Attending country school in the one-room schoolhouse for my education in grades one through eight, and having four brothers who also attended classes in the same room for eight years each, I have many memories of fixing school lunches.
Most always we had home-made bread, and slicing it into even pieces was the first chore! The filling to put into each sandwich was of a great variety, but usually home-made butter, with home-made jelly or jam. It was a treat if, once in awhile, we had peanut butter.
Our parents bought no lunch meats, so if we had a meat sandwich it might be cold, whole-hog sausage, or a slice of head cheese (home-made from the meat of a hog's head, feet, and tongue).
I can remember making fried-egg sandwiches, with yolks cooked hard. One of my schoolmates made mustard sandwiches, with just the yellow salad mustard spread over the bread! In the month of May we could have some lettuce sandwiches if our parents got the garden planted early.
There was a really poor family in our neighborhood in the Depression years, and their six children carried their lunch buckets (1/2 gallon size tin pails that had contained lard or sorghum). In each might be one small, boiled, unpeeled potato or 2 black walnuts. These children would spend much time peeling their potato or cracking the walnuts out on the front step of the schoolhouse and trying to pick out the nut goodies to mU:l;1ch on. In this way of "slow actions," they could finish "eating" about the same time we all returned our lunch boxes to the hallway shelf.
Many times some of us shared bread or a cracker with our friends.
My mother taught me to bake cookies and cake from scratch. Baking in the kitchen range, with the heat from burning cobs or sticks of wood, the cakes would often fall flat. If I managed to produce some treat to put into our school lunch boxes, my brothers never complained.
Sometimes by Thursday or Friday of the week, my ideas and supplies of "lunch stuff" would be running short. Then I'd think of jello (quick to fix). This would be acceptable only in cold weather, 'cause we had no ice box or refrigerator to cool the liquid jello. Before I could make jello, however, I'd need a cup of boiling water to dissolve the jello powder. My father would say, "You cannot put any more fire in the kitchen stove tonight, there's too much danger of a house fire in the night time." We had no warm water in the house (no faucets, even) so I can remember dipping out a small cup of water and trying to warm it at a living room register. It never did get hot enough to dissolve jello, but I'd stir and stir it and send very rubbery jello for my brothers to eat Friday noon.
I've had lots of experiences packing lunches to eat away from home. During the first ten years of my marriage my husband carried a "lunch bucket" with peanut butter sandwiches, home¬made cookies and jello!
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.