1913 Kalispell Ordinance: Pool Halls
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 at least one ordinance from each year. This week’s post will actually cover two 1913 Kalispell ordinances, both dealing with pool halls.
Ordinance #279 and 280 were both approved on April 7, 1913. Together they stated that any business which has a pool table, billiard table or bagatelle table must be closed between 12 midnight and 6am. In addition, the same businesses were prohibited from using blinds, screens, curtains, shutters, painted or colored glass in, upon, or in front of the business. Anyone defying the first order about the hours of operation would be fined between $5-50 and/or put in jail for up to ten days. For the use of screens, etc, the fine was $10-50 and /or up to 10 days of jail.
So these ordinances beg the question, “Why?” Regarding the rules about the hours, that could have been because as thebilliardshop.com site indicates, by the “1920s the poolroom was an environment in which men gathered to loiter, smoke, fight, bet and play.” So it’s quite possible pool halls were closed at midnight because the town was tired of people drinking, fighting and probably taking it out to the streets.
As to the second ordinance above, putting curtains, panels or anything in front of the door or window was not allowed. I suspect that is not because the town was against art, but because they wanted to see what was going on in the pool halls or other establishments at all times. Western saloons often included billiards and pool tables. They also often included saloon and dance hall girls who contrary to popular opinion were not typically prostitutes. Instead their job was usually to brighten up the lonely men by singing, dancing and talking to them while inducing them to stay in the bar spending money on drinks and games. Of course, misbehavior could have gone on anyway, so ensuring a sheriff wandering by could see into the establishment must have been desired.
That’s what I think those rules mean. What do you think?
By the way, businesses with pool tables no longer have to close by midnight, and in 2023 whatever rules exist for other businesses in terms of panels and curtains would be also true of billiard establishments!
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?
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