The Prescotian Webzine

Memories of PGS School Dinners

Towards the late 60s the Dining Hall system was changed to a trendy Cafeteria hatch-servery style. This was possibly an egalitarian gesture courtesy of JCSW. The layout was thereafter randomly scattered tables for four and you could sit anywhere. Sometimes if you were really unlucky a Master or two would join you.

Prior to then lunch, or dinner as we rightly called it, was taken in two sittings. Pairs of end-to-end rectangular tables were laid out in regimental rows. There was a chair at each end and benches along the sides. At the ends would sit a 5th or 6th former, possibly a 4th in the second sitting. They were responsible for serving the meal to the other six kids on the table. I suppose most of these serving boys were decent. However I have no doubt that often the head of the table was taken by a bullying sociopath. These nearly always had a pair of sycophantic 3rd year vultures as their immediate assistants. At the far end of each table, i.e. where the two tables joined, were sat the first years, the ‘Newts’. These were often fed the poorest portions from the pressed-metal serving trays; and almost inevitably they would be treated to the big blob of ‘skin’ off the top of the custard jug.

Before the meal a Prefect said Grace. There were a number of options but the Latin one was the best. I never knew what it meant.

The Masters sat at a long table in the centre of the Hall. I think they had a table cloth. At their head sat “Spud” Heywood. He would often stand and make long pronouncements usually bemoaning the amount of noise we all made and the generally piggish manners he often observed. He would also collect overdue dinner money. It wasn’t called lunch money so it had to be dinner, right? Sometimes he would be really mad and would yell until his face went purple. Is it an apocryphal tale that one time he yelled so hard that his dentures flew out?

It was believed that “Spud” had had most of his stomach removed, which might explain why he had a personal rice pudding made each day. I later heard that it was considered an honour by some Masters to be invited to share “Spud’s” rice pud.

On the menu we all had our favourites but one of mine was that rectangular cheese flan with half a tomato buried in it. Roast potatoes must have been everyone’s favourite because we had them every day for at least the first five years. Most of all, nothing could beat the chocolate sponge with pink custard.

Dinner Ladies at PGS in 1955

Tom Storrow responded to the original posting and told us of the Press Gang system which led to him becoming one of the “waiters”. These lads brought the serving trays to the heads of table and cleared away dishes. It was a messy job but not without it’s benefits as almost limitless seconds were available to this crew. This may explain why I do not recall any boy bemoaning the fact he’d been pressed into this task. This reminded me of another form of Press Gang. The “Nab”. This was made up of prefects who would scour the corridors and schoolyard for boys to make up the places for the 1st sitting. It was terrible thing to be caught as it meant you couldn’t play footy with your mates.

Ian Easthope responded to the request for the words to the Latin Grace: -

Benedict domine nos
Et es haec tua donna,
Quae tae tua largitatae,
Sumus sumturae.
Per Christum dominum nostrum, Amen.

(In an email he later added, “Don't know what it means precisely, but think it is Pope-speak for "For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly thankful".) Ian’s Brother Jeff posted a reply reminding Ian of the total cock-up that he (Ian) had made when first granted the honour of reading it out. Mike Winn assures me that words are nauseatingly self-regarding and self-pitying. In which case I don’t want to know, I just like the sound. Bit like Opera I suppose.

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