REMEMBERING SCHOOL LUNCHES



I enjoyed my years of education. During elementary school and college, I worked hard to earn good grades. In high school, however, I never allowed classes and their workloads to interfere with my education. Sure, some parts of the school years weren’t so wonderful, but overall, those years were good ones. Some of my fondest memories of the time center on school food.
At Ball Camp Elementary before the fire in 1963, we kids couldn’t wait to march downstairs to the old cafeteria. All morning aromas from there drifted into our classrooms until our stomachs growled and our hunger reached critical mass.
The food was what I call country cooking. We had some kind of meat with meals, along with vegetables.
Potatoes were a staple, and so were greens and peas. Pinto beans and white beans were served up a couple of times each week. Cornbread also was prepared at times. Back then, we even had fried okra, something that would have the health department closing down the entire school these days.
Sometimes students would work up enough courage to walk up to the counter to ask for seconds. They might get another helping of potatoes or peas, and if no extra food was available, the cooks handed out slices of white bread. Kids didn’t leave the lunchroom hungry back then.
In first grade, we had milk break. The cartons contained lukewarm milk, and some students would pull out snacks from home, usually saltine crackers smeared with peanut butter. During the afternoon “play period,” students lined up to buy ice cream. The standards were Fudgesicles, Brown Cows, Creamsicles, and banana popsicles. Ice cream never tasted better than after running and playing with classmates.
Shortly after I began high school, I took up smoking. That meant that 30 cents of my 50 cent lunch money was spent on a pack of Winston’s or Kool’s. Still, on Fridays I managed to scrape up enough change to buy the best lunch of the week. That day fish patties were served. In addition, a big scoop of mashed potatoes
and a heaping spoonful of green peas filled the plate. One, or two if we were lucky, homemade rolls sat balanced on the side of the plate. For dessert, a homemade cinnamon roll so big that it hung over the edge of the plate waited. Heck, on Friday’s, I skipped my smoke break in order to hurry to the lunchroom and get in line.
Most of my college food was either bologna and cheese sandwiches or meals that my dear, sweet sister-in-law Brenda prepared. However, in the mornings, I would travel to the student center on the Tennessee Tech campus and buy a cup of coffee and two doughnuts with chocolate icing. They almost dripped with
grease and were still warm. I can still taste them. The other special treat I savored was a hotdog from a vending machine. It was cold and wrapped in a thick piece of bread. On top was mustard and relish. I’d tear away the wrapper and eat the thing just as it was. I couldn’t have been any more satisfied with a steak.
At some point, school lunches changed. President Reagan declared ketchup a vegetable for school food. The federal government has stuck its nose into nutrition and developed lunches that are bland they as tasteless as the Styrofoam trays on which they are served. Salt is forbidden, as are desserts. Still, squares of nasty-tasting pizza are offered to kids.  Kids throw more food into the garbage than they eat, and many pack lunches at home. For the prices that school cafeterias charge, students and teachers should be served meals equal to those offered at Chili’s or O’Charlie’s.
Perhaps the food that in my mind tasted so good might not have been that great. To a young child, everything new is “the best.” I gladly recall those delicious foods that my schools served. They were consumed with delight and no concern about cholesterol or salt or fat grams. And rarely was there a scrap to dump into the garbage can.

FAREWELL MY GOOD FRIEND

I am beyond hurt; perhaps the shock of the matter hasn’t yet ended. All I know is that my heart is broken and I can do nothing right now to help it heal. Many who read this will scoff at my predicament and say it is “much ado about nothing.” Others will be kinder but still not quite get the real problem. Then a third group will nod their heads as tears wells up in their eyes. They will know exactly how I feel and will sympathize. I understand all three reactions but especially appreciate the one from the third group.
Snoop, my Jack Russell Terrier, who was approaching 14 years in age, is no longer with me. I took him to the vet this morning to be put to sleep. The staff was kind and understanding. I held Snoop while the first shot helped him relax. Those final minutes were spent with my telling this old dog how much I cared for him. As the second shot took effect, I rubbed his head and ears and whispered, “I love you, Snoop.” Then he was gone. I took him back home and laid him to rest in the back yard.
I’m 62 years of age and sit here crying like a child while writing these words. The loss of Snoop hits me at so many levels. He came to our house as a new buddy when Dallas left for college. I squalled that I didn’t want another dog because I knew what happened today would at some time come. However, before long, the dog was my constant companion. After my back surgery, he and I took two-hour naps in my recliner each day; his need for exercise helped me to recover with walks, first short but eventually longer, through our neighborhood.
I took Snoop for obedience lessons, and the little guy excelled. Even though he growled at big dogs that crossed into his personal space, he earned his initial degree and then followed it with a graduate degree. For Snoop, things came easily.
Nothing excited my dog more than exploding out the door and chasing down other four-legged intruders in our yard. I’ve watched him chase away Labs and Beagles, and Great Danes. Snoop never understood how small he was or that he could have been no more than a snack for any big dog that could catch him. He was driven by a big heart that made him feel always up to the task of loving us and protecting the property.
A few years ago, something changed Snoop. He no longer was the friendly, loving dog that would lie beside us on the couch or scrunch up under the covers at bedtime. He grew hateful and moody. What still perplexes me is that he would stand stiff as a board, stare at me and growl, and wag his nub of a tail. Something had disconnected in his little brain, and life was a paradox to him: I love you, but I’ll bite you in a New York minute!
We medicated him with every type of tranquilizer. He slept much of the day, but then in the evening, he’d go nuts. The turning point came several months ago when Snoop attacked Amy’s feet whenever she walked ANYWHERE in the house! We changed medicines, squirted him with water and vinegar, and ignored him. However, nothing worked. In a discussion the vet said we’ve tried everything and an increase in medicine won’t improve the quality of his life. He finished with, “Maybe it’s just time.”
So, I made that drive this morning and ended the life of my buddy with an injection. I’ve heard him
Like Lewis Grizzard, I'll be looking for my dog when and if I reach heaven.
half a dozen times so far and have thought of him constantly. Oh, I know the pain and loneliness and sorrow will ease with each day, but right now, the burden and loss crushes me.
I know this much: Snoop was my best friend for many years. He was a constant companion who was always loyal and loving toward me. I hope that when my time here ends that I am fortunate to go heaven. When I arrive, it would be perfect if Snoop came running and jumped up into my arms to give wet kisses as his tail wagged.

Farewell my good friend. I love you now and forever. 

I'M PROUD OF MY DADDY

Church is always a place where memories come flooding. I sit there and recall so many things, from my Mother seated in the second pew and praying for strength as she served as the only parent for three teenaged boys to children’s programs filled with songs and to the weddings that brought my two brothers and their wives together. Today, my daddy was the on my mind. I remembered him and realized just how proud he made me.
I remember Daddy attending church with us whenever he was off on Sunday. He put on his suit, tie and white shirt and struggle to fit dress shoes on his swollen feet. Daddy always smelled like Old Spice, and he made sure we boys were dressed up too. One of his rules was that we polish our shoes for church, and we completed the task Saturday nights.
On occasion, Daddy served as an usher. He’d greet people and help some find seats. He never was an outgoing person, but something changed when he was at church, something that made him feel better about himself and ready to reach out to others.
Another thing he did as an usher was take the collection. I remember him walking toward the altar all serious and focused. He worked with the other men and passed the plates through the pews, and then he walked back down as the congregation sang the doxology. I was proud of my Daddy on those Sunday mornings.
Daddy’s life had always been a tough one, but he never forgot about others. He helped several times a year to pass out food baskets. Daddy never came home happy; instead, he’d tell Mother how sad it made him to see other families with so little. He looked for ways to help others: buying a family a truckload of coal for heating, dropping off extra food to a hungry family, and giving a little money from the small amount that his family had. I was proud of my Daddy for caring so much.
My dad didn’t go far in school. He quit after the sixth grade and began working to help his parents. For the rest of his life, he always felt that he didn’t measure up to others and thought of himself as not being smart. However, I remember him sitting at the kitchen table in the mornings. He had a green mug filled with coffee so thick it crawled from the cup along with his Winston cigarettes and an ashtray with a brass elephant. Daddy scribbled and figured and budgeted better than any CPA could have done with so little money. Somehow, he managed to pay the monthly bills, buy food, pay for a life insurance policy, and give a little to the church. I was a proud of my Daddy for being the smartest man I’d ever known.
Daddy began feeling bad and visited doctors who told him he suffered from allergies or ulcers. Eventually, the right doctor looked at him once and told him he had lung cancer. From April to August of 1965, Daddy made trips from home to the hospital. With each passing day he weakened. However, he talked often to us boys and told us how things would be different when he got better. He promised that we’d take vacations and spend more time together. For young boys, those words were the hope that we grabbed onto until he passed. I was proud of my Daddy for being brave in the face of our fears.

My son will be 30 in a couple of weeks, and my daughter is a couple of years older than that. I’ve tried to be a good daddy and suppose that sometimes I have been successful. However, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to be as good as my dad was for those few short years. What I do hope is that on a couple of occasions my kids have watched me and felt a twinge of pride. I also wish that my daddy had known how proud of him I was and am. 

DRIVING RULES REVIEW

My job as a shuttler for Avis Budget has placed me in the midst of some of the heaviest traffic and worst drivers in the area. I don’t claim to be the best operator of a motor vehicle, but at least I have some concept of the rules of the road. With that in mind, I once again will make some suggestions for motorists in East Tennessee.
1.       Car lights aren’t something that manufacturers place on vehicles for decoration. To the contrary, they are meant to be turned on so that drivers can see what lies ahead of them in the road. Sure, many of our larger streets are illuminated with street lights; however, that doesn’t give any person to the right to barrel down the highways in an unlit missile.
2.       Along the same lines, windshield wipers are used to clear the glass in order to offer the best visibility for the driver of a car. At the same time, the law requires that lights be turned on when windshield wipers are operating. As soon as the headlights come on, others can see a car coming, something that is often quite difficult in wet, sloppy weather. Please give it a try for the rest of our sakes.
3.      
Too many people haven’t yet found a wonderful feature on their vehicles. It’s engaged by pushing a lever on the column either up or down. When it is used, magic occurs: a small light on the outside of the car on one side or the other blinks. It’s called a signal light, and it gives other drivers a head’s up that a car is changing lanes or turning off. I hope all will begin to use signals and discover how helpful they can be. However, don’t think for one minute that turning on a signal entitles a driver to automatically move to the other lane. That should only happen when other cars are clear of the moving vehicle.
4.       Tailgating is against the law and can result in horrific accidents. If a driver is tailgating me, he will soon discover that the closer he edges, the slower I go. I am in front of you for one of two reasons. First, I am traveling the speed limit and have no plans of exceeding it to convenience you and risk
getting a ticket. Second, other vehicles are in front of me, and I have no way of getting in front of them. Don’t think that I’m going to move over so you can tailgate the next car and bully your way through the traffic. Nope, it “ain’t gonna” happen!
5.       Merging is a lost art in Knoxville and area traffic. The term means that cars move over to open spaces in a lane so others can enter the flow of traffic. Alcoa Highway is filled with drivers who zoom down the pavement in the slow lane and never move over, even though the inside lane is empty. Most of the time, moving over won’t impede a driver’s progress unless he or she is turning into a business within a short distance. Try being a bit kinder and letting others onto the road with you.
6.       The worst thing that drivers around here do is what I call “jump line.” It happens when construction or accidents block one lane of the highway. Too many people think it’s all right to speed up and race to the point where traffic is blocked and then cut in front of others who have patiently waited their
turns. Here’s a piece of advice: don’t cut in front of me because I won’t let you in. You might hit me, but I am not rewarding selfish behavior on your part. If you turn on your signal (Ah! There’s that pesky signal again.), I will be more than happy to let you merge if you’ve waited like the rest of us.

A new year is upon us. I hope all of us will commit to driving safer and being more courteous on the roadways. Simply abiding by the things listed above can make traffic run more smoothly. Oh, one last thing is to remember to buckle your seatbelt. Happy motoring!