Saturday, February 7, 2009

Canoes and Romance

My series of emails on Low-Tech Canoeing was conceived as a sort of audience warm up for the upcoming Ultimate Hugh Heward Challenge when I will be reporting more-or-less daily on the progress of the Challengers on their journey from Detroit to Chicago following Hugh Heward's 1790 trek. I figured that this process might shake down my "Canoeist" Email list from last year's Charlie Parmelee saga to those who really give a hoot. I was wrong. Instead of the list shrinking it has been growing as there appears to be a lot more interest in old time canoeing than I had expected. Thus encouraged, I am trying a series on Canoes and Romance. This won't be nearly as historical or technical as LaSalle or Heward or elm-bark canoes. With my usual caveat that you know where the delete key is and can get off the list by merely asking, here we go:
Here is my article published in Issue 103, February 2001, of "Wooden Canoe", the journal of the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association. The cover shows a bride and groom on a lake in a wood and canvas canoe:
                                         By Jim Woodruff
In his book "At Ease, Stories I Tell My Friends", Dwight Eisenhower describes his 1911 trip from his hometown of Abilene, Kansas, to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he was to begin his military career:
"For the trip I planned to take about a week, stopping off in Chicago to see a girl...and in Ann Arbor to visit my brother Ed. At the University of Michigan, Ed was just completing his second year. While he was finishing his final exams, I walked around the campus and was impressed by the elaborate educational institution.
That evening he hired a canoe and we set out on the river---I believe it was the Huron---with a couple of college girls. We took along a phonograph and played the popular songs. Paddling in the moon light we passed canoe loads of other students enjoying the pleasant June evening. Afterwards, we paid for the canoe and walked the girls back to their dormitories...this was, up to that moment, the most romantic evening I had ever known."
One can't help but wonder whether Ike's unnamed date realized in later years that she had enjoyed a pleasant evening canoeing with a future five-star general and President of the United States. On later occasions did she recall that night upon hearing songs which were then popular, such as "Sweet Adeline", "In the Good Old Summer Time", or "My Gal Sal"?
Searching through the literature about the University of Michigan provides plentiful evidence that canoeing was a very popular recreational activity in Ann Arbor during the first two decades of the twentieth century, especially for dating. It was not unusual for University of Michigan senior annuals (called Michiganensian) to contain illustrations of romantic Huron River canoeing scenes.
Next: The song "Out in My Old Town Canoe".

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