Sunday, July 27, 2008

Food For Naught ...

Mrs. Pipkin was a very nice lady. She was in charge of the food services for South Park Schools in Beaumont. Her husband, Floyd Pipkin was the Tax Assessor-Collector for that same district.

One day in 1944 when I was in the fifth grade at Giles Elementary School, Mrs. Pipkin asked me if I would be interested in working in the school cafeteria during lunch period each day. I agreed and thus began a relationship with the school cafeterias that lasted until I graduated from South Park High School in 1953.

My first assignment in the Giles cafeteria was to take care of the slop. That’s right, slop. Slop was the official name for food that the kids and teachers left when they were finished eating. The dirty dishes and trays were brought to my window in the kitchen. I raked the food into trashcans. These cans were called “slop cans.”

At first I thought it was called slop because that is what Clara, our head cook called it. But I found out later that the term, “slop” was given to the process by an old gentleman who visited the school everyday. And even later I learned that slop was an actual word with its own dictionary definition. But I am getting ahead of the story.

I never knew the elderly gentleman’s name but he came to the school at noon everyday. He drove an old Model T Ford pickup truck. You know, one of those old vehicles that you started up by cranking a hand lever that extended from out of the front grill.

Anyway, this fellow came to our cafeteria and loaded the slop into barrels that he carried in the bed of his truck. He carried the slop out to his hog farm and fed the slop to his hogs. He called it “slopping the hogs.” Now we are getting back to the dictionary definition of slop, that being, “ … food waste (as garbage) fed to
animals … “

I worked the slop at Giles cafeteria until I finished the sixth grade. There was no pay for this glamorous job but I did receive a free school lunch everyday. And Clara always made sure that I had plenty of pie. Sometimes I ate as many as three pieces of pecan pie for dessert.

Then when I started seventh grade at MacArthur Junior High, Mrs. Pipkin transferred me to the South Park High School cafeteria which was located on the same campus. Sometimes I worked the slop. Other times I sold ice cream at the cafeteria dairy counter.

One day Mrs. Pipkin decided that I should begin placing the iron cafeteria chairs on the tables once everyone was finished eating. This was so that the cleaning crew could mop the cafeteria floor without bumping into the chairs.

Soon it became apparent that my job description had become too much for one kid to handle. So Mrs. Pipkin asked me if I had a friend who might want to work in the cafeteria with me. I told her that Jimmy Cassady was my best friend. She talked to Jimmy and he agreed to take on the job.

Jimmy and I worked the slop and placed chairs on the tables for three years. Also, we inherited the dubious honor of arriving at school early each day to set the chairs back down on the floor.

And then, to make everything just right, Clara, the head cook at Giles transferred to the high school cafeteria. Now she had two of us kids to put up with. But I am sure that you know the rest of this story.

Clara made sure that both of us boys had all the pecan pie we could eat.

Winston Hamby

Friday, July 11, 2008

Yes, It Began Well In Advance Of Its Beginning ...

This is a love story beginning with before it began. Hello? How can something have a beginning before it begins? Read on …

Once upon a time, there was a young man who decided to leave home and go forth to seek his fortune. And so he joined the army. The young man’s parents loved him dearly. They always wanted only the best things in life for him. They considered “best things” to include living a life of integrity with a strong faith in God.

As the young man was preparing to depart, his mother gave him some advice. She said, “Always attend a good strong church and if ever you find yourself lonely and bored, don’t go looking in the wrong places to find companionship. Don’t go to the bars looking for a few hours of excitement. Instead, find a library and read a good book or listen to music in their record room.” She added, “I’ll pray for you everyday.”

So off to the army went the young man. He was appreciative of his mother’s admonitions but also a little amused. He thought to himself, “Mama is so much like a mother. But I am glad she cares.”

The young soldier ended up in a foreign land where he knew no one. He did not understand the language of the people. He knew that he needed to grow up fast.

One day he happened to pass near a church building. He noticed that the sign out front was in English. The following Sunday, he attended services at that small church. The young man wanted his mother to know that he had found a church to attend. He stood in front of the building and asked one of the church members to take his picture. He sent the picture to his mother. A copy of that photograph accompanies this column.

But there is more to that photo than meets the eye. Look carefully. There is the young soldier posing in front of the church sign. Also there is a young lady passing behind him as the photo is snapped. She is entering the church building completely unaware of the posing soldier and he is totally unaware of her. Now, here is the neat thing. Three years later, the young soldier married that young lady.

Actually they did not meet at church. This transpired a few weeks later in a library at Fort Clayton, Panama Canal Zone. How so? It was a Friday evening and all of the young man’s buddies went barhopping in town. He wanted to go with them but his mother’s voice kept saying, “Go to a library and read a book or listen to music in their record room.”

So the young man went to the Fort Clayton library. He browsed through the books looking for something of interest. Then he saw her. The young lady from church. She sat at a table working on homework for school. He approached her and asked, “Can you solve algebra equations and drink a Coke at the same time?” She smiled and he sat down.

Many would think this might be the beginning of the love story. Others would think that the photograph in front of the church building marked the beginning. But I know that this story began long before the library meeting or the day of the photo. This story began with the prayers of a mother for her son as he left home to seek his fortune.

The young man and the young lady just celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary and they know that with their strong faith in God, they will live happily ever after.

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise