CANTON — The theme song for “The Andy Griffith Show” from the 1960s, could never have been legally recorded or performed in Canton.

On April 9, 1963, townspeople adopted an ordinance that banned whistling, among other things.

That law and a few other “funky” laws are still on the books, although they’re no longer enforced, Administrator Scotty Kilbreth and Town Clerk Kathleen Walker said Wednesday.

“It was an eye-opener to me,” Kilbreth said Thursday afternoon when Walker broke out laughing one day as she read the section aloud to him.

An Ordinance Promoting Public Peace, Safety and Health states that people cannot make any loud, unnecessary or unusual noises on or beside any street, sidewalk, public or private place which annoy, alarm, frighten, disturb, injure or endanger the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others.

Additionally, it states that other violations of the ordinance include honking a horn or signal device, except as a danger warning; playing a radio, musical instrument, or any other machine or device used to reproduce or produce sound; and yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing in such a way as to disturb the peace, repose, tranquility, quiet and comfort of others.


Punishment is a fine of not more than $20 or not more than 30 days in jail, or both.

“Oh, it was comical,” Kilbreth said when Walker read it to him.

“The selectmen think it’s comical, too,” he said. He and Walker showed it to Selectman Brian Keene, who is the board’s liaison with Town Office staff, “and he got a chuckle out of it.”

Board of Selectmen Chairman Donny Hutchins “got wind of it. He chuckled, but on the serious side, he said we need to get rid of this stuff,” Kilbreth said.

Canton has about a dozen or so ordinances and all of them must be reviewed and either updated or amended, because many refer to state or town laws no longer in existence. And then there are the “funky” laws, as Kilbreth calls them, such as the anti-whistling ordinance, that need to be repealed or changed so they don’t infringe on people’s rights.

“I know Canton in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they were adopting a lot of ordinances and it may have had something to do with that Comprehensive Plan thing,” Kilbreth said. “All of this stuff has just surfaced because the board wants to get everything up to snuff.”


Selectmen recently tasked Walker with finding the town ordinances, because they wanted to review and update or repeal any if needed. Kilbreth said Walker began searching and found a blue book in a file cabinet with a packet containing the ordinances.

“We have a Board of Selectmen that is very aggressive and they want to straighten all of this stuff out — ordinances, the Town Office, etc.,” Kilbreth said. “So I told Kathy, ‘Yeah, you’re probably going to find a few other ones that are funky,’ and there were,” he said.

He said a skateboard ordinance adopted in 1991was “a knee-jerk reaction” to kids skateboarding around the post office. “They weren’t hurting anybody, but someone thought they had to have an ordinance preventing it.”

The Canton Skateboard Ordinance prohibits skateboarding activities in public areas in town but allows them in designated areas. Fines of up to $100 are levied following a written warning and each subsequent offense.

“We also have a Radioactive Waste ordinance,” Kilbreth said. The March 1991 ordinance bans having any radioactive waste materials within the town’s boundaries, and in the next section, a sentence allows people to build or operate any temporary or permanent radioactive waste repository if voters approve it.

“That was a knee-jerk reaction,” Kilbreth said. “Back in the 1990s, the government was looking for a site in Maine to dump nuclear waste from Maine Yankee. So we scurried and got that ordinance in place. I thought it was quite comical, because, like I said, I’m not a big fan of ordinances, and something would come up and they’d scurry around to get an ordinance for that.”


He said he knows the town must have laws to protect shorelands from development and the town from improper development and to govern solid waste and recycling, among other activities.

But ordinances can be restrictive and take away people’s rights, Kilbreth said.

That can be seen in another section of the anti-whistling ordinance. It bans certain constitutional rights, such as free speech.

The ordinance states that no one shall molest, vex, harass, irritate, torment or annoy by word, act or gesture, any other persons in or on any street, sidewalk, public or private or commercial or industrial or business place.

The ordinance also bans loitering and jostling, crowding, or willfully impeding the passage of pedestrians anywhere in Canton.

Additionally, it sets a curfew for children 16 years old and under after 10 p.m. from June 1 to Sept. 1, and after 9 p.m. from Sept. 3 to May 31 unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Also, business owners or people in charge of public places that sell alcoholic beverages or allow them to be consumed on the premises cannot have any child 16 years old and under on the premises during the curfew times and dates.


That’s punishable by a fine not to exceed $25 for each violation.

Laughing, Kilbreth said the whole ordinance was probably written for him and his friends. He said he was 7 going on 8 years old when it was adopted and “raised hell with my friends.”

He added, “It could be, because I lived right in the center of town.”

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