Once, people canoodled in canoes.
Some still may, but canoeing these days is more about portaging, J-strokes and sore shoulders. But in the earnest pursuit of wilderness or walleyes, its worth recalling that spoon didnt always mean a fishing lure.
At one time, the number of couples cuddling in canoes grabbed headlines, spawned park police patrols and saw metaphorical lines drawn in the sand about naughty boat names.
Minnesota historian David C. Smith unearthed this more salacious part of canoe history while researching the canoe craze of the early 1900s.
I was initially interested in the staggering number of canoes on the lakes, he said.
In 1910, Minneapolis had 200 canoe permits. By 1912, permits soared to 2,000 on the Chain of Lakes alone.
It was one of those periodical things that come along, like bicycles or Rollerblades, Smith said.
One reason: Canoes enabled couples to achieve privacy, especially on darkening summer evenings far from shore.
Enforcing a midnight lake curfew was as impossible as it sounds. Park police took to the waters in boats with spotlights trying to squelch misconduct so grave and flagrant that it threatens to throw a shadow upon the lakes as recreation resorts and to bring shame upon the city, according to a newspaper account.
One short-lived civic edict forbade canoeists from sitting side-by-side. They had to face each other, said Smith, noting an insulted response from one neighborhood group that the rule assumed that every woman was a low moral character.
The national canoe craze led to manufacturers marketing courting canoes, with one famous company capitalizing on its name with the sales slogan: Therell be a hot time in the Old Town tonight!