The old clock on the wall

By Jeff Gilliland - [email protected]

Jeff Gilliland Staff Columnist

Jeff Gilliland Staff Columnist

We called them the old clock on the wall, and they were as reliable as any Rolex.

When I was in grades 7-12 in the Hillsboro City Schools, we did not have to stay on the school grounds for lunch. In fact, we could go anywhere we wanted, as long as we returned by the appointed time.

Since we (“we” being my friends and I) were usually cutting the time limit pretty darn close, the old clock on the wall never failed to let us know if we were on time or late. The old clock on the wall, though, is a euphemism. What it actually consisted of was a bunch of kids who spent most of their lunch time, regardless of the weather, sitting on, standing near, or leaning against a rock wall across West Main Street from the old high school.

Mostly they just visited and smoked cigarettes. And, I always thought they were kind of thumbing their noses at the powers that were, since they were in plain view of the teaching staff, but off school grounds.

If we were heading back to school from lunch and still saw the kids by the wall, we knew we were Ok. If they were gone, we knew we were in trouble.

The “clock” never missed a beat.

School lunch times have changed a lot since then. You are no longer allowed to leave the school campus, and that’s a good thing, I suppose, in this day and age. Really though, it’s a sad statement on our society. Why, in days gone by, could kids be trusted to leave the school campus for lunch, and in today’s world it’s beyond imagination?

All I can say is that I’m glad I grew up when I did.

So, let’s slip back a few years, to a more happy and carefree time, before school cafeterias had to consider sodium and fiber content and the like.

I doubt that in all my school years I ate a lunch from the school cafeteria more than 50 times. Let’s see, if I say 50 times, divided by 12 years, that would mean I would have had to eat a school lunch 4.17 times a year, to make 50. But since I only ate school lunches in dire emergencies (like maybe my mom was in the hospital or something) or if they were serving pizza, I’m pretty sure I’m safe to say I was well under the 50 number.

By the way, does anybody remember when ALL the students took their turn helping in the school cafeteria?

In grades 1-6, when we were not allowed off the school campus, my mother packed my lunch for school every day. I usually purchased a milk, but besides that I avoided school food like it was the plague. It wasn’t because the school lunches were bad. It was because I was very particular.

There was a time in sixth grade, when I attended school at the old Marshall building, and I believe I was helping in the cafeteria. Anyway, the cornbread smelled so good that I just had to try it, even though I’d never eaten cornbread before. I ate two or three pieces that day, and as fate would have it I ended up sick the next day. It was just a coincidence, but it soured me on the cafeteria all the more, even though I love cornbread today.

Lunchtime change in the seventh grade when I moved up to the big school building in town and we were allowed to leave the school grounds for lunch.

Many of my junior high meals were purchased at a little shack called Charlie’s Market, I believe. It was a little carryout located next door to where Community Market stands today. My lunch usually consisted of a bag of corn chips and a Mountain Dew. I saved the rest of my money for the game room (before video games except for Pong), a couple doors up the block.

My freshman year I went to Magee’s with a buddy most every day for lunch. I’d have a cheeseburger, French fries and usually a cherry Sprite, or maybe it was 7 Up. After eating we’d slip over to the Murphy’s store next door and spend whatever change we had leftover for candy to take back to school to help us through the afternoon classes.

One day a friend went with us. When I wasn’t looking he unscrewed the salt lid, then set it lightly back on top of the shaker. When I went to put salt on my cheeseburger I got about half a shaker full on my sandwich. I never went to lunch with that guy again, and I checked salt shaker lids at restaurants for a long time thereafter.

My next couple years I started going other places for lunch. We might hit Magee’s, some other fast-food place, often a friend’s house, maybe even White’s Bakery. Or, maybe we didn’t each lunch at all. Sometime during my junior year my parents caught on to the fact that I wasn’t eating well. I spent the rest of my high school years mostly going home for lunch.

But that was good, too. We always had a warm meal waiting on us and Mom knew what we liked. My favorite was pizza burgers – halves of hamburger buns with pizza sauce, hamburger and mozzarella cheese piled on top, then melted in the oven. And some grape juice to wash them down.

It had been several years since I enjoyed those pizza burgers until they came to mind a couple weeks ago and my wife and I made some. They were as good as ever, and I didn’t have to worry about the old clock on the wall.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

Jeff Gilliland Staff Columnist Gilliland Staff Columnist

By Jeff Gilliland

[email protected]