benches in the park for hugging?

The following editorial, quoted by Raymond Clary in The Making of Golden Gate Park, The Early Years:  1865-1906 (p. 39) is from The San Francisco WASP April 30, 1881.  Goodness gracious!

“The law-abiding people of this community were startled a few days since, and the greatest indignation prevailed at an editorial article in a contemporary, denouncing the practice of hugging in the public parks. The article went on to show that the placing of seats in the park leads to hugging, and the editor denounced hugging in the most insane manner possible.

Parties who object to hugging are old, usually, and are like the lemon that has done duty in the circus lemonade. If they had a job of hugging, they would want to hire a man to do it for them.

Let us call attention to the powerful paper, the Declaration of Independence, when it asserts that ” All men are created free and equal, endowed with certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

When the framers of the great Declaration of Independence were at work on that clause, they must have had the pastime of hugging in the parks. Hugging is certainly a pursuit of happiness. People did not hug for wages, that is, except on the stage. It is sort of spontaneous combustion, as it were, of the feelings, and has to have proper conditions of the atmosphere to make it a success…..

A man who complains of a little natural, inspired hugging on a seat in a park, of an evening, with a fountain throwing water all over little cast-iron cupids, has probably got a soul, but he hasn’t got it with him…

The couple, one a male and the other a female, will sit far apart on the cast-iron seat for a moment, when the young lady will try to fix her cloak over her shoulders, and she can’t fix it, and then the young man will help her, and when he has got it fixed, he will go off and leave one arm around the small of her back. He will miss his arm and wonder where he left it, and go back after it. And in the dark he will feel around with the other hand to find the hand he left.

Certainly the two hands will meet; they will express astonishment, and clasp each other, and be so glad that they will began to squeeze, and the chances are that they will cut the girl in two, but they never do. Under the circumstances, a girl can exist on less atmosphere then she can while doing the washing.

It is claimed by some that young people who stay out nights and hug are not good for anything the next day. There is something to this but if they didn’t get any hugging, they wouldn’t be worth a cent anytime. They would be all the time looking for it.”

via sfpix: Benches are for hugging.


About fromthethicket

I'm a landscape historian and professor emeritus of landscape architecture, UC Davis. I live in San Francisco.
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