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


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