I was chatting to a school go’er the other day when the talk turned to lunchboxes and tuck-shops. I guess in the back of my mind I’m already worried that I won’t be able to match my mom’s school lunch boxes – those things were legendary – and the talk of the quadrangle.
Did you know that some schools these days have in-campus restaurants and that the tuck shop menu features more than just a Piemans Pantry Cornish Pasty and a soggy salad roll?
Listen up, kids – we had it hard in the 90’s. I’ve heard talk of school tuck shops (are they even called tuck-shops anymore, or are they now referred to as ‘Student Lounges’?) serving sushi, hot meals and coffee.(Coffee! I guess ADHD isn’t a thing anymore)
This blog post is inspired by the almost slave labour like conditions that most C level schools provided in the 90’s.
Things that only kids who went to school in the 90’s, will remember.
Tuck-shops and school food
- In Primary School a R2 note at the tuck-shop could buy you half a Chelsea Bun, a large guava roll and a toasted mince sandwich.
- Tuck-shop ladies were always your mom and other moms. If you knew your mom was on tuck-shop duty you were in luck – as it meant getting to the front of the queue faster.
3. A handful of coins was always enough to get you something. It was perfectly acceptable for the Grade 1’s and Grade 2’s to open a grubby fist, full of bronze coins, and ask “what can I get for this?”
4. Woolies did not sell cute snack sized, pre-cut, low carb, banting friendly treats (these were the days before Woolworths was aspirational). Our moms would pack our food (high-carb-what-the-hell-is-a-gluten-intolerance-anyway jam-sandwiches) in an empty bread packet, a Checkers packet, or in my case a 2 litre ice cream tub. Sandwich swopping was up there with marbles during break time.
- In Primary school, uniform regulations were strict. There were dedicated shops (I think called Step Ahead) which sold school authorised uniforms and accessories. Think navy blue scrunchies, padded alice bands and matchy matchy hair clips.
- In Winter, knee high socks were mandatory, and if you happened to have twig legs like me, your mom would have to sew you 2 elasticated bands to help them stay up.
- If you partook in a school sport, school colour and brand approved underwear was compulsory. Before every match or game the girls would line up in the quadrangle while the teachers lifted our (knee high) culottes and inspected our panties. Not school regulation grey or navy? Sorry, no sport for you.
- Refreshments during a school match were always the following: A slice of orange still in its peel during half time, and a packet of Fritos and a frozen Take 5 after the game.
Teachers and Classrooms
- For the longest time I thought every desk I sat at belonged to a boy named Ted. It was only in my later more intelligent tween (also, not a word that was around in the 90’s) years that I realised the permanent marker “T.E.D’s” stood for ‘Transvaal Education Department. (T.O.D in the Afrikaanse onderwyser se klaskamer)
- You don’t know what true claustrophobia is until you’ve sat in a pre-fab classroom with the windows closed.
- There were no cell phones in schools (they didn’t exist until I was in Standard 9) so the only piece of technology that was always being confiscated by the teachers was the Tamagotchi. Highly upsetting to all Tamagotchi owners, the confiscation of these always resulted in a “But Mrs de Bruyn it was going to die, I had to feed it!”
- There was no such thing as a Typo Stationer in the 90’s. School stationery was standard issue HB pencils, Bic pens (after a certain age) and feint lined exam pads. The only stamp of personalisation that one was allowed was a Space Case in which to keep it all.
- If you saw a teacher out of school it was big news. We could never quite believe that Mrs so and so had a life outside of her classroom.
- Each child had a chair bag – a material item that draped over your school chair with a large pocket – useful for storing your stationery and lunches. God forbid you forgot your lunch there over a weekend or even worse – school holidays. Mom would get out the wooden spoon. (if you’re not afraid of the wooden spoon, even to this day, then you definitely weren’t a 90’s school’goer)
- All class photos looked like this:
School grounds and facilities
- The quadrangle was the equivalent of the starting block in The Hunger Games. Most days ended and started there. Come rain or shine, hundreds of little children’s delicate bottoms grew haemorrhoids from sitting on the concrete listening to the headmaster read out roll call.
- School assembly’s marked a sign of seniority – the smaller you were, the closer you sat at the front. The older kids always got to sit at the back. Teachers flanked the perimeter of the school hall like soldiers at a prison camp. The floors were always dusty and one child would always puke near you.
- Toilets were revolting. The doors always started half way up the wall, and there was no such thing as a soap dispenser – only a soggy round white soap that sat in the ceramic indentation of the sink. To use this was a risk not many were willing to take. There was no such thing as hand dryers or paper towels- instead archaic machines were mounted from the walls from which white and blue striped material was dispensed. To get a clean portion of said towel one had to manoeuvre the round lever until the dirty section disappeared and a fresh section was revealed. To this day it is still a mystery as to how these towels cleaned themselves.
So yes, schooling in the 90’s was not glamourous, but then I became an adult and realised… I would give anything to go back.