1920 Kalispell Ordinance: No Fun Allowed

Real Estate Broker/Owner with eXp Commercial, Referral Divison RRE-BRO-LIC-75443

I recently found an online directory of Kalispell City ordinances and thought it’d be intriguing to see what some of the ordinances of the past were. If I can find enough interesting material, I hope to share one from each year up until now. The last post covered the 1919 Kalispell ordinance that started the prohibition of alcohol. Residents still wanted to have fun, but this week's post covers ordinances from 1920 that seem to be designed to stop people from enjoying themselves.

The first one, ordinance #352 from March of 1920, covered dancing restrictions. The city council indicated that any person dancing in a dance hall between 12 midnight and 8 am on Sundays, or between 1 am and 8 am any other days will be guilty of the offense of "Unlawful Dance" and will be punished by up to a $200 fine, imprisonment of no more than a month, or by both. Why? Did watching other people's dance moves late at night make the watchers want to drink?

In August of the same year, ordinance #360 was passed. This one regulated soft drink establishments, pool rooms, rooming houses and restaurants. Basically, everyone who operated any of these facilities would have to obtain a license. Soft drink establishments and pool rooms would have to pay $5 license fee per quarter, and rooming houses and restaurants $2 per quarter. The Mayor could refuse to approve any application (and cancel any existing license) if he felt the business would not be run in an orderly or lawful manner. While this ordinance doesn't eliminate fun in its entirety it probably made it harder to open a restaurant, rooming house, pool hall or soft drink establishment. So less fun was being had by all.

And then the town council decided to add to the license rule late in the year with their ordinance number #361. This one said businesses who sell soft drinks and pool rooms and bowling alleys must be closed by 11pm and cannot open before 7am. Anyone found guilty of not following these rules was guilty of "Conducting a Business Unlawfully" and would be fined up to $300, imprisoned by up to a month or both. Yes, bowling at 6:59am could sure cause problems! ??

And then, also in December, the city decided that anyone under the age of 18 would not be allowed in a pool room or bowling alley. Doing so would result in being found guilty of "Misconduct towards Minors" and that could be punishable of a fine of up to $300, imprisonment for up to a month or both.

By the way, the average salary in 1920 was somewhere around $275/month. So a $300 fee was an entire month's salary. Quite the hefty fine for opening your business before 7am.

So in just the one year alone, a 17 year old could not enter a pool hall, most establishments that included any kind of fun had strict time frames for closing and licenses were required to make it difficult to open any kind of business that allowed fun. Phooey.

So the question is, what was being done late at night that made Kalispell decide businesses should be closed at that time? And what was happening in pool halls that resulted in no under 18 year olds being allowed there? Secret bootlegging maybe?

And there you have it, another blast from the past of Kalispell Montana. I wonder what I'll find the next time I peek into the Kalispell Ordinances?

As always if you have any real estate related questions, feel free to give me a call on 406-270-3667 or email me at kat@thehousekat.com.

Originally posted at thehousekat.comPhotos were a result of Kat's imagination and AI.

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Kalispell, Bigfork, Lakeside and Somers areas. 

Are you getting ready to sell or purchase land or a home in Kalispell  or the surrounding vicinity? Let’s talk!

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Comments (26)

Lawrence "Larry" & Sheila Agranoff. Cell: 631-805-4400
The Top Team @ Charles Rutenberg Realty 255 Executive Dr, Plainview NY 11803 - Plainview, NY
Long Island Condo and Home Specialists

Kat, The 1920 Kalispell City Council appears to have been comprised of individuals with conservative viewpoints. It's somewhat surprising to think about their existence in today's context.

Dec 05, 2023 05:21 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Lawrence "Larry" & Sheila Agranoff. Cell: 631-805-4400 - our area is still a fairly conservative one, but also seems to dislike regulations - so it's surprising to me that there were so many rules!

Dec 05, 2023 06:11 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Kat,

I love your series looking up past ordinances and what they were in Kalispell in the 1920's. They sure didn't seem to want people to have fun dancing....great exercise and keeps people smiling and enjoying life! Pretty hefty fines back then!!

Dec 05, 2023 05:36 AM
Kat Palmiotti

They were definitely big fines for 1920 Dorie Dillard Austin TX - and dancing? That sounds like a very healthy exercise to me!

Dec 05, 2023 06:10 AM
Jeffrey DiMuria 321.223.6253 Waves Realty
Waves Realty - Melbourne, FL
Florida Space Coast Homes

Hmmmm, I wonder if the movie Footloose was based off your town. That is just crazy.

Dec 05, 2023 06:20 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Jeffrey DiMuria 321.223.6253 Waves Realty - Right?

Dec 05, 2023 08:27 AM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Wow Kat, no bowling for kids under 18, I am sure that one is not on the books anymore.  I think I took my grandkids bowling when they were 8.

Dec 05, 2023 07:51 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Will Hamm -  I guess they had to pretend bowl outside with rocks or something. Crazy rules!

Dec 05, 2023 08:28 AM
Nina Hollander, Broker
Coldwell Banker Realty - Charlotte, NC
Your Greater Charlotte Realtor

Hi Kat... those were quite substantial fines for those days! The dancing rule, or should I say no dancing rule, was the best.

Dec 05, 2023 08:35 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Those were substantial fines, Nina Hollander, Broker - and I know, what's with the ban on dancing? Geez.

Dec 05, 2023 09:33 AM
George Souto
George Souto NMLS #65149 FHA, CHFA, VA Mortgages - Middletown, CT
Your Connecticut Mortgage Expert

Kat Palmiotti my dancing has on more than one occasion been referred to as "Unlawful Dancing".  🤪

Dec 05, 2023 08:51 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Haha, George Souto ! There's a fine associated with that!

Dec 05, 2023 09:32 AM
Leanne Smith
Dirt Road Real Estate - Golden Valley, AZ
The Grit and Gratitude Agent

The legislation of "moral conduct" is always interesting and appears to be a never ending source of revenue for governments.

Dec 05, 2023 08:58 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Since way back when Leanne Smith ! Thank you for your comment!

Dec 05, 2023 09:32 AM
Ed Silva, 203-206-0754
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

I can only imagine the number of heart attacks if some of those founding fathers were to take a trip forward in time to a dance club today. and watch those moves.

Dec 05, 2023 12:48 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Haha Ed Silva, 203-206-0754 - oh my gosh, so true!

Dec 05, 2023 03:10 PM
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Red Rock Real Estate (435) 632-9374 - St. George, UT
St. George Utah Area Residential Sales Agent

Looks like law & order was taken seriously there in Kalispell, Kat, back in the day. It's amazing what laws and rules came form the prohibition era, glad some were updated, especially dancing the night away and having a few occasional cocktails without being fined or locked up!

Dec 05, 2023 06:14 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can! - yep now we can dance and drink with no issues!

Dec 05, 2023 06:30 PM
Debe Maxwell, CRS
Savvy + Company (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC

Like, Endre Barath, Jr., those fines were quite hefty! $300 to sell soda before 7AM is crazy (but, who actually BUYS sodas before 7AM even now?!!) And, $200 not to dance? OH MY! Sounds like Montana was chock full of Southern Baptists (and/or Lutherans)!! LOL 

I love these old ordinances you share, Kat - so fascinating to think how simple life was back then too.

Dec 07, 2023 10:18 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Thank you for your comment, Debe Maxwell, CRS - I wonder! I should see if I can find any information on what religions the early Montanans were.

Dec 08, 2023 04:39 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Kat:

One could rack up a pretty hefty fine just for having some fun. It would have been fun to hear the discussions behind these ordinances and the "reasoning." Some of them seem pretty absurd at least by today's standards. But it was a fun read and look back at Kalispell history.


Dec 09, 2023 01:28 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Jeff Dowler, CRS - the next few years saw a few tweaks to the rules (like changing the times by an hour or so) but in general there were quite a few years where not much was happening in KalispelL!

Dec 10, 2023 04:44 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

Dec 09, 2023 07:08 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Thank you so much for including me Kathy Streib !

Dec 10, 2023 04:42 AM
Eileen Burns 954.483.3912
Trans State Commercial Realty Inc. - Fort Lauderdale, FL
FLorida Real Estate Connector

You are hysterical Kat Palmiotti with #352!  Spot on one, month's salary for an infraction.  Dig deeper as I believe it must have been bootlegging or maybe secret gold stations declaring your find!  Power gets to many who want to protect this status😎

Dec 10, 2023 08:31 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Haha Eileen Burns 954.483.3912 about #352. And yes, I bet you're right about the bootlegging or gold related reasons.

Dec 10, 2023 09:12 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

Thank you very much, Kat, for sharing these interesting regulations.

Some of our current HOA restrictions are almost as bad.

Dec 10, 2023 01:12 PM
Kat Palmiotti

I'll bet they are Roy!

Dec 10, 2023 06:17 PM
Bob "RealMan" Timm
Ward County Notary Services - Minot, ND
Owner of Ward Co Notary Services retired RE Broker

I would bet that you nailed it with the bootlegging Kat Palmiotti WAIT!!! I probably would be arrested for betting by saying that, right 😉 . Thanks to Kathy Streib for sending me over here.

Dec 10, 2023 05:24 PM
Kat Palmiotti

haha, Bob "RealMan" Timm - even mentioning bootlegging would probably get you arrested!

Dec 10, 2023 06:17 PM
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Realty - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Hi Kat Palmiotti - I always enjoy reading about the ordinances to see what was in people's minds 100 years ago.  But this one leaves me scratching my head.  

Besides bootlegging,  the people in power may have been an extremely religious sect that looked at having fun as a sin...  just guessing!   

Dec 11, 2023 10:22 AM
Kat Palmiotti

That could be Sheri Sperry - MCNE®  - I just don't know!

Dec 11, 2023 10:31 AM
Reputable Realty - Apple Valley, CA
...Marketing your home like no one else will.

Sending this to my Montana family!  There are going to keel over in laughter.

Dec 11, 2023 12:27 PM
Kat Palmiotti

That would be great KAREN SANCHEZ !

Dec 11, 2023 01:51 PM
Charita Cadenhead
eXp Realty - Birmingham, AL
Serving Jefferson and Shelby Counties (Alabama)

"Yes, bowling at 6:59am could sure cause problems! ??"  This was the part that had me let out a very audible laugh. Boy oh boy, the things that come across people's minds, then and now.  I think we can contribute a lot of it to having far too much time on their hands.  Which if you're a city council person I don't even know how that's possible. Thank you so much for this laugh Kat.

Dec 14, 2023 11:54 AM
Kat Palmiotti

Haha, Charita Cadenhead - you're welcome. Thank you for your comment!

Dec 14, 2023 12:34 PM
Steffy Hristova
HomeSmart Elite Group Tempe AZ Tel: 602.710.8161 - Tempe, AZ
Tempe AZ Realtor - Your Home Close to Your Work!

Hi Kat,

Thanks for sharing this interesting piece of history. there is so much we can learn about old times from reading old documents. I would not know where to look for them, though. I sometimes attend the presentations of the Tempe History society and love the stories they share.

Dec 15, 2023 07:23 PM
Kat Palmiotti

Steffy Hristova 

It looks like Tempe's online ordinances only go back until 2018, so not a lot of online history there! 


Dec 16, 2023 04:33 AM
John Juarez
The Medford Real Estate Team - Fremont, CA

Times were different. Someone or some people felt they had to be the moral watchdogs of others.

Dec 16, 2023 04:31 PM
Kat Palmiotti

John Juarez - that didn't work out too well!

Dec 16, 2023 05:43 PM