A walk through the old grade school at our all school reunion brought back these memories.
Probably the busiest room in the Mullinville grade school was the school lunchroom. Three or four ladies prepared the meals for all the grade school and high school students every day. Probably on average they fixed meals for about 225 kids.
It must have been quite a challenge to fix meals that would please students from 1st thru 12th grades but most of the time they managed to make the majority of the students happy. I usually liked most of what was served every day.
There were 10 cooks who worked in the school lunchroom between 1957 and 1970. The cooks were; Amy Currier, Louise Durham, Hazel Fitzwater, Irene Headrick, Virginia Keener, Virga Mae McKinley, Clara Miller, Mabel Oney, Rebecca McFadden and Irene Woolery. The ones cooking varied from year to year but usually there was only 4 cooks.
The cooks in the lunchroom, in our small school, treated every student like they were their own kids or grandkids. If they knew we didn’t like something they would give us less than they would the other kids so we didn’t have as much of it to eat.
The lunch room was about the size of 4 classrooms and was the full width of the school. It sat at the west end of the hall in the school. The tables took up one half of the room to the right of the double doors. The kitchen took up the other half of the room to the left of the double doors.
There was a wide walk way, separating the kitchen and the seating area that we moved along to get our food from the cooks. The 3 wide openings, about half way down the south wall, had metal doors (like garage doors) that could be pulled down when they were not serving.
Behind the west wall that we all thought was the back of the school was the huge pantry where the cooks stored the food. The pantry was as wide as the dining area of the lunchroom and was at least 10 feet deep. It was full of commodities that the government sent them to feed the students.
In front of the west wall, at the end of the serving line, sat the huge stainless steel milk machine. The milk came in plastic bags that were held in cardboard boxes and each one had a long white rubber tube sticking out of the box. The two boxes were turned up side down and the tubes were fished through openings in the stainless steel machine.
On the outside of the milk machine were two large stainless steel bulbs. You would push up on the bulb and it would release the milk through the long white tube. When you let go of the bulb it shut off the milk. Beside the milk machine was a large refrigerator that held hundreds of little cartons of milk.
Sitting to the right of the milk machine and the refrigerator on the west wall of the lunch room were three short tables for the first few grades. They were about 12 feet long and the benches were made for the short legs of the kindergarten to 2nd grade students. The table top was about knee high on most adults.
Then 3 more tables just a little taller and the benches just a little higher for the mid grade kids from 3rd to 6th. All the tables in the lunchroom were lined up perpendicular to the north wall of the dining room that was full of windows. The windows had a wonderful view of the backs of the houses that faced the highway.
Just to the north of the double doors sat the 4 tables for the 7th thru 12th grade students. They were normal height and the benches were made for the longer legs of the older and taller students.
Each class in order of the grade (starting with 1st) lined up at a specific time at the double doors. Each student took one of the light beige trays as they entered the lunch room.
The tray had 3 sections; the large section which covered one side of the tray was for the meat and vegetable. Then on the other side were two smaller sections; one for the Jell-O or fruit and one for the dessert.
Each student put their tray on the ledge in front of the openings to the kitchen and slid it along in front of the cooks. Each of the 4 cooks would put an item on the tray. We always had a fresh baked dinner roll or slice of bread to add to our meal which we picked up ourselves at the end of the serving line before we picked up a glass and got our milk.
We had to clean our plates (or tray) and some times we had to do a lot of trading to get rid of something we didn’t like so we could get more of what we liked. Then we could clean the tray and not throw any food away.
I had two favorite meals. I loved the government commodity; canned beef. It was shredded like barbeque beef but didn’t have any barbeque sauce on it. I loved the taste of it and would trade almost anything, other than chocolate cake, to get more. Most of the kids didn’t like it so it was easy to find someone that would trade with me.
The other meal I loved was fish sticks and macaroni and cheese. I could always trade for more fish sticks and I never went hungry. I was thankful for the Catholic kids that were in our school so we had meatless Fridays.
The meals that the ladies served were always good and I had very few complaints about them, I even liked the spinach they served because we had vinegar available to put on it. But the one thing I never liked was the breaded tomatoes. I didn’t like them at home and didn’t like them at school either.
The little 5 cent cartons of milk in the refrigerator by the milk machine were for our afternoon snack. We would march down the hall mid afternoon and get a carton of milk out of the refrigerator. We’d sit at the tables and drink our milk and then go back to class.
I can still remember the smell of the milk in those little cartons. I thought the milk in the little cartons was better than what came out of the large stainless steel machine. The little carton of milk was my favorite part of the afternoon.
Lunch time and recess were the only times we were allowed to talk during school. The school lunchroom was a favorite place for the students because we had wonderful meals and lots of fun talking, laughing and trading food. To contact Sandy: [email protected]