In elementary school (Roosevelt School), everyone skipped home for lunch, even if that meant scarfing down a tuna sandwich in fifteen minutes, seeing who won Jeopardy with emcee Art Downs, and climbing the hill back to school. The only exception was on Thursdays, when my mother would be doing the weekly marketing at my father’s Shop-Rite and the house was too busy with food deliveries in preparation for the Sabbath. Thursdays we ate at Sid’s, just a block north from the school. We feasted on meatball sandwiches and candies like Red Hots, Pixie Stix.
My twin and I collected lunch money from our father during our two years at Lincoln Junior High to step across Kearny Avenue to eat at the Copper Kettle. I think we ate mostly hamburgers.
It’s strange. I can see the Kearny High School cafeteria in my mind’s eye–the original one built over the swimming pool on the first floor or the small one down the hall as well as the one that opened around 1973 when the new annex offered more space. But I don’t recall at all whether I bought my lunch or brown-bagged it. I do remember buying Drake’s cherry pies and Linden chocolate chip cookies. I remember my best friend’s mother sometimes making me tuna sandwiches with olives and olive oil on a Portuguese roll. During freshman year, I do know I brought cheese sandwiches on one slice of toasted Wonder cut straight through the middle to make two very thin slices of bread. I brought a Tab or Fresca.
What are your school cafeteria memories?
I always had to eat in the cafeteria, there was no going home for lunch as our homes were miles from the school. I rode the school bus from kindergarten to 12th grade. I did get my driver’s license just before junior year and occasionally got to take the car to school, but the school did not permit anyone to leave for lunch.
Likely I walked home from Solis Cohen Elementary as I have no memory of a cafeteria. All students in that new neighborhood walked the dense row house grid, and our house was just 1/2 block down Oakland Street.
At Woodrow Wilson Junior High the boys and girls ate in separate cafeterias at opposite ends of the windowless basement. Shepherds Pie is the only favorite I recall. Perhaps I carried a brown bag lunch most days. The actual eating was complete in very short order. Most vividly I remember the games of penny football played across the long wooden table of perfect width. Each player took there chance spinning the penny (nickel for beginners) and “catching “ it upright with one finger, then “running” it across the goal line table edge for a touchdown. Two thumbs could “kick” an extra point (or field goal when three downs failed to score) — the opponent’s fingers held upright like real goalposts.
Thanks for the memories (as Bob Hope would croon).