About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fun Monday -- School Lunch Memories

March 15 Fun Monday--and the topic is:

School Lunch Memories

Recently I've been reading Anne Lamott's excellent book on writing: bird by bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Lamott also taught a basic writing class. In one class she had her students write for a half hour about their memories of school lunch. The idea was to take a pretty universal topic--school lunch-- and write down their memories of that one hour in the school day. She had her students complete the exercise to show them that the first challenge for a writer is to get something on paper--a rough draft that can be revised and polished into a good piece of writing.

Wow. I discovered I have a lot to say about school lunches. More than one post, in fact. I'm guessing you also have plenty of memories of that hour in the school day when you ate lunch. Chances are pretty good that school lunch meant a lot more than the PB & jelly sandwich or slice of pizza that you ate.

So your assignment for March 15 is to share your memories of school lunches. What kind of school did you attend--public, private, parochial, city or country? Did you bring lunch from home or buy in the school cafeteria? Or, did you go home for lunch? What did your lunch look like? Who prepared it? Who did you have lunch with? Was this a happy part of the school day? What did you do during lunch time other than eat your PB & J sandwich?

Here are the players for this week. After you've written your post, try to visit as many other Fun Monday participants as you can over the next couple of days.

1. debs -- daydreams in the shed
2. janis -- life according to jan and jer
3. joangee -- musings n waffle
4. sayre -- sayre smiles (host for March 22--yay sayre!)
5. ari -- beyond my slab
6. sandy -- myanderings
7. ingrid -- what link for you?
8. church lady -- living life in pa
9. loonyhiker -- successful teaching
10. gracie -- mama rehema
11. swampy -- anecdotes
12. wendy -- wendishness
13. gattina -- writer cramps
14. celeste -- ragracers
15. mariposa -- mariposa tales
16. min -- mama drama (? usually plays)
17. jill -- life is not bubble wrapped (? usually plays)
18. pamela -- the dust will wait (just added!)


In bird by bird Anne Lamott has this to say about school lunches: "Here's the thing I know about public school lunches: It's only looked like a bunch of kids eating lunch. It was really like opening our insides in front of everyone. . .the contents of your lunch said whether or not you and your family were Okay. Some bag lunches, like some people, were Okay, and some weren't. There was a code, a right and acceptable way. It was that simple." That's what I remember all through school. A struggle to not be different from other kids, even in what I ate for lunch. So my "School Lunch Memories" aren't the greatest. However, I'll try to keep the childhood angst to a minimum since it IS Fun Monday! :-)

Elementary School 1950s -- I started school in a small, one-room country schoolhouse for grades 1-8. My older sister and brothers were in the upper grades. We sometimes shared our lunch out on the school grounds, eating from the same lunch pail. Usually it would be biscuits (for our English friends biscuits are a breakfast bread not a sweet cookie) filled with fried eggs and salt pork or jelly. Even in the first grade I wanted my own lunch sack to put up on the cloakroom shelf with the other kids' lunches. Finally my no nonsense mother gave in to my pleas. However, she didn't understand that the sack was just as important as the lunch itself. It must be a plain brown bag NOT one advertising Watson's Department Store. It embarrassed me that my lunch was different. Even more important, I wanted a sandwich made with store bought bread slices and bologna, not egg biscuits.

In the mid-50s school changed drastically. A big consolodated school opened up near my home, closing all the small one-room schools. I was in the 3rd grade. That school came with a cafeteria and a whole new set of lunch problems for a proud kid. The lunches were wonderful cooked from scratch meals. And there were foods that I'd never had before--spaghetti and meat sauce, hamburgers and hot dogs. The only problem was that the lunches cost 25 cents--a lot of money in those days. However, kids whose families were on welfare could get free lunch. My family was eligible.

Every morning the teacher collected lunch money from students. When it was time to go to the lunchroom the teacher would announce that everyone should line up. Those who paid got in line first. Free lunch kids waited and lined up last. Every day I cringed to be singled out as a "free lunch" kid. After about a year of this, I rebelled (the start of a long career of civil disobedience!). My mother had to send a note to school asking that I get free lunch. I refused to turn it in, tearing the note up instead. My father sneaked me enough money to get some chips and a coke for lunch. When my mother found out what my father and I were doing we both got tongue lashings and threats. But that was better than being humiliated every day.

High School early 1960s -- lunch time was a lot happier when I got in high school. At 14 years old I started working after school and on the weekends, doing babysitting and house cleaning for several great families. I earned money for school expenses. No more free lunches for me. Instead, I joined my friends at a little diner/store next to our school. We had cokes and potato chips for lunch and fed the jukebox with our spare nickels so we could dance. None of us missed those cafeteria lunches. I was glad to not be singled out--to be Okay.

Training the Lunch Ladies 1980s -- I've had ties with school lunch for most of my life. At one point in my working career I was hired by the Kentucky Department of Education to conduct training for cafeteria cooks because of my previous work as an adult basic educator. The lunch ladies were mostly good home cooks, so I traveled across the state conducting workshops on quantity food service. The training was to help them plan and cook nutritious lunches that used the government commodity foods from the US Department of Agriculture. We had great fun in these workshops learning how to do everything from making 10 gallons of mayonnaise to setting up the first salad and potato bars for self service lunches. (Here's my best hint for the lunch ladies on baking and serving the perfect baked potato: 1. bake the potato uncovered so it dries out, 2. give the hot potato a gentle whack on the counter to fluff it up, 3. cut an X in the top and then 4. gently squeeze each end of the potato to open it up for the toppings--when they practiced this, I told the lunch ladies to imagine that they were pinching Richard Gere's butt!)

So there you have it. My school lunch memories--some Okay, some not Okay. Thanks everyone for playing today. I'll be around shortly to see what you remember from the lunchroom.

(school lunch image credit: http://www.staugustineschools.com/)


日日夜夜 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jan n Jer said...

Hi Faye...thanks for hosting this week...I am up for the task..sign me up please. Interesting topic

joanygee said...

Hi Faye
I'd like to take part in Fun Monday
Thanks for setting the topic.

Sayre said...

I'll play, Faye - and I'll host on the 22nd!


Ari_1965 said...

I'll play. TY.

Sandy said...

I'd love to play, thanks. Sandy at http://myanderings-myanderings.blogspot.com

Ingrid said...

Although I never had a school lunch in my whole life, of course I participate !

loonyhiker said...

I think this is a great topic. Please include me! http://successfulteaching.blogspot.com

Living Life said...

Faye, I'm going to do my best to get a FM post up. We will be away Sunday through late Monday eve. But, you can put my link up. I may try to schedule my post tonight. Thanks for hosting!

gracie said...

interesting..count me in, grace

Swampwitch said...

Hey blog bud...thanks for hosting. I really want to play and hope I have time to get my post up and running. Am in Okrahoma with two grandbabies, so not much time for the cornpooter.
Great topic.


I have to sign in with my old Google account, so use the above URL instead of the one that shows up with my name.

wendishness said...

Ooops, almost forgot, I'm definitely IN!!! What a great idea this will be, wow that takes me right back!


Ingrid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gattina said...

You forgot me ! Of course I'll participate, although I had never lunch at school, lol !

Celeste said...

I haven't done this in a while, but sign me up.

Mariposa said...

I'm busy but I'm joining!

Jan n Jer said...

I can imagine how you felt being in the free lunch line...kids at that age are so self concious,I'm sure it did nothing for your self esteem. Moving on to the higher grades made it easier on you. Thanks for sharing n hosting Faye

joanygee said...

It's lovely to share our memories isn't it?

Thank you for translating 'biscuits' I was wondering at first what you were eating.

As I put in my blog, the book you recommended sounded good so have ordered a copy and hope it arrives soon.

Thank you for setting such an interesting topic.

Sayre said...

I vaguely remember the free lunch kids being singled out in the line, but that didn't last long. The school I went to for elementary school had LOTS of free lunch kids, so it wasn't the stigma that you experienced. I wasn't free lunch but I wouldn't have minded if I were. Lunch is lunch, you know?

Hula Girl at Heart said...

Great post and great Fun Monday idea! I love hearing everyone's stories. My parents grew up poor and have often told me their stories of dragging biscuits and fried egg sandwiches to school.

I never had a bad school lunch experience. I went to a k-8 school with cooks who made wonderful meals with homemade rolls each day.

I fully intended to play along today but got sidetracked by a two hour church meeting and an illness induced need for sleep yesterday. Sorry!

Celeste said...

Wow. Lunch in school does have an incredible influence on people. I am amazed at how many people say that they had good food. I never minded being a brown bagger (for the most part) because the tray food never had a super appeal to me.

Celeste said...

PS: Thanks for the excellent post topic.

Pamela said...


now I need to go back and read your post again!

Pamela said...

I have to admit your story is so much more than mine.

I've been working as a tutor off and on which puts me in the schools -- and it sure is different. the kids have finger print scans or personal numbers. No one else knows anything about their lunch status.

And there is quite a choice. Much better choice than when my kids were in school even!

Richard Geres butt. oh my Faye, you ROCK!

Jill said...

hey I got lost in who was hosting with the move, but I will post something!

Jill said...

I remember not being okay, and being embarrassed by getting a free lunch, or being eligible. Part of the time, I just gave my brother half of my lunch, ate the fruit and french fries or etc. Still wouldn't eat there again, ever, if I had to. Ick.

Gattina said...

When I read all these "lunch" stories I am so surprised. We all thought in Germany that ALL Americans were rich, had food more then enough, chocolotate coffee all luxurous things which we didn't have. In short the paradise on earth. No poors at all. Of course all American women had a fully equipped kitchen, wonderful bathrooms etc. See what stories I all believed in the 50th. And now I read that it hadn't been quiet like that ! That's so strange !

Living Life said...

Hello Faye! I am so sorry that I missed out on this Fun Monday! It was an excellent topic, but I was away for the entire weekend and did not get back in town until midnight Monday. I am fighting keeping my eyes open as I type this to you.

gracie said...

Wow, we were just talking about the embarrassment of free lunches with a friend. He told me they were treated the same way. Loved your post and thanks for hosting. I have just finished week 3 of my training, I ran 9 miles today. I have 5 more weeks. I am pretty impressed by myself and thanks for asking