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Yam and Eggs: 1943

Yam and Eggs: 1943

June 1943. Keysville, Virginia. "Randolph Henry High School. Cafeteria. Students don't have much money so they bring produce from farms for which they receive tickets. Lunches cost about 15 cents. Typical lunch: candied yams, macaroni and cheese, fruit salad, deviled eggs, dessert and milk. Milk is free and children can have as much as they want." Let's not forget beans, which seem to be in abundance. Photo by Philip Bonn, Office of War Information. View full size.


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Was just at a family reunion in this area last week. Wouldn't be surprised if these guys still live in the area. Wish I'd seen this photo before this past weekend. I'd have taken it with me to show to those who are of a similar age as these guys. Randolph-Henry High School, by the way, is not in Keysville, but is in the county seat of Charlotte Court House. It was built in 1938 and named for John Randolph and Patrick Henry.

The big difference

Back in the day, way, way back, our cafeteria ladies were stay-at home moms who were strictly volunteers and they started working on each days lunch early in the morning when school started. Everything was made fresh, just as at home, and there was preparation and labor required. Each item listed there in this 1943 caption took some effort and stuff did not come hermetically sealed in individual plastic or foil portions with "use by" dates, but was lovingly spooned out with satisfaction to all the hungry, grateful kids from the proud moms who made the meals with love. The aromas were tantalizing and the meals relished by the grateful students. We even had ethnic menus from the many, diversified nationalities of the ladies who cooked there and also festive holiday food events. We never knew about hot dogs made with dubious meat-like products, fast food, wheat pizza with kale, or other frankenfoods. Just loving moms creating healthy, real food from scratch before the government got involved. (Our meals cost 25 cents and those who brought lunch from home could still eat at the same table with their friends). Those days are gone forever but it taught me to acquire a taste for foods from all nationalities and to 'try' new, unfamiliar things, something that stays with me even today.

I Wonder What's On His Mind

It's June, school is about to be finished. Is our young man in the middle mooning over the little cutie across the way or is he thinking of the odds that his number will be called soon after he registers for the draft. The class ring tells me that he is at least a Junior, more likely a Senior. Those years were a time of real uncertainty and dread for high school boys. I know it was for me in the early '70's. Thankfully that one ended before I graduated.

Public School 53, The Bronx

I was in the 5th grade at PS53 at the time this picture was taken. The NYC Board of Education had a free lunch program for needy students and I was fortunate enough not to have to participate. The lunches were served in the Boy's Gymnasium on public park sized picnic tables. The signature dish was tomato soup and the odor remained in that Gym full time. I didn't like tomato soup then and still don't.

The Aroma

The classroom must have smelled pretty good in the late afternoon after the typical lunch of candied yams, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs, all the free milk and let's not forget the abundance of beans.

A highly nutritious lunch.

Millions of high school students around the world in 1943 would envy the lunch these young fellows are eating.

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