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Five Cents' Worth: 1941

Five Cents' Worth: 1941

June 1941. "Eating a five-cent hot lunch at the Woodville public school. Greene County, Georgia." Happy Thanksgiving from Shorpy! Photo by Jack Delano. View full size.

 

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A fly

is waiting patiently for some scraps.

Culinary Delight, by period standards

My father-in-law worked for Department of Agriculture school lunch program in the upper Midwest during this time. His photos show farm kids eating food that was served with a ladle from a large pot on a metal plate. And, Brett, they all had smiles on their faces -- they were poor farm kids and they were hungry.

Lucky kids in Georgia!

Southern Memories

My third- and fourth-grade days were spent in rural Haw River, North Carolina; a one-building school district attended by children of fabric mill workers and dirt poor tobacco farmers (and me, a recent Pennsylvania transplant whose dad was an engineer in a nearby city). Lunch in the cafeteria was the highlight of my day. Those lunch ladies fixed us fresh buttermilk biscuits every day and always something warm and filling. I first ate ham and navy bean soup there and, even though I'm now 72, still take every available opportunity to have a bowl of that less-than-nutritious concoction.

Culinary relativity

Considering the recipes my grandmas used to cook in the best of times in the 1970s and considering what my dad told me about the lean times of his youth this would have been Sundays every day to them in the 1940s.

And prepared daily on-site, from mostly local and seasonal ingrfedients (because they didn't know any other way yet)? That's called slow food these days. Hey, count me in!

Not worth it

You would have to pay me to eat that, I can't even identify that mess!

Airline Meal

Unrecognizeable entree and dessert.

Lunch inflation

By 1956 the cost of a similar lunch at my school, Wheeless Road Elementary School in Augusta, Ga., had gone up to 25 cents. Still a deal, though. We got a meat, two vegetables, dessert, milk, and the best yeast rolls I've ever tasted.

A Bargain

That would be 88 cents today.

Before it all got turned over to McDonald's and like vendors

Even in a 1960's fairly affluent town, school lunch was still only about 40 cents, and a relatively balanced meals prepared on site.

What was the Menu of the Day?

I think I'm seeing cornbread, boiled cabbage, a small slice of ham, and some fruit cobbler - not a bad lunch at all for that time and place. Anyone else have an opinion? Cornbread and cabbage were Atlanta School System staples well into the 1960s, as I have reason to remember.

Mother's china

I have those same divided Blue Willow plates that my mother had since her wedding in 1939. Surprised to see them in a school lunch program.

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