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Chelsea School Lunches

Story ID:5821
Written by:Monte Leon Manka (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Hemet CA USA
Person:Chelsea Kansas Kid
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Chelsea School 1930ís

When the Concord Grapes were in season, I had a lunchbox. The empty grape box had a bail on it and served me as a lunch pail until it came apart.
We had no waxed paper so Mom would wrap my peanut and jelly sandwich in a bread wrapper to keep it fresh. I had a veried menu. Sometimes biscuits and pork gravy, ham sandwich, fresh fruit which was only when the peaches, apples, or plums or cherries ripened on the tree. When Mom would send her canned fruit, I was embarrassed to open the jar and eat the fruit. I knew if I took it home, I would get it the next day so I ate it on the way home after school.
The Mexican kids brought Balogna sandwiches. I remember the smell. It had a deep pungent odor and was different from any other meat. When they would bring tortillas and beans I would trade my peanut butter and jelly with them. I liked the tortillas and beans and they liked the peanut butter and jelly.
When the lunch pails were opened at lunchtime, you could tell the different fruits by the smell. Nothing smells better than a fresh peach, apple or plums. There were few bananas. A new kid moved in and had one and he gave me a bite, man it was great!
Most of the Farm kids sandwiches were pork chop, steak, or sausage. We wanted lunchmeat but the budget did not call for it. If I could get a sandwich with pickle and pimento loaf lunchmeat, I was in heaven.
One of the most taste less things was a turnip. One of the new kids had one and he cut it up with his pocketknife and ate it. He gave me a bite and I decided never to eat one again, cooked or raw.
The goodies were usually home made. There was pie, cake or candy. If anyone had candy the rest of the kids would gather around and beg for a piece.
I know it sounds like good eating but all the sandwiches were cold. Have you ever eaten a cold gravy and cold biscuit sandwich? Have you ever eaten a cold pork chop sandwich? I did not care much for this but it was filling and my stomach quit growling after I ate.
In the wintertime, we would bring cocoa in a jar. The teacher would put the jars in a pan of water and set them on the old pot bellied stove and we would have hot cocoa on those cold winter days.
Mom decided to change my menu and came up with potted ham. This stuff was terrible. I couldnít find any of the other kids that would trade me. No one liked the junk. Give me a cold biscuit and gravy sandwich any old day.
About once a year, Manualís Dad would bring a couple Karo Syrup pails full of tamales. This was something new to most of the farm kids and after one bite, no one turned them down. We each got a couple Tamales and wanted more.
During the school year, we would have a picnic. We would gather around the teacher, then walk down to the riverbank, and find a cool place to eat our sandwiches. Some of the kids, that could swim, could not go swimming because the teacher could not swim and that kept us out of the water.
Melda and I decided to do some exploring. We got lost but we did not know it and we did not care. Finally one of the older kids found us and took us first graders back to the picnic area.
The good eating was at the pie suppers that were held in the school. You could depend on getting all the cake, ice cream, and pie you could hold. The kerosene lanterns hung in the center of the ceiling, made weird shadows on the walls of the school. Seems like all the studentís families and other farm families came to the supper. We had hand held fans to keep us cool when the nights were hot. The teacher wouldnít let us have them when school was in session. The handles were easily broken and then they were no good.
The food wasnít the tastiest but I know of no one that went hungry. There always seemed to be something left over and if anyone was still hungry, it was shared with him or her.
After every program held at the school, school play, recital etc. tea and cookies were served, some one would always bring oatmeal cookies and that was my favorite.
As I sit here and try to think of something profound to end this lunch thing, my mind is a perfect blank. It is time for my peanut butter sandwich. At 74+ years of age, I still think they are the greatest.
Monte L. Manka 07-12-01