A Maypole dance? Not really!
Yes, there is to be a Maypole dance, definitely, says friend Margaret Fay who apprises me of all pertinent goings-on in South Pasadena. She is going to phone Marengo School to suggest the Maypole girls wear flower wreaths because flower wreaths are the correct thing for Maypole dances.
Of course I was there, standing in the parking lot behind Security Pacific Bank in the hot sun Saturday. South Pasadena does surprising things, and if there is any place that would still have a Maypole dance it would be South Pasadena.
Living in Pasadena, I consistently buy in South Pasadena. Perhaps, it being downhill and to the south, I naturally fall down there, but whatever it is, that's where I go. It is a small town, less than 24,000 people, full of trees, and it is like returning to one's childhood; everyone knows you by name in the hardware store, the drugstore, the bank.
I had missed the official opening of ESP day (for Enjoy South Pasadena, put on by the Chamber of Commerce) and the hanging of flower baskets on Mission Street trees and planting of marigolds under Fair Oaks Avenue trees; the high school jazz band had come and gone, so had the Over-60-4 Barbershop Quartet and the Arroyo Vista School dancers, but the junior high school chorus was just assembling in the center of the parking lot. An announcement: "We're having trouble with the amplifier system; does anyone know how the plug-in works?"
Apparently no one knew. Joe of Joe's walked back to his store to get more pizza; Jerry of House of Coffee drove back to his store to get more iced tea; Kim Garrison, editor of South Pasadena Journal, had gone home to change her shoes and was back talking with paralegal Yvonne La Rosa, one of the Chamber of Commerce directors.
"The junior high chorus is about to begin. Without the piano--there's no piano plug-in." They sang, without piano, and at the end, "We'd like to ask anybody who sang in the junior high chorus last year to come up and sing ' Sun Catcher ' with us," said leader Mary Beth Mayzak. At once the chorus was doubled. " Sun Catcher " rang out loud and clear, proving that children still like to be children in South Pasadena.
Bill Ericson, owner of the South Pasadena Review (South Pasadena may be a small town but it has two newspapers) talked, while serving up punch to kids, with Jody Munoz-Flores, (she used to be a photographer for the Review but is now executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and organized the whole affair) while around the corner Clarice Christensen sat on a curb desperately stapling ribbons to the top of the Maypole and marshaling her Maypole dancers, all from the fifth grade of Marengo School. "I suppose you had to talk the kids into it?" this jaded note-taker asked. She look up, surprised. "Oh no, this bunch chose to do it. It's the last thing on the program, kind of a highlight."
It was a highlight, all right. The boys ran in first, 10 or so of them carrying the pole, then the girls skipped in--yes, actually skipped, the way you've forgotten--and while two children stood on the pole crossbar footings to keep it from falling, the rest wove in and out to music, sometimes in twos, partners, sometimes alone, sometimes backward, sometimes forward, while the checkerboard pastel pattern grew downward from the top of the pole. "Stop! Someone's made a mistake--you'll have to fix it!" called Miss Christensen. At once every child began giving directions to every other child--"You have to go under, no , he has to go back there"--but in minutes they had it straightened out and danced again to the end.
It seemed every merchant in town gave prizes so that people won two or three (daughter Gia, who volunteered to man the House of Coffee booth, won a $10 certificate from Clothes Horse and, from American Cablevision, a radio-show tape of Jack Benny--"who's he?").
The Maypole dancers were unwinding the pole for a repeat performance and, in the process, better late than never, I somehow became joyously entwined in the unwinding process.
Passing out samples was Ken Grams, owner of J. Higby's Yogurt, while winning numbers were drawn for a dinner for two, deli sandwiches, film and 24 bottles of jewelry cleaner.
I ran across the street to buy some film at Bob's, the Maypole dancers came back for a demand repeat performance and the affair was over.
Miss Christensen sat again on the curb, desperately pulling out staples, as Mike Nelson, president of the Chamber of Commerce, emptied the garbage cans.
The girls did not wear wreaths, Margaret, but most of them wore flowers and they danced as earnestly as Miss Christensen said you did in the same grade in the same school, Margaret, more than 50 years ago.