Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lunch Time

There was no lunch room at Emerson Elementary School. Built in 1885 hot lunch was something you went home to eat and it stayed that way until it closed. By 1966 however two working parent homes had become common so home lunch was not always an option. Emerson figured it out though.

At lunch time my first grade class divided into two lines. Not boys and girls, which was standard at the time but Home Lunch and Sack Lunch lines formed. Once the bell rang both lines left the small annex building that housed the Kindergarten and First Grade classrooms. Upon exit the Home Lunch kids were free to go have lunch at home and scattered in different directions.

The Sack Lunch kids followed the teacher over to the main building and up the expansive dark stairwell and into a classroom that the 1st-3rd graders ate in. There was another room for the 4th - 6th graders. There the Sack Lunchers enjoyed their food while a teacher watched over them. After finishing they would sit (not patiently) and wait until a set time when they were all release to go outside and play until class resumed. Anyone who had not finished their lunch by that set time was out of luck, eating time was over.

I remember eating in that classroom and I am sure I must have eaten at home too on occasion, but what I remember most is the days when my Mother gave my 6th Grade sister a dollar and we “ate out”.

My mother instructed my sister to use that dollar and take us to Red Barn for lunch. On those days we would walk the  2 ½ blocks to Red Barn and for $1 we would get 2 hamburgers, 2 orders of french fries and 2 cokes. We would eat, then walk back to school.

One day my sister felt like something a little different…. McDonalds. We walked the 6 blocks where her dreams of something different were granted. For our $1 we had 2 hamburgers, 2 orders of french fries and 2 cokes that we ate at an outside table. We then walked back to school. 

There was just one problem. Walking 12 blocks round trip takes much longer than walking 5 blocks round trip. I knew we were late the minute we came around the corner and the playground was quiet, not a student in site. My sister started running to the main building “Go to class!” was her parting remark. I had to walk in late, alone.  I remember feeling nervous as I walked into the quiet hallway. I stood outside the door waiting for my courage. When it didn't come,  I walked in anyway.  My teacher looked up at me from her desk, which caused my eyes to drop to the floor as I hurried to my seat. “You are late Maura.” she said.  I just nodded in agreement and sat down. Fortunately that was all she said about it. From then on my sister and I ate our McDonalds walking down Colfax on our way back to school.

My favorite lunches were the Gas Station lunches. On Colfax, north of the playground was a gas station and sometimes my sister would take us there on Dollar Day. She would get change from the gas station attendant and go to the candy machine where she would purchase two Nestle’s Crunch bars at ten cents each and hand me one. She would then go to the soda machine where she would buy two bottles of Pepsi for twelve cents each and open them on the side of the machine. We would sit down on the curb by the gas station bathrooms and eat our lunch. We were never late on those days. Years later when I mentioned those gas station lunches to my sister and how fun they were she said “Oh yea, I used to do that and then keep  the rest of the lunch  money.”

Hmmmm...Two Nestle’s Crunch bars, 20 ¢, two Pepsi’s 24 ¢, total 44 ¢, out of $1.00, 66¢, profit to my sister. Upon reflection 33¢, of that was mine, it really was Mom’s, but if it was being kept half of it should have been mine. Technically. It explained how she had money for candy after school.

Emerson Elementary, the oldest standing school in Colorado was the first Denver school to incorporate space for an in-house library and had the first PTA in the Denver district, as well as the first student council. It was also the only school I went to with no hot lunch and no lunch room.  Thanks Emerson for being so progressive and so behind the times, allowing me, on occasion, to “eat out.”