It’s Monday morning and nearly midday.
The local bakery vehicle arrives, followed by scurrying footsteps, and eventually, the rustling sounds of paper bags begin. These are the days before, obesity was a thing, and what the schools sold was not questioned. It was all about that heightened anticipation of what was dropped in those bags softened the most challenging non-complying child amongst us into the most obedient and smiling person you could imagine. When the mother helpers had finished, those bagged delights on trays were deposited a short distance from us. The ultimate sweet aroma of fresh doughnuts, iced sally-lunns and hot meat pies drifted into our classrooms and right past my nostrils, causing yet another distraction from the sizeable chalky blackboard and that moving mouth on my teacher’s face. Fifty-five plus years on, and those mouth-watering memories have never dulled and the reality of having soggy tomato sandwiches instead of a pie.
Another part of school gastronomic memories was the opposite of delight.
On the steps of a Wellington Catholic Primary School, I was handed a small 300ml bottle of warm cow’s milk that was encouraged by hoovering nuns to pass my lips, and the aftermath after each gulp was a look of pure disgust. It had to be done, the drinking of that creamy warm fluid. We were brought up not to waste a drop.
This grand idea, a world-first pilot scheme, all started in 1937 and launched in Auckland just before the election of the first Labour Government, which became synonymous with the implementation of universal social security initiatives. Concerned with creating equal access for New Zealanders to essential health, education and welfare, the current government made free milk available to all New Zealand primary school children. This was complemented by other children’s health measures, such as free dental care at school dental clinics. School dental nurses continued to stress the importance of milk in children’s diets. All I can remember in my day is that school dental nurses caused me stress though I digress and let’s stick to the subject of milk, the lesser of the two evils.
Thankfully, the distasteful downing of warmish milk in a bottle on the school steps was for only a few years as the scheme was discontinued in October 1967 due to the cost factor and the questioning of the health benefits of cow’s milk. It’s now May 2022, and, still, I’m not too fond of warm dairy unless it’s been disguised with a few shots of espresso coffee.