1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

Lunch Gone Bad

Still needs more jelly. www.dietsinreview.com

Still needs more jelly.

What could be more stressful than walking into a new school on the first day? Lucky me was about to find out.

If I could time-travel, I’d warn my younger self ‘Don’t go, stay home sick’.

I was a picky eater and didn’t like sandwiches of any kind, well maybe raspberry jelly if there’s tons of jelly.

Mom’s constant refrain was, “Mary Barbara, don’t be so pickyoon.”

A school lunch cost a mere quarter, but I should have dragged along a yucky sandwich lunch instead. And I should have moved back to the middle of the lunch line. But I didn’t know about the ‘should haves’ until it was too late.

Photo taken one year earlier, but dress is similar.

Photo taken one year earlier, but dress is similar.

I began my first day of fifth grade at Hartford Central; a school one-fourth the size of my previous small school. I wore my new blue and purple floral dress with a white lace peter-pan collar. My black patent leather shoes were polished, ankle socks clean, and I slept in pin-curls the night before. My stomach churned with nerves and excitement.

Dad ferried David and me from Great-Aunt Mary’s to Hartford.

My teacher, Mrs. Bennett was ancient; I’m talking grandmotherly old. She hadn’t been a spring chicken when (twenty-three years earlier) she taught my father. Mine became her last class.

As the new kid, Mrs. Bennett gave me the place of honor at the front of our lunch line. Very thoughtful of her, except I didn’t know where to go.

None of the food the lunch lady scooped onto my plate looked appetizing. Since I was first to get served I wasn’t sure where to sit. I carried my tray to the far end of a long wooden table. The library doubled as our lunch room, so we ate surrounded by books.

Two boys sat down across from me and nudged each other. I flushed with pleasure, assuming they thought I was cute. Why else would they choose to sit near me? Hartford looked mighty promising.

The seat beside me remained empty. I stole a peek down the length of my table. All the remaining chairs contained boys; no girls. I turned to the adjacent table on my left. It was filled with girls from my class.

I was sitting at the boy’s table.

Too embarrassed to get up and find a seat at the girl’s table, I moved the food around my plate until the bell rang. I stood in line to return my tray.

“Hi, my name’s Mary,” I said to the girl in front of me.

“I’m Sharon,” she answered.

“You and my cousin Annie look almost identical. You could be twins.”

It was true. The only difference was Annie’s sultry voice that I wished I had.

Sharon stared at me a few seconds and replied, “How nice” before turning away.



A lunch monitor admonished a boy up ahead about not finishing his food. I didn’t want to get in trouble my first day. Balancing my tray with one hand, I covered the uneaten food with my napkin. My half-full milk carton slid to the corner, throwing my tray off balance. Milk, dishes, and food scraps slipped over the side, and white milky drops splashed onto Sharon’s shiny shoes.

A lunch lady gave me a few dish towels. I handed one to Sharon. She wiped the milk spots off her shoes, silently handed the towel back, and moved ahead. I cleaned myself and the floor while the line snaked around me. I did not look at anyone’s face, just their milk-free feet.

It would have been better to get in trouble for not eating my lunch. It would have been better to eat a squished sandwich from home. It would have been better to finish the warm milk in my carton.

I cried over spilled milk.

Lessons learned: If you’re first in line and don’t know where to sit, walk slow and stall for time. If you still wind up at the boy’s table, don’t be afraid to get up and move. And by all means, finish your food and drink your milk.

* I changed the name of the real Sharon. She moved to another school a few years later and is probably a much nicer person by now.

Now it’s your turn: Did you have a bad lunch experience?

© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. grassroots08 says:

    Hey, with guys it’s different. Guys never cry, especially over spilt milk. Why, they are the ones spilling it on purpose. I was the new kid at a school far from my previous home. My parents decided to call it quits after 7 kids and 19 years of marriage. So I moved in with my mom, being one of the three oldest.

    Now I would have to start life all over again at this new place. I put myself into gymnastics and got good at it. Now it was time to enter the forbidden lunch room. Teachers watched your every move in classrooms, but one monitor for a lunch room can’t see all.

    I had made a special tuna sandwich for myself, and because I skipped breakfast that morning – because of nerves I’m sure, I was starving and could almost taste my lunch. I grabbed a milk in the line, chocolate of course (Could be a guy thing too, instead of white milk).

    If you have a weak stomach stop reading and skip over the next couple paragraphs.

    I found a good table, I thought. The guys were all motioning me over. Wow, the new guy is popular, already. I couldn’t wait until I took my first bite and I smiled at everyone as I did so. It wasn’t long before my smile turned to a frown, then to pure hatred, and finally to killer mode as I screamed; “Who put this Rubber in my sandwich? You’re gonna die!”
    I knew what it was because tuna doesn’t stretch.

    The whole lunch room broke out in a huge fit of laughter. I quickly got up and tossed my sandwich into the trash. Then I politely escorted myself out of the lunch room, and headed to my next class; fifteen minutes early.

    Lesson learned: Even if I found a live rattler in my sandwich the next time, I would simply bite his head off (I’d still be crazy mad enough) and then I’d politely and quietly escort myself out of the lunch room, and head to my next class; fifteen minutes early. Then I’d peak back into the lunch room to witness everyone’s head looking in the garbage.

    Cheers, Don

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Gr (Don), this must have been the standard initiation at your school. If it happened to me I would have thought it was a fat rubber band. Why? Because as I’ll mention in a future post, I thought the item in question was black since tires are made of rubber, and they are black.
      And I love your line ‘I knew what it was because tuna doesn’t stretch.’

  2. Elle Knowles says:

    My bad lunch experience was when I was in the second grade. Our lunch was on carts rolled down the hallways stopping at each room and we ate at our desks. I can’t remember what the rest of the lunch was that day. All I remember are the sweet potatoes and ice cream. When my teacher noticed I was not eating my sweet potatoes she walked over, picked up my fork and proceeded to mix them in with my ice cream. “There,” she said. “You won’t even taste them like that.” Then she made me eat them and she was wrong. I did taste them. I haven’t eaten sweet potatoes since until a few years ago when I discovered they were delicious fried! I hate to admit that though since I had swore them off for life. haha (You really get my memories rolling!)

  3. Mimmy Jain says:

    Oh poor you, Mary, I really feel for you — that first day must have hurt!

  4. Maddy says:

    My bad lunch experience was pretty much ALL of my elementary school lunches. (Sorry Mom,not your fault.)
    I grew up in an upper middle class area and you would think they would have had hot lunch then.(No,back then,hot lunches were served when we got to middle school.)
    So pretty much daily except for a nice cold chocolate milk and an occasional ice or” bagel pretzel”as the ice cream who man parked his truck at school called it, I was stuck in a cafeteria with a soggy sandwich and completely warm juice.
    My sandwich was one of three-cheese on toast( that one really makes me laugh now)peanut butter or soggy tuna sandwich and a drink called Motts am or Pm.)Wonder if anyone remembers those small drinks with the lid you pulled off.)
    All of those were horrible by the time lunch rolled around.
    By the way,my Mom remembers me saying why don’t you give me something different like peanut butter instead of peanut butter and jelly?LOL
    At the end of the elementary school day I was starving.
    There was a light at the end of the tunnel though.I was in Brownies and Girl scouts and those groups started right after school (in the same lunchroom.)Atleast there we got to have cold fruit punch and chocolate chip cookies.Lunch was way better in middle and High school but those elementary school sogged out lunchs…..ooh no thankyee.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Maddy, you should have tried jelly sandwiches. Squishyness doesn’t dampen their taste. I’m glad to hear that fruit punch (always a winner) and chocolate chip cookies kept you going.
      Thanks for stopping by.

      • Maddy says:

        I have yet another take on Lunch gone bad to add to what I wrote above.
        Actually in the first grade I broke my arm doing a cartwheel (dancing school you know) and each day the school made my Mom come and take me off the playground at lunch time. (Guess I’d have been a risk if anything would happen.)
        My parents were the type to let their child try many things so…when the cast finally came off pretty much that day I had the genius idea to go ice skating.Sure enough I rebroke the same arm! Yes,you guessed it cast on the same arm again and yet again and my Mom had to take me off the playground at lunch time daily. The soggy sandwiches i wrote about prior started happening about a year later.Now that’s lunch gone bad-the cast version!
        Pats arm which is fine now 🙂

      • skinnyuz2b says:

        Maddy, thats crazy that you had to be removed from the playground. Did they think you’d try eating your sandwich while swinging from the monkey bars? This is a case of ‘better safe than sorry’ being carried too far. Hopefully you got a better lunch with your mom.

  5. Maddy says:

    Yes they did..anything chilled helped.
    Who knows? The after school Brownie snacks may have helped me recite the Brownie pledge too. 🙂
    Is it too late to try jelly sandwiches? They sound interesting.

  6. My first school lunch experience was equally eventful when a crow swooped into the school garden to take the half eaten roti from my hand and all my classmates laughed at me 🙂

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Wow, Sumeetha, I’m impressed. My paternal grandfather had a pet crow. If your event was captured on video today, it would go viral!
      Your event is not equal to mine, it way beyond mine!

  7. kriskkaria says:

    Great story about the first day of school. Can I narrate it for my podcast? I’m thinking a school story is perfect for this time of year.

  8. skinnyuz2b says:

    Thanks, Kriskkaria, both for your narration and nomination. I am very flattered and honored.

  9. Pecora Nera says:

    Gosh that brought memories back. I don’t remember my first couple of years I think the trauma was too much for me to remember. I do remember going to school in Scotland UK. Even though it was an infants school the teachers wore the black cape and carried canes…

    My British accent (plus I can’t roll my R’s) and the fact that, even then I was a black sheep made me stand out, when really I wanted to curl up and die in a corner. School dinners were flat dinners, the mash-potato, carrots and gravy was all one level. Kind of like a swamp. We were allowed to leave the potato but the meat, that looked like it came from a dog tin, had to be hidden under the swampy potato. It was common to trade at the table ie “if you eat this lovely dog meat for me, you can have my pudding”

  10. spunkybong says:

    Oh, Skinny, you are simply adorable!

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