Who Wears Shorts Shorts? The Law Against Shorts!

Who Wears Shorts Shorts? The Law Against Shorts!

Main street Cowansville (1).jpg


In the late 50s for a brief time it was against the law to wear shorts in Cowansville, Quebec. Having an extremely dusty memory these days I don’t recall if the surrounding villages and towns had the same law. I don’t think I ever wore shorts that much except to go on a picnic, and of course there were those Cowansville High School bloomer gym suits that were not only modest, they were also downright medieval.

Memories of walking by the Ritz’s five and dime on Main street and seeing a handwritten sign in the window that said “No shorts allowed!” seems like yesterday. Honestly, I had never really thought about it until I saw a newspaper clipping this week that pants and shorts on women should not be worn in public places during that time. Gossip says the law began in in my small town when the powers to be rushed through a policy in case some shapely females appeared in such attire on the street.  Oh the horrors! The media reported that it was a popular vote, but I’m wondering with whom, because I remember my Mother saying a lot of women called the town hall every day to put a stop to it.

In May 1959, the Associated Press noted that the city council of Plattsburgh, N.Y., had voted to ban the wearing of shorts by anyone over 16 years-old on city streets. Violators were liable to receive a $25 fine or 25 days in jail. An alarmed woman wrote to the local newspaper saying it was “an advertisement for adultery when a lady wore shorts.” The writer also added she was a “decent person” who resented having to look at the “ugly legs” of men and women in shorts. Exposed gams, she added, were a “disgrace to humanity.” Sherbrooke even charged a ballet teacher with indecent exposure, while making her way to emergency at the Sherbrooke Hospital. She had broken her wrist in a fall and was in her dance leotard!

When I went to school we had to wear those awful navy blue tunics with a white blouse all the time. My kneecaps were frost bitten several times walking back and forth to school in the winter. We were allowed to wear pants, but they had to be taken off once we got to school. Because, back in the day, everyone knew only “easy” girls wore pants to school.


During one of my Grandmother’s ‘porch talks” she told me the real problem stemmed from the male youths that stood on the street corners and whistled at the girls. She herself had seen it many times sitting on her veranda on South Street and women had to be protected from annoyance and molestation. The word molestation was over my head in those days but I did know about the ‘street corner loafers’ as my Grandfather called them hanging out by the bus stop near the train station. The line had to be drawn somewhere they both said or we would be watching young women walking down the street in their bathing suits.

Nobody objected to women wearing shorts on the tennis court or to get a good suntan in their backyard, as apparently we were informed that the sun shone just as brightly in your garden as on the street. But shorts had their place in those days, and there was great public sympathy for the local troubled councils who had to reconcile their duty to the women of their community with feminine perversity in their attire.

I don’t know how long the law lasted as I had other things to think about. Now everything is a go, and women would never let their local towns and cities set the standards in a dress code. After all times have changed, and when a woman says “What?” about something– it’s not because she didn’t hear you. She is just giving you a chance to change what you said. My how times have changed!

Linda Nilson-Rogers My former ballet instructress was charged with indecent exposure, while making her way to emergency in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in the mid 50’s! She had broken her wrist in a fall…and was in her leotard!

Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place and The Tales of Almonte



About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

2 responses »

  1. Wow no shorts at an Ag Hall dance in 1965. 1965! Hard to believe, but I do recall girls I knew who told me they couldn’t wear mini skirts or short shorts because the priest at the Catholic church wouldn’t let them. That was in the last half of the 60’s. Imagine! your priest telling you what you could wear in the swingin’ 60’s. I was dumbfounded.


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