Ladies & Escorts

On a long drive with the family to visit a friend’s cottage, we drove through a small town that had a tavern with this sign. I saw it … thought about it all weekend … and on the drive back to Ottawa I just had to stop and take a picture of it. In Canadian Social History I lecture on taverns as gendered spaces, of a time when women were excluded from them, except, occasionally, through separate doors and separate areas that were designated for “Ladies & Escorts.” There’s something about how signs narrate past realities that is quite haunting. Seeing spaces of the past is one thing, but reading the very discourse of exclusion in such public spaces signals something even more real to me than investigating the interior space itself. The materiality of the signage, the letters, the exposed bulbs all combine to mark off the dull brick building as a site of something more than a run-down bar. We read the sign differently now (indeed, “escorts” takes on a very different meaning in the classifieds and craig’s list). Maybe I’ll recycle this image into my lecture this year … maybe there might even be a student or two from the town. In its own way, I guess I see (or hope) that the sign embodies what Marlene Creates calls “hidden histories and invisible stories“.

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