Our Founding Fathers intentionally made it difficult to pass state laws. After all, who wants their lives to be ruled by an excessive number of things they aren’t allowed to do? And who knows when a law might, after a number of years, become completely irrational?
While some state laws passed decades or even centuries ago may appear to have been intended as a joke, they reflect public standards held at the time they were enacted. In 2018, it would seem unlikely for there to still be laws on the books that are clearly obsolete. Unlikely but not impossible. Surprisingly, in every state, quite a few ridiculous laws still linger.
In South Carolina, on the off chance that you might want to fire a missile, you must first procure a written permit from the Aeronautics Division of the Department of Commerce. Want to change clothes at a gas station? In Myrtle Beach, you must first obtain permission from the station owner. And if you own a horse, you had better find a proper place to keep it. It’s against the law to use your bathtub as a stable.
Some laws fall into the “obvious” category, but just in case, here are two important ones to remember. Pedestrians are not allowed to run in front of a car. And if you’re thinking about driving a car on a sidewalk, forget it. In the Palmetto State, you are required to use the road. Period.
While numerous state laws technically exist, many of them are not really enforced and visionary public officials in a few counties, including Charleston, have voted to repeal the outdated ones. But not too long ago, at least some these laws were a part of everyday life.
Some days of the week have drawn tougher laws than others. For instance, blue laws were established to prohibit certain behaviors on Sundays, because it was considered to be a holy day of rest and a time to attend church. Although many people no longer follow strict Sabbath rules, some blue laws are still enforced today. Have you tried to visit a liquor store on Sunday?
Here’s one that will surely raise some eyebrows: Husbands could beat their wives, but only on Sunday and only on the steps of the courthouse.
When it came to women, many antiquated laws were passed in the late 1800s and early 1900s aimed at protecting them from getting too much attention or establishing a less than sterling reputation. In Cleveland, Ohio, a city ordinance prohibited women from wearing patent leather shoes in public. It was thought that the shiny leather would bring undo attention to the ladies. In some parts of the country, looking good can be costly. Still on the books but not enforced, women in Florida can be fined for falling asleep under a dryer in a hair salon. And if you are a single, divorced or unwed woman looking for an adrenaline rush from parachuting, consider going somewhere other than Florida, especially if it’s Sunday.
Towns and counties can vote to repeal some outdated laws and have been doing so over the last 20 years or more, but many strange laws remain on the books in South Carolina. In Lancaster, it’s illegal to dance in public. In Spartanburg, it’s against the law to eat watermelon in the Magnolia Street Cemetery. The origins of this law stem from the train station located nearby. People who were changing trains would buy watermelon from a vendor and go to the cemetery to sit on the headstones and eat, leaving the fruit rinds and seeds scattered around. To fix the problem, it became a law that the sweet but somewhat messy fruit was forbidden inside the churchyard.
In South Carolina, you can be fined for not denouncing “the evils of intemperance” on the fourth Friday of every October. Getting a tattoo is legal but still considered an offense. When approaching a four-way or blind intersection in a non-horse-driven vehicle, you must stop 100 feet from the intersection and discharge a firearm into the air to warn horse traffic – or maybe to scare horse traffic away.
While South Carolina has some laws that are hard to believe, the Palmetto State pales in comparison to some laws elsewhere. In Texas, it’s against the law to sell your eyeballs. In Rhode Island, a toothbrush and toothpaste may not be sold to a customer at the same time. If you think needing a permit to fire a missile in South Carolina is strange, in Wyoming you must get a permit to take a picture of a rabbit between the months of January and April.
And, finally, a law in the state of Washington proclaims that you can be arrested for harassing Big Foot. That’s one the people who make the Jack Links commercials obviously are ignoring.
Many of these laws are left over from a bygone era, but they are fun to talk about – most likely not on Sunday, however.
By Diane Pauldine