Thursday, June 09, 2005


In my part of the world, in 1962, free milk was distributed to school kids. Whether it was because we were a slum suburb or not I can't say; 8 year olds don't know about such things and so don't enquire.

We merely had to endure.

In principle free milk is a good idea (speaking as a left wing commie pinko bastard who enjoys milk). But, of course, I like my milk cold and fresh. The way the milk was delivered prevented either condition being true. School started at 9 AM and sometime between then and 10:30 AM the milk was delivered. Delivery consisted of a truck pulling up and a few crates of bottles, each half a pint, being dumped on the footpath next to one of the school gates.

One of the most coveted jobs in school was that of 'milk monitor'. Holding such an appointment entitled us to duck out of class 10 minutes early to reserve 'our' bottles. But the most coveted job of all was that of 'milk handler'. To get that job you really had to brown nose. The milk handlers got out of class 20 minutes early and carried the crates from the school gate to the shelter shed. I'm using the terminology we used at the time - all the shelter shed was was literally that - a shed that provided shelter against inclement weather. The shelter shed was also handy as something behind which we could hide whilst having a surreptitious smoke.

If you were a 'milk handler' you had real power in our terms. In winter the power didn't amount to much but come summer it was important that the crate at the bottom of the stack was the one you and your class got. The higher up the stack the warmer the milk. Somehow it always seemed that the 6 year olds got the milk at the top of the stack.

It amazes me these days how easily we were seduced. In exchange for 10 or 20 minutes outside a not terribly onerous classroom we were willing to lug heavy crates around and face opprobrium if we failed to secure the best crate for ours. Talk about the ultimate con! But of course you're reading the cynical old bastard remembering something from more than 40 years ago. At the time we were certainly delighted to be picked!

After a short stint as milk monitor and an even shorter one as milk handler (why I lost that job is the subject of another story I may someday relate) I retired into milk obscurity. I didn't particularly mind. Perhaps it was because I objected to being bopped on the skull by a boy half a head taller than I was when it came time to decide which crate was mine and which was his.

Sometime in 1964 a craze swept the school. The Sunnyboy Company had just released orange juice in tetrapacks. I haven't seen that word used on this side of the larger pond so I'll just say that it was a triangular pyramid made of waxed cardboard and filled with orange juice. One of our number, in an evil moment, conceived the idea of mixing milk and orange juice! It was every bit as horrible as it sounds and yet it siezed our imagination and we all did it.

Can you even begin to imagine what the result of mixing milk that has lain in the summer sun for a couple of hours with orange juice is like?

I'm not going to be responsible for your nightmares as a result of this post! :-)

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