The Unforgettable Niagara Falls

(Featured image) Credit: “Timeout” – a Gordon Johnson painting

How Niagara Falls earned the title of Honeymoon Capital

By Sherman Zavitz, special to Postmedia News

A Valentine’s Day postcard from around 1915. Unfortunately, there is a spelling error in the verse. (Sherman Zavitz Collection Special to Niagara Falls Review)

Niagara – With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, it’s an appropriate time to recall Niagara Falls’ lengthy and prominent role in the world of love and romance – a role especially renowned due to the city’s fame as a honeymoon destination.

The tradition of newlyweds coming to Niagara began, it appears, in the late 1830s. One piece of evidence to support this dating is a popular song of 1841.

The first verse goes like this:

Oh the lovers come a thousand miles,

They leave their home and mother;

Yet when they reach Niagara Falls,

They only see each other.

By the 1880s a honeymoon at Niagara Falls was a firmly established custom that continued to grow, reaching a peak in popularity between the 1920s and the 1950s. For many, Niagara Falls is still the Honeymoon Capital.

The fact that so many newlywed couples have come to Niagara Falls over the years prompted an interesting contest that took place in the fall of 1992. It was sponsored by the Niagara Falls Review and the Niagara Falls, N.Y., Gazette as well as the tourist agencies in both cities.

The contest asked couples who had taken a wedding trip to Niagara Falls to write a letter or essay about their honeymoon memories. The couple that submitted the winning entry would be brought to Niagara Falls on Valentine’s Day in 1993. They would be wined and dined and shown a great time with all expenses paid.

The Review and Gazette spread the word about this contest to another thousand or so newspapers across North America so a vast number of people read about it. Entries were to be sent to either Niagara paper. About 400 were received.

Fortunately these marvelous letters have been preserved and I would like to share one of them with you. It was written by Gerald and Janet Zoerhof who at the time of the contest were retired and living in Florida.

This is their charming letter, shortened slightly from the original: “We planned on going to Niagara Falls when we got married, June 6, 1927. We were married on that Monday night, but had to wait for our cheques from the Holland Racine Shoe Factory till Tuesday morning at 11:30 a.m.

They were big cheques as we were both getting 25 cents an hour.

“We started right after that and made it in a day.

(Unfortunately, the Zoerhofs don’t say exactly where they were married.)

Didn’t even get a ticket for speeding as we could only go about 35 miles an hour.

“Didn’t see much of the falls that night, only our hotel room. Didn’t even see much of that, you know when you are just married. We paid $6 a night for it. Stayed around there for almost 3 days. The falls were just beautiful then and saw a lot of them.

“But we had to leave as our money was almost gone by then and we had to make the long trip home. Didn’t even have flat tire or car trouble on the way home. That was a good thing because we had just enough money to buy a few 10 cent hamburgs or hot dogs and gas. But made it in good shape. The old car just hung in there and we did too. Thank the good Lord.

“We often talk about that trip as we think it was the most memorable trip we have ever taken. We saw so much of the beauty of the falls and after 65 years of marriage we are still together and very much in love. We are 86 and 85 years old. Just hope we will be lucky enough to see Niagara Falls again.”

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