The timing was almost perfect.
A special package reached the mailbox of Langley Centennial Museum Curator Kobi Christian on Thursday morning, May 18, just days before Fort Langley hosted its 95th annual May Day parade and celebrations. A silver bracelet had arrived, engraved “Queen Jean May 13, 38, Fort Langley, B.C.”
For close to a century, Fort Langley has been celebrating May Day on the Monday of the Victoria Day long weekend, and traditional festivities include choosing a May Queen and her Royal Party from amongst local young contestants.
The “Queen Jean” referenced on the bracelet was Jean McIver, who was crowned Fort Langley’s May Queen 79 years ago.
“It’s a lovely find,” Christian said. “And it’s interesting to be able to connect this to a particular person, place, and time in the community.”
Last fall, Christian had been contacted by Irene Hembling of Kelowna. Hembling had been thrift store shopping and had come across the silver bracelet. The designs on the bracelet and the inscription on it intrigued her enough to purchase it and find out more. She contacted the Langley Centennial Museum, where the curator was able to learn more through photos and a particularly magnificent May Day souvenir that had been created by Jenny Simpson, later Jenny Lewis, of Fort Langley.
Young Miss Simpson had illustrated a page for each year of the May Day celebrations in both Fort Langley and Langley Prairie (now Langley City) between 1929 and 1939, and the little binder containing them was donated to the museum by her daughter years ago. The Simpson family had a grocery in the Fort Grocery building beside the Community Hall, now known as Country Antiques. Ms. Lewis (1909-1986) was very active in the community, particularly with the Fort Langley May Day Committee, where she was Queen Mother for a number of years.
The page for 1938 confirmed that Jean McIver was indeed 1938’s May Queen, and arrangements were made to get the bracelet to the museum, where it arrived just in time for 2017’s May Day celebrations.
Jean McIver was born in East Langley in 1925 to Ellen and Kenny McIver. She attended Langley High School, and later married Ian Souter. The couple built and owned the Derby Drive-In in Fort Langley. She passed away in 2010.