New Appalachian Moments Blog Post
By Scott Ballard
It’s not hard to imagine that dating (or wooing!) someone in the mountains was far different back when…or…was it? Usually the initial attraction would happen at church function, a harvest-related event or at school…where you might…take eyes to someone…or become sweet on somebody. Fall of the year corn-shuckings might create a spark because…whoever found the special red ear of corn got to kiss the person of their choice!
And while it might take some encouragement for the younger ones, back then it was the boys asking the girls to a dance unless you mentioned Sadie Hawkins. The concept of girls asking the boys out was promoted through the newspaper cartoon Lil’ Abner in 1937 where, on Sadie Hawkins day, the girls got to chase the boys…and they did!
When the young folks started having house parties with live music, the games might include playing post office or spin the bottle…to play post office, first heard of in 1925, you got a letter and then you had to pay for your letter in the next room with a kiss…you can imagine there were many different variations to this game! If you’ve got one, let us know!
You might say these are gateway games…games that might lead to…courting (Heavens to Betsy!)… The rules of courting might officially start with a boy speaking with girl’s father. And in courting three was NOT a crowd…no such thing as a third wheel…not at all…most courting involved a chaperone, even if it meant a younger brother, which lead to all kinds of mischief.
Engagements were brief at best and it was not uncommon for the couple to…slip off…which meant to elope…to tie the knot or jump the broom. But most of that did not include a honeymoon, because people just didn’t have the money for that, in fact, most couples didn’t even live in their own house after marriage…it was the custom to live, at least temporarily with the groom’s parents for a while…I’ll let you ponder that for a moment and think about how that might go over today! A tradition we want to bring back? Um, no.
Most marriages were not in churches, but at the home of the bride…with or without shot guns (!!!)…where you can also imagine that superstitions had free reign… ideas like a bride should not bathe on her wedding day…because…if she got her belly wet, her husband would be a drunkard. She also should never put on her own veil on the day of the wedding as this brings bad luck. For better fortune, a bride needed a happily married woman do the honors.
After the wedding it was time for the shivaree…which had as its main purpose to make as much commotion and noise as possible to keep the bride and groom awake all night…the shivaree sometimes included abducting the bride or groom for a ransom of food or drink…all in good fun…I mean, what are friends for?
Please share your courtin’ stories in the comments section below and good luck finding that red ear of corn!
For the audio version click below: