What was on the menu for Hartlepool’s school dinners in the 1970s

Mouth-watering meals or grub that wasn’t so tasty?

By Chris Cordner
Tuesday, 30th April 2019, 11:00 am
Children at West Park Junior and Infants School tuck into a tasty meal in 1975.
Children at West Park Junior and Infants School tuck into a tasty meal in 1975.

We’re talking about school meals of the 1970s which were under scrutiny in Hartlepool in a Mail report at the time.

Back in 1975, parents had to fork out an extra 15 pence per week for their children to tuck into a meal so the Mail took a look to see if they were value for money.

Children at West Park School are ready for lunch.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Today, we take another look back at the sort of fare which was on the school table back then.

There were cheese vol-au-vents, chicken casserole and braised ham. There was roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and on the day that a Hartlepool Mail team called in at High Tunstall Comprehensive in 1975, there was mince beef and dumplings.

You could have fish and chips, beef burgers, sautéed potatoes, and all the usual trimmings. The dessert options included toffee tart, fruit pie and cream, ice cream and jelly or chocolate gateaux.

Impressively, the talented town cooks could serve up 13,000 meals a day and that was to 55 per cent of all schoolchildren in the town, as well as to 1,000 members of staff.

And even though there had been a 15 pence rise in the cost of school meals, the cost was still only 75 pence per week.

Or, as the Hartlepool Mail reported at the time, it was “still about the cheapest meals” around at the time.

Our reporter added: “If the meals have changed beyond recognition over the years, tastes have not. Today’s children still prefer sausage and chips, beefburgers in buns and apple pie and custard.”

The Hartlepool area organiser at the time was Mrs Ann Graham. She said: “Our cooks undergo training courses on every aspect of catering and their efforts are usually appreciated. Many a thank you letter finds its way onto the walls of the school dining hall.”

Mrs Graham said the food “must look good, smell good and taste good as well as being nutritious.”

It also had to be a balanced meal as school lunch was often the main meal of the day, said Mrs Graham.

Statistics showed there was the central kitchen in Redworth Street as well as 14 dining centres and 48 school kitchens in the town 44 years ago.

The Hartlepool Mail reporter at the time sampled a menu for themselves and said “We joined the queue. Two minutes later, we were faced with an array of food that looked worthy of a place in the Good Food Guide.

“Helpings were substantial and our verdict was ‘school grub isn’t bad. The best 15p’s worth around today.”

That same year, the Mail visited West Park Infant and Junior School where the menu on the day was fishcakes, chips and mushy peas followed by chocolate gateaux.

What are your memories of school meals in Hartlepool and East Durham, and did you enjoy them?

What was your favourite meal?

Get in touch and tell us more by emailing [email protected]