Coquitlam 125: Remembering the curfew horn

This is the third instalment of a series of columns produced by the Coquitlam Heritage Society to mark the city of Coquitlam’s 125th birthday this year.

This is the third instalment of a series of columns produced by the Coquitlam Heritage Society to mark the city of Coquitlam’s 125th birthday this year. The columns will be published every few weeks.

When Coquitlam was a young district in the early 1900s, its leaders worried about at least one of the same things we do today: Young people out in the evening hours — they must be up to no good.

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We tend to think of those as the “good old days” but parents then worried their children — or other people’s children — were wild and undisciplined.

The answer was a curfew.

In 1925, Coquitlam’s curfew rules said that all children under the age of 16 were not allowed on city streets, in parks or any other public place after 8:30 p.m. in the winter, and 9:30 p.m. in the spring and summer, April through September.

That curfew stayed in place until 1954, when residents voted in a public referendum in favour of a new, slightly less strict curfew. Kids were then allowed on the street until 9 p.m. in the fall and winter and 10 p.m. for spring and summer. Thirty minutes might not seem like much of a change but it no doubt mattered to the kids involved.

And kids had no argument that they didn’t know what time it was. In 1955, the city installed an air horn on top of the municipal works building that was located behind city hall on Brunette Avenue. The horn would blow every night at the beginning of curfew and kids who ignored it could be taken home by police and their parents fined for repeated offences.

The curfew horn rang into the Coquitlam night for more than 10 years until it was discontinued because parents were complaining it woke up their young children. The curfew still existed, however, until the 1960s, when it was repealed, only to resurface in 1976, when municipal council set up a curfew that required that anyone under age 16 be off the streets by 11 p.m. while 16- and 17-year-olds were not allowed out after midnight.

Coquitlam’s curfew history ended in 1992 when the section of the Municipal Act that allowed curfew legislation was repealed but Coquitlam old-timers can remember racing home to beat the curfew whistle.

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