Out to Lunch

By Mike Johnson

From 1962 through 1969 I stood in line for lunch with 30 other kids right here.
Cedar Manor Elementary was located in St Louis Park, a suburb of Minneapolis, MN.
These were my wonder years.

In those days, a hot lunch was 35 cents. A carton of milk was 2 cents. Dad would give us a check for $1.85 each week and we’d exchange it for 5 lunch tickets (green) and 5 milk tickets (red). You better not lose those tickets.

I remember fish sticks and baby round potatoes being a regular Friday meal. I used to slather them both in tartar sauce. Sloppy Joe’s were also a staple. Apple crisp was a common dessert.

Lunch imprinted so deeply because it was respite from classroom captivity. A different room. Freedom from focused attention. Friends and food. We could talk! Almost as good as recess and gym class.

The outside lawn and recess area remain. It was such torture to imagine myself outside, free on that beautiful lawn, while trapped inside class.

The gym remains. Most of the classrooms, the terrazzo floors and the brick walls are still intact.

Sadly, the school was remodeled and this cafeteria is now gone.
Worse, Minneapolis has been “remodeled” and normalcy is now gone.

Nothing lasts forever. Except memories. Which makes them the safest depository for priceless places, experiences and people.

I was an active real estate investor for 17 years. The one property I wanted to buy more than any other was this elementary school.

I would’ve combined a couple classrooms to build a beautiful home inside. Then I’d have left the rest of the school just as it was. It would be a museum of my youth. A time capsule of my captivity. A symbol of my victory over childhood restrictions.

I’d have lived in that school forever, but under my own schedule and my own terms.

I know this is silly.

I shared these dreams with the school principal two years ago. He gave me a personal tour. I gave him vintage history from the perspective of a 1960’s student. I think we both parted with a richer appreciation of how deeply schools imprint people.

Old schools often come to market after they become obsolete. This one never did. Still owned by the school district, it's evolved into a charter school. With all their remodel investments, it'll likely never be sold in my lifetime.

Which is for the best. I can travel there any time in my mind, under my own terms. Without the cost and hassle of ownership.

But just in case, as a hedge against fading memories, I long ago captured photos inside and outside the original building.

Which was very rational thinking for someone who already looks to be halfway out to lunch.



And then there was junior high school: The Study Carrel


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