Remembering the South Shields school dinners of yesteryear

spotted dick pudding.
spotted dick pudding.
0
Have your say

Many subjects are certain to divide opinion – politics and football are a good example.

But what about school dinners?

South Shields Gazette Memory Lane scanned copy  October 1970   no old  ref number  
The new self service, cafeteria type dining hall at South Shields Grammar Technical School for Boys.
School dinners meals

South Shields Gazette Memory Lane scanned copy October 1970 no old ref number The new self service, cafeteria type dining hall at South Shields Grammar Technical School for Boys. School dinners meals

When I spoke to a random selection of people in South Shields a while ago, they were poles apart when it came to the popularity (or not) of school meals.

One person who went to Horsely Hill Junior School really enjoyed them, but her husband was not a fan.

And speaking to other people, there continues, to this day, to be something of the Marmite about them – you either loved them or you loathed them.

In the days before schools had their own kitchens, meals were often cooked at a central point and delivered by van in big metal containers – both cylindrical and rectangular.

Pupils, whose minds may well have been wandering (as the maths teacher tried to make algebra or trigonometry sound interesting or remotely relevant) would often sit up and pay attention when they heard the clunk, clank, clunk of the metal containers being carried down the corridor to the school hall, where dinner would often be served.

Once PE lessons (more on them in future columns) were over; Formica tables and wooden folding chairs would be quickly put in place, ready for the hungry masses to take their seats.

Expectation was always high, as pupils stared towards the row of tressel tables upon which stood the assortment of metal towers and trays.

In what was probably a well-rehearsed routine, the dinner ladies (in their white overalls and mop hats) would ceremoniously remove the lids of the aforementioned containers – prompting a chorus of sniffs and mutters from the students.

“Smells like meat pie,” whispered one, approvingly.

“Naw, it’s stew,” countered another.

Only when we were all quiet, sitting up straight, with arms folded, were we allowed – table by table – to get up and confirm our suspicions.

Grey, lumpy mashed potato was usually the first to come into view, followed by strange slices of meat that was meant to be beef, but looked more like old dishcloths.

The peas too were grey, although the stinking cabbage was undeniably green.

There was no choice, of course. Well there was, you either ate it or you didn’t.

If the main course was drab and unappealing, which it often was, dessert or pudding, as we knew it, was the complete opposite.

Who remembers pink custard? Hot and sweet and served over huge wedges of chocolate cake ... now that was more like it.

And then there was white sauce over spotted dick, a real treat.

But then they had to spoil it all, when, on more days than necessary, they served-up prunes.

Mind you, the stones made great ammo to flick at one another when the teachers weren’t looking.

Fish (usually served with diced beetroot), spam fritters, more dish-cloth meat and corned beef, were all on the menu – with some definitely more popular than others.

And if it was your favourite food being served, there was every chance of seconds or even thirds.

What are your memories of school meals? What were your favourite meals? Please get in touch with your memories of school meal times – the dishes and the people who used to serve them.

As always, I’d love to hear from you.