City codes reflected small-town concerns

Keith Barnes

Several years ago, former Wilson mayor Ralph El-Ramey presented me with a copy of a book titled “Code of the City of Wilson N.C. – 1952 ” that contained various ordinances and regulations.

Ralph said I would enjoy it, and he was right.

Listed below is a sampling of actual items from the book I thought readers might also find interesting or entertaining.

Although the entries concern my hometown of Wilson, they could easily have applied to any small town circa 1952.

Each one could be discussed in detail, but it might be more fun if you provide your own comments.

• All business buildings in the city shall be rat-proofed and maintained in rat-free condition under the direction of the health officer.

• Anyone selling bowie knives, daggers, slingshots or brass knuckles in the city shall pay an annual license fee of $200.

• Every person who receives a reward for telling or pretending to tell fortunes in the city shall pay an annual license tax of $500.

• It is unlawful for any person while riding a bicycle to hold onto a moving automobile, truck or other vehicle.

• It is unlawful for the operator of a bicycle on city streets to carry another person on the handlebar, frame or other part of such bicycle.

• No person shall exhume any dead body buried in the cemeteries except by permission of the cemetery.

• No person shall take fish from the lake in Maplewood Cemetery without permission of the cemetery.

• No person except a member of the fire department shall ride on any fire apparatus either going to or returning from a fire without permission.

• Every physician in the city shall report to the health officer in writing the full name, age and address of every person suffering from scarlet fever, diphtheria, epidemic cholera, typhoid fever, measles, plague, tuberculosis, chicken pox and whooping cough within 24 hours after the disease is diagnosed.

• No person shall create a nuisance or allow a nuisance to remain on his lot 12 hours after notice from the health officer to remove such nuisance.

Nuisances are defined to include dead animals, stagnant water, decayed vegetables and fruits, filthy privies (outdoor toilets), stables or anything causing offensive odors.

• It is unlawful for any person to deface, tamper with, open, willfully break, destroy or impair any parking meter.

• The solicitation of alms, known as “begging” on streets or in other public places within the city is prohibited unless the mayor, in worthy and meritorious cases, issues written permits in the names of the applicants.

• Any person who shall keep a house of ill fame (brothel) or who shall knowingly rent any house to be used as such or who, after being duly notified by the chief of police, such house is being occupied as such and refuses to remove said occupants shall be fined $25 for each adult person living in such house.

• All open-air entertainments, street shows, expositions, Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds shall close at 11 p.m.

• No person shall store or keep at any place within 100 yards of any building more than 25 pounds of gunpowder, nitroglycerine or other dangerous explosive substance.

• No person operating a theater or moving picture show in the city shall sell a greater number of tickets than there are seats provided for the accommodation of patrons for any performance.

• It shall be unlawful for any fish truck or fish-bearing vehicle to drain water from such vehicle within the city unless such drainage is directly into the city sewer system.

• It shall be unlawful for any person to allow horses, mules, cows, cattle, hogs, goats or fowl including chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys to run at large within the city.

• No person shall slaughter any animal within the city.

• No person shall drive any animal through the streets without a bridle.

• Each person engaged in the operating of a billiard parlor in the city shall pay an annual license tax of $25 for each table unless it is a fraternal organization having a national charter like American Legion or Young Men’s Christian Association.

• No vehicle shall stop in any street except for parking, unless such stop is made necessary by the approach of fire apparatus or a funeral procession.

• Every person engaged in the business of selling prepared food or sandwiches such as in drug stores or service stations shall pay an annual license tax of $2.50.

• It is unlawful for any driver of a motor vehicle to cut across the sidewalk and through the driveway of any gasoline service station to avoid a red traffic light.

• It is unlawful to engage in any playful conduct or run while in the grandstand at Fleming Memorial Stadium.

Keith Barnes is a reporter and columnist for the Johnstonian News. Email him at kbarnes.jhn@wilsontimes.com.

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