One-Room Schoolhouse Created Hot Lunch Program

Students in a one-room schoolhouse used a hot plate to warm lunches.

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I attended a one-room schoolhouse in Kansas in the 1940s. True to the times, it had electricity, but no indoor plumbing.

One of the duties of a couple of students at the start of the day was pumping a pail of water from the cistern to fill the school's three-gallon stoneware container. For drinking, a dipper was used to fill the student's own tin cup. Before eating, everyone lined up to take turns soaping hands and holding them over an enamel basin while a student helper poured on cold water for a quick dip 'n rinse.

Then it was time to retrieve the metal lunch box from the cloakroom cupboard. Lunch brought from home was typically a cold bacon, lunchmeat, or jelly sandwich, a piece of fruit, some potato chips wrapped in wax paper, and homemade cookies. Day in and day out, the same old cold lunch was a monotonous routine.

But country kids could be as modern thinking and innovative as anyone. One year, we students came up with an idea for how to have HOT lunches, somewhat like what the town kids got.

In a storage room there was a portable hot plate. By vote of the 15-member student body, and with teacher approval for a trial period, we instigated the one-room school version of a hot lunch program. I don't recall how good it tasted, but it sure was fun, as one of the older girls, to get to collect and heat up the items from participants, and most of all, to chatter away a few minutes of school time with my friend, the other privileged student "cook."

Carol Darnell
Columbia, Missouri

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.