Friday, April 27, 2012

Sepia Saturday: May Day! May Day!

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt shows some festive revelers dancing around a May Pole.  Had you been in Dayton, Virginia, in 1948, you might have been among the throngs eagerly anticipating the 14th annual May Day festivities at Shenandoah College & Conservatory.  You would also have seen my mother Mary Eleanor Davis (Slade) serving as the Maid of Honor. 

Judging by the amount of press, May Day was a big deal in Dayton.  An article appeared in the local newspaper:


      ·         Queen of the May – Hilda Maulden of Kannapolis, NC

      ·         Maid of Honor – Mary Eleanor Davis of Portsmouth, VA

      ·         Members of the court: Betty Kyle, Conservatory senior; Jane Keiter, College senior; Rebecca Grimes, Conservatory junior; Julia Ring, Conservatory sophomore; Sue Buchanan, Conservatory freshman; Undine Bridgers, College freshman

      ·         Lou Salmons and Nancy Caskey to bear gifts to Queen Shenandoah from the College and Conservatory

      ·         Pageant “Festival of Flowers” to follow coronation; music by Conservatory orchestra

             ·         May Day and Homecoming were combined

(Click on the images if you want to enlarge them.)
The school newspaper, The Arrowhead, ran both a front page article and editorial.

The article includes many of the same facts as reported in the local newspaper.  But here are a couple interesting tidbits:

·         May Day festivities were traditional in colleges and universities throughout the United States.

·         The representatives of the court were to wear pale orchid gowns.

·         The maid of honor (my mother) would be wearing delicate green. 

·         The Queen would wear a beautiful white gown. 

The sun must have been in
Momma's eyes.  There's also a lot
of glare on that delicate green dress.

The editorial amuses me with its grandiloquence.  One would think Miss Hilda Maulden was going to reign over the world, not just the May Day festivities.

from The Arrowhead (XI.7) April 1948
Queen Shenandoah XIV

On the head of a petite brunette here on our campus next month will be placed the crown of Queen Shenandoah XIV.

Our queen will be taking over her throne not by force, nor bloodshed, but by the democratic vote of her fellow-students here on the campus.

Queen Shenandoah, we of the college feel that we could not have improved upon the selection of a queen to reign at our May Day festivities and we selected you in knowing that you will carry out your tasks before the public in an excellent manner.  [ I wonder what she had to do besides smile and wave.]

You will take over the throne from Queen Shenandoah XIII who reigned here last year and to both of you who we have marked down as “tops” in our college life we want to wish a joyous day on May Day with many more of same to follow.
To we here on the campus Queen Shenandoah XIV you truly represent the typical picture of American happiness.  [Don’t get me started on THAT grammar error!]

We have watched you in your college life giving out with a cheery “hello” to your many friends.

We have watched you help out others who needed help.

We watched you with your late little dog who has passed on and knowing you had the kindness you always displayed toward that pet we truly could think of nothing but these lines to say when we learned that our student body had selected you as Queen Shenandoah XIV:

“Queen Shenandoah XIV, may your reign be a long and happy one, we look forward with great eagerness to your coronation.  Hail Queen Shenandoah XIV!” 

Here is the program from the May Day Festival at Shenandoah College, 1948.

Program cover
featuring Hilda Maulden

Page 2
Mary Eleanor Davis is in the middle

Page 3

It’s too bad that I have no picture of the May Pole dance that preceded the recessional.  It probably was quite similar to the one at Madison College, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 1950.

Scanned from the 1950 Madison College yearbook
The School Ma'am

For more merriment, grab a ribbon and wind your way over to Sepia Saturday.

©2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. Neat pictures! We celebrated May Day each year at my elementary school with the May Day dance, performed by the 1st graders. My cousin teaches at the same school and they still do it. I'll bet that a lot of people haven't heard of it.

  2. Wendy I’m amazed that you have so many pictures and documents to fit this theme! You’re spot on with the style of that report, which I found amusing - thank goodness the late pooch got a mention too. Your mother looks lovely, glare or not. Very enjoyable post.

  3. What a wonderful collection you have to share for us! You are so lucky. Only thing I could share was sought out! But I so enjoy this theme!

  4. Maybe her face was twisted like that because her escort had just proposed marriage, and he added, "if you could decide soon, because I have a ticket for the train to ask someone else if you say no."

    What a guy!

  5. It's fun too have reminders and relics of the days when that sort of pageantry was so important. My mother was also Queen Something or Another. I wish we could see that green dress in color. Thanks for posting this!

  6. That article about the may queen was pretty hilarious. Aren't you proud of your mother for being maid of honor. She looked so pretty in her green dress.

  7. That shot of all the Maypole dancers at the college is wonderful. I hope there are still schools that do this.

  8. I had no idea that May Day celebrations were such an important part of college and high school traditions in the USA. What a fabulous selection of images and mementos from the event - they make a great post.

  9. The May Day celebration sounds like it was the highlight of the year at that college. the fact that that those articles and images have been preserved indicates that it must have been a highlight of your mother's life too.

  10. Lovely May Day photos, I especially like the 40's hairstyles!

  11. Wendy, this is wonderful! What an honor, though the incoming queen most probably got the job because they felt sorry for her when her dog died. Otherwise, I'm sure your Mom would have been queen, but it is so cool that she was maid of honor. She looks so pretty and happy in these pictures.

    I really loved this whole post. I wonder if the college would like a link to it?

    Kathy M.

  12. They certainly made the most of May Day. It's wonderful that you have a record of all this.

  13. It's very fun that you have so much information from and about your mother for that May Day. Shenandoah College must have been small enough for everyone to know everyone else considering that she was elected. I noticed that they celebrated on Saturday, May 8, not May 1. Great post.

  14. It seems it was very serious business the May celebrations,with the crowning of a Queen, a bit like in Grafton NSW the jacaranda festivities which are held in spring; but naturally spring is here in October! I admire your collection of all the wonderful photos, also in the later post.

  15. How great to have so much detail about your mother and May Day events. I'm ashamed to say that I've never seen such revels - just too many military parades and protest marches.

  16. I'm so glad there was no force or bloodshed to elect the queen.
    I think your mother was much prettier than the queen.

  17. Something I have never witnessed myself, but it did sound like a big event on the social calendar. Thanx 4 sharing!!

  18. Mary Eleanor did look more regal than the Queen! All that beautiful blonde hair.

  19. That is quite a photo of the building and all the people in the front grass dancing around the pole.