One story I've caught over and over from former students and teachers at Pilot Mountain School is what I'll call the "black olive episode." These apple-blackberry-corn-and-potato children from the rural South Mountains had never heard of black olives, much less tasted one. Government surplus, they'd heard of that, but black olives, no.
Sometime back in the 1950's, the weekly government surplus delivery began to include gallon cans of black olives. The first black olive days, the lunchroom ladies dutifully placed three olives on each plate. I don't have to imagine the response, because sixty years later, every person who told the story could describe in detail the expressions on the children's faces. It didn't take long for the olives to serve a secondary function, akin to table football or finger soccer. One teacher said she spent more time with discipline over the black olives than any thing else in her entire career.
A creative principal held a contest to see who could eat more olives than he could. That worked for a day or two until he couldn't eat another single one, but it did manage to get some brave students interested in at least tasting them. For the most part, wise students figured out how to get around the olives and still be a member of the daily "clean plate club."
They stuffed them in their empty milk cartons when the teacher wasn't looking.
Catch of the day,