As Valentine's Day rushes up in a commercialized flurry of flowers, cavalcade of cards, crush of chocolates and slew of social media silliness, it makes me pine for simpler times. Not that they were my times, mind you. They were the youthful days of the late Nora Skanes of Colliers and the late Gwen Dawson of Bay Roberts. I chatted with both of them a few years ago about their memories of growing up and living around the bay, and one of the topics that brought out twinkles in the eye and girlish laughter was, of course, courtship. Courting in Colliers Back in Noraâs day, Ghaneyâs Bridge was the place for a loversâ rendezvous. A generation ago, community bridges were a common meeting place.âThere was people from Bacon Cove, Kitchuses, Conception Harbour, Avondale, Colliers, Marysvale and Georgetown all came on that bridge,â Nora recalled. âWe all talked to each other and played games asking old foolish stuff. We always knew when anyone picked up a boyfriend or a girlfriend - everyone shouted. If we were home that night and wasnât in on the bridgeâ¦weâd hear the shouts out home.âSome couples who first met at Ghaneyâs Bridge even ended up getting married, and some have returned for informal âbridge reunions.â During the Great Depression era, folks made their own entertainment at home, and sometimes that led to blossoming love. Said Nora, âA lot of houses used to have what they called âRaffles.â Youâd go to the house and maybe theyâd play cards and raffle off a goat or a chicken or something like thatâ¦Over to the Whelansâ on the North Side, sure Mom used to go to raffles over there before she got married to my father. Sure thatâs where they met, over to a raffle. My father was in the States and he came home and went over to a raffle and Mom was there. He took her out for a walk and two weeks after, they were married. Mom said it was love at first sight.âFrom this I deduced two things. Firstly, it was obvious no lottery licences were needed in that era. Imagine if today we wanted to raffle livestock in our kitchens while acting as an impromptu dating service! Secondly, long courtships or cohabitating prior to the nuptials certainly wasnât encouraged. If you were in love you got married and that was that. In contrast, it takes younger folks like me two weeks just to decide if we want to go on a second date with someone, let alone get married. Another example of how much the times and the collective sensibilities have changed, I guess. Nora was married to Dick Skanes at age 22 on February 6, 1938 and shortly after moved down to James Cove in the bottom of Colliers from her family lodgings âup the harbour.â Two of my favourite pieces in her home were her daybed and her Findlay Oval stove, because of the stories they held. In regards to daybeds, there was a fair bit of folklore behind them; Nora hinted that young people sat on daybeds in old times to get to know each other, but still be close enough that parents or chaperones could keep an eye on them or listen from another room. According to Nora, âThe couch was my motherâs. My father bought it in 1910.â It was bought in St. Johnâs and it took two modes of transportation to get it to Colliers. âA man brought it in on a truck (from St. Johnâs) and left it up by Ghaneyâs Bridge. The late Len Ghaney, Lord have mercy on his soul, went up and brought it down on the horse and thatâs how we got it home.â The Findlay Oval six damper, six-legged stove (complete with the old fashioned âhot water reservoirâ on the side) burned wood, oil and coal. âThe stove is 54 years old. We bought it on April 21, 1949, out to Neil Soperâs (general store) on Water Street in St. Johnâs,â Nora said. Not only did it keep Noraâs family warm and fed, it comforted the neighbours âAunt Noraâ welcomed into her home during a major blackout in 1994. I learned recently that a neighbourhood child who visited Nora was so fond of the stove as a little girl that after Nora passed away, this womanâs future husband purchased it in secret as a wedding gift for her. (Nora is pictured above holding a picture of the beloved stove.) After her husband, Dick, passed away in 1981, Nora never remarried or had another suitor. Sheâd simply say, âHe was the one for me.â Nora was a community fixture who never missed an event in Colliers and was a bundle of energy and wit even in her 95th year. She passed away April 17, 2011. Setting off sparks in Bay Roberts Gwen Dawson (pictured left) had the unusual wedding anniversary, in Newfoundland and Labrador anyway, of November 5 or Bonfire Night, and many joked all the fires were to help them celebrate and keep the spark of romance alive. Given that she had such a huge family, there must have been something to it.Back in January 2007, I informally interviewed her about bonfires and courting, and she said with a smile, âWe celebrated bonfire night on November 5, of course, but we also had moonlight parties on Fergus Island (in Bay Robertsâ east end). I suppose we were about 14 or 15, and my brother John would take us crowd of girls out in our motorboat lots of times and drop us off on the island. It was beautiful - full moon lighting up the water - and we would have bonfires and sing a few songs and [have] boil ups out there. Heâd come back and pick us up after a few hours as weâd never stay overnight, but it was wonderful times.â Sometimes younger boys would row over to chase after the girls in minor mischief, but she said it was all very tame stuff. There were no TVs and very few cars, so aside from the occasional dance or âtimeâ you had to make your own entertainment close to home. She noted there were relatively rigid moral standards during that time, and courting was done pretty much in public or at the edges of towns where a kiss or two might be stolen by older couples getting very close to marriage. Echoing Noraâs comments about bridges, Gwen noted that young couples would stroll along the coast, or some would meet near the Running Brook bridge in the east end of Bay Roberts to go for walks. She coyly noted there is an old trail over the hills along what is now the beautiful Shoreline Walk below Frenchâs Cove that has the nickname of âNo Denial Path.â It was a popular place with some, but she said with a grin, âI married early and wouldnât know about it.â Gwen kept her sharp wit and perpetual smile for all of her days, until her passing on May 6, 2009, at age 85.Memories of these charming ladies always make me smile and wish I wore a gentlemanâs top hat, so that I could tip it to them this Valentineâs Day and salute all rural romantics, wherever they may be. - By Dennis Flynn In the below video, Gwen Dawson chats to Dennis Flynn about Moonlight Parties.