THE 1930's


Originally, school meals were taken in the two rooms above the domestic science labs, (or maybe in the dom sci labs themselves). The caretaker's wife cooked them.

Those who did not want school dinners could have 'service' - an option whereby you brought your own lunch and the school supplied a plate, knife and mug.

"As I remember it was the domestic science rooms that were used for these purposes. The two rooms were partitioned, because you could hear the mistress talking in the next room whilst you were having your lesson there. It was there I had my very first school dinner, which made me sick that day!! Salad with masses of grated raw cabbage, followed by lumpy semolina with melted jam." Grete Wheeler '53-'58

"... I thence had 'service'. This was the name for being allowed to take your own lunch. Mine consisted of assorted sandwiches plus (yum yum) a chocolate mint yo-yo biscuit." Grete Wheeler '53-'58

"School Dinners - in the 40s and 50s the dining room was on the top floor above the domestic science (now food technology) rooms. The food wasn't too bad apart from the stew. We always seemed to have mashed potatoes - never chips." Irene Furze '43-'54

"... 'service' when you took your own sandwiches - you could also have cocoa but probably this was only in wintertime." Irene Furze '43-'54

"‘Service’ in the domestic science room was more than a plate and cutlery. For a few pence we could take a potato (carved with our initials) to be baked, and I remember taking a little enamel dish of shepherds pie to be heated." Janet Rawlins '38-'44

"I think the post war babes came in 1958 - that's when the dining rooms were built as it [lunch] used to be in school. [The school rooms] were at this time partitioned to make extra classrooms." Janet Ball '56-'61

"I loved the weeks when my form was on packed lunch rota as some of the school meals were not in the best cordon bleu tradition. I particularly hated the stringy, orange meat, of indeterminate provenance but possibly corned beef, with a suet crust pastry. If that was followed by any form of milk pudding, the ice cream man’s profits were boosted by another sale." Sheila Galbraith '60-'67

"By the time the second year of baby boomers hit the school (about 1958) we had 5 classes in the first form and the dining room could not accommodate everyone, even with two sittings. I can remember bringing a packed lunch to school for a while. We took turns doing that, but can't remember how it was organized." Beryl Midgley '55-'60

"My strongest memory of bringing my lunch to school was hot tomato rice soup in a thermos. I believe it was one of Campbell's latest flavours." Beryl Midgley '55-'60

"Sandwich lunches were done on a rota system. If memory serves me right they were done because the dining room couldn't cope with so many of us on school dinners. Memories of a small flask filled with tomato soup come to mind. My mother was a compulsive once a week baker so there will have been plenty of buns/cakes to fill me up - but I was a stick insect at that time! I can't remember my sister ever having to take her turn at sandwich lunches. She was 5 years behind me so maybe by that time the "bulge" years were over." Margaret Eastwood '59-'66

"When we arrived at LHS in September 1959, we were asked to go home for lunch if at all possible. I gave it a try, but I was no sooner there than I had to set off back again, so I had to join the queue outside the dining hall - two sittings, if you remember." Margaret Collie '59-'66

The dining hall, which stood between the two schools, was completed in 1958. Like the annex, this was probably to cope with the Baby Boomers.

The dining hall: remembered not for the dinners, but for being one of two building that were shared with the boys; 'shared' in the sense that boys and girls were in the building at the same time, not shared as in 'mixed'.

"The dining hall was completed during 1958. I started in September 1957 when school dinners were eaten on trestle tables in the changing rooms; the food being supplied from West Park kitchens." Tony Chatterton '57-'64

"I was at the Modern from 1958 to 1965 and I am fairly sure we were the first ones to use the building." John Penny '58-'65

There was an upper and a lower dining room, and a first and a second sitting. We stood outside in the cold, forming two queues until it was time to go in. The right hand queue went into the downstairs room; the left hand one went upstairs.

The kitchens were on the ground floor. Downstairs was the bigger room, but the configuration was such that we couldn't see the boys from there. Upstairs, the slightly smaller dining room had a serving hatch between the girls and the boys, and the strange creatures could be seen from there! (For memories of ogling the boys at lunchtime, please have a look at the Old Mods page.)

"Does anyone remember the thrill of queuing up for school dinners and getting an upstairs table? You got to see the boys up there through the serving hatch. Sometimes you saw Martin Potter or someone else on your hit list." Gill Crossley '59-'66

"The dining hall - I remember peeking at the boys through the hatch and trying to see my current boyfriend." Beryl Midgley '55-'60

We spent so much time queuing up outside the dining hall. First, we queued in the morning for our third-of-a-pint of milk, then again at lunchtime for our meal. Did we have a milk break in the afternoon? I don't remember one.

In the winter milk would have frozen in the bottles. The dinner ladies placed the crates near to the radiators to thaw the bottles out. The result was either near-frozen milk that wouldn't suck-up through the straw, or disgustingly luke-warm milk.

Before 1944, when Lawnswood was an Independent School, everything had to be paid for. It seems the changes may have been phased in as Margaret Yewdall has found this slip inside her 1946 school report, showing the price of milk for the coming term. 2s 6d {12½p} is worth £3.28 in today's money. Later, when Lawnswood became a State Grammar School, our third-of-a-pint was free.

"Another yuk was the mid-morning milk - it wasn't just being left in the sun that turned it sour; in winter the crates would be stacked by the radiators! I think my mother eventually sent a note excusing me from having it, but then it stopped anyway." Elizabeth Stephenson '59-'66

I think the dinners were 1/3d {6p} a day when I was at school. That's the equivalent of 87p in today's money. The routine was, at the given signal the noisy, chattering queue of girls filed into the two dining halls. We filled up the tables from the furthest end of the room back to the door. There was some swapping and changing so that we could keep together with our friends. Sometimes, a group of friends were split between tables.

At the end of the room was a blackboard on a roller where the dinner-ladies wrote up the day's menu. At first sitting, the table nearest the board always rolled it down and altered a few letters to form new words. So 'Shepherds Pie' would become 'She herds Pie', or some such. I wish I could remember a few of them for you now, but I'm afraid they've gone!

"Ref: the 'She herds Pie' - another that springs to mind is 'canary pong' (canary sponge) - that was ALWAYS changed, chocolate pong, lemon pong etc., but canary was by far the funniest." Janet Ball '56-'61

Each table sat eight. It was set with cutlery, a metal jug of water and some gold-coloured metal drinking tumblers. At the end of most tables sat a teacher. The girl that found herself opposite the teacher was automatically the server.

Grace was said by a senior teacher - "ForwhatweareabouttoreceivemaytheLordmakeustrulythankful" - then the servers dashed for the hatch. The meals were already in tureens. We collected the food and the plates and rushed back to our tables. Usually (always!) there was an entree and two veg., one of which was potatoes. The teacher served the meal, and the plates were passed down the table. When everyone had finished the main course, the plates and dishes were stacked and the server returned them to the hatch, collected the pudding and returned once more to her table.

After pudding, the tables had to be cleared again, wiped down, and re-set for the next sitting. I think it was the server who brought back a wet cloth and clean knives, forks and spoons. I distinctly remember that we were not allowed to touch the blade of the knife, the tines of the fork, or the bowl of the spoon - we were to be very careful only to touch the handles!

Looking back, I realise how very little fluid we had during the course of a school day. A third-of-a-pint of milk, and a tumbler of water. Some girls may not even have bothered with those.

"My mother worked in the LHS kitchen from 1949 to 1954. She has so many happy memories of Lawnswood and Miss Holden for whom she would take tea on a tray!" Sheila Wagstaff '54-'59

"I will never forget the cold, lumpy mash potato, & greasy, stew full of gristle. Frog spawn (tapioca) pudding. Times were hard just after the war! They cost 4d (2p) a day." Avril Escolme '46-'51

"Does anyone remember concrete and whitewash (jam pasty and custard)?" Irene Furze '43-'54

"I wonder how many of you remember the 'alternative' grace which went 'For what we are about to leave, may the pigs be truly thankful'." Margaret Collie '59-'66

"Mrs. Webster used to say, 'Bless oh Lord this food to our use and us to thy service'." Janet Ball '56-'61

"Weird how the plates were like bowls - perhaps we weren't to be trusted with flatter platters." Janet China '65-'70

"I used to try to arrange my position so that I would neither have to collect the food from the hatch nor serve it out. Avoiding a table at which a teacher was already seated was trickier." Margaret Collie '59-'66

"I used to HATE getting on a teacher's table unless it was Miss Skellern - I'm sure they must have hated it more than we did." Janet Ball '56-'61

"I must have been in a minority when it comes to school dinners." Jocelyn Laws '59-'65

"I loved school dinners too, and developed a healthy appetite, but have been fortunate to be blessed with skinny genes." Maureen Whitehead '59-'64

"Does anyone remember the Dobbins bloke that used to deliver the fresh vegetables to the kitchens? I remember him being very popular." Carol Hazelwood '66-'71

"I think the roast potatoes were, and probably still are, everyone's favourite." Margaret Anderson '59-'64

"The things I hated were boiled cabbage - always swimming in grease - and winter salad, which seemed to be composed exclusively of white cabbage, beetroot and grated carrot." Margaret Collie '59-'66

"The absolute worst experience was piling what we thought were chips on to our plates, and then discovering they were (ugh) roast parsnips." Janet China '65-'70

"The most traumatic day I remember was the day we ruffians were introduced to 'COLD SLAW.' I seem to remember it was made from green coloured wood shavings!!!" Richard (Max) Beyer '58-'65

"Does anyone also remember Spam fritters!! I'd never seen them before and never seen them since." Margaret Anderson '59-'64

"...and the spam fritters were enjoyed (or not!) for lunch!" Jean Redfearn '69-'76

"Other dislikes - lumpy mashed potato (somehow the lumps never seemed like potato) and, worse still, lumpy custard. Yuk." Elizabeth Stephenson '59-'66

"I told my husband, once, that although I've eaten quite a few exotic cuts of meat, I couldn't bring myself to eat horse like the French. He said if I'd ever had school dinners, then I'd had horsemeat - apparently that's what the meat in the stew etc. was." Ann Hutchinson '59-'64

"School dinners: - I, too, hated stews as the meat was always full of fat and gristle." Elizabeth Stephenson '59-'66

"I loved school dinners and ate all that was put before me." Sandra Baker '59-'64

"Years of having to bolt my food because another group was waiting to come in for the second serving are another memory." Margaret Collie '59-'66

"As far as I remember sometimes on Fridays we would get fish, did the chips go with them?" Ann Hutchinson '59-'64

"My strongest dining room memory was being chastised by a teacher for pushing my peas onto my fork with my knife, with the fork lying flat. To this day I know of no better way of doing this!" Linda Crookes '54-'60

"- sponge puddings that looked delicious but were so sticky they stuck in my mouth." Jackie Rowe '59-'64

"I hated school dinners in general and their sausages in particular." Joyce Latto '59-'64

"I wonder if the teachers had to pay for school dinners?" Janet Ball '56-'61

"I ate very little - at least we were not forced to eat anything we did not like, like primary school pupils - and spent a fortune at the ice cream van afterwards." Margaret Collie '59-'66

"Sponges of all kinds figured heavily - we had chocolate sponge, treacle sponge, lemon sponge, ginger sponge and rainbow sponge, which we all suspected was made from leftovers from the other sorts. These, like most other puddings, were served with lashings of very lumpy custard which had a taste all its own." Margaret Collie '59-'66

"... the pink custard was always served with chocolate pudding and funnily enough I liked it!" Margaret Anderson '59-'64

"Rice pudding and sago! Big bowls of it at the table and it was totally uncool to admit to liking the stuff. Actually I did but never dared say so. I used to wonder why they kept serving it because the bowls mostly went back untouched." Joan Hardy '58-'65

"I really cannot recall Lawnswood dinners apart from rosehip syrup on presumably rice pudding." Barbara Thornhill '59-'64

"I had completely forgotten rosehip syrup! I always liked it!" Joyce Latto '59-'64

"I had completely forgotten the rosehip syrup. Since leaving school, I have never encountered it again and wonder if it was our school cook's specialty." Margaret Collie '59-'66

"Loved the apple crumble and custard, still do to this day." Ann Hutchinson '59-'64

"By far the best was apple crumble. I remember making a friend of one of the dinner ladies and she would always save any extra for my table." Carol Peacock '55-'61

"I didn't mind the meals too much and loved the apple crumble, as it was something I never got at home. Needless to say, I soon learned how to make it, and still serve it to my family with lots and lots of creamy custard." Beryl Midgley '55-'60

"I did like the apricot crumble, made with dried apricots. I still prefer dried apricots to fresh ones." Elizabeth Stephenson '59-'66

"I liked the apple crumbles and custard but not the apricot ones we sometimes had." Jackie Rowe '59-'64

"The rice sometimes had sultanas in it, and who could forget the awful "frog-spawn" sago / tapioca stuff.......yuk!" Ann Hutchinson '59-'64

"I also remember the lunches changing from traditional school dinners, and great excitement when we could choose to have either soup and a salad or soup and a sandwich – these were very nice, and very popular." Jean Redfearn '69-'76

"On very, very rare occasions, usually on a freezing cold winter day, we had ice-cream. Miss Sketchley wrote the following poem.

The Boiler Burst - Ices for Dinner!

The boiler burst, the pipes were chill,
Snow lay upon the window sill,
But thro' the school there ran a thrill;
Ices for dinner!

Outside an icy North wind blew
And round and round the snowflakes flew,
Not quite the day I'd choose, would you?
Ices for dinner.

In summer time I'd lay a bet
When all our brows are damp with sweat
Those are the days we shall not get
Ices for dinner."

Irene Furze '43-'54

Then, after lunch, the dash along the south drive to join the queue at the ice cream van waiting at the gate. Here Malcolm and his colleague served cornets, ninety-nines, ice cream sandwiches, ice lollies, lollies with ice cream on, bug juice, chocolate sauce, chocolate vermicelli and multi-coloured vermicelli (though I think we just called them 'bits'). My favourite was a cornet with bug juice and bits. Malcolm always wore a brown warehouse overall. He had sideburns, a greasy quiff and brothel-creeper shoes. He was, in fact, a teddy-boy.

Oh Malcolm, flower of British manhood, whatever became of you ...?

"Who remembers the ice cream van always parked at the school gates at lunchtime? I used to get an ice-lolly smeared with ice cream and dipped in chocolate sauce with nuts sprinkled on top. I often spent my bus fare money and had to walk home." Maureen Whitehead '59-'64

"Ice Cream van - Ahh... I can still see the van parked by the Spen Lane gates and me and my pals standing there ordering a '99' or a cone with 'bug juice'." Beryl Midgley '55-'60

"I can taste the delicious ice cream on the lollipop now! I thought Malcolm kind of cute! I remember the oodles of wasps that would hang around the truck, and having to eat the ice cream quickly before one landed on it." Linda Crookes '54-'60

"Granelli's van used to stand by the Spen Road entrance. My favourite was a 4d twist (a malted cone) with a 1d ice-lolly thrown in." Irene Furze '43-'54

"I was allowed sixpence a week pocket money which was eked out every day to be spent on milk lollies from the ice-cream van just outside the school gate." Grete Wheeler '53-'58

"Ice cream at the gates was always my favourite, though can't stand ice cream now - probably too much too early!" Joyce Latto '59-'64

"I used to have one of the 'allotment' gardens near the fence on the Spen Lane side. After my ice cream I'd go there to do some gardening. Never managed to grow anything though." Sandra Baker '59-'64

"I also have clear memories of the ice cream van at the back gate of the school and buying the occasional '99' with optional bug juice." Margaret Collie '59-'66

"By the way, you talk about the ice-cream van. I think it was a Granelli one and the owner of the firm, a cheerful blind man called Tony Granelli, used to get on the same bus as me to Adel." Barbara Banks '58-'65

"I remember in the Vth - Malcolm sold cider lollies and we used to sit in the form room smoking Consulate and eating cider lollies - how decadent." Janet Ball '56-'61

I'm sure everyone has some memories of school dinners etc. What was your favourite / least favourite meal? Please share it with us by e-mailing lhs.alumnae@gmail.com