‘Real Fact’: City has some weird laws

Arby’s and the Good Humor Bar.

Ed O’Neill and Warner Brothers.

Ron Jaworski and Ray Mancini.

All are products of the Youngstown area in some way and have been propelled into the national limelight. And by that, the national limelight has been thrust back on us.

Add this little ditty to that list:

In Youngstown, it is against the law to run out of gas.

Yes, it is.

It is — thankfully, or regretfully — part of a national promotional campaign from the Snapple drink folks.

“Real Fact” is a current promotion going on for the quirky company with such flavors as Go Bananas, Mango Madness and Peach Mangosteen. (I wondered if it was named after Bruce Springsteen; it’s not).

“Real Fact” presents customers with random facts on the Snapple caps. There is a complementary feature on the company website — a match-the-cap timed game.

If you remember the TV show “Cheers,” the Snapple effort is Cliff Clavin euphoria — an endless stream of useless truths and realizations of the world around us. It includes:

The average pencil can write for 35 miles or 50,000 words.

If a sheep and a goat mate, the offspring is called a geep.

Lachanophobia is the fear of veggies.

Our brain is 2 percent of our weight but uses 20 percent of our energy.

And of course, our little ditty:

In 1929, the popularity of the automobile was running afoul with Youngstown’s main transportation of the day — the trolley cars, so reasons Police Chief Foley as he dug out the paperwork on the Snapple law.

Apparently, those darn rookie drivers could not keep those new cars full of gas, and “E” and “F” gauges were not invented. Cars kept running out of gas in the congested areas of downtown where trolley cars ruled the road.

So it was that Council President W.L. Buchanan and law director Carl Armstrong set out in 1929 to punish by a fine of $10 any driver without sufficient fuel to operate a car.

The chief said he can’t recall a ticket being issued for this, and more importantly, says we’re likely safe from future enforcement of it.

The same likely is true for another weird city law still on the books that he offered up.

In 1970, Mayor Jack Hunter cracked the whip on, actually, cracking the whip.

The city passed a law stating “No person shall handle or flourish a whip [in public]. Upon trial of this charge, the defendant shall be acquitted if it appears that he was at the time engaged in lawful business calling or occupation, and that the circumstances in which he was placed justified a prudent man in possessing such a weapon.”

So I guess that covered male strippers, too.

Foley reasons that in those days, the Hollywood Western movie was gaining prominence, and whips were becoming more commonplace on the streets. Mayor Hunter was having none of that.

His assistant wrote this to Judge Manos:

“[The mayor] would like as stiff a penalty as possible. Of course it goes without saying that he will expect as high a priority as possible.”

Snapple’s slogan is “Made from the best stuff on earth.”

So, too, are some of our laws.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com.

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