Interviewee: June Crews

Interviewer: Meredith Johnston

Date: March 3, 2004

Location: National Food Service Management Institute

Description: June Crews worked as the school lunch program supervisor in Charlottesville, Virginia from 1965 – 1966. Ms. Crews graduated from Mississippi State College for Women, now Mississippi University for Women, with a Home Economics degree and then taught Home Economics in Brookhaven, Mississippi.

Meredith Johnston: This is Meredith Johnston and I am here at the Child Nutrition Archives at the National Food Service Management Institute. It is March 3, 2004 and I am interviewing Ms. June Crews. Ms. Crews, would you tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up and where you have lived?

June Crews: Yes, I was born June Lowry in Pontotoc, Mississippi, at the corner of Oxford and Main, in a house; I was born in a house. I’ve lived all over the state of Mississippi. I was a Depression baby, born June 25, 1930, and that was right, I considered myself a Depression baby. I lived in Pontotoc for a while. Actually, I remember that I had my fourth birthday in Oxford. My father was in school here that summer and then he was a school principal, first, I remember, in Artesia and then later in Redwood, Mississippi. And, this is, Redwood is near Vicksburg, and so we lived around Vicksburg; he was principal of the schools at Redwood and Culkin. Culkin Academy I remember. But I really feel like I grew up in New Albany, Mississippi. I was there from the time I was in the sixth grade through high school. I went to school at MSCW, Mississippi State College for Women, as it was then.

MJ: That’s the W now?

JC: That’s the W, MUW. It was a very happy time at the W. I was a Home Ec major, and then when I graduated from MSCW I went to Brookhaven to teach, to teach Home Economics in the high school there. And I’m sorry we don’t call it Home Economics now.

MJ: I took Home Economics in the seventh grade.

JC: I started in the seventh grade. I had it every year, I think, while I was in high school and loved my Home Ec teacher, and that’s the reason I went into…

MJ: She inspired you?

JC: That’s right. And I would see her occasionally through the years, even after I, even after I taught school and I would go back to the W for class reunions, and I would occasionally get to see my old Home Ec teacher. I’ve lived, basically I’ve lived all over the state of Mississippi as a young person, and then I married in 1953. John was City Editor of the paper in Brookhaven at that time, and from Brookhaven we moved to Meridian, where he was in newspaper work, and then to Jacksonville, FL, where he was editorial writer for the Jacksonville paper. From Jacksonville, oh, and in Brookhaven we had our first child, David. Our second child, Billy, was born in Meridian, and the girls were born in Jacksonville.

MJ: How did you wind up in school food service?

JC: Okay, after about five years in newspaper work in Virginia and Jacksonville, and then in Daytona, we moved to Daytona, where John was, worked on the newspaper there, and it was a paper that he liked very much. He’d finally gotten to a paper that he really liked, but he came to Oxford one summer to investigate the NDEA program, which they were giving, they needed teachers at that time, so they were, you know, they had a National Defense Education Act. And so he applied for a scholarship and was accepted at the University of Virginia. At that time I knew that a lot of his friends were going into teaching or were going back to school, but we thought we were pretty well set in newspaper work. We had not even talked about going back to school, but we talked about it, accepted the scholarship or fellowship at the University of Virginia, and we were there for five years, five happy years at the University of Virginia. He had a fellowship for three years, and the fourth year he taught English in the Engineering School at the University of Virginia, but that fifth year he needed to finish his dissertation, because we did not want to leave Virginia without PhD in hand. So, I needed a job, and as I was looking for a job, someone who saw my resume said, “Oh, you should take my position.” And she was the first school lunch supervisor for the city of Charlottesville. So, here I was, had never had a class in [nutrition], and she insisted, that yes, I could be the school lunch supervisor. Did I mention that I taught school in Brookhaven? I did remember, okay.

MJ: You did, you mentioned that, and you taught Home Ec classes.

JC: Yes, I taught Home Economics.

MJ: So you had been a Home Economics teacher.

JC: Yes, in Brookhaven, when we first married.

MJ: Okay, you had that on your resume.

JC: Right, I had that on my resume, and I was a Home Ec major, and I needed a job.

MJ: Now what year was this?

JC: This was in 1965. I guess it was in the spring, I was looking for a job for the school year of ’65-66. And, well, and I’m intimidated by this machine.

MJ: Oh no, sorry. We don’t want you to be intimidated by the machine; you’re doing great. Well, so you accepted the position as school lunch supervisor in Charlottesville, Virginia.

JC: Yes, and I remember that in helping me to get prepared for this she was so nice, this school lunch supervisor who insisted that, yes, I could take her place. And she was so nice, and she took me to the state school lunch convention that, I guess, early summer. I guess it was held soon after school was out, and, or at the end of the year, maybe at the end of the school year on the weekend. Anyway, that was a good, that was a good introduction to school lunch programs, to the school lunch program, and she managed to teach me a lot. I think I started working with her for about a month before she left.

MJ: You talked a little bit about how you were chosen for the position. What were your responsibilities in that position?

JC: Okay, my responsibilities were meal planning. I planned all the meals along with my, I had seven school lunch managers, but I basically planned all the meals, and we did that by the month. We would have a meeting once a month with all the school lunch managers, and plan the meals for the month. We had a centralized program, and we all used the same menu, the same Type A meals for the month. I did all the buying for the city, all the hiring and firing. I got called at five o’clock many a morning to tell me that someone was not going to be able to be at school that day and we needed a substitute. I paid the bills. I did have a bookkeeper in my office, my office was in the elementary school that was right near the central office. The central office for the city of Charlottesville was behind the school. And so I had a young man who had, who had been a bookkeeper for the school lunch supervisor before me, so he knew something about this. He was just a young man who had been out of, out of school just a couple years, and, but he had had the benefit of the year before with another school lunch supervisor, so he did know how the program was set up. Actually, we did all the buying. We wrote all the checks for the, for the school lunch workers, including my own check. I remember that, I wrote my own check. I signed it. It was also signed by Mr. Sutpen, who was the assistant principal at that time, but we wrote all the checks for the school lunch managers and workers. And we had, you know, we did have freezers in a central location where we kept our commodities, because we had a lot of commodities from the federal government.

MJ: So the centralized kitchen had already been set up, or you did have a centralized kitchen?

JC: Well, we didn’t have one kitchen.

MJ: Okay.

JC: We had a kitchen in each of the schools, and we had, I had seven school lunch managers. One school lunch manager at the high school, one at the junior high, and that year we were building two new junior high schools, and the junior high students were coming on a split day. Half the junior high students in Charlottesville went to school in the morning and half in the afternoon. At that time, the junior high was a formerly black high school in Charlottesville, and the, anyway we did do the, we had five elementary schools.

MJ: Any kind of middle schools?

JC: Well, we didn’t call them middle schools; we just said junior high.

MJ: Okay

JC: Okay, there would be, the next year there were two junior highs, but that year they were two different halves but they were combined into one school, and just met half a day. At that school we did not have school lunch, we had two milk programs for those schools. We also were in charge of buying, that year we were in charge of buying equipment for the new, two new junior high schools. I remember, because I remember the trays that we bought; they were blue. They were blue fiberglass, I think, trays that we bought.

MJ: Why were they blue, do you know?

JC: Because blue is my favorite color. Because I picked out that color. But anyway, we did equip the, you know, we were in charge of input in equipping the schools. You know, we had something to say, I had something to say about what equipment they would have. Now particularly, when it got done, I had more input into the actual, you know, dishes and things that we needed for that. I’m sure not so much the big equipment, though I do remember, I do remember a good bit about the types of stoves and different things that we had. We had one, we had one dishwasher in one of the schools that was some army surplus dishwasher, and it was a tremendous thing. I got called in a lot to help work on dishwashers when they’d break down.

MJ: You were the repair lady?

JC: I was the repair lady. And I also, you know, if someone didn’t come and we didn’t, I didn’t manage to get a substitute, I also scraped dishes. I went around to all the schools every week I’m sure. Oh, I forgot to mention that I have a, I had a car. I had an army surplus car to use. It was a camouflage color car, it was an old car but it ran, and that was very nice for me to have my own car. And so I used that car to go to and from school and to and from all seven schools that I was overseeing.

MJ: Okay, well, could you describe the city of Charlottesville during the mid-60s, and what the school system was like at that time.

JC: Before we went to Charlottesville I believe the schools had closed for one year because of integration. But by the time I got there in, by the time we moved to Charlottesville, and we moved to Charlottesville in the early ’60s, about ’61. By the time we got there the schools were open, and the schools had been integrated. There was no, there was no separate high school. I’m having to remember this because I, not having anyone in high schools, but the schools were integrated. There were five elementary schools, and I do remember that one of them was primarily black, but they were all integrated, all the schools were. And that, so I can’t remember, I can’t remember just when those schools closed in Virginia, that would be something good for you to look up, because that did happen. Did you have another question?

MJ: Well, in regards to that then, in the school lunch, in the operation of the school lunch program were there any racial tensions or anything?

JC: No, there were no racial tensions at all that I encountered in the, when I was School Lunch Supervisor at all. We had a great, one of the school lunch managers was black; she was very fine. And there were no tensions that I came in contact with in school lunch. We had a lot of, you know, we served a lot of free lunches in all the schools, I remember, but it wasn’t based on race at all.

MJ: Could you tell us about the state convention that was in Charlottesville during the time that you were the School Lunch Supervisor? This was the State Food Service Convention.

JC: I may have mentioned that I went to a school lunch convention the year before, and while I was at this convention they voted to meet in Charlottesville the next year, which would mean that I would, that they were coming to Charlottesville my first year as School Lunch Supervisor for the city. And this was rather frightening to me, but we had a great convention that year in one of the hotels. And I remember that as School Lunch Supervisor, and along with my seven school lunch managers, that we had to get ready for, for the dignitaries coming, and we had to, you know, we fixed baskets of fruit to have in the rooms, and we fixed flowers and did a lot in preparation for this. We weren’t responsible for the meetings there, because that was done on a state level, but we did attend and enjoyed the convention there in Charlottesville.

MJ: Are there any interesting stories that come to mind from your time as School Lunch Supervisor? Any special memories, whether its with your staff or with the students?

JC: I can’t remember any, any particular stories. I may think of one later. May have mentioned that…

MJ: Ms. Crews, could you talk a little bit about meal planning and that process.

JC: We had monthly meetings, I had monthly meetings with the school lunch managers, and we would get together and talk about anything we needed to concerning school lunch, and plan the menus for the next month, and we used a Type A meal. We, all of the managers would have favorite meals that they had done, favorite things, so we would use favorite meals for the month, but we all used the same meal. All the schools in charge would use the same meal. We did things probably a little different from the way they are done today. For instance, we made all of our breads, all of our hamburger buns, hotdog buns, rolls, pies, anything, we made from scratch. And we had neat cutters for the hamburger rolls and the hotdog buns. I can remember that we did manage to have pretty good equipment so that we could do that, but we didn’t think about buying bread, or anything else. You know, we didn’t buy any prepackaged, we cooked from scratch. We had our government commodities, which were in a central location, you know, we had, we generally had plenty of meat, chickens, turkeys, so forth. I’m trying to think of other commodities that we had. I remember peanut butter was one of the commodities, but anyway, we pretty much cooked from scratch. And of course we had recipes to pass out if we needed those. And then I went around to the different schools, every week I’m sure, to visit, to visit the different schools. And I had, did I mention that I had a car? An army surplus car that I drove around to all the schools. I got a, I had a lot of input from the managers, my managers were great. They had all been there for at least a year or two before I was, so they definitely knew what was going on.

MJ: Could you talk a little bit about centralized buying?

JC: Yes, we felt, in fact, it had been shown that we saved a lot of money by centralized buying for the, for the city of Charlottesville. We could do a better job than having it bought individually by the different schools. And also, if someone wanted to come and try to sell me something, they had to come and sell it to me. They didn’t sell it to the seven managers. In other words, I got to speak to…

MJ: Well who came? Was it the different vendors?

JC: Perhaps, perhaps. But anyway, we made the decision this way, and bought in bulk and it worked out better. By using the centralized program, we did save money for the city, yes. It was a better system. Also, we thought we served better meals by planning together, and in other words, you didn’t get in such a rut with meals. You did have different meals different months, we planned for a month, you know, at a time.
MJ: Anything else you would like to add to the interview?

JC: I enjoyed my, my year as School Lunch Supervisor. I was scared to death, but I enjoyed it and learned a lot. It was hard work, I worked all the time, but I look back on it as, as a great year. And, I still push the type A lunch. I’m not really happy with some of the things I see going on in schools, you know, like Coke machines and things like that because we were trained to – oh, another thing we did that I haven’t mentioned, we worked in education too. We tried to educate the children, and I would visit classrooms and, and talk about, talk about nutrition and talk about what we should have to eat. That we should have Vitamin C every day, and we should have Vitamin A. We were required to have Vitamin C every day in a type A lunch and Vitamin A twice a week, you know, so we probably used a lot of carrots.

MJ: Well, how did you teach the children? What method did you use? And did they, what kind of reaction from them did you get?

JC: I can’t remember, I’m sure that the classes I enjoyed going to were usually in the elementary school. We were usually working with young people. And I’m also sure that the teachers that I worked with were very interested in nutrition, and in teaching children nutrition. And I think that that’s one thing maybe children don’t learn enough about. Do we get this in school today? And do they get it in the early years, I don’t really know? I did work with the teachers too.

MJ: Could you talk a little bit more about that, about some of your experiences in working with them? What sort of teachers, would it have been elementary?

JC: Elementary teachers, yes. I don’t remember going into the high schools to teach, and you know, we had Home Ec teachers in the high school, and so I’m sure they taught this so I didn’t teach, but I would be invited to some of the elementary school classrooms, and we did try to educate the children. Of course we had, we had a lot of, the free lunch program was a big thing too. I’m sure we had lots of free lunches, but everyone got the same lunch. And if my children didn’t want to buy school lunch, which was twenty-five cents by the way, twenty-five cents a day. But, if my children didn’t want to buy school lunch, they had to make their own lunch before they left home, even though they were just in the first, second, fourth, and sixth grades. If they didn’t want to buy the school lunch they had to fix their food at home. And then, then they would still participate in the Milk Program. Somehow the Milk Program and the School Lunch Program were a little, you know, you could, if you didn’t want school lunch you could still buy the milk.

MJ: Was there chocolate milk?

JC: No, no I don’t believe we could serve chocolate milk at all.

MJ: Okay, what types of reports did you, did you file?

JC: Oh, these were federal reports that had to be sent in, I believe, every month, and so we did a centralized report, but each school manager filled out a report form, gave it to me, and then we did a centralized report to the government every month, I believe. There was a lot of paperwork to this, and I wish I had some of that paperwork so I wish I could explain or remember just what we did, but there’s –

MJ: A lot of paperwork.

JC: A lot of paperwork.

MJ: Anything else you’d like to add?

JC: Just that I enjoyed it, did I say that.

MJ: Yes, but you can’t say it enough.

JC: Just that it was hard work, but I enjoyed it. I worked, if I remember correctly, I worked eight to five, I didn’t have a school day. I pretty much worked eight to five. My husband, who was in his fifth year in graduate work working on his dissertation, had to get the children off to school in the morning, had to definitely be at home when they came home in the afternoon and take care of them until suppertime. Then I guess I came home and cooked dinner.

MJ: You were busy. Well, we certainly appreciate you taking the time to let us talk with you. I’m so glad we had this opportunity, and this will be part of the Child Nutrition Archives now.

JC: Well thank you very much for inviting me. I enjoyed talking about it. I think school lunch is important. I want to see it continue.

MJ: I do to. Could you tell us a little bit about your salary?

JC: My salary for that year was five thousand dollars for the year, and I didn’t mention that I worked eleven months out of the year. I think that way the school system didn’t have to give me a vacation. But I worked eleven months for five thousand dollars, which, I think, at that time would have been about the pay for a second year teacher. I think perhaps, that’s how they based our salaries, because I had taught Home Economics before and I believe I was on about the level of a second year teacher.

MJ: Do you recall the salary for other school food service workers?

JC: No I don’t, I do not recall, I don’t recall what my school managers made. I wish I did. And I don’t know what the workers made.

MJ: What hours did they work?

JC: They worked pretty much school hours, and I guess they perhaps went home about the time or before, about the time school was out they were through cleaning, and perhaps a little earlier, but I worked until five as I remember. Four thirty or five, whatever the hours were at that time.