I was visiting a school in western South Dakota when it happened to me again. Despite my good intentions, I found myself at noon falling in with the 1st graders on their way to the hot-lunch room.
“Would you like one pig-in-the-blanket or do you think you can eat two?” the first serving lady asked as she spooned an extra portion of creamed corn onto my tray.
I choked back, “One will be enough,” and piped up with, “Oh, I believe I can handle two of them.” On down the line, the second serving lady saw me coming and stood ready with a double dip of cherry cobbler.
Yes, I’m an incurable hot-lunch fan and have been since about 1955, when I started work as a traveling school psychologist in Iowa. I’ve had some fascinating lunchroom experiences. For instance, there was the time I lined up with a 5th grade class for some kind of hot dish with green beans and applesauce. What I remember most, though, was the bin full of fresh, hot blueberry muffins at the end of the line. (The children were limited to one muffin, but visiting school psychologists were allowed to take two.)
We were well into the hot dish and applesauce when a lunchroom worker burst out of the kitchen brandishing a muffin with a rather conspicuous bite taken out of it. “Who took a bite of this muffin and put it back in the bin?” she bellowed. Nobody answered. “I’m waiting!” she threatened. No response. Then, predictably, “All right. Nobody leaves this room until I find out who took a bite from this muffin!” Nervously, I asked the child next to me how long he thought she’d keep us here.
“Don’t worry,” he replied. “Just keep your eye on Ray, over there in the 6th grade section.” Just then, Ray raised his hand.
“Did you take a bite out of this muffin and then put it back in the bin?” stormed the worker. Ray nodded solemnly.
“Then you just sit there and eat every bite of it!” she commanded.
As Ray munched away, my seat-mate leaned over and whispered: “Ray wasn’t the one. He’s just the kind of guy who doesn’t mind taking the blame to get other kids out of trouble. And besides, he really likes blueberry muffins.”
Wherever Ray is today, I hope he is still demonstrating those leadership qualities. And I hope he still gets an occasional blueberry muffin.
A version of this article appeared in the September 29, 1982 edition of Education Week as Pass The Muffines