Cookies for Back to School

Back to School: Is it here already?

Phyllis Lifestyle 30 Comments

Those three words just send chills down my spine! When I was a child, our school year went from the Tuesday after Labor Day through the Friday before Memorial Day. Is it just me, or have school years gotten longer and longer with the passing of time?

Back to school for me meant Mom would start sewing school clothes in fall colors so that we would be “up to the mark.” My sister and I always had beautiful handmade clothes and enjoyed wearing Mom’s creations. We got the requisite pair of back-to-school shoes that usually meant leather of some sort and an accompanying book satchel—no backpack.

Still, returning to the classroom meant surrendering the freedom of playing in the backyard to being captive inside the school. We had to resume the responsibility of keeping up with lunch and milk money. Kids today can’t relate to that as they have cards to scan when they pay for lunch. They don’t have the “take it or leave it” plate lunch but rather have choices. We all wanted the plate lunch because of the lunchroom rolls. Is there anything better than those delightful yeast rolls? There was always one lady that made them every day. It was such an outstanding treat.

I have watched with great intrigue as Hays and Amelia get ready for school. Hays has the backpack, jeans, and athletic shirts on his mind. I am sewing for Amelia as I feel I must carry on the back-to-school dress tradition for her as my mother did for me. This year’s dress is blue with yellow polka dots complete with her monogram (of course).

I have vivid memories of my early days of school. The first day was the high-stress day as your classmates were revealed. I actually don’t remember knowing who my teacher was until the first day, when you found your name on the list outside someone’s door. When the desk assignments were made, I always knew that I would be strategically placed at the back of the room—a place reserved for the tall people.

It was not uncommon for me to come home the first day with staples in the hem of my dress, having to self-repair an accident on the playground. Mom always made it right again, bless her heart. School lunches were very predictable. From the fish sticks to the gingerbread with lemon sauce, some things never changed. But after the first week, the order was established and life went on.

I have to ask—does anyone have the school lunchroom roll recipe? I would love to have it.

What are your memories of school days?

Southern Home Autumn 2015 cover

Comments 30

  1. Loved the yeast rolls as well in Tuscaloosa, Alabama! Another favorite was the strawberry shortcake which was actually yellow layer cake, strawberries, and whipped cream – the best! I was in charge of collecting lunch money in my classroom (25 cents a day which included milk) and still marvel that a few kids chose to ride their bikes home for lunch each day! It certainly was a different time – and a great one at that!

  2. Times have surely changed……..not always for the best. There would never be homemade yeast rolls in the school cafeteria these days……..and while the school year seems to have been extended, there are now many breaks during the “middle” of the “school year” to “balance it all” out. Not sure if we are better off for it or making our lives more chaotic.

  3. My Mom was the cafeteria cook so we had wonderful lunches. She made the best pies, bread and rolls. My Grandma made my dresses and taught me how to sew. In high school I made all my clothes and have sewed my daughters dresses when she was in school. One time, our son asked me to build him a shirt and pair of pants as I never liked sewing men or boys clothes but I did build (sew) some shirts and pants for him.

    What I remember most about the first day of school was seeing classmates again after the summer and telling each other what we did during the summer. I went to a small school and graduated high school with 23 students and we had started Kindergarten with 26. School Days, great times!

  4. Yes, we had those yeast rolls…and cinnamon rolls when we had chili…which was always a huge treat that we looked forward to. I went to a two-room country school for the first 8 years of my school life and I have such wonderful memories that I tried to incorporate into my own teaching career before I retired. One of the smells that I associated with going back to school was the smell of a freshly mown school yard that hadn’t been mown all summer. That smell was mostly from the weeds that had grown up over the summer…but when I smell that smell today, I am immediately taken back to the first day of the school year at Banner School. My mother, also, made all of our clothes and she tried to always have a new dress for my sister and I (there were no pants, shorts or jeans back in those days for girls at our school) and a new shirt and pants for my brother. One year, things were pretty “tight” and my mother took some of her dresses and remade them into new dresses for my sister and I so that we could start school with a new dress. How blessed we were to have such a talented and giving mother. Oh, by the way, one of the ladies that made the rolls at Banner School over the years is my husband’s Aunt Edna. She and my mother-in-law come for Sunday dinner each Sunday after church and Aunt Edna often brings her bread…these days she usually brings croissants…along with a pie or cake to share. Yum!

    1. I should share that Aunt Edna is going to be 90 years old this coming Sept. 3rd…still drives her own little red truck…and loves to travel…that’s what she wants her family to do every year for her birthday…take her traveling…I asked her where she wanted to go this year and she hadn’t made up her mind yet…but leaning towards Colorado…or maybe Georgia…or South Carolina…will have to stay tuned to find out where they do end up this year…but it will be an adventure wherever they go that’s for sure.

  5. ……and I loved the smells of clean waxed floors, Crayola crayons, chalk and paste. Even now, I sometimes open a box of crayons just to smell.

  6. After reading the email replies I went looking for a chocolate sheet cake rescipe that one of the high school bakers gave me one day, now that brought back even more memories.


  7. Oh, the plaid lunchbox! I had one of those. I usually ate lunch at home, but in fourth grade I decided to save time and eat lunch at school. The lunchbox and thermos were thrills. Let’s not forget the caramel apples sold at lunchtime in the fall! Can you smell wet leaves? Thank you for sharing these lovely memories.

  8. All I remember from the lunch room was green tinted hotdogs (yuck) mom, always made school lunches for four of us my dad, was a school teacher, me and brother and sister too. I loved the new notebooks, pencils, and getting ready for the fall rains.

  9. I remember the yeast rolls but also those yummy cinnamon rolls that were made at least once a week!
    Thanks for sharing.

  10. I so enjoyed reading your entry today, Phyllis, and all the lovely comments which followed!
    I too, have fond memories of all the back to school traditions we had. I am a retired teacher, and as such, I too have noticed all the changes which have evolved over the years. My mother would sew for us, too, and I ended up loving to sew, myself!
    Even though I no longer have to go back, at this time of year, it still stirs the memory in me. I have to avoid the desire to buy school supplies and “get ready”!
    In elementary school, our cafeteria food left much to be desired (sorry), but I do remember the “brown oven bread” they made and it was pretty good. the kids would create a line out the door on birthday day, because they served cake and ice cream (the kind in the little cup, with the “false bottom” and a little wooden spoon). But, I thought they used that day to get rid of the hot dogs, as that was the main course! Sorry, but they were really bad! Actually, I didn’t mind taking my lunch that Mom made and I wish I still had my Barbie lunchbox!
    I attended one school, when I was in kindergarten, where they sold fudge-sickles, that were quite good! I don’t remember just how much we paid for a half pint of milk, but I think it may have been a nickel! We actually had a box lunch in high school which was 40 cents!
    Yes, things have really changed, for sure.

  11. I do remember having to bring milk money to school each week, a whopping 7 cents a day for a half pint of milk! My siblings and I brought our own lunches to school and they were on my mother’s homemade wheat bread. Some of our friends would offer us cookies or other snacks if we would share, but I rarely did, her bread was too delicious and still is.

    We were taken shopping in August and allowed one complete set of school supplies each. If we lost or damaged them we had to buy the replacements ourselves which taught us to be careful. Anyone remember making book covers out of brown paper bags? Mom and dad refused to pay for the “fancy” ones you buy in the stores and we had fun decorating them.

  12. Two of my distant cousins worked in the school cafeteria. One was a server and she made sure I received a large portion of any of my favorites, especially chicken and noodles the other baked all of the deserts. I remember when guys from the football team realized my cousin made the apple dumplings they would follow me in line and beg her to save them back the special desert of which they had to purchase extra but would have been gone by the time our class made it through the line. Bonnie would look to me for approving eyes to see if I thought she should. These two women made lunch special just to see the smiles on there faces every day. Than you for bringing those memories back to life for me.

    Bonnie Smith

  13. Memories of goulash, chocolate cake, and lunchroom rolls can still cause my mouth to water!

    Lorraine Tucker, a dear woman who worked in the lunchroom at Washington Elementary School in Washington, VT (a typical New England village), was and is known for her rolls. Anytime I needed rolls for a church dinner, teacher appreciation lunch, or special gathering at home, I always asked Lorraine to bring her rolls. They’re dessert to me!

    Here’s her recipe copied just as printed from the 1981 Orange, VT, Bicentennial Cookbook.

    Speedie Rolls Hot Lunch Program

    9 1/2 cups flour 3 eggs
    3 cups lukewarm water 1/2 cup melted shortening, cooled
    1/2 cup sugar 3 packages dry yeast
    1 1/2 T. salt

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    1. Easy! Place lukewarm water, yeast, sugar in mixing bowl. Add salt and 2 cups flour. Beat with electric mixer or egg beater 2 minutes.

    2. Fast! Add eggs and cooled melted shortening. Beat 1 minute.

    3. No kneading! Gradually add rest of flour, stirring until dough is formed.

    4. Ready in a jiffy! Allow dough to rest 20 minutes for ease in handling. Shape into rolls. Let rise. Bake as usual. 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

    Makes 6 dozen.

  14. What wonderful memories are associated with ” back to school” as a student and educator! I so enjoyed the journal writing and the comments that followed. Please share the recipe for the lunchroom yeast rolls if found.
    Making the rolls would just add to the enjoy of this journal entry for all of us . Happy September to all !

  15. I love back to school! When my girls were young, I sewed their back to school clothes like my mother did before me. Like you, Phyllis, I enjoyed it very much! Now, with my grandchildren, I started the “school shopping with grandmama” tradition when my first grand baby was just one (I know, silly, but it started the tradition off right!)

    I live across the street from a small middle school, and love the sound of that first bell in Sept. In some areas of California, children started school last week already. Here, it’s the day after Labor Day. School means FALL is here, my favorite season. Loved this post!

  16. Such wonderful memories! We were blessed with loving parents and teachers who truly wanted us to excell as students as well as personally.
    As a retired 30+ year teacher, I realized long ago that January 1st is really NOT the first day of the year. No matter what day in August you may go back to the school house, that Tuesday after Labor Day is definitely the de facto first day!
    For many of those 30 years a wonderful lady baked rolls at our school once a week. Even our high schoolers & teachers who didn’t usually eat plate lunches ate one that day!!
    School days, school days. Dear ole Golden Rule Days…

  17. I’m with you, Phyllis, school years have definitely gotten longer. I’m a 4th grade teacher and wish school started after Labor Day. Many of your memories are mine also, but I don’t remember getting yeast rolls with lunch. It makes me smile to think your lunch lady made happy the hearts of children (and provided them with a wonderful memory) with such a simple thing as delicious rolls.

    This isn’t your lunch room roll recipe, but it is tried and tested in my family.

    2 T. yeast
    1/2 c. warm water (stir yeast into warm water and sprinkle a bit of sugar on top to help activate yeast)

    2 c. milk
    1/2 c. butter, melted
    2 eggs
    1/2 c. sugar
    2 t. salt
    flour as needed

    Mix together. Knead for 5 minutes. Let dough rise. Shape. Place on greased pan with rolls touching each other. Let rise again. Bake at 375 until rolls are browned on top. ENJOY!

  18. My memories of school days are similar to your, Phyllis. However, we had to work all summer in the tobacco fields for our heavy winter coat, shoes, and boots. My mother was a fabulous seamstress. She sewed all of my dresses and slips. I Remember complaining because I wanted those store bought slips with the thin straps that kept falling down. Mine were fitted with tucks and lace, so much better made and prettier. I remember the teacher saying to me that I always smelled good, this being the results of my mothers hard labor. She washed our clothes in and old Maytag wringer washing machine and boiled the whites in a big black iron wash pot, with her home made lye soap. The wash was hung on a clothes line in the bright sunshine. Oh, the smell of those sheets, starched and ironed on a big fat feather bed. God bless her, she instilled the love of a clean home, clean body, and clean living.

  19. My greatest memory is going to buy school supplies. Oh how I loved getting all of those new notebooks, shiny pencils and scissors – so fun! Hard to believe it’s almost time to get back on the school schedule. Happy Tuesday, Phyllis!

  20. I remember those wonderful fish sticks on Fridays! I fondly remember a brown and teal A-line dress with a ruffle down the front that my mother made for me– a rare treat since she didn’t sew often. As always, Phyllis, thanks for a sweet trip down memory lane.

  21. Please share if you get that recipe. While my school days included uniforms and saddle oxfords, the rest of your article brought back fond memories. My mom made me lovely dresses for church and incredible ballet costumes for dance recitals. I was saddened to learn even ballet costumes come from catalogs now. I guess a natural outcome of the demise of Home Ec in school. My first degree was in Home Ec. By the time I graduated, the schools were eliminating the program.

    1. Oh, yes, so sad, Nikki, that Home Ec. is no longer taught. It amazes me because people still need to eat and take care of things at home! When I taught school, so many of my students ate nothing but fast food!

      I didn’t have time in my HS schedule for it, but by that time, I was sewing all my own dresses! My mom taught me, and her mom had taught her, and had sewn for me when I was little. Sadly, we lost her at a young age, but her love of sewing lived on in us!

      I look for these basic, lovely things to come back in popularity, someday! At least, I hope they come back!

  22. I hope someone has it, as I want it also! Yummy!
    Can’t wait to see Amelia’s dress! I’m busy carrying on the tradition too!

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