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That Time a Young Girl's Lemonade Stand Gave Her Neighbors Polio

Illustration for article titled That Time a Young Girls Lemonade Stand Gave Her Neighbors Polio

This week police in Overton, Texas shut down two sisters (aged 7 and 8) who were operating an illicit lemonade stand. These kinds of stories have become an annual summertime tradition, complete with that cool and refreshing thanks Obama! subtext about government overreach. The part we seem to forget? America has always been at war with kids’ lemonade stands. Even back in the good ol’ days.


I did a quick search through newspaper archives and found examples of lemonade stands getting shut down as early as the 1960s. There was even one case in the 1940s where a young girl was giving the whole neighborhood polio by the cup. Caveat emptor, amirite kids?

I’m not saying that you’re going to get polio if you buy lemonade from kids in your neighborhood, but you’re probably going to get polio if you buy lemonade from kids in your neighborhood.


1941 in suburban Chicago

Because a little girl kept a lemonade stand in suburban Western Springs and four of her playmates came down with infantile paralysis, scientists have struck the hottest trail of the deadly disease virus in the history of epidemiology.


One hot afternoon in July she did a lively business in front of her home. What did it matter if, as the day wore on, the glasses weren’t rinsed after every using? The customers weren’t fussy and kept plunking down their pennies just the same.

Then she and four customers came down with the disease. It was its first appearance in the community this season.

1967 in Satellite Beach, Florida

If Billy Churchill gets to reopen his sidewalk refreshment stand, chances are he’ll be the only 11-year-old lemonade vendor to offer his patrons powder room facilities. Separate ones at that.

The Brevard County Health Department closed Billy’s business last month. A neighbor had complained that the boy was selling frozen refreshments without a permit.


1975 in Indianapolis, Indiana

The days of the orange crate neighborhood lemonade stand are gone. Explorer Scouts of Post 256 learned a lesson in modern lemonade merchandizing recently when they set up a stand at the country fair.

A health inspector arrived at the scene almost immediately and ordered the stand closed. He said it needed screening, a floor, a roof and a sliding door. And he said the operators had to wear hairnets.


1984 in Coronado, California

The corner lemonade stand, an American tradition, has run afoul of the law in this resort city across the bay from San Diego.

Three youngsters operating an umbrella-shaded stand had to shut down their booming business when they were served with a formal complaint by police.

The entrepreneurs — Kristy Morrill, 12, and her sisters, Jami, 10, and Jasmine, 5, opened the stand about three weeks ago. Built on fifth tee of the city golf course, the girls sold lemonade, homemade cookies and granola bars to golfers and were taking in between $60 and $80 a week before they were shut down last Tuesday.


1987 in Pacific Grove, California

A fifth-grade student won a promise from the city police chief and the mayor of this swank community that her lemonade stand won’t be shut down again because she lacks a city sales permit.

Clementine Bonner, 9, was ordered by a policeman more than a year ago to closer her neighborhood refreshment stand after the department received an anonymous complaint.


1993 in Charleston, South Carolina

City ordinance says anyone selling on the street needs a peddler’s license, so a police officer dutifully shut down an unlicensed operation.

But the business was a lemonade stand — just like one the chief of police once had — and the proprietors were two young girls.

The rush of publicity quickly brought apologies from City Hall and police alike, and the girls were allowed to resume their enterprise.


1997 Dale, Indiana

When health inspectors handed 14-year-old Nathan Brittingham a regulatory lemon, he made lemonade.

Spencer County health officials ended Brittingham’s 8-year run as a summertime lemonade salesman last month, citing his stand for not having the required permits.

So the youthful entrepreneur switched businesses, opening a new stand that sells balloons, squirt guns, magic puzzles, trick cans and hats. Customers, by the way, get a free glass of lemonade.


This is obviously far from a comprehensive list. And it’s entirely possible that we have far more overzealous regulators trying to shut down kids’ lemonade stands here in the 21st century than we did in the 20th. But a quick search through newspaper archives can be pretty enlightening anytime we think something is completely new. The usual takeaway: Everything’s always been bad.

Photo of lemons by your humble bloggist


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I had a lemonade stand as a kid. Fun stuff. Got $10 and told to keep the change. Do that to this day and the look on the kids’ faces is well worth it.

However, The MINUTE, I’m out of site, I dump out the lemonade and trash the cup. No clue how it’s made so I’m not drinking it.