Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What was the price of public urination circa 1900?

Town ByLaws & Fees, . 2015

Just recently the town of Tabor, Alberta consolidated a group of old bylaws and added some new ones. For example the law declares you can't spit, swear or scream in public. The fee for the first offense would cost $150 and a second offense could set you back $250. For spitting in public you'd pay a $75 fine.

This isn't a new concept. Many locations have similar rules about fighting, assembly, spitting and
Notary Seal, circa 1900
public urination. And they go back a long time. However prices for the offenses have gone way up. My mother, who had heard the following story of a public urination incident from her father, repeated it often in her repertoire of family stories.

Civil Court Case, circa 1900

Sherbrook Hotel circa 1900
Prior to the WW1 my grandfather was the Justice of the Peace in Sherbrook, Nova Scotia. He assisted the circuit court Judge in legal matters and presided over civil cases.

Like many small towns, the local hotel had a bar. One evening a gentlemen I will call Mr. Smith was enjoying beverages at said bar. Beer affected him the same it does most of us, and later in the evening he went outside. Deciding the outhouse was too far away, he picked a shaded spot beside the wall and relieved himself.

Unfortunately for him, the two spinster sisters in town were returning home from a prayer meeting. They witnessed his indiscretion and reported him. In due course, Mr. Smith came before the Court and pleaded guilty. My grandfather had searched his law books and town by-laws and fined Mr. Smith a nickle for public urination.

Mr. Smith marched over to the Clerk of the Court and slapped down a quarter. Turning on his heel, he stomped toward the back of the court.

The Clerk called after him.. "Mr. Smith don't you want your change?"

With one hand on the swinging door, he turned back and bellowed his response. "Keep it. I farted too." 

Oral story telling was the first way of keeping track of events. Our family has numerous stories told over the generations. My mother wrote many of them down and story tellers - oral and written - populate our family tree. 

Does your family have stories that have been passed down through the generations? Please share if you'd like.


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