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May Day

by Meredith Minter, class of 1984

You must rememember this,
The Queen is still a Miss
For this I'll always sigh. . .

May the first—thoughts rush by of disaster, the Russian Revolution and History 001—not necessarily in that order. But once, when R-M's school year started and ended later, May 1 was the date of our two biggest holidays: Field Day and May Court.

Field Day was the older of the two, having begun in the early years of the century. It was a sort of intramural track meet in which all students were encouraged to participate. Those breaking records in the events, which included shot-puts, broad and high jumps and basketball throws, received R-M monograms; those winning first place got their class' numerals. The class with the highest overall score won an R-M banner, which was coveted, and, consequently, jealously guarded by the classes which won it. Indeed, it had nearly the status of an Odd or Even Trophy.

Field Day 1

May Day 1

May Day began in the pre-dawn silence of May 4, 1909, when ten or eleven determined girls danced around a Maypole one morning before breakfast. It quickly expanded from this rather inauspicious beginning, gaining official recognition and a slightly later time slot. The early ceremonies were no more than an attractive but perfunctory dance, followed by the crowning of a queen from among the dancers. They were largely ignored, if one can judge by The Sundial, which habitually devoted its front page almost entirely to Field Day rosters and tucked its May Queen articles in at the back.

In 1922, when Smith was built on the site of the Maypole, May Day was transformed. Moved to the Dell, it acquired a theme, and became distinctly sedentary. Dances there were, but more formal ones: first in the nature of skits, and later, when the trustees relaxed, real dances with men.

About that time, in 1929, The Sundial has a frontpage Field Day article with a difference. Field Day was great, it records plaintively, so why wasn't anyone there? Inadvertently, perhaps, it answers its own question, by describing an especially elaborate—and male-dominated—May Court. The next year, May Day is on the front page—and Field Day is never mentioned again.

May Day 2

May Day 3

In the next 30 years, May Day came to dominate the semester. May Queens were named as early as February, and their personalities, finances, and "beauty secrets" were perennial copy for Sundial reporters in need of a story. One queen, Alice Coor, was offered a Hollywood contract on the strength of her looks; she turned it down to stay at Randolph-Macon.

Gradually, May Day grew so important that a weekend was given over to it, not unlike SDD. "Coed campus for a weekend," the 1966 Sundial called it. Then, because there were so many May Weekend activities scheduled, the crowning of the queen came less and less important.

The May Weekend finally ended in the early seventies, after Randolph-Macon's calendar changed to its present form. After all, nobody wanted to host a date during exams. But, before it ended, it left the campus at least one bit of semi-imperishable verse.

Sung at a May Court parody, the Dismay Court, in 1943 lyric brings back memories of Humphrey Bogart and Rick's Cafe:

"You must remember this,"
Dismay Queen lamented,
"The Queen is still a 'Miss'
For this I'll always sigh.
The fundamental things of life
Have passed me by...."

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"The Past Master"
Meredith Minter
Class of 1984
The Sundial
Vol. 66, no. 24
April 23, 1982

This article was taken from "The Past Master," a column written by Meredith Minter Dixon, class of 1984, for the Randolph-Macon Woman's College student newspaper, The Sundial. It is published here with her permission.

Please contact Ms. Dixon if you have comments or questions about her article.

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And More . . .
large button   The Past Master, additional articles about our history
large button   Facts and Fancies about our college's early classes
large button   Images taken from student drawings in our earliest yearbooks

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Frances E. Webb
Reference Librarian
Lipscomb Library
Randolph College
2500 Rivermont Avenue
Lynchburg, Virginia 24503

small button   page last revised March 28, 2008   small button

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site graphics adapted by Frances E. Webb
from a drawing by Evelyn Dornin for the 1901 edition of the Helianthus

With thanks to
Kusum Singh, class of 2004
Andrea Yassemedis, class of 1999

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