For decades May Day was celebrated in Berthoud’s town and country schools. Since several local country school teachers had attended the “town school” when the holiday was celebrated there in the early 1900s, they carried the May Day tradition with them when they were employed to teach at country schools as young women.

One of those teachers was Reva Graves Bradney, a 1920 graduate of Berthoud High School, who taught at the Sunnyside country school northeast of Berthoud. During her tenure there in the 1930s the Maypole dance was an annual rite of spring. In her memoirs Bradney wrote, “In the spring a program was given with a Maypole winding outside. This was a risky one, for after much practice it might rain and spoil the whole event. Strangely enough this did not happen in all those years.”

The accompanying photograph, furnished by Jim Bradney, shows students around the Maypole at the Sunnyside School in the 1930s.
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Reva Graves Bradney became Berthoud’s first kindergarten teacher when she returned to teach at the “town school” in 1952. She led May Day celebrations until her retirement in 1970.

May Day celebrations date back before the birth of Christ. For the ancient Druids of the British Isles, the holiday was known as Beltane. When the Romans came to occupy Britain, they combined the traditions of their pagan spring festival, Floralia, with those of Beltane to celebrate fertility and renewal of life. By the Middle Ages nearly every English village celebrated the onset of May by stringing flower garlands, dancing around a Maypole, and crowning a May Queen. The tradition eventually made its way to modern America.

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