I have mostly fond memories of elementary school (the biggest exception being the seventh and eight grade years that were addressed in an earlier post). I attended the same school, Shiloh Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio from kindergarten through eighth grade. Regardless of the weather, I did indeed have to walk to school everyday. I did live directly behind the school but still I did have to walk.
Shiloh did not have a cafeteria. In the last few years I attended they would roll out lunch tables into the gymnasium and bring in some food that was prepared elsewhere, but for most of the years I was there most of the children would bring a sack lunch with them. Most days I would have to trek all the way back home, across the street, for my lunch.
However, there was one aspect of this setup that was pretty exciting. Each week there were two kids from each class that were appointed to serve as milkmen and next to being appointed as captain of the kickball team, this was one of the most anticipated opportunities of the school year. The job of the milkman was to 1) collect money from everyone who wanted a drink with his or her lunch which was everyone who had brought his or her lunch that day; 2) keep track of how many of each item was needed; 3) the best part – leave class several minutes before lunch to go down to the vending machines and put the nickles and dimes into the machines to obtain the drinks and 4) return to the class with the right drinks to be consumed with lunch.
If I recall correctly a carton of regular or chocolate milk was a nickel. But milk was not the only option, for a dime you had your choice of 7-up, Orange Crush or Frostie Root Beer. I guess we did not worry about too much sugar in those days. Maybe the sugar helped us stay awake through the afternoon.
Being Milkman for a week may not seem like a big deal, but for a six, seven or eight year-old it was a big deal. For a week you were important to everyone in your class. Plus it taught some real-life skills. You had to be able to do simple math – you had to tally how many of each item to purchase, you had to be able to make change (apparently a completely lost art these days). you had to be able to keep accurate and legible records (a couple of more lost arts). You had to demonstrate common courtesy and basic customer service (more lost traits). You had to be a good steward because your classmates had turned over their money and trusted that you would bring them the correct beverage in return. You had to communicate with everyone in the class regardless of whether or not you liked them or thought they had cooties.
You know, now that I think about it that week may have been one of the more educational weeks of the school year. It might be a good idea to consider bringing back the milkman of the week but we probably should leave out the soda pop options.