Oh yes, the age old AWS tradition of May Day. I’ve always understood the day to be a celebration of graduating seniors and a chance for alumnae to reconnect with the school. If there is some other meaning behind it or its creation, please feel free to chime in with your recollections. The pictures of each May Day court are displayed along the main corridor of Annie Wright in such a way that the historical importance of the event is evident to all who visit the school. After all the years gone by I venture to guess that the sheer uninterrupted May Day tradition is as much part of May Day’s aura as the actual event. The never ending line of photos displayed might be the strongest evidence in support of that.
There are a few ways to see yourself on one of those hallowed photos along the school corridor. The first way for me was to attend AWS as a kindergarten student. The photos posted above and below this article are the kindergarten students from the class of 1990 along with the May Day program for 1978 which lists all the K-2 students attending to the queen. What a hoot to look back and see how little we were. The kindergarten involvement with the May Day court is no longer part of the tradition, but it was for our class.
The next way to be part of the picture corridor is to be a graduating senior. Each class is preserved in the school halls for all posterity. Its as if the AWS institution is trying to say: If you don’t remember much about Annie Wright, she has been remembering you everyday since you left. In our school years we walked past those old photos almost daily. I think everyone can claim there are one or two that are their favorites. There is one that sticks out most in my mind. I cannot say for sure what year it was, but I think it was early 1900’s and it has a beautiful color tint to it. I can still picture it in my mind. I will be sure to go looking for it on my next visit.
As a student, I attended 13 May Days! In those days, it was always held on a Saturday and was considered mandatory attendance. I always understood it to be built into the school calendar to count as one of our state mandated number of school days, though again, I may be mistaken on that point. May Pole dresses, learning new songs to sing, and of course the ceremonial shout “I crown thee, Queen of the May!” are all things I remeber vividly about the event.
I have to admit that I have not returned to AWS for a May Day celebration in 20 years. However, from a far, I get the sense that as the 20th century came to a close, May Day is not quite what it once was. It seems more casual – is now held on a Friday, the may pole dancers look like they are in “civies”, students are not wearing dress uniforms, and the dresses worn by the seniors are very scaled down. This is not to say that change is bad, in this case it is probably even appropriate. I am sure all the ways that May Day has changed has made AWS feel more welcoming to its current generation. As a returning alum I have no idea what it will be like to experience again. It will be interesting to see if it truly seems unchanged after 20 years or if it seems different and more reflective of a new generation. Quite possibly it will be a little of both.
I wanted to take a minute to ponder this tradition simply because it is something all studnets experienced at some point. As our reunion approaches, I have been making contact with classmates from all along my AWS journey. Even if you did not graduate from Annie Wright as a high school senior, you experienced May Day along the way. As we prepare to reunite 20 years later, May Day is the event that our reunion revolves around. I hope many of you can make it!