Lemonade Stands as Public Health Menace

City Desk IconIn 1987, Carol Pauley, an assistant director in the city’s Department of Health was driving around during a particularly nasty heat wave. For some reason, she got it into her head that there was a serious problem which was not being addressed by her department’s enforcement arm- lemonade stands. After, all, she reasoned later in an interview with the Clarion-Standard, they were selling a food product to the city’s citizens, why should they be exempt from the same rules governing other similar establishments?

So, Department of Health officers were dispatched throughout the city’s neighborhoods during that blazingly hot final week in July, on the lookout for unlicensed lemonade stands. Of course, they were all unlicensed, so, every single one was shut down, tickets were issued and instructions were given as to how their (on average) 8 to 11-year-old proprietors could apply at the Licensing Bureau for a vendor’s certificate (At a rate of $250).

Such enforcement would have made perfect sense in the early 1930s, when “Depression Lemonade” was sold on virtually every street corner by the city’s unemployed. Hundreds took ill, as much of the water used for this weak sugar & lemon rind concoction was taken directly from the then-heavily polluted Ostahanoc River.

But, in 1987, when it was just bored kids throughout the city making the stuff in their kitchens and selling it on card tables? Not so much of a danger to public health. When parents started phoning the local media, it did not go over well for the city.

GIVING THEM LEMONSNews headline, July 28, 1987

Reaction was swift. By the time the story hit the AP wire and was being used in papers and television stations across the country, Mayor Sterling Anderson had officially rescinded the order and reprimanded Pauley for overstepping her bounds.

Technically, though, she hadn’t- according to city health codes, she was in the right. But, a couple of weeks later, Dirty Dancing was released locally and everyone’s attention shifted to that.
RJ White

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