• September 15, 2019

1960s: Businesses, officials fight over right to be open Sundays - Ocean City Sentinel: News

1960s: Businesses, officials fight over right to be open Sundays

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Posted: Wednesday, September 11, 2019 12:16 pm

OCEAN CITY — Blue laws forbade stores and entertainments from operating on Sunday in Ocean City, a legislative throwback to the resort’s early days as a Christian summertime retreat.     

In the 1960s, the blue laws came under scrutiny from certain businessmen who believed their businesses could operate. 

The Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger reported on July 27, 1962, of local businessmen charged with violations of provisions of the Ordinance 110, the Ocean City Sunday closing ordinance.

The violators were Harry Anglemeyer, proprietor of the Copper Kettle Fudge Shop; Paul Friedel, proprietor of two boardwalk amusement arcades in the Boardwalk’s 900 and 1390 blocks; Myer Frank, operator of a similar business at 12th Street and the Boardwalk; and Julius Sannino, operator of a grocery store on Asbury Avenue. 

City Solicitor Josiah E. DuBois told the paper he didn’t want the four businessmen to further operate on Sundays, and asked his brother, Madison S. DuBois, a Camden attorney and the solicitor’s law partner, to fight a postponement of the case. 

DuBois said the city intends to enforce the Sunday closing ordinance.

DuBois indicated the city’s law department is geared to “prosecute any violators picked up by the police.”

The Ocean City Boardwalk Association moved for equitable city-wide enforcement of the ordinance or its amendment to permit Sunday opening by businesses after 1 p.m. 

Victor Bacon, proprietor of a gift shop in the 800 block of the Boardwalk, said he “found at least a dozen merchants and amusement operators along the ‘walk who not only will not open their stores but who want all boardwalk businesses closed.”

Bacon and Francis West, proprietor of the Fountainview Hotel and president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association, had signs printed for display in windows of shops, which favored closing on Sundays. 

“For centuries there has been a widespread belief that everyone needs one day a week for rest and relaxation, and the opportunity for closer association with families and friends,” the signs read. “Sunday traditionally has been considered that day. Out of respect for that tradition, this store will remain closed on Sunday.”

Bacon and West said the signs have been accepted with only a few exceptions by Boardwalk and Asbury Avenue merchants, the paper reported.

Bacon said other beach resorts on the Jersey shore have no restrictions on Sunday sales.

“If those merchants don’t like our way of life let them get out of here,” Bacon said. 

The paper reported that investigations for possible violations of the city’s Sunday closing ordinance were promised in all parts of the city. 

Acting Mayor B. Thomas Waldman said that there would be no “relaxation of the effort to bringing the entire city into line” with the ordinance.

“We will make no exceptions,” Waldman said, “but we naturally will look for willful violators first.” 

“Operators of amusement enterprises which charge admission apparently should keep their establishments tightly closed. Anything to which admission is charged is deemed ‘worldly’ and on the taboo list,” the Sentinel reported. “That is, everything but swimming pools. Yesterday City Solicitor Josiah E. DuBois announced that swimming pools (including pay pools) are therapeutic, not fun. Consequentially swimming pools can be open for business.” 

The Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger reported Aug. 10, 1962, that only four businessmen in all Ocean City could violate the provisions of the municipal Sunday closing law this Sunday and be certain they won’t be punished for it.

“Old 110,” the city’s official blue law now under attack by the Ocean City Better Civic Association, provides that “the repetition of any act prohibited in this ordinance on any day following such conviction shall be deemed a new offense.”

Anglemyer, Freidel, Frank and Sannino were all issued summonses charging them with the violations mentioned but their chance at being convicted in municipal court won’t come until long after the summer is over. According to DuBois, they can repeat their alleged violations until their cases are heard.

Cape May County Superior Court Judge George B. Francis heard oral arguments for and against issuing a temporary injunction forbidding the city to enforce Ordinance 110 until its constitutionality was decided.

Anglemeyer’s attorney, Alexander Blatt, asked for an injunction, noting his client was being threatened with “legal harassment.”

“Blatt, elaborating on the brief he had filed with the court, contended the blue law deprives his clients of their property rights and is therefore in violation of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution,” the paper reported. “His clients do not wish to interfere with any religious observance, Blatt noted, nor do they wish to see liquor or beer sold in the city.” 

Madison DuBois, brother of city solicitor Josiah DuBois, represented the city in the hearings. 

“DuBois said that merchants who are charged with violations of the ordinance can always defend themselves in municipal court or appeal if need be. He said it was untrue local businessmen could be ‘legally harassed’ by the city,” the paper reported. 

The Sentinel on Aug. 14, 1962, reported the potential legal challenges over the Sunday closing law and how it could be rewritten.

The Better Civic Association claimed the 44-year-old ordinance “merely by being challenged in the courts has suffered a blow from which it will never recover.”

“If a Superior Court judge next September rules the ordinance is null and void, the same verdict may be returned by appeal courts including the New Jersey Supreme Court and even the Supreme Court of the United States,” the paper reported. “But, if a Superior Court judge rules the ordinance is perfectly valid, then it will be necessary for city officials to enforce it to the letter. Even if they are still disposed to continue a ‘hands-off policy,’ the newly formed association won’t permit them to do so.” 

City officials believed they could not enforce an “all-out” enforcement policy until the court case is settled, according to the Sentinel.

“Since four individuals were handed summonses by city detectives close to a month ago, no more have been issued. Many businesses which closed for a Sunday or two weeks were wide open this Sunday,” the paper reported. “Detectives prowled through the city apparently checking on violators of the blue law, but as of late yesterday no summonses were issued.”

The newspaper opined that those who believe that strict enforcement of the ordinance lends to its quick collapse point out that thousands of housewives have broken the law by purchasing Sunday groceries.

According to the paper, a spokesman for the Better Civics Association said “under the terms of the ordinance there is no way of stopping Sunday entertainment or amusement provided no fee is charged, and that most of the present amusement enterprises are not even listed as forbidden.”

“Most of them were not even invented in 1918 when the ordinance was written,” the spokesman said. “You can’t forbid something before it exists. That’s ridiculous. Decent people are being forced to break an antique law.” 

The Sunday blue law sustained a preliminary defeat when Judge George A. Francis forbade the city from taking criminal proceedings against boardwalk merchants who, along with the Ocean City Better Civic Association, sought to overturn the law, the Ocean City Sentinel-Ledger reported Aug. 17, 1962.

Francis wrote that the court is warranted in enjoining criminal proceedings upon adequate circumstances, and the lateness of the season, the history of enforcement, and probable irreparable harm, indicate that interim relief heretofore granted should continue.

DuBois and  Blatt, attorney for the four businessmen, are “miles apart” in their interpretation of Francis’ order. 

“With the enjoinder, it appeared there would be even greater uncertainty this Sunday unless Blatt’s order makes it completely clear what business may operate and what may not,” the paper reported. “Until Anglemeyer was issued a summons this summer no businessman had been threatened with criminal action since the summer of 1948. Anglemeyer insisted at the time that the summons was issued to him ‘in reprisal for his leadership as president of the civic group which is trying to topple the blue law as unconstitutional, and arbitrary and capricious.’”

   Ordinance 110 came under scrutiny from businesses who criticized its provisions and what they claimed was “discriminatory enforcement.”

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