Baggin’ it.

400SackLunchYou all remember school lunches? The ones you brought to school, and how they entwined themselves into our daily routines?  First, the brown paper sack. Remember the sound it made when opened at the table with all the other kids? Opening the sandwiches neatly wrapped in wax paper; looking around at what the other kids had. Jimmy’s got strawberry jam; you got grape. He hates strawberry, you love it, so you trade. When you’re done, you carefully fold the sack up and put it in your back pocket, because mom wants to use it again. Even has your name on it.

Then came the rectangular lunch boxes, bright, shiny and new. Mine had Hoppalong Cassidy on it, because Cassidy land was three blocks from where I lived, so he was my hero. Remember the smell wafting out as you opened it up? I think that smell has long gone from this world, and I miss it.

Then you graduated to the big lunch boxes, with the thermos in it. Most of the time it had milk, but once and awhile you snuck in some orange juice instead. Or maybe tried a soda, which turned flat, so you didn’t do that again. Mine was basic black, but had Flash Gorden on it, because he was the intergalactic hero with the beautiful girl at his side, and I was starting to notice such things. Then, suddenly, it was gone, and the cafeteria, mystery meat and all, became the center of the school universe, and your youth slowly faded into the past

What are your memories of lunch at school? Did you bring your own? Make it yourself, or did mom make it for you? Buy it at school? Do you even want to go there? Hungry minds want to know.



Filed under History, Humor, memories

29 responses to “Baggin’ it.

  1. wicked

    I remember discovering that my thermos was broken when I poured the milk from it into the lid/cup. That was in like 4th and 5th grade

    Before that, at parochial school in 1st and 2nd grade, we had school lunches, with trays and all. We at in the gymnasium. I was never a huge eater and hated cole slaw, so I’d wait until the nuns, who patroled the gym, were turned away, and I’d stuff the cole slaw in my empty milk carton along with anything else I couldn’t eat or didn’t want. I had to be quick, I had to be sneaky. And I didn’t want to dump my trash too early, because that stuff milk carton made a loud thud when it hit the bottom of the trash barrel. 😉

  2. I’m so old… Well, maybe rather than my age being the reason it’s because I grew up in a tiny school system. Grade school and junior high were at the same location, two buildings separated by a covered walkway. We had a cafeteria! This was the best food, our mothers, neighbors and grandmothers were the cooks.

    My best memory, and the one that still makes my mouth water, are of the yeast rolls. You could smell them throughout the buildings beginning around 10 or 10:30 and by the time you got to lunch you were hungry!

    • wicked

      Mine in Junior High and High School weren’t all that bad. I’ve never eaten better cobbler than what they made there. And the cinnamon rolls were to die for. They still use those same recipes today, created by a woman who worked in the cafeteria years ago. She was a superb cook!

      • griffin

        I remember the wonderful bread and yeast rolls that the women would bake every morning. To this day, good bread is like dessert to me. All the girls were always on diets so they would give their rolls and butter to the guys as we passed by their tables. You are right Wicked, Mrs Mourning was the best cook in the world and Mr. C could bellow and waddle with the best of them.

      • wicked

        Good to see you, Griffen, and you nailed it.

        Mr. C was a good guy underneath all that bluff. He used to scare me to death though, yelling at people in the hall. I’d jump six inches. A foot if it was my name being called. I got to know him better after I was out of school, kinda like how Jim and I hated each other in school, then finally became friends after I asked him why he didn’t walk on water for us at the lake on skip day.

        When I was at the doctor’s office a few weeks ago, the receptionist was on the phone. I heard her say, “Hello, Mr. C——.” And I thought, you can’t be talking to Mr. C. Then I realized she was talking to Jim, and that made me laugh.

        Mrs. Mourning is a distant cousin. Shoot, I’m still related to a large percentage of people there. Can’t seem to get away, no matter what. LOL

  3. wicked

    I loved Hoppalong Cassidy, too!!!

    Seems most of what was on Saturday morning TV back then were westerns. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, My Friend Flicka, Sky King, Annie Oakley, just to name a few. Oh, and of course The Lone Ranger and Tonto. 😉

    • jammer5

      I went to the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans show wwwwaaaaaayyyyyy back when I was eight years old. What I remember the most was walking to get a soda and Pat Brady stopping me and saying, “Howdy cowboy,” sticking out his hand and shaking it. I was so awe struck, I couldn’t say a word.

      • wicked

        I shook hands with Dan Blocker at Yingling Chevrolet. I don’t think I’ve ever see hands that big. Yeah, I was pretty speechless too.

  4. I made school lunches for my kids, and they helped. It was chaotic at our house in the mornings when we were all trying to get ready, eat, fix lunches. Actually, I’m not sure how we did it!

    For a few years my kids got reduced-cost lunches. They hated it, I hated it, but it was a fact for a few years.

    • wicked

      We did reduced-cost lunches for a while, too. The kids would ask to take their lunch and sometimes I let them, but it was cheaper to pay for lunch then, even at full price of a little more than a dollar.

      I think I remember lunches in high school being 65 cents. As a senior, a few of us would skip lunch, walk to my house across the street, eat bologna sandwiches and have a smoke. Then we’d go back for the next lunch period and sit in the gym, meaning we had two lunch periods. We got caught doing that by the principal, who bellowed (yes, bellowed LOL) at us to get in glee club or study hall. We did as told for a couple of days, then went back to having those two lunch periods, without a word from the principal again, even though I know he knew about it. His son was in our class, and I think we were let off easy, somewhat because of that and the fact that we were seniors and he liked us.

      Damn, I miss him bellowing in the halls.

  5. wicked

    Here’s another for the cafeteria file.

    When I was in junior high, the high school and jr. high were in the same building. The jr. high had lunch in the (very small) cafeteria first in shifts. French salad dressing was always in bowls on the table for all to use when we had salads. One time we scooped off a layer and put bobby pins in the bowl, then covered them with that scooped off layer, just so the high schoolers would have a big surprise!

    Yeah, we were definitely evil.

  6. Here’s my most vivid school-lunch memory.

    Son Chad was about 3rd or 4th grade and wore retainers. One day at dinner I noticed he didn’t have that ugly appliance laying on the table beside his plate — something I complained about every meal — and I asked where it was. Isn’t it funny? Never did it enter my mind that he had done as I had been asking for months and leave it in his bedroom during the meal! Nope, when it wasn’t there, I was immediately suspicious.

    After awhile he admitted that he had thrown it out when he dumped his school lunch tray in the trash. It cost $300 and that was a fortune! So, off we went to the school to go through the trash. We dug through that smelly, awful dumpster without success until it was dark. Then… we loaded up all the bags of trash and took them home!

    The trash bags went into a detached garage and thankfully the weather wasn’t hot, it was fall and then winter. Yes, Chad went through those trash bags three times over a period of about four to six weeks before he admitted that it hadn’t been that exact day that I noticed them missing that he had thrown them away, but a couple days before that one!

    • wicked

      Oh, my gosh! A scene right out of Parenthood with Steve Martin.

      fnord, if you haven’t seen that movie, rent it or buy it. It’s classic, and you’ll LYAO at that scene and the one that follows.

      • That is in a movie?

        OMG! I thought surely I was the only person who had done something like that!

        What year was that movie made? Was someone watching my house in about 1981 or 82?

      • wicked,

        Griffin married me and four kids (he had never been a Dad before!) in 1980. This incident came early in our marriage. It was probably one of the times he really wondered what he’d gotten into. 🙂

      • wicked

        1989 Good grief! That was 20 years ago???

        Take a look. There are a couple of trailers you can watch. This move made me LMAO and cry, but happy cry, not sad. 🙂 It’s one of my all-time favorites.

      • wicked

        I swear, I’m going to switch out my keyboard for the new one. This one is getting harder and harder to type on. 😦

        Off to pick up a daughter. This is my life. grrrrrr

  7. Around 5th grade, I remember successfully finding a girls contact lens in her lunch plate, when she said it had fallen out and into her food.

  8. wicked

    Okay, I’m outta here. I have tons of work to do (manual…cleaning), but I’ll take an hourly break. This will not be a one-day job, believe me.

  9. Bad Biker

    Lunch hour at High School – first see if Patricia Miles was at lunch and check if anyone was sitting with her. If a slot was open next to her, skip lunch and hang out with her.

    That worked until I dated her for a few months in my Senior year. After that, it was see if Pat was at lunch. If she was, go out in the courtyard and have a smoke with Angie or Debbie.

  10. What about the combination of foods in school lunches? Who the heck dreamed up pizza and corn, or was that just something they did to us in Maryland?

  11. PrairiePond

    Oma, the commodities are supplied by USDA, and they publish recommended menus to ensure each of the overall meals meet nutritional standards.

    Sooo….apparently corn and pizza together with milk provide a nutritionally appropriate meal.

    We had the BEST food in grade school. Cinnamon rolls and chili and yes, the yeast rolls. We ate all our meals. The room was new and bright and sunny, with walls of windows on two sides.

    In high school, a few blocks away, the food SUCKED! No matter what they cooked, it sucked. The lunchroom was in an old basement with no windows and institutional green on the walls.

    I always wondered if the difference in food quality was because of the different cooks, since the commodities they used were the same.

    Or… if it was the decor and atmosphere?

    We packed our lunches when I went to my one room country school. My favorite lunches were leftovers (like fried chicken or hot dogs or burgers) my mom would pack, and koolaide in the thermos. My least favorite lunches included soggy sandwiches and stale, limp chips in baggies. But Mom always packed fruit since I liked it so well. That was the best part. And sometimes I got soup in my thermos. I loved that too.

    Those lunches were my first exposure to kids who’s families didnt eat the same things my family ate. Some kids brought bologna sandwicheswith mustard, not mayo. They brought spagetti-o’s in a wide mouth thermos. And they had cheese sandwiches on Fridays since they couldnt eat meat. The Marcy kids brought RAW milk in their thermos, which was warm by lunch. It was just foul. Bless their little hearts.

    We ate at our desks, from lunch “pails” just like Jammers described. You were a big kid when you got one of the round top “pails” and stopped using the kiddie box. We we finished eating, we then went outside, no matter what the weather, for a quick round of kickball, softball, football, or some other strenuous game. Since there were only 13 kids in the whole school, we all had to play together to get a game of anything going. And we played hard trying to keep up with the big kids!

    I got home about four pm and kept on with the playing with my dogs, my steers, climbing trees, riding my bike, and then about five or so, Dad and I would play whatever sport was in season for the next hour until dinner. If the days were long, we’d go fishing after dinner, Dad and Mom and I. It was a great, great, GREAT life.

    The end of Eden came when they shipped us off to “town school” when I was ten. I got on the bus at 6:30am, got to school at 8 am, and had another hour and a half ride home, so I usually didnt get home until at least five thirty. Only so much out door playing and sports and athletics I could do between them, and dinner and bath and homework, so my physical activity dropped dramatically. So did my time with my Dad. I remember being really depressed.

    And in town school, they made us eat “hot” school lunches approved by USDA. IIRC, it was about that time I started growing like a weed, both up and out. I never had a weight problem before then. I dont know if it was the lack of exercise, since I had to play girlie games and not breakneck sports at recess, or if it was the starchy and greasy big lunches we were fed.

    Sigh. Forty plus years later, I still miss those days, those people, and that place. It was our own little piece of heaven! Nothing in my life since, not school, not college, not marriage or career, was ever as good as those five years I spent at South Downer District 13. Truly, the best days of my life were over by the time I was 11.

  12. PrairiePond

    Do you know where the terms “lunch bucket” or “lunch pail” came from?

    Sorghum syrup used to come in half gallon silver buckets or pails with lids like a paint can, and a wire “bail” handle to carry them. Families saved them and washed them out and used them as lunch “pails” for the kids. And even for the men in the fields or the factories.

    Dad said the teacher at his one room school used to get ingredients from the kid’s families and they usually had a pot of stew or soup simmering on the wood burning stove all morning. at noon, They’d go out and put a feed bag on their horses, or untie them and let them graze a little, walk them to the water tank, and then wash up in the tank and go in and eat. The little kids were done by then, so the boys got all they wanted. Every family contributed something and kids brought their own bread and rolls, if the family could afford it.

    After a while, the teachers didnt want to cook anymore, so the kids brought their lunch pails.

    And they always had a big bucket of cold windmill water in the back with a communal dipper.

    Ok, between thinking about this and watching Teddy’s funeral stuff all day, I’m getting damn sad and nostalgic. I was born fifty years too late!

    • jammer5

      Not a damn thing wrong with waxing nostalgic. In fact, for the soul, sometimes it’s the best medicine. I was hoping you’d stop by and leave us some gems, and I wasn’t disappointed.

      Like you, my favorite memories are those of early grade school. I went to Catholic school for twelve years, but the nuns weren’t too bad in the early ones. Knuckle cracking and side-burn pulling started later. My dad would drop us kids off in the morning, and Mrs. Rosquowick (sp) took us home in the afternoon. I’d go over to Bob Feller’s house and we’d play ball until about five, then home.

      Mom could cook anything but vegetables: overcooked every time. We had orange, fig and pear trees in the back, and the fruit seldom made it into the house. When it did, pie time. Ever had orange pie? With Vanilla ice cream? A once a year treat. Home made fig cookies. Mmmmm . . . the smell is killin’ me. Dad loved blood pudding, so that was a home made Christmas treat.

      Mom and I were the only ones who liked fish, and I would head down to Bologna creek during the summer and catch sand bass, or once and awhile a halibut. I had to learn how to clean the halibut, and got a lesson from some old black dude that used to fish there as well. Cost me half the fish, but it weighed around ten pounds, so no big deal. We both came out happy.

      Best of times, without a doubt.

  13. Everything you write is interesting, PrairiePond! I always learn something, I always am entertained.

    See, after you were 11 you began making such a difference to all the people who were lucky enough to meet you, be your friend, that you couldn’t just have fun anymore — there were all those people counting on you!

    You are well loved! Isn’t that what makes the difference in a whether a life was well lived?

  14. PrairiePond

    Thanks Fnord, and jammers. You guys are sweet.