I have fond memories of eating lunch all during my elementary and high school years at Plum. In 1958 at Renton School when I was in second grade, the lunchroom was in the basement. As we approached the window to pick up our hot food, we passed two cardboard boxes neatly filled with folded butter bread or peanut butter bread half-sandwiches. We put stainless silverware, a carton of milk, and bread on our tray. Two or three smiling women wearing white hair covers or hair nets would place a hot dish on our tray: homemade beef vegetable soup, or homemade spaghetti with one meatball, maybe sauerkraut, one steamed wiener, and a scoop of mashed potatoes. Fridays were always meatless in deference to our large catholic population, so usually they served fish sticks with macaroni and cheese on the side. Our desserts were not interesting to me as they were usually canned pears or peaches, but I was thrilled to eat canned apricots or fruit cocktail with the coveted half maraschino cherry on top. These delicious, filling meals cost $0.25 each, and normally we paid on Monday for the week, handing Mrs. Taylor our lunch money, which she carefully kept an accounting of.
Once in a while, I would carry my lunch for a few weeks: Lebanon baloney with mustard on white bread and a piece of candy were on the menu. Another time I went through a phase of chipped ham on white bread with Miracle Whip and Heinz dill pickle chips on the side. My father bought the Heinz dill pickles for me in a gallon jug, and I enjoyed every one of them. I perfected packing the dill chips in paper towel and then wax paper so the vinegar wouldn’t leak through my brown lunch bag. We paid $0.05 for a carton of milk when we brought our lunch from home.
One October morning, a dog wandered into our schoolroom from the open door at ground level where my third grade class was located. He walked slowly around the room, and we knew the teacher would permit him to stay if we behaved and didn’t let him distract us from our lessons. The dog sniffed at my brown lunch bag kept on the floor under my seat and plopped down next to it. After a few minutes of inattention, he got up and moseyed out the back door again to walk among the fallen poplar leaves and to find his way home again.