October 22, 2023
By Arthur H. Gunther III
Back in ancient history but certainly relevant to today’s school kids, at least half the morning instruction in the lower/middle grades was given less attention because all you could think about was lunch. The other half was spent in standard day-dreaming.
Take-to-school lunch in my family was put together by my father since my mom was already at work and his shift had just ended. The fare was the usual – cheese or peanut butter sandwich, orange, Hostess Cupcake or Devil Dog. Milk was supplied by the school for two cents, federally allocated across the nation in all schools as part of farm-support.
The lunch would be in the ubiquitous brown bag, though initially kids started out with metal boxes that included a Thermos. The beverage unit quickly broke, and besides, you couldn’t buy milk for the home at two cents a serving. The boxes lost their handles or hinges; hence the bags.
Teachers would collect the milk money each morning, yet another task for those over-worked women and men.
As the hunger pains grew to a summit, and it was about 11:30 or noon, the class marched downstairs to the cafeteria where some students bought a complete lunch of, say, grilled cheese, fruit or cake dessert and milk for 25 cents, soup five cents more. Those hot lunches were prepared in house by some of the finest lady cooks in the world. (I contend that school spaghetti was the best ever prepared.)
But back to the take-to-school lunch from home. For me, my mouth in Pavlovian fashion began to water not when I opened the brown bag but when I began to unwrap the wax paper protecting the sandwich. It was automatic.
To this day, the mouth still waters when I rip off a sheet of waxed paper.
Such a simple memory, one shared by millions of kids. Part of school routine, home routine. Reassuring then and now.
The writer is a retired newspaperman. email@example.com