The cacophony of the school cafeteria, one million sounds blended into one:
Children's Voices
Some unlucky kid dropping his tray, clatter of the tray, plop of the food
A fist fight
School yard stories and legends (some kid telling about the food fight of 1983, all heads look up to the ceiling at the unidentifiable globs of food hanging suspended for eternity)
Cash register chinging
Silverware clanking on trays
The sudden pop of a milk carton
More laughter
The stern voice of the lunch lady, "You throw that and it'll be detention for a month".


If you went to school at all chances are you spent a considerable part of your childhood in the cafeteria. The majority of which may have been in the lunch line or at least it seemed like it. After finally getting your food, it was a mad scramble to snarf it down to save some time for recess.

Lunch line

What'll it be pal?

Hamburger and crinkle fries?

Enter something I like to call carpet pizza. It was a strange food that was basically cardboard with cheese and sauce giving it the exact weight and feel of carpet. For some reason the kids at my school loved it and couldn't get enough. We even dipped it in ranch dressing.

I can tell you right now carpet is not to be found on the food pyramid; we ate it anyways.

Corn dog and Tater tots?

Chow Mein? Well a picture of school cafeteria Chow Mein is not very appetizing so I will spare you and save your lunch from coming up. Mystery Meat falls into the same category, just add gravy!

Tomato soup, Melted Cheese Sandwiches (I would say grilled but I don't think they really were), Meatballs, Burritos, Tacos, Chili, Fish sticks, Turkey Dinner, the list goes on and on of lunch menu possibilities.

One last choice - regular milk or chocolate, the choice is really simple. I'm not sure why they even stock regular.

Have your lunch ticket or token ready or be prepared for the boos and hisses from the line anxiously waiting behind you.

Animals at a feeding trough have been more civilized.


Sacks or Lunch boxes

A sandwich, apple, box of raisins, chips and carrot strips fairly standard fare. Mom... where's my Twinkie? At least a Fruit Roll Up , c'mon mom throw me a bone.

Golden cake of goodness with sweet creamy filling.

Hostess Cupcakes, a piece of heaven with chocolate icing on top with that cool swirl that was so very difficult to peel off in one piece.

Dried fruit blended into a paste then steam rolled flat, delicious!

String Cheese, cheese you could peel like a banana!

Chip Variety packs, thank you Frito lay.

At the end of the week there was only one flavor left the one nobody wanted.

Ole faithful, the original of school lunch sandwiches, the Peanut Butter and Jelly
or PB & J for short. However for those who were allergic to peanuts (like me) it was Bologna and Cheese.

Some kid's mom would always pack a veritable smorgasbord of food. The cornucopia that was his sack was a never ending supply of nutritious treats and enough trading material to barter for practically anything on the table he wanted, a king of lunchendom.
"Trade you my milk for your brownie? No way Jose! How about my whipped fruit dessert for two string cheeses and your orange? Done and done my friend, fork it over".
If unable to trade satisfactorily there was always resorting to the dirty underhanded tricks known to all. "Hey look you guys they're fighting over there" pointing frantically! "Where?" as the whole side of the table turns to look. Blindingly swift movements, a blur of thievery. No fight, table turns back around "Hey! Where is my peanut butter square and chocolate milk?" Outrage as the culprit licks the square "Already licked sorry!" Now there really will be a fight. Also "Look she's eating her boogers!" worked just as well. The wiser kids or former victims never turned without a firm hand on the chocolate milk and just a quick glance and the distraction technique.

Most moms however were either too tired to care or too late for work and packed anything and everything leftovers or not into your lunch. Mom would be up at the crack of dawn to pack your lunch trying to peel one bleary eye open far enough to not spread mayo on the counter top and actually hit the bread. Woe to the child of the sleepy mother who accidentally left the cellophane wrapping on the processed cheese slices before inserting them into the sandwich.

The really unlucky kid opened his lunch and all he found was a can of Vienna Sausages and a note from mom "Sorry, love mom" from the mother who had overslept. Don't worry though someone would always give up their celery sticks and your best friend would give you a cookie.

To wash it all down:

Squeezits fruit drinks with a plastic bottle with a twist off top. Two squeezes and in gush of sugary liquid it's gone.

HI-C fruit juice boxes with a little bendy straw to insert. Just like the milk cartons you could inflate them with air when empty and stomp on them for a satisfying boom.

The old thermos standby filled with Tang maybe? Kool Aid? V8? You will never know until you taste it, down the hatch it goes. Your Thermos was part of your Lunch Box set. Marketed for children with every form of known media possible. From movies to TV shows,video games to dolls, etc on each side of the box. They came in either plastic or metal. My mom preferred metal after the broken lunch box incident. I actually did too, confident that if some kidnapper tried to snatch me on the way to school or to the bus stop one smack upside the noggin with my metal lunch box, wielded like a club swung with all my tiny might on the short arc my arm could provide would cure him of his foolishness, and he would look elsewhere for an easier target.

Metal Pac Man Lunchbox

Plastic A-Team Lunchbox

What did you have on your lunchbox?
Some of the ones I remember:

The Dark Crystal


Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi


Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


Masters of the Universe

Masters of the Universe side two

Strawberry Shortcake

Pete's Dragon

Secret of Nimh


Two of the lunch boxes I still own:

Dragon's Lair

Universal Monsters

Until next time, I hope you come back hungry for more.