South Africa followed the Milk in Schools programme of the 1950/1960s and there will be many readers with similar memories.
The subsidised school milk programme was introduced to help us grow up healthy and strong. Every complaint (there were many) was met with a stern reminder of the benefit to bones, brains and teeth and with that the demand that we drink up. Subsidised milk was a part of every South African pupil’s morning break.
At the beginning of each term a number of monitors were appointed by the teachers; class, blackboard, library, swimming, homework, PE and milk monitors. It was the milk monitors’ task to collect crates of milk from the school gate and allocate the correct number to each class. In summer the crates were left in the corridor until recess. In winter they were stacked next to the class radiator. Either way the milk was warm.
Disgusting was a familiar exclamation at recess but there was no shying away from our daily dose. The small bottles (1/3 pint volume) originally had cardboard tops with perforations in the centre through which we pushed our paper straws. Suck too hard and the straw top became soggy, take too long and the straw collapsed or the glue gave way and the straw disintegrated. On the frequent occasions milk curdled it was hard work sucking the solidified globules through the straw.
After recess the milk monitors gathered the crates of empty bottles and rinsed them out before placing them at the school gate. There is always a good with the not so good and the happy memory is how we used the cardboard milk tops as the base for pom-poms which were the perfect size for our small hands.