Lessons learned from the lunch table

Published 2:47 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2020

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There were many advantages to living behind the high school, from leaving for school later to getting home earlier. One that I did take advantage of was skipping lunch and eating it at my house. I never ran from the gym door, as that was too obvious. Instead, I simply walked looking like I knew what I was doing. The only time I could not skip was if there was a Physical Education class outside, but sometimes I did it anyway. It was all about not getting caught by Coach Wagner and Mrs. Hill. Mrs. Hill was our lunchroom supervisor and had a keen eye on every student. I always felt sorry for her sons, John and Billy. Since she worked at the school, Coach Wagner and Mr. Kornegay just had to give her a call if they had a problem with either boy.

My favorite lunch was tuna fish salad on lettuce, parsley potatoes and rolls covered in butter. We had it planned so that if a girl did not want it, one of us boys would eat theirs as well as ours. This was done way in advance usually after the morning announcements when the menu for lunch was called out. You had to listen closely because no one could understand Coach Wagner through the loudspeaker. It was better if Mrs. Bowen did it.

Lunch was usually an hour and five minutes long, just enough time for me to enjoy two banana sandwiches and a cold Pepsi cola from the back porch ice box. This ice box kept our drinks and it was not as big as the ice boxes today. Still, they were cold and the mayonnaise on the white bread with bananas always tasted so good. Until one unforgettable day!

While I was home eating lunch, the phone rang and my mom answered it. I could tell by the look on her face that it was not a good call. Yep, it was Coach Wagner. I was caught! Mom made him a banana sandwich with peanut butter for me to take back for him when I reported to his office. She even put it in a bag! Seems like Mrs. Hill had seen me more than once and this time she reported me as being absent which was never good if you were skipping. She had let me get by more than once and it was time to put a halt to it, and she did.

Once I got back to school and reported to Coach’s office, he immediately started eating his sandwich and replied, “The peanut butter is better than the mayonnaise. Peanut butter would make you a better football player.” Nothing else was said until Mrs. Hill came to his office. “Ah, Mrs. Hill, the boy needs a job in the cafeteria,” Coach said. Mrs. Hill agreed, and I started my job taking up money at the door. Lunch was only a quarter back then and I had Coach Wagner’s change box giving students their change if needed. Together, Coach and Mrs. Hill taught me a valuable lesson and when I returned home that day from school, my mom taught me another lesson. I never skipped school again until my senior year and I was so good with the change box that Coach and Mrs. Hill thought it would be a good idea to make change again the next year! Another lesson learned the hard way! Mrs. Hill would never tell anybody but she saw to it that I was fed better than any other student and did not pay for my lunch either!

Yes, we were taught many valuable lessons growing up by parents and teachers and our parents reinforced what the teacher did to us. If we got spanked or reprimanded at school, then it was worse when we got home. Our young people today need to take what is said by their parents to heart. It is not the parents’ first rodeo and you can believe if I went back to school, I would never skip school for lunch again! Lesson learned and well taught, Mr. Wagner and Mrs. Hill!
They were the best of times with the best of friends and the best of places, Washington, N.C.! The Original Washington!

— Harold Jr.