The former Webb City High School, on Broadway between Washington and Jefferson streets.

Ancestors, Legends & Time

When school lunches were always 25¢

Jeanne Newby

With school starting, there is a lot of commotion going on in town as families get their school supplies, buy new school clothes and try to the family back on the school schedule. It is sad to see summer leave us behind, but there is still an excitement in the air as the new school year begins.

Those who dance between today and the “Good Ole Days” can’t help but recall how life was in our day on the first day of school. Schools in the past were usually always large brick buildings with at least two stories. That required getting in shape to go up and down those stairways so many times a day. Most of our schools in “the good ole days” did not have air conditioning so we suffered through the Indian summers when the summer heat lingered on… but we didn’t really seem to notice too much.

The price of school lunches seems to constantly increase due to inflation, but when we were kids, the price of lunches stayed at 25 cents forever and ever. Although some remember when they didn’t have lunches at school and everyone walked home for lunch. Milk was about 3 cents a carton, only white milk at first, and then we got chocolate milk, what a treat. You had morning milk, afternoon milk and milk with lunches. Those who went to the old high school on Broadway might remember going across the street to Couraw’s for a 10-cent hot dog, which consisted of a hot dog cut long-wise into four pieces and you got one fourth of that hot dog on a bun for that dime. Plenty of penny candy to munch on for lunch, too.

John Powell, Class of ‘58, said one of his fond memories of school was being a crossing guard, stopping traffic and helping kids cross the street. Each school had their own crossing guards. Then they would have a janitor be the crossing guard. Or sometimes they would hire a mother to serve as the crossing guard.

Remember waiting for your friends on the corner each morning and a whole group of kids would walk together to the school. Everyone walked to school in those old days. Some walked for a few blocks and others would have to walk 10 to 12 blocks (uphill, in a foot of snow with holes in their shoes!) The groups that walked together created a bond, friendships that lasted forever.

The beginning of the school year also brings the excitement of football season, when students, teachers and parents gathered for some “friendly” competition with neighboring schools. Marti Leib shared a memory of having dances every Friday night after the home football games. The dances were held in the basement gymnasium of the old high school on Broadway. Students would bring their favorite 45s to keep the gym hopping.

Maurice Clark remembers when the high school football team would dress out in the old basement gym on Broadway and walk to the football field on Madison Street. That must have been quite a sight to see and a good workout before the game!

There were lots of memories of shopping for school clothes in downtown Webb City, at The Hub,  on Main Street at Broadway (Middlewest Building); the Clothing Mart, Church and Main streets; Cora Lee’s and Taylor’s, just to name a few. One reader even recalled when the tax went up and she had to pay 1 cent tax on a 15-cent purchase. It had been one cent tax on a 25-cent purchase forever and suddenly they changed it. That cut into her allowance. That was an early lesson in life about taxes.

One reader remembers her new pair of Keds sneakers that you only wore for gym class. Not to mention the uniform you had to wear for gym class. That is because the girls could only wear dresses to school – no pants – so they had to have a gym uniform to do the exercises.

We have wonderful memories of going to the first day of school. Remember to share your memories with your grandchildren. They will be amazed at the cruel punishment you had to endure – punishment that we look back on with fond memories. Time marches on!

Jeanne’s new book, “The Zinc City, Webb City, Missouri” is now available at Webb City Chamber Office.

Jeanne Newby

A lot of us appreciate the Bradbury Bishop Fountain, but Jeanne actually worked behind the counter making sodas while she was in high school. She knows everything about Webb City and is a member of the Webb City R-7 School Board.