Sunday 30 October 2022

Book ~ "Len & Cub: A Queer History" (2022) Meredith J. Batt and Dusty Green

From Goodreads ~ Leonard "Len" Keith and Joseph "Cub" Coates grew up in the rural New Brunswick village of Havelock in the early 20th century. The two were neighbours and they clearly developed an inseparable relationship. 

Len was an amateur photographer and automobile enthusiast who went on to own a local garage and poolhall after serving in the First World War. Cub was the son of a farmer, also a veteran of the First World War, a butcher, contractor, and lover of horses. 

Their time together is catalogued by Len’s photos, which show that the two shared a mutual love of the outdoors, animals and adventure. Photographs of Len and Cub on hunting and canoe trips with arms around each other’s shoulders or in bed together make clear the affection they held for each other. Their story is one of the oldest photographic records of a same-sex couple in the Maritimes.

"Len & Cub" features Len’s photos of their life and tells the story of their relationship against the background of same-sex identity and relationships in rural North America of the early 20th century. Although Len was outed and forced to leave Havelock in the 1930s, the story of Len and Cub is one of love and friendship that challenges contemporary ideas about sex and gender expression in the early 20th century.

When Len's sister, Lucy, passed away in 1984, her estate was put up for auction. Included in the auction was a large collection of family photographs which were purchased by Havelock, New Brunswick, local John Jacob Corey. He donated the photographs to the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick in 2011.  Most of the pictures were taken by Len and were of Len and his friend, Cub. John Jacob described Len and Cub as "boyfriends", which was illegal when the pictures were taken and the relationship happened in the 1920s and 1930s.

This book tells the story of Len and Cub. Ultimately Len was "outed" in the 1930s and forced to flee Havelock, never to return. Cub seems to have been unscathed and eventually married a woman and lived out his days in Moncton. In addition, the book describes the consequences of same-sex relationships at that time.

Lots of Len's pictures are included in the book. There is a large notes section at the end ... the authors obviously did their research to prepare the book.  It was an interesting read and thankfully times have changed.

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