So that Mom could help out the family income, she got a job on the School Dinners and later, to help further, worked as a cleaner at Christ Church School as well. Her School Dinner job meant that I had to Stay Dinner and take part in its peculiar ritual.
Dinners – now called by the posh-people’s word “Lunch” – were served in the Baptist Tabernacle hut, next to the Boys’ Brigade hut, in Dunstall Road. The Dinner hut was not new and was brown inside.
Mom and the other Dinner Ladies were hidden in the dark serving room at the far end of the hut. Through a battered green door at the back of the serving room, the food was delivered. It came in heavy metal containers which the women helped a little man in a brown cow-gown to lug inside and dump on the big table.
It seems now that the meals hardly varied: two slim and fatty slices of beef, well-watered white cabbage, and two scoops of solid mash. The mash sometimes became almost-boiled potatoes.
A Miss Maroni apparently organised the menus for the entire Wolverhampton School Meals Service, though we never saw her nor she us – which was not, I think, a bad thing.
Each day, we were lined up in pairs in Christ Church School playground in Leicester Street. On Miss Evans’ word of command, we moved off out of the gate and up the road. It was a distance of about three hundred yards to the hut and we always met the Infants being trooped back, they having received the first serving.
They always told us what to expect in the way of pudding. Undaunted by their teachers, the chant rose as they passed by us on the other side.
“Cake and Cus-tard! Cake and Cus- tard!”
It was always cake and custard.
In the hut, after the rapid serving of the food and the firm endeavours of the school staff to prevent us starting too suddenly, we said Grace.
“Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you, God, for ev-‘ry-thing.
We were supposed to keep our eyes shut, but I used to peep at Miss Evans. I noticed how she used to bow her head at the end, down on the “A- . . .” and up on the “-men”. She kept her eyes open, too.
On recollection, Miss Maroni did allow – once – lamb chops to invade her menu. Only small ones they were and we were forbidden to pick up the bones with our fingers because Miss Evans said it was dirty. Her edict came just in time as we’d already started on them. A lot of meat was wasted that day. It is of great satisfaction to me that, in polite and even Royal circles, it is not considered bad manners to pick up meat bones.
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