We’re back to Blair Branch Grade School, after being so rudely interrupted by a three-day diabetes interlude at the hospital where the cafeteria food was decidedly superior to any food ever served at the Blair Branch School cafeteria.

On the other hand, I’d be willing to bet a few $$ that the Blair Branch cooks would have served up a far more appetizing meal if our school had ever had a cafeteria. As it was, the only kitchen appliance in the building was a refrigerator, placed in the back of the “big room” as far from the heating stove as we could get it. The old fridge was used to stock 5-ounce cartons of milk and any lunch bags students might want to cram inside it.

Most of us had dear meat sandwiches for lunch, several times a week. Dear old bologna. I remember one teacher bringing an electric “hot plate” to school so he could fry his bologna at his desk. That lasted about a week before guilt got to him when we sat around drooling like dogs, hoping for a handout or waiting for something to drop off the kitchen table.

Kids who lived only a few hundred yards from the school house usually went home for lunch and most of them got hot meals. After Mr. Back decided the hot plate was more trouble than it was worth, he ate cold sandwiches like the rest of us. If his bologna was fried, it was still cold.

One year (my seventh grade) he made arrangements to have a nearby neighbor cook up kettles of soup or stew that was served to students for 15 cents each, but more than half of us couldn’t afford even that.

On days when we didn’t take a bologna sandwich for lunch, my younger brothers and I might have a different slice of deli meat such a diced ham “lunch meat”, Dixie Loaf or, my favorite to this day, liver loaf.

Fried egg “omelet” sandwiches were often in our dinner sacks as well as sausage or fried pork on biscuits. I’ve even taken pint jars of milk and cornbread to lunch and we almost always had apple butter or jam sandwiches for dessert.

For several years, my mom ordered baby, white leghorn cockerel chicks for not much more than the cost of postage to ship them. The female chicks were produced for the egg industry and, since roosters have still not learned to lay eggs, poultry farmers were looking ways to get rid of them, almost at cost. Mom bought at least 100 at a time and up to 300, scattered through three or more orders, between January and March. There was no way we could take care of that many babies all at once, but, when one group got up to 3 weeks old, she’d order more.

To make a long story short, our family ate way more fried chicken than we really needed and mom turned a nice profit selling fryers at payday to a few dozen coal miners.

The Adams boys also took a lot of fried chicken sandwiches to school for lunch. In fact, it got to the point that I’d have preferred almost anything to cold, fried chicken for a noon meal.

My eighth grade teacher, Monroe Caudill, brought a “Dagwood” type sandwich to school every day that usually had two or three slices of fancy deli meat layered with Swiss cheese, lettuce and onion. They not only looked tasty but they were virtual works of art!

One day I came to school with a couple of Mom’s biscuits stuffed with fried chicken. Mr. Caudill took a glance at my lunch and nodded at his masterpiece. “I’ll swap with you,” he said.

We may have set a world record for the amount of time it took for those sandwiches to change hands. I later learned that he really believed he had gotten the better end of the deal. I know, for an absolute fact, that I did.

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