reporter contents | albright college home

"May" We

"It is a refreshing day for students because it is devoted to beauty and tradition," states the 1958 Cue.

From crepe paper and flowers to a water battle in Sylvan Lake, the "May Day" tradition began on the campus of Albright College in 1922. This tradition was said to have begun at Schuylkill Seminary, and when the seminary and Albright merged, the May Day tradition was introduced to the new campus.

Celia Petrucelli '59 is crowned May Queen

On this day, a "May King" and "May Queen" were named, among other festivities. Mary Good '49 remembers the day vividly. "May Day was very festive and fun. Although it was a day to honor the senior class, all the classes participated."

Life as a "May Queen" was much easier than for the "May King." The queen and her court were nominated by the students of the college, much like present-day homecoming. "The queen was nominated based on popularity and beauty," Good says. "There was a procession through campus, followed by music and dancing." The newly crowned May Queen sat on a throne with flowers and a beautiful crown. As for the king, the honor seemed more like a punishment.

Like the queen, the king was also nominated by his classmates, but for a different reason. Usually the person selected had made himself unpopular, or rather, popular in a peculiar way, such as being known as the campus jokester. Until the evening of the affair, the victim was kept unaware of his fate; then at the proper time he was captured, placed on a crude throne and paraded through the town. During his trip through town, the king was showered with both abuse and garbage. He was then brought back to Sylvan Lake, at that time a shallow pond immediately behind Selwyn Hall, and thrown in. Then all the participants jumped in and a royal water battle ensued, while the ladies cheered the men on from the windows of their residence hallitory.

Albright's neighbors did not always appreciate the "Crowning of the May King," because their garbage buckets often suffered considerable damage. They learned to keep their garbage receptacles off the streets on May Day.

Margaret Freese '47 also has fond memories of May Day. "When I think of May Day, I remember how much fun we had and what great memories they are." Freese says the May Days during her years at Albright consisted not only of a king and queen, but a special May Pole dance by the junior class women. "There was a pole called the 'May Pole' around which the junior girls would do fun dances, and wear dresses made of crepe paper."

Good says she wore the crepe paper dresses. "These were the post-WWII years and we were limited in supplies. We did the best we could with what we had, and we had so much fun," she says. As for the queen and her court, they provided their own dresses. "The dresses were nothing elaborate but very pretty. Many were in pastel shades. My senior year I remember one or two girls borrowed the May dresses from the queen and court, and used them as bridesmaids dresses for their weddings," she says.

Although the tradition of May Day was altered through the years, those who participated considered it a memorable experience. The tradition that began in 1922 came to an end in 1962.

- Kate Sheeran '01

reporter contents | albright college home