Chester-le-Street Heritage Group
CHESTER MODERN SCHOOL DINNERS
In approximately 1952/53 the new school dining hall had just opened, this was built separately from the main school building. The room was laid out with tables for eight people with a form down each side. The teachers sat on a raised platform at the left hand side. We queued outside, boys in one queue and girls in the other, then we filed in. The first four girls sat one side of the first table and the first four boys on the other side, the room filled up in order down the hall. This meant that you didn’t always get to sit with your friends. If you wanted to swap places, another girl on the next table had to be willing to swap with you. If she didn’t like the boys on your table then she wouldn’t swap and you had to stay where you were. As the pupils were usually of a mixed age group, you sometimes didn’t know anyone else at your table.
One girl from each table had to volunteer to go to the serving hatch and collect the dinners two at a time, to serve her table. If no one was willing to go the prefects chose some one. Of course there was only one choice of meal and everyone gave you their orders “don’t get any cabbage on mine”, or “I don’t want any turnip” etc. and you stood in the queue trying to remember what everyone wanted, it also meant that you were last to get your meal, and everyone had to wait until you were finished. The boys had to clear away the dirty dishes and take them back to the serving hatch at the end of the meal.
I was 14 years old before food came off the ration, and of course we didn’t have any fruit. Occasionally the “good people of Australia” would send the “poor starving children of Britain” boxes of apples. As we filed out of the dining hall we were each given an apple. These were red and tasted foisty no one liked them, however it did mean that we had apple crumble the following day instead of semolina with a spoonful of jam in or “frog spawn” (tapioca).Sometimes we had Manchester Tart.(pastry spread with jam and solid custard on the top, which was then cut into squares,) this was very popular.
Reminiscences by Bunty. 2011.