#55 The Hot Lunch Room Part 2

Science tell us that our sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any other of our senses. The Spudnut article of three weeks ago backed that up, and this week, it is the smell of Mable Schroeter’s cinnamon rolls that everyone remembers.

“What a flashback to the smell of hot rolls and those cinnamon rolls cooked by Mable Schroeter and her crew,” wrote Hyla Winters.  Kim Eslinger Pepperd agreed, “Those ladies served some wonderful meals to a huge number of hungry kids.  I can smell Mable’s hot rolls!”

“All the meals were from scratch and delicious!”  wrote Lisa Cornelius Sparke.  “I especially liked the scalloped potatoes & ham and the chili with cinnamon rolls,”

Lisa and Randy Westfahl both loved to dip their hot rolls in pudding. Lisa admitted that this may have been weird, but Randy agreed, “It was great.”

Becky Rogers couldn’t think of ever eating a bad meal at school.  “We always had salmon loaf on Fridays too!”  Along with the salmon, Michael Boman recalled Friday menus including mac & cheese, peanut butter, and fish sticks.

Randy Westfahl loved the Spanish Rice. Roger Shepherd remembered “The wonderful food especially a turkey, dressing and gravy dish.  I always asked for seconds.  Also if there were peanut butter sandwiches left over, they were often brought to the classrooms of the younger students for snacks.”

“They had freshly fried chicken for lunch,” remembered Mary Kallaus.  “They had a big strainer behind the counter for getting out the chicken gizzards for those that liked them, and I loved them!”

It was not lost to the kids that Mable showed her love for them through her food. Sharon Hearn said the lunches were “…made with love by Aunt Mable.”  Kathy Rishel wrote, “I always loved Mable!  She knew all our names.”  Becky Rogers reported that “The kitchen staff always greeted you with smiles and made you feel welcome.”

Randy Westfahl did disclose that Rock A. Westfahl did not care for some things on the lunch menu.  It appears that he had a seat of honor at one of the back tables for those who didn’t clean their plate.  Kathy Rishel admitted to also owning a spot there. I don’t think kids today are asked to sit at a back table until they clean their plates.

Some students also worked in the school lunch room.  Rosetta Graff helped to serve lunches in exchange for her lunch.  Ron Fisher also remembered washing milk bottles after he ate.

All kids, including St. Nicholas students, ate in the hot lunch room on First Street up until 1964 when the high school cafeteria was built.  Junior and Senior high school students walked, ran, drove or rode with someone to get there.  Harold Jensen said he gave rides on his Allstate motor scooter.

“I usually was able to get a ride with someone.” Bernard Owen told me on the phone.     “It was a real race to see who could get there first.”  

Loren Pepperd voiced a universal them about that four-block race from the high school to the lunchroom.  “I’m surprised that no one got killed or seriously hurt.  However, there were many trips, stumbles, and falls running to get a place in line.” 

“It was so dangerous,” Mary Kallaus told me in the library.  “The young fellows were pretty much racing, and they didn’t slow down. You ran and jumped on the tailgate of a pickup.  And you better be hanging on as you bumped over the railroad tracks.  However, I don’t think anyone ever fell off.”

Dr. Otis LoVette emailed the following:  “When I was 16, I had a 50 model Nash bought from Ford ($125) while I was working as a car washer there.  We drove to the lunch room on a regular basis.  Larry and Wayne Houdeshell often rode with me.  Once, Larry (a big guy) piled in and broke the front seat backward.  Oh well, it had reclining seats and I was able to repair.”

Jeanne Eutace went to St. Nick’s and was bussed to the lunchroom.  “I can still see in my mind’s eye those cars coming down Colony.  There were kids on the hoods, on the trunks.  Kids would be jumping out of the cars before they had stopped.”

“It was the highlight of the noon recess,” wrote Mark Plogger, “for the ones of us in grade school.  We would stop doing what we were doing just to watch the high school kids race to the lunch room.  We always said that we couldn’t wait until we were old enough to do the same thing.  But alas, it ended when we got to 8th grade.”

Quentin Hirsh recalled one incident when he was being bussed there from St. Nicholas.  “It was always fun to watch high school kids dash from the high school to the lunch room.  I remember sitting on the bus watching one day when two cars wrecked right at the stop sign.  One stopped and one ran into the back of them about 50 ft. from the bus I was on.  JayLynn O’Conner was one and I forget who the other driver was.”

Steven Frick remembered that “In 7th grade, on occasion, it was too cold to walk up there so he would go to a little restaurant (Davis Café) that was located south of where the Kinsley Bank is now located.  Many others enjoyed the 5₵ Spudnut or candy from Duckwalls or the grocery store.

The hot lunch room also brought up a memory of Darlene Carlson who wrote, “I came to Kinsley to teach in 1954. I first met Leonard Carlson when he was giving Wayne Herron (Junior High Principal) a warning ticket for parking on the wrong side of the street at the lunchroom at Northside School.” At the time, Leonard was a Kinsley policeman and had been widowed a year earlier. The two were married in August of 1957. I’m sure there are other stories of romance blooming in the lunchroom.

After the high school cafeteria was built in 1964, only the Northside (Lincoln) students ate there.  Southside and St. Nicholas were bussed to the high school.  According to the phone book, the building became the superintendent’s office in 1972 until 2003 when it moved back to the high school.

This “remote” librarian is signing off now for a couple months to devote her time to the children’s summer reading program.  But may I suggest two very different ways you can have fun and support the library during this time.   1) Help with the summer reading program in June, and/or 2) Volunteer to read the Kinsley newspapers of the 1950s and 1960s to create an index.  Call 620-659-3341 or come by the library to sign up for either or both.