When most people think of canoeing and kayaking, it’s unlikely that their next thought involves square dancing.
The Philadelphia Canoe Club’s (PCC) “Turkey Trot,” however, signifies a time during which these two rather dissimilar activities simultaneously take center stage.
“You’re creating your own fun rather than going to a movie or something and having them create the fun for you,” said Dave Munson from the first floor of the PCC’s clubhouse, a restored 17th Century grist mill on Ridge Avenue between Manayunk and East Falls.
The club annually hosts this dinner-and-dance event on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and opens its doors for a night of turkey, companionship, and, of course, square dancing. This year’s trot took place this Saturday.
“It’s really corny, but it’s a chance to get together, eat and drink, and have fun,” said Munson, the club’s resident “rolling” instructor and 10-year member. For those non-kayaking readers, “rolling” is the art of resurfacing a kayak after it has flipped.
“It’s like Pilates,” said Munson, “after you’re done doing it for a half-hour, your body is drained.”
Overlooking the intersection of the Wissahickon Creek and the Schuylkill River, the clubhouse has the feel of a snug, homey cabin, and has been a fixture in Manayunk for more than a century.
Events at the club, such as a weekly pot luck dinner and various rowing excursions, are a social magnet for both members and non-members alike, as many of these events don’t require membership.
The club also hosts a series of informational sessions on kayaking and canoeing at St. Joseph’s University.
“They encourage you to come to their socials, their meetings—they’ll even let you paddle with them,” said Clare Coppa, a Drexel Hill resident who is not a member of the PCC but who came to the event for the atmosphere. “Boat House Row is very lavish—this seems more the real feel of Philadelphia sports.”
Indeed, the ruggedness that characterizes Philadelphia sports radiates from the creaky floors and canoe-lined wooden ceiling of the clubhouse—as well as from the club’s commodore, Rosemary Rau.
Rau, a member of the club for over 20 years, proudly brought attention to water marks from floods on a wooden pillar in the center of the room, which have been chronicled by the club with metal plaques.
“When the water comes up and up and up, we mark it,” said Rau, who continued to say that some members have enjoyed canoeing on floodwater inside the clubhouse when a particularly bad flood season permits.
“It’s a funny thing,” said Rau. She described the Turkey Trot as an event which exemplifies the strong sense of community which the members of the club possess.
“It’s kind of like going to church,” said Rau. “When you go [to a club event], you’re with a lot of people who want to do the same thing.”
Bob McNamara, a doctor at Temple University Hospital and long-time member of the club, also sees value in the strong community at PCC, and claims that the enjoyment of a similar pastime is what brings paddlers to the club.
“I think they enjoy the comaraderie,” said McNamara, who has won numerous awards for racing a dragon boat. “You come here, and you can paddle with a lot of people.”
McNamara began rowing in college, and he pushes off from the PCC’s dock every day, when the weather permits him to do so, including the Saturday of the Turkey Trot.
“Tonight was sweet,” said Mcnamara. “Watching the sky change colors—it was peaceful.”
For 78-year old Lev Barinov, the club provides a means to stay active and “have a good time with a group that has a similar state of mind.”
Barinov migrated to the United States in 1976 from Russia, and was introduced to paddling while in Russia by his cousin.
“You drive hours and hours with people and when you [paddle], you risk your life…then you bond,” said Barinov, who paddles two to three times a week. “If you don’t keep busy, you become mushrooms.”
For information about the club, including upcoming events, visit Philadelphia Canoe Club.