Music, medieval pageantry, flowers, female students
wearing beautiful dresses, some dancing, some winding
colorful ribbons around a Maypole–for 40 years the May
Day tradition at Albright gave students a chance to celebrate
spring, and spring fever.
“The theme of the ceremony will be flowers…with
members of the court in light orchid and
green gowns and carrying white flowers,” The Albrightian reported
on May 1, 1945.
May Day was held during Parents Weekend, which also featured
dances, plays, open houses
and other special events. Students voted in a campus-wide election
to choose the May Queen,
the maid of honor and the court from among the senior female students,
based on appearance,
popularity and participation in activities, alumni said.
The tradition began at Schuylkill Seminary in 1922, and
was also celebrated at Albright College
in Myerstown during the 1920s. May Day continued at Albright College
in Reading, after
it was formed in 1929 by the merger of the two colleges.
May Day celebrations of spring and Maypole dances date
back to 238 B.C. in Rome, according
to sources at Bluffton University, Bluffton, Ohio, a college which
still celebrates May
Day. Once common, the May Day tradition is now rare.
At Albright, there was also a custom of choosing a “May
dubious honor given to a
male senior known as a class clown. This king was paraded through
town and then tossed into
World War II affected many aspects of life at Albright,
including May Day. The U.S. Army
had stationed 200 soldiers on Albright’s campus.
On April 30,
1943, The Albrightian reported: “Soldiers
of the Army Air Corps Detachment at Albright have
been invited to attend the May Ball and may secure
partners from the co-ed ranks through a date bureau
which is being set up and operated for the dance.”
Madeline (Haag) Gable ’45 said she was surprised
honored when she was elected May Queen in 1945.
She had married Richard Gable ’47 the summer before
her senior year, before he left to serve as an Army Air
Force pilot in England.
May Queen Amy Leitner, right, and maid of honor
Mildred Newkirk celebrate May Day 1937.
“Luckily he survived,” said Gable, of Gouglersville,
Pa. “When he got back, he returned to Albright to
The 1945 maid of honor, Erma (Leinbach) Swope ’45,
recalled making her long dress, which had a full skirt
and cap sleeves.
“My dress was orchid, a pale purple,” said
Swope, of Mount Penn, Pa. “I remember we
marched around the Maypole and we held these ribbons, and we had
to make them go over
and under to make a design. We had to practice a lot to get it
Carole (Althouse) Abert ’54, the 1954 maid of honor,
recalled that the queen wore white,
while other members of the court could wear any color they liked–she
“I remember my mother went with me on the train
to Philadelphia to find that dress,” said
Abert, of Lancaster, Pa.
In 1962, the last year of the tradition, Geraldine (Moyer)
served as mistress of
“My job was to put the program together,” said
Schmidt, of Perkasie, Pa. “The girls wore
short white cocktail dresses.”
In 1962, it was obvious that students had outgrown May
Day, she said.
“The attendance and the interest had really decreased,” Schmidt
said. “Our focus was on
finding jobs and getting married. Most of the girls were more interested
in planning weddings
than May Day. That summer after I graduated, I went to 13 weddings,
- Francine M. Scoboria