Interviewee: Lucille Barnett
Interviewers: Meredith Johnston, Virginia Webb
Date: September 23, 2004
Location: Greenville, SC
Description: Lucille Barnett grew up in Union County, South Carolina, in the 1930s and 40s. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina. She served as Supervisor of County and City School Food Service in Spartanburg, South Carolina, for thirty-three years. From 1973-1974 she served as American School Food Service Association President. She resides in South Carolina. See also the Lucille Barnett Photograph Collection and the Lucille Barnett Manuscript Collection.
MJ: Our names are Meredith Johnston and Virginia Webb and we are here with Ms. Lucille Barnett in Greenville, South Carolina. Ms. Barnett, thank you for being with us. Could you tell us a little about yourself and where you grew up?
LB: Well, I live in Greenville now and I was married to Frank Barnett, and he is deceased. But I grew up in Union, South Carolina, I haven’t strayed far from home, on a dairy farm and had just one sister. It became our duty to help deliver milk; I decided that’s how I got swift on my feet in my early days getting up to these houses and getting away. It was wonderful growing up and I say now I was eating organic food all my life and didn’t know how wonderful it was until they tell us now that it has to be grown on the farm. We did have a big production; we never had any problem with shortage of food. My sister and I still own the farm in Union, 650 acres. I went to Lander University and got a B.S. degree in home economics and taught home economics for a few years. Then a friend of mine who was a school principal, in fact we used to rotate riding to our jobs together, ran for Superintendent of Education in Spartanburg County and he was elected. So he immediately decided that I had to become School Food Service Director. I’m just, you know, balking all the time but I finally did decide that it might be a new venture. I was just a born schoolteacher I always said but, you know, in food service we taught just as much as we ever did. I was the assistant for a couple of years and then Ms. Davenport, a lovely lady, retired to have a family and I became the supervisor. I was there thirty-three years and saw a lot of changes. Spartanburg had seven school districts, each one autonomous with a superintendent at its head. It became my duty that all seven were under one school lunch at that time, school lunch department. I was constantly having to keep everybody going and keep peace. At that time we had 109 schools in the seven districts and I would meet annually or more often if necessary with the Superintendents and then I’d have principals’ meetings. Libb Hadden became my assistant after I became supervisor, and we had a good relationship. I don’t believe in bad relationships, and I saw an awful lot of progress.
MJ: What time period would this have been?
LB: Oh, I joined School Food Service in 1951 and I became the Director two years later. And, as I say about those superintendents, I used to say keeping them under control in a meeting was like trying to keep puppies in a box.
MJ: Oh my goodness.
LB: You know, each one was bobbing up; I don’t guess they had any other lady come in to tell them what they had to do. But we became good friends and had great progress in the food service in Spartanburg. We always had a high percent participation, good menus; those were the days when people ate real food. We won’t get into that right now. Anyway.
MJ: What is your earliest recollection of child nutrition programs, school lunch?
LB: Well when I was in school, back in the ‘40s, it had not become a national thing. The School Lunch Act, you know, was passed in ’46, but we had a local effort. They offered us a sandwich and milk, and incidentally, in elementary school we were served a half-pint bottle, half-pint bottle of milk, and my father furnished the milk. I never shall forget, it was in this big heavy, I can see them now. Cartons, I mean bottles, a big ol’ wire rack, and he brought these big racks of bottles of milk to the schools and we had this school principal, a lady, Ms. McDeal, and there was one bottle that had not been completely drunk. In those days you ate and drank what was put before you, especially in public places. One half-pint was not consumed and before everybody she said, who did not drink this milk. This poor little country girl, me, raised my hand, you know, we told the truth then too. And she said, why. I was terrified of that woman, and I said, “because my father brings the milk here and I have plenty at home.” But anyway, that was my first recollection but we didn’t have a true School Lunch Program in those days. When I was teaching home economics, that school had begun a feeble one, and of course I became the advisor and I think that’s where I really got my hands into seeing in-depth what went on. I just got into it. I had great friends and good managers and very, very skilled people who brought their home preparation methods, but they learned to adjust them. We’d pick out a person who was doing something outstanding like making yeast rolls. Everybody knew how to make biscuits and cornbread but not necessarily yeast rolls. And I’ll never forget Mrs. Pettit, everybody called her Ma Pettit, made the most gorgeous yeast rolls, so we said, Ma, you’re going to go with us to all seven districts and teach everybody how to make rolls. She nearly fainted but she did it and we had the most gorgeous bread you ever tasted. In the early days everything was totally controlled by the Type A pattern, which was wise. People ate because they were hungry and it was very much what they had at home, good meals. We didn’t allow meat to be purchased but once or twice a month because we got USDA commodities, and I know you’ve heard of USDA commodities. They were wonderful, cheese, butter; we just greased everybody up something wonderful. You know, here today we holler about cholesterol, back then we had to serve two teaspoons (of butter) per child per meal, some outlandish amount. We did everything, made good, had to make good cobblers and good bread because we had to use that butter. But also we got some weirdo, I would say, commodities: black olives, prunes, you know, big boxes, apricots, things that we were very unfamiliar with. I think very much the prunes, after we got Youth Advisory Councils, we had them in Spartanburg and I’d have them come talk to our managers, which is something that was muchly needed. I never shall forget this adorable black boy who was speaking and talking about different things and he said, “Now I’m going to tell you, them prunes is one thing that ain’t going to march.” They found out these things, and in the early days they introduced TVP, textured vegetable protein, which is a soy product. It was introduced through School Food Service; they dumped TVP on us, well it wasn’t long till everybody came down the serving line, “Is that stuff in the hamburgers?” They’d heard about that stuff; we had a difficult time with TVP, textured vegetable protein; you find it in everything today. Archer Daniel Midland, I shall never forget the company that produced TVP. We’d say, “Here we are serving TVP from ADM through USDA.” We could set up; we could purchase it through PYA. We would sit up and rattle off all of these things. But something else, the olives were black olives and they had been pitted, they had a hole through them. We would put out bowls hoping they would try them. This one little boy looked at them and he said, “Good god, somebody done shot a hole through them grapes.” There was a lot of comedy and fun in it as well.
MJ: I heard about that.
LB: Well we got these long carcasses (of lamb) and we got them just as school was closing for the year (USDA commodities). And of course we were, you know, in awe of them ourselves, but they just looked like a body. They were a body, but you could relate them to looking like a human body, and they had them in those sack things, you know, they’d pull over meat. They were frozen and we unloaded the freight car and put them in our storage, central storage which we rented. Had these black people bring them in. They stacked them up; they were frozen and they put them in this freezer room so we thought. But the problem was we didn’t have enough air circulation. Came September and we had already had all these meetings and showing everybody eleven different ways to cook lamb. We had to take all of those things out; we had enough out in the fall to get cut up. Had to get the things cut up. Swift & Co. burned up their saws sawing up frozen lamb for us. But anyway, as they began to take them out in September to take them to the schools I looked at Robert, I said Robert. One of the men, he had one of those carcasses over his shoulder. I said, “That thing bent!” “Yes ma’am, they spoiled.” So anyway, no circulation in the freezer and they were ruined, but that’s just one of those things you get into.
MJ: Well when would this have been, the lambs?
LB: I always relate these things to who was president. The olives came in Richard Nixon’s day and I always say, “Hmm, strange that California black olives come here.” Maybe in the sixties or seventies, right along in there.
LB: And we had some commodities like bulgur, as Libb Hadden’s mentioned; some things nobody ever heard of. We had lots of cornmeal and sometimes they were overly abundant, overly generous with us. Certain commodities we did not order the quantity; they just sent us tons of stuff. And Spartanburg was a central point, so not only did we have to distribute to our hundred and something schools, but the surrounding counties, Union, Cherokee, all these counties around us, little counties, and we issued their commodities, which was great fun of course. But anyway, I always think of the misnomers that people have; people think rats love cheese, and I guess they do. But we would store, this was processed cheese, six five pound loaves in a box, you know, vacuum packed. It was a food, not, I don’t want to say better quality than Velveeta but it was on that type. It’s a processed cheese and it could be stored at room temperature, cool room, so we would store cheese in the warehouse, not in the freezer. And no mouse ever came in there and bothered the cheese. But we would bring cornmeal in one afternoon, and the next day the mice or rats or something had come in some way and cut some of the bags of cornmeal, which shows that we have some strange ideas about what keeps and what doesn’t. Anyway, those are just a few asides of what went on. Also along the way there in the sixties, the State Department through the Agency of International Development (USAID) was selecting people to go to lesser developed countries and help them with whatever problem they might have. They developed this program of sending food service directors and dieticians to countries with food service problems, and so I went to Algeria.
MJ: Oh my goodness.
LB: And was there for two months in ’66. That was an interesting; people say I know you had a good time. Uh-uh, I didn’t have a good time but it was a very interesting experience. And Dottie Burr, who was the home economist for the raisin and pineapple industry. Dr. Perryman called me, I’ll never forget, I was in a black school and talking on the phone in the cafeteria. And he said, Lucille, we want you to go to Algeria. And I thought, yes, I said, “Oh, Algeria, it’s way over there isn’t it?” No idea. “Yes, it’s on the coast of North Africa.” And he said, “And then you get someone to go with you who is qualified.” So Dottie Burr and I had two months, the months of November and December. You think it’s cold here? It’s cold in North Africa too. But we survived it. I came home and said I don’t know so much about this sanitation, but that we holler about all the time, because it sure wasn’t practiced bless their souls. I’m sure they’re not doing any better today. But it was interesting. We can’t get into Algeria though. It was, as we say, character building. What’s next?
MJ: Well, you talked about starting in 1951, and then 1953 you became director. Now what other positions have you had in the profession?
LB: Well, I’m ADA, American Dietetic, and I was President of the South Carolina Dietetic Association, and I held some positions at the ADA headquarters office. I was President, of course, of South Carolina School Food Service. Our State Director, and I must give her wonderful credit, Ms. Kathleen Gaston, was a saint and very dedicated. She drove us and we went, and that made South Carolina have a wonderful program. Now prior to her there was a Mr. William Garrison, Mr. W. H. Garrison, and he was a good person too. We had one director of commodity services at the state level, and those people, that was all. They ran the program, they laid all the groundwork, they had us in workshops, and we did and produced, and money was very, very short. The School Lunch Act says, no child will be denied lunch because of his inability to pay, but the appropriation was never added. The appropriation to the state was based on some goofy rule about the number of children in the state. Well, in some states nobody ate, you know, very low. Our state everybody ate; we had 75% of students eating. So money would run out before the end of the year. And we gain some things and we lose some things. The communities were wonderful to help with feeding needy children. We made a lot of talks to Sunday Schools, to civic groups, and a lot of individuals contributed. We would have, there was a section on the records where you listed that so-and-so Sunday School class, the Blue Flower (class) I remember, gave five dollars. That would feed a lot of children. We were required to be so frugal that we could serve ten percent free out of our operation, and frugal was what we had to be, and commodities saved the day. So that was what went on in the early days, but I say churches and those kind of people had a very warm feeling toward the program, and so did. And industry, industry did more talking sometimes than they did money, but they were generous with helping us out with food when we got in a bind. But everybody was not fed; it wasn’t always possible. You know, the population varied from area to area, but it met a lot of needs.
MJ: Was there someone, a mentor who was influential in directing you in the child nutrition field?
LB: Well, of course once I got into the program, as I say, my superintendent friend was the one who insisted that he thought I should take the job, and I guess I give him credit for enticing me to get into school feeding. I say, Ms. Gaston was a very dynamic, not high profile, but you knew where you stood, and you knew when she said you’re going to make a study of dishwashing compounds. I’ll never forget this, make a report at our state workshop. I said, “Ms. Gaston, isn’t there something more interesting I could do?” But you know, I did it. And I say, she then patted us on the back and said, “You just go ahead darling, you’ll get it done.” But anyway, other than that, I think my first – I went to, about every other year, I rotated with Libb (Elizabeth Hadden), going to national conventions and we all had a good time. And I very early knew Eleanor Pratt, and I think Eleanor, somebody at USDA, was given the job of getting some people to do a study of school lunch menus around the country. And Louise Sublette from Tennessee, and I and Eleanor Pratt were the three who were selected, appointed, or something. And I never will forget the first time I met with Louise Sublette was for breakfast at seven o’clock in the morning in, somewhere, one of the national conventions. And I thought that she had the strangest accent, nasal, Tennessee nasal, very Tennessee nasal. After we talked and made our plans and everything she looked at me and said, “Well honey, we’ll have a good program, but I don’t know if they’re going to understand that accent of yours.” And here I was sitting there looking at this lady thinking they aren’t going to understand you. But anyway, we made, apparently we did a great job because that got me invited to a lot of state and other state meetings, and that way we just got a friendship going. And then I was nominated as a candidate for Secretary of ASFSA. You have to be on the, at that time, I guess it’s still true. You know, when we retire and get other interests we don’t mess with how the Association is run. But at that time you had to be on the Executive Board before you could be nominated for President, which was a good rule. And I was National Secretary in the sixties sometime, and then Louise was nominated as President. We had become good buddies, and she said, “I think you ought to be a candidate.” “Louise, I don’t want to.” Well anyway, that went along and I got nominated as they say, and I beat a Yankee girl. I’ve forgotten her name, but anyway, it was big fun as to who was going to win. And from Louise on, I showed you that there was a big string, they called it the Southern caucus. But we did Southern caucus and decide who was going to get on the ballot, and all of them good girls. And didn’t have many men. Men were President in the early eras, had some great men. Dave Page and George Mueller and then all of a sudden it became a female dominated thing. I don’t think there’s been a man since then. But anyway, we began to have changes in school feeding, a little bit of choice, and that just disturbed everybody, especially the kitchen help, you know. Okay, we can’t do all of that. I had this big banner which said, “The only thing constant is change.” You know that classic, Margaret Meade, the great anthropologist, was the first person who ever put that fact before us. I drilled that into them so much that occasionally, if I run into one they’ll say, “The only thing constant is change.” I say, “Don’t you see it all around you?” But anyway, we changed and began to introduce a little bit of choice. The thing is plate waste just absolutely – we had wonderful menus, even served liver. Can you believe that, in the early days? We would have pretty standard, macaroni pie and you would have to have additional protein, that cheese wasn’t enough so you’d give them a peanut butter cookie or some kind of a dessert with maybe cheese in the pastry. All kind of ways we had of doing things. We’d have peach cobbler and put a lot of those dried apricots in it, because they didn’t know what apricots were, but they made the cobbler taste much better. And dried beans were a great salvation, a wonderful protein; the children liked them. One of the requirements was to serve Vitamin C every day, well, that gets to be much. If you try to put Vitamin C, so the poor children were slawed to death. Cole slaw was rich, you know, cabbage, green peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruit, some greens. You get past that you don’t have that much left. You try to bring that into every day. So anyway, cooked cabbage. They ate these things back then, but then they began to get – industry came in with pizza and, you know, first of all was McDonalds, you know, and then Hardees and then we got pizza. And none of this was known in the early days, we didn’t know the words, couldn’t probably spell them. And then the Mexican food came in. I’ll never forget the first Mexican fiasco I had. We decided it was time to have a Mexican meal. I can see them now looking at that plate, and we had done introductions through teachers and we had tacos and told what it was. My husband was a food broker and owned his own business, and he represented a Mexican food company out of Mesa, Arizona. And I’ll never forget he came home laughing and said, “I called them out there in Arizona and told them to send me so many hundred cases of tacos (pronounced with a long “a,” “tay-cos”).” And they said, “Now Mr. Barnett, if you’re going to sell these you have to learn how to pronounce it, it’s tacos.” He said, “Look, I can sell your products, but I don’t have to eat them and I don’t have to pronounce them.” Of course, you know, Mexican food to people at that time was not something you went out buying. But with the fast food industry and more money, more sophistication, and television, it undermined the good turnip greens, cole slaw, something else we used to do, meatloaf. And, but one of their favorite meals, which always amazed me because I grew up eating homemade vegetable soup, but see we made homemade vegetable soup. One of their favorite meals was vegetable soup with a wedge of cornbread, pimento cheese sandwich, and a fruit dessert. I never did quite, that was a shock to me, but I was always pleased with these kind of things.
MJ: Well what happened when you served the Mexican food then? Did anyone eat it?
LB: Oh, they made a, they made a feeble effort. But, of course, we were overly generous with what we served, too much, gave them too much variety. It’s like a child said to me going down the serving line and I, you know, we’d talk to them. And I said, “Now isn’t it nice that you can select what you want?” when we were trying to introduce choice. And she looked at me and said, “Well what do I want?” you know, just in panic. Of course, little people need guidance, big people need guidance; we all need supervision. I say, “The two things that will make anybody go is discipline and motivation.” And we, those are the two things you’ve got to have and have it kindly. But anyway that was, it became, oh it was finally introduced. Pizza was wonderful, they wanted it; they made the best pizza in school you ever tasted. Of course we had government beef and government cheese, that was a good day meal wise and price wise. And then we got all this choice and then they all wanted hamburgers. And then they started, you know, even in my day we were given a choice. You know, you could offer them a hamburger with cheese and that, you know, any assortment but you still. The principal didn’t allow you but for a certain length of time, they would tell you very quickly, this school does not operate around school lunch. And I was well aware of that so we did the best we could with offering choice. But parents were always meddling too, not bad, but I used to get some lashings from mothers particularly. You could tell when a child was pampered by what his mother said to you. Things like, “Why don’t you cook that bologna before you put it in a sandwich?” “Well honey, bologna is cooked when you get it. If you’ll look at the bologna you don’t cook it, you give it to them raw.” You know, this is the kind of conversation you’d get, which that mother had put hers on and grilled it in a pan, which does make it taste a little bit better maybe. But anyway, that’s the kind of thing that we’d get into. A lot of mothers wanted to plan all the menus, so we would bring in advisors; they didn’t last long. But really in’73 and ’74 school lunch was having a beating because of plate waste, and plate waste was terrible. They did not eat cabbage any more, they didn’t eat English peas anymore. I would do studies, we would take the no.10 cans that the English peas were poured out of, set them over here and say, now as you are cleaning these plates try to put the peas back in the pan. Three fourths of the peas were returned. They, this was beginning to get a different generation from those that had good nutrition. Cabbage was banned, they weren’t eating it. Turnip greens, mercy me. But I think people tend to come back to their senses; people come back to their raising. I might say that maybe that’s why I got into food service, because I like every food there is. I don’t dislike anything, and what it comes back to, we’re not born with any likes and dislikes; we learn them. We learn them and my mother loved food and she cooked good vegetables. And that’s what’s wrong with children today. You know, they’re mighty nice children; I can’t say too much against them. They’ve got a lot of advantages over what we had when we came along.
MJ: Well what, what other changes, maybe in training have you seen as far as school food service workers?
LB: Well, there’s been more help from State Departments. There’s SIFT (Summer Institute of Foodservice Training, often sponsored by the South Carolina SNA), which is just a name for one of the programs. There’s been a lot more training offered. We were trained and retrained, had a lot of state workshops. And the best of what was being done was presented and offered as to be duplicated and sort of mandated; this is a good thing. We had workshops; we had, in the early days we had a workshop for the black people and a workshop for the white people. And I can tell you some things but we won’t get into those. Food was mighty good for both of them, but the salesman who came said it was better on the black day. Anyway, we had mighty good food. I remember one of the managers said, after the children, after everybody was served, what food was left, if the principal allowed it, they would offer it to children and they would come and get it. But they had to get it with a clean plate and they had to, they had to see that they had eaten it, there’s nothing wrong with that. And I remember Mrs. Israel, one of the loveliest ladies, had one little boy she showed me. I was out there one day when she had liver, and she had made homemade biscuits, and she said he ate nine biscuits with a piece of liver in it, and that showed you that children were hungry. But as I say, our people that we had in the food service were not trained, but they were grand people, mothers, grandmothers and they made the best cooks in the world, and they wanted to work. And we had constant monthly workshops either countywide and we’d say, bring four pieces of your cornbread today. And everybody put the cornbread out and you looked at the difference. So many differences, we are different. And then you went through what is the difference. Is it your stove? Is it how you mix it? Let’s select which looks the best. Just good old down home kind of working.
MJ: You touched a little bit on this but could you tell us a little bit more about your time as President of ASFSA? Any memorable stories or events that happened?
LB: Oh my, oh mercy, a lot of things happened, yeah. As I say, I was Vice President Elect when Louise Sublette from Tennessee, Martin, Tennessee, was President. And she decided that something had to be done about Ms. Jessie, and Ms. Jessie was really, as I say, and Mary Nix brings that out in her book, tells a Ms. Jessie story. We had a lot of meetings setting up standards for what do you need to train a manager. What skills does she need, how are you going to get it done? That’s what I’d always – these people way out here in Gowensville and way down in Woodruff, how are we going to get these people to get this? We devised a chart that if you do this you get so many points, and this you get so many. It was called certification, they could get a certificate; we all like certificates. We worked up all the mechanics and all of the methods to get this done and the measuring, and Louise was pushing for this. We got it done in her year and then, as I say, Louise said, “Okay.” Then in the meantime we divided the country by regions and we implemented having regional workshops where the state leaders came together in the region. And that became my duty; that was the first year. Gosh it was terrible. I had a set of slides, which I’m sure they’re around somewhere, that we showed and then I have a set of slides. Oh I have to show y’all my –
LB: Where’s that?
MJ: Photo album?
LB: That’s right, the apple thing.
LB: The photo album’s mainly glamour stuff. This is real work. This is…
LB: I want to show ya’ll that these, this is something that I had put on slides. This is called “Growing Up in School Food Service,” and this is two children at Woodland Heights Elementary School in Spartanburg, and I don’t have the name on the back. That’s Hank Kaplan and this is Geena Long. I’m happy that I can remember them. But anyway, I went into this school and said, “I want to pick out, at lunch here today let me pick out two pretty children because I want to make a picture of them now, and then I want to keep up with them as they go, as they grow up.” So we get these two pretty little children to make this picture and I could have told you what’s on their plate. And I said, “What is your name?” And he said, “Hank Kaplan.” I said, “Is your father Wallace Kaplan?” He said, “Yes ma’am.” And I said, don’t ya’ll record this. I said, “Oh what a pretty little boy you are, to think.” I didn’t say this out loud. “To think your father courted me and I turned him down.” But anyway, that’s just – but anyway, that’s in the first grade. I want ya’ll to see these; I just love these. Here they are in the, I think that must be the seventh, sixth, seventh. See them? And here they are…
MJ: That is wonderful.
LB: Here they are and I think that’s maybe the tenth or eleventh, I don’t know. I would say to them each time, now you better be eating lunch when I come back next year and find you, because I want a picture of you. And here they are, this is their senior year, and I want you to see the hair, the change in their hair through the four years. Hank went into the military and served, I think he must have been ROTC in college.
VW: Do you know where they are today?
LB: Well, I meant to call. Hank’s father has died, and I know his mother too, and I meant to call her and ask her. He was back in Spartanburg and I’ve talked to him since he was an adult man. And Geena, I said, you know, if ya’ll wanted to make a real good ending to this story you could marry each other and have some school lunch children.
MJ: That’s what I was thinking. I wonder if they ever gave it thought.
LB: But they didn’t. They just laughed and went right on, but they both did marry. I’ve seen Hank had one brother, that was all. But anyway, do you want to keep these; you ought to.
MJ: Yes, yes. I may need to get in touch with them and get their stories about school lunch.
LB: Yeah, I’ll call Hank’s mother. Anyway, this is the Governor of South Carolina; some of these things are just self-explanatory.
MJ: Those would be wonderful for your collection.
LB: I think my mother must have torn these things out. But anyway, these, there’s David. When I was President, then I became President. When I was President was the year that Richard Nixon was President of the United States. The country was in a terrible upheaval, you know, a lot of bad, bad talking and bad things going on and of all places, my convention was in Washington, D.C. (1974) And we had asked Mr. Nixon to speak at the convention which I’m sure he would have, but our advisor in Washington, Sam Bannerman, who was a predecessor of Marshall Matz. Sam kept saying to me, he’s not going to be there, he’s not going to be here. Oh Sam, he is. Oh no, he’s not going to be here; he’s going to go. Well I don’t think anybody in the country thought that, and sure enough, at the very last minute, he, you know, resigned or whatever and left. And he and I went out of office on the same day. My husband said, “This is the happiest day of my life; I got rid of two national Presidents on the same day.” And boy, that is a tiring job. I did not like riding the airplanes. I was not comfortable; they were rough in those days and I did a lot of suffering. But the day I went out of office he and this young man that was there, one of his salesmen, and I got on the plane. One of them old rickety turbojet things. Got on the plane in Washington and I didn’t wake up until we were landing in Charlotte. I said, “This is the happiest day of my life too.” But it was, we had, as I say, regional meetings. Went to, the first region was the Midwest and we were in Sioux City, Iowa. The home office would send a staff person and Jean Pitts was with me for that conference. We got on the plane and it was pouring down rain, oh my, and just got up pretty good and the motor, one of the motors blew out. There was two engines, DC-9 I think it was, not a big plane. It just had two things and one of them blew out and that was a frightening experience. And Jean had been, she didn’t have to be in the meetings, she was just there to help. So she’d been out carousing with some of her relatives. I told her she was like our folks down home, she had cousins everywhere we went. But anyway, she was out carousing and I was the one who had been suffering and here the plane’s going. He said, “We’re turning back.” which, by this time the plane’s leaning bad toward the strong motor, you know, because the other one was gone. And when we went back, coming back in the runway they had all the fire trucks and everything, and a crowd was gathered. I do not know how that many people got out to the airport that quick to see this plane fall, but fortunately it didn’t. But anyway, we went back into this tiny little old terminal and they had a little old counter with about five stools where they served food and drinks. Jean and I fell down on the fronts of those stools and she said, “I want a martini.” and I think I said, “Bring me a bourbon or something.” And I said, of course, ya’ll don’t put this on the tape.
VW: You’ll be able to x out anything you don’t want.
LB: Okay, well I’m just telling ya’ll this. And I said to the young lady, “Honey, I don’t know how long we’re going to be here or how many of these we’re going to have, but you keep count and we’ll pay you after it’s over if we forget.” Of course everybody knew what had happened. The place was just full of all these sightseers. But anyway, we went in the restroom and Jean said later, “I heard some ladies in there talking.” I had on a pink leather coat, beautiful coat with pink fox cuffs and fox collar pink matched. Jean was carrying our tote bags or whatever. She said one lady said to the other one, “Those are important people. I think that lady in pink must be a U.S. Senator.” You know, that’s how people tell these things. She said, “That other woman’s helping her.” You know, there was a lot of funny things, but in this era they had a lot of industry seminars, which they still have. But at that time they were all held in Vail, Colorado, which was a very glamorous place in the cold winter for us from this area. There would just be some high level officials there; I think a great relationship between industry and the Association developed.
VW: Tell us about the California conventions before we leave conventions.
LB: The what?
MJ: About the streaking, about the streaking incident.
LB: Oh, oh, California State Convention, yes. I was sitting there, you know, we were on the, up on this big stage. And just all of a sudden, and he had a stocking cap over his head, this fellow comes out of the curtain on this side and just shot across, just shot across. It was just a shock I say we all missed it. Bad as your eyes, or you gasp and he’s gone. But the audience saw the whole panorama much better than we did. It was a shocker! It destroyed the order for awhile there. It was streaking and mooning; I’d forgotten both of them until I was thinking about what happened at conventions, it was funny. And once in New Orleans (1973), at Louise’s convention I think it was, the exhibit hall caught on fire. And the, Dr. Perryman was found and notified but he couldn’t find any of the officers because we were all in committee meetings, and there for awhile it got to be close to a disaster, but it didn’t. We got through that, but there were a lot of missed planes and bad connections and getting stranded in strange places. I, we were young enough then to be able to stand it, about y’all’s age I guess.
MJ: Okay. Well, what do you think has been your most significant contribution to the child nutrition field?
LB: Well, I guess nationally it was instigating the YAC Program and that was a necessity, you know. I’d go to a state, but in a lot of the states would have you on television being interviewed by the food people in that area or something. They didn’t want to hear about how the Association functioned and how it was growing; they wanted to know what are you going to do about all this plate waste? There were terrible pictures in papers of plate waste and hungry children; that was the other pitch. There were hungry children somewhere, and it showed some children eating out of a garbage can; I’ll never forget that. A big ole picture in the newspaper and that was spouted around all over the country; bad PR. That was in ’74 that it had just gotten really bad. I said, “Well what in the world are we going to do.” Then all of a sudden I said, “Well why don’t we ask the people who are eating what’s wrong with it.” So we set up very quickly an election and got a youth advisor selected in every state. Then they were submitted to a committee, and then there was a regional advisor. At that time there were seven regions, so we had seven regional advisors. We brought them to Denver and they were charming, and they hit it right on the head and they told us, they told us what was wrong. I’ll never forget one young man said that when he got in, started school in the first grade that he was told if you misbehaved in the cafeteria or didn’t eat your food, that they had these big pots back there in the kitchen where they boiled things and they would put you in one of those pots. He said, “We were all frightened and hated going to the cafeteria.” You know, if this kind of stuff, we never had heard of such a thing. They were great children and the interesting thing is that Gary Johnson, who was from the northeast, and Cathy Cary who was our southeast – these were the first, these were the first youth advisors and they were all lovely, lovely. Anyway, Gary Johnson and Cathy Cary got married, yes they did. Gary came and lived in Georgia and I would hear from them occasionally. A few years ago someone called me and said that Gary Johnson had died with cancer, terribly upsetting.
LB: …up in the paper, I should have brought that for all. It said that Senator Strom Thurmond was escorting a statuesque blond, Ms. Lucille, I was Bishop at that time, Bishop, who he said is a constituent from South Carolina. But anyway, I didn’t know it was in the paper and the next day we were sitting in a meeting and somebody, I hear all this tch, tch, tch, tch, tch, tch [sweeping hand motion] around the room and this fellow saying, pointing to the newspaper, so they passed it down to me and that created quite a sensation too. But anyway, that was fun. Dottie and I had a great trip going to Algeria [ASFSA-USAID project]. We were briefed in Washington and we had to stay there two or three days and then we had to wait for Algeria to agree to accept us or whatever. Then we went to London and we had a rest in London for several days. That was good; they give you this time. And then we went on to Paris where we were to get on the Air Algérie to go to Algiers, the capital. There was nobody at Air Algérie’s desk. Air France was right next door and we said, “Where are these people? We are flying on their airline.” “We don’t know; sometimes they come and sometimes they don’t.”
MJ: Oh my goodness.
LB: So we waited and we waited; it got to be eight, nine o’clock at night. Finally, two men come walking in there just like they should, like it was six o’clock when they were supposed to have been there. Oh me, we were already out of our wits. We get on the airplane and not a soul spoke English; not one soul. We listened all around; nobody spoke English. Well we just sat there, you know, and finally a little, a little Arab girl, or a young Arab lady sitting close by, she said, “Amerique?” [nodding motion]. Then she said, asked us where we were going. Algiers, you know. I said, no Arabic. She said, Francais? And I said, very little. Anyway, on the way she taught me to say “barakallahu feek”. That is hello, how are you? We practiced, this girl and me. I never will forget, when we got to Algiers; it must have been eleven or twelve o’clock at night. We didn’t know what we were in for because we start out, those little ole planes where you go down the steps, you know. Oh, all these soldiers with guns, and in those days you didn’t see that, were there to greet us. We didn’t see a white person as we say; we didn’t see anybody that looked like Americans. And then two people from the Embassy, a boy and girl, man and woman, and they were hiding to watch and see how we reacted to all of this military in this strange country that we were in. I wish I’d have killed them! When we finally saw them, you know, we were so glad to see them. They said, “Well we just wanted to see the looks on your face when you saw those guns looking you in the eyes.” But anyway, we got through that and never saw another American except for the few that were with the embassy. We got on the plane finally to return home, and it was in January (1967). When we got on the plane there was a young Negro man; I looked at him, I knew he was American. We were so happy to see him and we talked. He was in the seat behind us, and as soon as the plane got up Dottie and I turned around and talked to him the whole time. We had to spend the night in Tunis, and he also spent the night in Tunis so we became good buddies. We were so, in those days you weren’t just always fraternizing, but we were so happy to see that American man. And the food in Algeria is mostly soup. The children there brought their own soup bowl in their book satchel. If they didn’t have clothes to wear or shoes, they had a book satchel. Never understood that unless somebody bought them, maybe the French government. They had belonged to France and they had fought France for something like eleven years to get their freedom, so the country was devastated, just devastated by that terrible war. But they had soup and they didn’t have anything in their kitchens but a little something about this high [indicates knee height] with a gas, gas heater under, gas coil under there and they put a big stock pot on it and made soup. I said, “We Americans, we’ve got to have a pot for everything; we got to have a special place on the stove for it, you know.” It was just amazing to see what they could do with nothing. And of course we were there as dieticians and they had a central kitchen in Constantine, one of the big cities where we stayed three weeks. But anyway, we had to go to the central kitchen very often, we had to get up and go at two o’clock in the morning when they started cooking. They wanted us to come then and we didn’t argue with those Arabs because the whole country is run by men, no women. Men, we dealt with men the whole time. It got so tiresome; I didn’t think I’d get tired of men, but I sure did. But anyway, I’ll never forget this, being from South Carolina. They cooked, as I said, a lot of soup and they put vegetables and dried beans, lentils, lentils in it. And they put turnips and threw the turnip greens away; beautiful turnip greens. So we, I started this mission; you must not throw the turnip greens, you need to cook these. They have got, they knew the word Vitamin, pronounced Vee-tamin C. Everything, if I didn’t eat my salad, “Miss, Vitamin, Vitamin C, Miss!” They’d just get all over us. Vitamin C! Anyway, I said Vitamin C and A, A and C. No, no Miss, donkey food. They took those gorgeous turnip greens and threw them out in the yard and the donkeys, which they use as their transportation, ate the greens and they put the turnips in the soup. I must say they made good soup, had the best seasoning and I kept tasting it and thinking what is this. I said, “What is this?” We had an interpreter of course who would ask, you would ask him or her, and we had a French girl and a Arab boy. You never knew how they interpreted what you said though, nor what they said back to us. But I kept saying, “What in the world is the seasoning in this soup? It is so good.” It finally turned out that it was cumin. Have you ever used cumin?
LB: Well it does give it some zest. Then finally we noticed in the central kitchen there was this woman, which when women got very old they could take off their veils, because nobody wanted them. They had a mark on their forehead; I didn’t know what all of it meant. But this lady, bless her heart, sat flat down, flat down on this cold, concrete floor and had a pestle every day and she ground cumin. That’s why it was so good, better than any I’ve ever had. But anyway, that was quite an interesting experience and they couldn’t understand us, but our relationship with the Arabs is very bad. I’m sorry we ever got to war with them because they’re different generation, they’re different people; they think differently. They could not understand why we were not married. It worried them to death because Dottie and I were not married. They said, “You have psychological problems; you have problems.” “No, we don’t.” “We read,” they tell the interpreter. They say they read it in the magazines and the papers. “You go to psychiatrist.” “No we don’t.” “You not married.” “We don’t want to be married.” You know, oh it was just awful. And they would say, “You don’t talk alike, you don’t speak alike.” “She’s from New York, I’m from South Carolina, different. Do you know where South Carolina is?” Florid, pronounced Flor-eed! They knew where Florida was, they knew Chicago and New York. “Where is Carolin,” pronounced Caro-leen? But anyway, and they cooked goats and sheep. They tied their legs to a pole and put them down in a hole and they barbequed, cooked, roasted them. They called it a “meshwi”, meat roasted on skewers over open fire, as in a bar-be-que, and that was the biggest honor they could pay to you was to have a meshwi.
MJ: What was a meshwi?
LB: You eat, they took the goat or the lamb and laid it on a big round tray and you pulled off what you wanted and ate it, pulled off pieces of the hot meat. They had onions, strange thing, had chopped up fresh onions and you put the meat on your plate and ate it with onions. The highest honor they could pay you was to crack the head of the animal, which was still on it, and dip out the brain and give it to you.
MJ: Oh boy.
LB: Or to pop the eye out and give you an eye. See these boys with the embassy would tell us all this stuff. And I said, “I’m not going to eat that.” So I never did have to eat that. But anyway, I’ll say it was something. Alright, this is New Orleans (referencing a photograph). Ya’ll can keep this stuff.
MJ: Well is there anything else you would like to talk about?
LB: You mean, off the tape?
MJ: Well we’ve still got it rolling. Anything else you want to talk about on the tape?
LB: Oh, we established the Louise Sublette Award. That was done, in fact Josephine Martin and several of us were together as a committee and we were to come up with an award, set the criteria. The irony of it was, of course, Louise was living then but Louise wasn’t on the committee, and within a few weeks she died and that’s how we named it. We didn’t name the award at the time we set up the criteria, and after Louise passed away it was named the Louise Sublette Award, because she was certainly due all credit for starting that. In the early days there was no stigma to a free lunch, no stigma. There wasn’t any, all of this having to keep everything secret. I guess the children knew who got free lunch; it was never discussed. Oh, well this is one of the funny things, I can’t put this on the tape, Louis Grizzard. You ever hear of Louis Grizzard? Louis Grizzard said – now this story’s not going to make the video.
VW: We’ll let you x it out.
LB: I’m not going to do that. We got canned luncheon meat that came in these tin cans about this long [indicates about 1 ½ feet]. Well, you know, you can slice it and make a lot of sandwiches and do a lot of things. Well we came up with this recipe, I think USDA sent it to us, they’d send us some. But it was, you dice the meat, you put celery, same thing you would do to make chicken salad or anything. And then you stirred in some mayonnaise. Well now you picture this. I’m sure we put boiled eggs in it and pickles, then stirred that mayonnaise in with this diced, canned luncheon meat, it had a wonderful flavor. You picture what it looked like. And this little boy went up to the manager and said, “Mrs. Scott.” This is the way Alberta told me. She said, “Louise, come here I’ve got something to tell you.” He said, “Mrs. Scott, do you have a paper cup?” She said, “Yes, what do you want with it?” “I want to take my doggie food to my doggie.” It looked like, you know, canned dog food. I said, “Alberta, if you ever repeat that to anybody other than me I will cut your tongue out.” Can’t you imagine that tale getting around? But one of the cutest, cuter ones. We had the Special Milk Program, where they could buy extra milk for three cents a bottle, carton, whatever it was, it was cartons by this time. And the principal called me and he said, “I’ve got to tell you.” This little boy was walking down the hall and he had milk sticking out of jacket pocket, out of his pants pocket. And he stopped him and said, “Son, what are you doing with all that milk? Are you going to drink that milk today?” And he said, “No, I’m going to take it home to Ma; she can’t buy it this cheap.” There were some choice ones, but I believe that’s about all I know girls. Ya’ll have done picked my brain.
MJ: Okay, well thank you very much for doing this for us Ms. Barnett. Thank you very much.