Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Punch Crunch

The Lunch Ladies: Mrs. Kirkbride, Mrs. Helmandollar, and Mrs. Powell, all now passed on to that Great Lunch Room in the Sky. They probably arrived at West Side High earlier than the janitors and set about making homemade delights for close to 200 students.

My favorite menu item was the magnificent made-fresh-daily homemade bread & butter sandwiches. Their mashed potatoes and gravy were also to die for, as was their gingerbread. I never liked applesauce dumped on my gingerbread so always tried to intercept that; I like both applesauce and gingerbread, just not in the same bite.

If somebody had taken a survey, pizza would probably have topped the student-favorite list, though I never developed a hankering for it. The good news is that there was always somebody who wanted to trade something for my slice; the bad news is that they never made pizza and homemade bread on the same day.

As soon as you walked into the lunch room, there was Mrs. Powell waiting to either take your quarter (later 35 cents) or punch your lunch card. As I recall, there were about a dozen punches to the card. The hole-punching made quite a crunching sound and I can still hear it in my mind even now...hence, the title of today's blog.

After the punching and crunching came the munching. You grabbed your tray, your utensils and your carton of milk and went through the lunch line. To help with the actual serving of food, two students were selected each week from some class; they donned hairnets and plastic gloves and took their stations. For their service, they got lunch free that day.

We had neat lunch trays, shiny metal originally, then heavy plastic, but always with divided sections, including a narrow section on one side to hold the utensils. Interestingly enough, when I go to "Bring a Grandparent To Lunch Day" with my grandkids, they still use those trays. The plastic is so industrial that they could be the original ones. I came across several of those trays at a yard sale a few years ago and bought every one of them. There they sit on a top shelf collecting dust. If you are throwing a nostalgia school lunch party, just let me know and I'll let you borrow them.

Now and then on Fridays, you could take your pick from regular or chocolate milk. Way back in grade school, they would have "Milk Nickels" on Fridays. Those were a lot like Cascos but without the nuts. I'd pay a dollar for a Milk Nickel right this minute.

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