Sunday, December 21, 2008

Old Family Canoes II

Here is my article published in Issue 103, Febrary 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 eveidence 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 unsusual 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".
(emailed Aug. 9)

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