Description: Born, reared, and educated in the Okolona Public School System, Annie Thomas now makes her career in foodservice with this same school system. A great lover of children, being a mother and grandmother herself, Annie is happy to be working in the Okolona Elementary School cafeteria.
Jeffrey Boyce: I’m Jeffrey Boyce. I’m here today at the Okolona Elementary School with Annie Maeweather Thomas. It’s October 12, 2007. Thank you so much Annie for agreeing to share your story with me today.
Annie Thomas: You’re welcome.
JB: Can we begin by you telling me a little bit about yourself? Where were you born; where you grow up?
AT: Well, I was born right here in Okolona, Mississippi; grew up in Okolona, Mississippi; went to Okolona High School. I married and had four children.
JB: Four children?
AT: And grandkids.
JB: You’re not old enough to have grandchildren.
JB: OK. What were your earliest recollections, your first memories of child nutrition programs or school lunch?
AT: I remember going through the cafeteria line. The manager there was Mrs. Clytee Gibbs. She used to encourage me to eat my vegetables. I didn’t like vegetables very well at that time. It’s changed now since I’m grown up. I love vegetables.
JB: When was this, the 1960s?
JB: So there was always a school lunch program at your school then?
JB: And was there school breakfast?
AT: No, not until I started to work.
JB: How did you get into the child nutrition profession?
AT: Well, one day I just decided to put in an application. I waited a long time and then I got called. I started at the high school. A manager there referred me. The next day they moved me to the elementary school and I just love it.
JB: How long did you work at the high school?
AT: One day.
JB: So how long have you been at the elementary school?
AT: It’s been about nineteen years.
JB: What’s your favorite part of your job?
AT: I love to come in and serve the breakfast. I love the dishwasher. It’s strange, but I love the dishwasher. You know, I used to make homemade rolls.
JB: You don’t do that anymore?
AT: No, I don’t really have to make the rolls anymore.
JB: Do you still have that recipe?
AT: I don’t know if I still remember it.
JB: I think that’s everyone’s favorite, the cafeteria rolls.
JB: What about the children? Do you like interacting with the children?
AT: Oh yes!
JB: Any special stories over your career with the children?
AT: I’ve been there so long most of the kids call me Grandma.
JB: How long have you had breakfast at Okolona Elementary?
AT: I don’t remember, but it’s been quite a while.
JB: What about training?
AT: They started training me when I came in.
JB: On the job training then. I see.
JB Has there been anyone particularly influential or guided you in your career that’s helped you out along the way?
AT: Yes, the manager that I have now, Mrs. Jane Jantz.
JB: And how has she been helpful?
AT: If I ever have a problem I go to her and she handles everything. She’s a very nice person.
JB: So you have a really supportive staff here?
JB: What are some of the changes you’ve seen in child nutrition over the years in your career?
AT: One thing we make now is the Stromboli.
JB: What is a Stromboli for those that don’t know?
AT: Well, it’s a sandwich rolled on a pizza sheet. It’s got ham and cheese. You bake it in the oven and then slice it into sandwiches.
JB: What do you like best about your job; what’s the most special part?
AT: I guess seeing the children coming through. Sometimes they’ve got big smiles on their faces and sometimes they want a hug. That’s just special, real special.
JB: Well, thank you so much for sharing your story with me Annie. It’s been a pleasure.
AT: All right, thank you so much.