There was a new terror on the streets of Bridgton, one which threatened to lead the youth astray and draw honest men and women down to ruin. It was, of course, nothing less than that cardinal sin – playing cards on a Sunday. But it was not so much the date which mattered, but rather the actual game of poker. Nowadays, here in Maine, the laws regarding gambling are less cut and dried than they used to be; the most obvious example of which being that even in an illegal game, the participants themselves are not the ones fined, only the organizer.
Not so in 1909. Nope, back then the very act of wagering on anything at all was enough to see one brought before the judge, though here in Bridgton, we sense the case was more of a formality than anything serious. This story reminds me of a certain other court case, from July of 1921, concerning an illegal Sabbath baseball game, but that story will have to wait a few months. For now, let us see what mischief the idle men of Bridgeton were getting up to ‘back in the day.’ If I could, I’d wager it’s one of the funniest stories you’ll hear all week. You won’t tell will you?
“Five young men of this village, engaged in a quiet little game of poker in the further end of the corn shop husking shed Sunday afternoon, were surprised by a visit from the officers of the law, who broke up the game and ordered the participants into court. They were arraigned before Trial Justice Corliss Monday morning on the charge of gambling with cards. They pleaded guilty and paid a fine of $4 and costs, in each case amounting to $4.66.
Of late several complaints have been made to the officers [about] these games, which are generally carried on Sunday, although any rainy day is favorable to the sport. The stamping grounds vary. For sometimes the games have been played in the old milk factory building by the side of the railroad, where it is said that at one time over forty were either participating in the game or were acting as spectators. Young boys happening around that way on a Sunday and hearing voices in the building, have investigated and have joined the ranks of spectators.
One young fellow barely twelve years old, came home from a walk one Sunday afternoon and told his mother that he had been watching a crowd of fellows playing cards down in the old milk factory building.
‘They don’t play it the way we play whist either,’ he continued. ‘They pick up their cards. Some of ’em swear and throw them down again, some of them say ‘give me two more, then put some money down on the table, another fellow throws down his cards and then another and then somebody takes all the money on the table and puts it into his pocket.’
That kid didn’t go out walking the next Sunday afternoon. These young fellows who happened to be caught in the act are but a few of the many followers of the game. They just happened to be unfortunate. The limit was probably ten cents and it is doubtful if five dollars would have changed hands all day.”
O’ for the peace of a simpler time! Give me these olden worries any day. Till next time!