It was the half-way point of the school day. We were ready for a break and ready for some time to socialize with our friends and move around. We were hungry and restless. It was lunchtime!

As I was looking through this week’s Photo Star I noticed Parkway School’s breakfast and lunch menus for the following week. We did not have breakfast at school when I went to grade school, but we did have lunch and a mid-afternoon milk break, white or chocolate milk in glass bottles.

I went to elementary school at Willshire Public School. That was before Willshire and Rockford consolidated to form the Parkway Local School system.

I don’t think I ever packed my lunch. Back then the school lunch was 25¢. I purchased a lunch ticket for the whole week for $1.25 and someone would punch the ticket for that day’s lunch before entering into the lunch line. Once in the lunch line each student picked up a tray, eating utensils, and napkin and was handed a plate of food by one of the cooks.

School lunch line

I recall that the cafeteria food was pretty good, probably because our cafeteria cooks were good cooks. I liked most meal items, but I have never been a picky eater, and it shows.

Lunch in the early 1960s was not a smorgasbord. They had one scheduled meal for the day and that is what you got. No major choices.

I did have several favorite school meals.

There was the ever-popular macaroni and cheese, usually served with a peanut butter sandwich. To this day I like to have a peanut butter sandwich with macaroni and cheese.

We had two very good soups, chicken noodle and chili. I always crushed my crackers into the soup and dipped my butter bread into the hot soup. Not the best dining etiquette, but I was just a kid and it tasted good that way. Comfort food.

There were breaded fish sandwiches, usually on Friday, for those who did not eat meat on Friday. I also recall the Johnny Marzetti, meatloaf, and Sloppy Joe sandwiches.

But my very favorite food was an option at the end of the main food line, before the milk. Often times there was a large bowl of warm creamy rice pudding. There were raisins and brown sugar nearby to put on the rice and I usually sprinkled brown sugar on top, which sort of melted on the warm rice. Delicious! More comfort food.

Our school cafeteria food was pretty basic. We didn’t have pizza or tacos back then. I don’t believe I even knew what a taco was in the early 1960s.

After eating with our friends, we took our tray, plate, and utensils up to a window, where they were cleaned for the next day, and threw away our paper trash.

We had smiling, pleasant cooks at Willshire.

I have an incomplete set of The Willow, Willshire Public School’s yearbook, but looking through the copies I have, it appears the first photo of the school’s cooks was in the 1957 yearbook. The cooks that year were Effie Lautzenheiser, Ellie Regedanz, and Bertha Anderson.

Those same three cooks are pictured in the 1960 Willow:

Willshire School cooks, 1960 Willow.

Ellie Regedanz apparently retired after the 1960 school year and Beatrice Acheson replaced her.

The Willshire School cooks in the 1961 Willow:

1961 Willshire School cooks.

These were the same three cooks in 1962. In 1963 Doris Thatcher replaced Bertha Anderson.

I remember seeing their smiling faces every day at lunch. They were friendly and pleasant and obviously enjoyed interacting with the school children. These women kept the school kitchen clean and provided well-balanced, nutritious meals.

Beatrice (Hoblet) Acheson (1903-1964) was married to Gaylord Noble Acheson (1900-1952). She is buried in Willshire Cemetery. 

Bertha (Willis) Anderson (1913-2011), was born in Canada and was married to Edwin Martin Anderson. She is buried in Decatur Cemetery. [I believe this is the person who was the Willshire School cook.]

Ella M. (Huffman) Regedanz (1892-1979) was from Chatt and was married to John Regedanz (1892-1983). She was a member of Zion Lutheran, Chatt, and is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Rockford.

Effie (Cook) Lautzenheiser (1902-1990) was born in Adams County, Indiana, and was married to George Clinton Lautzenheiser (1885-1949). She is buried in Tricker Cemetery, Decatur, Indiana.  

Then after lunch we hurried off to play outside or in the gym.

Those were the days. Good old school days…


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    • Mary Goodwin Haddad on January 18, 2024 at 9:07 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks, Karen, for your great article about the wonderful cooks at Willshire School, where I went all 12 years (we didn’t have kindergarten).
    I agree that the food was great because the cooks really cooked! No frozen foods from Gordon’s!

    1. I went to Willshire for 8 years, a few of those years as Parkway, and there was no kindergarten when I started school either. I guess we made it ok without kindergarten. 🙂 Thanks for writing.

    • Janet james on January 19, 2024 at 10:12 am
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    Karen, your description of the Willshire cafeteria and cooks was spot on! Those ladies were truly cooks, no Gordon food! Just an update Bertha Anderson went on to teach school at Adams Central in Monroe Indiana as she taught my boys in the 3rd grade. Maybe she didn’t have a license for Ohio.

    1. Thank you for that information about Bertha Anderson. I will make note of that. Great to hear from you and thanks for writing!

    • Rosemary Charleston on January 19, 2024 at 10:29 am
    • Reply

    Yes, these were the good old days. I graduated in 1954 and we had the same cooks. Everything made from scratch and delicious. I remember the chili and peanut butter sandwiches. Many, many good memories.

    1. They were the best. And to think of making food in such large quantities. Thanks for writing!

    • Phyllis Brockmyer on January 19, 2024 at 3:28 pm
    • Reply

    Later cooks were Janie Kuhn and Doris Thatcher. This was in the late ‘70s after I moved back to Willshire, and they were also great cooks. My son was in 2nd and 3rd grade and Janie Kuhn gave him “extras”.

    A note about Bertha Anderson. Her two sons graduated ‘61 and ‘65 from Parkway . The younger one, Bob, was in my brother’s class and graduated from MIT with an engineering degree.

    1. Thank you! Good information to know and I will make note of that. Thanks for writing.

    • Carol Schumm Piper on January 22, 2024 at 5:27 pm
    • Reply

    I went to school in New York State, but this article sure brings back memories. My favorite school lunch meal was hamburg gravy over mashed potatoes, which I still serve to my family on occasion.

    1. That sounds like a delicious meal, and full of memories. Thanks for writing!

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