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Cow & Chow!
Melanie Phillips...cont'd
When the bell signalled the end of break, we would all troop down the steps of the Cow, belching and dribbling and dragging hands across mouths to hastily wipe off white moustaches. There never seemed to be much supervision of the daily milk melee, so this probably accounted for the mayhem and chaos that ensued.

Lunchtime, however, was a very orderly affair. Two mature lady cooks guarded the left and right hand doors of the Cow, whilst all the time making sure that we formed an orderly queue down the left hand side of the steps. Those who had been fed and watered proceeded down the right hand side.

The ladies were a soft touch when it came to a bit of flattery and praise, but only if it came from the boys. We females stood no chance. Rogues like my brother and his mates would resort to grovelling and brown nosing tactics in order to gain access to the front of the queue.

“You look lovely today Mrs H.” “

Thank you Neil!” “

The apple crumble we had yesterday was better than my mam’s and that’s saying something. I’ve got rugby practice, Mrs H., I was wondering if I could get nearer to the front of the queue?” “

Certainly.” “

My mate Keith’s got practice too.”

There would be hoots and jeers of

"They’re lying Miss. They only said that to jump the queue. Tell ‘em Miss. Rugby practice was last Friday.”

Finally, by fair means or foul, we all reached the top of the pile and from there proceeded into the belly of the cow.

We sat around tables of eight. A prefect was stationed at the top of each table. He or she was there to keep order, and dole out the grub. The prefect dictated portion control. You might be lucky and land yourself with a softy who was putty in your hands. Or, on the other hand, you could find yourself prey to an Idi Amin tyrant who revelled in his little tin pot position.

The food arrived in metal containers and was opened by the head of the table. I can vividly see the liver and bacon in its hot aluminium container, the lumpy half mashed spuds and the sloppy swede. Liver was my favourite, but I was very much alone in this preference.

“Ugh! Liver! You can have mine, Phillips” “… and mine… and mine.”

I loved the mince that stuck together in great clumps and the heavy stodgy Spotted Dick and Jam Roly-Poly. I wasn’t very keen on Manchester tart, although that was a firm favourite with most. It consisted of jam tart with settled custard on the top, or an alternative version had cornflakes stuck on top of the jam.

The prefect would lift the lid off the puddings with a flourish and would claim his or her portion by pushing a finger into a corner bit thus ensuring the biggest piece.

A mate of ours, a cool kind of a bloke who went by the name of JC, loved prunes. On this particular occasion, we bet him that he couldn’t eat all our prunes as well as his own. We collected sixty-four prunes in all, and duly passed them over to him. Having finished our dinner, we left him in splendid isolation methodically slurping his way through a black and yellow slippery concoction of prunes and custard.

He won the bet but we didn’t see him for two days, apparently he couldn’t get off the lav. He lost some of his street cred after that episode.

Finally, I recall that there was always a member of staff whose job it was to keep order in the Cow. There had to be one by law. The dreaded and hated dinner duty was a compulsory duty for all teaching staff. This odorous and despised intrusion into a teacher’s time was done away with in the 1970s, but in the 1960s it was still a firm fixture. However, a teacher’s presence was particularly needed when the cook bawled out,


This signalled a mad dash for the hatch. Like a long line of Oliver Twists, they proffered their plates for an extra dollop of what ever was on offer. With some, it was pure greed as they quickly realised that their eyes were bigger than their bellies. These would then push their plates back and leave. Most staff took no notice of this waste of food, as all they were waiting for was the bell to sound so that they could have a quick fag in the staff room before the afternoon session commenced. However, there was one Maths teacher who would continuously pace and lope around the room checking for waste.

“Waste boy, waste! Don’t you know that there are children starving in Korea, and you have just carelessly cast that food to one side without a second thought?”

If you didn’t make a hasty exit when his back was turned, he would stand over you until you ate it all.

Imagine that happening today? You would have parents screaming that their kids’ human rights had been impinged!

Footnote: Harold Wilson’s government stopped the practice of giving out free school milk to secondary pupils in 1968.

Thankfully, I just made it.
Melanie Phillips
History of Free School Milk: 1921: LEA’s empowered to provide free school milk on a discretionary basis. 1946: Attlee government ordered the issue of free school milk for all pupils under 18. 1968: Wilson government stopped the issue of free school milk for pupils in secondary education. 1971: Heath government cut free school milk for children over 7 (Education Minister Margaret Thatcher, notoriously being labelled ‘Margaret Thatcher, School Milk Snatcher’. 1980: her government cut free school milk for children under 7. 2001: The Welsh Assembly Government re-established free school milk for all 5-7 year olds Past pupil Melanie Phillips, formerly an English teacher and now a Pembroke Town Councillor,, is well known as an author of humorous short stories and for her voluntary work with the Stroke Organisation, Friends of Pembroke Dock Guntower Museum and Mencap Gardens, Stackpole. Click Here to read more about Melanie in the Past Pupils News section!
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