

These laws were enforced fairly rigorously through the 1960s, and then, little by little, enforcement began to slack off a bit.  Mass merchandisers like K-Mart and later Wal-Mart had a good deal of influence on seeing to that, but only in the larger towns where those stores operated.  Most stores were simply closed on Sunday, except for restaurants, grocery stores, and some gasoline outlets.

It was not anything like today, were there seems to be a convenience store on every corner, many of which are open around the clock every day (I disdain the term "24/7").  Hackett literally shut down on Sunday until I was a great big kid, like 16 or so, and Bill Fields (a friend of my father) opened the first real convenience store in Hackett.  That would be around 1972 or 1973.  Bill sold gasoline, food, and sundries and by that time the Blue Laws were losing their teeth, either from lack of enforcement or repeal.

Even though the laws themselves were not a real factor after that, the traditions that sprang from them stayed with us for a long, long time.  I remember in 1978, just after the former Mrs. Translator and I moved to Fayetteville for college, we were in need of a couple of hardware items to do some repair work on our mobile home (OK, it was a trailer).  No hardware stores were open, and Wal-Mart was a pretty good drive.  I started calling around and found a Coast-to-Coast Hardware store that operated inside of the IGA grocery store not far from us and we went there for our little supplies.  As I was talking with the hardware person, he told us that technically they should not be selling hardware on Sunday, but that they had not had any flak from law enforcement about it in several years.

I have not the time to root around and see if the statures were repealed, overturned by the courts, or just are no longer enforced in Arkansas.  Maybe betwixt now and next week I shall have a bit of time to look into that aspect a bit more.  I got a late start today writing, so and sort of hurrying to finish.

The difference from then and now is like night and day.  Now, almost all stores are open on Sunday (here in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky it is not legal to sell alcohol in any form on Sunday, at least for off premises consumption, and I do not know about restaurant sales because I never drink alcohol when I am going to drive, not even a single beer) except for the few that choose not to be, like Chic-Fil-A and a few local retail outlets.

Back when I was little entire towns would shut down on Sunday, like Hackett did, and even in larger ones most stores were closed.  Remember, stores like the big department stores such as Sears and Penney sold things that were not legal on Sunday, so they just stayed closed until the early 1970s.  Now Sunday is a prime shopping day because many people are off work then and have the time to shop on Sunday.  Personally, I think that it is up to store management to determine the operational hours and the products that are legal to be sold, not any government interaction, provided that the products are legal to be sold at all.

The Blue Laws are, except for alcohol sales (and, oddly, in several states, car sales and hunting, of all things!) are a quaint, distant memory of the days when the United States was dancing with theocracy not all that long ago.  On the other hand, I think that it is a human right for workers, with a few exceptions, to have the assurance of at least one day per week off so that they can take care of their own business, worship as they chose to do (or choose NOT to do), partake in recreation, or just plain rest.  However, with judicious scheduling is it possible to accommodate those rights and also accommodate the realities of a modern society.

That about does it tonight.  I realize that this is sort of rambling, but as I said earlier, I got a late start.  I shall be available to answer comments, and they are always welcome, as are tips and recs!  I would like to hear from those of you who remember Blue Laws from your childhood (or even later, since the last state to allow department stores to operate on Sunday, Maine, did not repeal that law until 1990), and I know that other readers enjoy to hear what you have to say as well.

As a matter of interest I posit the following question.  Would it have been legal to write (or more precisely, post) a blog on Sunday under the old laws?  Would a blog be considered more like a newspaper or a magazine or book?  I do not intend this as just an amusement, but rather as a tool for us to get our 21st century arms wrapped around the mindset that was almost universal in the US in the middle of the 20th century.

I am going to attempt to be more conscientious in writing my regular posts this new year.  The plan is to continue the Popular Culture series this coming Friday with a third installment about The Electric Light Orchestra, this time about their almost forgotten third album, titled interestingly enough, On the Third Day.  On Sunday the plan is to complete my Pique the Geek two part series about the chemical element magnesium.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette,

Docudharma, and


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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips and recs for (15+ / 0-)

    remembering distant memories?

    Warmest regards,


    I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

    by Translator on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:59:50 PM PST

    •  Thank everyone for this making (0+ / 0-)

      the Recommend List.  But remember, it is not allowed for any of us to add that to our tags under penalty of banishment, but thank everyone for the kind thoughts!

      Warmest regards,


      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 03:08:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  When a diary is on the Rec List (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        trillian, Translator

        ...the tag is added automatically. If this diary were on the list, it would have a tag. That's why we no longer have to add our own, because it's automatic.

        The reason this diary doesn't have a tag is because it's not on the Rec List.

        Hope this helps clear up any misunderstanding about tags.
        I haven't yet seen a failure of the automatic "Recommend" tag.

        •  But when I LOOK UP this piece (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          it does appear there.  Do it yourself, and you will find it there.  Not with that tag, but on the rec list.


          I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

          by Translator on Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 09:14:36 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Where are you looking it up? (0+ / 0-)

            I'd like to look too. I usually look at the front page "Recommended List"...diaries that are on that list also remain on the "Recent Diaries" list. Help me figure this out!

            •  Rec List (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              What most people mean by "Rec List" as in "I made the Rec List!" is the front page Rec List. What this diarist appears to mean by Rec List is the list of the several hundred diaries that have received a rec in the last 48 or so hours. If you want to see that list go to the bottom of the front page rec list and select next. The list goes on and on and includes many diaries that received only one rec.

              I am not really sure what the criteria are for ordering the rec list. I would guess it prefers more recent to older and would more highly rate a diary that receives 9 recs in its first 5 minutes over one that accumulates the same number over 48 hours. Obviously, (well obviously not to some), not all of these diaries should be tagged with the Recommended tag.  Otherwise that tag would be fairly meaningless. There is no reason a diary with a handful of recommends should get the same tag as one with hundreds of recommends as is often the case for most FP rec list diaries. Once a diary scrolls high enough to make the FP rec list it seems to get the tag which it then appears to keep even if it scrolls off the FP fairly quickly.

              Don't know for sure...just some observations. Not sure why anyone would care.

              If you want something other than the obvious to happen; you've got to do something other than the obvious. Douglas Adams

              by trillian on Fri Jan 11, 2013 at 05:32:57 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Everything was closed on Sundays (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, Otteray Scribe, mama jo

    when I was little and I grew up just outside of Detroit.

    I remember my dad washing the car and filling it with gas every Saturday for Sunday mass because gas stations were closed.

    My dad always stopped at a newspaper box to buy a Sunday paper after mass.

    I remember the times that my mom would need milk or bread or whatnot and my dad drove us all to the grocery store on Saturday - it wasn't a normal thing but it did happen.

    I don't know if any restaurants were open as we never went out to eat.

    I remember the first McDonald's opening about 5 miles away and seem to recall that by then stores and gas stations and everything was open on Sundays.

    Also remember the first strip mall and regular mall opening and how relieved my mom was when they opened the stores on Sundays.
    It gave us something to do after church.
    My older brother would drive us to the store while my dad stayed home and worked in the yard or watched Sunday football.

    I sort of miss those days.
    I know they say we romanticize the past, but I sort of miss them days because things seemed simpler and more innocent.

    •  Thank you for your recollections! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      arizonablue, matching mole

      That is what this series is all about, really.  Notice how deft I was in not ending a sentence with a dangling preposition!  LOL!

      Things were more simple then, but this is now.  If we attempt to retrograde, all of the progress (and I personally think that things are better in 2013 than they were in 1973 in most ways), we lose almost all of the progress.  Think of how things were in 1973:

      Yellow, brown, and black people had almost no rights.  GLBT folks were universally hated and in many cases hunted down for sport.  Nixon was President (although he was so progressive by modern Republican standards now that he would not have a chance of election, ask me more if you are intrigued, but I still have more disdain than admiration for him).  There were no Tubes!

      Warmest regards,


      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:34:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        We can never go back, even though it seems as though the Republicans want to take us back to the 19th century!

        I enjoy reading your diaries, Translator, and look forward to more!

        Hope you have a wonderful night!

        All we need is LOVE!

        by arizonablue on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:41:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I really appreciate your (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          frosti, arizonablue

          very, very kind words.  Your observation about the Republicans, the former Party of the very progressive Lincoln, is quite apt.

          I shall try to keep writing, as long as I draw breath.

          Warmest regards,


          I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

          by Translator on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:47:57 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  my cousin and I were talking about (3+ / 0-)

    this just the other day, relative to how to predict when we should expect customers at our little store. She's  60, I'm 44, and we realized most of our assumption about Sunday customers were based on our own experiences in west Texas in the 60's and 70's.

    When we were young, and that spans about a generation's difference, much of what you described was accurate. We hadn't really processed how much things had changed since- not just the Blue laws in decline, but fewer churchgoers, multiple Sunday church services, weekend traveling patterns, among others.

    Thanks for discussing this- we're still exploring the causes of the ebb and flow of our customers, and it will be interesting to continue that conversation with her, adding some of the information you've brought to mind.

    Anyone who scoffs at happiness needs to take their soul back to the factory and demand a better one. -driftglass

    by postmodernista on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:39:13 PM PST

    •  I am glad that I was able to (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      postmodernista, arizonablue

      get you two thinking and talking.  That is my function here, just to get a conversation started.

      You will never figure out the ebb and flow, and I love that term, because there are too many random factors.  But you will get the major parts of it and adjust your business appropriately.

      Warmest regards,


      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:43:59 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  In Ontario, Canada mandatory Sunday closings (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, mama jo, arizonablue

    persisted until the 1980s.  Restaurants, gas stations and corner stores, and any kind of entertainment facility opened on Sunday but all other retail establishments were not allowed to open.  It seemed very normal at the time but is unimaginable in our world of 24 hour access.  Banks were only open 6 hours a day, five days a week and if you wanted cash you had to physically go to the bank.

    Back in the 1950s Ontario was a pretty religious place but the time I was in my teens in the 1970s it was a much more cosmopolitan place.  My memory is that the pressure for allowing Sunday shopping was resisted by unions. I do kind of miss the idea of a time in the week when the pace of modern life slows down a bit.

    "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

    by matching mole on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:55:18 PM PST

    •  Thank you for reading and commenting! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Yes, simpler days but not necessarily better ones, just different.

      You make an interesting observation about banks, which are almost devoid of real people now with the rise of the evil ATM.  I like going to the bank, and talking with the people there.  I would much rather cash a check or make a deposit with real people helping me than a damned machine!  I must sound like Dr. McCoy from Star Trek, "Dammit, Jim, the machines are just not human!"

      I do agree with you that a slowdown for individuals is important, but it is not possible for that slowdown to be coordinated with a single day of the week any more.

      Warmest regards,


      I would rather die from the acute effects of a broken heart than from the chronic effects of an empty heart. Copyright, Dr. David W. Smith, 2011

      by Translator on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 07:03:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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