From the Editors 29 (2011)Engineer and Editor Juan Hart Moved El Paso Forward 29 (2011)Elizabeth Garrett: Songbird of the Southwest 29 (2011)A Passionate Life: Josephine Clardy Fox 29 (2011)Forgotten No More: Korean War POW Tells Story of Survival 29 (2011)Janice Woods Windle Treasures Family History 29 (2011)Andy and Syd Cohen: The Men Behind the Name 29 (2011)Leona Ford Washington Preserved Black History 29(2011)Ingeborg Heuser Brought Professional Ballet to City 29 (2011)Lee and Beulah Moor Left Legacy of Love 29 (2011)
From the Editors 28 (2010)Chasin’ Away the Blues: Texas Sunday Legislation 28 (2010)Simeon Hart Pioneered Local Industry 28 (2010)Felix Martinez: Southwestern Renaissance Man 28 (2010)Teresa Urrea: La Santa de Cabora Inspired Mexican Revolution 28 (2010)Utopia in Mesilla: The Shalam Colony 28 (2010)Stahmann Farms Produce Pecans on Two Hemispheres 28 (2010)Betty Mary Goetting Brought Birth Control to El Paso 28 (2010)Maud Sullivan Made El Paso Public Library a Cultural Center 28 (2010)Lucy Acosta’s Legacy Continues in LULAC 28 (2010)Belen Robles: Voice for the Latino Community 28 (2010)Toltec Club: Of Ghosts and Guests 28 (2010)
Strong Women Building a Strong City -- From the Editors 27(2008)Notable Women of El Paso 27(2009)The Chew Legacy: The Story of Herlinda Wong Chew 27(2009)Desert Nightingale: Louise Dietrich 27(2009)1909-2009: YWCA Celebrates 100 Years in El Paso 27(2009)Mabel Welch: El Paso’s First Female Architect 27(2009)Myrna Deckert Remains Modest About Achievements 27(2009)Suzie Azar Still Reaches for the Sky 27 (2009)The Moocher: Callie Fairley, First Woman Vice Detective in El Paso 27(2009)Alicia R. Chacón Came to Politics Naturally 27 (2009)Rosa Guerrero: Cultural Dynamo 27 (2009)
From the Past to the Present -- From the Editor 26 (2007/08)Yandell Boulevard Named for Prominent El Paso Physician 26 (2007/08)Japanese Immigrants Came Slowly to Borderland 26 (2007/08)World War II Affected Japanese Immigrants 26 (2007/08)Living, Breathing New Mexico Ghost Town: Hillsboro 26 (2007/08)Canutillo Developed from Land Grant 26 (2007/08)Rómulo Escobar Zerman: Juárez Agronomist and Teacher 26 (2007/08)El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08)Ted Karam: Lebanese Immigrant Lived American Dream 26 (2007/08)Publication Credits 26 (2007/08)
From the Director 25 (2006)First El Paso Protestant Church: St. Clement's 25 (2006)Bowie High School: Always a Bear 25 (2006)Golden Gloves Grew Out of El Paso's Love of Boxing 25 (2006)LULAC Fought Hard to Guarantee Rights 25 (2006)El Paso Women Gained Power in LULAC 25 (2006)McKelligon Canyon: From Cattle to Culture 25 (2006)Tortugas Celebrates Virgen de Guadalupe, San Juan 25 (2006)Bataan Death March and POW Camps 25 (2006)Bataan Survivors Recall Horrors 25 (2006)Anthony Family Had Five Sons in World War II 25 (2006)Sober on the Border 25 (2006)Clyde W. Tombaugh: Farm Boy Reached for the Stars 25 (2006)A Taste of Southwest Wine 25 (2006)
From the Director 24 (2005)From the Editors 24 (2005)Gypsie Davenport and May Palmer Ran Infamous Brothels 24 (2005)Pioneer Attorney William Burges Tackled Unpopular Issues 24 (2005)Richard Fenner Burges: Renaissance Man 24 (2005)Charles Kelly Wielded Power with Political 'Ring' 24 (2005)Tom Charles Wanted World to Know White Sands 24 (2005)Dripping Springs has Rich History 24 (2005)Thomas B. White Directed Innovative La Tuna for 19 Years 24 (2005)Cowboys on the Range --- Missile Range, That Is 24 (2005)Ranchers vs. the Feds: The McNew Saga 24 (2005)Mexican Repatriation in 1930s 24 (2005)White House Department Store 24 (2005)Thomason Hospital Celebrates 90 Years 24 (2005)R.E. Thomason Shaped City, State, Nation 24 (2005)
Postcards from the Past Editor's Column 23 (2004)From the Editors 23 (2004)Solomon C. Schutz Helped Bring Law and Order to El Paso 23 (2004)James Gillett Showed Courage in El Paso 23 (2004)Jim White Explored Carlsbad Caverns for Years 23 (2004)Ben Lilly: Mountain Man of the Southwest 23 (2004)Aldo Leopold Proposed Land Ethics 23 (2004)Escontrias Ranch: A Link to Hueco Tanks Park 23 (2004)Hueco Tanks is Site of Controversy 23 (2004)Marcelino Serna Became World War I Hero 23 (2004)Sam Dreben Soldiered All Over the World 23 (2004)Kern Place Neighborhood: The Man Behind the Name 23 (2004)Farah Manufacturing Now Just a Memory 23 (2004)Texas Knights of Columbus Began in El Paso 23 (2004)
Look for Us on the Web - Editor's Column 22 (2003)From the Editors 22 (2003)Victorio Fought to the Death for Homeland 22 (2003)O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead 22 (2003)S. H. Newman: Pioneer Newspaperman Fought Vice 22 (2003)Elfego Baca Lived More Than Nine Lives 22 (2003)Woman's Club Has Long Served City 22 (2003)Cathedral's Beauty Pleases 22 (2003)Albert J. Fountain's Achievements Eclipsed by Mysterious Death 22 (2003)Albert B. Fall's Career Ended in Disgrace 22 (2003)Cloudcroft Baby Sanatorium Saved Many 22 (2003)Dale Resler Worked Hard for El Paso 22 (2003)Price's Dairy Still Family Owned 22 (2003)Woodlawn Bottling Brought Pepsi to Town 22 (2003)Union Depot Witnessed Growth of El Paso 22 (2003)
We're Now on the Web --From the Editor 21(2002)From the Editors 21(2002)Downtown Opium Dens Attracted Many 21(2002)Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom for Texas Slaves 21(2002)Black Cowboys Rode the Trails, Too 21(2002)Ku Klux Klan Had Short Life in El Paso 21(2002)Mining Became Big Business in Southwest 21(2002)Smeltertown Still Exists in Memories 21 (2002)El Paso Played Important Role in the Mexican Revolution 21 (2002)Pancho Villa Led Northern Forces in Revolution 21 (2002)Soldaderas Played Important Roles in Revolution 21 (2002)Pershing, Villa Forever Linked to Columbus 21 (2002)Cristeros Became Mexican Martyrs 1926-1929 -- 21 (2002)Houchen Settlement House Helped New Arrivals 21 (2002)Otis A. Aultman Captured Border History in Pictures 21 (2002)
Hot Springs Have Long HistoryThe Building of a City -- From the Editor 20 (2001)From the Staff (Volume 20)Pat Garrett Enjoyed Controversy 20 (2001)Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire Terrorized Town 20 (2001)History Reveals Rivalry of Madams Etta Clark and Alice Abbott 20 (2001)Kohlberg, Krupp, Zielonka Became Business and Civic Leaders 20 (2001)Olga Kohlberg Pioneered Many Local Organizations 20 (2001)Henry Trost's Architectural Legacy Lives On 20 (2001)Sunset Heights Preserves History 20 (2001)Adolph Schwartz Built Local Retail Dynasty 20 (2001)Zach T. White Brought Progress to El Paso 20 (2001)Masons Became Leaders in Texas, El Paso 20 (2001)Smallpox Epidemic Showed Need for Hospitals20 (2001)El Paso High School Remains Classic 20 (2001)Bhutanese Architecture Distinguishes UTEP Campus 20 (2001)Elephant Butte Dam Solved Early Water Problems 20 (2001)
Pioneer Ranch became Concordia Cemetery 19 (2000)El Paso Grows Up 19 (2000)From the Staff 19 (2000)Chinese Immigrants Helped Build Railroad in El Paso 19 (2000)Volunteer Fire Department Grew into Professional Company 19 (2000)1880s Brought First Theaters to Town 19 (2000)Sisters of Charity Began Hotel Dieu Hospital 19 (2000)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso Into a Health Center 19 (2000)First Public School Built in 1884 19 (2000)Enigmatic Olivas Aoy Began School for Mexican Children 19 (2000)El Paso Public Library Began Modestly 19 (2000)Jesuits Continue to Influence Area 19 (2000)Sisters of Loretto Have Long Tradition in Southwest 19 (2000)Mormons Found Sanctuary in Mexico in 1880s 19 (2000)Mennonite Colonies in Mexico Accept Change Slowly 19 (2000)Flu Epidemic of 1918 Hit El Paso Hard 19 (2000)Early City Planners Saw Future in Scenic Drive 19 (2000)Prohibition Stimulated Economies of El Paso, Juárez 19 (2000)
The Editor's Column : The Building of a City 18 (1999)From the Editors 18 (1999)Magoffinsville Had Lasting Influence on El Paso 18 (1999)Town of El Paso Grew from Pioneer Settlements 18 (1999)Downtown El Paso Is Monument to Anson Mills 18 (1999)1848 War With Mexico Created Southwest 18 (1999)Colonel Doniphan and Volunteers Won Battle of Brazito 18 (1999)Gadsden Purchase Clarified U.S. Boundaries 18 (1999)Early Fort Bliss Occupied Pioneer Sites 18 (1999)Henry O. Flipper Paved Way for Integration of Military 18 (1999)Buffalo Soldiers Defended Western Frontier 18 (1999)El Paso Was Midpoint of Overland Mail Service 18 (1999)Salt War of 1877 Divided Southwest Residents 18 (1999)Geronimo Led Final Fight 18 (1999)Apache Indians Defended Homelands in Southwest 18 (1999)Texas Rangers Helped Keep Order on Frontier 18 (1999)Sarah Bowman and Tillie Howard: Madams of the 1800s 18 (1999)El Paso Grew Up with Arrival of Railroad 18 (1999)
Aztecs Ruled Complex, Rich Society 17 (1998)From the Editor 17 (1998)Aztec Beliefs Helped Conquer Mexico 17 (1998)Cortés Created New Order in Mexico 17 (1998)La Malinche Remains Controversial 17 (1998)Cabeza de Vaca: Travels in Texas 17 (1998)Estebán Furthered Legend of Cíbola 17 (1998)Coronado Searched for Cities of Gold 17 (1998)Oñate Conquered Desert to Explore Southwest 17 (1998)Festival Celebrates Oñate's Historic Arrival 17 (1998)Fray Garcia Left Great Legacy 17 (1998)Franciscans Brought Catholicism to Area 17 (1998)America's First Highway: El Camino Real 17 (1998)Pueblo Revolt Brought Tiguas South 17 (1998)Tigua Indians Survive 300 Years of Ordeals 17 (1998)Area Missions are Part of Living History 17 (1998)San Elizario Presidio Protected Settlers 17 (1998)Ethnic Terms Can Cause Confusion 17 (1998)
Oasis Restaurants Symbolized ‘50s Teen Scene 13 (1995)‘50s Cars Changed American Lifestyle And Image 13 (1995)Chevy Bel Air Charmed 1950 Car Buyers 13 (1995)San Jacinto Plaza Remains Heart Of Downtown El Paso 13 (1995)Smokey Bear: A Legend Is Made 13 (1995)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assaults 13 (1995)Company E Survivor Recalls Days As Prisoner Of War 13 (1995)El Paso Red Cross Essential to War Effort 13 (1995)World War II Took its Toll On The Home Front 13 (1995)Civil Air Patrol Protected Border During World War II -- 13 (1995)Quickie Divorces Granted in Juárez 13 (1995)Atomic Bomb Developed In Southwest 13 (1995)Former Crew Members On B-17s Remember Tough Times 13 (1995)Vintage Warplanes Keep Past Alive 13 (1995)The Cavalry Bugler: Essential To Horse and Man 13 (1995)Sun Carnival 1936 Style 13 (1995)H. Arthur Brown: El Paso Symphony Guru Of The ‘30s -- 13 (1995)Swing Music Helped Dispel The Blues Of The ‘30s and ‘40s -- 13 (1995)The General Store: A Hidden Treasure Of The Past 13 (1995)
Change on the Border 15 (1997)From the Editor 15 (1997)Latinos Work To Change Stereotypes In Hollywood 15 (1997)Cesar Chávez: Simple Man, People’s Hero 15 (1997)Shelter For Farm Workers Becomes Reality 15 (1997)Women’s Shelter Helps To Heal The Pain 15 (1997)Home Schools Become Popular Alternative 15 (1997)Renovation May Revive Downtown El Paso 15 (1997)Title IX Changed Women's Sports 15 (1997)Special Olympics Shine In El Paso 15 (1997)La Fe Clinic Serves South El Paso 15 (1997)ASARCO Works To Clean Up Its Act 15 (1997)A Growing Phenomenon: Single Fathers 15 (1997)Stepfamilies Become More Numerous 15 (1997)Teens Rebel Against Authority 15 (1997)Comics Retain Popularity 15 (1997)Tom Moore And Archie Have Timeless Appeal 15 (1997)
Life on the Border: 1950s & 1960s --14 (1996)From The Editors 14 (1996)A Baseball Team By Any Other Name 14 (1996)Drive-In Theaters Appealed to all Ages 14 (1996)El Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations 14 (1996)Barbie Doll Revolutionized Toy Industry 14 (1996)Rabies Took Bite of Sun City 14 (1996)Rabies: A Deadly Virus 14 (1996)Border Patrol Used Variety of Methods to Control Immigration 14 (1996)L. A. Nixon Fought Texas Voting Law 14 (1996)Douglass School Served Black Community Well 14 (1996)Thelma White Case Forced College Integration 14 (1996)Steve Crosno: An El Paso Original 14 (1996)Rock 'N' Roll Defined Teen Culture 14 (1996)A Shopping Mall by the People for the People 14 (1996)Chamizal Dispute Settled Peacefully 14 (1996)Turney Mansion Becomes Work of Art 14 (1996)First Hispanic Mayor Elected in 1957 -- 14 (1996)Flower Children Chose Alternative Lifestyle 14 (1996)
Three Decades of History 12 (1994)From the Editors 12 (1994)The Plaza Theater…Here to Stay!? 12 (1994)El Paso Broadcasting: The Stories Behind the Call Letters 12 (1994)Alphabet Agencies: FDR's Brainstorm 12 (1994)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio 12 (1994)Hobo Sign Language Targeted El Paso 12 (1994)Self- Sufficiency Key to Farmers' Survival During Depression 12 (1994)Hanna's Story A Holocaust Survivor Remembers 12 (1994)Former Members Recall Life in Hitler Youth 12 (1994)German Prisoners of War Interned at Fort Bliss During World War II -- 12 (1994)German POWs Remembered at Fort Bliss 12 (1994)One German POW's Story 12 (1994)Ration Books and Victory Gardens: Coping with Shortages 12 (1994)Women Changed Wartime Work Patterns 12 (1994)Bracero Program Hurt Domestic Farm Workers 12 (1994)San Pedro Pharmacy Retains Look of the Past 12 (1994)Teenage Fashions of the Nifty Fifties 12 (1994)Rebel Image of Motorcyclists Set in 1950s -- 12 (1994)
Border Customs and Crafts From the Editor 10 (1992)From the Editors 10 (1992)King on the Mountain 10 (1992)Piñatas! 10 (1992)How to Play the Piñata Game 10 (1992)Out of a Cotton Boll Bloom Beautiful Crafts 10 (1992)Cotton Boll Entertains Too 10 (1992)Hands That Create Art and Soul 10 (1992)La Charreada - Mexican Horsemanship 10 (1992)Boots - A Family Tradition 10 (1992)Some Boys Still Grow Up to be Cowboys 10 (1992)Boot Capital of the World 10 (1992)The Magic of Mariachis 10 (1992)Ballet Folklorico - High School Style 10 (1992)New Generation of Mariachis 10 (1992)The Lady is a Bullfighter 10 (1992)The Midwife: Choices for Border Women 10 (1992)Retablos: Echoes of Faith 10 (1992)Tigua Indians: Dancing for St. Anthony 10 (1992)The Aztec and the Miracle 10 (1992)A Hispanic Girl's Coming of Age 10 (1992)Art - Low and Slow 10 (1992)Wedding Traditions on the Border 10 (1992)
Border Food Folkways From the Editor 9 (1991)From the Staff 9 (1991)Tortillas: Border Staff of Life 9 (1991)The Booming Tortilla Industry in Mexico 9 (1991)Where's The Beef? In El Paso! 9 (1991)How Do I Love Thee, Piggy? Let Me Count the Ways! 9 (1991)Tamales By Any Other Name Remain The Same 9 (1991)Rio Grande Thanksgiving 9 (1991)The Tigua Indians: Food for Thought 9 (1991)Corn: The Golden Gift from Our Ancestors 9 (1991)Border Pottery - Function and Beauty 9 (1991)Holy Hot Mole! 9 (1991)Looking Back at the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Men Behind the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Hot Peppers : They're Not Just for Eating 9 (1991)Food, Spices Double as Folk Cures 9 (1991)Weeds or Edible Desert Plants? 9 (1991)Cactus: It's Good for You! 9 (1991)Day of the Dead Celebrates Spiritual Tradition 9 (1991)Nutricious, Delicious Beans 9 (1991)Menudo Makes The Big Time 9 (1991)Mediterranean Cuisine: Old Tradition, Fresh Idea 9 (1991)Lenten Foods: From Fasting to Fabulous 9 (1991)Tarahumaras Rely on Nature for Food 9 (1991)Tempting Sweet Breads : Pan de Dulce 9 (1991)
Border Customs and Crafts II From the Editor -- 11 (1993)From the Editors 11 (1993)The Best Little Asaderos in Texas 11 (1993)Glass Work Disappearing on Border 11 (1993)Cockfights Legal in Surrounding Areas 11 (1993)Local Craftsmen Keep Art of Saddlery Alive 11 (1993)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers 11 (1993)Chile Ristras Brighten Border Homes 11 (1993)Magoffin Home Preserves El Paso's Past 11 (1993)Bavarian Custom Celebrated in El Paso: Oktoberfest 11 (1993)Munich on the Border 11 (1993)Santo Niño de Atocha Called Miracle Worker 11 (1993)Lenten Customs Vary 11 (1993)To Ask is to Receive 11 (1993)Border Maintains Tradition of Posadas 11 (1993)A Visit from Three Kings 11 (1993)Matachines: Soldiers of the Virgin 11 (1993)Dichos Are an Intricate Part of Mexican Culture 11 (1993)Cultural Superstitions Affect Behavior 11 (1993)Que Onda Homeboy! Why Do We Talk Like This? 11 (1993)Traditional Hispanic Children's Games Disappear 11 (1993)
El Paso Women to ResearchEl Paso Women to Research (by name)El Paso Men to ResearchEl Paso Men to Research (by name)
From the Editors 30 (2012)From the Editor, Credits and Contents 30 (2012)Jessie Hawkins and Jenna Welch: Love, Loss and Laughter 30 (2012)Woodrow Wilson Bean: One in a Million 30 (2012)David L. Carrasco Gave Back to Hometown 30 (2012)Cleofas Calleros Made Local History Important 30 (2012)Robert E. McKee: From Rags to Riches to Philanthropy 30 (2012)Kate Moore Brown: A Woman of Many Firsts 30 (2012)Fun in the 1890s: The McGinty Club 30 (2012)
Borderlands Web Issue From the Editor 31(2013/14)Acknowledgements 31(2013/14)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 31(2013/14)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 31 (2013/14)Harvey Girls Changed the West 31(2013/14)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 31(2013/14)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 31(2013/14)
Borderlands 32 Tolerance. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 32(2014/15)Henry Kellen Created El Paso Holocaust Museum 32(2014/15)Bicycle Padre Still Working 32(2014/15)El Paso Connections: Ambrose Bierce: writer 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Bobby Fuller, Rock Icon 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Tom Ogle, Inventor 32(2014/15)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 32(2014)Harvey Girls Changed the West 32(2014)
Borderlands 33 Service. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 33(2015)Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown 33 (2015)Local Latino Soldiers Receive Medal of Honor Decades after Heroism 33 (2015)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 33 (2015)Will the Real Leon Blevins Please stand up? 33 (2015)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 33 (2015)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 33 (2015)
Borderlands 34 Inspiration. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 34(2016/17)Building Bridges Instead of Walls: Temple Mount Sinai 34 (2016/17)Ruben Salazar: A Bridge Between Two Societies 34 (2016/17)Luis Jimenez: Art Creates Dialogue 34 (2016/17)Richard "Tuff" Hedeman: The Michael Jordan of Professional Bull Riding 34 (2016/17)Rescue Mission of El Paso Provides Food and Opportunity 34 (2016/17)
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Chasin' Away the Blues: Texas Sunday Legislation

Article first published in Vol. 28, 2010.

By Russell Folk and Heather Coons 

Viva Ford

View pdf version

What are you planning to do this Sunday? Go to church? Go to a movie? Do a little shopping at a mall?

At one time, all but going to church would have been illegal, and, as few as 25 years ago, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine for violating Texas legislation on Sunday activities, known as “blue laws.”

Image caption: Car dealerships are still required to operate under Texas Blue Laws. (Photo by Heather Coons)

The origin of the term “blue law” is somewhat controversial. Professor David J. Hanson explained in his Internet article on the subject that there is no evidence to support the claim that the laws were originally printed on blue paper, thus the name. He wrote that the term “blue” was a derogatory way of describing those of “rigid moral codes” during the 18th century, but Sunday legislation has been around a lot longer than that.

The book Critical History of Sunday Legislation from 321 to 1888 by Abram Herbert Lewis stated that the first Sunday law was enacted by the Roman emperor Constantine in 321 A.D. He ordered the “venerable day of the sun” to be a day of rest for those in cities, without placing restrictions on agriculture.

Britain continued with the practice of Sunday laws after the fall of the Roman Empire, and in 1676, Charles II adopted stricter laws that would later become the basis of laws in America.

The first Sunday legislation in America was enacted in 1617 by the London Company for Virginia, which forced colonists to attend church services. Blue laws in early colonial days prohibited work, household chores, kissing, sex and even having a baby. Punishments included loss of provisions, whipping, public placement in stocks or fines of one to 50 pounds of tobacco. A third offense was punishable by death.

Although blue laws directly violated the Constitution and the Bill of Rights once America gained her independence in 1776, the laws were upheld in the United States Supreme Court in 1885. In Soon Hing v. Crowley, the court ruled that a state had a “right to protect all persons from physical and moral debasement, which comes from uninterrupted labor.”

Sunday laws were slow in coming to the Lone Star state. Until 1836 and Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico, Roman Catholicism was the area’s established religion. After the Battle of San Jacinto, Protestant missionaries came to Texas in droves, citing vast distances, few teachers and a failure to observe the Sabbath as the causes for backslidden souls.

The first Sunday law in Texas was a city ordinance passed by Houston in 1839. In response to the city’s many saloons and the resulting drunk and disorderly conduct, the new ordinance prohibited the sale of malt liquor on Sundays.

The Texas State Legislature debated Sunday legislation from the beginning. In 1853, Sen. Sam Houston gave an address in which he staunchly opposed blue laws and prohibition. However, in 1867, the Texas Supreme Court upheld the ordinance in Gabel v. City of Houston, stating that cities had a right to promote “good order and tranquility.”

In his book Texas Blue Laws, William Harper wrote that the first state law, titled “An Act to Punish Certain Offenses Committed on Sunday,” was passed Dec. 16, 1863, by the 10th State Legislature. The bill was in two parts. First, it made it a misdemeanor to “compel a slave, child or apprentice” to work on Sunday, while exempting household duties, charity work, and whatever may be “needed to save a crop.” The second part targeted certain recreations. It became a misdemeanor to participate in a horse race or a shooting match, sell liquor, or operate a bowling alley or a billiards parlor.

During Reconstruction, A. J. Hamilton became the provisional governor of Texas, and all laws not in conflict with the United States were declared valid. As a result, Sunday laws were neither repealed nor amended, but in 1866 for the first time, exemptions were made for those whose Sabbath was not on Sunday.

The Texas Reconstruction Convention of 1868 repealed the state’s blue laws, but that was overturned by the 12th State Legislature in 1871. The new Sunday law had basically the same provisions as the previous one, but it prohibited sales between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., except for medicine and drugs. Most of the early charges for violating blue laws were against saloon keepers and merchants.

In El Paso, early blue laws were pretty much ignored and business went on as usual until 1904. In Turning Points in El Paso, Texas, Leon Metz wrote that moralist reformers demanded Sheriff J. H. Boone force saloons, prostitutes and gamblers to abide by Sunday blue laws. In response, Sheriff Boone stated that he was “going to reform the reformers, too.” On Nov. 19, Boone shut down the city by closing everything from grocery stores to gambling houses; even ASARCO employees were arrested. On the next Sunday, almost 5,000 people crossed the border into Mexico, with signs on the doors of businesses stating, “We are spending our money in Juárez.”

Prohibition helped reformers, and soon their attention turned from intoxicating liquors to Sunday movies, baseball games, concerts and amusement parks. State courts ruled that amusements which charged a fee on Sundays were in violation of blue laws.

In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court revisited blue laws for the first time since the turn of the century. Speaking for the court, Chief Justice Warren stated that Sunday laws did not violate the First Amendment because “the air of the day is one of relaxation, rather than religion.”

But Justice Douglas gave a dissenting view. He questioned the authority of a state to make “protesting citizens refrain from doing innocent acts … because the doing of those acts … offends their Christian neighbors.”

With blue laws a hot topic in the courts, state legislatures soon found themselves immersed in the debate, and Texas was no different. Texas Sen. William T. Moore introduced a new bill in an attempt to modernize blue laws. After numerous debates and amendments, Senate Bill No. 35 passed the House in 1961.

The updated law banned 42 types of items from being sold on consecutive Saturdays and Sundays. Enacted because of the rising popularity of discount stores, this law prohibited the sale of automobiles, clothing, appliances, kitchenware, linens, toys and baby products, to name a few. Items exempted included food, newspapers, ice, sporting goods and beer.

On Nov. 15, 1961, an El Paso Times editorial said, “We think the whole law is stupid.” Most consumers agreed. In another article, El Paso grocery store manager Jim Gunn stated, “A lot of customers think it is the most asinine law on the books.” Gunn also revealed that some customers became quite belligerent when denied goods.

Local merchants’ opinions differed. The El Paso Times reported that Silva Super Market manager Joe Silva Jr. felt the blue laws impeded business. Not only did stores lose potential sales to Juárez, but employees had to be trained and signs posted for Sunday shoppers.

Herbert Schwartz, then-president of the Popular Department Stores, head of the Downtown Development Association and director of the Texas Retailers Association, disagreed.

In Schwartz’s opinion, a seven-day retail week would increase business costs without increasing sales because the number of shoppers would remain fairly constant. Not only would that lead to rising inflation and energy usage, Schwartz stated, but small business owners would be the most affected because of a lack of resources, such as a smaller number of employees to work more hours.

One thing was certain: Texas blue laws were confusing. In an El Paso Times article titled “Texas’ Blue Law: What Can You Buy Sunday?” district attorneys from 31 counties were contacted for assistance in interpreting the law. Ten replied, all with conflicting answers.

Because the law was so difficult to decipher, it made enforcement almost impossible for local agencies. Investigations and policing came from the most unlikely sources: fellow merchants.

Here in El Paso, enforcement was financially backed by the Downtown Development Association (DDA). The DDA hired private investigators and attorneys to ensure compliance with Sunday legislation. Violators were contacted in writing, requesting compliance. If that failed, a civil injunction would be filed.

Several major court cases resulted from injunctions against El Paso’s rebellious retailers. The owners of Malooly’s Furniture Store, Gibson’s Discount Stores, Michelle’s Clothing, K-Mart and several automobile dealerships, as well as many others, found themselves before a judge.

In 1971, a civil court injunction was requested by the DDA against George and Eddy Malooly, owners of Malooly’s Furniture Store, for selling prohibited items on consecutive Saturdays and Sundays.

“We are only trying to serve the people,” the Malooly brothers stated in an article published in the El Paso Herald-Post on Dec. 4. “Many, many people have called us from outlying areas, saying they are unable to travel so far during the week.”

Judge Hans Brockmoller, 120th District Court, granted the injunction, which barred any Sunday openings by Malooly’s Furniture, according to an El Paso Times article on Dec. 17. The Maloolys did not file an appeal.

The DDA also requested a civil court injunction against Gibson’s Discount Stores, with criminal charges pending. Brockmoller issued the injunction, and Gibson’s appealed. In 1973, the appeal was denied, and Gibson’s took the case to the Texas Supreme Court, which upheld the state’s blue law in a 5-4 decision against Gibson’s.

Justice Thomas M. Reavley stated that it was the court’s opinion that blue laws were a legislative question, not a constitutional one. Justice Ross E. Doughty disagreed, questioning the legislature’s right to prohibit the sale of certain merchandise one day a weekend.

Gibson’s continued the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1978 the case was dismissed due to failure to apply within a proper time frame.

In another case, Mickey Robbins, owner of Michelle’s Corp., a clothing store, was held in contempt of court for violating an injunction requested by the El Paso Retailers Association H.W. Freeman reported in the El Paso Times on Sept. 13, 1981, that Robbins felt he was not in violation of the law due to the law’s “charity clause.” Twenty-six percent of Sunday sales went to the El Paso Rehabilitation Center where his daughter, Michelle, was being treated for cerebral palsy.

Opponents of the blue law had about as much luck with the state’s legislature over the years as they had with judges. State Rep. Paul Moreno described the law in a 1971 El Paso Times article as “antiquated and wholly inadequate,” but early repeal attempts, such as the one he introduced, regularly failed. On Feb. 12, 1975, Rep. John Hoestenbach announced a new effort at repeal. However, the bill was not even voted out of the House Business and Industry Committee.

The next major attempt to repeal blue laws was led by El Paso Rep. Robert (Bobby) Valles in 1979. Supported by Gov. Bill Clements, Valles’ bill would have offered repeal on a local basis, so the will of the people could decide. Valles believed this distinction gave the bill a good chance of passage. Tri-State Associated Grocers Inc., representing 130 independent grocers, joined the fight. In an effort to get consumer feedback to the legislature, hundreds of leaflets and letters were passed out by El Paso grocers. Sam Stewart, Valles’ administrative assistant, declared the bill dead on May 5. Ken Bridges, spokesman for Tri-State, vowed not to quit. “It’ll come up again, no doubt about it.”

The fight finally ended in June 1985. Texans For Blue Law Repeal, Inc., a group of retailers, headed up a strategy and lobbying campaign. The Texas legislative session ended with an indigent health care plan, seatbelt laws, increased arts financing – and repealed blue laws.

Today, remnants of Sunday legislation can still be seen in auto sales. Laws imposed by the Texas Department of Transportation require dealerships to close either Saturday or Sunday. The sales manager of a local automobile dealership told Russell Folk that because an automobile is such a large investment, most customers shop around for days before purchasing, so being closed one day doesn’t affect business. When asked if he would open on Sundays if the law was repealed, he replied, “I don’t think so … people get tired, even the building gets tired.”

Since 1863, weekends in Texas have been influenced by Sunday legislation, in one form or another. Liquor stores are still closed on Sunday. At other stores only beer and wine may be sold but only after noon. And on Christmas day, hard liquor cannot be purchased except at restaurants. But Texans and most Americans can buy almost anything else on Sunday, as most blue laws have been repealed across the country.

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