Milk Bottles -- 06/15/03

Recently Bonnie wrote an entry in which she quoted from her grandmother's diary and showed a picture of two milk bottles from the dairy that had been her grandmother's family business. One of the bottles in that picture was a half pint glass milk bottle, which had reminded me of my childhood, especially of the year I was Milk Monitor for my elementary school.

I attended School Number Four (our elementary schools were numbered, not named, fairly normal practice in multi-school school districts in those days... and it was always called School Number Four rather than the strange sounding New York City style "P.S. 4") -- This was a K-6 school, one class at each grade level, although by the time the Baby Boom hit (i.e., my brother's cohort, three years younger than me) the Kindergarten had to have two classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, instead of the afternoon only Kindergarten I had attended. (This was a very Italian neighborhood and a significant portion switched to St. Mary's School for first grade... the parochial school system didn't offer Kindergarten classes.) The school was a solid concrete building, the one of the oldedst poured reinforced concrete buildings in the country (the church I attended being of equal vintages -- I'm not sure at this point which one was the oldest and which the second oldest -- and yes, this had a great deal to do with there being a major cement industry in my town -- the school was built for the city, the church was a donation from the owner of the cement works.)

When I reached sixth grade I was awarded the position of Milk Monitor for the school. That meant that I gathered all of the yesterday's empy bottles and brought them to the front entrance of the school. This had to wait until after school was already in session so that the little kids wouldn't be tempted to play with the empty bottles. Then -- later in the morning -- I had to go back down to the front entrance to see if the milkman had made his delivery. (Uh, yes, there were a few mornings when I "milked" this position, going to check a few minutes early just to escape from class for a brief moment.) I then had to deliver the appropriate amount of milk to each classroom and bring the rest down to the school cafeteria in the school basement.

I was so proud of having that job. I was absolutely amazed when I was appointed to that exalted position. I felt so cool, so important, the most wonderful thing to happen to me in my entire K-12 public school career. My sixth grade teacher was, I am certain, instrumental in that. I think most of my teachers in elementary school were very good, but looking back as an adult I am truly touched by how wonderful she was to me, trying to help a very bright but awkward student.

Today I went to Doug's journal to discover that he was remembering his elementary school days, focused on milk and graham cracker time:
I think both boys and girls tried to make the milk and graham cracker consumption come out even, nibble and sip, nibble and sip. I remember wishing that I had two bottles, one to use with the crackers and one to gulp down. We boys would carefully remove the thin sheet aluminum lids from our bottles and while eating we would use the smooth handle of our jackknives to make those caps completely flat. Then put them in a shirt pocket, saving them to later emboss into esoteric designs. A very happy time of day it was for us.
Ah, the crunchy texture and the taste of graham cracker followed by the rich cold taste of whole milk from that little half pint bottle...

I had to read Doug's entry to my wife. Can you just imagine the furor today if a little boy were to bring a jackknife to school! The braindead drones of the education bureaucracy would be calling the anti-terrorist SWAT Teams while chanting "Zero Tolerance! Zero Tolerance!" Can you just imagine the over-the-top hissy-fit they would have at an entire grade school filled with little boys with jackknives! Doom! Gloom! Horrors! Why, if we allowed little boys to carry jackknives to school, we would be starting down that slippery slope until we reached the point where adults might expect to be able carry nailclippers... and common sense might return to the land. No, no, can't have that. (As Jerry Pournelle sometimes sighs: "But we were born free.")

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