Cupid’s Telephone

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“Courting among the young was closely guarded in old times; the fireplace was very wide, too wide indeed, for they were not allowed to get very close, so each one took a side, eight to ten feet apart, or on opposite sides of a table, while in between the family sat prim as owls. The Courters could not speak unless all heard; so looks of love supplied the tongue of flame, while strict at nine, he had to go away.

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And it was even said, that once on a time, two lovers were caught sitting side by side alone, “‘hee haveing his arm around her wayste, and shee, oh shame, had hers about his neck -‘ while still more horrible it is to say, the witnesses peeped through a crack, and saw for sure, they really kist each other once at least, a real smack, and also “heard the noyse “He kist ye may denonce and she kist him,’‘ for which the lovers admonished were that very day, and told to do such wicked things no more. 

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But ” love’s young dream” bursts all such bonds as these, and so at last a remedy was found ; a telephonic “Courting Stick” was made, a hollow tube, one inch in size, and several feet in length, and placed across the fireplace huge, or over the table, while speaking, having ear and talking cups, to give ” La Grande Passion’ proper vent. 

“So while the rest could see the sight, they could not hear the sound.” 

And thus, though guarded, were unguarded still, till disregarded soon, the airy loving darts, flew thick and fast through Cupid’s telephone, while later still, the stick itself was dropped, and lovers face to face, left all alone, told the old story o’er and o’er again, sometimes till one o’clock in the morning. When the marriage took place, and [the] couple left,  the people for good luck, cast rice at them, or an old shoe for married happiness; while the bride herself, her garter backward threw, for all the girls to scramble for, for luck, the lucky one ’twas said, who picked it up, would be the next to get a husband too. 

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Single maydens ‘enjoyned, “riot to keep their house alone;” so all such, “withering on the virgin thorn,” were hard to find, for of these it was said, ” That women dying maids, lead apes in hell.”

A woman twenty-five years old, was called “‘An ancient Maid,” at thirty ” Thorn- back.'” And man who ”made motion of marriage” without first obtaining ” formal consent,” was punished for such crime, by fine, or whipping, as the Court should think meet; while if either one, whether man or maid, backed out, the jilted one could recover by law, so much an hour, for his great misery, in working so hard, trying to get a mate; as if courting was not delicious work, which more than paid for itself; but a tough job, which one had to go through, and quit at once, as soon as the knot was tied, which happily is not the case today. 

The wedding bans were read three times in church at service, or in town meeting or lecture, and stuck up on the door, or public notice post, after which the Governor or Magistrate, but not the Parson in earliest times, could tie the nuptial knot.


La Grande Passion Courting Stick_Legends Of Woburn_Woburn_Library


“Legends of Woburn,” Converse, Parker Lindall,  1642-1892, WOBURN MASS, PP 38,



Vintage illustration from Legends of Woburn,” Converse, Parker Lindall, 1642-1842

Graphic designed by Patricia Jacques