Moral character at the beach heavily enforced
Kempenfelt Bay in Barrie circa 1940: Beach attire in decades past had been a subject of much debate, but frolickers were caught up in a time of change. SUBMITTED
“This year, women seem to have the great desire to expose themselves at the beach.”
Rev. James Buchanan was quite outraged when he complained to Sunnidale Council in August 1933.
“Bare backs, bodies and legs prevailed,” he griped.
One day he had even seen seven young people, all “practically naked” at Wasaga Beach.
Despite previous assurances that they would regulate the moral character at the beach, local authorities had failed to do so.
Beach-goers in this era were caught up in a time of change.
Ideals of what decency meant were still left over from the Victorian period, but a new age of recreation, relaxation and holiday-making called out for more freedom to really enjoy the outdoors, both sun and water, without being stifled in cumbersome clothing.
Gone were the neck-to-ankle and shoulder-to-wrist bathing costumes of the 19th century.
No one missed these heavy woolen pieces, which were quite likely to drown you while saving you from the horrors of an accidental indecent exposure.
As legwear rose and sleeves crept higher, necklines began to plunge and respectable folk became incensed.
They demanded a remedy for this scourge and municipalities responded with bylaws.
Some cities employed female officers, known as sheriffettes, to patrol the beaches with measuring sticks.
Swimsuit too short? Expect to be escorted to a waiting paddy wagon by the police.
The reverend suggested that three more policemen were likely necessary, one for each road leading to the beach at Wasaga.
This ‘Barrie Historical Moment’ is brought to you by the Barrie Historical Archive (barriearchive.ca). More moments will follow looking at the city’s history.