Last week, Oakland's City Council issued an official dance dance resolution ending the city's 82-year old prohibition on dance marathons.
"We do not need to keep so-called morality laws from several generations ago on the books," Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The repeal effort was initiated by Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who has recently been working on overturning outdated laws.
During the Great Depression, dance marathons became a popular way for desperate, out-of-work people to earn cash prizes by dancing virtually 24-hours a day--only receiving momentary respites from having to move on their feet for weeks at time. While the rules often varied from one dance marathon to another, the common practice was to give dancers a 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of dancing.
Spectators paid admission into the contests, often called "bunion derbies" or "corn and callus carnivals," where ticket prices were comparatively thriftier than going to the movies or a playhouse. The dance marathon fad was dramatized as grueling bloodsport in Sydney Pollack's 1969 film They Shoot Horses Don't They?.
Due to the bad reputation dance marathons had engendered as their popularity grew, Oakland prohibited the practice in 1930, with the state of California following suit in the early 1950s. California repealed its statewide ban in 1990s; however, it took Oakland just over two decades to do the same.
The Associated Press noted that the punishment for holding a dance marathon in Oakland under the old rule was up to six months in jail.
Other places around the country imposed similar prohibitions. The year before Oakland's law went into effect, Seattle banned dance marathons after a woman committed suicide due to a related incident.
In the years since the Depression, dance marathons have been less a money-making endeavor for the individual participants than they a money-raising one for high school and college students looking to support various charitable causes and non-profit groups.
Take a look at some other bizarre, outdated laws still on San Francisco's books in this slideshow:
Tethering your dog leash to a tree
Stopping into Ritual for a cup of coffee? Using the bathroom at Dolores Park? You'd better not tie Bandit to that nearby tree or streetlight--technically it's illegal.
Paying the guy carrying your luggage more than a quarter
"Porter, fetch my trunk." According to a 1930s law, the rate limits for someone transporting your personal luggage are as follows: $1 for a trunk, 25 cents for smaller pieces, 50 cents for suitcases and 75 cents for additional trunks.
(Gasp!) Selling tamales at the bar
On behalf of every tamale-loving San Franciscan, Supervisor Wiener, we salute you. According to Police Code section 973, it's a misdemeanor for any food or drink business to let someone else inside to sell food or drink. That means any time Zeitgeist lets the Tamale Lady inside, the owner could be looking at 90 days in jail.
Hiring movers without providing notice to your landlord
Trying to move your armoire into your new apartment? On the third floor? On Fell Street? Too bad. Unless your moving company has already provide your landlord with a formal notice, the owner will face 30 days in jail just for touching your stuff.
Selling an airline ticket without a surety bond
In the 1950s, taking a flight required paying a travel agent, waiting several days for your ticket to arrive and then picking it up. To ensure your travel agent didn't take the money and run, an agent had to post a $10,000 surety bond. Now, we don't know a single person who buys a paper ticket from a travel agent. But if an agent tries to sell one without posting the surety bond, he or she is looking at six months in jail.
Selling used goods without a second-hand permit
Think that $1 copy of <em>The Corrections</em> is too good to be true? Unless your local used books, clothing or antique store has a second-hand permit, it is.