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Milk as an instrument of torture.

You might need to sit down for this one, as I’m about to blow the lid off a long held secret.  It involves systematic abuse (physical and mental), of poor defenceless kids by a tag team of the catholic church and the NSW State government (I’m assuming it was the State government, though I’ve never really thought about it). There’s no way of knowing for sure how far it spread, but I know with certainty, from my own first hand experience, that it has left me and almost an entire generation of catholic school children emotionally scarred and deathly scared of moo juice. Yes that’s right, I’m talking about free government milk!

As I’ve said, I’m not quite sure when or how it started (years of denial have clouded my memories), and I don’t know if it extended to state schools as I never knew any ‘publics’ when I was growing up, but I’m assuming it did*. However, somewhere along the line, some government bureaucrat thought it would be a good idea to give free milk to school kids, I’ve never really known what prompted this, whether it was some altruistic attempt to increase our calcium levels, or (and this is more likely) it was a way of subsidising dairy farmers.

Whatever the motive, the execution was abysmal (as is normally the case when the government gets involved in anything). To give you an insight into the bureaucrats’ thought processes, let me paint a quick vignette: “Ok guys, let’s give the kids a treat. We’ll get the milk guy to deliver 30 or 40 dozen, half pint, clear glass bottles of milk** at around 7:00am. For the full effect, it’s important that he leaves them in the middle of the school yard as far away from any source of shade as possible. It’s also important that the teachers co-operate with our plan here, and not let the children touch the milk until play-lunch, which I believe is around 11:00am. This should ensure maximum effect“.

And what could possibly be better than just any old  teachers? You got it… Gestapo nuns! Everyday at around 11:00am, nuns with machine guns would march us in twos (what is it with making little kids march in twos?), down to the milk mountain for our combination daily torture and vaudeville routine***. It was absolute torture for those weaklings who couldn’t stomach the lukewarm, sour milk; and it was really funny for those could.  Of course the penguins (who never touched the stuff) thought it was hysterical. And don’t think that puking everyday could save you, those nuns had no sympathy whatsoever, the more you puked, the more they made sure you were at the head of the line so you didn’t miss out on any of the gruesome goodness that was int he bottles of rapidly congealing milk. (I may be mistaken about the machine guns, it was a long time ago, but I swear everything else is pretty accurate). On the really hot days there was so much puking that it was sometimes hard to tell who was puking from warm sour milk, and who was puking from laughing so hard.  Ah, the memories…

Sadly, there was a dark side to all this fun. I know, hard to believe right? School is a microcosm of society (except in this case everyone was catholic, which isn’t really an accurate representation, never mind let’s forge ahead),  and as such it reflects real life,  and just like real life, there’s always someone ready to profit from the suffering others, in this case it was through a thriving black market in flavoured straws. These were the old ‘paper’ drinking straws with a little felt block, either chocolate or strawberry, wedged in one end. The smart kids would by a few of them on the way to school and sell them to the poor bastards who forgot to. So now instead of just drinking warm sour milk, you could drink warm sour milk through a toxic mix of waxy paper and suspect chemical flavouring. Mmmm, those were the days…

* I did a quick search to see if there was any info about this whole debacle, apparently they did it in QLD too.

** I also found this photo, and trust me that kid had it way better than us, he got to sit down inside, instead of standing to attention in the summer sun. This is not a picture of me, but he looks eerily like I did at the time, complete with freckles.

*** In fact the whole thing reminds me of those old war documentaries about the concentration camps. The way they used to make those poor bastards march, in an orderly fashion, to their doom.


# ‘Publics’ meant anyone who didn’t go to a catholic school (obviously there were other private schools, but my 10 year old horizons were pretty myopic).

## That photo of the nun is my father and my aunt (dad’s sister).


42 Responses

  1. oh that is just … blech.

  2. Thanks for the memories.. I thought it was only OUR Gastapo nuns that tried to poison us on a daily basis.

  3. LOL! Now I never got that milk, must have been lucky! SB said his school had it when he was in infants, and he went to a public school! They did however get their milk indoors so it must have just been those awful nuns once again trying to torture poor unsuspecting children! They seem to be a dying breed these days, I wonder why?

  4. we had to drink milk daily in elementary school too.

    ours was cold. but we had to pay for it.

    life lesson: everything’s a trade off.

  5. ps that’s a beautiful old picture of your dad and his sister sister.

    she doesn’t look like the knuckle-rapping kind.

  6. Eeew! Now I feel very lucky to have been given tasteless (refridgerated) milk in those little paper cartons at public school!

  7. (refrigerated) even…

  8. I guess I would say I never knew any “privates” when I was growing up. I think that’s probably as it should be.

    By the time I was in grade school, we had the little cardboard cartons and I’ve never heard of paper straws for anything but Pixie Stix (paper tubes of flavored sugar sold in the candy aisle). I never liked Pixie Stix and I don’t think I could handle drinking from a paper straw. Putting paper or wood (popsicle sticks!) in my mouth freaks me out. It gives me the willies just to see someone else do it. We also had refrigeration (and color TV, but no dinosaurs except on The Flintstones) by the time I was in school and my mom did the whole Catholic school thing and decided she did not want to subject us to the same.

    One public school cafeteria delicacy that I was treated to which you probably never got in Australia was canned collard greens. I lived in Mississippi for three years during grade school and collard greens were a regular feature on the lunch tray. I think they must have been government surplus like the nasty cheese and everything else served. Thank God we never had government surplus chitlins. At least I don’t think we did. There were a lot of unidentifiable items served.

    Nice to see you posting again:o)

  9. Oh you poor things! All that hot weather.

    We in the UK had free school milk at all primary schools from 1946 as a result of WW11 and nutrition deficiencies.

    Sadly we don’t get your hot weather so our milk was lovely just the right temperature to drink straight from the lovely dinky little third of a pint bottles. There have to be some benefits from living with a crap climate! We were too poor to have straws!

    I went to a Proddy school and then later to a Catholic school and at both we got the milk at playtime about 10.30am.
    One incentive to go to communion before school was you got to eat your breakfast during catechism. That was in the days when you had to fast before communion. Then you had the luxury of drinking the milk from the bottle in summer or in winter in your hot chocolate with your sarnies for breakfast while the other poor little souls had their catechism tested!

    Maggie Thatcher soon put a stop to it though, she stopped it in 1976 and earned herself the nickname “Thatcher, Thatcher Milk Snatcher”. Rotten spoilsport!

  10. LOL and I am so glad I did not get the milk, or I did, but they gave it to us early and without ruining it first. Those nuns are amazing, the stories I have heard :-).

  11. Wow! That’s awful! I bet you don’t even drink milk to this day, do you?

    Love the “Gestapo nuns”!

  12. That is disgusting! I was not subject to this kind of torture…our milk was refrigerated, and you only had to drink it if you took school lunch, or paid for it separately. But the way I am about dairy products you’d THINK I had been through this. I give EVERYTHING the sniff test EVERY time I open it (even several times a day) regardless of the date, and NOTHING gets used past the date, regardless of if it smells ok. And I keep my refrigerator just barely above the freezing mark. In fact, if the milk is in the back of the fridge it does freeze sometimes. NO warm milk here!!! And even at that, I only use milk for cereal, so I can go months between having a carton.

  13. Growing up our school milk came directly from the State Penitentiary’s dairy. (which was outside of town). It was all part of the work program for the Pen. I don’t think my mom would let me drink it – not knowing what those “criminals” were up to. And not liking milk, I had no problem obeying her.

    But your milk – ugh. I think the Catholic schools really knew how to torture kids.

  14. Now I am shocked, WT, just shocked!! How could you have attended cat-lick school and not know about the red haired bastard step-kids, the Lutherans??? No Gestapo at the Lutheran Day School… kids drank beer and wine at break time!! Thanks for the chuckle!!

  15. See I just knew where you were going on this, I have nightmares still about milk to this day for the very same reason! I was in public school and we had the same ritual every bloody morning! It was sickening, and nothing could get you out of it. My parents thought I was whining and wouldn’t write a note to get me out of it so each day I had to endure the same torture and to this day I cannot drink milk out of glass!

    If I drink any milk, it will only be flavoured and I will just about scull (sp?) it so it can’t warm up even 1 degree!

    So many people don’t know what I’m going on when I share about this, I’m glad there are people who DO understand the torture!

  16. Okay, I thought you were just being your usual dramatic self, until I read this:

    “The taste of the free school milk will remain vividly in the memory of school children from this era. The milk was never refrigerated and on a hot Queensland day, the taste it had acquired by ‘little lunch’ could be sickening. Enjoyment was not improved if you forgot to shake the bottle before opening and got a mouthful of warm, sometimes lumpy cream. Some fortunate children brought flavouring to school to add to the milk to make it more palatable.”

    OMG…you were tortured. That is unreal.

  17. Wow! We got free chocolate milk every day when I was in the second grade. My sweet teacher would put it in the principal’s freezer and we could eat it frozen. It was such a wonderful break during the day. It came in little paper milk cartons. Such a good memory. I thought that picture of your dad looked familar, like you. 😀

  18. You have stirred up some memories with that post-I never liked drinking the free milk but if `I recall correctly we were made to!

  19. Hmmm, are you sure you weren’t born in Mansfield in Nottinghamshire Uk?
    We had the warm milk, the straws and the puking too at our Catholic school. Sighhhh, the memories.

  20. Aw Peter, I used to take Milo wrapped in wax paper that my mum gave me. Interestingly enough, at my school they used to ask for volunteers (during Lunch break) to finish off any milk left overs. What you didn’t touch on though, was all the fun we used to have with the aluminum bottle tops, being poor ignorant S’tralians, we never heard of Frisbe’s & used to either flick the little bottle tops (or make do with the lids off paint tins, which drove our fathers crazy). And as you should remember Peter, this type of training came in handy for those that graduated to flicking beer bottle caps. You always knew when the milk was “Off” by the of smell vomit the toilets.
    I’ve always suspected that they took notes on those of us that blindly followed orders & did not hurl after drinking 2 or more of the little bottles (military career potential?) or those that bought flavoured straws & sold them for profit (Banking career?) or those prepared with their own chockie powder (Dole bludging, leftie pinko radical) or those that came with Strawberry flavoured straws ( hairdressing or political career?)

  21. If that happened these days some nun would be in jail.

    I can hardly drink nice, cold non spoiled milk (unless it is chocolate) without gagging. I can just imagine drinking what you are talking about.

    Maybe this explains a lot about you. Hmmmmmm…….

  22. OMG. You never had a chance at being normal, did you? 😉

    I need to have my kids read this, as a lesson in how fortunate they are! Over here, the kids get milk every day at school, but only if parents order it and pay for it. And they are the refrigerated cardboard cartons.

    Ah, just remembered how much older you are than I am 😉 I’ll have to ask my parents if they also endured such a thing. (My dad grew up attending Catholic schools, and like you, for many years wanted nothing to do with church!)

  23. As I start to read this post, I’m thinking this is the post that Equoni wrote for Fun Monday. No wait…”Milk as an instrument of torture.” can’t be an Equoni title. Now, I should read your post and Equoni’s.

  24. Poor little WT
    We had milk in glass bottles when I was in kindergarten. I do not remember this as a bad experience. I do remember that I was one of the few children that had white milk. Most of the children ordered chocolate milk

  25. I can’t even THINK of drinking milk any way other than ICE COLD. And it has to be flavored with chocolate. I could not, no way, do the warm milk thing. YUCK!

  26. Ugh. I’ve read about this before. I am so glad they didn’t do this any more when I went to school!

  27. …you’re also reminding me of kindergarten, when i had to drink my milk out of those dinky little cartons without a straw. i did not know how to do this; i had always used a straw.

    and i lifted it to my lips and, of course, ended up pouring it all over myself.

    everything was hard in those days. everything was a form of torture. we were so little, and so clueless.

  28. G’day WT, the free (thickened) milk was also issued in Vic schools but drinking it was on a voluntary basis in the State school system… not sure about the catholic schools.

  29. hmmm….for the brief time I went to public school, we also had to form two lines, but when I went to catholic school, it became two lines. But we never were forced to drink milk.

  30. I remember getting milk in (a Public/State) Primary School. It was kept inside a wooden building with a wide verandah, and we use to sit under some big fig-type trees to drink it, even in the middle of a stinking hot summer. No puking on my part! Mind you, our milk wasn’t warm and curdled either…

    When i used to manage a small Christian bookstore here in town many years ago, I met some of the WORST nuns you could ever imagine. Absolutely Nazi nutcases. Seriously screwed-up people. But the flip-side was that I also met some of the nicest, warmest, most affirmable, angels-on-earth nuns as well. Catch-22.

    Mal 🙂

  31. I know. And you had to walk uphill to and from school carrying your metal pail with a cold, hard biscuit in it for lunch. Didn’t you?

    Gestapo Nuns? With machine guns? Is that what’s wrong with you?

    Now, for the “clabbered” milk… I went to a two-room school in the boonies of southeastern Oklahoma. We didn’t get “brunch” at 11:00. We had to wait until lunch in the “lunchroom.” It always consisted of a hot meal like red beans and cornbread and spinach or meatloaf and wacky cake. BUT, there was always a block of orange cheese, crackers, peanut butter, and honey in the middle of the table. We drank our milk out of little bitty cartons with NO straws and I always had to hold my nose because the carton smelled like soured milk. The milk was good but the carton stunk.

    This is the closest I can come to understanding what you’re talking about.

    Remind me sometime to tell you the story about asking my fourth graders if they knew what “collaborate” means. You can probably surmise what Rick told me it meant.

  32. Yukkity yuk!! I can’t believe the bit about leaving it out in the sun!! Idiots.

  33. Our milk got stored in the custodian room .. I guess that was the coldest spot at school. It never sat outside that I know of.
    I wouldn’t drink it. Wasn’t forced to do so either. (I went to a parochial school, too. But it wasn’t catholic.)

    Now we know my problem as lactose intolerance. Back then they just thought I was picky pukey.

    Those horrid little straws with that gooey brown stuff that was supposed to be chocolate. Oh sick sick. Weren’t they something.

  34. I also have tales about drinking milk at Primary school in the UK. Strange but that was the only milk I have ever liked I even chased doon the caretaker to see if he had any left over.

  35. Poor souls. We had the milk issued at my public school too but I don’t require being forced to drink the stuff and I think I recall that it wasn’t warm. I remember quite clearly, the forced naps during kindergarten. I wish I’d appreciated those like I do now. I wasted a lot of time trying to stay awake.

  36. Oh. My. GAWD! I felt nauseous just reading that. Yech. How long did that torture/program last??

  37. You don’t seem to be writing about anything that’s “ground zero”. Wassupp???

  38. I’m with Jenni on the paper straw thing. That would have made me vomit before the warm, congealing milk would have.

  39. Ugh! I wouldn’t have survived. Coming from a family w/7 children my mother used to mix our milk with half powdered milk and water. Everyday someone’s job was to mix 3 pitchers of milk. I was very diligent on my day and mixed thoroughly but most of my siblings were not so caring and lumpy milk….oh it grosses me out to think about it.

  40. HA! This is hilarious!

    I went to a catholic school also, but instead of ‘publics’ we called them ‘others.’ We only had one nun, and a stereotypical priest that got hauled away for things I’ll leave to your imagination. Instead of being marched outside for sour milk, we were marched down the hall to the ‘nurses office’ which also doubled as a library, confessional, and who knows what else. Once a month they would tell us that the ‘dentist’ was there – who I never, ever saw once. They gave us these little pink tablets for our ‘oral health’ that made your entire mouth turn red and most of the time, throw up whatever you had for breakfast. I blame them for my craziness, because, well, how can you not? 😛

  41. That is just torture. I feel so sorry for you and all the other kids that were forced to drink that crap.

  42. I went to school in those days too but to a public one. We had flavored milk in the 60’s and the banana one tasted like snot, not that any self respecting primary school student would know what that tasted like of course.
    Now I work as a school cleaner and on occasion dread the days when the catholic schools littlies have 250ml cartons of milk handed out to them. Luckily it isn’t too often. They drink only a small portion of it and hide the rest in the bin so that when I lift out the liners the milk has leaked out inside and goes all over me. Lovely.

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