Archived Story

I’ll trade my pudding for your fish sticks

Published 7:24pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This week’s back-to-school event (for students) brought back memories of my school days, or was it school daze?

On the first day of my first-grade year, I waited in line to enter Montclair Elementary School in Pensacola. Fla. The school, just a mere to blocks away from my bedroom at 4485 Montclair Ave., was new in those days. Fifty-two years later, it’s still educating children. As I waited in line, I held my metal lunchbox. It contained my lunch and a Thermos bottle filled with milk. In those days, Thermos bottles were insulated with reflective glass.

Before I could take a step to enter the school, an older student — a pesky, third-grade boy — was running from other boys. Of course, he ran into me. I dropped my lunchbox. It wasn’t until we marched to the cafeteria and I opened the Thermos bottle that I discovered that glass insulator was broken and the milk unfit to drink.

I was devastated — until a teacher offered me some Kool-Aid to drink. Even then I loved milk, but who knew one could drink Kool-Aid at school?

When I was in third grade (at the same school but after spending second grade in school on Camp Pendleton in Southern California), I discovered why the cafeteria served vegetable soup on Thursdays. The lunchroom ladies would save leftover vegetables from the lunches served Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and make soup with them. That’s how lunchroom ladies stretched a buck in those days. What they did at their homes, they also did at school.

Want to save money at school cafeterias today? Then, bring back those lunchroom ladies (grandmothers every one) to replace today’s child nutritionists. Everyone knows grandmothers know what’s good for children to eat and how to feed those children without bursting a budget.

For us seafood lovers back in the day, we looked forward to Fridays because that meant fish would be served in the cafeteria, mostly to keep Catholics in the good graces of the pope. Also, I am sure fish, at least the fish we ate, was cheap. I recall fish sticks being the preferred (by us children) way to serve fish, but I do recall fish fillets coming in at a close second.

We did not concern ourselves with whether catfish is seafood or not, but if a channel catfish lives in salt water, that’s close enough to seafood for me.

Today’s students are served pizza, an item I never saw during my grade-school days. Then again, today’s students never had the meatloaf surprise we had back in the day. The surprise? Finding out the meatloaf surprise was made with, wait for it — meat. If you could determine what type of meat, you got an extra dessert — for free.

Mike Voss is the senior member of the newsroom at the Washington Daily News.

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