The unidentified woman was disappointed she was not arrested for violating a Carlisle Borough ordinance.
“I even brought my pajamas along to spend the night in jail,” she told the police officer. “I thought I’d get a free meal from the county.”
A Sentinel reporter, on assignment downtown, overheard a man tell the cop that he wanted to be taken into custody to see the inside of the Cumberland County lock-up. “I’ve never been there,” the man said.
Sixty-five years ago this summer, it was an act of defiance to set up a stall in the outdoor farmers market on the Square. Violators could face up to a $50 fine or a jail sentence if in default of payment.
Then as now, farmers gathered at the crossroads in a tradition going back generations. The venue draws foot traffic and seems a natural fit to showcase and sell a product line direct to customers.
The difference on Aug. 1, 1953, was the borough had adopted an ordinance on July 9 to charge vendors a $20 monthly fee for the use of the old market site.
The year before, the borough had demolished the Market House building on the southeast corner of the Square. But that didn’t stop farmers from operating an outdoor market at the old location.
Council took action on the ordinance after hearing a plea from J. Boyd Landis who represented the owners of the Carlisle Market Inc. on Pomfret Street. Landis told council that it was unfair to attendants of the new market house to have other vendors sell merchandise rent free on borough property.
The vendors on the Square challenged the fee with a court appeal claiming the ordinance was “unconstitutional, null and void, inoperative, unreasonable, irregular, fatally defective and illegally advertised.”
Aug. 1 was the effective date of the fee. That morning, 25 vendors set up stalls in open defiance of the ordinance. The general impression given was that they wanted to be arrested. Instead the police officer was only there to write down names and addresses. “Bystanders … were mildly disappointed,” The Sentinel reported.
Fast forward two weeks to Aug. 13, 1953, when council repealed the month-old fee ordinance on the advice of their solicitor. There was worry the ordinance would further complicate the ongoing court battle over ownership of the old market house site.
Eventually the legal matter was settled and the new courthouse was built on the site of the old market house. Today, Farmers on the Square is open every Wednesday from 3 to 7 p.m. on the sidewalks of the northwest corner adjoining the First Presbyterian Church.
Tour Through Time runs every Saturday in The Sentinel print edition. Reporter Joseph Cress will work with staff at the Cumberland County Historical Society each week to offer a look at Cumberland County through the years.
Send any questions or future ideas to Cress at firstname.lastname@example.org.