When Shopping on Sunday in Massachusetts Was Illegal
It's hard to believe that in my lifetime, it was illegal to shop on Sundays in Massachusetts. I was 25 years old when the ban on Sunday sales was lifted in the Bay State.
In 1982, Republican Massachusetts Governor Edward J. King, after losing a re-election bid to Democrat Michael Dukakis, signed a bill relegating the "Blue Laws" prohibiting Sunday shopping to the trash heap of history.
As of March 27, 1983, shopping on Sunday was permitted in Massachusetts. The Puritans must have been rolling in their graves.
State lawmakers, considering a new source of tax revenue, had debated lifting the Sunday shopping ban for years, but they always ran into opposition from those who believed that Sundays were for family and not the mall.
As with gaming and the decriminalization of marijuana, those with dollar signs dancing in their eye sockets won out. It helped that some of the surrounding states had already permitted Sunday sales, and Massachusetts folks were crossing the border in droves to shop.
The New York Times reported that Gov. King was reluctant to sign the bill: "Were Massachusetts truly an island, the extra shopping day would not increase the total retail business done in the Commonwealth."
King added, "But we are not an island, and today, we lose important economic activity to bordering states."
Over time, smaller stores such as convenience stores were allowed to open on Sundays, but certainly not the department stores and malls. Many began to open anyway in defiance of the law and drew fines of up to $5,000 each Sunday they opened.
I recall shopping at Zayre in the Dartmouth Mall in defiance of the law. We felt so radical.
The argument at the time was that Sunday sales would create more jobs, generate additional revenue, and allow residents to decide how to spend their day off.
I bought into all of that, and while I am glad to have a chance to shop on Sunday, I think deep down I prefer the way things were when stores were closed one day a week. Some of my best childhood memories are of family gatherings on Sunday afternoons.
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Gallery Credit: Madison Troyer