I’m not sure this is a shared experience, so I’ll try to be as detailed as I can.

In public elementary school in the Chicago suburbs, there was a time honored tradition, well two. Both involved toting things around on carts.

First was the milk cart. The school nurse or a student teacher would walk around to all of the classrooms in the first hour of the day and hand out milk from a metal wheel cart – like a projector cart without the projector, which I think it may have been. It was stacked top to bottom with 2% and skim – a light blue or yellowish box was your parent’s choice. They would sign up at the start of the year saying which type of milk their little jimmy or kimmy would have for the year, pay some undisclosed amount of money, and relax in knowing their kid’s bones were stuffed full of calcium. I never got milk, we always had a ton in our house and I’d drink glasses through out the day. So my bones were like steel.

The first week or so of class, the lady would come by with a clip board and hand them out, checking that they had received there cold wax-paper box then strolled off to the next class. After the first week they almost always remembered which students got which milk and coasted through the list. Each kid would grab their milk and sit at their desk, one of the only times anyone was ever allowed to eat or drink in the room. They’d hunker over the milk as if regarding a state secret and tear the top apart, pushing the mouth of the container towards themselves. Then they’d have to drink the milk quickly because class had to continue and again, the rules were getting bent to allow them their milk.

Was I jealous of not getting milk? Probably at the time. I’m a fairly selfish person, and more so as a kid, so I’m sure I felt let down by my mom. Although I’m pretty sure we had a conversation sometime in my schooling about not getting milk and how I was feeling less special then my peers. Of course when it came time to sign up, I wasn’t interested or thought it was unnecessary – which it was – so I never had the sweet taste of milk in the morning in elementary school.

Then there was the fluoride cart. Monthly, the same person would come by with a cart of tiny little cups of blue mouthwash. They would check our cups before being allowed to toss them in the waste basket to made sure each of us were swishing. It was as if they didn’t trust all of the parents at the PTA meetings and finally decided that kid’s teeth were falling out the faces at too fast a pace. Those parents must have felt it was their job to ensure the safety of all the children’s teeth.

The fluoride cart would almost always be around the same time of the visits from local dentists. When ever they’d come around, we would munch on pink pills and smile at each other with globs of bright red stuck in the corners of our teeth. The dentists would always talk about the importance of oral hygiene and brush a massive set of teeth with an even larger brush saying to “brush in circles.”

We’d pick up our tiny cups and start flushing out our pie holes. I would dump the whole load in there and start trotting around the room. So the teacher had always yelled at me to keep in place near the sink so I wouldn’t loose a bit while tacking around the class room. I had a problem standing still while swishing. Then I’d spit out my blue mess in the classroom sink along with the tiny bits of cereal or sandwich, telling the sink “ewww” as if it was to blame for it all.

The cart would disappear the same way it came in and it would all be out of heads until they came knocking again.

  1. Nicole says:

    I remember the fluoride cart and the little pink pills. Every time I take Ibuprofen I am reminded of those pills and must resist the urge to chew them, just to see what would happen.

    The milk cart, however, eludes me. I’m sure we had a milk cart, at least in kindergarten/1st grade when I went to Grayslake, but I do not remember because I never got milk either.

    I was lactose intolerant as a child and only ever drank the thick and sickeningly sweet, as it tastes to me now, stuff that came in bright yellow and blue cartons. I remember my mother telling me that at lunch time I could make friends (read: show off) by helping the kids who had trouble opening their milk cartons because I was a pro at it. I guess I grew out of the lactose intolerance, though I suspect that maybe it was all just a plot to keep me from living off of cheese, as I wanted to do as a child. Of course telling me I couldn’t have cheese only made me want it more. Silly parents.

    A bonus side effect of the alleged lactose intolerance is that regular milk is now ruined for me unless it is at least 2% and fortified with chocolate. Just seeing someone drink milk straight makes me want to gag. It is so watery and flavorless. Yuck.

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My childhood Part 2: Carts

Posted on

December 16th, 2010


My Childhood