Story: Child and youth health

Avoiding school milk (2nd of 3)

Avoiding school milk

Sandy Garman (pictured, second row from the back, third from left) writes about the trials and tribulations of school milk during the 1950s.

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Contributed by Sandy Garman

It was the 1950s. Every school day, I couldn't wait for the morning to be over. Ten o'clock was playtime. Before the bell sounded the milk monitors were summoned and sent up the driveway to fetch the crate of half-pint milk bottles which had been delivered to the school gate early that morning.

On fine days we sat out by the bike sheds, and on wet cold days we remained indoors to consume our daily ration of school milk, presumed to be good for us. We were the post-war generation, freed from the restrictions of wartime rationing.

Some children (boys mainly) relished the occasion and looked forward to a second bottle, as I struggled to take my first sip. After hours in the hot sun the milk tasted sour and could only be endured by taking deep breaths and large gulps with nose pinched so that you barely tasted it.

We weren't allowed to eat our play lunch, or play, until the empty bottle had been returned to the crate. Sometimes the teacher relented and only insisted on half. She was missing her cup of tea in the staffroom to supervise us!

This particular morning Miss Liston had disappeared on other business and left us in charge of this impossible task. We had to await her return to check our efforts. Playtime was fast disappearing.

Action needed to be taken. My five-year-old mind had a flash of brilliance.

'Let's tip our milk out. No one will see us.' My friends were persuaded. We rushed to the concrete outside our classroom and watched, transfixed in the delight of a special moment as the milk splashed onto the concrete. Only wet stains remained.

Miss Liston had appeared. She had seen it all. She expressed disappointed surprise. We were usually such good girls. She had no choice. We had to be punished. Jimmy, the strap, was fetched from her desk drawer. Miss Liston seemed to look as scared as we felt. She hesitated. We were released with a severe scolding and we promised never to do it again.

The fear of Jimmy as well as the milk hardened my resolve. The next morning I came with a note from my mother. I never drank school milk again.

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How to cite this page:

Kerryn Pollock, 'Child and youth health - Primary health initiatives', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/community-contribution/46742/avoiding-school-milk (accessed 23 November 2019)

Story by Kerryn Pollock, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 29 Nov 2018