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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day, 1955



May Day, May 1st, is such a forgotten holiday in America. A good pagan holiday that couldn’t keep up with the times.

My parents had little to say about the holiday.  Coming off the Great Depression and then a World War, I can appreciate they didn’t find the day special.  I recall, when I carried home from school the news that the day was May Day, a bitter remark from my father that the day had been co-opted by the communists for International Workers’ Day

May Day had a place in school, nevertheless.  I attended the same elementary school for all those seven years from kindergarten through sixth grade.  We had a May Day celebration, organized by one of the sixth grade teachers.  Every year the sixth grade girls danced around the May Pole.  I wonder if it was the dream of every girl watching on the play ground to be one of the dancers.

Miss Horning, the mistress of the dance, tried so hard to keep “the gentle arts” alive.  There was a piano in her room, and in my sixth grade year she made me play.  My mother played well, we had a piano at home and I was given lessons.  I was no good.  As I’ve often said, I have a tin ear.  

Once a week I had to follow the only other piano player, a girl named Joy, who played quite well, and bumble through the piece Miss Horning selected for me.  Miss Horning did not allow me to not play, in spite of my protestations.  Eventually I appealed to my mother, who wrote a note to Miss Horning, and my performances were cancelled.

About April Miss Horning assembled the sixth grade girls around the May Pole to practice during recess.  The May Pole, I now realize, was the tether ball pole.  How did she convince the janitor to substitute ribbons?  I cannot imagine.  Perhaps Miss Horning taught the dance to more competent students before my time.   We just went round and round the pole making a spiral of our ribbons.  On May Day we performed for the entire school at a special assembly.

Surely the ceremony was much longer than our short performance of wrapping ribbons around a tether ball pole.  That is all I recall.

 I loved the May Day celebration we learned in second grade.  We wove baskets from paper strips, filled them with daffodils and tulips from the garden, and gave them to our mothers.  My mother told me they should be hung on the door knob, then knock and hide and watch the surprise of the recipient. I made another basket for Mrs. Cole.  I jumped up and down so from excitement she saw me hiding.

My sister says in her day, ten years later, there was no May Pole.  She did remember the flowers; she took hers to Mrs. Rich.  I still associate May Day with bouquets of flowers and the May Pole dance in 1955.




17 comments:

  1. I remember the Maypole at school...and someone being wound up like a mummy in the ribbons.

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  2. I was always the May queen..I sat looking regal whilst the peasants danced!
    Jane x

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  3. 22 years later, at your same elementary school, kindergarten-aged daughter was weaving paper May Day baskets to hang on Gardendale doors, too!

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  4. Dear Joanne, like you, I got to dance around the May Pole. It was on May 1, 1958, when the seniors at Mount Saint Scholastica College celebrated May Day. We dressed in flowing see-through material over our cotton slips. Our long dresses were in pastel colors and we moved clockwise around the pole in our bare feet and wove the ribbons so that at the end the pole stood cloaked in color.

    I also remember making May baskets in grade schools and leaving them on porches and doorknobs for neighbors. Such a joyous thing to do. Thanks for recalling these memories to me. Peace.

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  5. today I too was remembering the May pole dance and can just barely recall snippets of it, thanks for sharing your memories, the love of the flowers and goodwill toward others especially our loved ones is how I like to think of may day to this day. I think my dance must have been when I was ten in 1960 in Maryland but I am not sure of the place or the date.

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  6. We made paper flowers for our baskets which were flat and glued to construction paper. No May pole sadly.

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  7. I only remember it as a communist type celebration. That is sad because I didn't know it started before them.

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  8. I took dance lessons for many years. Each May the studio would perform a May Pole dance as part of a municipal festival. When I was in high school I got to perform in it a couple of times.

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  9. I only ever saw maypoles in books, and wished I could dance around a pole.

    Wait, that didn't sound quite like I intended ... :)

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  10. We did that maypole thing right up to 3rd grade then I moved back east in '56 and never saw another Maypole dance!

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  11. Ha! you re-kindle memories of May Days gone by. We do have a May Day Bank Holiday over here, but it is rarely on May Day itself, which seems to dilute it - a bit like cancelling Christmas Day until the sugar harvest is in.

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  12. Our May day celebrations are on the first Monday after 1st May. There will be Maypole dancing by children from the village school. My daughter danced around the Maypole many many years ago.
    It's a bank holiday here & there will be masses to do & see on the village green.

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  13. When I was a kid, we made the May baskets to put candy in. The idea was to hang it on the doorknob of a friend or sweetheart, ring the doorbell and run away.

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  14. I remember reading about May Day traditions, but never actually experienced any of them. Now we don't want our young girls pole dancing!

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  15. May Day was a BIG deal in Hawaii. The 5th grade got to do the May Pole. We had a King and Queen of Hawaii and then all the Princesses from the different islands. Each grade got to perform some kind of dance. I remember really loving it. There was a special song called, "May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii." Ahhhh... the memories.

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  16. My mother, now 92, remembers a similar celebration with the woven basket and flowers. Very sweet!

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