by Jim T.
After I read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, I was picking up some of the stuff that relates to me growing up in the South, when I was going to school in from the first grade to the twelfth grade.
The first grade was across the street from the junior and high schools. Over there, for playtime we had swings, but we couldn’t go over by the high school and the junior high. At lunchtime, we had a slide—and “monkey see, monkey do”—some of the boys would get on the slide and brace themselves, rocking back and forth, then suddenly letting go to go faster down. I tried to do that and fell off the slide. I remember waking up in the teacher’s room, laying on the bench, and they was putting smelling salts under my nose.
At lunchtime, we’d all line up (first grade, second grade, third grade) and walk to the cafeteria. Some of the kids couldn’t afford to pay for their lunch. The ones that couldn’t afford lunch, they’d get a little cardboard card that had the school name on it, and the ones that could afford lunch would get a green plastic one with the school’s name on it. They’d exchange these cards for your food every day. My brother and I were raised by my aunt. My aunt was on welfare, and because we didn’t have much money—she was washing and ironing for white peoples and working at a café to make ends meet—she wrote a note so we’d get the free lunch with the cardboard card.
The cooks would sometimes ask the teacher, “Can the boys come and help throw the trash, clean the tables, wipe the chairs, and put stuff in the freezer?” Once they finished that, the cooks would fix them a big plate of leftovers. The boys loved that—me, too!