1929 Kalispell Ordinances: Prohibiting Disorderly Houses
I recently found an online directory of Kalispell City ordinances and thought it would be intriguing to see what some of the ordinances of the past were. The last post covered a 1928 ordinance about fire access to basement. This one is from 1929. There were only three ordinances put in place during that entire year. One was the annual appropriations, one dealt with driving rules, and the final one was about prohibiting disorderly houses, which is the one reviewed here.
Ordinance #420, effective July 29, 1929, dealt with “disorderly houses.” What comes to mind when you hear that term? I immediately thought people were leaving trash outside their homes and that was going to be some kind of misdemeanor. Nope, here’s the text of the ordinance.
“Section 642, Disorderly Houses. No person shall be an inmate of, or shall keep or maintain within the limits of this city a disorderly house or place, or permit or suffer to come together at such house or place persons of evil name or fame, or suffer to be committed at any house or place kept or maintained by him or them, any loud or unnatural noise, singing, playing, or dancing of a kind and nature offensive or annoying to passerby or to the neighborhood.”
There are no penalties identified in the ordinance.
So what does this mean?
Forget that it’s a run-on sentence that is somewhat confusing to read! If you take out the words inmate or evil, it sounds as though all they are saying is that making a lot of noise and bothering pedestrians and other homes is a no-no.
But add all the words in, and it becomes more confusing.
To start with the definition of “inmate.” Currently, the definition is “a person confined to an institution such as a prison or hospital.” The archaic definition is “a person who dwells with others in the same house.” An archaic definition though is supposed to be “extremely” old so in this case, the first definition is probably the right one.
With that in mind, it sounds as if the ordinance is saying you cannot confine a person in a disorderly house. But what then, is a disorderly house?
The ordinance seems to say a disorderly house is one where the inhabitants are annoying other people with their loud music, dancing and “evil” partying. So were Kalispellans of the 1920s swiping people off the street and throwing them in a boisterous house against their will?
I think not.
I’m thinking this 1929 ordinance means you cannot (should not?) live in a home where there is a lot of noise that is bothering the neighbors. But there are no listed consequences if you do.
So once again, I’m wondering, “What were they thinking?” Maybe there was one person causing issues and this ordinance was an attempt just to deal with them? I am left wondering.
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