The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

August 23, 2011

Back-to-school nostalgia? Bake cookies

Enid News and Eagle

— Do you get all nostalgic when the kids return to school? Think about it.

When school resumes in the fall, it seems to bring back such happy memories of our own school days. Our minds go back to the dinner buckets we carried and the delicious sandwiches they contained. Those meals were not fancy, but the biscuits with sausage or homemade bread with peanut butter tasted so delicious at noon — or at recess, if we simply could not wait until noon. There were always cupcakes or cookies or leftover cake or something for dessert. We usually saved that for last recess, so we enjoyed our lunch bucket picnics all day long. Anything at all that was left was eaten on the way home from school. Often, we had boiled eggs and a little packet of salt wrapped in waxed paper to season them.

The nights we stayed with Grandma, she made applesauce doughnuts, so we always took them to school the next day with dill pickles and a sandwich of whatever she had on hand. We ate lots of apples back then because we raised them in our own orchard and they were plentiful. We loved it when we were treated with oranges or bananas, even though the entire meal tasted like bananas after the lunch pail was closed all day.

There was certainly more to the return to school than just our lunchboxes. One of the best memories was school supplies. Oh, what fun it was to shop for back-to-school necessities. We always went to the Rexal Drug Store and got cigar boxes for our pencils, etc. We bought new crayons, yellow pencils, a Big Chief tablet, glue or paste, and a huge eraser. I remember Mother made our school paste many times. It was made of flour and water cooked together and a little peppermint added to make it smell good — and taste good! When we got a little older, we got ink and an ink pen, which I loved and still do. A ruler and scissor were necessary, but I do not remember that we bought them new every year. We took care of our supplies and kept them from year to year or passed them down to the sibling younger than us.

We did not often have new books, but they were new to us because they had been handed down from the grade we were entering. The books were in good shape and hardly written in at all because we were taught to respect books. The only writing was the names of the pupils who had it before us.  We were not lucky enough for them to have penciled in the answers for us. The answers were not even in the back of the books.

Back then, Mother was very busy before the beginning of school making dresses for us five girls. She sewed all our clothes, even our bloomers. We got new socks and those brown brogan shoes that never seemed to wear out. Our feet hurt the first few weeks we wore them because we had been going barefoot all summer long. We hated the blisters we got until our feet toughened up and the shoes begin to shape to our feet. Some of the students got high-top tennis shoes, but we never did. Our brown shoes lasted the entire school year.

My sisters and I played school all summer when we were not in actual school. Maybe that is why our eldest sister became a teacher herself. Others of us have also been interested in teaching, at least part time. We read all summer long. We wrote things and went through the entire opening exercises (prayer, flag salutes and songs) just for the joy of it.

Having a father who was once a teacher may have contributed to our interest and enjoyment. I never tired of school.

I was always glad when school resumed to see old and new school friends.  We went to a one-room school for eight grades and had only one teacher for all grades. The teacher did everything, including small repairs on the school. She was nurse when we got scraped or got sick. She built the fire in the huge stove each morning. Usually the bigger boys would bring the coal in after the last recess to have for the teacher the next morning. She prepared all the assignments and wrote the test questions or lesson plans on the blackboard. She was a busy lady and very dedicated to seeing that we were all educated properly and ready to go to high school when we graduated from her care. We did not let her down. We excelled in high school because of the great basic education we received in grade school.

Recess and lunch hour and before school was playtime. We played softball and had a merry-go-round and Giant Stride. We had teeter-totters and a bar to chin ourselves. We played Annie Over and Red Rover. We played every kind of tag we could think of. We played kick the can until we scuffed the toes of our shoes and they had to be polished. The girls played Jacks and the boys played Mumblety-peg with the pocketknives they always carried to school. It was no big deal for every boy, and most girls, too, to carry a pocketknife to school.

It always makes us feel a little sad when our child goes to first grade or leaves home and goes away to college. We know it is the end of an era and the beginning of another. We have that empty-nest feeling when we walk by the straightened, undisturbed room  that was formerly alive with noise and activity. It is a day we have been waiting for, and then when it happens we are nostalgic and a little sad.

Nothing said “welcome home from school” like homemade light bread sliced real thick and slathered with butter and sprinkled with sugar. However, these cookies ran a close second. They are wonderful anytime and taste pretty good in a lunchbox, too.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

2 sticks butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

11⁄2 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups flour

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon soda

21⁄2 cups oatmeal

9 ounces chocolate chips

nuts (optional)

Cream softened butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs until fluffy. Stir in dry ingredients that have been sifted together. Stir in oatmeal and chocolate chips (and nuts, if desired). Drop by teaspoon on cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees about seven to nine minutes until lightly browned.

Send your comments to: Peggy Goodrich, Food For Thought, P.O. Box 1192, Enid, OK 73702.