Was the beard tax a thing?

It seems that everywhere you look, men have beards. Some spend much time waxing, softening, moisturizing and styling their facial hair. After years of bare faces, the beard phenomenon is becoming more and more commonplace. Love them or hate them, it seems that beards are here to stay- for now, at least. It is almost No-Shave November. Then again, maybe it’ll fall by the wayside if another Beard Tax is introduced. A Beard Tax? Yes, it was a real thing!


What in the world was the Beard Tax?

The infamous King Henry VIII introduced a Beard Tax in 1535. He wore quite the impressive mane of facial hair himself. This tax was graduated, meaning that the amount was commensurate with the wearer’s’ social position. Elizabeth I of England, Henry the VIII’s daughter, reinstated this tax, but it was poorly enforced. Sadly, this all may be apocryphal, since there is no contemporary record of this charge ever being in effect.


One place we do have documentation of a Beard Tax being enforced is in Russia. Peter I wanted to bring Russian society in line with Western culture, so in 1698, he instituted the Russian Beard Tax- and strictly enforced it. He employed police to forcibly and publicly shave men who wore a beard and refused to pay the tax. Unfortunately, many believed going clean-shaven was against their religious beliefs. Here again, the amount of taxation was in line with the status of the man. For instance, those part of the Imperial Court, in the military, or a government official paid 60 rubles each year. That’s about one U.S. dollar in today’s conversion, though how much it was 320 years ago is anyone’s guess. Conversely, peasants were charged two half-kopeks- about a penny- each time they entered the city.


Even in modern times, there have been Beard Taxes introduced, as recently as 1907 in New Jersey! A member of the NJ State Legislature recommended a bill for the taxation of men with beards. While we don’t know who this legislator is, apparently he lamented that men with beards usually have something to hide, and even grow their facial hair for “ulterior and often base motives.” Whoa. That’s quite the statement.

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5 Weirdest Old Laws

From prohibitions against operating a vehicle while blindfolded to laws prohibiting where and when you may whistle, there are a number of old laws still on the books that make citizens wrinkle their foreheads in wonder and confusion.  But it leads one to wonder, however, what exactly led to the creation of laws dictating whistling times?  Was whistling such a problem that legislatures felt a push to enact regulations on this sometimes involuntary joyful act?  How many people attempt driving while blindfolded? Regardless of what led to their enactment, these bizarre laws and regulations are still on the books.  And now they’re here for your enjoyment.

  1. Bathing.  All residents of Barre, Vermont are required to bathe every Saturday night.  I’m not sure how this law is enforced or what led to its enactment, but according to this law, everyone should smell refreshingly good for Sunday morning church service.
  2. Litter at the drive-in.  In Louisiana, the statues prohibit the throwing or depositing of any food or beverage upon the premises of any drive-in theater.  I guess someone had a bit too much of a good time at the drive-in theater and forgot to clean up after themselves.  Or a group of drive-in employees lobbied together against the slobs that patronized their establishment.  Either way, if you want to stay within the law, hang on tightly to your popcorn and soda at the drive-in!
  3. Catching fish while drunk.  In Ohio, it is illegal to catch a fish while drunk.  Sadly, this takes all the fun out of fishing.  What else is there to do while sitting for hours with a fishing pole, waiting for a lazy, stubborn fish to bite?  No, I can’t think of anything either.  Note to self:  don’t fish in Ohio.
  4. Passing off margarine as real butter.  The Iowa legislature totally has my back.  They’ve made it illegal to pass off margarine as real butter.  Finally, someone understands the disappointment I feel when I order butter on my bread and instead receive a slimy, sweaty yellow gel that is nowhere close to the deliciousness of butter.  Thank you, Iowa!
  5. Persons with venereal disease may not marry.  In Nebraska, the Health Code prohibits individuals with venereal disease from getting married.  It seems to me that this regulation would be difficult to enforce.  Furthermore, it raises the question about what would happen if an already-married individual contracts a venereal disease.  


Be careful when traveling.  Arm yourself with this important knowledge so that you can be certain to bathe on Saturday night in Barre, Vermont, keep a tight hold on your food and beverage at the drive-in theater in Louisiana, be stone cold sober while fishing in Ohio, enforce your right to eat real butter in Iowa, and remain single if you’re plagued by venereal disease in Nebraska.  It has been said that ignorance of the law is no excuse.  So now that you’re in the know, travel forward with caution.

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Halloween Safety Tips from the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office

The pumpkins of Halloween may not look menacing to you at first, there are quite a few scary and dangerous things that could happen on Halloween.  For the unaware and unsuspecting, danger lurks amongst the ghost, ghouls and vampire zombies of Halloween.  While it is our hope that everyone has a fun and carefree day full of adorable children dressed in costumes, our friends at the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office have provided a few safety tips to make sure your Halloween is full of treats rather than tricks.

  1. Walk only on sidewalks.  If you must cross the street with your treat-seeking child, make sure to look both ways before crossing the street.  Trick-or-treating traditionally happens after dark, so both parents and drivers need to be on the lookout for candy-fueled children who want to run down the center of the road.  Pedestrian accidents are unfortunately common around Halloween, but can be prevented with caution and care.
  2. Keep obstructions away from your/your child’s face. Scary masks and elaborate hats can be fun for Halloween, but if you can’t see, you are more likely to trip over objects, steps or into oncoming traffic.  Avoid these potential hazards by maintaining an unobstructed view of your surroundings.
  3. Do not go into the homes of strangers. If you do not know someone who invites you into their home, do not go in!  There are so many bad and scary things that could happen in such a scenario.  Use good, sound decision-making skills and refuse to enter the home of anyone you do not know.
  4. Do not allow a stranger into your home. There is no reason to let anyone inside your home that you do not know.  If someone claims to need to use your bathroom or the telephone, you should not let them unless you know them.  Just because you are handing out free candy to strangers dressed in costume, it does not mean that any of these individuals should be permitted into your home.
  5. Do not allow children to wander around alone. Children should always be accompanied by an adult when walking around at night, but especially on Halloween.  Increased traffic in the neighborhood and people dressed up as vampires and zombies are just a couple of the many good reasons to accompany your child when walking outside at night.
  6. Remember to blow out your pumpkin. Holiday lights are spectacular, but an unattended pumpkin left burning amongst your decorative gourds and autumnal wreaths could result in an unfortunate home fire.  Make sure you blow all candles out and that they are, in fact, fully extinguished before you go to bed on Halloween night.

We’ve all seen Halloween-based horror movies and you don’t want your own Halloween to mimic these story lines.  Please feel free to share these tips with your friends and loved ones.  If any trouble arises, you know that you can call the men and women of the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office.  Stay safe and we’ll see you soon!


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What Lies Beneath: Protecting Your Rights at Sea

On a cruise ship, you are at your most vulnerable. You are a stranger in a strange land. You are far from friends and family. Who looks out for you when you are in international waters? Who is responsible for your safety when you are out to sea?

Maritime law provides that the owner of a vessel owes a reasonable duty of care for the safety of its passengers. This is a frightening proposition when you think of the utter unsuspecting nature of most cruise ship passengers. You don’t board a cruise ship anticipating disaster. No, you go expecting the vacation of a lifetime. You go to celebrate Aunt Edna’s 85th birthday. You go to celebrate your younger brother who, after eight long years, has finally graduated from college. And what exactly is a reasonable duty of care when a cruise ship employs hundreds of staff? Multiply this along with hundreds of passengers and still other variables—excursions, food borne illness, individual criminal activity, excessive drinking and drug-related activity—and one wonders what a cruise line can reasonably be expected to do to protect the rights and ensure the safety of its passengers at sea.

Accidents can and do happen anywhere. On cruise ships, the cruise line may be held accountable only for accidents that arise due to the cruise line’s negligence. Negligence is loosely defined in terms of duty, breach, causation and harm. This means first that the cruise line had a duty, for example to keep the floors free of any obstructions its passengers might trip over. Second, the cruise line breached that duty. In our example this would be by leaving a pile of broken glass in the middle of the floor even though their staff had been alerted it was there. Third, that the cruise line’s breach of its duty caused an injury to occur. Furthering our example, this could result in a man tripping and falling on the broken glass. Finally, in order to sustain a cause of action against the cruise ship for negligence, damages or harm to an individual must be established. In our example, the man who tripped and fell on a pile of glass could establish that he was harmed by sustaining cuts and perhaps even severed veins due to falling on the pile of glass.

How do cruise lines protect themselves from an onslaught of litigants injured at sea? From the moment your cruise ticket is issued, the cruise line is protecting itself from potential litigation. The typical personal injury plaintiff has a three year statute of limitations in which to bring his or her claim. However, the cruise lines shorten this time to one year, to which you implicitly agree when you purchase a cruise ticket. You also agree, via your purchase of a ticket, to litigate any and all claims you may have against the cruise line in the state specified in…you guessed it, your cruise ticket. Furthermore, your cruise ticket may also place notice requirements in the language of the ticket. These notice requirements could further restrict the unsuspecting litigant’s right to sue.

Contacting an attorney experienced in maritime law can help preserve and pursue your rights. However, time is of the essence in maritime law claims. It is therefore important that you contact an experienced maritime lawyer as soon as you are aware an injury has occurred.  Our local recommendation is up in Mobile.  Their firm is:

Charles McCorquodale Law
3709 Stein Street
Mobile, Alabama 36608
(251) 220-2790

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5 Things You Can Do to Help Prevent Crime

As the holiday season creeps up, the Fans of the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office have noted that our officers are much busier than any other time during the year. Their caseloads rapidly increase with holiday crime including shoplifting, home invasions, robberies, simple assault and car accidents. Now, not to make light of family violence, but the local assault numbers usually increase because of the increased number of family gatherings that happen around the holidays—and the only way to prevent these is to avoid these gatherings or avoid your family at these gatherings. But here are five other steps you can take to prevent crime.

1. Be alert and observant. If something or someone looks suspicious, do not hesitate to call the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office. They’ve told us that they’d much rather respond to a call where it turns out everything is okay than to have a citizen not call and something bad occurred Plus, you’d get a visit from a Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office deputy! Who wouldn’t want that?

2. Lock the doors to your car and home. Duh. This should be a total no-brainer, but you would be shocked at the number of doors unlocked at the local grocery store on any given night. Protect yourself, dear citizens. Take the nanosecond required to click your doors locked.

3. Don’t drink and drive. Or drug and drive. Car services abound nowadays, so there is absolutely no excuse to drive while impaired. Plus, it’s super expensive. Do you know how much your insurance rates would skyrocket? Do you know how much it would cost to have an attorney represent you in court? Do you know what court costs and probation fees run these days? Can you even imagine the devastation that would haunt you the rest of your life if you injured someone or worse, caused them to sustain fatal injuries? So just don’t drive while impaired, okay?

4. Arrange for someone to secure your packages that are delivered while you are not home. A pile of six big boxes sitting idly on your doorstep is very tempting even for the most subdued thief. Since most delivery services inform you ahead of time when to anticipate your package, either arrange for someone to bring it inside for you or have your packages delivered to the post office. You don’t want to unduly tempt would-be thieves.

5. Bring a buddy shopping! There’s always safety in numbers, so if you have friends, ask them to go shopping with you. Better yet, bring your mother-in-law with you. That way, she can help you pick out everyone’s presents and there will be nothing for her to complain about during the annual holiday gift exchange!

Not all crime can be prevented, but our honorable men and women of the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office have provided some excellent tips on how to keep your home and your family safe during the upcoming holiday season. If you see a member of the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office while you are out and about doing your holiday shopping, be sure to wave!


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4 Things the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office Wants You to Know

By now you probably realize that the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office does a lot more than go around arresting people.  But, did you know that one deputy has a particularly interesting way of staying in shape?  I bet you can’t guess which deputy is a gourmet vegan chef when he’s off-duty.  And what is K-9 Nikkita’s favorite pastime?  Sit back, relax and indulge in the four things you should really know about the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies need to stay in good shape.  Deputies are frequently called upon to chase a fleeing suspect or rescue a citizen from a vehicle.  In order to perform their duties fully and to the best of their abilities, deputies must work out to maintain their strength and endurance.  Officer Stephanie Brennan maintains her excellent physique by tap dancing.  Officer Brennan has been tap dancing since the age of 4.  She claims that tap dancing allows her to express whatever she is feeling on any particular day.  For example, if her day is stacked with court appearances and testimony, tap dancing helps her to decrease and manage stress while keeping her in excellent physical shape

Deputies need to be healthy. In order to fuel their bodies for the sometimes grueling physical and mental demands of their jobs, deputies need to consume nutritious food.  Officer Poindexter is a bit of a nutrition guru and is known to bring dried fruit, vegetable and nut mixes with him on the job.  When he is off duty, he likes to experiment in the kitchen.  He cooks up eclectic plant-based meals that support his vegan diet.  Now, you may wonder how a vegan officer compares against a carnivorous officer.  However, if you’ve ever seen Officer Poindexter bolt after a suspect attempting to flee from the scene of a hit-and-run, you are well aware that his vegan diet does not slow him down!

Deputies need good people skills. In order to successfully interact with our diverse community, our deputies must have good people skills.  Our deputies continually polish these skills with extensive community involvement including Coffee with a Cop, Shop with a Sheriff and the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office Backpack Buddies Program.  Our deputies are also regular fixtures at local softball games, church events and community concerts.

Deputies need a good sense of humor. Keeping a community safe can sometimes be stressful.  But the men and women and their trusty K-9, Nikkita, know how to keep good humor flowing.  The whole office loves to watch Nikkita when she is off-duty as she engages in her favorite pastime:  chasing a tennis ball.  Stress and worry simply fade away as you watch this fierce and fearless police dog focus single-mindedly on a single yellow tennis ball as it is catapulted through the air.  Then, with great joy and pride, Nikkita retrieves the tennis ball, tail wagging as she returns the ball to the deputy who threw it for her.  When times get tough, deputies say that remembering the joy and humor of times like these make it easier to get through stressful situations.

As you can see, there’s a lot more to the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office than you knew.  Next time one of these stellar men or women (or dog!) passes your way, be sure to thank them for all they do!


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Coffee with the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office

On October 4th, 2017, the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office sponsored their annual Coffee with a Sheriff at the Biscuit Factory on King Street.  I was honored to attend and observe firsthand the interaction between our local community and the men and women of the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office.  Members of the K-9 squad were also present along with Nikkita, a German Shepard who intrigued the children

The idea behind the national “Coffee with a Cop” day is to allow law enforcement and citizens to interact on a non-confrontation basis in a stress-free atmosphere to discuss common goals and concerns.  This annual event brings together community members and sheriff’s deputies so that they can get to know one another and discuss topics important to them in their neighborhoods, schools and various walks of life.

Several members of the Fans of the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office were in attendance.  We had the opportunity to sit down with Officer Grimes and Officer Klien and interview them.  These women are both mothers and wives in addition to being employed with the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office.  We hope you find their interviews as inspiring as we did!

Fans of Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office:  Tell us about how you got involved in law enforcement.

Officer Grimes:  I’ve always wanted to work in law enforcement.  When I was a kid, I watched “Law & Order” on television and was fascinated by the fast pace and all the action I saw.  I went to college and studied history, because I thought I had to.  But afterwards, I went to the police academy.  I’ve been working here ever since.  That was ten years ago.

Officer Klien:  Growing up, I wanted to be a star on Broadway.  The only problem was, I could neither sing nor dance.  So, after studying musical theater in college and realizing that I was not going to find a job, I was accepted into the police academy.  It was the best thing I’d ever done.  The men and women I’ve served alongside are my best friends.  They’re the most stand-up people you could ever hope to possibly meet.  I’ve been at the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office for eight years.

Fans of Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office:  What’s the best part of your job?

Officer Grimes:  Honestly, the people.  They’re simply amazing.  When they put a call in to us, they are trusting us with the scariest, most important parts of their lives.  I don’t take that lightly.  It’s a privilege to serve our citizens.  Every day I wake up, thankful for the work I get to do.

Officer Klien:  I agree, I’d have to say that it’s the people, the community, knowing that what I’m doing is making a direct impact in someone’s life.  That’s why events like this are so important.  If we get to know our community in a comfortable environment and we talk and understand each other, then when there’s a serious or scary situation in progress, we already have a basis of understanding and we can help them so much more.

Hope to see you at next year’s Coffee with the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office.


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Ride Along Night with the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office


On a steamy summer evening this past July, I got to cross “Go for a Ride Along with the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office” off of my bucket list.  If you’ve never done this, I highly encourage it.  But it’s not for the weary or fearful.  These sheriffs are tough!

I met Officer Grimes at the local donut shop.  We picked up two large coffees to keep us perked up for our evening pursuits.  I signed a really long and detailed waiver, releasing the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office from any lawsuits, liability, responsibility, etc. for any injuries I may incur while riding along with Officer Grimes that evening.  Then we packed up and hit the patrol car.

As soon as we pulled out of the donut shop, Officer Grimes got a call about a suspicious vehicle in the lot of a nearby grocery store.

“Okay, we’re looking for a blue sedan.  Dark blue.  With one individual.  Might be looking to rob people or something.  Just not really there for grocery shopping business,” she said as we took off.

“No siren?” I asked, disappointed.

“Not yet,” she grinned at me.

We pulled up at a normal rate of speed to the Mighty Lion grocery store.  The parking lot was well lit.  We didn’t see any blue sedans.  Just a bunch of regular grocery store customers out getting groceries on a weeknight in July.  We drove around for a bit.  Nothing.

Officer Grimes called in her location and advised whoever was on the other end that nothing much was happening.  We waited for a few more minutes.  Drank our coffee.  Waited a bit more.  Still no blue sedan.

After it became readily apparent that nothing was going to happen, we moved on to traffic enforcement.

“Now do we get to use lights and the siren?” I asked.

“Sorry,” smiled Officer Grimes.

We drove through town for two hours while Office Grimes called in license plates and registration numbers.  I was getting bummed out and becoming convinced that I wasn’t going to see anything exciting and I had wasted a perfectly good summer evening when all of a sudden, a blue sedan sped by us.

Officer Grimes threw on her sirens and lights and chased after the blue sedan.  The car ran two red lights and swerved through empty residential streets, even though there was no other traffic on the roads.  My heart raced as I clung to the edges of the passenger seat.  This whole time, Officer Grimes was the picture of calm, communicating with someone on the other end of her radio, giving the names of streets we are whizzing by.  Finally, the car pulls over and stops.  A skinny little teenager holds his hands up in the air.  He is crying.  Officer Grimes commands him down to the ground, where she cuffs his hands behind his back in one swift motion.  Seriously, she is so cool.  She doesn’t even break a sweat.

Backup arrives and the boy is led away by the other officer.  Officer Grimes does paperwork in the car for almost an hour, pausing here and there to answer questions and give information to the other officers.  Turns out the driver of the blue sedan was a twelve year-old boy who took his grandmother’s car joyriding.  Lucky for him, his grandmother didn’t want to press charges, so he just ended up with a stack of traffic tickets.

Overall, it was an exciting night with the Gulf Coast Sheriff’s Office.  Cheers to Officer Grimes for making it so memorable.



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Choppy International Waters: the Perils of Maritime Law

Packing for a five-night Caribbean cruise, you are concerned with many things. Did I pack enough shoes? Did I remember my earplug for hubby’s snoring? Will the dogs be okay in their fancy and expensive boarding hotel? But you’re not thinking about all of the accidents that could happen onboard a cruise ship. You’re not considering in which state you would have to retain a lawyer if you had too many glasses of wine during the midnight dessert buffet, slipped on ice cream spilled by a hurried waiter, and stumbled down a flight of stairs, breaking your leg and nose. You’re not wondering what choice of law would govern the case of the Broadway performer who is knocked unconscious by a piece of scenery during the finale of the 9 pm entertainment. You aren’t weighing the consequences of what power our government could exert if a bunch of island natives decided to storm the cruise ship and take everyone one board hostage.

Maritime law is the vast body of laws that govern activities that occur on the high seas. It is indeed a hodgepodge of laws, including tort law, contract law and international law. In most circumstances, the company with whom you are involved will dictate via contract the type of law, where lawsuits may be brought, and the amount of time in which you have to bring a lawsuit.

For example, when you purchase a ticket for a cruise, your boarding passes and tickets will clearly spell out (albeit in very small print) where any lawsuits must be brought. And while you generally have a three year statute of limitations in which to bring a claim for personal injury against a cruise line, cruise lines usually shorten this to a one year statute of limitations as denoted in your cruise ticket. To make matters even more confusing and difficult for a passenger who has been injured, there are normally notice provisions that must happen within a certain period of time as dictated by your cruise line in your cruise ticket. In other words, you may have as little as ten days in which to notify the cruise line that you have suffered an injury due to their negligence. If you fail to provide this notice within ten days or if you provide this notice to the wrong person, your ability to proceed against the cruise line in court may be compromised.

Maritime law provides that ship-owners owe a reasonable duty of care to their passengers. But if you are a passenger who has been injured on a cruise ship, you must contact a lawyer as soon as you possibly can. A lawyer well-versed in maritime law generally and injuries incurred on cruise ships specifically can help you meet the deadlines set forth in your cruise ticket, can help you file your lawsuit in the proper jurisdiction and venue, and can insure that all of the proper notice requirements are followed. Maritime lawyers are trained and knowledgeable about all the steps that need to occur in order to protect your legal rights and remedies.

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