Primary School Memories
Hands up if you remember getting free milk at school! Ah, those were the days. If you’ve got your hand up, it seems that your memories of those little one-third of a pint bottles remain strong to this day… but not always in a cherished way.
According to the Spring Chicken community, there’s a fair chance you absolutely hated school milk and your memories of being forced to drink it because it was “good for you” have left you unable to face a glass of the white stuff to this day:
I hated school milk and always tried to give it away without the teacher seeing me. I’m now 70 – and still hate it!
Free school milk goes all the way back to 1906 when Local Education Authorities began providing free school meals and milk through the Education (Provision of Meals) Act. However, it would be well into the 1940s before the passing of the Free School Milk Act made daily milk a common feature in schools across the country.
Of course, for every bad memory of school milk, there’s also a good one, and much may depend on your childhood circumstances. For those who loved school milk, a common sentiment shared on Spring Chicken’s Facebook pages is that those in need were thankful for what they got. The need is evident across the decades with readers’ comments suggesting that,
It was breakfast for some children in the 1930s as many would have nothing to eat before they came to school,
and, “It gave hungry children a boost. After the war, food shortages and rationing meant children were deprived of nutrients, so milk along with cod liver oil and orange juice helped to build them up.”
Warm or cold?
Even if you liked school milk, nobody liked it served warm having gone rancid in the sun or frozen solid in the winter. The milk was delivered by the milkman in metal crates and it would sit outside in the playground until it was needed at mid-morning breaktime. In the summer, this meant it may sit in the sun for several hours and it would curdle. In the winter, the milk often froze in the glass bottles but for most, it meant drinking the contents after they’d been warmed up by the fire or radiator – and that’s the overriding memory for those who say “no thanks!”
The Milk Monitor
Many happy memories of free school milk revolve around being the milk monitor. Each day, certain children would be chosen to bring the milk in from the playground and hand it out in the classroom. This was a task to be proud of, not least because it often meant first dibs on any spare bottles. One Facebook comment says, “My record was 15 bottles in one day,” but it seems that being responsible for poking the straw holes in the silver tops was an equally important bonus!
For those with cherished school memories, free milk is certainly one of them: “Loved the milk. I used to have jam sandwiches too, and we would all sit in a horseshoe around a roaring coal fire while the teacher read us a story… it was great.”
Free milk for secondary school pupils was withdrawn in 1968, and then for children over the age of seven in 1971. These days, the benefits of milk have come under attack with links to childhood obesity, but perhaps the last word should go to one Spring Chicken follower who says,
I was given a bottle of milk and a red capsule every morning at school, I think it was an iron capsule, and I grew up to become superman.