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“Girl Canoeists’ Tight Skirts Menace Society,” according to a headline in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune. The way Berry saw it, the narrow skirts of the day would hamper women from swimming should their canoe capsize. While it’s unclear whether a tight skirt ever led to a drowning, his concerns did lead to more women and girls taking swimming lessons.
Parks’ use reflects society
These days, there are few, if any, law enforcement issues concerning urban canoeists, said Dawn Summers, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Rented racks accommodate 438 canoes on the Chain of Lakes, and sell out every year. Names painted on canoes seem to have gone the way of ladies’ bloomers.
“The fascinating thing about the study of park history is that the use of parks reflected society at the time,” said Smith, who shares his research on his blog, http://minneapolisparkhistory.com. “People always used the parks for what suited them, so parks have gone through great changes over the years.
Consider 1896, when the bicycle craze resulted in a path built around Lake Harriet, and construction of an enclosure big enough for 800 bikes, where cyclists could “park” while at the lake for the day.
“The park commission acquired the land for the parks, but ultimately people decided how they would use that land — or water, in this case.”
Society, of course, soon moved toward a more land-based pursuit with the emergence of the automobile. By the 1920s, the canoodling that happened in canoes was taking a back seat to, well, the back seat.
But also to the front seat, Smith said. “People could get away as a couple.” And, while Edsel wasn’t as clever a name as Kismekwik, Americans’ love affair with the open road had begun.
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185