Nutrition In Schools : A View From The 1950s

We hear a lot of talk these days – from Jamie Oliver and others – about declining standards of nutrition in schools (children unable to think straight because of the products of Mr. Matthews and so on).  So, I was interested to read the following anecdote in the Old Boys’ magazine that my school has recently started to send me.  I think it sheds an interesting light on the quality of the grub at a Northern public school in the 1950s.

To translate, Fleur de Lys, Pelican and Maltese Cross were the names of some of the Houses.  The “monies’ lawn” was a lawn that only School Monitors were allowed to walk on.  The “brew room” was a small kitchen where the boys were allowed to make pitiful attempts to cook for themselves.

I have redacted some of the names, to protect the identities of those involved.    

“The event occurred one evening in the summer of 1959, as we poured out after Sunday Evensong in our beloved chapel, eyes blinding in the strong sunlight after a particularly long sermon from Harry McNair.  It had all been too much for Frank Muncaster (MC 55-60) who fell asleep in his pew under the organ and caused 93 hymnals to cascade to the floor – Harry McNair continued undaunted.  As we emerged we were all assailed by the most appalling stench known to man.  As we neared the school monies’ lawn we believed it must be coming from Fleur de Lys, but no it continued to assail our quivering nostrils.  Ah, we thought it must be coming from Pelican; but no as we strode on it clearly was coming from our own house – MC.  It was worse than ever.  Two brave souls entered.  The source was located in the lower brew room.  “Conjuror” Cunliffe (MC55-59), a great character in MC, had found a decomposing seal on the shore and to assuage the pangs of hunger he had striven to poach it and had left it in that state during chapel!”

But, of course, if you gave today’s pampered, namby-pamby”kiddiz” a decomposing seal and told them to poach it for their tea, they’d probably turn their noses up at it!

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5 thoughts on “Nutrition In Schools : A View From The 1950s

  1. How completely brilliant. Did you used to read ‘Jennings and Derbyshire’? I seem to remember there being a similar story in one of the books, but nothing as exotic as a seal. I hope those boys went on to be something marvellous.

    • I did read some, yes. Seem to remember them as witty and gently anarchic. Perhaps I should try reading one now to see what I think of it. The story you mention does ring a faint bell – did a frog come into it somewhere?

      I believe “Conjuror” Cunliffe changed his name to Heston Blumenthal and opened a restaurant.

  2. Superb.

    The ‘youth of today’ (I say that with tongue firmly in cheek as I’m ‘only’ 46) might know what a seal is but they sure as hell wouldn’t know what poaching is.

    Which possibly isn’t a bad thing.

    • Thanks, Brian. Mind you, there’s a fair few round here as knows only too well what “poaching” means, if you catch m’drift. Think I heard some of them blasting away in the woods this afternoon.

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