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Steel drums

For a while the dinner centre at St Cecilia’s had to be closed. We were then sent down Green Lane to Lister Drive School which was the main dinner centre for the area. There the treatment was even worse. The dinner ladies were asked to hold another sitting for us with no extra pay for their extra work. Our school, and the children on free dinners in particular, fell further down the pecking order.

At Lister Drive I made a major discovery. The vans delivering food to the other schools in the area were often left unattended. From then on I had no need to suffer the torment of classes to get my free school dinners.

The vans would be filled with large steel drums of hot food, each with the name of the school to which they were to be delivered. I would play in the fields nearby and wait for the vans to come back after dinner. The drivers would leave their vehicles parked up while they had a tea break before unloading.

This would be our chance. Swarms of hungry kids, most of them truants from school, would descend on the vans and scrape out the food from the almost empty drums. There was never a great deal of meat left, but there was always lots of mashed potato and plenty of desserts such as custard or jam stuck to the insides. We would fill discarded tin cans with the leftovers and then return to the waste ground or the bombed-out houses to eat.

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