Memories of school milk

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.

Milky Goodness

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.

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10 Comments

  • I was a milk monitor for a couple of years in the early 60’s, including the freezing-cold winter of 1962-63. I can remember the milk, frozen in the one-third pint bottles, actually pushing up the silver tops! And the crate was so cold your fingers, already frozen, seemed to fuse to the metal surface! Oh, happy days!

  • I had the honour of being a ” milk monitor ” and punched a hole in the foil top and popped a straw in each bottle for the whole class of 30 kids !

  • I hated it. At my school, if your parents wrote a note exempting you from having to drink it, you could go without. My mother’s job on the very first day back each year was to write that note so I was not forced to drink the vile stuff.
    Y es, I still to this day cannot drink milk. I can have it on cereal and with flavouring but not plain.

  • School milk. Yuk! I was made to drink it. I threw up every time.my mother and teachers got their act together and I got orange juice instead. Much better. I am now 76 and I have never drunk milk in its natural form. However, I adore ice cream and whipped cream. No adverse effect.

  • School milk. Lovely ! Remember it best when I was teaching at Hawick High School. There always seemed to be spare bottles and I lapped them up. Still, at 75, love milk hot or cold and all milk products.

  • At the age of seven we had to drink our milk at school, mine was off but still had to drink it. I am now sixty nine and have never drank milk since, but turned out to OK.

  • I hated it! It was always lukewarm from standing by the coal fire in the classroom. There were no foil tops for us, cardboard with a little circle In the middle for the straw. We used the tops to make ‘pompoms’ by winding knitting wool through the centre. T hose were the days!!

  • I loved school milk and drank nothing but milk until I was 15 and left school. It was not cool to drink milk in the work place so I then drank tea. But, I still love milk.

  • I remember only too well, It was a small bottle with an inch of cream on top and a cardboard stopper, I couldn’t stomach it, sometimes it wasn’t cold enough I use to get into trouble for not drinking the milk from the nuns who taught us at St. Joseph School at Cessnock, they were the days.

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