When I was in the fourth grade, my street was redistricted to another school. Lockheed-Georgia was booming and lots of people were moving there. What resulted was a real need for more schools. That doesn’t seem so terrible actually. But it was for me. I went to first grade in one school. That was the one with the garter teacher! Second and third grade was spent in a school far away from my neighborhood. In fact, the bus drove past two other schools to get there. The school was new and all I remember was it rained a lot and it was so muddy. Yuck! In fourth grade, a new school was opened only a mile from my house and I was transferred there. I was glad to be closer to home. I was tired of going somewhere different every year. Elementary schools went through the eighth grade so I felt certain I would be at the new place a few years. Yay!
Being so close also meant that I could go home for lunch. That was so terrific. Kids whose homes backed up to the new school could just walk home for lunch. My mom would come and get me and we would have lunch together and I loved that.
Things rocked along pretty good for a few years and then I entered the glorious seventh grade. You see, seventh and eighth graders had special privileges. If you had really good grades, your teacher could nominate you as a lunchroom aide. You were allowed to leave class and actually work in the lunchroom for two hours a day! And generally you would work once a week at that job. You wiped tables. We had a milk machine that dispensed milk into glasses. Younger students were unable to manage this activity and hold their plate. So the aide would fill the glasses of milk for the younger children and would take them to their table. That was pretty cool to me. I hate to think what the state department would say now about child labor! And classroom instructional regulations! Oh well.
The principal of the school actually took up the money every day. Yes. Every day! He sat behind this little wooden table with a cash box and he would take your money and give change. You could also purchase a weekly ticket and he would punch it to show it had been used. The principal had a wooden leg so when he sat down, he released a lever that allowed his leg to bend a little. I had never known anyone with a wooden leg so I always carefully watched him. Sometimes, his pant leg would come up a little and you could actually see the wood. It was amazing and scary. He walked with a cane and never smiled. He never chatted with children. He was scary.
Fridays were my favorite day to work in the lunchroom. First of all, they always had fish sticks for lunch. My mom was not a big lover of fish sticks so we never had them at my house. I had to wait for Fridays. In those days, Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays so schools everywhere had fish. Our lunchroom produced crispy sticks and gave you tartar sauce. I was in heaven. Yum. To go with those sticks we had whipped potatoes. And on Fridays, the milkman delivered chocolate milk. It was a real treat. Usually they would run out before the seventh and eighth grade arrived, so we frequently were unable to have chocolate milk. But by working there, the lunchroom ladies would “save” us some. And by this, I mean a large glass. Yum again. Fridays meant we had homemade rolls. They were heavenly. Working meant we could have two of them. Ahhh. And we always got extra dessert. Food could not be kept over the weekend. So the helpers always had a big pig out time.
So what did I miss by being out of class? Nothing. That’s right-nothing. What did I learn by working in the lunchroom? Lots. I learned that it is important to take care of your own space at the table. In other words, you are responsible for cleaning up after yourself even when someone was assigned the job of wiping tables. I learned the importance of smiling at people and being friendly. I learned that thank you was a BIG word. And I learned about helping others. So-all in all-I learned a lot and today I am a better person for those days I spent in the lunchroom.