And you’ll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip,
That started from Hull Ma,
Aboard this tiny ship.
Laneit was a mighty sailin’ man,
Maz brave and sure.
The class of 1997 set sail that day,
For a three hour tour,
A three hour tour…
It seems silly now, but Star Wars fans all over the world were very excited when “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” in May 1999. Then they saw the movie, and we all know how that turned out.
But being hardcore nerds, even the crew of TNU went to the movies to see Phantom Menace on opening night. And I do mean night, as in a 1 a.m. show at the now gone Harborlight Mall in Weymouth MA. From what I can remember, we knew a kid named Dan that worked at the movie theatre in the mall. I think the late night screening was supposed to be for employees only (not sure though), but he was able to get us in free of charge.
At the screening was Laneit, his girlfriend, John, the kid Dan, and me. I remember walking into the theatre as the closing credits to “The Mummy” started to roll. A couple of us were laughing because this was the first time we’d seen anyone go to the movies in cosplay.
Anyways, the movie finally started and I will never forget the crowd’s reaction when the 20th Century Fox fanfare began. Outside of an NFL game, I’d never seen a crowd go wild like that. Of course it wasn’t very long before the audience realized “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” wasn’t very good. It happened quick, like as soon as Jar Jar Binks was introduced.
For the remainder pf the movie I didn’t hear much cheering or clapping or anything of the sort. For the most part the crowd’s reaction was either stunned silence, or groans of disgust. One of the biggest groans came when the future Darth Vader shouted “Yippie!”
We were all tired when the movie got out, but we were also very hungry. We decided to hit the Bickford’s in Braintree, because it was the only 24 hour place we knew of. As we walked out the movies and into the mall, another friend shouted an angry hello at me. Apparently he was mad I didn’t see him in the theatre, but in my defense it was 3:30 or so in the morning. I wasn’t exactly all there. Then came the moment that made this night worth staying up late for.
As we walked to the car, Laneit said the only decent part of the movie was the Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan lightsaber battle against Darth Maul. Then, Dan said something like “It was funny when he was sliced in two.” At this point John goes “Darth Maul got cut in half?”
Turns out, our deal buddy John, fell asleep before the lightsaber fight. As you can imagine, this made our night.
One afternoon in the summer of 1992, I was out delivering newspapers like usual when suddenly, a large woman I did not know came charging at me.
Her name was Ellen, and she told me she saw me delivering papers everyday and she wanted to offer me a job. I was a little creeped out at first, but she soon informed me she owned a store I walked by everyday. Her store was called shoes ‘n Bags and it sold, well shoes and bags, but also women’s clothing and other gifts.
Anyways, she wanted to hire me to work after school at the office. See, the office part of the business was across the street from the actual store. So each afternoon I would be at the office pricing the shoes, the clothes, and the other stuff. Part of the job would also be to load the stuff into bins, take to the store and unload it there. I would also be taking the trash out of both places, and helping out wherever else I was needed.
It was an entry-level gig for sure, but there were some pluses: the hours were better, the money was better, and I wouldn’t have to deliver papers in 6 foot snow drifts during the winter. I thought it over for about a day, but I gladly accepted the job
at Shoes ‘n Bags.
Taking this job was a decision I would soon regret.
Ellen turned out to be absolute nut. She would scream and yell, not just at her employee’s, but at customers as well. I once saw her tell two older ladies that they wouldn’t find anything their size at her store. But that I’m afraid, was just the beginning.
During a double shift, she wouldn’t let me take a break or even get a drink. I probably would have dropped from dehydration had it not been for my aunt who threatened to report Ellen. Once, while I was changing lightbulbs, Ellen turned the power on while I had my hand in the socket and it didn’t go well for me. She even forced me to help move her parents to a new house, with the threat that if I didn’t do it, I was out of a job.
I desperately needed a break, and the following summer I decided to go away from late June to late August. Ellen wasn’t too thrilled at the news, but she agreed to it as long as I found her a replacement. This is where my fellow TNU member Laneit came in. The poor bastard took over for me that summer, and he suffered much of the same treatment from Ellen.
Once I was back, Ellen decided to keep both of us on. This lead to Laneit and me spending a lot of time together, including a Christmas night sleepover that December. As it turned out, we had a white Christmas that year, with a couple of feet of snow on the ground. On the morning of the 26th, my house phone rang around 5 in the morning, and it was Ellen. I was mostly asleep, but she told me I had to be at work at 7 to shovel at the office and the store before going to shovel out her parent’s house. I told her fine, and headed back to bed.
I was barely under the covers when the phone rang again. On the other end was a screaming Ellen, demanding to know why I hadn’t told her Laneit was there with me. She told me she had called his house and they told her he’d spent the night at my place. Well for one thing, Ellen didn’t ask me about Laneit whereabouts the first time she called. Second, it was 5 in the freaking morning!
All that shoveling took several hours and we were beat by noon. Ellen however, wasn’t done with us. She told us to go to the storage room and get some glass shelves for her. Laneit grabbed a few shelfs, which slipped, and cut him in the arm. I ran with him to the store hoping to find some band-aids at least, but Ellen saw us, and the only help she offered was this: “Don’t bleed on the clothes.”
Shoes ‘n Bags should have been an easy after school job, but it was a nightmare. There are many other stories to tell about our days working there, but I don’t have the time to write about them. Instead, here are a few of the highlights:
Kids are back (or are about to go back) to school, which means their summer diet of eating anything and everything they could get their hands on, is giving way to … umm, actually, I don’t know what they’re serving in schools these days.
What I do know is that in my day, school lunches were composed of mystery meats, something resembling cheese, and who knows what else they snuck in there. It wasn’t always pretty back then, but man what I wouldn’t give to have one of those school lunches again!
With that in mind, I present to you the top five school cafeteria lunches I wish I could have again. Before I forget, the pictures I’m using are not the actual things I ate at school, but they are the closest images I could find. Now, let’s start with something the good old days in 4th to 6th grade:
Every Friday was “Pizza” day at Alice B. Fulton School in Weymouth MA. Seeing this on the school lunch calendar was the highlight to most kids. Friday was the day that most of the school ate the cafeteria food instead of bringing something from home.
Not that we were getting a gourmet pizza here. The public elementary school pizza was a single square, sometimes soggy slice of pizza with a bland sauce and stringy anonymous white cheese. Occasionally a few pepperoni slices would make a guest appearance, but I don’t remember it happening often which probably means they were sent by mistake.
Cheeseburger and tater tots
I don’t know what it was about the lukewarm gray patty (which may or may not have contained meat), a neon yellow “cheese” slice, and a dry bun, but the school’s cheeseburger was better than it sounded.
As for the tater tots, I just remember that they were often quite crispy on the outside, but freaking cold on the inside. But this wasn’t anything a ton of ketchup couldn’t solve.
In middle school we usually got a meatball sub on either Tuesday or Thursday. It came in a silver tin foil plate which contained a torpedo roll, 3 or 4 meatballs, a tiny pile of cheese, and some diced pickles. Even though these subs weren’t all that great, at least it felt like an entire meal.
Things improved in high school where the meatball subs were available everyday, and you could ask for extra sauce which was great. Also, the elderly lunch lady would say nothing but “Meatball” at us. I don’t know if she was asking if we wanted meatballs, or if she was just stating that she had meatballs. Either way, her meatball subs became a staple for Laneit and for me.
During our last couple of years in high school, our cafeteria started having “Deli Day” a couple of times a month. If my memory serves me, I think we got a choice of either roast beef or ham. Then we had lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and some other stuff to top the sandwich off.
I gotta say deli day was probably the best meal that cafeteria served. It was nice not having to eat something that was cooked days or weeks ahead of time. Even the sandwich buns tasted fresh. And Laneit and I added a meatball sub on the side, so deli days were great!
Steak and Cheese Sub
When we first saw “Shaved Steak and Cheese Sub” on the menu, we were a little apprehensive. But it actually wasn’t that bad, and we ate it all the time. Then during my senior year, our Current Affairs teacher told us he saw the food delivery truck that morning and that the steak and cheese boxes said “Grade D but Edible.”
Yeah, I basically stopped eating the steak and cheese subs after that one.
That was almost 20 years ago, and now I wish I could have those meals again. I guess you never know what you got until you lose it, right? Oh yeah, fun fact: in high school, Laneit’s lunch consisted of the following…