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Port Coquitlam's oldest living May Day Queen has her parade seat

Jean Jones (nee Davison), the 1946 May Day Queen for the City of Port Coquitlam, is looking forward to the celebration's 100th anniversary.

Jean Jones remembers holding a sign that read "13."

A then 11-year-old student at Port Coquitlam's Central School, Jones (née Davison) was in a line-up with other girls who wanted to become the next May Day Queen.

Luckily for Jones, her classmates voted for her to succeed Margaret Hall, a student at Essondale School who had held the title in 1945 — the year World War II ended.

Only Jones wouldn't be representing her school. Instead, it was James Park's turn to take the crown that year, so Jones carried it for that school, officially starting on May 17, 1946.

At the time, she recalled in an interview with the Tri-City News, there were only five district schools for elementary students: Central, James Park, Essondale, Glen and Victoria Drive.

And, unlike today's lottery, each of the schools chose Royal Party representatives. For Jones, she had two maids of honour at her side, as well as record bearer and a Ms. Canada.

Some 77 years later, the PoCo resident still remembers their names: Shirley Butterworth (Central, maid of honour); Bernice Escola (Glen, maid of honour); Lucy Arthur (Essondale, record bearer, in a shorter cape); and Elaine Donaldson (Victoria Drive, Ms. Canada).

Today, at age 89, Jones is the oldest living May Day Queen and — as the 100th anniversary of May Days approach — she looks back fondly on the special year that she shared with four other girls, the four lancet boys and the numerous volunteers from the Women’s Institute who chaperoned the Royal Party of 1946 around the region.

Together, they attended May Day celebrations in Port Moody, Maillardville, Pitt Meadows and New Westminster — the latter of which has the oldest May Days in the Commonwealth.

Jones, who later married a Montrealer, said she really liked the Maillardville procession in the Coquitlam enclave "because they had French accents and the girls had pastel dresses."

The Women's Institute members were especially proud of their charges, she said, as the Royal Park represented PoCo, as well as continued the British tradition of maypole dancing.

"Every time we finished an event, they would take our crowns and capes for safe keeping," she said.

"It was a serious job, but being May Day Queen was also quite an honour."

For her coronation, Jones, who was also a May Day flower girl in 1940, at the age of six, said she delivered a speech written by the teacher Ada Irvine, Central's first principal.

She doesn't remember what it said, but can still picture "all those people in front of me."

After the photos were taken on the new bandstand at Aggie Park, the Royal Party, the mayor and others paraded to the cenotaph at McMitchell Park and, later, had a full day of activities while the Grade 5 students danced around the maypole.

"The Elks sold hot dogs. All the clubs participated. The kids got candy. It was an old-fashioned get-together."

Meanwhile, the Women's Institute gifted Jones a locket with the date of her coronation on the back, as per tradition; she also received engraved silver bracelets from the local Order of the Eastern Star and Trinity United Church. (Sadly, the jewelry went missing later.)

As for the 100th May Days, Jones hopes to catch a ride on a shuttle bus for the procession down Shaughnessy Street on May 13. The Rotary May Day Parade starts at 11 a.m.

But, before the parties begin, Jones will be busy promoting the annual party in city marketing materials. "Anyway I can help, I will because May Days is a lot of fun."

For the full list of events, starting May 5, you can visit Port Coquitlam's May Days website.