Thanks to movies, books, TV shows, and possibly stories your parents told you, we have a pretty good idea how courting took place a generation ago. Not terribly different than today, young suitors would take a date on a car ride, and perhaps end up parked on a romantic lookout for some alone time to embrace under the stars. If we go a little further back in history however, the premise is still the same... but picture the courtship in a canoe.
Can I Canoe You Up the River: The Story of Paddling and Romance is a brand new book that comes out today from the Canadian Canoe Museum. Written by John Summers, it chronicles how courtship evolved in the 19th Century from potential suitors "calling on" women in their homes, to the early 20th Century where canoes were used for courting. This Museum Gallery Guide does a fantastic job of painting the picture for us, using historic canoe-related postcards that tell the story of how the courting rituals changed over the years, how gender roles evolved and played a factor in the courtship, and how the canoe itself was so iconic in the process.
I found the entire concept quite amusing (and foreign to an extent) when at the height of canoe courtship there would be small waterways clogged with canoes, each containing a couple who were wanting to spend time together "alone". The canoes would also contain a picnic basket, and sometimes a phonograph to help sweeten the moment, all while chaperones would look on from the bank. Canoe manufacturers would even design newer models with wider decks (similar to a Kayak) where the opening would "force" the couple to sit closer together.
John Summer's humorous captions point out interesting details of the postcards, and his writing gave a great background of a point in history that I haven't heard much about before, but found very interesting. The book contains photos of historic canoes, references to songs from the era, and despite this being a North American occurrence, a chapter that touches closer to home with "Canoedling" and Canadiana. Can I Canoe You Up the River: The Story of Paddling and Romance is $26.75 and can be purchased through the Canadian Canoe Museum's online store. The "Can I Canoe You Up the River" exhibit also opens tonight at the Canadian Canoe Museum, and there is a collection of unique canoe romance gifts available from the online store.