Hazelbury Road Open Air School reminiscences pg11

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To ensure that we received proper nutrition, we were fed three meals a day at the Open Air School and the cost was five shillings per week. This compared to two shillings and a penny for five lunch-time dinners at other schools. We ate in the assembly/dining room with pupils sitting on benches at long tables that ran at right-angles from the playground wall/window. The teachers sat at their own smaller table at the end opposite Mr. Rapley’s room. Food was served at that end of the room, too, by the kitchen staff.

The rule was that you had to eat everything. The lunchtime meal was served school-dinner style where one was given a plate and moved along a line where the various constituents were doled out. Here one could ask for small, medium or large helpings but, as said, whatever you asked for you had to eat.

Peter M. (1937-1939): As mentioned, we were given three light meals. I also had breakfast before I left and tea when I came home. I can now only just manage to keep my BMI below 24.99 with an effort! I hated the tea we were given which was made with boiled milk and sugar. I never drink tea with milk now.

Jeff (1948-1953): I remember having to eat everything and nearly puking trying to get down an oatmeal biscuit. One day, there was mashed potato, my favourite, and I asked for "extra-large". When I got back to my seat I discovered the "mashed potato" was mashed turnip. Since I asked for it, I had to eat it. Somehow I got it down.

Margaret (1948-1951): My appetite was not good at school and one of the meals resembled white mashed potato surrounded by a red sauce.  I disliked the taste immensely and to this day do not know what it was supposed to be.

Jeff (1948-1953): I wonder if that was the mashed turnip.

Peter W. (1955-1957): I remember the white stuff surrounded by a red sauce: it was cheese and potato pie. I loved it and still eat it today. However, I hated, and still do, plain cheese (see my reminiscence of grated cheese salad on the page about Mr. Rapley).

Wendy (1949-1952): The food we had for breakfast, dinner and tea was very good and I always enjoyed it except for one of the breakfast cereals. As you know, we had to eat everything up, and I would gag on that cereal. I have no idea why but maybe they put Bemax into it and to this day I don't like the taste. I was also not too fond of the coffee which was very weak and milky. I hadn't developed a taste for any coffee by then and thought it was a strange drink to offer children. It was probably the coffee syrup called Camp. We ate at long tables with chairs or benches either side in the same hall as assembly (I think).

Tony (1952-1954): The food was good, and all for five shillings a week if I remember correctly. I especially liked the cooked breakfast, and especially the mashed potato with cheese in it topped with puréed tomatoes. That was delicious. But I was never keen on the afternoon teas. Firstly I never liked oranges, or fish paste sandwiches, and then there was that sickly hot drink they used to often give us. I wasn't the only one: one afternoon some kid opposite me was trying to force it down and he/she vomited it back up. Unfortunately he/she chose to try to stop it by closing their mouth, but it was expelled at high speed through the nose. Never seen that before or since. Both revolting and amusing.

The canteen staff was really nice. One day I came in late as I'd had to have a hot plaster put on for a ricked ankle and I'd missed the bus and my breakfast. So the kitchen staff were very nice and cubed some bread, sprinkled it liberally with sugar, and poured hot milk onto it. Delicious! I made it myself occasionally for a long while afterwards and also for my boys when they were small and not well.

Pauline (1961-1965): The teas were ghastly. I hated dried fruit and loathed jam sandwiches - in winter I used to smuggle the offending items out in my coat pockets or my gloves, to throw away when I got home!

Doreen (1940-1947): I loved the food but was not keen on the meat at dinnertime. It was gristly and seemed to me to have unnecessary pipes and things in it and lots of fatty bits. And teatime we sometimes had very sharp apples and brown sugar and brown bread. I never had enough sugar for my taste. After the war we had more fruit: bananas, pears and DATES. I hated dates. I rolled them up in my handkerchief, put them in my knicker pocket (see the page “Dressing for the Weather”) and took them home to my mum. We had tapioca for "afters". You had to eat it quick or it would congeal and stick to the plate and be all gluggy. We called it "frogspawn". Frogspawn was definitely a no-no. I cannot think why they would give us that as everybody hated it. One day I sat with Elsie Mottram messing about with this revolting concoction until we were late for our afternoon rest. Mr. Rapley told us to leave it for now and that we could have it for our tea. I was nearly sick thinking about it. By teatime it was like cement. We were severely reprimanded for wasting good food (?????) but we were allowed to leave it. I told my mum - she said it served me right.

Suet pudding with jam was a resounding "YES". And bread pudding was good. We sometimes had scrambled eggs for breakfast made with dried, powdered egg (maybe just a wartime thing?). It was wonderful, better than real eggs. Years later I bought some powdered egg that came from America but it wasn't the same. Of course, it may have had something to do with my cooking! The school cooks were the tops.


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