Looking Back – Changes and Memories

By Betty Lou Gaeng/For Lynnwood Today

This is a different column than the one I had originally prepared. That one can wait until next month. You can blame Super Bowl Sunday and shopping at Alderwood mall on Sundays for the change in plans.

Birthdays and growing older seem to trigger memories. For me, another birthday this month makes me realize just how long I have lived and all the changes I have seen during my time here on this earth.

Being a genealogist I was recalling the first federal census taken after my own birth, when my name appeared for the first time on this record. One of the questions asked each family for that year (1930) was: “Do you own a radio?” That must seem strange to the young people of our time, but radios were still pretty new then  My own parents’ answer to the question was yes, we did own a radio. We lived in Seattle and we had a beautiful floor-model Philco, the latest and best of radios. In 1933, when we moved to Alderwood Manor (now Lynnwood), we still had our up-to-date Philco, but for the first year we had no electricity. The radio sat in the corner of our living room gathering dust. Well, not really, my mother was a meticulous housekeeper. It was a thrill when electricity finally came to our place and we could once again sit around that radio and listen to our favorite programs.

In our present day, since I live near Alderwood mall and the myriad of other stores nearby, as well as hearing and seeing all the advertising for Super Bowl Sunday, I was thinking of the time when the nation, including Washington State had what became known as Blue Laws. For those too young to remember, these were actually laws that pretty much forbid certain activities on Sundays; including unnecessary shopping, professional sports, and other types of entertainment. Can you imagine not being able to shop at the mall on Sundays, or not being entertained by Super Bowl Sunday?

The Blue Laws date far back to our Puritan forefathers and the warning to keep the Sabbath holy. Our federal government had some similar laws and individual states had their own versions of the Blue Laws; varying state by state. By the mid-1900s every state had some sort of Blue Law on its books, even though they were only sporadically enforced. Not many people paid any attention to them, it was just what it was — we were used to most businesses being closed on Sundays, and some entertainment closed down, including certain sports.

It was People v. Friedman, a 1951 case before the United States Supreme Court that finally made people wake up to the fact that this was a religious issue. The final outcome of this case set a precedent regarding government and religion.

In our state the Sabbath law was enacted in 1909, and by 1966 in Washington State it was still illegal to sell most kinds of goods, to perform certain types of services, or to participate in or to promote any noisy or boisterous sport or amusement on Sunday. There were also laws pertaining to the use of liquor. However, on February 18, 1966 an initiative proposal was filed with Washington’s Secretary of State for repealing our Blue Laws. This successful proposal became Initiative 229, and went on the ballot. On election-day November 8, 1966, a total of 64 percent of the voters repealed this state’s Blue Laws.

Through the years most of our states have repealed some of these laws. People can usually shop on Sundays, sell cars or personal items, have a drink at their favorite restaurant and watch their favorite sport.

Do we know whether or not we would still have the Super Bowl if the Blue Laws had remained on the books in most states? Probably, but it might have been Super Bowl Wednesday or some other day of the week.

So, set out your favorite snacks and drinks, kick off your shoes, get comfortable, sit back and enjoy Super Bowl Sunday.

Gaeng on the roof of the Lynnwood Convention Center

An 80-year resident of Lynnwood, Betty Lou Gaeng is a genealogist, historian, researcher and writer who is active in volunteer work for Lynnwood’s Heritage Park Partners Advisory Committee and the Alderwood Manor Heritage Association at Heritage Park. She is also a member of the League of Snohomish County Heritage Organizations (LOSCHO) and the South County Historical Society and Museum.  Gaeng is the author of two books: “Etched in Stone,” which is the history of the Edmonds Museum memorial monument, and “Chirouse” about a Catholic missionary priest who came from France to Washington Territory in 1847 and became a father figure and friend to the Puget Sound area’s Native people.


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