GETTING LUNCH AT THE FROST JUNIOR HIGH “AUTOMAT”

Talking local history with the locals is always a learning experience.  I discovered that once again when I was recently speaking to Schaumburg Village trustee Jack Sullivan.  In the course of our discussion, he talked about attending Frost Junior High School in the 1960s and how the students could buy their lunches from a series of vending machines.  With what I’m sure was a puzzled expression on my face, I said, “Do you mean like an automat?”  Turns out, that’s exactly what he was talking about.

Having never heard that story before, I did some research and found a great article in the Hoffman Herald on August 6, 1964.  Interestingly, Robert Frost Junior High was actually the testing ground in the Chicago area for this style of lunch.

When it opened for the school year in 1964, Robert Frost Junior High on Wise Road was the first school built specifically as a junior high for the fast-growing, burgeoning District 54.  One of the challenges for the new school was serving several hundred students during relatively short lunch periods.

Of course, many students inevitably brown bagged their lunches, but the school district was looking for other options as well, and that’s when Barrington Vending Machine Co. stepped in to offer them an interesting solution.

The company agreed to install machines that would include “coffee (!), hot chocolate, tea and soup, a cold drink machine, an ice cream unit, a candy and pastry unit, a hot canned foods unit, a cold sandwich and salad unit, a hot sandwich unit and serving units with spoons, napkins and condiments.”  Milk would be provided by a dairy that supplied the other schools.  Frankly, for young students in 1964, this had to have seemed pretty cool.

The article noted–and remember, this was August before school started–that they were still considering the rationale of making coffee and candy available for the students.  This would have been especially pertinent given the fact that the purpose was to make a balanced meal available to the students for less than .50 a day.

Frost Junior High was expecting 800 students in the new school and they were planning to incorporate four lunch periods into the day.  The food would be fresh every day according to the contract with Barrington Vending, and a part time staffer would make sure that all of the machines were kept stocked during those lunch periods and make change for the students.

During the writeup of this blog posting, it was not possible to determine how long this vending machine food service ran but in a January 27, 1966 article it was mentioned that milk, candy and soft drinks were being dispensed through vending machines.  Further, it says, “…vending machines were placed in Schaumburg and Robert Frost Junior High Schools as a service since students remain in both schools during the lunch period.”

According to Ray Hallett however, who was a long time teacher at Frost Junior High, the school was doing split shifts of 6 a.m.-noon and noon-6 p.m. in the 1969-70 school year so there would have been no reason for a lunch period.  He and another commenter, Diana Dobrovolny, also thought they did split shifts a year or two prior so it seems that the vending machine lunches lasted only a couple of years.  This was confirmed by commenter, Marty Oliff, who said that the Frost/Keller split shift happened in the 1966/67 school year so lunch would not have been necessary for that school year either.

Thus, it appears that the Automat-style vending machine experiment lasted from the time Frost opened for the 1964/65 school year until the end of the 1965/66 term.  Because of the massive influx of students, lunch was essentially unnecessary in the junior highs until the split shift years were over.

In yet another Hoffman Herald article from September 16, 1969, it appears a company called Mass Feeding Corp. had taken over the contract and was supplying “the pre-packaged, pre-frozen hot lunch program” at District 54 and other school districts.  So, some type of vending machine service was still being used in some of the schools.  One has to suppose this was the junior highs but maybe other readers might be able to confirm this for sure.

If you’re one of those who attended Frost Junior High and took advantage of the vending machines that supplied your lunch, we would love to hear the types of food they had, how much you paid for various items and how long the program lasted.  District 54 was not only on the cutting edge in education but in lunch services too!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

9 Responses to “GETTING LUNCH AT THE FROST JUNIOR HIGH “AUTOMAT””

  1. Diana Dobrovolny Says:

    I attended Frost JH years ending 1967 and 1968. The article mentions the challenge of feeding 800 students in 4 lunch periods. I honestly don’t remember how the overcrowding of our school years were managed. 1967 was overwhelming with number of students and class size. 1968 was the year of split shifts. 1/2 student body went early and the other in the afternoon. Probably no lunch served. New Jr High opened next school year to ease class size. It was also a time of experimental teaching. I remember my English class was taught very differently. I still struggle with grammer and spelling as a result but others got it. I dont think the program lasted long.

  2. Ray Hallett Says:

    I taught at Frost for 43 years starting in the fall of 1970. There were no vending machines there at that time. The year before I came the school was on a split shift until Addams Jr. High opened in January of 1970. The Frost kids attended from 6 until noon and the Addams kids attended from noon until 6 until the new school opened. Therefore there was no reason to have lunch periods. Before that the school was on a split shift while Keller Jr. High was being built. That was probably the 68-69 school year but it could have been 67-68. I wasn’t there then, sorry. When I started at Frost the students that chose that option received a hot lunch every day. We would take a count in homeroom each day of the students desiring a hot lunch that day and this would be added to morning attendance sheets. On the stage in the cafeteria there were a number of ovens and the serving crew would place the lunches in the ovens so that they would come out shortly before a lunch shift arrived in the cafeteria. Basically they were TV dinners. I can not recall when the hot lunch program was discontinued but it was probably in the mid-70s. I don’t remember ever hearing about vending machines but there was a big turnover in staff practically every year before 1970 as the staff was continually being split with so many schools being built. Thus, there were few “oldtimers” when I started. By the way, Frost was not the first junior high in Schaumburg. That honor would go to Schaumburg Junior High, which became Schaumburg Elementary when Frost opened. Eventually Schaumburg Elementary closed and became the Program Service Center before being renamed the Rauch Center. It is on Schaumburg Road in front of the District 54 central office.

    • jrozek Says:

      Thank you, Mr. Hallett for clarifying that this school did not serve as the first junior high. I’ve updated the post to reflect that detail and, also, when the vending machines would have been phased out.

      And, thank you to all of the commenters for the great details you have supplied regarding the schools. It was obviously SUCH a period of flux that it’s difficult to imagine how everything was organized for each school year.

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library
      jrozek@stdl.org

  3. Michael Mackey Says:

    Greetings, Mr. Hallett, and Happy New Year! I attended Frost from ’81 to ’83, then went on to Conant. There was only the lunchroom; no vending machines at Frost during my tenure. I do recall a rather large trash compactor and a thin mustachioed custodian who ran it whose name now escapes me. I also recall we had a specially designated Doughnut Day, which was very nice. Fond memories!

  4. Kristy Catlin VanCleve Says:

    Happy New Year Mr. Hallett. I remember your class well. I attended Frost 1971 – 1973. Don’t know about the “auto-mat”, but I remember “Mass Feeding Company” because it always struck me as if we were a herd of cows or something. Yes, lunch was in the cafeteria and we needed a meal ticket that was purchased each week. If we forgot to make the purchase we usually had nothing to eat if we didn’t bring something from home. My “fondest” memory of a “healthy” lunch was John’s pizza which was a rectangle of some kind of dough w/cheese and one rectangle piece of sausage on top. It was served with French fries… no wonder I’m so addicted to carbs! I also recall the selling of caramel apples as a special treat.

  5. Marty Oliff Says:

    Jane…
    Wonderful article.
    I went to 7th grade (’65-66) at Frost.I recall with fond memories my mother giving me once a week .35 for a small can of Hormel chili that came in a cup with a package of saltines and a spoon. I spent another .15 on various Hostess products. Both came out of an “automat” styled vending machines. Cans had to opened at a station that had a mounted can opener which one had to crank. Don’t recall what lunch period I had but recall that
    the supervisor who stood on the stage was the rather large and imposing Roland Caranci (sp), Geography teacher known for his “Map Atlas” project and for being a member of the National Football League’s World Champion New York Giants in the late ’40’s. He had a booming voice which I vividly recall him using while yelling at a new student who had just spilled his milkshake on the floor.
    As the next year was the Frost /Keller split shift (’66-67) I do not believe the vending machines were used as lunch was not part of the school day for either group of students.
    Speaking of Schaumburg School, for the ’64-65 school year, Schaumburg school was home to six classes of sixth graders who were bussed there due to overcrowding at Hillcrest, Lakeview and Campanelli School. Students were housed in classrooms based on the school they would have attended with the exception of one class that had students from all three schools based on previous “test scores”. I was lucky enough to be in that class taught by an amazing teacher named Carmen Costello who was close to retirement at the time. The students did not know why we were singled out for the class but our parents found out. I recall fellow classmates with prominent parents like Chris Atcher and Holly Thorsen (sp) Touch football after lunch in the fall was the highlight for many of the guys in the six classes with an actual schedule. Still stay in touch with some of my classmates and opponents.

    • jrozek Says:

      Thank you, Marty, for providing an example of the foods and prices that were part of the vending machine experience–and for establishing a possible year for the end of the Automat experiment at Frost. Additional thanks for the mention of Roland Caranci. I’ll add him to my list of Schaumburg Township notables who were born or passed through our area at one time or another.

      Great information!

      Jane Rozek
      Local History Librarian
      Schaumburg Township District Library
      jrozek@stdl.org

  6. Michael Mackey Says:

    Oh, Mr. Caranci! I adored him, and absolutely loved his class! He used to tell us stories of his friendship and football days with Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall. He wrote a most-accurate inscription in my eighth grade yearbook, which i was just looking at yesterday, believe it or not! He wrote, “I have enjoyed having you in my class. You are a good student, but you worry too much. Best of luck. 6/7/83” It’s true to this day; I still worry too much. Boy, did Mr. Caranci know his stuff!

  7. Diana Dobrovolny Says:

    So I was one year later than Marty. Sometimes it was the smart kids. Sometimes the connected kids. For the next class it was almost all the kids affected. The reality was the school system could not keep up with the growth in Schaumburg. My first grade 1960/61 was a bussed year to a Hoffman Estates school. Campenelli opened for my second grade and managed my third grade although classes were increasing in size. The extension was not complete in 4th grade so 3 4th grade classes were taught simultaneously in the gym. There were temp buildings. The entire school joined us in the gym the day Kennedy died. The building was complete for 5th grade but we were bussed with other schools 6th graders to Schaumburg School – similar to Marty. It used to be a Jr High but now seemed the size of an elementary school. Schaumburg school was now used for overflow and summer school. Our class entered Frost with large classes then split shifts in 8th grade. At that point our class had been mixed and matched so many times. There was a meeting where plans were announced for the new Schaumburg High School. At that meeting we were told our class would be kept together for 4 years at Conant due to all of the unrest we had. Sophomore year that decision was changed an Schaumburg teens went to the new hs. We had to be pioneers. Start new logos, mascot, paper, yearbook, etc. Much was exciting. But there was no senior prom or homecoming the first year as there were no seniors and no one to come home for 2 years.

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