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Carol Perkins: the high school lunch room - I

The Metcalfe County High School cafeteria served hundreds of high school students from 1957 until it closed as a high school in 1994. If spirits linger from students of the past, we would have visions of poodle skirts, duck tail haircuts, bell bottoms, mini skirts, love beads, jelly shoes, pop beads, wool skirts, penny loafers, straight legged jeans, jams, long hair for boys, big hair for girls, blue eye shadow, sack dresses, Weejuns, and all the other styles that went with each generation.
Next earlier Carol Perkins column: Carol Perkins: A (usually) laid back kind of guy

By Carol Perkins

When thinking of my school days, most memories occurred in either the gym or the lunchroom. The majority of my happy memories were in the high school gym where students gathered before school, during lunch, at afternoon break, after school waiting to go home or for some sort of practice to begin, or on Tuesday and Friday night basketball games. I spent many hours in my high school gym.

It was in that gym courtships began and ended. Heroes were made at last minute shots, and some students "exchanged" homework before the bell rang for "books." A group of young girls huddled closely, talking about a boy or two, and giggled as one of the guys strolled down the floor as if he owned it, climbed to the top of the bleachers, and surveyed them carefully.


Another place that brings back pleasant memories (and some unpleasant ones) was the lunchroom. (Cafeterias were for city schools.) In elementary school, I can vividly see the cooks lined up behind the vats of mash potatoes and pots of steaming corn or peas, greeting us as if we were their grandchildren, and making sure we had plenty on our plates. With the variety of these home-cooked meals came a blending of aromas that were not always pleasant. On pinto beans day, we did not have to guess what was for lunch. Freshly sliced onions, along with the boiling beans, lingered for days. We knew by the delicious smell ascending from the bottom floor to the third floor what was waiting for us on the days the ladies made yeast rolls.

My high school lunchroom (the original MCHS building that later became the middle school) also offered some wonderful memories. Lunchtime meant scoffing down our meals, so we girls could have more time to visit with other students or sit with our boyfriends on the bleachers. Upper classmen sat on the edge of the stage with their legs hanging off while their boyfriends stood in front of them gazing into their eyes or holding their hands.

Because of limited space, students lined up around the walls of the lunchroom waiting to reach the kitchen door. Naturally, some students tried to break line while other students told on them, and the teacher in charge moved the culprit to the back of the line. Others were sneaky enough to get away with "breaking." Sometimes out of nowhere, even a fight broke out and chairs fell backward as a teacher in charge ran to break up the young men (I never saw a girl fight in the lunchroom). Nothing worse than corn or peas flying through the air.

As for the menu, we knew what we were going to eat almost each day because it seldom changed; but unlike today, almost all food was prepared on the spot. Homemade desserts, rolls, meatloaf, spaghetti with a salad, and pinto beans and cornbread were just a few entrees, but I particularly liked the grilled cheese and chili days. Teachers ate at the "teachers" table and rushed through their meals so they could head for the teacher's lounge to smoke (for those who did), drink a Coke, and catch up on the news.

The cafeteria was also the place for our Fall Festival skits, and some of our banquets and club parties. Eradicating the smell of the day's lunch often meant opening all the windows that lined the front of the building and spraying the room with a scented can of something, but the large room could be and was transformed within a few hours.

The high school cafeteria served hundreds of high school students from 1957 until it closed as a high school in 1994. If spirits linger from students of the past, we would have visions of poodle skirts, duck tail haircuts, bell bottoms, mini skirts, love beads, jelly shoes, pop beads, wool skirts, penny loafers, straight legged jeans, jams, long hair for boys, big hair for girls, blue eye shadow, sack dresses, Weejuns, and all the other styles that went with each generation.

When the middle school moved into the high school, and the high school moved to the hill in 1995, the lunchroom became the "cafeteria" and new memories took shape for those students. Eventually, the school was torn down except for the cafeteria area and the gym (and parts in that area).

What does one do with a closed gym and cafeteria? Stay tuned.

(Part II Next Week)

(My new book, A Girl Named Connie, is available at Blossoms Florist and Boutique Unique, 507 Happy Valley Road, Glasgow, KY 42141, Phone 270-629-3597; the Edmonton/Metcalfe Chamber of Commerce, 109 E Stockton Street, Edmonton, KY, Phone 270-432-3222; and the Lighthouse Restaurant, 1500 Sulphur Well/Knob Lick Road, Sulphur Well Historic District, KY 42129. Phone 270-629-3597. And Also on Amazon.com) Carol Perkins, PO Box 134, Edmonton, KY 42129. Phone 670-432-5756


This story was posted on 2016-09-21 21:14:34
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