Have We No Rubbish Bins

I was aghast when I read that a Melbourne school is getting rid of all its bins and asking students to take home their chip packets, juice boxes, and other leftover rubbish from their lunches. I started to wonder if this would be the end of the yard duty I once knew. This would take a few ice colds to think through; would yard duty be replaced by random inspections of students’ lunches to check if they’re zero waste.

image source:jmcadam

I went to a Technical School in a working-class suburb of Melbourne. My five years as a student at Williamstown Technical School was defined by rules. There were rules for the classroom, rules for the school grounds, and rules for when you went on a school excursion or outing. One of the rules was you couldn’t leave the school premises without permission; so to leave school at lunchtime you needed a lunch pass. Boys living close to school usually had a permanent lunch pass so they could go home for lunch. If there were special circumstances and you needed to go home at lunchtime it had to be planned in advance. Your mum would send a note to the headmaster requesting a temporary lunch pass. At random lunchtimes, teachers would perform lunch pass checks at the school gates, and patrol the fence perimeter to catch any miscreant who left, or tried to leave, the school grounds without a lunch pass. For some boys the temptation of sixpence worth of chips and a few potato cakes from the nearby fish and chip shop, or an egg and lettuce roll, a vanilla slice, or a bag of mixed lollies from the close by milk bar was overpowering, and they foolishly left the school grounds without a lunch pass. When the transgressors were caught they were offered yard duty or the cuts. As well as copping yard duty, or the cuts, for leaving the school grounds at lunchtime without a lunch pass you could also receive yard duty or the cuts for dropping any paper or food scraps on the schoolyard, being excessively rowdy or running in the corridors, wagging on sports afternoon, or any behaviour a teacher deemed as reckless. Most boys chose a single-hander instead of a week of yard duty; but a week of yard duty was always chosen over a double hander, backhander, or six of the best. And a day of yard duty was always chosen over any type of the cuts.

image source:shutterstock

The cuts were being hit across the hand with a two-inch wide, two-foot-long, leather strap. Yard duty was picking up greaseproof paper, paper bags and canteen lunch bags, or anything a lunch had been wrapped in, half-eaten sandwiches, sausage rolls, pies, the scattered leftovers of food fights, or any rubbish that had been dropped, or thrown, on the ground instead of into a rubbish bin. Yard duty was done during lunchtime. When the first lunch bell rang to signal eating time had officially ended you were free to wander around with your hands in your pockets as boys do, play a game of footie, cricket, British Bulldog or bat tennis, and head off behind the shelter sheds and the far end of the oval to smoke; it was also when the yard duty boys reported to the head yard duty teacher to be assigned an area of the yard. The size and location of a yard duty area seemed to be decided on by the whim of the yard duty teacher, and they were inspected just before the afternoon locker bell rang. If an area was judged as unclean the boys assigned to that area would receive an extra day of yard duty. The rule-breakers never saw yard duty as an experience to understand the importance of proper waste disposal or the opportunity to appreciate the effects of littering on the environment; it was seen only as a punishment, not as a chance to participate in the upkeep of the schoolyard and to develop a sense of school pride.

image source:irishpost.com

My lunch sandwiches were the standard sandwiches of the day; nothing fancy, just school lunch sandwiches that you’d find in every boy’s brown paper lunch bag. Mum made my school lunch sandwiches each morning; she’d butter two slices of white bread and then add the fillings. I always knew what day of the week it was by the sandwich filling; Monday was cold lamb leftover from Sunday’s roast, Tuesday was salad, and then jam, tomato, and cheese to finish off the week. Mum never made beetroot sandwiches because she didn’t like the way beetroot juice soaked into the bread. She’d wrap the cut-in-two sandwich, and a piece of fruit cake, in greaseproof paper and put both packets of goodness into a brown paper bag. The paper bag sat on the kitchen table, waiting to be taken to school. Each day when I finished lunch I folded the greaseproof paper along its creases and put it into the empty paper bag, and then folded the paper bag into a small packet to put into my trouser pocket. We had to bring our lunch paper bag back and wrappings home so mum could reuse them the next day. Mum kept all the brown paper bags from her Friday afternoon shopping at the fruit and grocer’s shop and used them for school lunch bags; every week I had a new brown paper bag to fold and put into my pocket.

image source:youtube

I learnt the hard way that mum knew best when it came to school lunch sandwiches. Whenever she made banana sandwiches she’d butter two slices of bread and wrap them in greaseproof paper. I’d take a bread and butter sandwich with an unpeeled banana for lunch; lunch was a mouthful of bread and butter sandwich and a bite of a freshly peeled banana. I must have been picked on, and the target of jokes whenever I took banana sandwiches for lunch; I remember coming home from school one day and telling mum that from now on I must have my banana mashed onto the bread.

The long main school corridor was lined with airtight, three-tier, metal box lockers. When the locker bell rang the corridor became crowded with students; it was perfect chaos. You’d put your lunch in your locker in the morning when you collected your books for your morning classes; there it stayed until the lunchtime locker bell three hours later. No sandwich was safe inside a small, airtight, metal locker; jam, and tomato sandwiches were turned into a limp bathroom flannel as their juices soaked into the bread, and cheese sandwiches were transformed into cardboard as the bread and cheese dehydrated. My banana mashed onto the bread sandwich was soggy, and moist, and filled with pulpy, brown, mushy banana; my locker was filled with a bouquet of very ripe bananas. That was my last school lunch banana sandwich.

image source:pixabay

The migrant boys had different sandwiches than us. At the end of the second world war, the Australian government started an ambitious immigration plan that first targeted British citizens, but then expanded to accept immigrants from continental Europe. A migrant hostel was established at the old Williamstown Racecourse; it was a couple of miles further down Kororoit Creek road from Williamstown Tech. Yugoslav, Cypriot, and Maltese boys were bused to school each day. We looked at the migrant sandwiches with askance and never thought of swapping lunches with them; their sandwiches were an assortment of crusty wedges of bread, slabs of pungent-smelling cheeses, and strange-looking dried sausages. Today those cured meats, artisan bread and cheeses are the foundation of gourmet sandwiches.

Most of my full time working life in Australia was spent with the Victorian Education Department as a Mathematics and Science teacher. I started teaching in the early seventies and was at three different inner suburban Technical Schools. It was the seventies so I thought of myself more as a conduit than a teacher. I was in the classroom to create an aesthetic sensitivity for scientific discovery and to share the beauty, and logic, of mathematics with preadolescence boys. I soon learnt that being a conduit was more than creating a circle of learning and curiosity; it also meant student supervision. Because students had to be supervised during recess and lunch, teachers were assigned yard duty responsibilities. As a teacher at Williamstown Technical School, I walked the same corridors, wrote on the same blackboards as Mr Baldwin did, and enlightened young boys in the same rooms I sat in as a student. And as a yard duty teacher I walked the same area where I ate a mouthful of bread and butter sandwich with a bite of a freshly peeled banana.

image source:victoriancollections.net.au

As a teacher, I loathed yard duty with the same intensity I did as a student. I’d wander out of the staff room still with a cup of tea in hand five or more minutes after the first lunch bell so I’d reach the schoolyard after the wrongdoers had been assigned their area to pick up the leftover scraps from food fights, pieces of greaseproof paper, shreds of paper and canteen lunch bags, half-eaten sandwiches, and remnants of sausage rolls and pies. I knew to avoid the back of the shelter sheds because the smokers still smoked there; discipline procedures were still in place for students caught smoking and I would’ve had to assign a week of yard duty or a couple of double handers to the smokers. I loitered in front of the trade rooms and strolled the area where the boys had to sit to eat their lunches. Not many students stayed in the lunch area after the first lunch belt so there was very little chance of a fight, or any other questionable behaviour needing a discipline punishment starting. Sometimes I wandered over and watched the migrant boys play soccer.

And now you’ll need to excuse me. Tomorrow is rubbish day and I need to start sorting the polystyrene green, blue, yellow, red, and grey bins in the basement to prepare my rubbish for collection. And I need to call the Solid Waste Helpline to check if it’s the collection day for the green and blue, the red and blue, the red and yellow, the blue and grey, the red and blue, or the blue and yellow bins.


Laverton College P-12 Yard Duty And Supervision Policy

Remember School Lunches? 1974 Tuckshop Menu Shows Classic Food We Used To Love

Photos Give Insight Into Life In Australia’s Migrant Hostels

A Beetroot Is A Man’s Best Friend

A couple of days ago, I dropped my cousin from Down Under off at Omaha’s Eppley Airport. For three and a half days, the house became filled with the euphonious sounds of Australian accented conversations and the mornings, scented with the delicious aroma of Vegemite on hot buttered toast. Matt had treated himself to a four week holiday in the US. He was heading to New York after spending a few days visiting an expatriate Aussie mate of his in Texas and had detoured to Omaha to share some time with us. Before Matt arrived, we spent a fair bit of time thinking about how to entertain a boy from Down Under, in Omaha, on his way to The Big Apple and its collection of tourist attractions. We put together an Omaha sightseeing tour to rival visiting Times Square, the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Staten Island Ferry and views of the Statue of Liberty, and the Rockefeller Center with its Christmas tree and ice skating rink in the Sunken Plaza. When Matt got back to Australia, there’s no doubt he’d regale friends and families in Melbourne and Echuca with stories of visiting the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Durham Museum, and the SAC Museum. And he would tell about chucking back a few ice colds at most of Omaha craft breweries, wanting to buy a tricked out Chevy pick up at an Omaha auto dealership, and savouring the delicious iconic foods of Nebraska.

image source:skmcadam

There wouldn’t be a better place than the Crescent Moon Ale House to taste the delicious iconic Nebraskan Reuben; it’s across the street from the hotel where it’s claimed to have been invented. It’s hard to think of a sandwich as being invented. I think of the Wheel, the Steam Engine, the Computer, and the Flush Toilet as inventions; not a sandwich. As Matt and I sat nursing a couple of IPA’s waiting for our Blackstone Reuben, I shared the following story of the Reuben. Reuben Kulakofsky was known for playing poker with his mates at the Blackstone. As the night wore on they’d get hungry and call down to the closed hotel kitchen to see what they could scrounge to eat. It’s said that Kulakofsky dreamed up the Reuben Sandwich the night there was a lettuce shortage. On the fateful no lettuce night Kulakofsky substituted sauerkraut on the corned beef, cheese and lettuce sandwiches. He grilled the sandwiches to hide the cured cabbage flavour; thus melting the cheese. The sandwich was a hit with the poker players; Schimmel, the owner of the Blackstone, and one of the poker players put it on the menu of the hotel restaurant. He named it the Reuben after his mate Reuben Kulakofsky. Thirty years after it was created the Reuben became famous by winning a national recipe contest. Today, the Reuben Sandwich is made up of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing between slices of grilled rye bread. Matt took three long swigs and finished his IPA; he reached with both hands for his just served Nebraskan Reuben. He declared the Reuben delicious.

image source:skmcadam

Matt’s taste buds were severely teased by the Reuben and the only other delicious iconic Nebraskan taste sensation that would satisfy them was the Runza. Matt listened attentively as I started to talk about the Runza. It’s a warm bread pocket stuffed with peppery beef, wilted cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and seasonings; you know like a pasty without potatoes, swedes, or carrots. Seeing I have German ancestors I thought I’d better tie the Nebraskan Runza to our family genealogy. Matt listened with fascination as I told him how in the seventeen hundreds Bierocks and Runsas were the go-to lunch for German-Russian field workers; and that immigrants bought these traditional lunches to America. It was back in the early nineteen hundreds when a daughter of German immigrants who settled in Nebraska, mucked around with the family Bierock recipe and came up with the Runza. There are now eighty Runza restaurants in Nebraska that serve Runza’s made from Sally Brening Everett’s recipe.

image source:skmcadam

Me: How about that Runza Matt?
Matt: Crikey; looks like a giant sausage roll
Me: Ya wouldn’t find cabbage in a sausage roll
Matt: Could be mistaken for a chicko roll if it had a bit of offal in it and was fried
Me: Fair suck of the sauce bottle Matt
Matt: It’s good tucker
Me: What if you whacked a few slices of beetroot on it Matt
Matt: Bloody ripper

According to any Aussie, a fair dinkum burger has to have a few slices of canned beetroot on it, and the bread has to be stained by beetroot juice. A burger, stained by the purple hue of beetroot is as Australian as football, meat pies and Holden cars; some would say it comes a close second to the Vegemite sandwich. The burger with the lot is an iconic Aussie burger; it’s filled with lettuce, tomato, beef patty, cheese, onion, bacon, pineapple, a fried egg, and beetroot. And you’ll never want for one with the lot; you can get them at pubs, restaurants, take away shops, and fish and chip shops.

image source:skmcadam

Aussies add beetroot to just about anything you can think of; we love our beetroot Down Under. You’ll soon forget about cuddly koalas and lovable kangaroos when you try some of these beauties.

Dips: You’ll load up your supermarket trolley with some of these bottlers: baby beetroot & feta dip, creamed beetroot dip, and sweet beetroot hummus dip
Salads: Everyone will want to know you when you bring one of these beauties to a backyard summer bbq party: classic beetroot salad, beetroot salad with chopped avocado, roasted beetroot and orange salad, or shaved brussels sprout salad with beetroot and carrots
Soups: You’ll only hear cries of bloody beautiful when you serve one of these winners: chilled beetroot soup, beetroot and bacon soup, or leek and beetroot soup
Sandwiches: You can’t go wrong if you take one of these for your lunch every day: beetroot, carrot and hummus sandwich, beetroot and cheese sandwich, or the classic salad sandwich made with two slices of buttered white bread, and sliced lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and canned sliced beetroot
Other Favourites: Chocolate and beetroot pancakes, beetroot energy bars, beetroot and blueberry bruschetta, and a beetroot surprise cake

Every Sunday night back when nanna and granddad would walk down the street from their place to have tea at our house. We always had cold leftover roast lamb with salad. In the afternoon mum began soaking pulled apart iceberg lettuce leaves and celery in the kitchen sink; she wanted to make sure they were washed properly. The salad was made up of iceberg lettuce, slices of hard-boiled egg, sliced tomato, chopped celery, and sliced Golden Circle beetroot; served on the same plate as the cold lamb. The beetroot juice turned the Heinz salad dressing a beautiful pink colour, which in turn turned the salad and cold roast lamb an elegant fuchsia rose colour.

image source:jmcadam

When granddad was working he ate beetroot six days a week; Sunday night at our place and five days a week for his lunch. I think Nanna grew beetroots in the backyard. She would have boiled them on her wood-burning kitchen stove; in due course, a gas stove with an oven took over from the woodstove. Nanna or granddad would have made beetroot sandwiches every workday morning; cutting two slices from a loaf of white bread, spreading some butter or dripping on the bread, and then slicing some cooked beetroot for the sandwich. Granddad’s beetroot sandwich was wrapped in greaseproof paper and the bread was soon stained with beetroot juice; he carried it to work in his kit bag with a thermos of hot tea. His kit bag was similar to a doctor’s leather Gladstone bag. Nobody confused granddad with being a doctor; he was a tinsmith. He caught the train to North Melbourne every morning at Newport station and then walked to John Buncle and Sons in Wreckyn Street. The bread in his beetroot sandwich would have become a deep ruby red by lunchtime.

image source:hungrycouplenyc.com

To a young secondary schoolboy, the concept of being able to buy your lunch at the school canteen was mind-blowing. Buying my lunch was a rare exception rather than the rule, and when I did I walked a little taller in the schoolyard. By today’s standards, the lunch choices were meagre, but we toiled over them; sandwiches or rolls, pies, pasties, sausage rolls, and a coffee scroll or raisin bun. I’d always choose a salad roll; a bread roll filled with shredded lettuce, grated carrots, sliced tomato, grated cheese, sliced cucumber, and sliced beetroot. At the start of the second class period, you wrote your name and form on a lunch bag and ticked off what you had painstakingly chosen for lunch. You’d put your money into the lunch bag and the lunch monitor would take all the lunch bags to the canteen. Ten minutes before the end of the before lunch class period the lunch monitor would go to the canteen and bring back a wire basket with all of the lunches. The bread in every salad roll was a delicate shade of pink. And it would become a challenge game in the boys dunny at recess to see who was producing the reddest stream.

I grew up with canned sliced beetroot. The Golden Circle company began in Queensland, Australia, in 1947 and over the years expanded to produce juice and drinks, cordials, fruits, and vegetables. If you’re buying beetroot Down Under you’ll be buying a can of Golden Circle. You can buy it sliced, diced, crinkle cut, pickled sliced, pickled baby, wedges, and whole baby beetroots; ready to plop on a dish, into a recipe, on a burger, salad, or sandwich. And if you want that little something to see you through the day, or substitute for a missed beetroot lunch, you can always throw into your shopping trolley a box of beetroot latte powder, wholegrain beetroot chips, sweet potato and beetroot chips, or a bag of mixed nuts coated with beetroot. It’s hard to find anything as yummy and moreish.

image source:jmcadam

I keep a jar of sliced pickled beets in the fridge for whenever I have a salad for lunch. But I think I need to return to where I came from. Granddad was a role model to beetroot lovers; my lunch will become six days a week beetroot inspired. It will be built upon beetroot, cheese, and Vegemite sandwiches, beetroot and asparagus salad, and diced beetroot, feta, and roasted pumpkin pizza; lunch will become pure pink ambrosia in my mouth.


Beetroot History – Origin and Historical Uses of Beetroot

Aussie Burger With The Lot

Only Nebraskans Know The Runza