Citation
Cutting the fool

Material Information

Title:
Cutting the fool women in the school lunch program
Added title page title:
Women in the school lunch program
Creator:
Lawson, Sally Ann, 1948-
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
ix, 216 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Anthropology ( jstor )
Boxes ( jstor )
Cafeterias ( jstor )
Cultural anthropology ( jstor )
Employment discrimination ( jstor )
Gender roles ( jstor )
Labor ( jstor )
Linguistic anthropology ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
Womens studies ( jstor )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D ( lcsh )
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF ( lcsh )
School children -- Food ( lcsh )
School lunchrooms, cafeterias, etc ( lcsh )
Women -- Employment ( lcsh )
City of Gainesville ( local )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography:
Bibliography: leaves 205-215.
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by S. A. Lawson.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
025537027 ( ALEPH )
03012552 ( OCLC )
AAU1025 ( NOTIS )
AA00004921_00001 ( sobekcm )

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Full Text











CUTTING THE FOOL:
WOMEN IN THE SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM








By

S. A. LAWSON


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE
COUNCIL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY



UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1976




CUTTING THE FOOL:
WOMEN IN THE SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM
By
S. A. LAWSON
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE
COUNCIL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1976




To
Mother and Father


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Usually one starts thanking people who are least important to one's
study and ends up praising one's wife and children. Perhaps this follows
the biblical dictum that the first shall be last and the last, first.
The most important people have been my family and friends. I do
not know if I ever would have finished this if my father had not asked,
"Well, kid, what else are you going to do with yourself?" or my mother
had not always said how proud she was. Or for that matter, my sisters
Kathy and Peg and brother Bill who told me I was too old to be still in
school and they were getting a little embarrassed telling their friends
that I was still working on It.
My sister Kathy, a high school teacher, visited me during the study.
I asked her about the role of teachers, a group with whom I had only
very structured and limited contact. She related to me her own teaching
experiences and made observations about the attitudes and behavior of
her fellow teachers, which were most helpful. Kathy also met one of
the women with whom I worked and through Kathy's comments, I was able
to see some of my own family bias. Peg and I discussed what makes
working worthwhile: to her it was the challenge and the change. For
my brother Bill, however, work was the time that he was with his friends
doing what he liked best to dotinkering with cars.
My friends at work, about whom this study is written, always jived
me about "the book." One said that this would be the first time that
iv


chaos was documented. They told me to make sure I included this and
Lord, don't tell them that. They were sure I was going to make a lot
of money from selling the book, little knowing that dissertations are
the ultimate in written obscurity.
The importance of one or two individuals who befriended the anthro
pologist cannot be underestimated. For me, one such person was the head
custodian at Hogtown High School. Much of what I learned about the
subtleties of interaction among school employees and students, I have
learned from this man. He acted not only as an excellent analyzer of
the school's culture but also as my patron and protector. When he died
last year, I lost not only a person who collaborated with me on my
fieldwork, but a dear friend.
At the university, I was fortunate in knowing another man, who
like H.H.S.'s "ole yard man," acted as my patron. I would wander into
Professor von Mering's office unannounced and launch into a diatribe about
the latest inflammatory incident, or at other times, I would talk about
something particularly amusing that had happened. He received these
outbursts with equanimity and then would present his own latest zany
ideas about the research. Many of his off-beat notions, which at the
time seemed irrelevant, proved to be extremely useful; sometimes, not so
useful. His most helpful advice came one day when, after listening to
me go on, he leaned back in his chair, folded his hands over his stomach,
grinned and said, "My dear, that's a judgment."
Lydia Deakin, a friend throughout my graduate study, put research
into a proper perspective, mixing common sense with a tradition of
scholarship. I survived on her daily rations of undaunted continental
charm and homebaked cakes and breads. Another friend, Deborah Bowers,
v


a writer on local culture, has generously shared her manuscripts with
me on activities that some of my co-workers participated in but which I
had not observed, e.g., family gatherings to make sugar cane syrup in
the winter. Deb has been a mainstay throughout this research, reading
and rereading each chapter as it was written, supplying the needed
encouragement and the occasional midnight MacDonald's hamburger.
Other friends unconnected with the research were equally supportive.
They always said how interesting my life was (?) and how they always
wanted to do something like it (they could not have meant washing pots
and pans). Roz Brandon, Rona Wilson, Phyllis Tellor, Valentina
Komaniecka, and Gemma Tate were such friends.
My committee, save the chairman, were people whom I met late in my
academic program. They were recruited by my chairman to give the
university's equivalent of the Jewish minyan. I thank them for welcoming
me into the olde boy's club that is anthropology: Theron Nunez, Carol
Taylor, Antoinette Brown, William Kelso, and Harry Paul.
Long about this time, one thanks the foundation which gave the grant
for the study. My family always came through with money as needed, never
asked how it was spent nor demanded much more than an occasional letter
in return. Foundations, I understand, are a little less cooperative.
My research and myself were supported largely by my earnings from the
job in the lunchroom and with the local community college, both of which
Shirley von Mering was instrumental in getting for me. I also held
assistantships at the university, for which I thank the University of
Florida and more particularly, Lydia Deakin and Otto von Mering who
saw to it that I got funded if funds were around.
vi


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Pages
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iv
ABSTRACT viii
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION 1
Notes 10
CHAPTER II: OBSERVATIONS ON FIELDWORK 13
Notes 28
CHAPTER III: DATA AS THE STORY 30
The Story 33
Notes 112
CHAPTER IV: EXAMINATION OF THE DATA 113
Table I: Setting 117
Table II: Characters 127
Table III: Action 151
Recapitulation 164
Notes 175
CHAPTER V: CONCLUSION 177
APPENDIX: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE 186
Notes 201
BIBLIOGRAPHY 205
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 216
vii


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
CUTTING THE FOOL: WOMEN IN THE SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM
By
S. A. Lawson
December, 1976
Chairman: Otto von Mering
Major Department: Anthropology
This is an ethnological study of a small group of women employed in
a school lunch program preparing meals for students, teachers and staff.
In their efforts to fulfill their work functions, the women encountered
certain difficulties which have given rise to a special kind of adaptive
behavior known as "cutting the fool."
The women subscribe to the value that work is both a good and
necessary activity for able-bodied adults, yet, the reality of working
in the lunchroom is viewed less favorably. The work is physically
exhausting, routinized, as well as potentially dangerous. The many
frustrating and even humbling situations encountered in this employ
are not compensated for by the actual financial rewards and benefits.
In order to reconcile the value of work with their job situation,
these workers have developed particular survival techniques which
allow them to play out a fiction. This fiction many of the women have
viii


likened to contemporary soap operas. They have created a story from
the happenings at work and from the situations that occur in their own
lives outside of work. This story contains two essential elements of
drama: role-playing and entertainment.
Acting out roles for the benefit of an audience, i.e., the students,
teachers and staff who come each day to eat in the lunchroom, allows the
women to do their work with the least amount of friction. During the
lunch hour when the women are on stage, they play at being deferential
servants, meeting thereby the expectations of their patrons.
Before and after the lunch hour, another kind of performance takes
place. During this time, the workers stage for one another a kind of
vaudevillian show, which includes amusing dialogues, dancing, singing
and pantomime. These activities foster cooperation and help to solidify
the group into one working and performing unit.
This adaptation to institutional work allows the women to complete
their tasks, to overcome petty tyrannies of their customers and
administrators, to retain a sense of self, and to enjoy the comraderie
of their fellow workers.
ix


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
It is this instinctive conviction, vividly posed
before the imagination, which is the motive power
of researchthat there is a secret, a secret which
can be unveiled. (Whitehead 1948:13)
1
This is a story about women at work. Like all stories, the
2
stories that anthropologists tell concern real life, but they are not
real life. Stories are created out of life experiences which may or
may not have happened. Life moves on, but in a story, life stops with
the telling. The teller controls the story by emphasizing certain
things and omitting others, shaping and changing events, sometimes
unwittingly, to accomplish a purpose or to suit the audience. The
anthropologist's task is to tell it like it is, but in so doing, he
distorts the story. This is the nature of story-telling, but it also
a peculiarity of the anthropologist's work.
Anthropology is the study of mankind. The word itself comes from
3
two Greek words anthropos and logos. Anthropos is unambiguous enough,
meaning man or human. Logos, although generally interpreted to mean
study, has various meanings, only one of which is study. In the
original Greek, logQs is the symbol for speech, word and reason.
These three meanings of logos are interrelated and, as a unified complex,
define a significant aspect of man. Han's language is his ability to
create and use symbols to communicate with his fellow men, a great
evolutionary change distinguishing man from the animal world, a world
1


2
4
he is a part of but also apart from. Anthropology then can be inter-
5
preted to mean a_ speech about mankind, a meaning in keeping with the
spirit of this dissertation and the group studied. Anthropology has
another meaning as an academic discipline in the social sciences. This
meaning and the first are closely allied, but slightly different. In
the second meaning anthropology has come to mean the study of man
rather than the speech about man.
"Anthropology, as the science of man at large, as the most compre
hensive discipline in humanism without portfolio, was the last to come"
(Malinowski 1969:3). In order to make way for itself, it had to borrow
concepts and methods from various sciences, to encroach on the subject
matter of other disciplines. It has been an adventure undertaken by
6
the malcontents of the intellectual world or, as one person described
it, "the investigation of oddments by the eccentric" (in Kluckhohn 1949:
4).
The discipline has come a long way from this nineteenth-century
characterization, at times losing its way. Anthropology, one might say,
was born in confusion and has been trying to make sense out of this
chaos, with varying degrees of success. Anthropology is an eclectic
discipline, so much so that Lowie once called its subject matter "that
thing of shreds and patches" (1920:441). There is still little
consensus on what anthropologists are supposed to study, what kind of
methodology they should use and what concepts are best for understand-
7
ing mankind.
In this country, anthropology is divided into four fields: socio-
8
cultural and physical anthropology, linguistics and archaeology.
Physical anthropologists investigate the biological basis for human


3
behavior; linguists study the languages of different peoples; and
archaeologists reconstruct man's past. Sociocultural anthropology is
itself divided into two parts: ethnography and ethnology. Ethnographers
describe and analyze particular cultures while ethnologists seek general
laws of culture (Schusky and Culbert 1967:3).
The common interest that unites these four fields is the task
of studying human nature as embodied in a concept the anthropologist
calls culture. Much has been written about this concept, but little
9
is understood. Tylor's definition of culture"that complex whole
which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any
other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society"
(1871:1)remains a classic, although many other anthropologists have
interpreted it in various ways. Like the notion of pornography, one
supreme court justice observed, culture is something which eludes
definition but which everyone knows when they see it. Perhaps this lack
of consensus on what culture is, is inherent in the concept itself or
simply reflects the limitation of the language and ideas of this time
and place.
Because culture has been defined in so many different ways, at
times contradictory, it is important to know how the term is used by
10
the anthropologist of this study. In the main I agree with Tylor's
definition of culture, that it is a complex whole acquired by man as
a member of society. Culture is coterminous with man. As a concept,
culture is articulated in the world of men who create and are created
by various cultures. The concept of culture is an abstraction, but
its manifestations are concrete and varied. The expression of culture
in a complete actual occasion varies with the particular circumstances


4
of that occasion. "The form, the content, and even the existence of
cultures," Linton observes, "can only be deduced from the behavior to
which they give rise" (1964:288). These behaviors are the outward
manifestations of culture, the overt signs of culture. Although there
is unity in the concept of culture, the way that this concept is inter
preted and expressed by various peoples differs with their varying
historical and environmental conditions. Nonetheless, "culture itself
is intangible and cannot be directly apprehended even by the individuals
who participate in it" (Linton 1964:288-89).
If the task of the anthropologist is to understand human nature,
surely the most significant dimension of that nature, the one dimension
unique to man is culture. Culture is that part of man's being most
difficult to grasp: the nexus of mind and body, of intellect and
sentiment. In my own thinking about culture I am as unsure and as
equivocal as any other anthropologist, although I think it important
to attempt to understand even if not to know what culture is. I think
of culture as the meaning that man has bequeathed to himself to continue
his struggle with life though certain to die. It is basic to his animal
nature for self-preservation and species survival, but more than this:
culture makes livingand dyingworthwhile. Individual men may change
cultures, whole societies may do so; but neither men nor societies can
exist without culture.
In the anthropologist's search to understand culture, many
record only what they are able to verify through the senses. What
they report are the observable manifestations of culture. Some call
this the scientific approach, or more recently, the etic approach of
11
anthropology. Leach (1966:2), however, calls the preoccupation of


5
his fellow anthropologists with looking at culture as if it were
discrete parts arrangeable into types and sub-types, "butterfly
collecting."
Like Leach, I do not believe that culture is a category of
experience, substance or form. It is not an entity quantifiable in
the number of institutions or rituals or legends that one society has,
nor is it a thing, such as science conceives of things, i.e.,
empirical and observable. Certainly the manifestations of culture are
reflected in such things as family, history, rites of passage and the
like.
The social sciences, like the natural sciences, have been heir
12
to a tradition of science with great achievements and many faults.
Anthropology as a social science has adopted the methodology of science
and, in many quarters, the scientific materialist philosophy, e.g.,
13
Harris (1971). The object of study for anthropologists, however,
differs from the objects of the physical science. Man is part of the
natural world and as such is subject to scientific scrutiny. But
another side to man, another dimension of his character, is "entirely
14
outside the range of physical phenomena" (Linton 1964:288). This
the anthropologist calls culture. Because of this dual position of
man, with one foot in the animal and the other in the cultural world,
the claim of anthropology as a science of man cannot be fully sub
stantiated unless the criteria of science or anthropology change.
Although some anthropologists consider themselves scientists,
only to certain aspects of human nature are the methods and concepts
of science applicable. Redfield, a keen observer of his colleagues,
argues that anthropology's alliance with the sciences reflects the


6
present status ranking of academic disciplines.
At the same time, the orientation of anthropology
toward the sciences rather than toward the humanities
may be seen as an aspect of a general societal phenomenon:
the arrangement of the disciplines in a hierarchy of
status wherein the "harder" natural sciences occupy
the uppermost positions and the humanists is the man
farthest down. (1954:729)
15
By becoming an academic profession, anthropology has formalized
many of the tentative experiments of early anthropologists who made
their way through trial and error to an understanding of mankind. For
example, what is now a rite of passagefieldwork (preferably for several
years in a distant and remote place)began as an accident of war when
Malinowski was confined to the Melanesian islands for the duration of
the hostilities (Penniman 1952:446, Mair 1972: 30). Whitehead notes
that this professionalization is predictable, but it has been hazardous
for a discipline that studies human behavior and values.
Effective knowledge is professionalized knowledge,
supported by a restricted acquaintance with useful
subjects subservient to it. This situation has its
dangers. It produces minds in a groove. Each
profession makes progress, but it is progress in
its own groove. . .But there is no groove of
abstractions which is adequate for the comprehension
of human life. (1948:196)
This discussion is meant as a note of caution. Anthropology means
different things to different people. Little in the discipline is not
open to controversy, even though it may seem otherwise. However
indisputable a concept or method may seem, it reflects an accommodation
16
to ambiguity rather than to any inherent condition.
Like Redfield, I believe that the anthropologist's role as a person
and as a professional are inseparable.
In me, man and anthropologist do not separate them
selves sharply. I used to think I could bring about


7
that separation in scientific work about humanity. . .
But I think now that what I see men do, and under
stand as something that human beings do, is seen often
with a valuing of it. I like or dislike as I go.
This is how I reach understanding of it. (1966:165)
The anthropologist, like anyone else, is a product of life experiences.
He is conditioned by the training he receives as a social scientist as
well as by the family and religion of his birth. Over the past decade
a literature on the anthropology of anthropologists has grown. Collec
tions of fieldwork experiences, of analysis of personalities, ideas
and research techniques of anthropologists stand as testimony to the
influence of the researcher on his data (Golde 1970, Kimball and Watson
1972). What an anthropologist selects to study and how he interprets
this material reflect both individual and professional interests.
Kardiner and Preble, as a result of work on the biographies of certain
major anthropologists, come to this same conclusion.
On the cultural level the hypotheses, theories, and
techniques of these scientists are portrayed as
creations responsive to the collective interests
and needs of the time. On the individual level, these
creations are seen as the products of idiosyncrasy
and genius. (196 5:13).
If it is recognized that the anthropologist in describing and
analyzing a community is revealing something about himself as well as
the community, what precautions need he take to ameliorate this
situation? The researcher, I believe, should state as clearly as
possible not only his position in the community studied but his position
in the anthropological community as well. That is, he should not only
tell of his relations with the people studied, indicating in part how
he got information. He should state his views on anthropology as a
prelude to analyzing that information.


I have tried to do so: first, in this introductory statement
about the anthropological quest and, second, in the next chapter in
which I have given a brief account of my interactions and feelings
among the people I studied. These two chapters set the framework in
which I worked, giving my perspective on the anthropologist's task
and my position in the actual fieldwork situation.
Following these preliminary statements is the heart of the
dissertation: Chapter III. The data, rendered in a story format,
presents not only information about events and transactions of an
ordinary day in the lunchroom but a "feeling" for living with work as
well. Malinowski states that to ignore this feeling or "the subjective
desire of feeling by what these people live, of realizing the substance
of their happinessis, in my opinion, to miss the greatest reward
which we can hope to obtain from the study of man" (1961:25).
Chapter IV takes the data presented in the previous chapter and
orders it into three tables covering the setting, characters and
action of the story. In so doing, I have followed Malinowski's dictum
that "the method of reducing information, if possible, into charts or
synoptic tables ought to be extended to the study of practically all
aspects of native life" (1961:14). By ordering data in this way,
the reader will be able to see the relationship between the anthropological
interpretation and the data. A summary statement highlights major themes
and relationships presented in the tables.
In the conclusion, Chapter V, a second look is taken at the story
and analysis. This process represents both an overview and a more
reflective view of life in the lunchroom as it relates generally to life


9
in modern societies. Central to this conclusion is the reconciliation
of the value of work and the actual working situation in the form of
a primary group relationship within the domain of a secondary group, the
institution of work.
The appendix contains a review of the literature on working women
in the United States and cross-culturally. Such a review places this
research on women in the school lunch program along side others with
different aims, foci and subjects.


Notes
1. In many research projects the preliminary problem of investigation
changes in response to the actual field experience. One researcher,
for example, went to Costa Rica to study marijuana use among
musicians, but he had to abandon this project when he found that
musicians there did not smoke marijuana but drank a lot instead
(Bryan Page, personal communication, 1976). Initially, the purpose
of this research project was to gather information about a small
group of women at work in order to compare these findings with
similar studies done on male work groups. Although this explicit
comparison will not be made in this dissertation, the data presented
in Chapter III could be analyzed in this way at a later time.
2. Oscar Lewis renders vivid accounts of the lives of the people he
studied in Mexico (1951, 1959, 1961, 1964, 1969) and in Puerto
Rico (1965) by presenting the stories about themselves that they
told him. He made minute observations of their daily lives and
recorded on a tape recorder their own accounts. Because I admire
Lewis' work as an anthropologist and writer, I have tried to
implement his approach in my own research.
3. See The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1973:
56 (anthropology), 1523 (leg-), 1531 (ner-)), and the Encyclopaedia
Britannica (1961:334J-36) for the use of logos in philosophy and
theology.
4. Pilbeam (1972:153-54), a physical anthropologist, considers language
to be one of man's most important evolutionary developments, giving
him considerable selective advantages over other hominids. Sapir,
a linguist, identifies the beginning of culture with the commencement
of language. "Of all aspects of culture, it is a fair guess that
language was the first to receive a highly developed form and that
its essential perfection is a prerequisite to the development of
culture as a whole" (l97o:l).
5. Closest to this meaning of anthropology, i.e., a speech about man
kind, is White's definition of culture. "Culture is the name of a
distinct order, or class, of phenomena, namely, those things and
events that are dependent upon the exercise of a mental ability,
peculiar to the human species, that we have termed 'symbolling'"
(1949:363).
6- Powdermaker hypothesizes that "some of the new trends in anthropology
can be correlated with changing types of personalities in the disci
pline who have different needs to meet" (1966:20). She suggests
that a difference exists between anthropologists born before 1915
10


11
and the generation born between 1915 and 1930. Those in the
former group, she says, "seem to have had problems with authority,
and stood to a considerable degree outside of their culture" (1966:
303). Those in the latter group "seem to be more truly a part of
their society, desiring to enter the Establishment rather than
rebelling from it as did many members of the preceding generation"
(1966:303). This group sought definite answers and tended to
dehumanize their studies by concentrating on elegant models, formal
rules and neat diagrams (1966:303).
7. See the Holt, Rinehart and Winston series of Case Studies in Cultural
Anthropology, edited by George and Louise Spindler, for some inkling
of the diversity in topics, techniques and concepts handled by
anthropologists. See also von Mering and Kasdan (1970) for a
collection of writings relating anthropology to the other social
sciences.
8. British social anthropologists and Central European ethnographers
present two quite different interpretations of sociocultural
anthropology. The British consider sociocultural anthropology a
branch of sociology (Mair 1972:7-8) in which the systems of
institutionalized social relationships, particularly of preliterate
communities, are studied by intensive methods of fieldwork and are
analyzed by the functional method (Beattie 1955:5). Central
European ethnographers according to Hofer (1968) act as special
ists who guard the traditional stock of knowledge of a society
viewing culture as internal moral worth.
9. See Kroeber and Kluckhohn (1952) for a critical review of concepts
and definitions of culture, along with a semantic history of the
term. Sapir (1970:79-89) summarizes three uses of culture, defining
it, first as any socially inherited element of man's life, spiritual
or physical; second, as the conventional ideal of individual refine
ment sanctioned by tradition in a class society; third, as those
general attitudes, views of life and particular manifestations of
civilization which give a specific group its distinctiveness.
10. "Anthropological theories often tell us more about the anthropologist
than about their subject matter" (Leach 1969:109). Abrahams (1970:
1-4), for example, acknowledges that both his family position and
the scholarly fashion of the time influenced his view of life in
South Philadelphia. In the second edition he tried to weed out the
"psychological baggage" he had been heir to as a graduate student.
11. Etic, as Harris (1971:572-75) interprets the term, refers to the
distinctions made by the community of scientific observers, as
contrasted with emic, the natives' point of view. Martha Hardman
de Bautista (personal communication, 1973) believes that this is a
misinterpretation in that the "new ethnography" (ethnolinguistics,
ethnoscience or ethnosemantics, as it is variously called) seeks
to understand through linguistically expressed categories the
cognitive world of the participants rather than impose the
descriptive categories of other languages, such as those of the
researchers. (See Goodenough 1956.)


12
12. The rise of the social sciences at a time when the physical sciences
professed a belief in certainty has led the former to retain an
attitude which the physical sciences have abandoned in response to
the theory of relativity (Einstein 1916 in the Encyclopaedia
Britannica 1961) and the uncertainty principle (Heisenberg 1927 in
the Encyclopaedia Britannica 1961).
13. The philosophy guiding science over the last three hundred years,
according to Whitehead, is scientific materialism.
There persists, however, throughout the whole period
the fixed scientific cosmology which presupposes the
ultimate fact of an irreducible brute matter, or
material, spread throughout space in a flux of
configurations. In itself such material is senseless,
valueless, purposeless. It just does what it does do,
following a fixed routine imposed by external
relations which do not spring from the nature of its
being. It is this assumption that I call "scientific
materialism." (1948:19)
Whitehead (1948:18-19,192-208) calls for a reexamination of science
as guided by this assumption. He argues that science needs to view
facts as interrelated and interdependent phenomena. Whitehead
would direct the focus of science away from the isolation of facts
to an understanding of the relation of each organism to its
environment and the intrinsic value of the environment (1948:9).
14. See Kroeber (1917) for a discussion of the superorganic and Sapir
(1917) for a rebuttal of certain ideas contained in Kroeber's
article.
15. See Greenwood (1962) for a discussion of the attributes of a pro
fession, i.e., systematic theory, authority, community sanction,
ethical codes and culture.
16. See Penniman (1952) and Bohannan and Glazer (1973) for two excellent
sources on anthropological theory. The first is particularly good
for its coverage of the period before 1930, and the second is a
collection of the classics and some minor classics in anthropology.


CHAPTER II
OBSERVATIONS ON FIELDWORK
In speaking of bias we are still talking about
research method. (Dollard 1957:32)
I needed a job. This research began not as the fulfillment of a
long felt need to find a lost people or to test some hypothesis in the
real world, but from necessity and later from curiosity.
Several years ago, I applied for a substitute teaching position at
the county school board and was assured by them that chances of making
a living from substituting were slim. While I was at the school board,
I stopped by the non-instructional office to check out job possibilities
there. The woman in charge told me that I was too qualified for any
thing that they had and that I would not be happy working as a maid,
lunchroom worker or stockboy, but she would keep me in mind.
Later in the week she called to tell me that the manager at Hogtown
High School's cafeteria needed a cashier. Confronted with the actual
possibility of getting such a job, I hesitated. Was all that I had
voiced about equality of people and respect for work simply rhetoric?
1
What would my friends think? I knew what my mother would say.
I got as dressed up as riding a bike would allow and tooled off
to Hogtown High, which was about fifteen minutes from where I lived.
I walked in through the back door of the kitchen, thinking that if any
thing at all went wrong I would leave. After all, I would have made the
attempt, and that is what counted. Women were walking around in white
13


14
2
some blacks and some whites. The manager, Mrs. Andrews, like the lady
at the school board office, expressed incredulity that a person with
such a background would want to work there. Since I had no experience
and too much education, I was sure that I would not get the job, but in
a few days, the manager called to tell me that I had been hired. On my
first day of work, she introduced me to everyone and told me to get a
white uniform, shoestennis were okand a hairnet and to stop calling
her Mrs. Andrews. Everybody called her "Lucy."
At the time that I began working at Hogtown High, I was keeping a
diary consisting mainly of my personal reactions to daily events. I
began to supplement this with sketches of what was happening in the lunch
room. The discipline of keeping daily notes, I felt, would be good
preparation for when I actually did begin doctoral research somewhere
overseas. Initially, I recorded what others had told me about the
operation of the school lunch program and I made sketches of the physical
layout of the kitchen (Figure 1), noting in addition sounds, smells and
other sensory information. Later I included observations of events in
which I was involved, and for awhile I tried to follow the actions of
individuals within the group, selecting one person to observe each day.
I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible since I did not like being
watched nor did my co-workers.
The kinds of things that anthropologists study in other cultures,
it has always seemed to me, could also be studied in their own. The
lunchroom presented itself as an ideal setting in which to do a study
on a work community. As I began to read the literature on this country
and on women, I found little discussion of working women. (See Appendix.) The
opportunity and the need for such a study developed almost simultaneously.


Key to Figure 1
1.
Dishwashing window
2.
Window for Line III
3.
Cafeteria
4.
Exit from Line I
5.
Dishwashing machine
6.
Exit from Line II
7.
Cafeteria
8.
Serving Line I
9.
Serving Lire II
10.
Entrance for Line I
11.
Entrance for Line II
12.
Manager's office
13.
Head cook's working area
14.
Pot sinks
15.
Walk-in refrigerator
16.
Working area for sandwich
maker
17.
Pit area: stoves, ovens,
steam
18.
Bathroom
19.
Working area for salad maker
20.
Working area for baker
21.
Broom and mop closet
22.
Storeroom
23.
Bathroom
24.
Closed in porch
25.
Outside entrance to kitchen


10
dn
12
15
18
n_
i c
r
j
~L
21
I
n
23
24
1! 2
v /
11
£
13
16
17
19
22
c
25
(
I
I
L
20
Figure 1


17
I had been working in the lunchroom several months before I approached
my fellow workers about doing research there. That I was a student in
need of money had already been established, but I was not sure what
their reaction would be to my doing a study about them. The manager
had been saying for some time that "someone ought to write a book about
this place" so she was both encouraging and cooperative when I asked
her. When I spoke with my co-workers individually, the reactions were
varied. Elizabeth wanted to know, "Why don't you study the men? They're
a lot more interesting." C.M. asked what anthropology was anyway. I
told her that it was a discipline that studied culture. "Hmm, you won't
find any of that here," she assured me. Maridare said that I would
be too embarrassed to tell my class what had happened in the lunchroom.
The head cook, Nell, who often answered for me, retorted, "She don't
3
have to be ashamed; she not doing it."
To my co-workers that I was doing research in Hogtown High's lunch
room was secondary to the fact that I was employed there to help them
prepare and serve meals, and to help clean up and do the bookkeeping
4
afterwards. As long as I did not interrupt their work and their lives,
any research that I had to do was all right by them. It seems that I
was much more hesitant about doing a study there than were my co-workers.
I felt reluctant because I did not want them to feel that I was
spying on them or that I was exploiting their confidences. Much of the
information that I was privy to was dependent on my being a fellow
worker and friend, and not on any formal researcher-informant relation
ship. I had a peculiar view of the researcher's role in that I thought
it was clearly distinct from the role of a friend. I have since been
disabused of this notion both by the people with whom I worked and by


18
the accounts of other anthropologists on their fieldwork.
As I became involved more fully in the lives of these women both
at work and elsewhere, I felt a conflict between their being my friends
5
and at the same time, informants and objects of study. One way that
the anthropologist has reconciled this conflict is through reciprocity.
Traditionally, the anthropologist has shared food, clothing and other
material goods with the peasants or tribesmen he is studying. Others
have taken a more active part, representing the communities in which
6
they studied before the national government. Gradually, I found (or
perhaps the women with whom I worked first found) ways in which I could
be of help to them. For one woman I typed some of her sister's term
papers and edited others; for another I babysat and typed a notice for
a group that she was trying to organize in her trailer park. Several
times, I was asked to get legal and medical assistance for a couple of
different women. This was particularly interesting to me because it
pointed out the differential connections that various groups of people
7
have to institutions in this country.
Earlier in the research, I told one of my co-workers that I wished
she would not tell me so much, since much of it might prove harmful to
her. "Hell," she said, "ain't nothing but the truth. I want people to
know who I am. You know, my mother thinks I'm nothing but a barnyard
hen. But you want to know what I think? I'm an eagle. A high flying
eagle. If a person can learn something from the way I've lived, you
just let them go ahead and learn it. I've lived a full life. Not
always exactly what you'd call your. . .Hell, I've done wrong, but
I've helped a lot of people too. People who don't even know it."


19
In fact, my fellow workers seemed to show a much more sophisticated
stance toward research than I myself did in that they were not afraid
to reveal what happened, regardless of any embarrassment or negative
reflection on them as individuals or as a group. They seemed to under
stand, much more fully than I did, that doing fieldwork was like being
a reporter, recording what one sees or hears and knows to be true.
After I had talked with the women at work, I started taking notes
in a small black notebook, but later I took notes on paper towels, nap
kins, whatever was at hand. I left these lying around and different
individuals would check to see what I had written. Without exception,
they were appallednot about what had been written, but about my hand
writing. One time, C.M. demanded that I read what I had recorded.
"Hey, Nell," she called to the head cook. "She's writing what we been
saying. You got what I said?" My writing became a fixture in the
kitchen and at the end of the day someone would remind me to collect
the scraps of paper and to get my watch from over the sink where I had
left it while doing pots and pans.
Up until this time, I had recorded mainly mechanical kinds of things
place of work; territorial domains, kind, frequency and intensity of
interactions; and kinship and community ties. I collected copies of the
daily work sheet, time records and general assignment sheet (Figure 2).
Later, I started to explore what Malinowski calls the imponderabilia of
8
life. In open-ended interviews, I tried to get information about
values and attitudes of which I was only vaguely aware. These interviews
led me to examine more closely the significance of the group's behavior
and values with respect to class, race and rural/urban backgrounds.


20
CLEANING DUTIES
DAILY CLEANING DUTIES
WEEKLY CLEANING
These May Rotate Weekly
(i)Clean Work Tables
Wipe Outside of Refrigerator
(2)Help wash Pots& Pans
Count Dirty Towels A nd Aprons
(3) Wipe stove and Cl ean Drain
Sweep-waikin-fr-gtraighten-ahelvea
Help sweep Kitchen & mop
Clean milkshake holding boxes
(4) Wash pots & pans
wash can opener
sweep kitchen & mop
NON-ROTATING DAILY JOBS
TUESDAY: CLEAN INSIDE AND OUT
SIDE OF REFRIGS. WIPE WOODEN
SHELVES AND CLEAN WARMER.
SWEEP WALKIN & STRIGHTEN SHELVES
WEDNESDAY: CLOROX WORK TABLES.
WIPE UNDER TABLE TOPS. CLEAN
TABLE DRAWERS.
THURSDAY: CLEAN BATHROOMS NON-
SMOKERS IN ONE, SMOKERS IN OTHER.
STRAIGHTEN PANTRY AND SWEEP AND
MOP.
FRIDAY: WASH MATS. CLEAN CONVEC
TION OVENS. CLEAN STORVE AND
GREASE. WASH OFF BACK PORCH
MONTHLY CLEANING:
CLEAN FREEZER, CLEAN THE
WALL AND BASE OF WALL.
DIVIDE INTO GROUPS AND
Nell) Main dish Preparation and serve Line I
count and put away left-over inventory
help kitchen cleanup or nextdays
prepreparation maindish Check Menu Weekly DO THE CHORES WHEN THE
Count dirty Towels and Aprons MENU IS LIGHT.
C.M.)Bread or Dessert preparation Cashier Line DISH WASHER: CLEAN DISH
II and help Nell with paration or next days MACHINE WITH LIME AWAY
preparation Help on dish machine after line ONCE A MONTH. CLEAN THE
closes. Clean up behind yourself before serving.BASE OF WALL AND CORNERS
AROUND YOUR AREA.
* PERSONS THAT WIPE THE
DINING ROOM TABLES SHOULD
ALSO WASH AROUND DISH
MACHINE WINDOW.
HOOD FAN CLEANED BY
CUSTODIAN.
Check Menu Weekly.
Elizabeth) Milkshakes and salad production.
Serve on Line I Count plates and milk on
both lines before serving and after. Clean
Line II and wash milk box. Wipe tables,
sweep. Catch clean dishes during serving
when able. Check Menu Weekly.
Sally) Make and wrap sandwiches for Line III HelpCLEAN ICE CREAM BOX.
with giving lunch tickets, out. Cashier Line III count money, help
prepare deposit. Keep-butter Help where it is needed
Shirley) Put on vegtables, cook food for Line II (Pizza, French Fries,
Tatar Tots, etc. Help with other jobs that need to, be done. Run
and clean dishmachine. Clean and mop dish machine area take out
trash out of diningroom Wash containers. Wash and replace mats(FriDAY)
Gail) Wash pots and pans from main dish preparation, Serve on Line II
clean steam table Line I Count plates and milk before and after serving
On both lines Clean milk bos wipe tables in dining room. Catch clean
dishes during serving when possible. Keep butter cut. Check Menu weekly.
Cora Lee) Give out lunch tickets, cashier Line I, Help where is needed.
Do records for each day. Make work sheet daily, call grovcery
order in on time. Count money and help make the deposit slip.
Many other chores. Try to keep PEACE, LOVE, AND HARMONY.
Figure 2


21
In the process of examining their behavior and values, I had to
examine my own. American culture, I came to realize rather slowly, was
more diverse than the ethnic groups, American Indian tribes and
"mainstream" Americans that anthropologists and others have commented
9
upon. Although this seems rather obvious now, working toward this
perception was not always easy. At first I found certain behavior
rather irritating and confusing, but as these behaviors repeated themselves
in different situations and with different people, I came to realize that
more than the peculiarities of an individual were involved.
For example, I was invited to dinner several times to find that the
woman had left town or that "something had come up." I was not informed
that the dinner was off, nor was an apology given, let alone an explana
tion or even acknowledgement of the invitation. Such social events, while
oftentimes elaborately planned and discussed, did not come off and few
people, even the planners, really believed that they would. Nonetheless,
10
everyone had a good time talking about them.
One of the major problems that I had with the research was that I
was myself: white, not black; an urban dweller, not a rural migrant;
upper-middle incomeat least my natal family was, not poor or moderate
income; and university educated, not a high school graduate. All of
these characteristics set me apart from many of the women with whom I
worked. Unfortunately but typically, the people with whom I was able to
establish the greatest rapport were those most like myself. No doubt,
in part because of my own personality, I was not able to have stronger
relationships with other people. This was something that I was aware
of throughout the study, but was unable to do anything about.
My particular family situationor lack of oneproved to be both a


22
disadvantage and an advantage. Many of the women felt sorry for me
11
because I lived alone, and particularly on holidays they would include
me in their family gatherings since I could not be with my own family.
But because I lived by myself, my home served as a refuge for some; one
of my co-workers, toward whom I feel a special regard, said that she
felt peaceful and calm in my little apartment. Living alone was one
thing, but having no visible boyfriend/lover/husband was another, which
limited some interaction that might otherwise have been possible. More
important than this, however, was that I did not have a child. Having
a child, for many of these women, seemed to mark the difference between
12
a girl and a woman, not in any chronological sense but in a social one.
For instance, one of the female deans at the school was married, but had
no children, and therefore was not considered a fully responsible
person.
How I was viewed by some of my fellow workers was hit upon by
accident, one which almost cost me my job. A student complained about
my treatment of her to the principal and he in turn called the manager
to his office. Because the student was black, he thought this was a
racial incident and he was having none of that. This was the first
confrontation that the manager had had with the principal, and knowing
13
the history of the conflict between the previous manager and him,
she felt that she could not challenge his judgment. When she returned
to the kitchen, she and some of the other women sat around talking.
They agreed that I was not prejudiced, but it was hard to figure out
what I was because I was so different and so quiet. C.M. said that I
was strange, and Nell said that she could not really say anything:
that I did my work and had very little to say. I learned of this


23
exchange when Gail came by my apartment with a bottle of Irish whiskey,
which she knew I liked. She came as my friend and the unofficial
representative of the group. She told me what had happened and what had
been said about me. She said I was different from them, more reserved,
but not to worry about it: just play it cool.
Although I had observed the behavior of others for patterns of
socialization, I realized then that I was not doing my part as a member
of the group. That I was indeed strange and a stranger to the group was
something that the personnel woman at the county school board and the
manager who hired me had meant when pointing out the differences between
myself and the other workers in the lunchroom. The position of stranger,
however, seems an appropriate one for the anthropologist.
The stranger's position, as Simmel (1964:402-408) points out, is
one of remoteness and nearness, of distance and intimacy. The stranger,
although not a member of the group, is an important part of the group,
being in it but not of it. That is, the stranger is both detached and
involved with the group, detached in that he is not tied to the local
habits, pieties or precedents, but involved in that he brings new ideas
or items to the group and acts as its critic, judge or confessor. This
was the position in which I found myself.
The role of the stranger is not passive nor indifferent, but
ideally impartial and objective. The stranger's own standard of
measurement becomes suspended and his perspective, as was mine, may
14
become altered through interaction with the group.
The role of the anthropologist as stranger may take several
different forms. He may assume select roles of the community as did


24
Nunez (1972) when he acted as Seor Abogado in his research among the
Mexican villagers; or he may simply try to get backstage, discovering
what the community most wants to hide, as did Berreman (1962) when
working among North Indians. That the anthropologist is never a fully
incorporated member of the group is realized by both the community and
the researcher. Nevertheless, the anthropologist must learn the proper
15
behavior and concommitantly the values of the group, like any novice.
Although the anthropologist may remain a stranger, he is not an outsider.
The rite of passage from recruit to old-timer has been an important
source of information and insight. Becoming a member of the group,
albeit never a fully incorporated one, was critical to gaining access
to information which, I believe, could not have been gotten in any other
16
way. Instead of being an outsider threatening the harmony of the
group and causing quasi-legal or group specific behavior to be suppressed,
I was a participant in these activities and came to hold certain of the
group's views about them. Seeing how outsiders were treated, manipulated
and appeased has strengthened this conviction that the researcher needs
to align himself with the group.
Understanding the process of socialization, which was dependent
on role models within the group and on status references outside of
the group, was facilitated by my own involvement in a series of conflict
situations. My socialization was aided by the fact that I was regarded
first, and perhaps exclusively, as a fellow worker in need of reproving
and encouragement and only secondly, if at all, as an anthropologist.
It would be misleading to suggest that I became "just one of the gang"
since the initial distance was too great to overcome. I never did learn


25
to accept gracefully and with humor my proper station as a subordinate,
nor did I learn to speak correctly.
The language used by the individuals with whom I worked is itself
a fascinating subject and one worthy of greater study than I devoted to
it. Talking and jiving were constant sources of entertainment for every
one in the lunchroom, whether as speakers or as listeners. Speaking
for the pleasure of social interaction was a well-developed art within
the group. I recorded many such dialogues, usually by writing the
17
exchanges down and once with a tape recorder. My own inability to
talk well made me keenly aware of their virtuosity: their ability,
style and mastery skill with the spoken word. Accompanying these verbal
behaviors was the omnipresent radio music, some of which I recorded as
individuals would select favorites.
As I was able to establish rapport with members of the work team
on an individual basis, they shared with me some of their outside
activities. For example, with one co-worker I traveled to a flea market
in another town to find plants not available in this area. With a
second woman, I went out drinking to a local bar and with another I
attended Sunday services at her church and participated in a tent revival
in a neighboring community. Some of the experiences outside of the
lunchroom were work related, for instance, the annual banquet to which
I went twice and the monthly Food Service Association meetings to which
I went with greater faithfulness than most of my fellow workers.
For some months I stopped taking daily notes at work, but continued
to record any value comments or significant changes in behavior. Just
being there and experiencing what was "going on" helped to clarify what
I had recorded earlier.


26
The fieldwork part of the research was almost over, I thought, but
I was mistaken. It was only after I consciously stopped making observa
tions that any real understanding of the group began to develop. This
may have been simply a function of time and familiarity, but it seemed
that the freedom to participate without straining to remember and
record allowed me to listen and understand.
Gertrude Stein once pointed out to reporters interviewing her that
they could not comprehend what she was saying because they were
concentrating too hard on remembering and recording it.
. .You do I said to the photographer you do under
stand what I am talking about don't you. Of course
I do he said you see I can listen to what you say
because I don't have to remember what you are say
ing, they can't listen because they have got to
remember. (1973:218)
At the time that I stopped taking fieldnotes, I felt myself a poor and
lazy anthropologist. This time however proved to be the most rewarding
period of the research because all the isolated bits of information
were put into some kind of perspective and began to make some sense.
Before I resigned after almost two years, I distributed preliminary
copies of Chapter III to various people with whom I worked. I did this
in order to enable them to check the accuracy of the report, both for
factual content and for the overall sentiment that it expressed, and
to share with them my findings. They were pleased about finding
themselves in the report and when reading it, they would burst out
18
laughing and say, "That is just what she do. Just what she do."
For many anthropologists, fieldwork is a time of frustration and
pain, loneliness and self-reflection, what one called "an initiation of
suffering" (Hill 1974). But I had a good time. Even after I had


27
collected all the fieldnotes that I could conceivably use in the
dissertation, I continued working in the lunchroom because, as I told
one doubting colleague, working there was the most fun that I would have
all day.


Notes
1. Turning employment in the lunchroom into a research project, although
this was not my original intention, made working there more legitimate
to my family and friends. Otto von Mering suggested that making this
work experience also my research was my own manner of surviving there.
2. The names of the people with whom I worked are pseudonyms.
3. This incident refers to the sexual (verbal and game) behavior
commented upon on pages 87, 155-56.
4. During the time that I worked in the lunchroom, I changed both my
hours and specific duties in order to observe and participate in
the operation of the lunchroom more fully. When I started working,
the manager wanted my position to be clearly understood as an office
one, not one in production. By the end of the study, however, I
had moved down the hierarchy of jobs to where I was washing pots and
pans, usually the first job one gets in the lunchroom.
5. Mead (1972) and Fischer (1970) note that doing research among one's
own people is more difficult in some ways, creating conflicts between
one's duty as a researcher and one's obligation as a friend. "Not
only my informants, but I myself, found my role confusing in New
England," Fischer (1970:285) writes. "The informal friendships that
women develop in American communities were enticing; they offered me
an excellent source of data, which was not available to my husband,
but on the other hand, this use of friendship seemed inappropriate."
6. This active role is challenged by some anthropologists and is still
quite controversial. (See Paredes 1976.)
7. Lewis (1965:xlv-xlvi) in his work on the culture of poverty, notes
this lack of institutional ties as one of the characteristics of
the sub-culture.
8. Only later when I went back to read my notes, did I find that I had
unwittingly followed the design for fieldwork that Malinowski suggests,
namely, to look at "the routine prescribed by custom and tradition,
the manner in which it is carried out and the commentary to the
routine as contained in the native's mind" (Kardiner and Preble
1965:177).
9. See Warner (1962) and West (1961) for two classics on American life;
Howell (1973) for a portrait of blue-collar families; Killian (1970)
for a view of white Southerners.
28


29
10. The actual event is not always as important as the preparation for
it and the memories of it afterwards; like going to the high school
prom, for example, the dance itself may be a flop, but the
anticipation and retelling are exciting (Kathleen Lawson, personal
communication, 1975).
11. Along with this expressed pity, they wondered if I was not also
afraid to live alone. Being with other people had positive value
for the women both as social contact and protection. Many of the
women, for example, refused to work the special dinners because
they did not want to be alone "with all those men" and they would
have no one with whom to talk.
12. Motherhood is an important criterion of female status in black
communities (Molly Dougherty, personal communication, 1975).
13. For a discussion of this conflict, see pages 107-09, 148.
14. Sociologists have remarked on this change in attitude when one assumes
different roles. Lieberman (1956:385-402) found that a change in
function and in the kinds of behavior required by the new role
influence the attitudes of the role-occupant. Redfield (1956:81)
suggests that this is typical of the fieldwork experience.
Only after he has seen it from the native's point of
view may the investigator change his viewpoint and
look at that object or acttogether with the meaning
and the value it has for the nativeas an object of
scientific interest now to be described from the
outside and related by the investigator to other
things according to the demands of a more detached
and abstract understanding.
15. Middleton (1965) gives a particularly readable and insightful
account of the anthropologist's rite of passage. Like the children
of the group, the anthropologist must be socialized so that he
learns the norms and behavior acceptable to the group.
16. Pilcher (1972:5) in his study of Portland longshoremen found that it
was impossible to obtain certain kinds of data without being a member
of the local union and a part-time longshoreman. "Moreover," he
states, "this validated my role as a member of the longshoremen
group and demonstrated that I did not consider myself in any way
superior to the other longshoremen because of my education... ."
17. The tape recorder tended to inhibit the natural flow of conversation
and was viewed as a way of trapping people. I promptly discontinued
its use, even though it might have improved the accuracy of the
dialogues presented in Chapter III.
18. Although anthropologists check the reliability and validity of their
fieldnotes, this seems an efficacious method for checking both field-
notes and data presentation.


CHAPTER III
DATA AS THE STORY
The data are presented as a story, a form the participants in this
study recognize. The women at Hogtown High compared their lives at
work to the stories they watched on daytime television. Like the soap
operas, this story repeats itself, every day adding something and losing
something. It is the same story, only different for additions and
losses. Each woman plays a part in the story by virtue of her participa
tion in work activities. Each personal story forms part of the group's
story, but it is the story of the group which will be told.
These women have much to tell about themselves, their society and
their culture. By letting them speak and do in the story as they have
spoken and done throughout the days I spent with them, they may be able
to teach the reader as they have taught me. The reader may discover for
himself what this group teaches. In a sense the reader may do his own
1
"participant-observing."
The basic evidence I have of what these people did and how they
felt about their actions is contained in my fieldnotes. Reconstructed
from these raw data, the story is a composite of many different days,
reflecting not only continuous activities and themes but a variety of
incidents and the vicissitudes of spirit as well. Using the fieldnotes
as a basis for the story rather than as an accompaniment to the analysis
gives the reader a chance to do his own analysis. The evidence shown
30


31
the reader is not as extensive as the material I worked with, but
I have tried to present sufficient data for the reader's use.
Inasmuch as possible, the women and men speak for themselves in
word and deed in the story, though the selection of what to present
and how to present the data contains the researcher's bias. My
interpretations of the group's behavior and values are contained in
Chapter IV and in the conclusion, Chapter V.
The reader may make observations which conflict or even contradict
my own. The resolution lies not in rightness or wrongness but in a
2
reexamination of the data and the premises of our evaluations. The
interaction between reader and material, as between observer and
group studied, leads to a certain amount of distortion. It may be
well to keep in mind the physicist's principle of uncertainty.
It is to be emphasized that in making observations
on a system, it is necessary to exchange energy
and momentum with it. This exchange of necessity
spoils the original properties of the system. The
resulting lack of precision with which these
properties can be measured is the crux of the
uncertainty principle. (van Vleck 1961:680)
The story is a holistic way of viewing the culture of the group
perhaps the only way to approach an understanding of the culture
concept. Matters with which anthropologists traditionally deal
rituals, social organization, religious beliefs, economic systems
are contained in the story but are not selected out as such except
in the analysis. Such differentiation, or compartmentalization,
obstructs any view of culture as a particular expression of a
group's way of life, and obfuscates consideration of the culture
concept as it applies to mankind.


As part of culture, peoples tell stories about themselves:
their heroes and villains, their fools and wisemen, their lovers
and lonely ones. These stories speak of triumphs and struggles
as individuals and a people. Many such stories form the myths
of the community and become part of the society's cultural
heritage. Each generation creates tales which, with time, may
become legend. Many more are forgotten with the telling and pass
out of history. As long as the community exists, its myths and
legends will survive preserved by elders, priests and scribes.
The stories told every day about ordinary people and their daily
confrontation with life are preserved by strangers called
anthropologists. These strangers record the happenings and
characters of the community's Everyman.
Stories are powerful because they bridge the known and the
3
unknown. They are based on the possible but often deal with the
probable and sometimes the impossible. Stories tell what others
have done and what someone can do; they speak about what can be
and sometimes what should be. They deal with that which has
actually occurred as well as that believed to have happened.
Stories can make life seem better or worse than it is. They can
create hope where there is none and put fear in a fearless heart.
Stories hold within them more of man's world than any one person
can experience, know or believe.
Cutting the Fool is one such story.


33
The Story
4
It was dark and cold and silent. No one was in the kitchen yet.
A black stove stood in the center of the kitchen with other pieces of
heavy equipment in a slightly sunken pit. The canopy-like hood over
the cooking and baking area stood ready to capture the hot air as it
would rise up drawn out by a little motor. But now everything was still.
Not even the faucets in the pot sinks were dripping. Abe, the head
custodian, had seen to that the day before. The wooden tables like
elongated butcher blocks flanked the pit. Against the walls were
tables and small equipment for mixing and cutting. Two sets of sinks,
a small rounded vanilla-colored radio and a salad blender clustered on
the outskirts of the pit.
The dishwashing machine and the serving lines jutted out from the
kitchen dividing in half the cafeteria beyond. Stainless steel rails
and receptacles shone where winter-morning light penetrated the dark.
The floors, swept and mopped with lots of soap, disinfectant and water
the day before, mirrored the vague daylight. One cockroach that had
died.in the night rested belly up under the dishwasher. The cashiers'
stools were turned up in the air on the counters like bar stools after
a long night.
The warmer, milkshake refrigerator and ice box stood empty and
unplugged. The refrigerator next to the office contained some tea for
the teachers and opened cartons of milk waiting to be given back to the
milkman. The office was cluttered with papers and manuals, but in the


34
dark it was hard to see anything but dark shapes and dark spaces.
Everything was as the manager had left it before she caught the four
o'clock bus home. The old adding machine, which could also multiply
but was too difficult to use for this, had broken down yesterday. Its
keys were still in their stuck position. The file cabinets were closed
There was still glass in the shag rug from the last break in. The
pane had been replaced and all was back to normal. The big orange
swivel chair had not been repaired, but D.C., Cora's husband, said to
leave it that way. Cora was sure to break the next one. Nevertheless,
Cora asked Abe every time he came into the office to stop treating her
so mean and fix the chair.
About 7:30 a.in. Cora unlocked the back door and switched on the
lights. She walked past the storerooms on the left and the bathrooms
on the right. The walk-in refrigerator next to the office had the
5
padlock on, although Cora knew that this was a formality. Anyone who
wanted to get in had only to pull the prongs out of the socket. Never
mind about the lock. The county repairman no longer fixed it since
it was so easily broken.
She was not thinking about this today: there were no signs of a
break in. Despite several last year and one already this year, they
always took her by surprise. She was tired today and thinking on her
tiredness. Her neighbor, who worked at another school, had left her
off at the corner and the morning chill had awakened her some. That
first cup of coffee would open the other eye, she thought, as the cold
morning air had opened the first.
The night before she had gone up to Coopersville with some friends
Sister Meadow, Brother Daniel and his wife, to hear the Apostle talk.


35
And could he talk. The Apostle gave a sermon on the need to find the
Spirit and to allow the Spirit to come into their hearts, no matter
what religion they were nor what they had done. A Baptist could get
the Spirit, or a Methodist. Anyone could, if he wanted to.
Brother Daniel testified about how he had been a sinnera real
bad big sinnerbut now he was with the Lord and the Lord was with him,
Jesus be praised. There was nothing like the power of the Lord.
Cora had felt the spirit there. It was not a double portion this
time. In fact, not too many people came to the tent meeting, mainly
women and children, but they got the spirit. When the worshipers lined
up to receive the blessing, some fell out. Cora helped cover them with
white sheets when they fell withering on the ground filled with the
Spirit.
After the meeting, Cora and her friends fried some fish for the
Apostle's midnight supper. Coopersville was closer than Trenton, a
town three hundred miles downstate where she had gone to last month's
revivals, but she returned late to Hogtown.
Cora opened the office with the one key on the chain that fit into
the lock. Today for sure she was going to get those invoices posted.
She had to start the monthly inventory too. Cora put her big purse
and another bundle down on the table and sat herself in the orange
chair. She started working, doing her paper work, as Dell called it.
The marketing book for a course at the local junior college was
on top of some records she needed to review. She pushed the book aside,
stopped and picked it up, flipping some pages. She had to read a little
of the book for her class tonight. It was going to be a long day. When
she remembered last night's meeting, her spirits rose; she knew she


36
would persevere.
Outside in the driveway, a Datsun pulled up and Nell, the head
cook, got out, pulling her sweater tighter around her. As her husband
backed the car out, heading toward his job at the new fire station,
Nell walked into the kitchen. She was almost a half hour early, but
she needed that time to get today's meal ready. She had worked for
the county Food Service for thirteen years and she knew, even if the
principal did not, that it took more than two and a half hours to
prepare turkey for three hundred people. Each year, it seemed, the
students' lunch period got earlier and earlier. At this rate, she
would be serving breakfast.
Nell ducked into the bathroom and put her purse in the locker.
For Nell the night had passed quietly. She finished a dress her mother-
in-law had started. She knew Miss Davis would get no grade on this.
No, sir. First she had asked for the zipper to be put in; then the
sleeves. Her mother-in-law never could finish sewing anything. Nell
did not mind sewing, but last night she wanted to watch television,
but the TV was broken. When her husband and two boys had plugged in
the CB radio, something in the television blew out.
Curious Mary, or C.M. as she was known to everyone, was left off
by her sister-in-law. c.M. did not say anything in farewell as her
sister-in-law drove off to her own job at MacDonald's. She did not
care if she was picked up after work, even if she had to take a taxi
to Indianola. A day's wage it was. At least she would not be with
her sister-in-law for the twenty minute ride.
"Hey, Nell," C.M. called as she entered the kitchen.
"Who you calling, child?" Nell answered emerging from the bathroom.


37
Cora, when she heard voices, came out of the office with her
package.
"What you got?" C.M. asked, walking to where Cora was unwrapping
the bundle on the end of the table outside her office. Nell came
up trailing C.M.
"Lord have mercy, where you get that?" Nell asked.
"To Sears."
"I didn't see them. You sure you got that at Sears?" Nell
fingered the material
"You were just looking in the wrong place," Cora retorted.
"That's real cute. That's real nice." Nell picked up the
material to get a better look.
"That's for my baby, D.," Cora said.
C.M. pulled the cloth from Nell's hand. "Give it here." Turning
to Cora, C.M. smiled broadly, lowered her eyes and looked to the side.
"Thank you for my Thursday gift, Cora."
Cora pulled it out of C.M.'s grasp as C.M. had jerked it out of
Nell's. C.M. skipped off laughing, leaving Cora and Nell to exchange
looks of mock disgust. "You some kind of bad. You bad, C.M.Nell
called after her.
Nell left Cora to turn on the water in the pot sinks. "This water
is piping hot," she said to no one in particular. Sometimes it was not
hot. Other days it would scald. Today was like that. She would have
to remember to tell Gail to be careful when she washed pots.
Nell reached up over the table for a pot, stretching to lift it
off its hook. She filled the pot with hot water and put it on the


38
stove. The water was for coffee Cora and the janitors had every morning.
The janitors paid ten cents a cup, unless they brought their own instant
coffee. In that case, Cora magnanimously waived the fee.
C.M. had lit the stove and plugged in the warmer. The students
had complained about that warmer once and she had moved it back out
of the way. Now it was back in its original position, but she would
move it again when some student shoved another into it. The warmer was
hot enough to burn, but usually it only scared the student. The
students said the food was killing them downnow, the warmer.
According to the radio which C.M. had turned on, it was not yet
eight. The radio could be heard throughout the kitchen and in the
cafeteria. Mary said she could not work without it: music helped her
get started and keep moving.
When Pat had left to become a management trainee, she took her
radio with her. For awhile there was no music, but Elizabeth brought
in an old radio that had been lying around the house. Everyone said it
was better than a new one. Liz tuned it to a country music station
and for a few days the lunchroom was filled with Nashville sounds. But
C.M. did not like country music: it was pitiful. And she did not like
the sermons. Liz knew the preacher. Although she did not think much
of him as a family mantoo strict on his childrenhe was a good
minister, she said.
Still C.M. came in before Liz, and she turned the channel to
WHHH, the soul/rock music. Liz turned it back to the country station.
C.M. would turn it to WHHH.
"It's my radio," Elizabeth said with the authority of ownership.


39
"It's my music you turning off," C.M. replied.
"I'll take it home. It's my radio."
"Take it home. I don't need your radio nohow."
The radio remained even when Elizabeth resigned the next year
because of a cut in her hours. It stayed on WHHH.
Nell hefted a big kettle onto the stove, hot water for the turkey
gravy she would make from chicken bouillon. Cora had put away her
package and started posting the invoices. C.M. wiped down the serving
line on her side and set up the straws she had gotten from the shelf
underneath the stacked trays.
Nell had unlocked the storeroom and the freezer on her way out
back for a trash can. She pulled it after her, slamming the door to
the enclosed section of the porch. It was too cold to fool around out
on the porch today. She ducked into the storeroom, getting a plastic
bag to line the can with and scooted it along the floor to its resting
place by the office. In the course of a morning, it would make the
journey from kitchen to dumpster several times always laden with
paper, cans, boxes, scraps. Usually the garbage was light enough to
carry, but everyone drug it whether it was empty or full.
Cora was on the phone. Not as much as the previous manager, Nell
noted. It was ok with her because then the manager would leave her alone
to get through her work. A lot of the manager's job was conducted over
the phoneplacing orders, checking regulations with the county office,
arranging meetings and keeping up with the gossip. The call was from
Gail: family problems. She would not be in today. Cora had half
expected the call, but she was hoping Gail would make it today. There
was so much work to get done.


40
Gail's husband had been treated for cancer, and Gail was not sure
how much care he would need when he recovered, if he recovered. Gail
had told Cora she was thinking of resigning, but Cora had cautioned her
to wait. If everything turned out well and she resigned, then she
would be out of a job and little use at home.
Gail had told Cora that she never took to religion, but she wanted
her to pray for Warren. She knew Cora had a powerful faith. Warren
was such a good husband, a good father, a good person, Gail said. Why
him, she asked. She thought of him more as a friend than a husband,
you know. She depended on him. He was like a big, soft cushion you
could fall back on, and you could rest and then get up and go on. Cora
said she would pray for him and pray for Gail too. What happened was
up to the Lord, Cora said. Put your trust in Him.
Gail told Cora that she never believed in a god, not really. She
knew there must be something, someone, some great force. But she sure
did not understand it. She was raised religious, she told Cora, but
she never could believe all of it. Warren had the best doctors working
on him, but you know, Gail said, there is only so much that doctors
can do. That's right, Cora had said.
After Gail hung up, Cora dialed Maridare's number. Once she
had to call three different people before she got a substitute who did
not show because her car broke down. Maridare had subbed for Gail
before. Cora was fairly confident she would come. The phone rang
once, then again and again. About to hang up, she reached for the
county substitute list. Maridare's mother answered. Cora asked for
Maridare. She could come. "Well, that's good. About 9:30? Ah
hum."


41
Ever since Maridare made out her application at the county school
board office, she had been waiting for such a call. She did not know
why they had not called her before now, but now was a good time. She
had just split up with her husband, and her little girl was old enough
to leave with her grandmother. Her daughter cried every time she left,
but Maridare hoped she would get used to it.
When she left her husband, she reluctantly had moved back home
with her parents. She did not like her parents' telling her what to
do and not do. They did not realize, she said, that she was no longer
a child, needing supervision, advice and chastisement.
A student walked into the kitchen through one of four doors leading
to the serving lines. He sauntered over to the office, pausing at the
door while Cora was on the phone.
"Hey, C.M.," he called.
C.M. looked over. "Hey, yourself." She continued with her work.
He leaned against the door post, hands in pockets, looking around.
"What we having today?"
"Turkey," C.M. shouted back.
When Cora got off the phone, he turned his attention to her. "Got
change for a dollar?"
Cora lifted herself out of the chair. She shuffled the cottage
cheese box and peered in, tipping it over in her hand. Some nickles,
dimes, the keys to the bank deposit bags jumbled out.
"No, sorry. I don't have enough for a dollar. Go up to the office
and get some change." She said this same thing five mornings a week,
180 days a school year. She never seemed to tire of this morning ritual.
The previous manager had not given change to students in the morning.


42
She had not allowed them back in the kitchen area at all.
Some mornings there would be enough change in the cottage cheese
box, money that came in from selling sodas and cookies after school.
Other mornings someone would fish into her purse for change, but not
today.
Ree, Cora's niece, and several other students had come in, stopping
in front of the head cook's working area.
"Ree Rollins, you better stop hitting on me. You be on the floor
in a minute. I'll lay you out, girl. I know that's right." Nell
protested. Ree stopped and grinned sheepishly at Nell. "My patience
is too short for this kind of stuff," Nell added.
Another student emerged from behind the door where Ree and her
gang had left after surveying the kitchen. "Hey, mother," he called.
"I ain't your mother," Nell muttered.
"I want a lunch," he said moving toward her.
"We don't have any lunches."
"Well, make me one then."
"Freddie, I'm busy. We don't have any lunches."
More students were converging on Cora's office. "I want my tickets,"
a voice yelled over the din the others made. "Give me my tickets."
Cora asked for names and started pulling off tickets and marking
the reduced and free lunch sheets.
Nell went back for some hamburger and fishburger rolls in the
storeroom. The students would not bother here there. Carl, the Coke
man, passed her on his way in.
In the baking area, he and C.M. talked quietly in the corner. C.M.
acted shy. Carl came every Thursday morning to deliver Cokes, grape


43
soda, Sprite and other drinks Cora ordered for Line III. On Thursdays,
C.M. took special care with her make-up and hair. Nell never failed to
notice the results: C.M.'s face was "bright" and her hair carefully
styled.
"Good morning," Cora said from her door. She handed him the list
of sodas she wanted. She was still tearing off tickets for the students
crowded around her door. He went back out the kitchen door and returned
with the cases on his dolly. He wheeled the dolly into the walk-in,
unloading the cases. C.M. joined him and they emerged together in a
while.
None of this was lost on Nell. She called from her working table.
"Cold in there. Too cold to be standing around in. You warm it up
some, girl?" If Carl had kissed C.M., she was not telling. She ignored
Nell's taunt and strode back to the baking area.
"C.M.," Cora called. "C.M."
"What you want?" C.M. asked as she approached the office. She
did not look up to see Carl as he left.
"C.M., will you please get this boy some soda."
"I want some cookies too. Get me some sweet kind," he yelled
after her.
"You got fifteen cents? Cookies cost fifteen cent," C.M. replied.
She brought out different kinds of soda and a number of cookies from
the storeroom. There would be more demands.
Otis and Jim came in by the back door, checking things out and
making their presence known to fellow students and to Cora, Nell and
C.M. They worked in the lunchroom during serving. Otis had started
working in the cafeteria the year before. He could not read or add


44
very quickly, but he knew how a kitchen operated. The manager who had
left had been hesitant about letting him work in the lunchroom: he
was so small and frail looking. Abe had called him a rabbit once,
and Otis, not willing to take anything, even from one older or bigger,
said, "Who you calling rabbit?1" Otis had spunk, an easy kind of
spunk. When something was not right, he let it be known. One time he
had noticed that the orange juice had not been put out. He drew the
manager's attention to this. He had saved the day, she told him, and
according to the federal requirements for a nutritionally balanced
meal, he had.
Jim had started working this year, working with the quickness of
a boxer but without the grace. He was another of C.M.'s suitors. At
first he just hung around looking at C.M., buying things from her so
she would notice him. She considered him a pest. The women started
asking him to run back to the stove and bring out more food when the
pans emptied on the serving lines. Soon he was coming in with Otis
regularly.
They worked on the dishwashing machine or backed up the lines.
Neither got paid for working, although a DCT program in the school
helped students get part-time employment as part of their education.
Some DCT students had worked in the lunchroom and been paid a dollar
an hour. When the program's funds ran out, most of them quit. Even
when they had been paid, they did not always come in. Occasionally,
one or two would take a Coke or sandwich, a six or eight dollar loss
the previous manager could not tolerate. Elizabeth said they were
just children. You could not expect them to work like an adult.
Nonetheless, when they were not there, the women had to work that much
harder.


45
At the second bell, the students leaped and scrambled out of the
kitchen, making a disorderly retreat to classrooms across the green from
the lunchroom, Otis and Jim with them. As they left, a student rushed
in, yelling to C.M. to give him some hot skins.
"We don't have any barbecue."
"Give me what you got then."
"Can't sell it to you now. The bell rung."
"Oh, come on. Darn." He dropped his hand dejectedly and turned
to go.
Before the official school day began, Ora gave out lunch tickets
to students who had forgotten them on Monday, when they were distributed.
This morning, C.M. had sold cookies, potato chips and sodasworth about
fifteen dollars. Mr. Cosby, assistant principal for auxiliary services,
had told Cora she could not sell to students after the second bell. The
teachers were complaining that students were late. Cora agreed with
him, but she was sorry to lose the business. After that, whenever he
asked her how things were going, she told him that it was another not-
so-good day. Losing that morning money had hurt her business. After
this prolonged, subtle campaign, Cosby recanted. She could sell in
the morning and between classes. Cora never challenged her superiors
directly as Lucy, her predecessor, had done. She let them come around
to her way of thinking. That money in the morning often made the
difference between a small and great loss for the day. Since Hogtown
High's lunchroom opened, with the exception of one year, it has lost
between two and three thousand dollars annually. Any fool could see
reason in restoring that source of income.
C.M. came to tell Cora that she did not have enough flour to make


46
cinnamon rolls. Cora got back on the phone. She called over to
Dixie Hollins Elementary School, where she had been manager before
coming toH.H.S. She asked for Tula, the new manager. Tula had flour
to lend, and Ora thanked her, saying she would be right over.
"Why didn't you tell me the flour was low?" Cora asked accusingly.
"I did, Cora. Don't you remember?" C.M. said, as if she had
been accused of the gravest transgression. "I did."
Cora remembered even as she asked C.M. that the county truck with
the flour and other commodities from the warehouse had not come in yet.
Cora rushed out the back door on the way to Abe's office. She had
forgotten to apologize to C.M., and C.M. was a conscientious worker.
She tried to give offense to no one, especially to someone who worked
as hard as C.M.
Abe was out back, talking with Walker, one of his janitors.
"Hey, Cora Lee, how are you?"
"Hey," she answered coming up to them. "Abe, will you go over to
Dixie to pick up some flour for me? I just need about ten pounds.
Tula will have it ready for you."
Abe laughed in his easy and hearty way. "Sure, I'll bring you
whatever you want. You just name it, lady."
Walker walked off with his hands in his pockets. Cora did not
have to tell Abe that she, Nell and C.M. did not have transportation.
He knew too that Elizabeth, who often ran errands in her car, was not
due to work for another half-hour; not much about the lunchroom that
he did not know. The same could be said of the school.
Students and teachers alike confided in him. They sought him out
when they were having problems. Everyone said he was the principal's


47
right-hand man and some thought he had more to do with running the
school than any other person, including the principal. The school
newspaper had run a satire on this relationship. Abe just called
himself "the ole yard man."
As Cora left, Abe jingled around in his pants' pocket for his
keys. Walker had gone to the kitchen for toast and juice. C.M. fixed
toast while she waited for the flour, using some old buns and cheese
cut for hoagies. The cheese toast came out of the oven burnt, but
Walker said he would take it any way.
"It your color," C.M. said.
"Nah, C.M. It look more like you look," he laughed. He put his
money on the table and started munching on the toast, "i'll get the
change later."
Nell had lain out fresh buns on her work table in front of the
stove and left a few packages on Sally's table by the office. Monday
morning the buns were stacked outside on a rack by the bread man. They
were soft and fresh smelling, in individual bags of twelve tied with a
wire band. These plastic bags were kept and refilled with lettuce,
cheese and luncheon meat. They accumulated in big bundles underneath
Sally's table where the slicer was. The overflow was taken home to
put up beans or corn. Some of the women had gardens or had friends
and relatives who did. The bags came in handy for freezing their
produce.
The plastic bags were one of a few things the workers were permitted
to take home. Empty jars were anotherbut not cans. Cans were sold to
a local nursery for a few cents each. Food, whether edible or in the


48
swill can was a forbidden item. Payment made no difference. The Food
Service management had made this regulation so that there would be no
suspicion that workers were stealing food from the lunchroom or over
estimating the daily needs, to create leftovers to take home. Once
when a worker was going home on the bus, someone had asked her to share
with him what she had in her shopping bag. "He thought I'd give him
some food. But," she paused, "I pulled out those plastic bags!"
Back in the walk-in, Nell got the mayonnaise-catsup mix for
hamburgers and the mayonnaise-relish mix for fishburgers. On a second
trip she took along a little pitcher to scoop out pickle slices for
the hamburgers. She lifted the lid off a tray of turkey meat left in
the walk-in overnight.
She had cooked the turkey yesterday, boned and cut it up into four
pans. When the turkeys were whole, as they had been yesterday, it took
a lot more time and work to get them ready. Once Cora had gotten some
turkey rolls which were easy to fix, but she never saw them after that
day. Yesterday she had left as tired as Cora came in today. Fixing
the turkey in the afternoon, Nell had exclaimed, "Lord, let me get
through before my tiredness come down on me." Whether the Lord heard
her or not, another worker had. "It be half way down now." Nell
replied, "Sure is. Sure enough is."
The hamburgers were easier to fix, even if they did not taste so
good. She had already retrieved them from the freezer in the storeroom,
ripped open the plastic and put them in a pan with some water to heat.
Last year she had mixed a long loaf of hamburger meat with dehydrated
onions and a soybean substitute. She and Sally pressed trays with
individually made patties under cookie sheets. At the end of these


49
sessions, Nell would sigh and tell Sally she never would have made it
without her. Of course she would have. Nell could prepare an entire
meal by herself if she had to.
There was a can-do spirit among the workers and it made their
work possible under the most difficult conditions. Once a couple of
regular employees, one-fourth of the lunchroom labor force, were out
and the student servers did not show. Elizabeth said, "We can do it.
It'll be hard. And it'll be a lot of work. But we can do it. We've
done it before." Nell chimed in, "That's right."
Nell brought the fish from the freezer and put them down on
large cookie sheets, while she waited for the hamburgers to finish
cooking. The fish would go in next. She put a piece of baking paper
over each sheet to make them less difficult to wash and arranged the
fish on the paper. Nell swabbed the fish with butter C.M. had melted
on the stove, two to three times as many fishburgers as hamburgers.
The children preferred them, especially now that the patties tasted
so "weird."
When Abe returned from Dixie Hollins, he brought C.M. the flour.
She set about weighing and measuring it. C.M. had made up a brown
sugar, cinnamon and nut mix and prepared the sugar and butter while
she waited. Abe was gone about twenty minutes.
He walked into Cora's office where she was trying, once more, to
post her invoices. "Everybody over at Dixie says hello," Abe told her.
"Shirley is really missed. That boy there kept asking for her. 'You
knows Shirley? How is Shirley? Tells her, I says hey.' What does
this boy want with Shirley?"


50
Cora just laughed. When she had moved from Dixie to Hogtown High,
she took Shirley with her when a position opened up at the high school.
Cora moved because the participation at Dixie was to be cut, meaning
less money if she stayed, and managing a high school lunchroom meant
more money. Shirley and Cora were friends, and Cora looked out for
her friends.
"Hey, what's going on here?" Abe said to everyone and no one in
particular. At least once a day, every day, Abe would ask that same
question, always in the same booming, jovial way.
"Seems like you know. What you and Cora laughing about? You come
out of there," Nell said.
"Oh, shoot, Nell, nothing."
"I know nothing when I hear it and I don't hear it now. What's
this nothing you and Cora been talking about?" Nell asked.
"I asked you what's happening?" Abe said lunging toward her with
his arms outstretched.
"Seems like your happening," Nell said waving off this fake
attack.
"Who me? The ole yard man?" he said innocently.
Nell was taking the hamburgers from the oven when Abe asked,
"What you got, Nell?"
"What you got eyes for?"
"To see you," Abe said chuckling as he left. Nell looked after
him and put her hands on her hips. She was going to stare him down,
but he did not turn around. He knew how she would be looking after
him. They had known each other for a long time as friends and
neighbors. They liked and respected each other. It showed through


51
this bantering and ribaldry.
Nell went back to the hamburgers and shoveled them into buns,
stacking them three deep in a tray lined with a moist towel. The towel
was to help keep them from getting hard. The students would complain
if they were. Those children complained anyhow about anything anyway,
Nell told herself, but she would try to keep the hamburgers fresh and
soft.
Outside Elizabeth turned off Ninth Street into a road lined with
pines, scrub oaks, vines and a few magnolia trees. Trails were cut
through the woods, footpaths that students used for rendezvous, to
smoke, drink and make love.
Liz's grey-blue Buick pulled into the back parking lot that led
to the custodian's office on the left, to the kitchen on the right.
A dumpster separated the two. Abe's car was already in the first space,
then the band director's car. The third place, usually filled by
the lunchroom manager's car, was empty. Cora's car was propped up on
cement blocks in the driveway at home. Liz parked her car behind
Walker's pride and joy: a late model black Cadillac complete with
white walls.
About 8:25 a.m., Elizabeth walked by Nell, who called "good
morning" to her as she headed for the office. Elizabeth had not heard
Nell. She was thinking about the fight she had with Pete last night.
She was upset because she thought things would get better after her
operation. Pete was involved more now than ever in his sportsman's
club. She hardly saw him.
"You didn't see it?" Nell asked Liz. "You behind the excitement,
girl." Nell pointed to the bundle on Cora's desk. Liz took a cursory


52
look at the material, put her purse in the file cabinet and headed for
the walk-in. She nudged the milkshake cartons across the floor with her
foot to the milkshake machine. Once she had poured the mix into the
machine, she left to get a plastic bag in which to throw the empty
cartons. The machine was working well this morning. The shakes were
coming out firm. For the next hour Elizabeth would stand there placing
one cup after another under the spout, putting each in the milkshake
rack. Only variety in the job was the change from chocolate to vanilla,
and then when the machine broke down.
Elizabeth did not seem to mind staying in one place; Nell and C.M.,
on the other hand, liked to move around. Elizabeth seemed to take pride
in being the only one to operate the machine. She had taught Cora how
to use it, in case she could not come to work, but it was Elizabeth's
baby. Regularly when she cleaned it, she announced that she had to give
her baby a bath. C.M. looked askance at this, but Nell told her to
never mind that.
It was the only baby Elizabeth would ever have. Though Elizabeth
was only twenty-eight, she had needed a hysterectomy last summer. She
had been married at sixteen, but her husband was killed in Viet Nam,
pulling five of his buddies to safety, she said. He had been awarded
a Purple Heart for his bravery. Elizabeth was given a widow's pension.
She never could get over it, though, she said. One of the reasons she
liked working in the lunchroom, doing hard physical work, was to get
her frustrations worked out. Nell told C.M. that everybody had their
problems and not to mind Liz and her baby talk.
Outside the milkman backed his truck to the kitchen door. He
turned the motor off, jumped out and went to the back of the truck to


53
unlatch the back doors. The back door slammed as he came in, looking
for Cora. She had heard the door shut. The milk cartons were out of the
refrigerator ready to present to him. She asked for replacements.
These cartons were sour, and by the way, she wished him a good morning.
He examined the dates on the cartons, shook his head and asked,
"You believe those kids?"
"I have to," Cora said. "They're my customers."
They knew that the cartons might be sour and might not. The kids
returned a half-empty carton sometimes to get a full one, or they had
changed their minds about white milk and wanted chocolate. One could
never tell.
Cora gave him her milk ordertwo white and one chocolatewhich
he wrote on a sheet of paper on his clip board. He left it for her to
sign. On his way out, he said hello to Elizabeth, who passed him on
the way to the bathroom. She smiled back.
When Elizabeth emerged from the bathroom, Nell started to kid her
about her new boyfriend. "I see you got a new friend, Liz. You better
watch that stuff. I'll tell Pete on you." Liz smiled again, the second
time this morning. Nell had never even met Pete. As for a new boy
friend, that was just talk too. Everyone talked like that, even the
milkman. Once he had come in with another man, and Cora asked who the
second man was. The milkman told her that he talked so much about the
pretty women on his route that his friend wanted to see for himself.
The milkman returned with the three cases of milk and wheeled
them into the walk-in. He picked up a case left from yesterday and
distributed the four cases to ice boxes on Lines I and II. He picked
up the clip board on his way out and hurried to his next delivery.


54
All the schools had to be serviced before lunch. He was on a tight
schedule.
The milkman came every day. The orange juice man came on Monday
morning as did the man from the bakery and another from a local produce
distributor. On Thursdays came the Coke man, the Lance cookie man and
the laundry man. The Coke man had come and gone. The laundry man was
expected soon. The Lance cookie man would come just before lunch at
eleven. The man from the county warehouse arrived at irregular intervals,
but Cora was expecting him today with her order of flour. She was
expecting the health department inspector any day now. She hoped he
would not show up today. She had too much to catch up on to fool with
these people.
Nell yelled over to C.M., "How you doing?" C.M. yelled back that
she was doing ok. Nell called back, "You're not getting down enough.
You're not getting down on your stuff. What you have for breakfast?"
"Soda."
"You ok, C.M.?" Nell asked again.
"Ah ha," C.M. replied.
"Well, if you wasn't ok, I was going to come back there. If
you was on the floor, I'd pour some water on you and see you rise up!"
Nell said taking a different tact.
"There they go again. Fighting," Elizabeth called to Cora.
"Just fighting and fussing and fuming and funning," Nell retorted,
ending the conversation on C.M.'s health and well-being.
The baking area was whitened with flour: a white arc on the tan
floor, white on the bleached tables, on the green walls, on black C.M.
C.M. stood back now while the machine did its job on the flour and


55
water and other ingredients in the large mixing bowl. She turned it off
and scraped the dough from its blade. She scooped some dough onto the
table and started rolling it out as Nell had taught her a couple of
years ago when she first started in the lunchroom as a DCT student.
She began baking regularly when the baker resigned.
Depending upon who told the story, a fight had taken place over
leadership and insubordination (Lucy's version), a struggle over laziness
and cooperation (Elizabeth's version), a racial conflict between the
white and predominately black factions (C.M.'s viewpoint), or tension
between the office and workers (Abe's analysis). These interpretations
are related and indeed may include all variables. Whatever the reasons
for the tension, the baker had left at Christmas, and C.M. took charge
of the baking.
"Hey, Nell, did you hear that?" C.M. asked. The nine o'clock news
was on.
"What you talking about?" Nell answered.
"On the radio. This man was shot dead out in Indianola. The mens
was fighting."
"Ah hum. I know. Over nothing too. That's what they were doing."
Nell was at the sink, getting water for tea. "Fighting over nothing.
Died for nothing. For one dollar. Think of that. Dying for one ole
little dollar. You know him, C.M.?"
"Ah naw. I didn't knows him."
The coffee water had just about boiled away. Cora had drunk her
cup for the morning. The other custodians had not come into kitchen
for coffee. Only Walker had come in for toast and juice and Abe,
with the flour.


56
Nell checked on the rice she had put in the steamer when Shirley,
wearing shades and alligator shoes, swung through the back door. Nell
looked up and smiled, "Hey, Shirley."
"Good morning, Nell," she replied in her crisp receptionist style.
"Now, Nell, don't start that fussing. I didn't even get here yet."
Shirley anticipated Nell's comments. Nell often told Shirley that they
were going to have a funeral soon if she did not watch herself, going
out with all those guys when she had a steady boyfriend. Nell told her
she had her red dress all ready to go for the funeral.
Shirley breezed past Nell to the bathroom, hung up her coat and a
dress in a dry cleaning bag. Her white uniform was one of five she owned.
The other women wore pant suit-type uniforms, but not Shirley. She wore
dresses, short dresses. "The mens say they like my legs," she told
anyone who asked about a hemline at mid-thigh.
Once, when Nell's husband had come for lunch, he put soda straws
on the bottom of his shoes and tried to walk. That was how Shirley
looked, he said. Cora had warned her about wearing platform shoes to
work.
"My customers like to see me looking good," she protested.
"It's unsafe," Cora said, "And the insurance company won't pay if
something happens."
"Unsafe for who?" someone chimes in.
"I don't mean that kind of unsafe," Cora replied. "I wish you
all be serious now. This is serious."
Shirley headed toward the baking area, where she and C.M. chatted
real low.
"You two break it up, now." Nell was returning to put fishburgers


57
in their buns. "We have lots of work to do. You have lots of work to
do, hear?" She said pointing to Shirley.
"Looks like you lost a friend, Nell." Cora leaned back in her
office chair. She knew that Nell never told anyone to get to work.
Even if the work was theirs to do, Nell would start on it herself.
Since Shirley and C.M. had been getting together to discuss their
adventures, Nell had been on them to stop talking and to do their work.
Really though, Cora said, that Nell just wanted to know what was going
on. When they carried on like that, real quiet-like, she did not know.
Cora went back to the baking area to tell Shirley the Coke man
had come this morning, that he and C.M. were locked up in the walk-in
together.
"Sure were," Nell confirmed.
"You tell everything you know, Cora," C.M. said defensively.
Everyone laughed together, acknowledging their common fault. They kept
few secrets from one another. Certainly someone's new boyfriend was
not one of them. One woman confided in another she was "tight" with.
That woman was friends with another and confided in her. And so the
confidence spread by overlapping pairs to everyone in the group.
About 9:15 a.m. Maridare walked up to the group congregated
in C.M.'s corner. She was fifteen minutes early. Nell told her to
get herself an apron and waved toward the back. Shirley walked with
Maridare to the storeroom and showed her where aprons were stacked on
a shelf. Shirley took pizza and french fries out of the freezer and
loaded them on a cart. The cart stalled at a bump in the door way.
It moved unsteadily, and Shirley exclaimed in exasperation, "This
cart go every which way. This cart go where it want to." She


58
struggled trying to get it on a straight course. At the table, Nell
was just finishing with the fishburgers, a good thing too. Lately they
had been having a border war over the use of that table. Nell told
Shirley that she was cramping Nell's style. Nell could not get her
work done, she claimed. Shirley, in response, would push her pans
over on Nell's side of the table, and Nell would shove them back.
Today Shirley had the table pretty much to herself. She took
long cookie sheets from a rack by the sink, stacking them on the table,
and cut open bags of french fries. After spreading baking paper on
the trays, she dumped a bag, spreading the french fries out with her
hand. She sprinked the arrangement with lots of paprika, giving the
french fries some flavor and color. Turning, she opened the doors to
the oven and a blast of heat assaulted her. The trays went in, and
quickly the glass doors slammed shut.
C.M. had put the cinnamon rolls in the back ovens. The kitchen
was starting to fill with the heavy scent of cinnamon. On a cold
winter day, Gail used to say, she liked nothing better than the smell
of bread baking in the oven. It gave her a sense of well-being, she
said, one of the good things about life.
Maridare was putting hot water in the first sink. She ran hot
and cold in the second; the third was filled with plastic jars, pans,
pots, other items used in the course of a morning. She poured a grainy,
green detergent into the second sink. Gentle on the hands, the box
said, but Shirley always wore rubber gloves to scrub the pots and pans.
C.M. stooped over beside the sub, sliding the mixing bowl on the floor
under the sinks. She splashed some water into the bowl so the dough


59
would not harden and stick to the metal.
Cora wandered around the kitchen, stopping to chat and help.
Cora was the only manager to help in the kitchen, Elizabeth said. The
rest stayed in the office. Cora had come from the ranks. Years ago
she and Nell worked together at DuBois High School where an aunt of
Nell's husband had been manager. Miss Dell retired several years back,
but she still went to the Food Service Associations annual dinner for
the "fellowship."
Cora worked her way to the storeroom where she started her
inventory. At the end of each month, she had to take stock. Occasionally,
Cora called Nell, checking with her about something she could not find.
Nell would go back, rubbing her hands down her apron, shaking her head.
"That's what you get for ordering all that stuff. You got to pay for
it now," Nell told her.
"That's the truth," Cora acknowledged. Doing inventory was not
her favorite job. Being a manager was challenging, but all that
inventory challenged was her ability to get down and get up again.
The laundry man walked in. Cora struggled to get up from her
squatting position. He counted the aprons and towels, putting new
onesat least, clean oneson a shelf. He told her the receipt was
on her desk and left. He was a quiet man. Unlike the other delivery
men who exchanged greetings and gossip, he did his work, saying no
more than was necessary. He missed a lot that way: Gail's comment
for example. She considered it a fine day if her apron had two strings
instead of one. Once after a delivery, Nell discovered that the aprons
were new. She and a few others joined in an impromptu fashion show.
They drapped aprons over their uniforms and paraded in front of the


60
full-length mirror, bowing, pivoting and swirling in front of an
imaginary audience. They broke up laughing.
Nell took out the giant tea bags from the pots on the stove,
pitching the bags into the garbage can by the office. She poured the
tea into four containers and added sugar to three. The teachers liked
their tea sweet. She stirred the sugar in each pitcher and set them
on a tray. Teachers could have tea instead of milk with meals they
bought. Other teachers who brought their lunches helped themselves
to the teaanother loss the lunchroom absorbed. Adult lunches cost
twenty cents more than the students, but that did not cover the cost
of the meal. Unlike student lunchesfree, reduced and paidadult
lunches were not subsidized by the government.
After fixing the tea, Nell added chicken bouillon, com starch
and yellow coloring to a large pot of boiling water. Nell had to chip
the bouillon out of a jar with an ice pick. Why bouillon was in a
glass jar, Nell did not know. It got so hard. She was sure to break
the jar one day.
The next half hour passed quickly. Elizabeth stood by the milk
shake machine, placing one cup after another under the spout. C.M.
cleaned the baking area and helped Nell with the hamburgers and fish-
burgers. Shirley put the french fries and pizza in the warmer as they
came out of the convection oven. Back in the storeroom, Cora continued
taking inventory. The ten o'clock news repeated the nine o'clock news.
Nell did not ask C.M. about the shooting this time. Maridare did.
She knew C.M. was from Indianola. Her brother went with C.M.'s cousin.
You could always tell Indianola people, Maridare said.
Ten o'clock and Sally was late as usual. She was the only one


61
who made a regular habit of it. Everyone else came early. At first,
C.M. looked at the clock, then at Sally. Gail asked her what time she
came in. None of this attention got her to the lunchroom any earlier.
Sally swung off the bike, lifted it onto the ramp and locked it.
She parked the three-speed bike between the stacked wooden frames and
the water spigot. It was safest to ride a bike, Sally thought. It
was not large enough to write obscenities on, as had been done to Pat's
car. The windows could not be broken as with Gail's stationwagon.
Nor could the radio be left on as in Elizabeth's Buick.
She hurried inside to get warm. The kitchen did not feel much
warmer than it did outside, even though the ovens had been on for two
hours. Like almost everyone else, Sally went to the office first. Nell
called, "lley," from her position in front of the sunken pit, containing
the stove, ovens and steamer. Sally returned the hey, a word she
learned to substitute for "hi."
After dumping her books under the office table, she went to the
stove. She stretched her hands over the burners, turning and rubbing
them. They were redder than her face.
"Cold today, isn't it?" Nell said.
"God damn right. It's cold," she replied. She and Gail used
profanity. It was rare that anyone else did. They used god damn and
hell so much that it was as accepted as Praise the Lord, Lord Jesus
and other religious exclamations used by Cora and Nell.
"I can't stand this cold weather. This is awful," Sally said.
"Ah hum, I know what you mean. Junior and Nelson didn't want
to get up this morning. I could have stayed under the covers myself.
But the alarm went off and up I rose." Nell laughed, remembering getting
out of bed.


62
Shirley passed by on the way to wash her hands. "Good morning.
How are you?"
"Freezing."
"I know that's right," Shirley confirmed.
After warming herself, Sally went to the bathroom to change.
Everyone wore their uniforms to work, even if they did not wear them
home. Not Sally. She wore another kind of uniform: jeans and cotton
shirts. Abe described the appearance, "You don't care how you look.
I like that." Sally pulled off her student uniform and tugged on the
white pants and one of two white jackets she owned. She opened the
bathroom door, shoving one arm into her flannel shirt.
Sally saw the forty-eight buns Nell had left on the end of the
table. She got luncheon meat, cheese and the mayonnaise-mustard mix
from the walk-in. Everyone had a different way of fixing hoagies.
The results were much the same. Sally spread the buns on the table,
spreading one side with the mix, laying the cheese and meat on the other
When Cora did them, she spread both sides of the buns which were
arranged in vertical rows. Nell spread between the buns, leaving them
scattered on the table.
Elizabeth picked up a piece of luncheon meat. "You won't miss
this, will you?" she asked, popping the meat into her mouth.
Sally cut more meat on the slicer, making a mess. The tray did
not abut properly onto the cutting blade. The slicer last year was
better, but it had been stolen during the summer. She was sure she
was going to lose a finger on this one. She never did. People cut
themselves on knives, but not on the slicer. Scaldings were more common
For such emergencies, there were a few medicines in the bathroom locker:


63
a bottle of iodine, some cotton gauze and some salves. An aloe plant
rested over the kitchen sink on the high window shelves. No one could
remember to use it, even though everyone knew it was there and used
for burns.
Elizabeth finished the shakes, cleaned the machine and wrote
the tally on a paper towel. She put the towel with Cora's other
records, and left the office to check the bulletin board. The daily
schedule was posted today. She saw her name penned next to "Cabbage."
When her name was not listed, she mopped bathrooms and washed walls.
Today she had to cut cabbage.
Elizabeth retrieved the cabbage from the walk-in, dragging it
across the floor. It was a simple job. She pulled the outer leaves
off, cored the cabbage, washed and quartered it. While the cabbage
cooked on the stove, Nell would season it. One time, Elizabeth
remembered, someone had stewed the cabbage. The menu that day called
for cole slaw. At least it was a mistake in the right direction.
The students ate cooked cabbage; cole slaw came back to the swill can,
ultimately ending on a pig farm.
Elizabeth brought the swill can from the back porch and threw the
outer leaves into it, filling the bottom. "This is the sorriest
cabbage," Liz pronounced over the accumulating leaves.
"Do the best you can," Nell called. "That's all I know."
"But this cabbage here is so sorry looking," Liz said again.
Sally finished wrapping the hoagies. She put them into paper bags
with a straw, napkin, one apple and a carton of orange juice. Abe
stopped by her as she put the bag lunches on trays.
"Hey, how's my Sal?" How's my girl?" he asked for the first time
today.


64
"Ok. How are you, Abe?" Sally replied, concentrating on the bag
lunches.
"Oh, fine. Just real fine." He smiled.
"Hmmm. Abe, I got to put this stuff away," she said abruptly.
"I'll help you. I'd do anything for my Sal."
"Thanks, Abe, but I just have to put these trays up, ok?"
Elizabeth collected the bits of cabbage left on the slicing board
and threw them into the swill can. She washed the knife and cutting
board, setting them on the table to dry. She walked past Abe and Sally
on the way to the serving lines. She started counting plates, moving
her finger over the plates. Fifty in each stack. She placed three
hundred and fifty on Line I and two hundred and fifty on Line II.
Usually Shirley counted behind her, making sure her count was correct.
Today, however, Shirley was cashiering in Gail's place on Line I.
Cashiers could not count plates, Elizabeth knew. Elizabeth looked
for Cora in the storeroom. "Someone has to count the plates again."
"Tell Maridare to do it," Cora said, returning to her inventory.
Maridare fished a pan from the scalding water with a wooden
paddle. When she caught it, she held the hot pan by her fingertips,
swinging it onto the drain board.
"Maridare, Cora says you got to do the plate count," Liz
commanded.
"I don't know how to do no plate count," Maridare muttered softly.
"It's easy, i'll show you," Liz said glad to be playing the
part of teacher.
Maridare shook water off her hands, wiping them on a towel she
pulled from the tray rack. She followed Liz to the serving lines.


65
Shirley passed them on the way to the eating area, towing two
garbage cans. A third she placed under the return window for cartons,
napkins and other paper products. Students and teachers were supposed
to separate paper debris from silverware and plates before returning
their trays. But Shirley fished out a lot of forks and knives from
that trash.
Shirley heard the dishwasher gushing and chugging. She had turned
it on, loading the detergent on the side container. As chief dishwasher,
an unenviable position, it was part of her duty. The newest member
of the group was stuck with this job. Today, Maridare would have
it. One thing to be thankful for, Shirley thought: no soup or chili
today. Those meals were murder. The food stuck to the plates and
there was a bowl to contend with, as if the plates, trays and utensils
were not enough. Other schools had plates and trays all in one.
Not Hogtown High. They never seemed to get new equipment.
As her parting service for Maridare, Shirley filled the plastic
tub for soaking utensils with water and detergent. Students used the
tub for target practice, hurling their silverware into it. Their aim
occasionally coincided with the dishwasher's hands. You had to have
patience to work that window, Nell said. She did not have enough for
that kind of nonsense.
Shirley brought the swill can from the salad area to the return
window. As Shirley pushed it by, Sally dumped some meat and cheese
scraps into the can. C.M. chanted from the sidelines, "Slowly but
Shirley. Slowly but surely."
Sally stacked the cookie and potato chip rack in the storeroom.


66
C.M. followed her, getting cans of cranberry sauce. "Ain't you bored
doing that every day?" C.M. asked her. Sally shrugged. She had
changed jobs several times. Sometimes she got a more desirable job;
sometimes, not.
"I be bored," C.M. said firmly, exiting with the cans. C.M.
agreed with Nell. She liked her job because she got to do different
things every day, Nell said. She liked to move around and go from
place to place. Neither could understand how Elizabeth stood in one
place for a solid hour. As she went out the storeroom door, C.M.
almost lost her cans, bumping into the Lance man.
"She's on the phone," he said motioning to Cora's office. "How
are the pork skins selling?"
"Ok. The barbecue are selling better than the plain," Sally
answered. "Is that true at other schools?"
"Well, yes and no. The black students like the barbecue skins,
but the barbecue chips are not hot enough for them. Too hot for the
white kids. I'd say the black kids like the sweet cookies. You know,
the vanilla, Nekot, ones like that. The white kids eat the Toastchee.
Anything with cheese and peanut butter. They like chocolate too.
It's a good chocolate, better than in an Oreo cookie."
"Hello. I been expecting you," Cora said reprimanding him for
coming so near the workers' lunchbreak.
Sally left for the walk-in. She placed cases of sodas, along
with bag lunches and hoagies, on a cart she pulled to Line III.
She counted bag lunches and sodas before serving. Saved time. After
the lines closed, she counted what remained, subtracted, getting the
total sold. The item tally and the money never seemed to coincide.


67
If the county office wanted an accurate account, they had to furnish
more than fish and tackle boxes, Lucy, the previous manager said.
The boxes were in poor shape. The lid on C.M.'s was off its hinges
and the inside of Sally's was propped on two wooden bars.
Nell wheeled the cart with the turkey to the stove. She hefted
the pans onto the burners, moving to one side the cabbage Liz put on
the stove. She poured the gravy over the turkey and covered the pans
with flat lids. After getting the turkey ready, Nell checked the
steamer. She turned it off and opened the top slowly. She wielded
a large ladle with both hands, scooping the rice into four deep pans
she got from underneath her table. She placed two pans on the stove
and brought the others to Line I, slipping the pans into slots over
the hot water.
C.M. shelved the pans of cranberry sauce one by one into the
refrigerator by the office. She threw the jagged edged tops in the
garbage and carried the cans to the pot sink, where Maridare had
resumed washing after the plate count. After the cans were washed, they
were stacked in the enclosed porch. At the end of the month, the
enclosure was lined three deep in cans. After the monthly nursery pick
up, the canslike toy blocksbegan to build up again, slowly and
precariously.
"C.M.," Cora called. "Go up and get the money in the office." The clock
Elizabeth brought from home read 10:35 a.m. Cora knew they would be
late for lunch again.
C.M. returned with an empty bank bag and a dirty white one filled
with change. Cora distributed the change to the cashiers' boxes, checking


68
for a pencil and two sheets. On one sheet the cashier recorded special
servings and extra milk; the other, she and Sally used to compute the
daily participation, revenue and tickets.
Shirley set up Line II, placing one tray of pizza and pans with
hamburgers, fish and french fries in their slots. The heat rising from
the hot water kept them fresh and warm, just as the hot water on Line I
warmed the turkey, rice and cabbage. Shirley's pot holder caught
between a pan and the counter. She returned to the table where she
prepared the pizza and french fries, pulling a pair of tongs from the
drawer. After lifting the pan off the pot holder, she left the tongs
on the counter. If Cora did not use the disposable plastic gloves,
she needed the tongs for serving.
C.M. placed the cinnamon rolls from the back oven on Nell's table.
She returned with a small bowl of glaze made from powdered sugar.
Nell helped spread the glaze over the hot rolls, crisscrossing the
pans with liberal drippings from a spatula. As each pan was glazed,
C.M. slid it on a vertical rack.
Liz was leaning on the milkshake freezer opposite Nell's working
area. She could help, but she did not. Already they were ten minutes
late for lunch.
"Can we eat now, Nell?" Elizabeth asked from her resting post.
C.M. and Nell were almost finished glazing.
"Don't see no reason why we can't eat," she replied. Nell handed
her spatula to C.M. and grabbed a pair of pot holders. She lifted a
pan of turkey off the stove.
"Excuse me, please," she said, making her way to Line I.


69
Elizabeth got her tray, plate and silverware. She lifted the lid
off the pan of turkey Nell put on the line. No serving spoons.
Liz went to Nell's table and opened two drawers, selecting a scoop
and two large spoons. She returned to the line and filled her plate
with rice and turkey, large pieces of white meat.
She carried her plate to the stove where the cabbage was cooking.
Liz stirred the pepper around the cabbage and dipped some onto her
plate. Next she opened the refrigerator, holding the door with her
foot, and started to get some cranberries. No spoon. The refrigerator
door shut. Elizabeth set her plate on the table, selected a porous
spoon and returned to the refrigerator. Maridare handed Liz her
plate. Balancing the plate and spoon in one hand, Liz held the door
open with the other. She positioned her body against the refrigerator
door, transferred the spoon to the other hand and spooned out a large
helping of cranberry sauce. She left the spoon in the tray. The
door slammed as she moved on, searching for a cinnamon roll. She
eyed the rolls, spotting a large, fluffy one in the middle of the
fourth row. She turned to the table, getting a metal spatula, and
extracted her cinnamon roll.
C.M. came from the storeroom, bringing a pan of ice. Liz waited
until Mary set the pan down. She filled a cup with ice and poured
herself some sweet tea. Liz went to the cafeteria and sat down at
the table the lunchroom workers used. She started to eat.
C.M. arranged the teacher's tray with sugar, salt, forks, spoons
and napkins. This tray, along with tea and pan of ice, was for the
teachers' table. Students could not have tea or ice, even though a
student group donated the ice machine to the school.


70
C.M. filled five cups with ice. Everyone, except Sally, took tea
with meals. She had milksometimes three cartons. Nell gave her one
and Sally marked the others on the milk sheet. Workers got a free
lunch. To some it did not seem free. Workers were required to be at
work a half-hour before serving time, time for which they were not paid.
Rarely did they take the full half-hour, a federal requirement for
hourly wage workers. Nevertheless, Mrs. Williams, the director of
Food Service, never failed to mention the free lunch as a benefit.
Other cafeteria workers in commercial establishments paid for their
food, she said. The seventy-five cents was part of a worker's salary.
Maridare soon followed Elizabeth to the cafeteria; then Shirley,
Sally, C.M. and Nell.
"You better come out of there, Cora. It's time to eat. Past
time to eat. We be ripping and rolling today when those children come
in," Nell called to Cora. Cora emerged from her office as the workers
trailed off to the cafeteria. Fifteen minutes before the bell rang,
she thought, looking at the clock.
C.M. and Nell sat across from each other by the window. Shirley
sat next to Nell. Maridare sat opposite Elizabeth and Sally slid in
next to C.M. When Cora came a few minutes later, everyone pushed to
the edges to make room.
"Hey, Fat Albert," C.M. greeted her.
"I know I'm no Albert," Cora said.
"You sure is fat though," C.M. retorted. Everyone laughed at C.M.'s
comparison of the manager to the television character.
Whenever a new person came, Liz asked her the same questions:
Where had she gone to school? Where had she worked before? Was she


71
married? How many children did she have?
To this latter question Maridare answered, "One." No one said
a thing to Maridare now. Later when she replaced Gail who eventually
resigned, they had plenty to say.
"You need at least two," Nell said then.
"I'm going to have mine two at a time," C.M. interjected.
"Well, long as you don't have two at a time by two different men.
I guess that's ok, C.M.," Nell joked.
"She won't want to have another one once she have that first baby,"
Maridare said.
A girl walked by the window on the outside concourse. "Hey, look
at those hips," Nell cried. "I could ride all the way to Andersonvilie.
All the way. And I wouldn't fall off either. A free ride to Anderson-
ville," Nell laughed.
"Hush, Nell," Cora said.
"i was just going to get me a free ride," Nell said, eating a
little of the turkeyonly thing on the plate.
"There's not even enough time to sit down. I'm tired, too tired
to eat. I could just stand up and eat this. That way, I wouldn't have
to get up again. Just keep moving," Nell said.
"Just eat, Nell," Cora replied.
"You talk too much," C.M. confirmed.
"You go ahead and eat. Eat for me too. I'm too tired. I just
want to sit and rest my bones," Nell said, looking over the plate.
She pointed a finger at the different compartments. "The rice go
here with the turkey and the cabbage go here; the cranberries go right
here and the cinnamon roll go on top. That sure is a full plate today.


72
That's real pretty," she said. "Green, brown, white and red."
"The turkey is real good," Liz told Nell.
"Thank you, Liz."
"it is good, Nell," Cora repeated.
"I be glad when this day is over. I be glad when Friday comes and
goes too," Nell said.
A student approached Cora and hung around the table, looking over
the plates. Everyone continued eating, ignoring the intruder.
"I want my lunch tickets. See, I was late getting to school. I
just got here," he said.
"I'm eating now," Cora said. "This is my lunch time. I give
tickets out until quarter til eleven. You know that."
"Oh, please," he pleaded. "I just got to school."
"Where's your admit slip?" Cora asked, softening.
"I ain't got one."
"Then you ain't got a lunch either. Go on. Get out of here,
Jeffrey."
"But I don't have my ticket."
"Borrow one from your brother, 'cause I'm not going to give you
your ticket now. Good-bye." Cora said, emphasizing the good-bye. She
went back to eating.
Elizabeth got up from the table and went into the kitchen, getting
another cinnamon roll, "i'll pay you for it, Cora, when the lines
close," she called over her shoulder.
"Elizabeth, you shouldn't eat that," Nell said. "You're on a
diet."


73
"I know. But oh, what a way to go," Liz said.
"Well," Nell said resigned to Liz's "diet." Whenever C.M. baked
cinnamon rolls or bread, Liz bought an extra. Nell told her she was
breaking her diet. Liz replied, "What a way to go." It was a litany.
Everyone, except Sally and Maridare, were on some kind of diet.
Nell alone kept it. She had to: high blood pressure. C.M. went on a
diet last year after her boyfriend said she was too fat. For weeks
she ate nothing except salads. And got sick. Although Shirley was
thinthinnest person there, she had an ulcer and could not eat spicy
foods. Cora told Shirley she had lost five pounds. She never seemed
to lose it, eating lunch at Hogtown High. Later when Maridare thought
she was pregnant, the women encouraged her to drink more milka diet
of another ilk.
Cora leaned across the table toward Maridare. "You know Reverend
Brown?" she asked.
"Ah ha," Maridare replied.
"He's over to Newcrossing this week," Cora told her.
"If my mother knowed that she be begging for a ride," Maridare
said. "She like that man. She be wanting to go hear him preach."
"Must be a good-looking man," Nell muttered.
"Say what?" Cora asked.
Nell looked down, concentrating on her empty plate.
"You working with some crazy ladies," Cora informed Maridare.
Dean Phillips left the dean's office and walked toward the women.
"Hey, Nell," she called.
"Hey, your ownself," Nell replied more to herself than to the dean.


74
Dean Phillips leaned over C.II. hugging her. C.M. smiled and
grimaced, both at the same time.
"I like your outfit," Cora said. "That's a real pretty color."
"Thank you, Miss Churchill," the dean said, towering over the
table. "You look familiar," she said to Maridare.
"I graduated from here," Maridare volunteered.
"I knew you looked familiar. How are you getting along with
these ladies?"
When the dean left, Nell said, "She can look good. She always
looks good. She don't have any children to bother her none. She
don't have any responsibilities 'cept to herself."
"She married, isn't she?" Cora asked.
"Sure is. Her husband used to work out here. Used to work for
Abe," Nell added.
A tall boy walked by the window. "Muslim," C.M. muttered.
"Seems like all the good-looking mens is Muslim," Shirley said.
"Sure do," Maridare agreed.
"They always trying to sell something," Cora said. "Yesterday I
went to the 7-11 and got out of my friend's car and this man come
walking over to me. 'You looking real good,' he say. And I said,
'Thank you.' He wanted me to buy one of those pamphlets. I told him
no. 'You want to give a donation then, a small donation to the cause?'
Cora said, imitating the Black Muslim. "I asked him if he wanted to
IV
give me a small donation for the church. 'We're having a building fund,'
I told him. 'We're building the church of God.' He turned on his heels
and left me flat." Cora laughed. "You know Jimmy Franklin?" she asked.


75
"He came by my house selling eggs for the Muslims. He had a real good
job at Publix. Was making good money too. He quit. Went out selling
eggs for the Muslims."
"Some people come by my house one time," Nell said. "A man and
a woman. I was getting down mopping the house clean and they come
knocking on the door. Who could that be? I wasn't expecting anyone.
I was doing my mopping. They said that they be back. I sure hope
they stay away. Those people are such a bother. Selling pamphlets
and wanting you to join their . ."
The eleven ten bell rang. Everyone jumped up, carrying plates to
the kitchen.
"Oh, Lord," Cora cried.
"Lord not going to help you now," C.M. said under her breath.
"Those children be here in a minute," Cora reminded everyone, as
if they needed reminding of the onslaught about to begin.
The women marched to the return window in the dishwashing area.
%
They left trays on the counter and emptied plates into the swill can.
Cora left her tray on a table. Sally picked it up on the way to join
the crowd. Cora unlocked the office, arranging the boxes for the
cashiers. Nell took the cabbage off the stove and carried it to Line
I. C.M. put the milkshakes on Line II and the window line, Line III.
Elizabeth brought the cranberry sauce from the refrigerator to Line I.
"Put the orange juice on Line II," Cora called to Maridare.
"Move that for me," C.M. asked Elizabeth. She was moving a tray
of cinnamon rolls off a rack. "Never mind," C.M. said, seeing Liz
with her hands full.


76
Sally put a cinnamon roll in the office to eat later. Nell told
her she could have her roll too. If any were left, she would claim
it. Not now. Sally pulled the cart laden with sodas and bag lunches to
the window where she worked during serving. She ran into C.M. who
left milkshakes in the window for the bag lunches.
"Sorry," Sally apologized. After parking the cart, she hurried
to the storeroom, sliding into Elizabeth in the rush. "Sorry," she
said again. She was always bumping into someone or something.
She jerked the cart over the door stop. The carefully assembled
display tumbled. "Damn," she said, bending over picking the cookies
from the floor.
Students banged on the doors, yelling to be let in. One rattled
the door handle. The loudest voices were male. The noise had come
all at once as the students were released from classes for lunch
period. No staggered schedules at Hogtown High. At the sound of
the bell, a couple hundred students converged on the lunchroom,
bunching at the doors. Lines were long. Students pushed and shoved
for positions in line.
After getting the fish and tackle boxes from the office, C.M.,
Shirley and Sally went to their stations. Nell and Elizabeth readied
plates, lining them on the counter. Cora served Line II by herself;
sometimes a student helped her. Maridare put trays left by the
other women in a rack.
Cora gave the signal for the doors to be opened. Students poured
in. One boy pushed a girl out of line. She started shrieking at him.
He argued back, saying he was there all along, "What's the big problem,


77
girl?" Other students joined the yelling, trying to get them to .moVe.
The pair kept screaming, threatening and cursing.
Lunch was served at Hogtown High.
Sally pushed up Line Ill's window, sticking a bar on the side to
hold it. The window went half way. Students bent over, ordering what
they wanted. Lucy had instigated Line III for bag lunches, milkshakes,
sodas and snacks, an idea which augmented the lunchroom's income
considerably.
Otis and Jim slipped on aprons. Cora sent Otis back for some
salt to refill the shakers. Students poured salt on everything
cabbage, turkey and cinnamon roll. The salt shakers were tied to the
counter with string, preventing students from carrying them off.
Joe pushed through a crowd of students, delivering the teachers' tray
to the cafeteria. He made a second trip for tea; a third, for ice.
"You skipped," Dean Joseph called to three boys in Line II.
"No, I didn't," one yelled back.
"You turkey. I saw you," he answered, pointing to the group.
"Huh?"
"You boys get out of that line and go to the end. I don't want
to see you cutting this line again." The students stood their ground
and conferred together. They left disgruntled. Other students watched
the excitement.
Joseph was hard, too hard many thought, but he had changed.
When a couple of those big boys jumped him in the dean's office, he
cooled off some, Nell said. Joseph, C.M. said, was harder on black
kids. He worked hard to get where he was. He did not want those
kids pulling him down, someone explained. They did that every time
they "showed out."


78
Line II had rougher kids, than Line I, Lucy and Sally said. They
seemed to yell more, demand more and push each other around more.
The trays spaced students some, but they managed to bunch up. For
the first part of the lunch hour, the lines stretched along the walls,
reaching the doors on the far side of the cafeteria. Students clustered
in groups of girls and groups of boys. An isolate or two stared off
into space, amidst the talking, laughing and horsing around.
"I want a pizza. Give me a pizza. I don't want that plate. That
one there." A student pointed to one Cora was making.
"They're all the same," Cora repliedor as much the same as she
could make them. "Put those napkins back. That's what keeping my
production cost up high. You don't need all those napkins," she
yelled over the din to a boy she saw from the corner of her eye.
Every lunch period, she lost napkins, straws and silverware.
There were two types of strawsplain white ones for for milk and red
striped ones for milkshakes, these with scooped ends. Students used
the straws for other things than drinking. They shot the wrappers off
at passing friends or stuck the straws in the side of the mouth,
chewing on them like pieces of hay straw. The straws and napkins were
not the worst losses. The lunchroon supplied tableware to dozens of
hom^, Cora thought.
"I want a cinnamon roll," another student demanded.
"That's not on this side," Cora replied.
"I want a cinnamon roll. I don't want to go over there. Man,
that lines so long."
"Go on, get out of here, Michael," Cora told him.


79
''Give me a fish. I don't want any of those old hamburgers."
"Give me a fish too, Miss Churchill. Miss Churchill. Miss Churchill.
Oh, please give me that big one right there. That's right.
"Give me that," another student said.
"You're holding up the line," Com said to a student.
"Hey, C.M. You let me slip by on seven cents. I don't want to
break a dollar," a boy whispered to the cashier on Line II.
"I got change," C.M. said. "That's fifteen cents. You want it?
You pay for it, boy."
Otis helped Cora serve Line II and Jim backed the lines,
retrieving orange juice from the refrigerator or turkey from the stove
as pans emptied on the lines.
"Milkshakes," Sally called, lifting the empty rack out of the
way. "Could I have some milkshakes?"
"Jim, go get some shakes," Cora directed.
On Line III most of the bag lunches had been exchanged for a
ticket or fifty-five cents. Sally sold some cookies and sodas with
bag lunches, but most of the students with tickets got lunches first,
returning for snacks if they had the money.
"I want those yellow cookies," a student demanded. "No, not
those. Them. Yea, there."
"Give me those brown kind," another yelled. "I didn't ask for
those black cookies. You know, the ones you just gave that other
boy."
"I want a bag lunch," a gid. said, surrendering her ticket. "You
got a vanilla shake?"


80
"Just a minute. All I've got right now is chocolate."
"That's ok. Give me a chocolate then."
Jim brought the shakes. "Here you go," he said to Sally, handing
her the tray.
"Give me a lunch," a boy called. "Got a fish in it?"
"No," the cashier answered.
"I want a fish," he persisted.
"They only have hoagies in them," she replied, telling him what
he already knew.
"Well, get me a fish then. Just asked that lady right there.
She give you a fish."
"Hey, move on," another student told him. "These only got
hoagies in them."
"Shit," he muttered.
"Don't talk to her like that," the second student said.
"She ain't no teacher," he pointed out, justifying his language.
"I would like. I would like. Let me see. Well, I would like
some of those Nekot cookies. No. No. Give me a peanut bar. Yea,
that's what I want."
"You sure?" Sally asked the boy. He sang in the school choir
and invited her each time they performed.
"Yea, I'm sure," he said. "Oh, give me a Coke too. No not a
Coke. A Sprite. How much is that?"
"Forty cents."
"Thanks," he called, one of the few to thank lunchroom workers.
A student stood around the window, asking others for change.


81
Sometimes they gave it to him and sometimes, not. His line was the
same, although he varied it a little, depending on whether he knew the
person.
"Hey man. Give me a nickel, man," he pleaded.
"This isn't my money," the student replied. Claiming the money
was not yours or reminding him he owed you money usually ended the
conning.
"i need a nickel real bad. Real bad," he said to another student.
"What you need a nickel so bad for?" she asked.
"See, I want to get me something with it." He smiled. She
slapped it down in his hand.
"Why thank you, Miss Christine. Thank you so ever so much,"
he declared, whirling around, laughing.
"You got any more shakes?" another student asked the cashier,
singing "Shake, shake, shake," words to a popular song.
"What kind do you want?" she asked for the millionth time that
afternoon. Students wanted "this," "that," "them," or "there,"
descriptions not always decoded correctly by the cashier. Sally had
not realized that many students could not read. She learned this one
day last year.
She asked one student to read the label on the package. The
student pronounced the first syllable hesitantly. She stopped and
tried a different approach. She spelled the word, pausing after each
letter. She identified the first four letters and then seemed to give
up. A friend witnessing the incident offered a name which approximated
the label. She seized upon the word and pronounced it with triumph.
The students said they could not read or count, but the cashier


82
thought this was jive. After the experience with the girl, Sally
was not so sure. She was more careful not to challenge their ability
to read. It embarrassed the students, frustrating and making them
unhappy. The students were bored in school, they told her that often
enough. That they were not learning came as a surprise.
"Give me some soda water," another student said. "No, I dont
want a Coke. I want that," he said, pointing to the soda cart. "No,
hell. I don't want that grape. I told you I want a root beer."
Telling the student he had not asked for root beer, but for soda
water prolonged the encounter, causing trouble. The cashier let it
go by. Sally learned to let most of it go by.
"Give me a lunch," another student demanded, projecting the upper
portion of his body into the window.
"There aren't any more."
"Oh, man. What can I get with this ticket? Give me a Coke and
I'll give you the ticket."
"Can't do that," the cashier replied.
"Why not?"
"You can get a lunch over there," she said, pointing to Line II.
"Or there," she pointed to Line I. She gave up explaining.
"I don't want any of that. I want me some soda water."
"Sorry," she said to the dejected-looking student.
A pair of girls came to the window. "Gee, I don't know what I
want. Mary Sue, what do you want? Oh, gosh, let me see. Do you
have those peanut butter cookies? You do? I want some. How much
do they cost?"
The crowd was thinning now and only a few students came to Line III,


83
designated "The Pit Stop" by Lucy.
"Hey, you look real nice. Real nice, now. What's your name?"
"Sally."
"Well, Sally, hello. How are you?"
"Ok."
"How about being my friend?" he asked.
"I don't even know your name."
"It's Marvin. Now, Sally, look it here. You my friend. You my
new friend. How about giving your friend some of those sweet cookies
over there?" he asked, looking intently at her. She shook her head.
"You my friend now. You know my name. I tell you my girlfriend's
name: Louise. That's her right name. Ask anybody. Louise."
"I don't doubt it," she replied.
"He just jive talking you," another student volunteered.
"Who you interrupting, boy?" Marvin said to the student.
"Who you calling 'boy'? Boy," the student answered.
Most students came in the first half hour. Teachers came too.
They always showed up for a meal with gravy, Nell said. She and
Elizabeth were busy: turkey was a popular meal. Elizabeth placed a
cinnamon roll and some cranberry sauce on the plate. Nell added
cabbage, rice and turkey.
A parade of fashion passed in front of them. They did not have
time to watch. Not much they missed, though. Students dressed in
the brightest colors, in the most unique color combinations. One
wore a bright orange-pink polyester shirt and electric green pants.
Others wore T-shirts inscribed with "I'm a winner," "Debbie,"
"Shazoom," "Sit on It," "DCT II," and "Budweiser." Some girls still


84
wore mini shirts; others adopted the new mid-calf length skirts.
Both sexes wore jewelry, an integral part of the contemporary
wardrobe. Boys wore puka shell chokersplastic and real. Others wore
chains with heavy medallions. Girls wore more turquoise jewelry than
the boys: rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings.
Hair styles were as diverse as the dress. Some students wore their
hair in afros or braids. One had his in corn rows which, as the name
suggests, ran in vertical, parallel rows from the crown to the back of
the head. Others had circular designs: one large swirl, three circles
ending in little tuffs, etc.
"Aha. Aha. I like it. Aha. Aha. I like it like that," one student
sang straggling in for lunch. The radio music carried over the other
noises and reached the last student in Line I. The twelve o'clock
news had just gone off. "Nell, give me that big cinnamon roll. Lord
have mercy, you people is slow. I got to eat now."
"What you rushing her for? You the one that is late," Cora called
from Line II.
"Say what?"
"You heard what I say. Your mother's not going to like that.
Treating people so mean."
"I wasn't treating her mean. Was I, Nell?" he said, appealing to
Nell. Nell handed him his plate and turned around, continuing to stack
trays. Never let the students get you down; keep getting up. That was
Nell's philosophy.
As the students tapered off, the work of the dishwasher reached
its peak. Trays were piled high in the return window. Students threw


85
paper trash in the garbage cans under the window, sometimes missing
the cans. Paper and cartons littered the floor. Overflow from the
cans made a mess of the area.
Maridare kept up with the new spurt of activity as best she
could. She was not accustomed to handling the volume that came today.
Otis moved from serving on Line II to helping with the dishwashing.
He caught trays and plates, coming from the dishwasher. He stacked
them on the shelf above the spillway. As racks emptied, he brought
them to Maridare, who started the process over. Before putting
them in plastic racks, she banged the plates against a rubber guard
over the swill can. Most of the food came off. She sprayed the
dishes with water from a high power nozzle, spraying Sally on Line III.
Elizabeth left Line I before it closed and washed pots in the pot
sink, clearing the mound of trays, pots, pans and utensils. Nell helped
Otis unload the plates and trays from the dishwasher.
A dean, a kind of disciplinary official, got his tray from the
stack and waited in line. "Oh, dear," Nell said to herself. "I got me
another customer." She washed her hands in the sink outside Cora's
office. "Just a minute."
The four deans and a vice-principal ate at the end of the lunch
hour. They were supposed to keep order in the lunchroom. Sometimes
attempts to straighten the lines, keeping students in order, did more
harm than good. Deans did not recognize the students' social system,
or if they did, they ignored it. At lunch, students were on their own
time. By cutting and allowing others to cut, they showed their status/
deference system. Football players, cheerleaders and hustlers had
status. When deans sent students to the end of the line, they got mad


86
and vented their anger on the workers.
Mr. Whitehall waited for Nell to finish washing her hands. She
returned and filled his plate. He asked for more turkey and less
cabbage. The customer was always rightunless the manager said he
was not, which was not often. Nell complied with his request. If she
had followed the federal, state and county regulations, she might have
lost a customer, a friend and a sometimes disciplinarian of the
students. He paid Shirley and they rapped about her new cashiering
job, among other things.
Teachers' demands were a bit much sometimes, even for Nell. Once
Miss Phillips wanted a double portion of the protein dishso meat,
fish, poultry and cheese were called in management parlanceand an
extra roll. She begrudgingly paid her three bits. The other teachers
wanted to know why the lunchroom workers were cheating them. They did
not get what she got.
The bell rang at 12:10 a.m. Cora served a few students in Line II
and C.M. took their tickets. Otis and Jim left, throwing their aprons
on Nell's work table.
"Shut the doors," Cora called, heading for the office. Sally
shut her window. She counted the remaining sodas and long packs of
cookies, recording the results on a sheet marked with short packs
of cookies and miscellaneous items sold during the lunch hour. She
put emptied cardboard boxes and trays, along with the fish and tackle
box and milkshake holders, on the cart. She wheeled the cart to the
walk-in, stopping by the office to deposit the money box. She threw
the cardboard box next to the garbage can. It was full. The milkshake
holders she left on Nell's table for washing. She returned to the


87
window and pulled the cookie rack to the storeroom, a simple procedure
made difficult by mop strings in the rack's wheels. She joined Cora
in the office. Together they counted the receipts, tabulated items
sold on each line and recorded other daily transactions.
When the last student left, Shirley and C.M. brought their boxes
to the office. The boxes contained tickets, money, an IOU note and
sheets on which they noted extra items and teachers' lunches, with or
without milk.
Walker handed Sally twenty-five cents. "For a Coke," he said.
C.M. and Shirley brushed past Walker: C.M. to take down Line I and
Shirley to wash in the pot sink.
"You see Shirley?" Nell asked C.M. C.M. lifted a pan of hamburgers
off the line and carried it to Nell's table.
"No," she replied, joining Nell and Shirley by the pot sink.
Nell leaned on Shirley. She made a fold in her apron and patted it
down.
"Down boy, down," Nell said. "Mr. Whitehall must have been going
'down boy, down,'" she illustrated with the apron. "You didn't see
it?1, Nell asked C.M.
C.M. shook her head, enjoying Nell's demonstration.
"He come up to her. Leaned on her like this. He told her she had
on pretty flowered panties, too. Sure did. Real pretty flowered . ."
Nell started laughing along with C.M.
"They teaching me bad habits out here," Shirley called to Cora.
"And bringing them to us," Nell added.
"All of you better clean up your minds," Cora called from her
"What if someone see you do that?"
orange chair.


88
"That's fun, though, isn't it, Cora? Just fun. Just having fun,
that's all," Nell broke out laughing again.
Not every day did they have such an episode to relate. Sometimes
the scenario was more typical: serving a customer, for example.
Nell would go to Line II and stand on the customer's side. She pointed
to the imaginary trays of food. "I want some barbecue ribs and some
fried chicken and some .... Naw, I don't want that. Give me Some of
those greens, please."
As Nell pointed out the items she wanted, C.M. would take her
position behind the counter. "You want this one, Miss?" C.M. asked.
"Ah ha. And some more peas. I like peas. Peas, please."
After a few minutes, they would quit, laughing.
"Can I buy me something?" a boy asked.
"What you think?" Nell muttered to herself.
"Where the manager is? I got to see the manager," he said.
Cora came out of the office when she heard the commotion. "What
you doing here?" she asked accusingly. "You suppose to be in class."
"I'm hungry. Give me a hamburger. There they go. Right
there," he pointed to the pan C.M. had left on the table.
"We been open for an hour. Where you been?" Cora asked.
"Around. No places to eat where I be at," he said, defending
himself.
"Ok, Nell," Cora said. "Give him a hamburger."
"I only got twenty cents."
"What?" Cora said incredulously. "Hamburgers cost forty cents."
"Let me hold twenty cents til tomorrow. My credit's good."


89
"If you don't pay, now. I be looking for you on Deacon Street,"
Cora told him.
"You seen me on Deacon Street?"
"No, just look like you come from there,"Cora surmised from his
clothes and "hip" behavior. He wore a 1930's style suit: pinstripped
cloth, wide lapels, baggy pants, and a panama hat. He circled the table
with calculated nonchalance and peered into the pans, hands locked
behind his back. "I haven't been down to Deacon Street in a long time,"
she emphasized the long.
Nell handed him a hamburger on a paper towel. He gave Cora two
dimes and eased out of the kitchen, waving good-bye to the women he did
not turn around to see.
C.M. took the remaining pans off Line II and brought them to the
table with the slicer. Nell loaded a cart with leftovers from Line I
and placed them along side C.M.'s pans. When everything was assembled
together on the table, Nell counted the leftovers. She recorded the
count on the same sheet she used earlier to itemize the turkey, rice
and other items. Not much was left from Line I. The little cabbage
left in the pan, Nell threw in the swill can. It was not worth saving.
She consolidated the leftover fish and hamburgers into a small pan,
sealing it with saranwrap. She did the same with the french fries.
Tomorrow they would be reheated, the first items served on Line II.
After she put the pans in the walk-in, she went to the pot sink to
help Shirley.
"Looks like they used all the pots and pans in the kitchen," Nell
said to Shirley. "They" referred mainly to Nell.
Shirley continued scrubbing pots. She used a white brush on the


90
cinnamon roll pans. She wiped easier-to-clean pots with a stiff green
pad. "Be careful, Nell," Shirley warned. Nell pulled the pots from
the rinsing sink, shaking her fingers. The water was "piping hot."
Liz dipped a bowl-like pan into the soapy water and went to wash
Line I. C.M. washed Line II with a cloth, swinging it over the surface.
She scrubbed off pieces of food cooked on the hot counter. After
serving, Liz and C.M. had let the hot water drain from the serving
counters. They were still warm when they wiped them clean.
"That clock's walking down," Nell said to Shirley. "Time for
you to go, girl." It was 12:30 p.m.
Shirley took off the gloves, putting them by the plastic bottles
stockpiled next to the sink. She walked to the bathroom. She opened
her locker and spread her apron on the floor. She changed into the
dress she brought in the dry cleaning bag. In front of the bathroom
mirror, she adjusted her make-up and fluffed her strawberry-colored
hair. As a tribute to her hair, Walker named her "Blondie." She
arranged her jewelry and headed for Cora's office.
She and Cora had the same kind of jewelrySarah Coventry. They
sold it to friends and neighbors, and purchased some themselves at a
discount. They planned a fashion show, but the Sarah Coventry party
never came off. Nevertheless, each season they showed the new
catalogue to their fellow workers. None of the workers bought any.
Few wore jewelry. C.M. did, but she bought hers at Woolworth's or
from a friend who sold Avon products. Nell and Cora encouraged C.M.
to become an Avon representative. She would take orders for her friend,
she said, but she was not interested in selling for herself.
Like Shirley and Cora, many of the women had second and third jobs.


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CUTTING THE FOOL:
WOMEN IN THE SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM
By
S. A. LAWSON
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE
COUNCIL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
1976


To
Mother and Father

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Usually one starts thanking people who are least important to one's
study and ends up praising one's wife and children. Perhaps this follows
the biblical dictum that the first shall be last and the last, first.
The most important people have been my family and friends. I do
not know if I ever would have finished this if my father had not asked,
"Well, kid, what else are you going to do with yourself?" or my mother
had not always said how proud she was. Or for that matter, my sisters
Kathy and Peg and brother Bill who told me I was too old to be still in
school and they were getting a little embarrassed telling their friends
that I was still working on It.
My sister Kathy, a high school teacher, visited me during the study.
I asked her about the role of teachers, a group with whom I had only
very structured and limited contact. She related to me her own teaching
experiences and made observations about the attitudes and behavior of
her fellow teachers, which were most helpful. Kathy also met one of
the women with whom I worked and through Kathy's comments, I was able
to see some of my own family bias. Peg and I discussed what makes
working worthwhile: to her it was the challenge and the change. For
my brother Bill, however, work was the time that he was with his friends
doing what he liked best to do—tinkering with cars.
My friends at work, about whom this study is written, always jived
me about "the book." One said that this would be the first time that
iv

chaos was documented. They told me to make sure I included this and
Lord, don't tell them that. They were sure I was going to make a lot
of money from selling the book, little knowing that dissertations are
the ultimate in written obscurity.
The importance of one or two individuals who befriended the anthro¬
pologist cannot be underestimated. For me, one such person was the head
custodian at Hogtown High School. Much of what I learned about the
subtleties of interaction among school employees and students, I have
learned from this man. He acted not only as an excellent analyzer of
the school's culture but also as my patron and protector. When he died
last year, I lost not only a person who collaborated with me on my
fieldwork, but a dear friend.
At the university, I was fortunate in knowing another man, who
like H.H.S.'s "ole yard man," acted as my patron. I would wander into
Professor von Mering's office unannounced and launch into a diatribe about
the latest inflammatory incident, or at other times, I would talk about
something particularly amusing that had happened. He received these
outbursts with equanimity and then would present his own latest zany
ideas about the research. Many of his off-beat notions, which at the
time seemed irrelevant, proved to be extremely useful; sometimes, not so
useful. His most helpful advice came one day when, after listening to
me go on, he leaned back in his chair, folded his hands over his stomach,
grinned and said, "My dear, that's a judgment."
Lydia Deakin, a friend throughout my graduate study, put research
into a proper perspective, mixing common sense with a tradition of
scholarship. I survived on her daily rations of undaunted continental
charm and homebaked cakes and breads. Another friend, Deborah Bowers,
v

a writer on local culture, has generously shared her manuscripts with
me on activities that some of my co-workers participated in but which I
had not observed, e.g., family gatherings to make sugar cane syrup in
the winter. Deb has been a mainstay throughout this research, reading
and rereading each chapter as it was written, supplying the needed
encouragement and the occasional midnight MacDonald's hamburger.
Other friends unconnected with the research were equally supportive.
They always said how interesting my life was (?) and how they always
wanted to do something like it (they could not have meant washing pots
and pans). Roz Brandon, Rona Wilson, Phyllis Tellor, Valentina
Komaniecka, and Gemma Tate were such friends.
My committee, save the chairman, were people whom I met late in my
academic program. They were recruited by my chairman to give the
university's equivalent of the Jewish minyan. I thank them for welcoming
me into the olde boy's club that is anthropology: Theron Nunez, Carol
Taylor, Antoinette Brown, William Kelso, and Harry Paul.
Long about this time, one thanks the foundation which gave the grant
for the study. My family always came through with money as needed, never
asked how it was spent nor demanded much more than an occasional letter
in return. Foundations, I understand, are a little less cooperative.
My research and myself were supported largely by my earnings from the
job in the lunchroom and with the local community college, both of which
Shirley von Mering was instrumental in getting for me. I also held
assistantships at the university, for which I thank the University of
Florida and more particularly, Lydia Deakin and Otto von Mering who
saw to it that I got funded if funds were around.
vi

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Pages
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iv
ABSTRACT viii
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION 1
Notes 10
CHAPTER II: OBSERVATIONS ON FIELDWORK 13
Notes 28
CHAPTER III: DATA AS THE STORY 30
The Story 33
Notes 112
CHAPTER IV: EXAMINATION OF THE DATA 113
Table I: Setting 117
Table II: Characters 127
Table III: Action 151
Recapitulation 164
Notes 175
CHAPTER V: CONCLUSION 177
APPENDIX: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE 186
Notes 201
BIBLIOGRAPHY 205
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 216
vii

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida
in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the
Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
CUTTING THE FOOL: WOMEN IN THE SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM
By
S. A. Lawson
December, 1976
Chairman: Otto von Mering
Major Department: Anthropology
This is an ethnological study of a small group of women employed in
a school lunch program preparing meals for students, teachers and staff.
In their efforts to fulfill their work functions, the women encountered
certain difficulties which have given rise to a special kind of adaptive
behavior known as "cutting the fool."
The women subscribe to the value that work is both a good and
necessary activity for able-bodied adults, yet, the reality of working
in the lunchroom is viewed less favorably. The work is physically
exhausting, routinized, as well as potentially dangerous. The many
frustrating and even humbling situations encountered in this employ
are not compensated for by the actual financial rewards and benefits.
In order to reconcile the value of work with their job situation,
these workers have developed particular survival techniques which
allow them to play out a fiction. This fiction many of the women have
viii

likened to contemporary soap operas. They have created a story from
the happenings at work and from the situations that occur in their own
lives outside of work. This story contains two essential elements of
drama: role-playing and entertainment.
Acting out roles for the benefit of an audience, i.e., the students,
teachers and staff who come each day to eat in the lunchroom, allows the
women to do their work with the least amount of friction. During the
lunch hour when the women are on stage, they play at being deferential
servants, meeting thereby the expectations of their patrons.
Before and after the lunch hour, another kind of performance takes
place. During this time, the workers stage for one another a kind of
vaudevillian show, which includes amusing dialogues, dancing, singing
and pantomime. These activities foster cooperation and help to solidify
the group into one working and performing unit.
This adaptation to institutional work allows the women to complete
their tasks, to overcome petty tyrannies of their customers and
administrators, to retain a sense of self, and to enjoy the comraderie
of their fellow workers.
ix

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
It is this instinctive conviction, vividly posed
before the imagination, which is the motive power
of research—that there is a secret, a secret which
can be unveiled. (Whitehead 1948:13)
1
This is a story about women at work. Like all stories, the
2
stories that anthropologists tell concern real life, but they are not
real life. Stories are created out of life experiences which may or
may not have happened. Life moves on, but in a story, life stops with
the telling. The teller controls the story by emphasizing certain
things and omitting others, shaping and changing events, sometimes
unwittingly, to accomplish a purpose or to suit the audience. The
anthropologist's task is to tell it like it is, but in so doing, he
distorts the story. This is the nature of story-telling, but it also
a peculiarity of the anthropologist's work.
Anthropology is the study of mankind. The word itself comes from
3
two Greek words anthropos and logos. Anthropos is unambiguous enough,
meaning man or human. Logos, although generally interpreted to mean
study, has various meanings, only one of which is study. In the
original Greek, logQs is the symbol for speech, word and reason.
These three meanings of logos are interrelated and, as a unified complex,
define a significant aspect of man. Han's language is his ability to
create and use symbols to communicate with his fellow men, a great
evolutionary change distinguishing man from the animal world, a world
1

2
4
he is a part of but also apart from. Anthropology then can be inter-
5
preted to mean a. speech about mankind, a meaning in keeping with the
spirit of this dissertation and the group studied. Anthropology has
another meaning as an academic discipline in the social sciences. This
meaning and the first are closely allied, but slightly different. In
the second meaning anthropology has come to mean the study of man
rather than the speech about man.
"Anthropology, as the science of man at large, as the most compre¬
hensive discipline in humanism without portfolio, was the last to come"
(Malinowski 1969:3). In order to make way for itself, it had to borrow
concepts and methods from various sciences, to encroach on the subject
matter of other disciplines. It has been an adventure undertaken by
6
the malcontents of the intellectual world or, as one person described
it, "the investigation of oddments by the eccentric" (in Kluckhohn 1949:
4).
The discipline has come a long way from this nineteenth-century
characterization, at times losing its way. Anthropology, one might say,
was born in confusion and has been trying to make sense out of this
chaos, with varying degrees of success. Anthropology is an eclectic
discipline, so much so that Lowie once called its subject matter "that
thing of shreds and patches" (1920:441). There is still little
consensus on what anthropologists are supposed to study, what kind of
methodology they should use and what concepts are best for understand-
7
ing mankind.
In this country, anthropology is divided into four fields: socio-
8
cultural and physical anthropology, linguistics and archaeology.
Physical anthropologists investigate the biological basis for human

3
behavior; linguists study the languages of different peoples; and
archaeologists reconstruct man's past. Sociocultural anthropology is
itself divided into two parts: ethnography and ethnology. Ethnographers
describe and analyze particular cultures while ethnologists seek general
laws of culture (Schusky and Culbert 1967:3).
The common interest that unites these four fields is the task
of studying human nature as embodied in a concept the anthropologist
calls culture. Much has been written about this concept, but little
9
is understood. Tylor's definition of culture—"that complex whole
which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any
other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society"
(1871:1)—remains a classic, although many other anthropologists have
interpreted it in various ways. Like the notion of pornography, one
supreme court justice observed, culture is something which eludes
definition but which everyone knows when they see it. Perhaps this lack
of consensus on what culture is, is inherent in the concept itself or
simply reflects the limitation of the language and ideas of this time
and place.
Because culture has been defined in so many different ways, at
times contradictory, it is important to know how the term is used by
10
the anthropologist of this study. In the main I agree with Tylor's
definition of culture, that it is a complex whole acquired by man as
a member of society. Culture is coterminous with man. As a concept,
culture is articulated in the world of men who create and are created
by various cultures. The concept of culture is an abstraction, but
its manifestations are concrete and varied. The expression of culture
in a complete actual occasion varies with the particular circumstances

4
of that occasion. "The form, the content, and even the existence of
cultures," Linton observes, "can only be deduced from the behavior to
which they give rise" (1964:288). These behaviors are the outward
manifestations of culture, the overt signs of culture. Although there
is unity in the concept of culture, the way that this concept is inter¬
preted and expressed by various peoples differs with their varying
historical and environmental conditions. Nonetheless, "culture itself
is intangible and cannot be directly apprehended even by the individuals
who participate in it" (Linton 1964:288-89).
If the task of the anthropologist is to understand human nature,
surely the most significant dimension of that nature, the one dimension
unique to man is culture. Culture is that part of man's being most
difficult to grasp: the nexus of mind and body, of intellect and
sentiment. In my own thinking about culture I am as unsure and as
equivocal as any other anthropologist, although I think it important
to attempt to understand even if not to know what culture is. I think
of culture as the meaning that man has bequeathed to himself to continue
his struggle with life though certain to die. It is basic to his animal
nature for self-preservation and species survival, but more than this:
culture makes living—and dying—worthwhile. Individual men may change
cultures, whole societies may do so; but neither men nor societies can
exist without culture.
In the anthropologist's search to understand culture, many
record only what they are able to verify through the senses. What
they report are the observable manifestations of culture. Some call
this the scientific approach, or more recently, the etic approach of
11
anthropology. Leach (1966:2), however, calls the preoccupation of

5
his fellow anthropologists with looking at culture as if it were
discrete parts arrangeable into types and sub-types, "butterfly
collecting."
Like Leach, I do not believe that culture is a category of
experience, substance or form. It is not an entity quantifiable in
the number of institutions or rituals or legends that one society has,
nor is it a thing, such as science conceives of things, i.e.,
empirical and observable. Certainly the manifestations of culture are
reflected in such things as family, history, rites of passage and the
like.
The social sciences, like the natural sciences, have been heir
12
to a tradition of science with great achievements and many faults.
Anthropology as a social science has adopted the methodology of science
and, in many quarters, the scientific materialist philosophy, e.g.,
13
Harris (1971). The object of study for anthropologists, however,
differs from the objects of the physical science. Man is part of the
natural world and as such is subject to scientific scrutiny. But
another side to man, another dimension of his character, is "entirely
14
outside the range of physical phenomena" (Linton 1964:288). This
the anthropologist calls culture. Because of this dual position of
man, with one foot in the animal and the other in the cultural world,
the claim of anthropology as a science of man cannot be fully sub¬
stantiated unless the criteria of science or anthropology change.
Although some anthropologists consider themselves scientists,
only to certain aspects of human nature are the methods and concepts
of science applicable. Redfield, a keen observer of his colleagues,
argues that anthropology's alliance with the sciences reflects the

6
present status ranking of academic disciplines.
At the same time, the orientation of anthropology
toward the sciences rather than toward the humanities
may be seen as an aspect of a general societal phenomenon:
the arrangement of the disciplines in a hierarchy of
status wherein the "harder" natural sciences occupy
the uppermost positions and the humanists is the man
farthest down. (1954:729)
15
By becoming an academic profession, anthropology has formalized
many of the tentative experiments of early anthropologists who made
their way through trial and error to an understanding of mankind. For
example, what is now a rite of passage—fieldwork (preferably for several
years in a distant and remote place)—began as an accident of war when
Malinowski was confined to the Melanesian islands for the duration of
the hostilities (Penniman 1952:446, Mair 1972: 30). Whitehead notes
that this professionalization is predictable, but it has been hazardous
for a discipline that studies human behavior and values.
Effective knowledge is professionalized knowledge,
supported by a restricted acquaintance with useful
subjects subservient to it. This situation has its
dangers. It produces minds in a groove. Each
profession makes progress, but it is progress in
its own groove. . . .But there is no groove of
abstractions which is adequate for the comprehension
of human life. (1948:196)
This discussion is meant as a note of caution. Anthropology means
different things to different people. Little in the discipline is not
open to controversy, even though it may seem otherwise. However
indisputable a concept or method may seem, it reflects an accommodation
16
to ambiguity rather than to any inherent condition.
Like Redfield, I believe that the anthropologist's role as a person
and as a professional are inseparable.
In me, man and anthropologist do not separate them¬
selves sharply. I used to think I could bring about

7
that separation in scientific work about humanity. . . .
But I think now that what I see men do, and under¬
stand as something that human beings do, is seen often
with a valuing of it. I like or dislike as I go.
This is how I reach understanding of it. (1966:165)
The anthropologist, like anyone else, is a product of life experiences.
He is conditioned by the training he receives as a social scientist as
well as by the family and religion of his birth. Over the past decade
a literature on the anthropology of anthropologists has grown. Collec¬
tions of fieldwork experiences, of analysis of personalities, ideas
and research techniques of anthropologists stand as testimony to the
influence of the researcher on his data (Golde 1970, Kimball and Watson
1972). What an anthropologist selects to study and how he interprets
this material reflect both individual and professional interests.
Kardiner and Preble, as a result of work on the biographies of certain
major anthropologists, come to this same conclusion.
On the cultural level the hypotheses, theories, and
techniques of these scientists are portrayed as
creations responsive to the collective interests
and needs of the time. On the individual level, these
creations are seen as the products of idiosyncrasy
and genius. (196 5:13).
If it is recognized that the anthropologist in describing and
analyzing a community is revealing something about himself as well as
the community, what precautions need he take to ameliorate this
situation? The researcher, I believe, should state as clearly as
possible not only his position in the community studied but his position
in the anthropological community as well. That is, he should not only
tell of his relations with the people studied, indicating in part how
he got information. He should state his views on anthropology as a
prelude to analyzing that information.

8
I have tried to do so: first, in this introductory statement
about the anthropological quest and, second, in the next chapter in
which I have given a brief account of my interactions and feelings
among the people I studied. These two chapters set the framework in
which I worked, giving my perspective on the anthropologist's task
and my position in the actual fieldwork situation.
Following these preliminary statements is the heart of the
dissertation: Chapter III. The data, rendered in a story format,
presents not only information about events and transactions of an
ordinary day in the lunchroom but a "feeling" for living with work as
well. Malinowski states that to ignore this feeling or "the subjective
desire of feeling by what these people live, of realizing the substance
of their happiness—is, in my opinion, to miss the greatest reward
which we can hope to obtain from the study of man" (1961:25).
Chapter IV takes the data presented in the previous chapter and
orders it into three tables covering the setting, characters and
action of the story. In so doing, I have followed Malinowski's dictum
that "the method of reducing information, if possible, into charts or
synoptic tables ought to be extended to the study of practically all
aspects of native life" (1961:14). By ordering data in this way,
the reader will be able to see the relationship between the anthropological
interpretation and the data. A summary statement highlights major themes
and relationships presented in the tables.
In the conclusion, Chapter V, a second look is taken at the story
and analysis. This process represents both an overview and a more
reflective view of life in the lunchroom as it relates generally to life

9
in modern societies. Central to this conclusion is the reconciliation
of the value of work and the actual working situation in the form of
a primary group relationship within the domain of a secondary group, the
institution of work.
The appendix contains a review of the literature on working women
in the United States and cross-culturally. Such a review places this
research on women in the school lunch program along side others with
different aims, foci and subjects.

Notes
1. In many research projects the preliminary problem of investigation
changes in response to the actual field experience. One researcher,
for example, went to Costa Rica to study marijuana use among
musicians, but he had to abandon this project when he found that
musicians there did not smoke marijuana but drank a lot instead
(Bryan Page, personal communication, 1976). Initially, the purpose
of this research project was to gather information about a small
group of women at work in order to compare these findings with
similar studies done on male work groups. Although this explicit
comparison will not be made in this dissertation, the data presented
in Chapter III could be analyzed in this way at a later time.
2_ Oscar Lewis renders vivid accounts of the lives of the people he
studied in Mexico (1951, 1959, 1961, 1964, 1969) and in Puerto
Rico (1965) by presenting the stories about themselves that they
told him. He made minute observations of their daily lives and
recorded on a tape recorder their own accounts. Because I admire
Lewis' work as an anthropologist and writer, I have tried to
implement his approach in my own research.
3. See The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1973:
56 (anthropology), 1523 (leg-), 1531 (ner-)), and the Encyclopaedia
Britannica (1961:334J-36) for the use of logos in philosophy and
theology.
4. Pilbeam (1972:153-54), a physical anthropologist, considers language
to be one of man's most important evolutionary developments, giving
him considerable selective advantages over other hominids. Sapir,
a linguist, identifies the beginning of culture with the commencement
of language. "Of all aspects of culture, it is a fair guess that
language was the first to receive a highly developed form and that
its essential perfection is a prerequisite to the development of
culture as a whole" (l97o:l).
5. Closest to this meaning of anthropology, i.e., a speech about man¬
kind, is White's definition of culture. "Culture is the name of a
distinct order, or class, of phenomena, namely, those things and
events that are dependent upon the exercise of a mental ability,
peculiar to the human species, that we have termed 'symbolling'"
(1949:363).
6- Powdermaker hypothesizes that "some of the new trends in anthropology
can be correlated with changing types of personalities in the disci¬
pline who have different needs to meet" (1966:20). She suggests
that a difference exists between anthropologists born before 1915
10

11
and the generation born between 1915 and 1930. Those in the
former group, she says, "seem to have had problems with authority,
and stood to a considerable degree outside of their culture" (1966:
303). Those in the latter group "seem to be more truly a part of
their society, desiring to enter the Establishment rather than
rebelling from it as did many members of the preceding generation"
(1966:303). This group sought definite answers and tended to
dehumanize their studies by concentrating on elegant models, formal
rules and neat diagrams (1966:303).
7. See the Holt, Rinehart and Winston series of Case Studies in Cultural
Anthropology, edited by George and Louise Spindler, for some inkling
of the diversity in topics, techniques and concepts handled by
anthropologists. See also von Mering and Kasdan (1970) for a
collection of writings relating anthropology to the other social
sciences.
8. British social anthropologists and Central European ethnographers
present two quite different interpretations of sociocultural
anthropology. The British consider sociocultural anthropology a
branch of sociology (Mair 1972:7-8) in which the systems of
institutionalized social relationships, particularly of preliterate
communities, are studied by intensive methods of fieldwork and are
analyzed by the functional method (Beattie 1955:5). Central
European ethnographers according to Hofer (1968) act as special¬
ists who guard the traditional stock of knowledge of a society
viewing culture as internal moral worth.
9. See Kroeber and Kluckhohn (1952) for a critical review of concepts
and definitions of culture, along with a semantic history of the
term. Sapir (1970:79-89) summarizes three uses of culture, defining
it, first as any socially inherited element of man's life, spiritual
or physical; second, as the conventional ideal of individual refine¬
ment sanctioned by tradition in a class society; third, as those
general attitudes, views of life and particular manifestations of
civilization which give a specific group its distinctiveness.
10. "Anthropological theories often tell us more about the anthropologist
than about their subject matter" (Leach 1969:109). Abrahams (1970:
1-4), for example, acknowledges that both his family position and
the scholarly fashion of the time influenced his view of life in
South Philadelphia. In the second edition he tried to weed out the
"psychological baggage" he had been heir to as a graduate student.
11. Etic, as Harris (1971:572-75) interprets the term, refers to the
distinctions made by the community of scientific observers, as
contrasted with emic, the natives' point of view. Martha Hardman
de Bautista (personal communication, 1973) believes that this is a
misinterpretation in that the "new ethnography" (ethnolinguistics,
ethnoscience or ethnosemantics, as it is variously called) seeks
to understand through linguistically expressed categories the
cognitive world of the participants rather than impose the
descriptive categories of other languages, such as those of the
researchers. (See Goodenough 1956.)

12
12. The rise of the social sciences at a time when the physical sciences
professed a belief in certainty has led the former to retain an
attitude which the physical sciences have abandoned in response to
the theory of relativity (Einstein 1916 in the Encyclopaedia
Britannica 1961) and the uncertainty principle (Heisenberg 1927 in
the Encyclopaedia Britannica 1961).
13. The philosophy guiding science over the last three hundred years,
according to Whitehead, is scientific materialism.
There persists, however, throughout the whole period
the fixed scientific cosmology which presupposes the
ultimate fact of an irreducible brute matter, or
material, spread throughout space in a flux of
configurations. In itself such material is senseless,
valueless, purposeless. It just does what it does do,
following a fixed routine imposed by external
relations which do not spring from the nature of its
being. It is this assumption that I call "scientific
materialism." (1948:19)
Whitehead (1948:18-19,192-208) calls for a reexamination of science
as guided by this assumption. He argues that science needs to view
facts as interrelated and interdependent phenomena. Whitehead
would direct the focus of science away from the isolation of facts
to an understanding of the relation of each organism to its
environment and the intrinsic value of the environment (1948:9).
14. See Kroeber (1917) for a discussion of the superorganic and Sapir
(1917) for a rebuttal of certain ideas contained in Kroeber's
article.
15. See Greenwood (1962) for a discussion of the attributes of a pro¬
fession, i.e., systematic theory, authority, community sanction,
ethical codes and culture.
16. See Penniman (1952) and Bohannan and Glazer (1973) for two excellent
sources on anthropological theory. The first is particularly good
for its coverage of the period before 1930, and the second is a
collection of the classics and some minor classics in anthropology.

CHAPTER II
OBSERVATIONS ON FIELDWORK
In speaking of bias we are still talking about
research method. (Dollard 1957:32)
I needed a job. This research began not as the fulfillment of a
long felt need to find a lost people or to test some hypothesis in the
real world, but from necessity and later from curiosity.
Several years ago, I applied for a substitute teaching position at
the county school board and was assured by them that chances of making
a living from substituting were slim. While I was at the school board,
I stopped by the non-instructional office to check out job possibilities
there. The woman in charge told me that I was too qualified for any¬
thing that they had and that I would not be happy working as a maid,
lunchroom worker or stockboy, but she would keep me in mind.
Later in the week she called to tell me that the manager at Hogtown
High School's cafeteria needed a cashier. Confronted with the actual
possibility of getting such a job, I hesitated. Was all that I had
voiced about equality of people and respect for work simply rhetoric?
1
What would my friends think? I knew what my mother would say.
I got as dressed up as riding a bike would allow and tooled off
to Hogtown High, which was about fifteen minutes from where I lived.
I walked in through the back door of the kitchen, thinking that if any¬
thing at all went wrong I would leave. After all, I would have made the
attempt, and that is what counted. Women were walking around in white—
13

14
2
some blacks and some whites. The manager, Mrs. Andrews, like the lady
at the school board office, expressed incredulity that a person with
such a background would want to work there. Since I had no experience
and too much education, I was sure that I would not get the job, but in
a few days, the manager called to tell me that I had been hired. On my
first day of work, she introduced me to everyone and told me to get a
white uniform, shoes—tennis were ok—and a hairnet and to stop calling
her Mrs. Andrews. Everybody called her "Lucy."
At the time that I began working at Hogtown High, I was keeping a
diary consisting mainly of my personal reactions to daily events. I
began to supplement this with sketches of what was happening in the lunch¬
room. The discipline of keeping daily notes, I felt, would be good
preparation for when I actually did begin doctoral research somewhere
overseas. Initially, I recorded what others had told me about the
operation of the school lunch program and I made sketches of the physical
layout of the kitchen (Figure 1), noting in addition sounds, smells and
other sensory information. Later I included observations of events in
which I was involved, and for awhile I tried to follow the actions of
individuals within the group, selecting one person to observe each day.
I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible since I did not like being
watched nor did my co-workers.
The kinds of things that anthropologists study in other cultures,
it has always seemed to me, could also be studied in their own. The
lunchroom presented itself as an ideal setting in which to do a study
on a work community. As I began to read the literature on this country
and on women, I found little discussion of working women. (See Appendix.)
opportunity and the need for such a study developed almost simultaneously.
The

Key to Figure 1
1.
Dishwashing window
2.
Window for Line III
3.
Cafeteria
4.
Exit from Line I
5.
Dishwashing machine
6.
Exit from Line II
7.
Cafeteria
8.
Serving Line I
9.
Serving Lire II
10.
Entrance for Line I
11.
Entrance for Line II
12.
Manager's office
13.
Head cook's working area
14.
Pot sinks
15.
Walk-in refrigerator
16.
Working area for sandwich
maker
17.
Pit area: stoves, ovens,
steam
18.
Bathroom
19.
Working area for salad maker
20.
Working area for baker
21.
Broom and mop closet
22.
Storeroom
23.
Bathroom
24.
Closed in porch
25.
Outside entrance to kitchen

10
dn
12
15
18
n_
i c
r
j
~L
21
I
n
23
24
1! 2
v /
11
£
13
16
17
19
22
c
25
(
I
I
LÚ
20
Figure 1

17
I had been working in the lunchroom several months before I approached
my fellow workers about doing research there. That I was a student in
need of money had already been established, but I was not sure what
their reaction would be to my doing a study about them. The manager
had been saying for some time that "someone ought to write a book about
this place" so she was both encouraging and cooperative when I asked
her. When I spoke with my co-workers individually, the reactions were
varied. Elizabeth wanted to know, "Why don't you study the men? They're
a lot more interesting." C.M. asked what anthropology was anyway. I
told her that it was a discipline that studied culture. "Hmm, you won't
find any of that here," she assured me. Maridare said that I would
be too embarrassed to tell my class what had happened in the lunchroom.
The head cook, Nell, who often answered for me, retorted, "She don't
3
have to be ashamed; she not doing it."
To my co-workers that I was doing research in Hogtown High's lunch¬
room was secondary to the fact that I was employed there to help them
prepare and serve meals, and to help clean up and do the bookkeeping
4
afterwards. As long as I did not interrupt their work and their lives,
any research that I had to do was all right by them. It seems that I
was much more hesitant about doing a study there than were my co-workers.
I felt reluctant because I did not want them to feel that I was
spying on them or that I was exploiting their confidences. Much of the
information that I was privy to was dependent on my being a fellow
worker and friend, and not on any formal researcher-informant relation¬
ship. I had a peculiar view of the researcher's role in that I thought
it was clearly distinct from the role of a friend. I have since been
disabused of this notion both by the people with whom I worked and by

18
the accounts of other anthropologists on their fieldwork.
As I became involved more fully in the lives of these women both
at work and elsewhere, I felt a conflict between their being my friends
5
and at the same time, informants and objects of study. One way that
the anthropologist has reconciled this conflict is through reciprocity.
Traditionally, the anthropologist has shared food, clothing and other
material goods with the peasants or tribesmen he is studying. Others
have taken a more active part, representing the communities in which
6
they studied before the national government. Gradually, I found (or
perhaps the women with whom I worked first found) ways in which I could
be of help to them. For one woman I typed some of her sister's term
papers and edited others; for another I babysat and typed a notice for
a group that she was trying to organize in her trailer park. Several
times, I was asked to get legal and medical assistance for a couple of
different women. This was particularly interesting to me because it
pointed out the differential connections that various groups of people
7
have to institutions in this country.
Earlier in the research, I told one of my co-workers that I wished
she would not tell me so much, since much of it might prove harmful to
her. "Hell," she said, "ain't nothing but the truth. I want people to
know who I am. You know, my mother thinks I'm nothing but a barnyard
hen. But you want to know what I think? I'm an eagle. A high flying
eagle. If a person can learn something from the way I've lived, you
just let them go ahead and learn it. I've lived a full life. Not
always exactly what you'd call your. . . .Hell, I've done wrong, but
I've helped a lot of people too. People who don't even know it."

19
In fact, my fellow workers seemed to show a much more sophisticated
stance toward research than I myself did in that they were not afraid
to reveal what happened, regardless of any embarrassment or negative
reflection on them as individuals or as a group. They seemed to under¬
stand, much more fully than I did, that doing fieldwork was like being
a reporter, recording what one sees or hears and knows to be true.
After I had talked with the women at work, I started taking notes
in a small black notebook, but later I took notes on paper towels, nap¬
kins, whatever was at hand. I left these lying around and different
individuals would check to see what I had written. Without exception,
they were appalled—not about what had been written, but about my hand¬
writing. One time, C.M. demanded that I read what I had recorded.
"Hey, Nell," she called to the head cook. "She's writing what we been
saying. You got what I said?" My writing became a fixture in the
kitchen and at the end of the day someone would remind me to collect
the scraps of paper and to get my watch from over the sink where I had
left it while doing pots and pans.
Up until this time, I had recorded mainly mechanical kinds of things
place of work; territorial domains, kind, frequency and intensity of
interactions; and kinship and community ties. I collected copies of the
daily work sheet, time records and general assignment sheet (Figure 2).
Later, I started to explore what Malinowski calls the imponderabilia of
8
life. In open-ended interviews, I tried to get information about
values and attitudes of which I was only vaguely aware. These interviews
led me to examine more closely the significance of the group's behavior
and values with respect to class, race and rural/urban backgrounds.

20
CLEANING DUTIES
DAILY CLEANING DUTIES
WEEKLY CLEANING
These May Rotate Weekly
(i)Clean Work Tables
Wipe Outside of Refrigerator
(2)Help wash Pots& Pans
Count Dirty Towels A nd Aprons
(3) Wipe stove and Cl ean Drain
Sweep-waikin-b-gtraighten-ahelvea
Help sweep Kitchen & mop
Clean milkshake holding boxes
(4) Wash pots & pans
wash can opener
sweep kitchen & mop
NON-ROTATING DAILY JOBS
TUESDAY: CLEAN INSIDE AND OUT¬
SIDE OF REFRIGS. WIPE WOODEN
SHELVES AND CLEAN WARMER.
SWEEP WALKIN & STRIGHTEN SHELVES
WEDNESDAY: CLOROX WORK TABLES.
WIPE UNDER TABLE TOPS. CLEAN
TABLE DRAWERS.
THURSDAY: CLEAN BATHROOMS NON-
SMOKERS IN ONE, SMOKERS IN OTHER.
STRAIGHTEN PANTRY AND SWEEP AND
MOP.
FRIDAY: WASH MATS. CLEAN CONVEC¬
TION OVENS. CLEAN STORVE AND
GREASE. WASH OFF BACK PORCH
MONTHLY CLEANING:
CLEAN FREEZER, CLEAN THE
WALL AND BASE OF WALL.
DIVIDE INTO GROUPS AND
Nell) Main dish Preparation and serve Line I
count and put away left-over inventory
help kitchen cleanup or nextdays
prepreparation maindish Check Menu Weekly DO THE CHORES WHEN THE
Count dirty Towels and Aprons MENU IS LIGHT.
C.M.)Bread or Dessert preparation - Cashier Line DISH WASHER: CLEAN DISH
II and help Nell with paration or next days MACHINE WITH LIME AWAY
preparation Help on dish machine after line ONCE A MONTH. CLEAN THE
closes. Clean up behind yourself before serving.BASE OF WALL AND CORNERS Í
AROUND YOUR AREA.
* PERSONS THAT WIPE THE
DINING ROOM TABLES SHOULD
ALSO WASH AROUND DISH
MACHINE WINDOW.
HOOD FAN CLEANED BY
CUSTODIAN.
Check Menu Weekly.
Elizabeth) Milkshakes and salad production.
Serve on Line I Count plates and milk on
both lines before serving and after. Clean
Line II and wash milk box. Wipe tables,
sweep. Catch clean dishes during serving
when able. Check Menu Weekly.
Sally) Make and wrap sandwiches for Line III HelpCLEAN ICE CREAM BOX.
with giving lunch tickets, out. Cashier Line III count money, help
prepare deposit. Keep-butter Help where it is needed
Shirley) Put on vegtables, cook food for Line II (Pizza, French Fries,
Tatar Tots, etc. Help with other jobs that need to, be done. Run
and clean dishmachine. Clean and mop dish machine area take out
trash out of diningroom Wash containers. Wash and replace mats(FriDAY)
Gail) Wash pots and pans from main dish preparation, Serve on Line II
clean steam table Line I Count plates and milk before and after serving
On both lines Clean milk bos wipe tables in dining room. Catch clean
dishes during serving when possible. Keep butter cut. Check Menu weekly.
Cora Lee) Give out lunch tickets, cashier Line I, Help where is needed.
Do records for each day. Make work sheet daily, call grovcery
order in on time. Count money and help make the deposit slip.
Many other chores. Try to keep PEACE, LOVE, AND HARMONY.
Figure 2

21
In the process of examining their behavior and values, I had to
examine my own. American culture, I came to realize rather slowly, was
more diverse than the ethnic groups, American Indian tribes and
"mainstream" Americans that anthropologists and others have commented
9
upon. Although this seems rather obvious now, working toward this
perception was not always easy. At first I found certain behavior
rather irritating and confusing, but as these behaviors repeated themselves
in different situations and with different people, I came to realize that
more than the peculiarities of an individual were involved.
For example, I was invited to dinner several times to find that the
woman had left town or that "something had come up." I was not informed
that the dinner was off, nor was an apology given, let alone an explana¬
tion or even acknowledgement of the invitation. Such social events, while
oftentimes elaborately planned and discussed, did not come off and few
people, even the planners, really believed that they would. Nonetheless,
10
everyone had a good time talking about them.
One of the major problems that I had with the research was that I
was myself: white, not black; an urban dweller, not a rural migrant;
upper-middle income—at least my natal family was, not poor or moderate
income; and university educated, not a high school graduate. All of
these characteristics set me apart from many of the women with whom I
worked. Unfortunately but typically, the people with whom I was able to
establish the greatest rapport were those most like myself. No doubt,
in part because of my own personality, I was not able to have stronger
relationships with other people. This was something that I was aware
of throughout the study, but was unable to do anything about.
My particular family situation—or lack of one—proved to be both a

22
disadvantage and an advantage. Many of the women felt sorry for me
11
because I lived alone, and particularly on holidays they would include
me in their family gatherings since I could not be with my own family.
But because I lived by myself, my home served as a refuge for some; one
of my co-workers, toward whom I feel a special regard, said that she
felt peaceful and calm in my little apartment. Living alone was one
thing, but having no visible boyfriend/lover/husband was another, which
limited some interaction that might otherwise have been possible. More
important than this, however, was that I did not have a child. Having
a child, for many of these women, seemed to mark the difference between
12
a girl and a woman, not in any chronological sense but in a social one.
For instance, one of the female deans at the school was married, but had
no children, and therefore was not considered a fully responsible
person.
How I was viewed by some of my fellow workers was hit upon by
accident, one which almost cost me my job. A student complained about
my treatment of her to the principal and he in turn called the manager
to his office. Because the student was black, he thought this was a
racial incident and he was having none of that. This was the first
confrontation that the manager had had with the principal, and knowing
13
the history of the conflict between the previous manager and him,
she felt that she could not challenge his judgment. When she returned
to the kitchen, she and some of the other women sat around talking.
They agreed that I was not prejudiced, but it was hard to figure out
what I was because I was so different and so quiet. C.M. said that I
was strange, and Nell said that she could not really say anything:
that I did my work and had very little to say. I learned of this

23
exchange when Gail came by my apartment with a bottle of Irish whiskey,
which she knew I liked. She came as my friend and the unofficial
representative of the group. She told me what had happened and what had
been said about me. She said I was different from them, more reserved,
but not to worry about it: just play it cool.
Although I had observed the behavior of others for patterns of
socialization, I realized then that I was not doing my part as a member
of the group. That I was indeed strange and a stranger to the group was
something that the personnel woman at the county school board and the
manager who hired me had meant when pointing out the differences between
myself and the other workers in the lunchroom. The position of stranger,
however, seems an appropriate one for the anthropologist.
The stranger's position, as Simmel (1964:402-408) points out, is
one of remoteness and nearness, of distance and intimacy. The stranger,
although not a member of the group, is an important part of the group,
being in it but not of it. That is, the stranger is both detached and
involved with the group, detached in that he is not tied to the local
habits, pieties or precedents, but involved in that he brings new ideas
or items to the group and acts as its critic, judge or confessor. This
was the position in which I found myself.
The role of the stranger is not passive nor indifferent, but
ideally impartial and objective. The stranger's own standard of
measurement becomes suspended and his perspective, as was mine, may
14
become altered through interaction with the group.
The role of the anthropologist as stranger may take several
different forms. He may assume select roles of the community as did

24
Nunez (1972) when he acted as Señor Abogado in his research among the
Mexican villagers; or he may simply try to get backstage, discovering
what the community most wants to hide, as did Berreman (1962) when
working among North Indians. That the anthropologist is never a fully
incorporated member of the group is realized by both the community and
the researcher. Nevertheless, the anthropologist must learn the proper
15
behavior and concommitantly the values of the group, like any novice.
Although the anthropologist may remain a stranger, he is not an outsider.
The rite of passage from recruit to old-timer has been an important
source of information and insight. Becoming a member of the group,
albeit never a fully incorporated one, was critical to gaining access
to information which, I believe, could not have been gotten in any other
16
way. Instead of being an outsider threatening the harmony of the
group and causing quasi-legal or group specific behavior to be suppressed,
I was a participant in these activities and came to hold certain of the
group's views about them. Seeing how outsiders were treated, manipulated
and appeased has strengthened this conviction that the researcher needs
to align himself with the group.
Understanding the process of socialization, which was dependent
on role models within the group and on status references outside of
the group, was facilitated by my own involvement in a series of conflict
situations. My socialization was aided by the fact that I was regarded
first, and perhaps exclusively, as a fellow worker in need of reproving
and encouragement and only secondly, if at all, as an anthropologist.
It would be misleading to suggest that I became "just one of the gang"
since the initial distance was too great to overcome. I never did learn

25
to accept gracefully and with humor my proper station as a subordinate,
nor did I learn to speak correctly.
The language used by the individuals with whom I worked is itself
a fascinating subject and one worthy of greater study than I devoted to
it. Talking and jiving were constant sources of entertainment for every¬
one in the lunchroom, whether as speakers or as listeners. Speaking
for the pleasure of social interaction was a well-developed art within
the group. I recorded many such dialogues, usually by writing the
17
exchanges down and once with a tape recorder. My own inability to
talk well made me keenly aware of their virtuosity: their ability,
style and mastery skill with the spoken word. Accompanying these verbal
behaviors was the omnipresent radio music, some of which I recorded as
individuals would select favorites.
As I was able to establish rapport with members of the work team
on an individual basis, they shared with me some of their outside
activities. For example, with one co-worker I traveled to a flea market
in another town to find plants not available in this area. With a
second woman, I went out drinking to a local bar and with another I
attended Sunday services at her church and participated in a tent revival
in a neighboring community. Some of the experiences outside of the
lunchroom were work related, for instance, the annual banquet to which
I went twice and the monthly Food Service Association meetings to which
I went with greater faithfulness than most of my fellow workers.
For some months I stopped taking daily notes at work, but continued
to record any value comments or significant changes in behavior. Just
being there and experiencing what was "going on" helped to clarify what
I had recorded earlier.

26
The fieldwork part of the research was almost over, I thought, but
I was mistaken. It was only after I consciously stopped making observa¬
tions that any real understanding of the group began to develop. This
may have been simply a function of time and familiarity, but it seemed
that the freedom to participate without straining to remember and
record allowed me to listen and understand.
Gertrude Stein once pointed out to reporters interviewing her that
they could not comprehend what she was saying because they were
concentrating too hard on remembering and recording it.
. . .You do I said to the photographer you do under¬
stand what I am talking about don't you. Of course
I do he said you see I can listen to what you say
because I don't have to remember what you are say¬
ing, they can't listen because they have got to
remember. (1973:218)
At the time that I stopped taking fieldnotes, I felt myself a poor and
lazy anthropologist. This time however proved to be the most rewarding
period of the research because all the isolated bits of information
were put into some kind of perspective and began to make some sense.
Before I resigned after almost two years, I distributed preliminary
copies of Chapter III to various people with whom I worked. I did this
in order to enable them to check the accuracy of the report, both for
factual content and for the overall sentiment that it expressed, and
to share with them my findings. They were pleased about finding
themselves in the report and when reading it, they would burst out
18
laughing and say, "That is just what she do. Just what she do."
For many anthropologists, fieldwork is a time of frustration and
pain, loneliness and self-reflection, what one called "an initiation of
suffering" (Hill 1974). But I had a good time. Even after I had

27
collected all the fieldnotes that I could conceivably use in the
dissertation, I continued working in the lunchroom because, as I told
one doubting colleague, working there was the most fun that I would have
all day.

Notes
1. Turning employment in the lunchroom into a research project, although
this was not my original intention, made working there more legitimate
to my family and friends. Otto von Mering suggested that making this
work experience also my research was my own manner of surviving there.
2. The names of the people with whom I worked are pseudonyms.
3. This incident refers to the sexual (verbal and game) behavior
commented upon on pages 87, 155-56.
4. During the time that I worked in the lunchroom, I changed both my
hours and specific duties in order to observe and participate in
the operation of the lunchroom more fully. When I started working,
the manager wanted my position to be clearly understood as an office
one, not one in production. By the end of the study, however, I
had moved down the hierarchy of jobs to where I was washing pots and
pans, usually the first job one gets in the lunchroom.
5. Mead (1972) and Fischer (1970) note that doing research among one's
own people is more difficult in some ways, creating conflicts between
one's duty as a researcher and one's obligation as a friend. "Not
only my informants, but I myself, found my role confusing in New
England," Fischer (1970:285) writes. "The informal friendships that
women develop in American communities were enticing; they offered me
an excellent source of data, which was not available to my husband,
but on the other hand, this use of friendship seemed inappropriate."
6. This active role is challenged by some anthropologists and is still
quite controversial. (See Paredes 1976.)
7. Lewis (1965:xlv-xlvi) in his work on the culture of poverty, notes
this lack of institutional ties as one of the characteristics of
the sub-culture.
8. Only later when I went back to read my notes, did I find that I had
unwittingly followed the design for fieldwork that Malinowski suggests,
namely, to look at "the routine prescribed by custom and tradition,
the manner in which it is carried out and the commentary to the
routine as contained in the native's mind" (Kardiner and Preble
1965:177).
9. See Warner (1962) and West (1961) for two classics on American life;
Howell (1973) for a portrait of blue-collar families; Killian (1970)
for a view of white Southerners.
28

29
10. The actual event is not always as important as the preparation for
it and the memories of it afterwards; like going to the high school
prom, for example, the dance itself may be a flop, but the
anticipation and retelling are exciting (Kathleen Lawson, personal
communication, 1975).
11. Along with this expressed pity, they wondered if I was not also
afraid to live alone. Being with other people had positive value
for the women both as social contact and protection. Many of the
women, for example, refused to work the special dinners because
they did not want to be alone "with all those men" and they would
have no one with whom to talk.
12. Motherhood is an important criterion of female status in black
communities (Molly Dougherty, personal communication, 1975).
13. For a discussion of this conflict, see pages 107-09, 148.
14. Sociologists have remarked on this change in attitude when one assumes
different roles. Lieberman (1956:385-402) found that a change in
function and in the kinds of behavior required by the new role
influence the attitudes of the role-occupant. Redfield (1956:81)
suggests that this is typical of the fieldwork experience.
Only after he has seen it from the native's point of
view may the investigator change his viewpoint and
look at that object or act—together with the meaning
and the value it has for the native—as an object of
scientific interest now to be described from the
outside and related by the investigator to other
things according to the demands of a more detached
and abstract understanding.
15. Middleton (1965) gives a particularly readable and insightful
account of the anthropologist's rite of passage. Like the children
of the group, the anthropologist must be socialized so that he
learns the norms and behavior acceptable to the group.
16. Pilcher (1972:5) in his study of Portland longshoremen found that it
was impossible to obtain certain kinds of data without being a member
of the local union and a part-time longshoreman. "Moreover," he
states, "this validated my role as a member of the longshoremen
group and demonstrated that I did not consider myself in any way
superior to the other longshoremen because of my education... ."
17. The tape recorder tended to inhibit the natural flow of conversation
and was viewed as a way of trapping people. I promptly discontinued
its use, even though it might have improved the accuracy of the
dialogues presented in Chapter III.
18. Although anthropologists check the reliability and validity of their
fieldnotes, this seems an efficacious method for checking both field-
notes and data presentation.

CHAPTER III
DATA AS THE STORY
The data are presented as a story, a form the participants in this
study recognize. The women at Hogtown High compared their lives at
work to the stories they watched on daytime television. Like the soap
operas, this story repeats itself, every day adding something and losing
something. It is the same story, only different for additions and
losses. Each woman plays a part in the story by virtue of her participa¬
tion in work activities. Each personal story forms part of the group's
story, but it is the story of the group which will be told.
These women have much to tell about themselves, their society and
their culture. By letting them speak and do in the story as they have
spoken and done throughout the days I spent with them, they may be able
to teach the reader as they have taught me. The reader may discover for
himself what this group teaches. In a sense the reader may do his own
1
"participant-observing."
The basic evidence I have of what these people did and how they
felt about their actions is contained in my fieldnotes. Reconstructed
from these raw data, the story is a composite of many different days,
reflecting not only continuous activities and themes but a variety of
incidents and the vicissitudes of spirit as well. Using the fieldnotes
as a basis for the story rather than as an accompaniment to the analysis
gives the reader a chance to do his own analysis. The evidence shown
30

31
the reader is not as extensive as the material I worked with, but
I have tried to present sufficient data for the reader's use.
Inasmuch as possible, the women and men speak for themselves in
word and deed in the story, though the selection of what to present
and how to present the data contains the researcher's bias. My
interpretations of the group's behavior and values are contained in
Chapter IV and in the conclusion, Chapter V.
The reader may make observations which conflict or even contradict
my own. The resolution lies not in rightness or wrongness but in a
2
reexamination of the data and the premises of our evaluations. The
interaction between reader and material, as between observer and
group studied, leads to a certain amount of distortion. It may be
well to keep in mind the physicist's principle of uncertainty.
It is to be emphasized that in making observations
on a system, it is necessary to exchange energy
and momentum with it. This exchange of necessity
spoils the original properties of the system. The
resulting lack of precision with which these
properties can be measured is the crux of the
uncertainty principle. (van Vleck 1961:680)
The story is a holistic way of viewing the culture of the group—
perhaps the only way to approach an understanding of the culture
concept. Matters with which anthropologists traditionally deal—
rituals, social organization, religious beliefs, economic systems—
are contained in the story but are not selected out as such except
in the analysis. Such differentiation, or compartmentalization,
obstructs any view of culture as a particular expression of a
group's way of life, and obfuscates consideration of the culture
concept as it applies to mankind.

As part of culture, peoples tell stories about themselves:
their heroes and villains, their fools and wisemen, their lovers
and lonely ones. These stories speak of triumphs and struggles
as individuals and a people. Many such stories form the myths
of the community and become part of the society's cultural
heritage. Each generation creates tales which, with time, may
become legend. Many more are forgotten with the telling and pass
out of history. As long as the community exists, its myths and
legends will survive preserved by elders, priests and scribes.
The stories told every day about ordinary people and their daily
confrontation with life are preserved by strangers called
anthropologists. These strangers record the happenings and
characters of the community's Everyman.
Stories are powerful because they bridge the known and the
3
unknown. They are based on the possible but often deal with the
probable and sometimes the impossible. Stories tell what others
have done and what someone can do; they speak about what can be
and sometimes what should be. They deal with that which has
actually occurred as well as that believed to have happened.
Stories can make life seem better or worse than it is. They can
create hope where there is none and put fear in a fearless heart.
Stories hold within them more of man's world than any one person
can experience, know or believe.
Cutting the Fool is one such story.

33
The Story
4
It was dark and cold and silent. No one was in the kitchen yet.
A black stove stood in the center of the kitchen with other pieces of
heavy equipment in a slightly sunken pit. The canopy-like hood over
the cooking and baking area stood ready to capture the hot air as it
would rise up drawn out by a little motor. But now everything was still.
Not even the faucets in the pot sinks were dripping. Abe, the head
custodian, had seen to that the day before. The wooden tables like
elongated butcher blocks flanked the pit. Against the walls were
tables and small equipment for mixing and cutting. Two sets of sinks,
a small rounded vanilla-colored radio and a salad blender clustered on
the outskirts of the pit.
The dishwashing machine and the serving lines jutted out from the
kitchen dividing in half the cafeteria beyond. Stainless steel rails
and receptacles shone where winter-morning light penetrated the dark.
The floors, swept and mopped with lots of soap, disinfectant and water
the day before, mirrored the vague daylight. One cockroach that had
died.in the night rested belly up under the dishwasher. The cashiers'
stools were turned up in the air on the counters like bar stools after
a long night.
The warmer, milkshake refrigerator and ice box stood empty and
unplugged. The refrigerator next to the office contained some tea for
the teachers and opened cartons of milk waiting to be given back to the
milkman. The office was cluttered with papers and manuals, but in the

34
dark it was hard to see anything but dark shapes and dark spaces.
Everything was as the manager had left it before she caught the four
o'clock bus home. The old adding machine, which could also multiply
but was too difficult to use for this, had broken down yesterday. Its
keys were still in their stuck position. The file cabinets were closed
There was still glass in the shag rug from the last break in. The
pane had been replaced and all was back to normal. The big orange
swivel chair had not been repaired, but D.C., Cora's husband, said to
leave it that way. Cora was sure to break the next one. Nevertheless,
Cora asked Abe every time he came into the office to stop treating her
so mean and fix the chair.
About 7:30 a.in. Cora unlocked the back door and switched on the
lights. She walked past the storerooms on the left and the bathrooms
on the right. The walk-in refrigerator next to the office had the
5
padlock on, although Cora knew that this was a formality. Anyone who
wanted to get in had only to pull the prongs out of the socket. Never
mind about the lock. The county repairman no longer fixed it since
it was so easily broken.
She was not thinking about this today: there were no signs of a
break in. Despite several last year and one already this year, they
always took her by surprise. She was tired today and thinking on her
tiredness. Her neighbor, who worked at another school, had left her
off at the corner and the morning chill had awakened her some. That
first cup of coffee would open the other eye, she thought, as the cold
morning air had opened the first.
The night before she had gone up to Coopersville with some friends
Sister Meadow, Brother Daniel and his wife, to hear the Apostle talk.

35
And could he talk. The Apostle gave a sermon on the need to find the
Spirit and to allow the Spirit to come into their hearts, no matter
what religion they were nor what they had done. A Baptist could get
the Spirit, or a Methodist. Anyone could, if he wanted to.
Brother Daniel testified about how he had been a sinner—a real
bad big sinner—but now he was with the Lord and the Lord was with him,
Jesus be praised. There was nothing like the power of the Lord.
Cora had felt the spirit there. It was not a double portion this
time. In fact, not too many people came to the tent meeting, mainly
women and children, but they got the spirit. When the worshipers lined
up to receive the blessing, some fell out. Cora helped cover them with
white sheets when they fell withering on the ground filled with the
Spirit.
After the meeting, Cora and her friends fried some fish for the
Apostle's midnight supper. Coopersville was closer than Trenton, a
town three hundred miles downstate where she had gone to last month's
revivals, but she returned late to Hogtown.
Cora opened the office with the one key on the chain that fit into
the lock. Today for sure she was going to get those invoices posted.
She had to start the monthly inventory too. Cora put her big purse
and another bundle down on the table and sat herself in the orange
chair. She started working, doing her paper work, as Dell called it.
The marketing book for a course at the local junior college was
on top of some records she needed to review. She pushed the book aside,
stopped and picked it up, flipping some pages. She had to read a little
of the book for her class tonight. It was going to be a long day. When
she remembered last night's meeting, her spirits rose; she knew she

36
would persevere.
Outside in the driveway, a Datsun pulled up and Nell, the head
cook, got out, pulling her sweater tighter around her. As her husband
backed the car out, heading toward his job at the new fire station,
Nell walked into the kitchen. She was almost a half hour early, but
she needed that time to get today's meal ready. She had worked for
the county Food Service for thirteen years and she knew, even if the
principal did not, that it took more than two and a half hours to
prepare turkey for three hundred people. Each year, it seemed, the
students' lunch period got earlier and earlier. At this rate, she
would be serving breakfast.
Nell ducked into the bathroom and put her purse in the locker.
For Nell the night had passed quietly. She finished a dress her mother-
in-law had started. She knew Miss Davis would get no grade on this.
No, sir. First she had asked for the zipper to be put in; then the
sleeves. Her mother-in-law never could finish sewing anything. Nell
did not mind sewing, but last night she wanted to watch television,
but the TV was broken. When her husband and two boys had plugged in
the CB radio, something in the television blew out.
Curious Mary, or C.M. as she was known to everyone, was left off
by her sister-in-law. c.M. did not say anything in farewell as her
sister-in-law drove off to her own job at MacDonald's. She did not
care if she was picked up after work, even if she had to take a taxi
to Indianola. A day's wage it was. At least she would not be with
her sister-in-law for the twenty minute ride.
"Hey, Nell," C.M. called as she entered the kitchen.
"Who you calling, child?" Nell answered emerging from the bathroom.

37
Cora, when she heard voices, came out of the office with her
package.
"What you got?" C.M. asked, walking to where Cora was unwrapping
the bundle on the end of the table outside her office. Nell came
up trailing C.M.
"Lord have mercy, where you get that?" Nell asked.
"To Sears."
"I didn't see them. You sure you got that at Sears?" Nell
fingered the material
"You were just looking in the wrong place," Cora retorted.
"That's real cute. That's real nice." Nell picked up the
material to get a better look.
"That's for my baby, D.," Cora said.
C.M. pulled the cloth from Nell's hand. "Give it here." Turning
to Cora, C.M. smiled broadly, lowered her eyes and looked to the side.
"Thank you for my Thursday gift, Cora."
Cora pulled it out of C.M.'s grasp as C.M. had jerked it out of
Nell's. C.M. skipped off laughing, leaving Cora and Nell to exchange
looks of mock disgust. "You some kind of bad. You bad, C.M.Nell
called after her.
Nell left Cora to turn on the water in the pot sinks. "This water
is piping hot," she said to no one in particular. Sometimes it was not
hot. Other days it would scald. Today was like that. She would have
to remember to tell Gail to be careful when she washed pots.
Nell reached up over the table for a pot, stretching to lift it
off its hook. She filled the pot with hot water and put it on the

38
stove. The water was for coffee Cora and the janitors had every morning.
The janitors paid ten cents a cup, unless they brought their own instant
coffee. In that case, Cora magnanimously waived the fee.
C.M. had lit the stove and plugged in the warmer. The students
had complained about that warmer once and she had moved it back out
of the way. Now it was back in its original position, but she would
move it again when some student shoved another into it. The warmer was
hot enough to burn, but usually it only scared the student. The
students said the food was killing them down—now, the warmer.
According to the radio which C.M. had turned on, it was not yet
eight. The radio could be heard throughout the kitchen and in the
cafeteria. Mary said she could not work without it: music helped her
get started and keep moving.
When Pat had left to become a management trainee, she took her
radio with her. For awhile there was no music, but Elizabeth brought
in an old radio that had been lying around the house. Everyone said it
was better than a new one. Liz tuned it to a country music station
and for a few days the lunchroom was filled with Nashville sounds. But
C.M. did not like country music: it was pitiful. And she did not like
the sermons. Liz knew the preacher. Although she did not think much
of him as a family man—too strict on his children—he was a good
minister, she said.
Still C.M. came in before Liz, and she turned the channel to
WHHH, the soul/rock music. Liz turned it back to the country station.
C.M. would turn it to WHHH.
"It's my radio," Elizabeth said with the authority of ownership.

39
"It's my music you turning off," C.M. replied.
"I'll take it home. It's my radio."
"Take it home. I don't need your radio nohow."
The radio remained even when Elizabeth resigned the next year
because of a cut in her hours. It stayed on WHHH.
Nell hefted a big kettle onto the stove, hot water for the turkey
gravy she would make from chicken bouillon. Cora had put away her
package and started posting the invoices. C.M. wiped down the serving
line on her side and set up the straws she had gotten from the shelf
underneath the stacked trays.
Nell had unlocked the storeroom and the freezer on her way out
back for a trash can. She pulled it after her, slamming the door to
the enclosed section of the porch. It was too cold to fool around out
on the porch today. She ducked into the storeroom, getting a plastic
bag to line the can with and scooted it along the floor to its resting
place by the office. In the course of a morning, it would make the
journey from kitchen to dumpster several times always laden with
paper, cans, boxes, scraps. Usually the garbage was light enough to
carry, but everyone drug it whether it was empty or full.
Cora was on the phone. Not as much as the previous manager, Nell
noted. It was ok with her because then the manager would leave her alone
to get through her work. A lot of the manager's job was conducted over
the phone—placing orders, checking regulations with the county office,
arranging meetings and keeping up with the gossip. The call was from
Gail: family problems. She would not be in today. Cora had half
expected the call, but she was hoping Gail would make it today. There
was so much work to get done.

40
Gail's husband had been treated for cancer, and Gail was not sure
how much care he would need when he recovered, if he recovered. Gail
had told Cora she was thinking of resigning, but Cora had cautioned her
to wait. If everything turned out well and she resigned, then she
would be out of a job and little use at home.
Gail had told Cora that she never took to religion, but she wanted
her to pray for Warren. She knew Cora had a powerful faith. Warren
was such a good husband, a good father, a good person, Gail said. Why
him, she asked. She thought of him more as a friend than a husband,
you know. She depended on him. He was like a big, soft cushion you
could fall back on, and you could rest and then get up and go on. Cora
said she would pray for him and pray for Gail too. What happened was
up to the Lord, Cora said. Put your trust in Him.
Gail told Cora that she never believed in a god, not really. She
knew there must be something, someone, some great force. But she sure
did not understand it. She was raised religious, she told Cora, but
she never could believe all of it. Warren had the best doctors working
on him, but you know, Gail said, there is only so much that doctors
can do. That's right, Cora had said.
After Gail hung up, Cora dialed Maridare's number. Once she
had to call three different people before she got a substitute who did
not show because her car broke down. Maridare had subbed for Gail
before. Cora was fairly confident she would come. The phone rang
once, then again and again. About to hang up, she reached for the
county substitute list. Maridare's mother answered. Cora asked for
Maridare. She could come. "Well, that's good. About 9:30? Ah
hum."

41
Ever since Maridare made out her application at the county school
board office, she had been waiting for such a call. She did not know
why they had not called her before now, but now was a good time. She
had just split up with her husband, and her little girl was old enough
to leave with her grandmother. Her daughter cried every time she left,
but Maridare hoped she would get used to it.
When she left her husband, she reluctantly had moved back home
with her parents. She did not like her parents' telling her what to
do and not do. They did not realize, she said, that she was no longer
a child, needing supervision, advice and chastisement.
A student walked into the kitchen through one of four doors leading
to the serving lines. He sauntered over to the office, pausing at the
door while Cora was on the phone.
"Hey, C.M.," he called.
C.M. looked over. "Hey, yourself." She continued with her work.
He leaned against the door post, hands in pockets, looking around.
"What we having today?"
"Turkey," C.M. shouted back.
When Cora got off the phone, he turned his attention to her. "Got
change for a dollar?"
Cora lifted herself out of the chair. She shuffled the cottage
cheese box and peered in, tipping it over in her hand. Some nickles,
dimes, the keys to the bank deposit bags jumbled out.
"No, sorry. I don't have enough for a dollar. Go up to the office
and get some change." She said this same thing five mornings a week,
180 days a school year. She never seemed to tire of this morning ritual.
The previous manager had not given change to students in the morning.

42
She had not allowed them back in the kitchen area at all.
Some mornings there would be enough change in the cottage cheese
box, money that came in from selling sodas and cookies after school.
Other mornings someone would fish into her purse for change, but not
today.
Ree, Cora's niece, and several other students had come in, stopping
in front of the head cook's working area.
"Ree Rollins, you better stop hitting on me. You be on the floor
in a minute. I'll lay you out, girl. I know that's right." Nell
protested. Ree stopped and grinned sheepishly at Nell. "My patience
is too short for this kind of stuff," Nell added.
Another student emerged from behind the door where Ree and her
gang had left after surveying the kitchen. "Hey, mother," he called.
"I ain't your mother," Nell muttered.
"I want a lunch," he said moving toward her.
"We don't have any lunches."
"Well, make me one then."
"Freddie, I'm busy. We don't have any lunches."
More students were converging on Cora's office. "I want my tickets,"
a voice yelled over the din the others made. "Give me my tickets."
Cora asked for names and started pulling off tickets and marking
the reduced and free lunch sheets.
Nell went back for some hamburger and fishburger rolls in the
storeroom. The students would not bother here there. Carl, the Coke
man, passed her on his way in.
In the baking area, he and C.M. talked quietly in the corner. C.M.
acted shy. Carl came every Thursday morning to deliver Cokes, grape

43
soda, Sprite and other drinks Cora ordered for Line III. On Thursdays,
C.M. took special care with her make-up and hair. Nell never failed to
notice the results: C.M.'s face was "bright" and her hair carefully
styled.
"Good morning," Cora said from her door. She handed him the list
of sodas she wanted. She was still tearing off tickets for the students
crowded around her door. He went back out the kitchen door and returned
with the cases on his dolly. He wheeled the dolly into the walk-in,
unloading the cases. C.M. joined him and they emerged together in a
while.
None of this was lost on Nell. She called from her working table.
"Cold in there. Too cold to be standing around in. You warm it up
some, girl?" If Carl had kissed C.M., she was not telling. She ignored
Nell's taunt and strode back to the baking area.
"C.M.," Cora called. "C.M."
"What you want?" C.M. asked as she approached the office. She
did not look up to see Carl as he left.
"C.M., will you please get this boy some soda."
"I want some cookies too. Get me some sweet kind," he yelled
after her.
"You got fifteen cents? Cookies cost fifteen cent," C.M. replied.
She brought out different kinds of soda and a number of cookies from
the storeroom. There would be more demands.
Otis and Jim came in by the back door, checking things out and
making their presence known to fellow students and to Cora, Nell and
C.M. They worked in the lunchroom during serving. Otis had started
working in the cafeteria the year before. He could not read or add

44
very quickly, but he knew how a kitchen operated. The manager who had
left had been hesitant about letting him work in the lunchroom: he
was so small and frail looking. Abe had called him a rabbit once,
and Otis, not willing to take anything, even from one older or bigger,
said, "Who you calling rabbit?1" Otis had spunk, an easy kind of
spunk. When something was not right, he let it be known. One time he
had noticed that the orange juice had not been put out. He drew the
manager's attention to this. He had saved the day, she told him, and
according to the federal requirements for a nutritionally balanced
meal, he had.
Jim had started working this year, working with the quickness of
a boxer but without the grace. He was another of C.M.'s suitors. At
first he just hung around looking at C.M., buying things from her so
she would notice him. She considered him a pest. The women started
asking him to run back to the stove and bring out more food when the
pans emptied on the serving lines. Soon he was coming in with Otis
regularly.
They worked on the dishwashing machine or backed up the lines.
Neither got paid for working, although a DCT program in the school
helped students get part-time employment as part of their education.
Some DCT students had worked in the lunchroom and been paid a dollar
an hour. When the program's funds ran out, most of them quit. Even
when they had been paid, they did not always come in. Occasionally,
one or two would take a Coke or sandwich, a six or eight dollar loss
the previous manager could not tolerate. Elizabeth said they were
just children. You could not expect them to work like an adult.
Nonetheless, when they were not there, the women had to work that much
harder.

45
At the second bell, the students leaped and scrambled out of the
kitchen, making a disorderly retreat to classrooms across the green from
the lunchroom, Otis and Jim with them. As they left, a student rushed
in, yelling to C.M. to give him some hot skins.
"We don't have any barbecue."
"Give me what you got then."
"Can't sell it to you now. The bell rung."
"Oh, come on. Darn." He dropped his hand dejectedly and turned
to go.
Before the official school day began, Ora gave out lunch tickets
to students who had forgotten them on Monday, when they were distributed.
This morning, C.M. had sold cookies, potato chips and sodas—worth about
fifteen dollars. Mr. Cosby, assistant principal for auxiliary services,
had told Cora she could not sell to students after the second bell. The
teachers were complaining that students were late. Cora agreed with
him, but she was sorry to lose the business. After that, whenever he
asked her how things were going, she told him that it was another not-
so-good day. Losing that morning money had hurt her business. After
this prolonged, subtle campaign, Cosby recanted. She could sell in
the morning and between classes. Cora never challenged her superiors
directly as Lucy, her predecessor, had done. She let them come around
to her way of thinking. That money in the morning often made the
difference between a small and great loss for the day. Since Hogtown
High's lunchroom opened, with the exception of one year, it has lost
between two and three thousand dollars annually. Any fool could see
reason in restoring that source of income.
C.M. came to tell Cora that she did not have enough flour to make

46
cinnamon rolls. Cora got back on the phone. She called over to
Dixie Hollins Elementary School, where she had been manager before
coming toH.H.S. She asked for Tula, the new manager. Tula had flour
to lend, and Ora thanked her, saying she would be right over.
"Why didn't you tell me the flour was low?" Cora asked accusingly.
"I did, Cora. Don't you remember?" C.M. said, as if she had
been accused of the gravest transgression. "I did."
Cora remembered even as she asked C.M. that the county truck with
the flour and other commodities from the warehouse had not come in yet.
Cora rushed out the back door on the way to Abe's office. She had
forgotten to apologize to C.M., and C.M. was a conscientious worker.
She tried to give offense to no one, especially to someone who worked
as hard as C.M.
Abe was out back, talking with Walker, one of his janitors.
"Hey, Cora Lee, how are you?"
"Hey," she answered coming up to them. "Abe, will you go over to
Dixie to pick up some flour for me? I just need about ten pounds.
Tula will have it ready for you."
Abe laughed in his easy and hearty way. "Sure, I'll bring you
whatever you want. You just name it, lady."
Walker walked off with his hands in his pockets. Cora did not
have to tell Abe that she, Nell and C.M. did not have transportation.
He knew too that Elizabeth, who often ran errands in her car, was not
due to work for another half-hour; not much about the lunchroom that
he did not know. The same could be said of the school.
Students and teachers alike confided in him. They sought him out
when they were having problems. Everyone said he was the principal's

47
right-hand man and some thought he had more to do with running the
school than any other person, including the principal. The school
newspaper had run a satire on this relationship. Abe just called
himself "the ole yard man."
As Cora left, Abe jingled around in his pants' pocket for his
keys. Walker had gone to the kitchen for toast and juice. C.M. fixed
toast while she waited for the flour, using some old buns and cheese
cut for hoagies. The cheese toast came out of the oven burnt, but
Walker said he would take it any way.
"It your color," C.M. said.
"Nah, C.M. It look more like you look," he laughed. He put his
money on the table and started munching on the toast, "i'll get the
change later."
Nell had lain out fresh buns on her work table in front of the
stove and left a few packages on Sally's table by the office. Monday
morning the buns were stacked outside on a rack by the bread man. They
were soft and fresh smelling, in individual bags of twelve tied with a
wire band. These plastic bags were kept and refilled with lettuce,
cheese and luncheon meat. They accumulated in big bundles underneath
Sally's table where the slicer was. The overflow was taken home to
put up beans or corn. Some of the women had gardens or had friends
and relatives who did. The bags came in handy for freezing their
produce.
The plastic bags were one of a few things the workers were permitted
to take home. Empty jars were another—but not cans. Cans were sold to
a local nursery for a few cents each. Food, whether edible or in the

48
swill can was a forbidden item. Payment made no difference. The Food
Service management had made this regulation so that there would be no
suspicion that workers were stealing food from the lunchroom or over¬
estimating the daily needs, to create leftovers to take home. Once
when a worker was going home on the bus, someone had asked her to share
with him what she had in her shopping bag. "He thought I'd give him
some food. But," she paused, "I pulled out those plastic bags!"
Back in the walk-in, Nell got the mayonnaise-catsup mix for
hamburgers and the mayonnaise-relish mix for fishburgers. On a second
trip she took along a little pitcher to scoop out pickle slices for
the hamburgers. She lifted the lid off a tray of turkey meat left in
the walk-in overnight.
She had cooked the turkey yesterday, boned and cut it up into four
pans. When the turkeys were whole, as they had been yesterday, it took
a lot more time and work to get them ready. Once Cora had gotten some
turkey rolls which were easy to fix, but she never saw them after that
day. Yesterday she had left as tired as Cora came in today. Fixing
the turkey in the afternoon, Nell had exclaimed, "Lord, let me get
through before my tiredness come down on me." Whether the Lord heard
her or not, another worker had. "It be half way down now." Nell
replied, "Sure is. Sure enough is."
The hamburgers were easier to fix, even if they did not taste so
good. She had already retrieved them from the freezer in the storeroom,
ripped open the plastic and put them in a pan with some water to heat.
Last year she had mixed a long loaf of hamburger meat with dehydrated
onions and a soybean substitute. She and Sally pressed trays with
individually made patties under cookie sheets. At the end of these

49
sessions, Nell would sigh and tell Sally she never would have made it
without her. Of course she would have. Nell could prepare an entire
meal by herself if she had to.
There was a can-do spirit among the workers and it made their
work possible under the most difficult conditions. Once a couple of
regular employees, one-fourth of the lunchroom labor force, were out
and the student servers did not show. Elizabeth said, "We can do it.
It'll be hard. And it'll be a lot of work. But we can do it. We've
done it before." Nell chimed in, "That's right."
Nell brought the fish from the freezer and put them down on
large cookie sheets, while she waited for the hamburgers to finish
cooking. The fish would go in next. She put a piece of baking paper
over each sheet to make them less difficult to wash and arranged the
fish on the paper. Nell swabbed the fish with butter C.M. had melted
on the stove, two to three times as many fishburgers as hamburgers.
The children preferred them, especially now that the patties tasted
so "weird."
When Abe returned from Dixie Hollins, he brought C.M. the flour.
She set about weighing and measuring it. C.M. had made up a brown
sugar, cinnamon and nut mix and prepared the sugar and butter while
she waited. Abe was gone about twenty minutes.
He walked into Cora's office where she was trying, once more, to
post her invoices. "Everybody over at Dixie says hello," Abe told her.
"Shirley is really missed. That boy there kept asking for her. 'You
knows Shirley? How is Shirley? Tells her, I says hey.' What does
this boy want with Shirley?"

50
Cora just laughed. When she had moved from Dixie to Hogtown High,
she took Shirley with her when a position opened up at the high school.
Cora moved because the participation at Dixie was to be cut, meaning
less money if she stayed, and managing a high school lunchroom meant
more money. Shirley and Cora were friends, and Cora looked out for
her friends.
"Hey, what's going on here?" Abe said to everyone and no one in
particular. At least once a day, every day, Abe would ask that same
question, always in the same booming, jovial way.
"Seems like you know. What you and Cora laughing about? You come
out of there," Nell said.
"Oh, shoot, Nell, nothing."
"I know nothing when I hear it and I don't hear it now. What's
this nothing you and Cora been talking about?" Nell asked.
"I asked you what's happening?" Abe said lunging toward her with
his arms outstretched.
"Seems like your happening," Nell said waving off this fake
attack.
"Who me? The ole yard man?" he said innocently.
Nell was taking the hamburgers from the oven when Abe asked,
"What you got, Nell?"
"What you got eyes for?"
"To see you," Abe said chuckling as he left. Nell looked after
him and put her hands on her hips. She was going to stare him down,
but he did not turn around. He knew how she would be looking after
him. They had known each other for a long time as friends and
neighbors. They liked and respected each other. It showed through

51
this bantering and ribaldry.
Nell went back to the hamburgers and shoveled them into buns,
stacking them three deep in a tray lined with a moist towel. The towel
was to help keep them from getting hard. The students would complain
if they were. Those children complained anyhow about anything anyway,
Nell told herself, but she would try to keep the hamburgers fresh and
soft.
Outside Elizabeth turned off Ninth Street into a road lined with
pines, scrub oaks, vines and a few magnolia trees. Trails were cut
through the woods, footpaths that students used for rendezvous, to
smoke, drink and make love.
Liz's grey-blue Buick pulled into the back parking lot that led
to the custodian's office on the left, to the kitchen on the right.
A dumpster separated the two. Abe's car was already in the first space,
then the band director's car. The third place, usually filled by
the lunchroom manager's car, was empty. Cora's car was propped up on
cement blocks in the driveway at home. Liz parked her car behind
Walker's pride and joy: a late model black Cadillac complete with
white walls.
About 8:25 a.m., Elizabeth walked by Nell, who called "good
morning" to her as she headed for the office. Elizabeth had not heard
Nell. She was thinking about the fight she had with Pete last night.
She was upset because she thought things would get better after her
operation. Pete was involved more now than ever in his sportsman's
club. She hardly saw him.
"You didn't see it?" Nell asked Liz. "You behind the excitement,
girl." Nell pointed to the bundle on Cora's desk. Liz took a cursory

52
look at the material, put her purse in the file cabinet and headed for
the walk-in. She nudged the milkshake cartons across the floor with her
foot to the milkshake machine. Once she had poured the mix into the
machine, she left to get a plastic bag in which to throw the empty
cartons. The machine was working well this morning. The shakes were
coming out firm. For the next hour Elizabeth would stand there placing
one cup after another under the spout, putting each in the milkshake
rack. Only variety in the job was the change from chocolate to vanilla,
and then when the machine broke down.
Elizabeth did not seem to mind staying in one place; Nell and C.M.,
on the other hand, liked to move around. Elizabeth seemed to take pride
in being the only one to operate the machine. She had taught Cora how
to use it, in case she could not come to work, but it was Elizabeth's
baby. Regularly when she cleaned it, she announced that she had to give
her baby a bath. C.M. looked askance at this, but Nell told her to
never mind that.
It was the only baby Elizabeth would ever have. Though Elizabeth
was only twenty-eight, she had needed a hysterectomy last summer. She
had been married at sixteen, but her husband was killed in Viet Nam,
pulling five of his buddies to safety, she said. He had been awarded
a Purple Heart for his bravery. Elizabeth was given a widow's pension.
She never could get over it, though, she said. One of the reasons she
liked working in the lunchroom, doing hard physical work, was to get
her frustrations worked out. Nell told C.M. that everybody had their
problems and not to mind Liz and her baby talk.
Outside the milkman backed his truck to the kitchen door. He
turned the motor off, jumped out and went to the back of the truck to

53
unlatch the back doors. The back door slammed as he came in, looking
for Cora. She had heard the door shut. The milk cartons were out of the
refrigerator ready to present to him. She asked for replacements.
These cartons were sour, and by the way, she wished him a good morning.
He examined the dates on the cartons, shook his head and asked,
"You believe those kids?"
"I have to," Cora said. "They're my customers."
They knew that the cartons might be sour and might not. The kids
returned a half-empty carton sometimes to get a full one, or they had
changed their minds about white milk and wanted chocolate. One could
never tell.
Cora gave him her milk order—two white and one chocolate—which
he wrote on a sheet of paper on his clip board. He left it for her to
sign. On his way out, he said hello to Elizabeth, who passed him on
the way to the bathroom. She smiled back.
When Elizabeth emerged from the bathroom, Nell started to kid her
about her new boyfriend. "I see you got a new friend, Liz. You better
watch that stuff. I'll tell Pete on you." Liz smiled again, the second
time this morning. Nell had never even met Pete. As for a new boy¬
friend, that was just talk too. Everyone talked like that, even the
milkman. Once he had come in with another man, and Cora asked who the
second man was. The milkman told her that he talked so much about the
pretty women on his route that his friend wanted to see for himself.
The milkman returned with the three cases of milk and wheeled
them into the walk-in. He picked up a case left from yesterday and
distributed the four cases to ice boxes on Lines I and II. He picked
up the clip board on his way out and hurried to his next delivery.

54
All the schools had to be serviced before lunch. He was on a tight
schedule.
The milkman came every day. The orange juice man came on Monday
morning as did the man from the bakery and another from a local produce
distributor. On Thursdays came the Coke man, the Lance cookie man and
the laundry man. The Coke man had come and gone. The laundry man was
expected soon. The Lance cookie man would come just before lunch at
eleven. The man from the county warehouse arrived at irregular intervals,
but Cora was expecting him today with her order of flour. She was
expecting the health department inspector any day now. She hoped he
would not show up today. She had too much to catch up on to fool with
these people.
Nell yelled over to C.M., "How you doing?" C.M. yelled back that
she was doing ok. Nell called back, "You're not getting down enough.
You're not getting down on your stuff. What you have for breakfast?"
"Soda."
"You ok, C.M.?" Nell asked again.
"Ah ha," C.M. replied.
"Well, if you wasn't ok, I was going to come back there. If
you was on the floor, I'd pour some water on you and see you rise up!"
Nell said taking a different tact.
"There they go again. Fighting," Elizabeth called to Cora.
"Just fighting and fussing and fuming and funning," Nell retorted,
ending the conversation on C.M.'s health and well-being.
The baking area was whitened with flour: a white arc on the tan
floor, white on the bleached tables, on the green walls, on black C.M.
C.M. stood back now while the machine did its job on the flour and

55
water and other ingredients in the large mixing bowl. She turned it off
and scraped the dough from its blade. She scooped some dough onto the
table and started rolling it out as Nell had taught her a couple of
years ago when she first started in the lunchroom as a DCT student.
She began baking regularly when the baker resigned.
Depending upon who told the story, a fight had taken place over
leadership and insubordination (Lucy's version), a struggle over laziness
and cooperation (Elizabeth's version), a racial conflict between the
white and predominately black factions (C.M.'s viewpoint), or tension
between the office and workers (Abe's analysis). These interpretations
are related and indeed may include all variables. Whatever the reasons
for the tension, the baker had left at Christmas, and C.M. took charge
of the baking.
"Hey, Nell, did you hear that?" C.M. asked. The nine o'clock news
was on.
"What you talking about?" Nell answered.
"On the radio. This man was shot dead out in Indianola. The mens
was fighting."
"Ah hum. I know. Over nothing too. That's what they were doing."
Nell was at the sink, getting water for tea. "Fighting over nothing.
Died for nothing. For one dollar. Think of that. Dying for one ole
little dollar. You know him, C.M.?"
"Ah naw. I didn't knows him."
The coffee water had just about boiled away. Cora had drunk her
cup for the morning. The other custodians had not come into kitchen
for coffee. Only Walker had come in for toast and juice and Abe,
with the flour.

56
Nell checked on the rice she had put in the steamer when Shirley,
wearing shades and alligator shoes, swung through the back door. Nell
looked up and smiled, "Hey, Shirley."
"Good morning, Nell," she replied in her crisp receptionist style.
"Now, Nell, don't start that fussing. I didn't even get here yet."
Shirley anticipated Nell's comments. Nell often told Shirley that they
were going to have a funeral soon if she did not watch herself, going
out with all those guys when she had a steady boyfriend. Nell told her
she had her red dress all ready to go for the funeral.
Shirley breezed past Nell to the bathroom, hung up her coat and a
dress in a dry cleaning bag. Her white uniform was one of five she owned.
The other women wore pant suit-type uniforms, but not Shirley. She wore
dresses, short dresses. "The mens say they like my legs," she told
anyone who asked about a hemline at mid-thigh.
Once, when Nell's husband had come for lunch, he put soda straws
on the bottom of his shoes and tried to walk. That was how Shirley
looked, he said. Cora had warned her about wearing platform shoes to
work.
"My customers like to see me looking good," she protested.
"It's unsafe," Cora said, "And the insurance company won't pay if
something happens."
"Unsafe for who?" someone chimes in.
"I don't mean that kind of unsafe," Cora replied. "I wish you
all be serious now. This is serious."
Shirley headed toward the baking area, where she and C.M. chatted
real low.
"You two break it up, now." Nell was returning to put fishburgers

57
in their buns. "We have lots of work to do. You have lots of work to
do, hear?" She said pointing to Shirley.
"Looks like you lost a friend, Nell." Cora leaned back in her
office chair. She knew that Nell never told anyone to get to work.
Even if the work was theirs to do, Nell would start on it herself.
Since Shirley and C.M. had been getting together to discuss their
adventures, Nell had been on them to stop talking and to do their work.
Really though, Cora said, that Nell just wanted to know what was going
on. When they carried on like that, real quiet-like, she did not know.
Cora went back to the baking area to tell Shirley the Coke man
had come this morning, that he and C.M. were locked up in the walk-in
together.
"Sure were," Nell confirmed.
"You tell everything you know, Cora," C.M. said defensively.
Everyone laughed together, acknowledging their common fault. They kept
few secrets from one another. Certainly someone's new boyfriend was
not one of them. One woman confided in another she was "tight" with.
That woman was friends with another and confided in her. And so the
confidence spread by overlapping pairs to everyone in the group.
About 9:15 a.m. , Maridare walked up to the group congregated
in C.M.'s corner. She was fifteen minutes early. Nell told her to
get herself an apron and waved toward the back. Shirley walked with
Maridare to the storeroom and showed her where aprons were stacked on
a shelf. Shirley took pizza and french fries out of the freezer and
loaded them on a cart. The cart stalled at a bump in the door way.
It moved unsteadily, and Shirley exclaimed in exasperation, "This
cart go every which way. This cart go where it want to." She

58
struggled trying to get it on a straight course. At the table, Nell
was just finishing with the fishburgers, a good thing too. Lately they
had been having a border war over the use of that table. Nell told
Shirley that she was cramping Nell's style. Nell could not get her
work done, she claimed. Shirley, in response, would push her pans
over on Nell's side of the table, and Nell would shove them back.
Today Shirley had the table pretty much to herself. She took
long cookie sheets from a rack by the sink, stacking them on the table,
and cut open bags of french fries. After spreading baking paper on
the trays, she dumped a bag, spreading the french fries out with her
hand. She sprinked the arrangement with lots of paprika, giving the
french fries some flavor and color. Turning, she opened the doors to
the oven and a blast of heat assaulted her. The trays went in, and
quickly the glass doors slammed shut.
C.M. had put the cinnamon rolls in the back ovens. The kitchen
was starting to fill with the heavy scent of cinnamon. On a cold
winter day, Gail used to say, she liked nothing better than the smell
of bread baking in the oven. It gave her a sense of well-being, she
said, one of the good things about life.
Maridare was putting hot water in the first sink. She ran hot
and cold in the second; the third was filled with plastic jars, pans,
pots, other items used in the course of a morning. She poured a grainy,
green detergent into the second sink. Gentle on the hands, the box
said, but Shirley always wore rubber gloves to scrub the pots and pans.
C.M. stooped over beside the sub, sliding the mixing bowl on the floor
under the sinks. She splashed some water into the bowl so the dough

59
would not harden and stick to the metal.
Cora wandered around the kitchen, stopping to chat and help.
Cora was the only manager to help in the kitchen, Elizabeth said. The
rest stayed in the office. Cora had come from the ranks. Years ago
she and Nell worked together at DuBois High School where an aunt of
Nell's husband had been manager. Miss Dell retired several years back,
but she still went to the Food Service Associations annual dinner for
the "fellowship."
Cora worked her way to the storeroom where she started her
inventory. At the end of each month, she had to take stock. Occasionally,
Cora called Nell, checking with her about something she could not find.
Nell would go back, rubbing her hands down her apron, shaking her head.
"That's what you get for ordering all that stuff. You got to pay for
it now," Nell told her.
"That's the truth," Cora acknowledged. Doing inventory was not
her favorite job. Being a manager was challenging, but all that
inventory challenged was her ability to get down and get up again.
The laundry man walked in. Cora struggled to get up from her
squatting position. He counted the aprons and towels, putting new
ones—at least, clean ones—on a shelf. He told her the receipt was
on her desk and left. He was a quiet man. Unlike the other delivery
men who exchanged greetings and gossip, he did his work, saying no
more than was necessary. He missed a lot that way: Gail's comment
for example. She considered it a fine day if her apron had two strings
instead of one. Once after a delivery, Nell discovered that the aprons
were new. She and a few others joined in an impromptu fashion show.
They drapped aprons over their uniforms and paraded in front of the

60
full-length mirror, bowing, pivoting and swirling in front of an
imaginary audience. They broke up laughing.
Nell took out the giant tea bags from the pots on the stove,
pitching the bags into the garbage can by the office. She poured the
tea into four containers and added sugar to three. The teachers liked
their tea sweet. She stirred the sugar in each pitcher and set them
on a tray. Teachers could have tea instead of milk with meals they
bought. Other teachers who brought their lunches helped themselves
to the tea—another loss the lunchroom absorbed. Adult lunches cost
twenty cents more than the students, but that did not cover the cost
of the meal. Unlike student lunches—free, reduced and paid—adult
lunches were not subsidized by the government.
After fixing the tea, Nell added chicken bouillon, com starch
and yellow coloring to a large pot of boiling water. Nell had to chip
the bouillon out of a jar with an ice pick. Why bouillon was in a
glass jar, Nell did not know. It got so hard. She was sure to break
the jar one day.
The next half hour passed quickly. Elizabeth stood by the milk¬
shake machine, placing one cup after another under the spout. C.M.
cleaned the baking area and helped Nell with the hamburgers and fish-
burgers. Shirley put the french fries and pizza in the warmer as they
came out of the convection oven. Back in the storeroom, Cora continued
taking inventory. The ten o'clock news repeated the nine o'clock news.
Nell did not ask C.M. about the shooting this time. Maridare did.
She knew C.M. was from Indianola. Her brother went with C.M.'s cousin.
You could always tell Indianola people, Maridare said.
Ten o'clock and Sally was late as usual. She was the only one

61
who made a regular habit of it. Everyone else came early. At first,
C.M. looked at the clock, then at Sally. Gail asked her what time she
came in. None of this attention got her to the lunchroom any earlier.
Sally swung off the bike, lifted it onto the ramp and locked it.
She parked the three-speed bike between the stacked wooden frames and
the water spigot. It was safest to ride a bike, Sally thought. It
was not large enough to write obscenities on, as had been done to Pat's
car. The windows could not be broken as with Gail's stationwagon.
Nor could the radio be left on as in Elizabeth's Buick.
She hurried inside to get warm. The kitchen did not feel much
warmer than it did outside, even though the ovens had been on for two
hours. Like almost everyone else, Sally went to the office first. Nell
called, "Hey," from her position in front of the sunken pit, containing
the stove, ovens and steamer. Sally returned the hey, a word she
learned to substitute for "hi."
After dumping her books under the office table, she went to the
stove. She stretched her hands over the burners, turning and rubbing
them. They were redder than her face.
"Cold today, isn't it?" Nell said.
"God damn right. It's cold," she replied. She and Gail used
profanity. It was rare that anyone else did. They used god damn and
hell so much that it was as accepted as Praise the Lord, Lord Jesus
and other religious exclamations used by Cora and Nell.
"I can't stand this cold weather. This is awful," Sally said.
"Ah hum, I know what you mean. Junior and Nelson didn't want
to get up this morning. I could have stayed under the covers myself.
But the alarm went off and up I rose." Nell laughed, remembering getting
out of bed.

62
Shirley passed by on the way to wash her hands. "Good morning.
How are you?"
"Freezing."
"I know that's right," Shirley confirmed.
After warming herself, Sally went to the bathroom to change.
Everyone wore their uniforms to work, even if they did not wear them
home. Not Sally. She wore another kind of uniform: jeans and cotton
shirts. Abe described the appearance, "You don't care how you look.
I like that." Sally pulled off her student uniform and tugged on the
white pants and one of two white jackets she owned. She opened the
bathroom door, shoving one arm into her flannel shirt.
Sally saw the forty-eight buns Nell had left on the end of the
table. She got luncheon meat, cheese and the mayonnaise-mustard mix
from the walk-in. Everyone had a different way of fixing hoagies.
The results were much the same. Sally spread the buns on the table,
spreading one side with the mix, laying the cheese and meat on the other
When Cora did them, she spread both sides of the buns which were
arranged in vertical rows. Nell spread between the buns, leaving them
scattered on the table.
Elizabeth picked up a piece of luncheon meat. "You won't miss
this, will you?" she asked, popping the meat into her mouth.
Sally cut more meat on the slicer, making a mess. The tray did
not abut properly onto the cutting blade. The slicer last year was
better, but it had been stolen during the summer. She was sure she
was going to lose a finger on this one. She never did. People cut
themselves on knives, but not on the slicer. Scaldings were more common
For such emergencies, there were a few medicines in the bathroom locker:

63
a bottle of iodine, some cotton gauze and some salves. An aloe plant
rested over the kitchen sink on the high window shelves. No one could
remember to use it, even though everyone knew it was there and used
for burns.
Elizabeth finished the shakes, cleaned the machine and wrote
the tally on a paper towel. She put the towel with Cora's other
records, and left the office to check the bulletin board. The daily
schedule was posted today. She saw her name penned next to "Cabbage."
When her name was not listed, she mopped bathrooms and washed walls.
Today she had to cut cabbage.
Elizabeth retrieved the cabbage from the walk-in, dragging it
across the floor. It was a simple job. She pulled the outer leaves
off, cored the cabbage, washed and quartered it. While the cabbage
cooked on the stove, Nell would season it. One time, Elizabeth
remembered, someone had stewed the cabbage. The menu that day called
for cole slaw. At least it was a mistake in the right direction.
The students ate cooked cabbage; cole slaw came back to the swill can,
ultimately ending on a pig farm.
Elizabeth brought the swill can from the back porch and threw the
outer leaves into it, filling the bottom. "This is the sorriest
cabbage," Liz pronounced over the accumulating leaves.
"Do the best you can," Nell called. "That's all I know."
"But this cabbage here is so sorry looking," Liz said again.
Sally finished wrapping the hoagies. She put them into paper bags
with a straw, napkin, one apple and a carton of orange juice. Abe
stopped by her as she put the bag lunches on trays.
"Hey, how's my Sal?" How's my girl?" he asked for the first time
today.

64
"Ok. How are you, Abe?" Sally replied, concentrating on the bag
lunches.
"Oh, fine. Just real fine." He smiled.
"Hmmm. Abe, I got to put this stuff away," she said abruptly.
"I'll help you. I'd do anything for my Sal."
"Thanks, Abe, but I just have to put these trays up, ok?"
Elizabeth collected the bits of cabbage left on the slicing board
and threw them into the swill can. She washed the knife and cutting
board, setting them on the table to dry. She walked past Abe and Sally
on the way to the serving lines. She started counting plates, moving
her finger over the plates. Fifty in each stack. She placed three
hundred and fifty on Line I and two hundred and fifty on Line II.
Usually Shirley counted behind her, making sure her count was correct.
Today, however, Shirley was cashiering in Gail's place on Line I.
Cashiers could not count plates, Elizabeth knew. Elizabeth looked
for Cora in the storeroom. "Someone has to count the plates again."
"Tell Maridare to do it," Cora said, returning to her inventory.
Maridare fished a pan from the scalding water with a wooden
paddle. When she caught it, she held the hot pan by her fingertips,
swinging it onto the drain board.
"Maridare, Cora says you got to do the plate count," Liz
commanded.
"I don't know how to do no plate count," Maridare muttered softly.
"It's easy, i'll show you," Liz said glad to be playing the
part of teacher.
Maridare shook water off her hands, wiping them on a towel she
pulled from the tray rack. She followed Liz to the serving lines.

65
Shirley passed them on the way to the eating area, towing two
garbage cans. A third she placed under the return window for cartons,
napkins and other paper products. Students and teachers were supposed
to separate paper debris from silverware and plates before returning
their trays. But Shirley fished out a lot of forks and knives from
that trash.
Shirley heard the dishwasher gushing and chugging. She had turned
it on, loading the detergent on the side container. As chief dishwasher,
an unenviable position, it was part of her duty. The newest member
of the group was stuck with this job. Today, Maridare would have
it. One thing to be thankful for, Shirley thought: no soup or chili
today. Those meals were murder. The food stuck to the plates and
there was a bowl to contend with, as if the plates, trays and utensils
were not enough. Other schools had plates and trays all in one.
Not Hogtown High. They never seemed to get new equipment.
As her parting service for Maridare, Shirley filled the plastic
tub for soaking utensils with water and detergent. Students used the
tub for target practice, hurling their silverware into it. Their aim
occasionally coincided with the dishwasher's hands. You had to have
patience to work that window, Nell said. She did not have enough for
that kind of nonsense.
Shirley brought the swill can from the salad area to the return
window. As Shirley pushed it by, Sally dumped some meat and cheese
scraps into the can. C.M. chanted from the sidelines, "Slowly but
Shirley. Slowly but surely."
Sally stacked the cookie and potato chip rack in the storeroom.

66
C.M. followed her, getting cans of cranberry sauce. "Ain't you bored
doing that every day?" C.M. asked her. Sally shrugged. She had
changed jobs several times. Sometimes she got a more desirable job;
sometimes, not.
"I be bored," C.M. said firmly, exiting with the cans. C.M.
agreed with Nell. She liked her job because she got to do different
things every day, Nell said. She liked to move around and go from
place to place. Neither could understand how Elizabeth stood in one
place for a solid hour. As she went out the storeroom door, C.M.
almost lost her cans, bumping into the Lance man.
"She's on the phone," he said motioning to Cora's office. "How
are the pork skins selling?"
"Ok. The barbecue are selling better than the plain," Sally
answered. "Is that true at other schools?"
"Well, yes and no. The black students like the barbecue skins,
but the barbecue chips are not hot enough for them. Too hot for the
white kids. I'd say the black kids like the sweet cookies. You know,
the vanilla, Nekot, ones like that. The white kids eat the Toastchee.
Anything with cheese and peanut butter. They like chocolate too.
It's a good chocolate, better than in an Oreo cookie."
"Hello. I been expecting you," Cora said reprimanding him for
coming so near the workers' lunchbreak.
Sally left for the walk-in. She placed cases of sodas, along
with bag lunches and hoagies, on a cart she pulled to Line III.
She counted bag lunches and sodas before serving. Saved time. After
the lines closed, she counted what remained, subtracted, getting the
total sold. The item tally and the money never seemed to coincide.

67
If the county office wanted an accurate account, they had to furnish
more than fish and tackle boxes, Lucy, the previous manager said.
The boxes were in poor shape. The lid on C.M.'s was off its hinges
and the inside of Sally's was propped on two wooden bars.
Nell wheeled the cart with the turkey to the stove. She hefted
the pans onto the burners, moving to one side the cabbage Liz put on
the stove. She poured the gravy over the turkey and covered the pans
with flat lids. After getting the turkey ready, Nell checked the
steamer. She turned it off and opened the top slowly. She wielded
a large ladle with both hands, scooping the rice into four deep pans
she got from underneath her table. She placed two pans on the stove
and brought the others to Line I, slipping the pans into slots over
the hot water.
C.M. shelved the pans of cranberry sauce one by one into the
refrigerator by the office. She threw the jagged edged tops in the
garbage and carried the cans to the pot sink, where Maridare had
resumed washing after the plate count. After the cans were washed, they
were stacked in the enclosed porch. At the end of the month, the
enclosure was lined three deep in cans. After the monthly nursery pick¬
up, the cans—like toy blocks—began to build up again, slowly and
precariously.
"C.M.," Cora called. "Go up and get the money in the office." The clock
Elizabeth brought from home read 10:35 a.m. Cora knew they would be
late for lunch again.
C.M. returned with an empty bank bag and a dirty white one filled
with change. Cora distributed the change to the cashiers' boxes, checking

68
for a pencil and two sheets. On one sheet the cashier recorded special
servings and extra milk; the other, she and Sally used to compute the
daily participation, revenue and tickets.
Shirley set up Line II, placing one tray of pizza and pans with
hamburgers, fish and french fries in their slots. The heat rising from
the hot water kept them fresh and warm, just as the hot water on Line I
warmed the turkey, rice and cabbage. Shirley's pot holder caught
between a pan and the counter. She returned to the table where she
prepared the pizza and french fries, pulling a pair of tongs from the
drawer. After lifting the pan off the pot holder, she left the tongs
on the counter. If Cora did not use the disposable plastic gloves,
she needed the tongs for serving.
C.M. placed the cinnamon rolls from the back oven on Nell's table.
She returned with a small bowl of glaze made from powdered sugar.
Nell helped spread the glaze over the hot rolls, crisscrossing the
pans with liberal drippings from a spatula. As each pan was glazed,
C.M. slid it on a vertical rack.
Liz was leaning on the milkshake freezer opposite Nell's working
area. She could help, but she did not. Already they were ten minutes
late for lunch.
"Can we eat now, Nell?" Elizabeth asked from her resting post.
C.M. and Nell were almost finished glazing.
"Don't see no reason why we can't eat," she replied. Nell handed
her spatula to C.M. and grabbed a pair of pot holders. She lifted a
pan of turkey off the stove.
"Excuse me, please," she said, making her way to Line I.

69
Elizabeth got her tray, plate and silverware. She lifted the lid
off the pan of turkey Nell put on the line. No serving spoons.
Liz went to Nell's table and opened two drawers, selecting a scoop
and two large spoons. She returned to the line and filled her plate
with rice and turkey, large pieces of white meat.
She carried her plate to the stove where the cabbage was cooking.
Liz stirred the pepper around the cabbage and dipped some onto her
plate. Next she opened the refrigerator, holding the door with her
foot, and started to get some cranberries. No spoon. The refrigerator
door shut. Elizabeth set her plate on the table, selected a porous
spoon and returned to the refrigerator. Maridare handed Liz her
plate. Balancing the plate and spoon in one hand, Liz held the door
open with the other. She positioned her body against the refrigerator
door, transferred the spoon to the other hand and spooned out a large
helping of cranberry sauce. She left the spoon in the tray. The
door slammed as she moved on, searching for a cinnamon roll. She
eyed the rolls, spotting a large, fluffy one in the middle of the
fourth row. She turned to the table, getting a metal spatula, and
extracted her cinnamon roll.
C.M. came from the storeroom, bringing a pan of ice. Liz waited
until Mary set the pan down. She filled a cup with ice and poured
herself some sweet tea. Liz went to the cafeteria and sat down at
the table the lunchroom workers used. She started to eat.
C.M. arranged the teacher's tray with sugar, salt, forks, spoons
and napkins. This tray, along with tea and pan of ice, was for the
teachers' table. Students could not have tea or ice, even though a
student group donated the ice machine to the school.

70
C.M. filled five cups with ice. Everyone, except Sally, took tea
with meals. She had milk—sometimes three cartons. Nell gave her one
and Sally marked the others on the milk sheet. Workers got a free
lunch. To some it did not seem free. Workers were required to be at
work a half-hour before serving time, time for which they were not paid.
Rarely did they take the full half-hour, a federal requirement for
hourly wage workers. Nevertheless, Mrs. Williams, the director of
Food Service, never failed to mention the free lunch as a benefit.
Other cafeteria workers in commercial establishments paid for their
food, she said. The seventy-five cents was part of a worker's salary.
Maridare soon followed Elizabeth to the cafeteria; then Shirley,
Sally, C.M. and Nell.
"You better come out of there, Cora. It's time to eat. Past
time to eat. We be ripping and rolling today when those children come
in," Nell called to Cora. Cora emerged from her office as the workers
trailed off to the cafeteria. Fifteen minutes before the bell rang,
she thought, looking at the clock.
C.M. and Nell sat across from each other by the window. Shirley
sat next to Nell. Maridare sat opposite Elizabeth and Sally slid in
next to C.M. When Cora came a few minutes later, everyone pushed to
the edges to make room.
"Hey, Fat Albert," C.M. greeted her.
"I know I'm no Albert," Cora said.
"You sure is fat though," C.M. retorted. Everyone laughed at C.M.'s
comparison of the manager to the television character.
Whenever a new person came, Liz asked her the same questions:
Where had she gone to school? Where had she worked before? Was she

71
married? How many children did she have?
To this latter question Maridare answered, "One." No one said
a thing to Maridare now. Later when she replaced Gail who eventually
resigned, they had plenty to say.
"You need at least two," Nell said then.
"I'm going to have mine two at a time," C.M. interjected.
"Well, long as you don't have two at a time by two different men.
I guess that's ok, C.M.," Nell joked.
"She won't want to have another one once she have that first baby,"
Maridare said.
A girl walked by the window on the outside concourse. "Hey, look
at those hips," Nell cried. "I could ride all the way to Andersonvilie.
All the way. And I wouldn't fall off either. A free ride to Anderson-
ville," Nell laughed.
"Hush, Nell," Cora said.
"i was just going to get me a free ride," Nell said, eating a
little of the turkey—only thing on the plate.
"There's not even enough time to sit down. I'm tired, too tired
to eat. I could just stand up and eat this. That way, I wouldn't have
to get up again. Just keep moving," Nell said.
"Just eat, Nell," Cora replied.
"You talk too much," C.M. confirmed.
"You go ahead and eat. Eat for me too. I'm too tired. I just
want to sit and rest my bones," Nell said, looking over the plate.
She pointed a finger at the different compartments. "The rice go
here with the turkey and the cabbage go here; the cranberries go right
here and the cinnamon roll go on top. That sure is a full plate today.

72
That's real pretty," she said. "Green, brown, white and red."
"The turkey is real good," Liz told Nell.
"Thank you, Liz."
"it is good, Nell," Cora repeated.
"I be glad when this day is over. I be glad when Friday comes and
goes too," Nell said.
A student approached Cora and hung around the table, looking over
the plates. Everyone continued eating, ignoring the intruder.
"I want my lunch tickets. See, I was late getting to school. I
just got here," he said.
"I'm eating now," Cora said. "This is my lunch time. I give
tickets out until quarter til eleven. You know that."
"Oh, please," he pleaded. "I just got to school."
"Where's your admit slip?" Cora asked, softening.
"I ain't got one."
"Then you ain't got a lunch either. Go on. Get out of here,
Jeffrey."
"But I don't have my ticket."
"Borrow one from your brother, 'cause I'm not going to give you
your ticket now. Good-bye." Cora said, emphasizing the good-bye. She
went back to eating.
Elizabeth got up from the table and went into the kitchen, getting
another cinnamon roll, "i'll pay you for it, Cora, when the lines
close," she called over her shoulder.
"Elizabeth, you shouldn't eat that," Nell said. "You're on a
diet."

73
"I know. But oh, what a way to go," Liz said.
"Well," Nell said resigned to Liz's "diet." Whenever C.M. baked
cinnamon rolls or bread, Liz bought an extra. Nell told her she was
breaking her diet. Liz replied, "What a way to go." It was a litany.
Everyone, except Sally and Maridare, were on some kind of diet.
Nell alone kept it. She had to: high blood pressure. C.M. went on a
diet last year after her boyfriend said she was too fat. For weeks
she ate nothing except salads. And got sick. Although Shirley was
thin—thinnest person there, she had an ulcer and could not eat spicy
foods. Cora told Shirley she had lost five pounds. She never seemed
to lose it, eating lunch at Hogtown High. Later when Maridare thought
she was pregnant, the women encouraged her to drink more milk—a diet
of another ilk.
Cora leaned across the table toward Maridare. "You know Reverend
Brown?" she asked.
"Ah ha," Maridare replied.
"He's over to Newcrossing this week," Cora told her.
"If my mother knowed that she be begging for a ride," Maridare
said. "She like that man. She be wanting to go hear him preach."
"Must be a good-looking man," Nell muttered.
"Say what?" Cora asked.
Nell looked down, concentrating on her empty plate.
"You working with some crazy ladies," Cora informed Maridare.
Dean Phillips left the dean's office and walked toward the women.
"Hey, Nell," she called.
"Hey, your ownself," Nell replied more to herself than to the dean.

74
Dean Phillips leaned over C.II. , hugging her. C.M. smiled and
grimaced, both at the same time.
"I like your outfit," Cora said. "That's a real pretty color."
"Thank you, Miss Churchill," the dean said, towering over the
table. "You look familiar," she said to Maridare.
"I graduated from here," Maridare volunteered.
"I knew you looked familiar. How are you getting along with
these ladies?"
When the dean left, Nell said, "She can look good. She always
looks good. She don't have any children to bother her none. She
don't have any responsibilities 'cept to herself."
"She married, isn't she?" Cora asked.
"Sure is. Her husband used to work out here. Used to work for
Abe," Nell added.
A tall boy walked by the window. "Muslim," C.M. muttered.
"Seems like all the good-looking mens is Muslim," Shirley said.
"Sure do," Maridare agreed.
"They always trying to sell something," Cora said. "Yesterday I
went to the 7-11 and got out of my friend's car and this man come
walking over to me. 'You looking real good,' he say. And I said,
'Thank you.' He wanted me to buy one of those pamphlets. I told him
no. 'You want to give a donation then, a small donation to the cause?'
Cora said, imitating the Black Muslim. "I asked him if he wanted to
IV
give me a small donation for the church. 'We're having a building fund,'
I told him. 'We're building the church of God.' He turned on his heels
and left me flat." Cora laughed. "You know Jimmy Franklin?" she asked.

75
"He came by my house selling eggs for the Muslims. He had a real good
job at Publix. Was making good money too. He quit. Went out selling
eggs for the Muslims."
"Some people come by my house one time," Nell said. "A man and
a woman. I was getting down mopping the house clean and they come
knocking on the door. Who could that be? I wasn't expecting anyone.
I was doing my mopping. They said that they be back. I sure hope
they stay away. Those people are such a bother. Selling pamphlets
and wanting you to join their . . . ."
The eleven ten bell rang. Everyone jumped up, carrying plates to
the kitchen.
"Oh, Lord," Cora cried.
"Lord not going to help you now," C.M. said under her breath.
"Those children be here in a minute," Cora reminded everyone, as
if they needed reminding of the onslaught about to begin.
The women marched to the return window in the dishwashing area.
%
They left trays on the counter and emptied plates into the swill can.
Cora left her tray on a table. Sally picked it up on the way to join
the crowd. Cora unlocked the office, arranging the boxes for the
cashiers. Nell took the cabbage off the stove and carried it to Line
I. C.M. put the milkshakes on Line II and the window line, Line III.
Elizabeth brought the cranberry sauce from the refrigerator to Line I.
"Put the orange juice on Line II," Cora called to Maridare.
"Move that for me," C.M. asked Elizabeth. She was moving a tray
of cinnamon rolls off a rack. "Never mind," C.M. said, seeing Liz
with her hands full.

76
Sally put a cinnamon roll in the office to eat later. Nell told
her she could have her roll too. If any were left, she would claim
it. Not now. Sally pulled the cart laden with sodas and bag lunches to
the window where she worked during serving. She ran into C.M. who
left milkshakes in the window for the bag lunches.
"Sorry," Sally apologized. After parking the cart, she hurried
to the storeroom, sliding into Elizabeth in the rush. "Sorry," she
said again. She was always bumping into someone or something.
She jerked the cart over the door stop. The carefully assembled
display tumbled. "Damn," she said, bending over picking the cookies
from the floor.
Students banged on the doors, yelling to be let in. One rattled
the door handle. The loudest voices were male. The noise had come
all at once as the students were released from classes for lunch
period. No staggered schedules at Hogtown High. At the sound of
the bell, a couple hundred students converged on the lunchroom,
bunching at the doors. Lines were long. Students pushed and shoved
for positions in line.
After getting the fish and tackle boxes from the office, C.M. ,
Shirley and Sally went to their stations. Nell and Elizabeth readied
plates, lining them on the counter. Cora served Line II by herself;
sometimes a student helped her. Maridare put trays left by the
other women in a rack.
Cora gave the signal for the doors to be opened. Students poured
in. One boy pushed a girl out of line. She started shrieking at him.
He argued back, saying he was there all along, "What's the big problem,

77
girl?" Other students joined the yelling, trying to get them to .moVe.
The pair kept screaming, threatening and cursing.
Lunch was served at Hogtown High.
Sally pushed up Line Ill's window, sticking a bar on the side to
hold it. The window went half way. Students bent over, ordering what
they wanted. Lucy had instigated Line III for bag lunches, milkshakes,
sodas and snacks, an idea which augmented the lunchroom's income
considerably.
Otis and Jim slipped on aprons. Cora sent Otis back for some
salt to refill the shakers. Students poured salt on everything—
cabbage, turkey and cinnamon roll. The salt shakers were tied to the
counter with string, preventing students from carrying them off.
Joe pushed through a crowd of students, delivering the teachers' tray
to the cafeteria. He made a second trip for tea; a third, for ice.
"You skipped," Dean Joseph called to three boys in Line II.
"No, I didn't," one yelled back.
"You turkey. I saw you," he answered, pointing to the group.
"Huh?"
"You boys get out of that line and go to the end. I don't want
to see you cutting this line again." The students stood their ground
and conferred together. They left disgruntled. Other students watched
the excitement.
Joseph was hard, too hard many thought, but he had changed.
When a couple of those big boys jumped him in the dean's office, he
cooled off some, Nell said. Joseph, C.M. said, was harder on black
kids. He worked hard to get where he was. He did not want those
kids pulling him down, someone explained. They did that every time
they "showed out."

78
Line II had rougher kids, than Line I, Lucy and Sally said. They
seemed to yell more, demand more and push each other around more.
The trays spaced students some, but they managed to bunch up. For
the first part of the lunch hour, the lines stretched along the walls,
reaching the doors on the far side of the cafeteria. Students clustered
in groups of girls and groups of boys. An isolate or two stared off
into space, amidst the talking, laughing and horsing around.
"I want a pizza. Give me a pizza. I don't want that plate. That
one there." A student pointed to one Cora was making.
"They're all the same," Cora replied—or as much the same as she
could make them. "Put those napkins back. That's what keeping my
production cost up high. You don't need all those napkins," she
yelled over the din to a boy she saw from the corner of her eye.
Every lunch period, she lost napkins, straws and silverware.
There were two types of straws—plain white ones for for milk and red
striped ones for milkshakes, these with scooped ends. Students used
the straws for other things than drinking. They shot the wrappers off
at passing friends or stuck the straws in the side of the mouth,
chewing on them like pieces of hay straw. The straws and napkins were
not the worst losses. The lunchroon supplied tableware to dozens of
hom^, Cora thought.
"I want a cinnamon roll," another student demanded.
"That's not on this side," Cora replied.
"I want a cinnamon roll. I don't want to go over there. Man,
that lines so long."
"Go on, get out of here, Michael," Cora told him.

79
''Give me a fish. I don't want any of those old hamburgers."
"Give me a fish too, Miss Churchill. Miss Churchill. Miss Churchill.
Oh, please give me that big one right there. That's right.
"Give me that," another student said.
"You're holding up the line," Coiasaid to a student.
"Hey, C.M. You let me slip by on seven cents. I don't want to
break a dollar," a boy whispered to the cashier on Line II.
"I got change," C.M. said. "That's fifteen cents. You want it?
You pay for it, boy."
Otis helped Cora serve Line II and Jim backed the lines,
retrieving orange juice from the refrigerator or turkey from the stove
as pans emptied on the lines.
"Milkshakes," Sally called, lifting the empty rack out of the
way. "Could I have some milkshakes?"
"Jim, go get some shakes," Cora directed.
On Line III most of the bag lunches had been exchanged for a
ticket or fifty-five cents. Sally sold some cookies and sodas with
bag lunches, but most of the students with tickets got lunches first,
returning for snacks if they had the money.
"I want those yellow cookies," a student demanded. "No, not
those. Them. Yea, there."
"Give me those brown kind," another yelled. "I didn't ask for
those black cookies. You know, the ones you just gave that other
boy."
"I want a bag lunch," a gid. said, surrendering her ticket. "You
got a vanilla shake?"

80
"Just a minute. All I've got right now is chocolate."
"That's ok. Give me a chocolate then."
Jim brought the shakes. "Here you go," he said to Sally, handing
her the tray.
"Give me a lunch," a boy called. "Got a fish in it?"
"No," the cashier answered.
"I want a fish," he persisted.
"They only have hoagies in them," she replied, telling him what
he already knew.
"Well, get me a fish then. Just asked that lady right there.
She give you a fish."
"Hey, move on," another student told him. "These only got
hoagies in them."
"Shit," he muttered.
"Don't talk to her like that," the second student said.
"She ain't no teacher," he pointed out, justifying his language.
"I would like. I would like. Let me see. Well, I would like
some of those Nekot cookies. No. No. Give me a peanut bar. Yea,
that's what 1 want."
"You sure?" Sally asked the boy. He sang in the school choir
and invited her each time they performed.
"Yea, I'm sure," he said. "Oh, give me a Coke too. No not a
Coke. A Sprite. How much is that?"
"Forty cents."
"Thanks," he called, one of the few to thank lunchroom workers.
A student stood around the window, asking others for change.

81
Sometimes they gave it to him and sometimes, not. His line was the
same, although he varied it a little, depending on whether he knew the
person.
"Hey man. Give me a nickel, man," he pleaded.
"This isn't my money," the student replied. Claiming the money
was not yours or reminding him he owed you money usually ended the
conning.
"i need a nickel real bad. Real bad," he said to another student.
"What you need a nickel so bad for?" she asked.
"See, I want to get me something with it." He smiled. She
slapped it down in his hand.
"Why thank you, Miss Christine. Thank you so ever so much,"
he declared, whirling around, laughing.
"You got any more shakes?" another student asked the cashier,
singing "Shake, shake, shake," words to a popular song.
"What kind do you want?" she asked for the millionth time that
afternoon. Students wanted "this," "that," "them," or "there,"
descriptions not always decoded correctly by the cashier. Sally had
not realized that many students could not read. She learned this one
day last year.
She asked one student to read the label on the package. The
student pronounced the first syllable hesitantly. She stopped and
tried a different approach. She spelled the word, pausing after each
letter. She identified the first four letters and then seemed to give
up. A friend witnessing the incident offered a name which approximated
the label. She seized upon the word and pronounced it with triumph.
The students said they could not read or count, but the cashier

82
thought this was jive. After the experience with the girl, Sally
was not so sure. She was more careful not to challenge their ability
to read. It embarrassed the students, frustrating and making them
unhappy. The students were bored in school, they told her that often
enough. That they were not learning came as a surprise.
"Give me some soda water," another student said. "No, I don’t
want a Coke. I want that," he said, pointing to the soda cart. "No,
hell. I don't want that grape. I told you I want a root beer."
Telling the student he had not asked for root beer, but for soda
water prolonged the encounter, causing trouble. The cashier let it
go by. Sally learned to let most of it go by.
"Give me a lunch," another student demanded, projecting the upper
portion of his body into the window.
"There aren't any more."
"Oh, man. What can I get with this ticket? Give me a Coke and
I'll give you the ticket."
"Can't do that," the cashier replied.
"Why not?"
"You can get a lunch over there," she said, pointing to Line II.
"Or there," she pointed to Line I. She gave up explaining.
"I don't want any of that. I want me some soda water."
"Sorry," she said to the dejected-looking student.
A pair of girls came to the window. "Gee, I don't know what I
want. Mary Sue, what do you want? Oh, gosh, let me see. Do you
have those peanut butter cookies? You do? I want some. How much
do they cost?"
The crowd was thinning now and only a few students came to Line III,

83
designated "The Pit Stop" by Lucy.
"Hey, you look real nice. Real nice, now. What's your name?"
"Sally."
"Well, Sally, hello. How are you?"
"Ok."
"How about being my friend?" he asked.
"I don't even know your name."
"It's Marvin. Now, Sally, look it here. You my friend. You my
new friend. How about giving your friend some of those sweet cookies
over there?" he asked, looking intently at her. She shook her head.
"You my friend now. You know my name. I tell you my girlfriend's
name: Louise. That's her right name. Ask anybody. Louise."
"I don't doubt it," she replied.
"He just jive talking you," another student volunteered.
"Who you interrupting, boy?" Marvin said to the student.
"Who you calling 'boy'? Boy," the student answered.
Most students came in the first half hour. Teachers came too.
They always showed up for a meal with gravy, Nell said. She and
Elizabeth were busy: turkey was a popular meal. Elizabeth placed a
cinnamon roll and some cranberry sauce on the plate. Nell added
cabbage, rice and turkey.
A parade of fashion passed in front of them. They did not have
time to watch. Not much they missed, though. Students dressed in
the brightest colors, in the most unique color combinations. One
wore a bright orange-pink polyester shirt and electric green pants.
Others wore T-shirts inscribed with "I'm a winner," "Debbie,"
"Shazoom," "Sit on It," "DCT II," and "Budweiser." Some girls still

84
wore mini shirts; others adopted the new mid-calf length skirts.
Both sexes wore jewelry, an integral part of the contemporary
wardrobe. Boys wore puka shell chokers—plastic and real. Others wore
chains with heavy medallions. Girls wore more turquoise jewelry than
the boys: rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings.
Hair styles were as diverse as the dress. Some students wore their
hair in afros or braids. One had his in corn rows which, as the name
suggests, ran in vertical, parallel rows from the crown to the back of
the head. Others had circular designs: one large swirl, three circles
ending in little tuffs, etc.
"Aha. Aha. I like it. Aha. Aha. I like it like that," one student
sang straggling in for lunch. The radio music carried over the other
noises and reached the last student in Line I. The twelve o'clock
news had just gone off. "Nell, give me that big cinnamon roll. Lord
have mercy, you people is slow. I got to eat now."
"What you rushing her for? You the one that is late," Cora called
from Line II.
"Say what?"
"You heard what I say. Your mother's not going to like that.
Treating people so mean."
"I wasn't treating her mean. Was I, Nell?" he said, appealing to
Nell. Nell handed him his plate and turned around, continuing to stack
trays. Never let the students get you down; keep getting up. That was
Nell's philosophy.
As the students tapered off, the work of the dishwasher reached
its peak. Trays were piled high in the return window. Students threw

85
paper trash in the garbage cans under the window, sometimes missing
the cans. Paper and cartons littered the floor. Overflow from the
cans made a mess of the area.
Maridare kept up with the new spurt of activity as best she
could. She was not accustomed to handling the volume that came today.
Otis moved from serving on Line II to helping with the dishwashing.
He caught trays and plates, coming from the dishwasher. He stacked
them on the shelf above the spillway. As racks emptied, he brought
them to Maridare, who started the process over. Before putting
them in plastic racks, she banged the plates against a rubber guard
over the swill can. Most of the food came off. She sprayed the
dishes with water from a high power nozzle, spraying Sally on Line III.
Elizabeth left Line I before it closed and washed pots in the pot
sink, clearing the mound of trays, pots, pans and utensils. Nell helped
Otis unload the plates and trays from the dishwasher.
A dean, a kind of disciplinary official, got his tray from the
stack and waited in line. "Oh, dear," Nell said to herself. "I got me
another customer." She washed her hands in the sink outside Cora's
office. "Just a minute."
The four deans and a vice-principal ate at the end of the lunch
hour. They were supposed to keep order in the lunchroom. Sometimes
attempts to straighten the lines, keeping students in order, did more
harm than good. Deans did not recognize the students' social system,
or if they did, they ignored it. At lunch, students were on their own
time. By cutting and allowing others to cut, they showed their status/
deference system. Football players, cheerleaders and hustlers had
status. When deans sent students to the end of the line, they got mad

86
and vented their anger on the workers.
Mr. Whitehall waited for Nell to finish washing her hands. She
returned and filled his plate. He asked for more turkey and less
cabbage. The customer was always right—unless the manager said he
was not, which was not often. Nell complied with his request. If she
had followed the federal, state and county regulations, she might have
lost a customer, a friend and a sometimes disciplinarian of the
students. He paid Shirley and they rapped about her new cashiering
job, among other things.
Teachers' demands were a bit much sometimes, even for Nell. Once
Miss Phillips wanted a double portion of the protein dish—so meat,
fish, poultry and cheese were called in management parlance—and an
extra roll. She begrudgingly paid her three bits. The other teachers
wanted to know why the lunchroom workers were cheating them. They did
not get what she got.
The bell rang at 12:10 a.m. Cora served a few students in Line II
and C.M. took their tickets. Otis and Jim left, throwing their aprons
on Nell's work table.
"Shut the doors," Cora called, heading for the office. Sally
shut her window. She counted the remaining sodas and long packs of
cookies, recording the results on a sheet marked with short packs
of cookies and miscellaneous items sold during the lunch hour. She
put emptied cardboard boxes and trays, along with the fish and tackle
box and milkshake holders, on the cart. She wheeled the cart to the
walk-in, stopping by the office to deposit the money box. She threw
the cardboard box next to the garbage can. It was full. The milkshake
holders she left on Nell's table for washing. She returned to the

87
window and pulled the cookie rack to the storeroom, a simple procedure
made difficult by mop strings in the rack's wheels. She joined Cora
in the office. Together they counted the receipts, tabulated items
sold on each line and recorded other daily transactions.
When the last student left, Shirley and C.M. brought their boxes
to the office. The boxes contained tickets, money, an IOU note and
sheets on which they noted extra items and teachers' lunches, with or
without milk.
Walker handed Sally twenty-five cents. "For a Coke," he said.
C.M. and Shirley brushed past Walker: C.M. to take down Line I and
Shirley to wash in the pot sink.
"You see Shirley?" Nell asked C.M. C.M. lifted a pan of hamburgers
off the line and carried it to Nell's table.
"No," she replied, joining Nell and Shirley by the pot sink.
Nell leaned on Shirley. She made a fold in her apron and patted it
down.
"Down boy, down," Nell said. "Mr. Whitehall must have been going
'down boy, down,'" she illustrated with the apron. "You didn't see
it?1, Nell asked C.M.
C.M. shook her head, enjoying Nell's demonstration.
"He come up to her. Leaned on her like this. He told her she had
on pretty flowered panties, too. Sure did. Real pretty flowered . . . ."
Nell started laughing along with C.M.
"They teaching me bad habits out here," Shirley called to Cora.
"And bringing them to us," Nell added.
"All of you better clean up your minds," Cora called from her
"What if someone see you do that?"
orange chair.

88
"That's fun, though, isn't it, Cora? Just fun. Just having fun,
that's all," Nell broke out laughing again.
Not every day did they have such an episode to relate. Sometimes
the scenario was more typical: serving a customer, for example.
Nell would go to Line II and stand on the customer's side. She pointed
to the imaginary trays of food. "I want some barbecue ribs and some
fried chicken and some .... Naw, I don't want that. Give me Some of
those greens, please."
As Nell pointed out the items she wanted, C.M. would take her
position behind the counter. "You want this one, Miss?" C.M. asked.
"Ah ha. And some more peas. I like peas. Peas, please."
After a few minutes, they would quit, laughing.
"Can I buy me something?" a boy asked.
"What you think?" Nell muttered to herself.
"Where the manager is? I got to see the manager," he said.
Cora came out of the office when she heard the commotion. "What
you doing here?" she asked accusingly. "You suppose to be in class."
"I'm hungry. Give me a hamburger. There they go. Right
there," he pointed to the pan C.M. had left on the table.
"We been open for an hour. Where you been?" Cora asked.
"Around. No places to eat where I be at," he said, defending
himself.
"Ok, Nell," Cora said. "Give him a hamburger."
"I only got twenty cents."
"What?" Cora said incredulously. "Hamburgers cost forty cents."
"Let me hold twenty cents til tomorrow. My credit's good."

89
"If you don't pay, now. I be looking for you on Deacon Street,"
Cora told him.
"You seen me on Deacon Street?"
"No, just look like you come from there,"Cora surmised from his
clothes and "hip" behavior. He wore a 1930's style suit: pinstripped
cloth, wide lapels, baggy pants, and a panama hat. He circled the table
with calculated nonchalance and peered into the pans, hands locked
behind his back. "I haven't been down to Deacon Street in a long time,"
she emphasized the long.
Nell handed him a hamburger on a paper towel. He gave Cora two
dimes and eased out of the kitchen, waving good-bye to the women he did
not turn around to see.
C.M. took the remaining pans off Line II and brought them to the
table with the slicer. Nell loaded a cart with leftovers from Line I
and placed them along side C.M.'s pans. When everything was assembled
together on the table, Nell counted the leftovers. She recorded the
count on the same sheet she used earlier to itemize the turkey, rice
and other items. Not much was left from Line I. The little cabbage
left in the pan, Nell threw in the swill can. It was not worth saving.
She consolidated the leftover fish and hamburgers into a small pan,
sealing it with saranwrap. She did the same with the french fries.
Tomorrow they would be reheated, the first items served on Line II.
After she put the pans in the walk-in, she went to the pot sink to
help Shirley.
"Looks like they used all the pots and pans in the kitchen," Nell
said to Shirley. "They" referred mainly to Nell.
Shirley continued scrubbing pots. She used a white brush on the

90
cinnamon roll pans. She wiped easier-to-clean pots with a stiff green
pad. "Be careful, Nell," Shirley warned. Nell pulled the pots from
the rinsing sink, shaking her fingers. The water was "piping hot."
Liz dipped a bowl-like pan into the soapy water and went to wash
Line I. C.M. washed Line II with a cloth, swinging it over the surface.
She scrubbed off pieces of food cooked on the hot counter. After
serving, Liz and C.M. had let the hot water drain from the serving
counters. They were still warm when they wiped them clean.
"That clock's walking down," Nell said to Shirley. "Time for
you to go, girl." It was 12:30 p.m.
Shirley took off the gloves, putting them by the plastic bottles
stockpiled next to the sink. She walked to the bathroom. She opened
her locker and spread her apron on the floor. She changed into the
dress she brought in the dry cleaning bag. In front of the bathroom
mirror, she adjusted her make-up and fluffed her strawberry-colored
hair. As a tribute to her hair, Walker named her "Blondie." She
arranged her jewelry and headed for Cora's office.
She and Cora had the same kind of jewelry—Sarah Coventry. They
sold it to friends and neighbors, and purchased some themselves at a
discount. They planned a fashion show, but the Sarah Coventry party
never came off. Nevertheless, each season they showed the new
catalogue to their fellow workers. None of the workers bought any.
Few wore jewelry. C.M. did, but she bought hers at Woolworth's or
from a friend who sold Avon products. Nell and Cora encouraged C.M.
to become an Avon representative. She would take orders for her friend,
she said, but she was not interested in selling for herself.
Like Shirley and Cora, many of the women had second and third jobs.

91
In the afternoons, for example, Shirley worked as a receptionist for
the housing project where she lived. Elizabeth, capitalizing on her
green thumb, sold plants. She would not sell plants to her co-workers.
She exchanged them for other things she wanted: a blouse Nell made
her, for example. Elizabeth always brought a plant for a birthday.
She would not accept payment for it, even if the women were willing to
chip in.
In addition to selling jewelry, Cora styled hair, sold potato
pies (as a fund raiser for her church or the Apostle) and, at one time,
sold TupperWare. C.M. baked for private parties. She also prepared
the evening meal for a family in the rural town where she lived.
"They white?" Nell asked, surprised anyone would hire a personal
cook.
"Ah ha," C.M. said. "They both work," she explained.
"They pay you cash money?"
"What you think?" C.M. answered.
Gail was always looking for another job, either in a restaurant
or bar. Last summer before school let out, she worked the late night
shift at Howard Johnson's and worked mornings at H.H.S. Gail had
plans: once for a day nursery. She would not mind caring for a few
more children, she said. She was already raising her granddaughter.
She would get old desks and things from Abe. But she abandoned that
idea. Next she thought she might try running a nursing home. No one
cared about those old folks, she said. She did. She could give them
the care and loving they needed. That idea did not work out either.
Sally worked at the university. She piddled around in the office,
she said. Once in a while someone asked how she was making it. Her

92
hours at the lunchroom were not enough to support a person. She lived
alone—no family in town, no boyfriend to depend upon. "You can't
live on what you make here," Elizabeth stated the obvious. "You don't
make nothing."
No one made much money working in the lunchroom. The managers made
twice as much as the best paid worker, but even seven or eight thousand
dollars did not go far with a family to support. Of the workers, Nell
made the most, less than a dollar an hour more than the next highest
paid worker. She had worked for Food Service thirteen years and still
made less than four thousand dollars. She got paid for five and a half
hours a day, although she worked longer than that. Last year, she
worked six hours a day. When her hourly wage was raised by a few cents,
her hours were cut. She worked nine months, a school year—no paid
vacations, no unemployment benefits during the summer lay offs, and no
guaranteed employment.
A union representative talked with the workers one afternoon. His
main selling point was job security. In Easton, a nearby rural
community, a custodian, who had worked almost twenty years for the
school, was fired: a victim to the "budget." School officials argued
that he cost them more than a new man. They had to let him go. The
union fought back, the representative said, and the man stayed on the
job.
It was just the kind of thing that the school officials would do,
the women said. Let them cut one of those highly paid administrators
or one of those high faluten' teachers. They didn't do nothing noway.
The women agreed that the working person needed someone to stand up and
fight for her. Injustice was the real problem. Higher salaries, they

93
knew, might bring reorganization: a central kitchen, perhaps, from
which lunches were distributed to schools throughout the county. If
this happened, the lunchroom staffs would be reduced. They might be
out of work altogether. Consolidating management—one manager overseeing
and keeping records for a number of kitchens-might be a good idea, one
management was sure to reject. No, money was not the problem. But it
was a problem. They could not afford union dues. Five or ten dollars
a month was a lot. He wanted them to think it over, the union representa¬
tive said. He would be back in touch. He never returned.
"Turn around," Cora commanded. Shirley spun around, like Diana
Ross in the movie, "Mahagony."
"That's real nice. You make it?" Cora asked.
"Ah ha," Shirley confirmed.
"That's real nice material. Nice pattern too," Cora said, admiring
the dress. Shirley had a flair for fashion. Always wore the latest
style. At her receptionist job, she could wear her clothes. The five
uniforms she owned, she had to wash every week. Her own clothes she
could wear for two weeks without doing a wash, she said. Every job
had its advantages.
"I see you ladies tomorrow," she said. "Bye."
"Say hello to my grandbaby," Cora called.
"I will," Shirley said. She put her coat on and braced herself
for the cold outside. She hoped the twelve forty-five bus was a little
late.
Nell and C.M. yelled good-byes to Shirley as she left. Maridare
and Elizabeth did not see her leave. They were in the cafeteria, wiping
table tops, collecting paper and rounding up trays left on the tables.

94
Elizabeth cleaned the side of the lunchroom with tables lined in rows.
Maridare wiped the tables on the other side—round tables, rectangular
tables, scattered around the room. Maridare brought the teachers' tray
from the cafeteria to the kitchen. Nell put the tea in the refr i gerator.
Once in a while, dirty plates and silverware were left in the manager's
mailbox—missives from teachers who had not returned them. This used
to make Lucy furious; Cora said nothing about this lack of consideration.
Maridare and Liz returned to the kitchen, dragging garbage cans
behind them. They took the cans outside and heaved their contents into
the dumpster. They poured the refuse over boxes and garbage, refuse from
earlier dumpings. Liz and Maridare hauled the cans to a spigot near
Sally's bike. They rinsed them perfunctorily. After leaving the cans
in the enclosed porch, they hurried inside. The warmth of the kitchen felt
good. Maridare deposited the swill can. That needed to be done, Nell
told her. Liz made several more trips outside, carrying a metal milk
crate in each hand, she took from the line coolers.
When it was warmer, the women sat on the milk crates, covering them
with their aprons. During the lunchbreak, Gail sat outside on the crates,
smoking. After work, they sat on the stoop, waiting for rides. Sometimes
Nell's husband or mother-in-law, the head cook at a nearby school, picked
her up. C.M.'s sister-in-law, when she remembered, stopped by. Before
Cora came, they sometimes waited in Abe's office. Once Lucy had talked
to Gail about this.
"He likes white women," Lucy cautioned her.
"He's got good taste," Gail replied.
Lucy related a rumor about Abe. He was fired from the sheriff's
department for fooling with a white woman, the wife of a fellow officer,
she said. That was over eight years ago, but the gossip persisted.

95
Nell's husband had a different version. The police department wanted to
promote a white officer over Abe, he said, and Abe had seniority. When
Abe left the force, he went to work as a custodian at the high school.
Abe never talked about it.
"When I can sit in a comfortable office and have some intelligent
conversation, damn, so you think I'm going to sit on those hard, old milk
crates?" Gail said, referring to the talk with Lucy. "You're damn right
I'm not. And besides, what I do after work is my own god damn business.
I don't look to nobody to tell me what to do with my own time. Hell, I'd
rather up and quit the damn old job. No job is worth that to me. Never
has been. He acts like a gentleman and I act like a lady. Even my
husband knows I go over there and he don't mind. Now why'd she mind if
my own husband don't see nothing wrong with my going over there instead of
sitting on those old crates," she said angrily. "You know, Abe is real
smart. I mean it. He's real intelligent," she added.
Nell and C.M. swept the kitchen. Liz and Maridare joined them,
after making the plate count. They swept under the lines, picking up
napkins and straw covers, stray french fries and a packet of catsup. C.M.
swept a cockroach under the dishwasher along with the other debris. They
collected the sweepings together near the broom closet. Nell bent over,
holding a dustbin and C.M. swept the dirt into it.
In the office, Cora checked the last numbers on the ticket rolls,
and recorded them on the daily sheets. She made up sheets for tomorrow and
put them in the chasiers' boxes. She stacked the boxes on the filing
cabinet. Liz brought in the plate count sheet on which she and Maridare
had "witnessed" the plates for Cora.
"Cora, I have to go to the doctor's," Liz said.

96
"When you going?" Cora asked.
"Well, I have an appointment for next Tuesday. But I can change it,
she offered.
"No, go ahead, Liz," Cora said.
"If you think it's a bad day, I can change it. The doctor said to
come back in three weeks and he'd check and see how I was doing. I feel
ok, though."
"You better do what the doctor say," Cora said.
"Can you get a sub?" Liz asked.
"I can try. Let me ask Clare." Cora called to Maridare to come to
the office. Could she come next Tuesday? Maridare said she could. Cora
told her she might need her before Tuesday if Gail did not come back.
Maridare listened, and when Cora finished talking, she went out to finish
the mopping with Liz.
Abe entered by the back door. Nell told Cora, "Here comes grandpa."
"Hey, Abe, this chair is getting mighty raggedly-looking," Cora
told him in her unceasing campaign to get the big orange swivel chair
fixed. "This chair is killing me down."
"I didn't know you were sick," he said, feigning surprise. "Hey,
how are you doing, Sally?" he asked for only the second time today,
changing the subject. He flashed a smile. Sally looked up from adding
the day's receipts.
"Ok," she said, bending over the receipts again. She lost count.
"Abe, really, this chair is paining my back',' Cora told him.
"What you come in here for?" Nell asked as she came into the office.
"You is disturbing Cora and Sally, now. They is trying to work."
"You better let D.C. look to that back. I can't do that for you,"
he told Cora, ignoring Nell and chuckling.

97
"You hear me?" Nell said again looking indignant. Abe looked at her,
pretending to be startled.
"Hey, brother," the county deliver man said, hailing Abe.
"Hey, Harry, how are you? Glad to see you." Abe tapped him on the
shoulder.
"And I'm glad I see you too. Where you been at? I been waiting all
morning for that flour. What time is it? Almost one. You got my flour?"
Cora demanded abruptly. Harry nodded. Abe hailed him good-bye with a
conspiratorial look. Harry was in for it, Abe knew.
Cora went back with Harry to the store room where he had brought some
of the commodities. As she checked off the groceries, he stacked them on
the shelves. Usually Abe or one of his helpers put up the bulky packages
and heavy cans. Today Harry did it. The truck broke down and he was late
on all his stops, he explained. Ordinarily these circumstances would have
hurried him back into his truck, but they started talking about Cynthia,
Cora's youngest sister. Harry liked Cynthia; Cynthia did not like Harry.
This was a point which Cora glossed over in her account of Cynthia's latest
letter. "She'll be back for Thanksgiving," Cora told him, aware that her
sister would not appreciate her doing so. But Cora liked him. She felt
sorry for him. Love is a terrible thing.
Nell, C.M., and Elizabeth mopped to the storeroom. "Put up the
rest of these cans, Nell," Cora said to her, returning to the office. Nell
tore the cardboard boxes along the seam and handed a can to Maridare.
"Where it go?" she asked.
"Over there," Nell waved. "Show her, Liz," she said handing one can
to Liz. Then Nell handed one to Maridare and Maridare passed it on
to Liz.

98
"Like a watermelon line," Maridare suggested.
"Sure is," Nell confirmed handing her another can from the third
box she opened.
C.M. was not with them to put away the commodities. She left for
class shortly after Shirley had. C.M. had to make up a quarter of credit
before she could graduate. A few weeks before the close of school last
June, she was notified she was deficient by a fraction of a credit. The
school officials told her to make it up in summer school. Transportation
was a problem and her father wanted her along for the family vacation.
Everyone in the lunchroom encouraged her to get her diploma. Nell
talked with her; Abe and Sally did; Gail and Elizabeth, too. The class
was boring and a waste of time and she did not learn anything, she told
them. Never mind, they said. Get that high school diploma. Nell would
get her a present when she graduated, she said. A couple of rocks from
her son's collection. Last year, when they thought C.M. was graduating,
they gave her a party. Nell bought her some lingerie and the other
workers less expensive gifts.
Elizabeth poked her head into the office, retrieved her purse from
the file cabinet and said good-bye to Cora. Liz left as the one o'clock
news came on. She was one person who left on time; other "gave" time
to the manager by coming in early as Nell, C.M. and Maridare did today.
She passed by Nell and Maridare who were lifting the mop bucket into the
sink» dumping the dirty water. Elizabeth signed out on the time sheet
posted near the exit. She pulled on her coat, slammed the back door,
heading for her car.
A bandaid stuck on the bathroom floor, defying Liz's mopping. It
had been there for over a year, a witness to the internal tension that

99
had existed in the lunchroom. It got only half the story. Lucy, Pat
and Elizabeth used that bathroom. Nell, C.M. and the baker used the
other one. Possibly, there were two bathroom because one was for men and
the other for women or one for smokers and the other for nonsmokers.
The fuse boxes, however, put in when the school was built twenty years ago,
read "colored" and "white." Last year the bathrooms reflected the two
factions in the group: one all white (two of whom worked in the office) ,
and the other of the only two blacks and a white woman (all of whom
worked in production). All the whites eventually left Hogtown High.
The baker,was the first, leaving at the height of the conflict. Later
Pat left to become a management trainee and Lucy transferred to elementary
school work. Elizabeth would leave the next year, ostensibly a result
of a cut in hours.
After putting away the mops, Nell spread her apron on the scrubbed
table and rested her elbows. "Anything else to do?" Maridare asked Nell,
facing her on the other side of the table.
"No, I think that's all for today," Then she remembered the jello
for tomorrow.
"Cora," she called, "how much of that jello you want for tomorrow?"
Cora called back the amount. Nell asked her if she wanted fruit in it.
"No? Well, that's easy then. Put some water in those pans and mix in a
little jello."
One thirty. It was time for Maridare to leave, but she asked Nell
again if she could help her. "No, child, you go on and move on out of here.
I get this in no time." Maridare told Cora good-bye and Cora told her
to remember about Tuesday. Maridare said she would and then quietly
left to catch the bus.

100
Cora handed Sally one of the tickets that she had been punching
holes in. After the tickets were counted from each box, the free and
reduced tickets were separated and the total recorded on each of the
line sheets. There were 262 tickets that day, of a possible 302.
More than a fifth of the students eligible for free and reduced lunches
were white, but primarily black students frequented the lunchroom.
Today they had served 378 lunches: 94 paid, 247 free and 15 reduced
student lunches. Twenty-two adult lunches were served to faculty and
staff.
Sally read the note on the back of the ticket:
When do they play
the has been game?
She had seen similar writings on other tickets, some, like this ticket,
told of a paradox or struggle in one's life. Others indicated a search
for love or simply, a high school romance. Other graffiti told of the
adolescent's quest for self-identity and self-assertion.
"disco lady"
e
abby
r
Daddy Shiek
Cora called her mother's house, checking to see how she was. Her
mother had just come from the hospital's intensive care unit, the
second time this month. Cora was concerned. Mothers were important
people. Elizabeth and her mother did not get along; she did not want to
see her, Liz said. Do not talk like that; Nell told her. Her mother was
her mother. That settled that. You could always count on your mother,
Nell said. She was the one that birthed you and raised you up. No way

101
you could change that. A mother deserved her children's respect—earned
or not. Nell's mother had died suddenly about five years ago, and now
her father was holding hands with another lady. A man needed a woman
and a woman, a man, Nell said. Shirley said her mother did not like to
be known as her mother, particularly when they partied together.
Neither Sally nor Gail talked about her mother at work. That their
mothers were strong women and important in their lives, they told each
other. Gail's mother worried about her wild ways. Never thought she
would amount to much. Sally's mother, on the other hand, thought she
was more than she was or, at least, she ought to be.
Everyone knew not to ask C.M. about her mother. She had been in a
coma for the last three years. C.M. had not even told Nell, her closest
friend at work, the full story. That they were suing the hospital, Nell
knew.
A friend of Cora's who worked at a nursing home told her about a
woman in a coma where she worked. She needed blood transfusions after
childbirth, but her husband would not sign the release: against his
religion. "That's a shame, a real shame," Cora told Nell.
"He shouldn't have taken their mother away from those children
like that," Nell said.
Lucy had another version of the situation. "The anesthesiologist
goofed," she said. "They won the suit against the hospital, but a
preacher talked C.M.'s father out of taking the money."
C.M. visited her mother at the hospital, but she did not recognize
C.M. When her father decided the doctors were not doing anything for

102
her, he brought her home. C.M.'s sister quit the tenth grade, probably
to help care for their mother and baby brother, Roscoe.
After Nell put the jello in the walk-in, she turned off the radio.
The two o'clock news had started. "Thank the Lord," Cora said to Sally,
"That radio is about to give me a headache!"
Nell came into the office, sitting down at the table in the
corner.
"That feels real good. That chair feels real good to me right now.
My bones just about give out," she said. "I just tell Emma Mae to cary
carry me to Sears and get me some of that material."
"Your mother-in-law coming to get you?" Cora asked.
"Ah ha," Nell confirmed.
"You know you not going to talk to you mother-in-law like that.
It will be 'Miss Davis, please, will you take me to Sears,'" Cora said
in a sweet, child-like voice.
"No, I won't neither," Nell said, rallying. She doodled on some
scrap paper, drawing cartoon-like character of her co-workers.
"What you got?" Cora asked. "Give that here."
"What you want it for?" Nell asked, whisking the paper from Cora's
reach. Nell gave Cora the paper and Cora snatched it as if it had been
a struggle to procure it.
"That's Sally," Nell said, taking the drawing from Cora and handing
it to Sally. "It just like you too. Those long braids, just like an
Indian," Nell told Sally, laughing at her own art work.

103
Cora passed a legal size sheet to Nell,; it was the daily work sheet.
Along side of the food items from Friday's menu, Nell wrote the workers'
names according to what they were supposed to do. She omitted the
manager's name as well as Sally's. Friday was a light work day.
"Nell, you're something else," Cora said. Cora had posted a
couple of Nell's drawings on the office wall. These sketches of flowers
hung with scotchtape along with a photo of Shirley's little girl and one
of Cora and a friend taken at the state convention.
The annual Food Service Convention was months off. No one had
talked about it yet. Usually only managers went, although it was open to
all Food Service employees. Few workers could afford the expense, even
though the Food Service Association paid for the transportation—one
of the largest expenditures from the association's budget.
Most of the 240 workers belonged to the county Food Service
Association. At the meetings, the second Tuesday of each month, the county
director or field supervisor emphasized how important it was for the
employees to belong to all three organizations: local, state and national.
Through the strength of the national office, through their lobby in
Washington, they said they were able to keep their jobs. "Hadn't
the President vetoed the bill for the School Lunch Programs and hadn't
the Congress, who knew what the American people wanted, overriden his
veto? It was not by chance that Congress knew what the people wanted; it
was thanks to the lobby in Washington," Mrs. Williams, the director of
Food Service told them. Nonetheless, the women saw little need to spend
twenty dollars to join the three organizations. Three dollars for the
local was enough.
The back door slammed. The three women looked up, expecting Nell's

104
m°ther-in-law. "How you doing?" Cora asked.
"Fine, just fine," she said. Sally left to change and Nell, to check the
kitchen. She unplugged the warmer and secured the locks on the walk-in
and storéroom. She got her purse from the bathroom. When she returned
to the office, Cora and Miss Davis were talking about Cora's mother.
"I heard about that," Miss Davis said.
"She must be doing alright, 'cause she's going with Earlene fishing
down to the lake," Cora told her what she had learned from the phone
conversation with her mother.
"Well, that's alright. It's good to get out of the house. Tskes
your mind off your problems some. Well, tell her I said hello."
"Bye," Nell called as she and her mother-in-law left.
"How am I going to get through all this work I got to do?" Cora asked
Sally who had just returned from changing her clothes. Sally resumed her
calculating.
"It sure would help if we could get this adding machine fixed,"
Sally said.
"I know that's right. Cosby said to bring it to the office and
he'd get it fixed."
"I didn't see him today," Sally said.
"He must have come in before you came. Said he'd try and get it
fixed, but you know," she paused and shrugged.
"They ought to give us a new one. This whole place is falling
apart," Sally said.
"The workers is too," Cora laughed.
Sally figured the individual line sheets; put these figures on a
summary sheet; and recorded them on a fifth sheet. Cora finished counting

105
the money—$163. Sally checked it—$163. Cora wrote up the deposit slip
and put the money and the slip into the bank bag, locking it with the
key from the cottage cheese box. She distributed thirty dollars in
change into the envelopes and stuffed these into the soiled white bag.
"Well, I'm going to go, Cora. I'll see you in the morning."
"You better sign out if you want to get paid. I got to hand in
that sheet soon," Cora reminded Sally. She had not recorded her hours
for the last ten days. Once a month everyone got paid. The workers
preferred being paid twice a month like the teachers, or at least before
vacations. "Probably not enough money in that check to pay for the paper
it was printed on," Nell said. After paying their bills or loans from
family or friends, they had little extra. Nell spent hers on cloth,
and food and clothing she bought for her family in Magnolia. Liz spent
hers on plants, fertilizer and gardening equipment; some of it she loaned
to her sister. Occasionally she bought extra milk and bread for her
neighbor's children. Shirley's money went for material, shoes, make-up
and jewelry. Cora's went to the Church and to her children. Gail spent
her extra money on gifts for her granddaughter. Sally bought books and
stuff from Goodwill. Like Shirley and Nell, C.M. bought material and
occasionally splurged at the five and ten. Maridare did not have extra
money. She had to support herself and child.
"Hey, Abe," Sally called. She saw the head custodian emerge from
the little garage-storeroom where he kept his little tractor.
"How's your plumbing working now?" Abe asked. Yesterday after
work he tried to fix the clogged drain at Sally's apartment. Abe helped
people on the job and off of it, if he liked them. And he and Sally
liked each other. It was hard to find a person who did not like Abe.

106
At first, Abe and Sally attributed the friendship to their sign—Libra—
a good sign. One's Zodiac sign was important; all the workers knew each
other's sign.
"The plumber finally came and got some glass and other crap out."
Sally said. "That old landlord of mine wanted to charge me for having
it cleaned. The plumber told him that crap must have been accumulating
for years there was so much of it. Can you believe that? I really don't
understand some people." She got mad just thinking about her landlord.
Abe chuckled. "Hold it, girl. No sense you getting mad about
something that has passed you by. Hold on now."
"You want to know what got me today? I mean I am so god damn . . .
Shit, Abe, these people around here make me sick sometimes."
"Who?" Abe asked in his now-who-got-my-little-girl-mad voice.
"Those stupid teachers. They are stupid too. The most insensitive
bunch of oafs I've had the misfortune to meet."
"Now they can't all be like that," Abe reasoned.
"Oh, ja." Sally forgot how cold she was a few minutes ago. "You
know, Abe, sometimes I don't think those people realize that we're
people too. I mean, the things they do to us they would never do at
home. They would never pull that kind of stuff anywhere else. Sometimes
I think it is because we wear a uniform, you know. The uniform somehow
makes us less a part of humanity. They forget that we're individuals:
C.M. and Nell and Gail. You know what I'm talking about?"
"That's true," Abe said. "Some people are just ignorant. But you
know that you're smarter than that. It takes real intelligence to play
their game with them. Well, I'm just the ole yard man to most of those
people. But when they get a problem, they come looking for the ole yard

107
man, even Newton do, and they tell ole Abe all about it. Now they want
to know what to do and I tell them. Sometimes they take my advice and
sometimes they don’t. And when they don't, they come back and tell me
I was right. They think they know, but I know I know. They . . . ."
"Ja, but Abe, you're special," Sally interrupted.
"Well, look it here, girl, you're special too."
"To my mother," Sally said.
"You have all that education, now. Use a little bit of psychology.
Now, Lucy didn't do that. All she had to do was put up a sign telling
those teachers to get in line. They understand signs. And she wouldn't
have had all that trouble. I like Lucy now. None I like better than
Lucy. But she didn't play the game like they knowed how."
When Abe started on the subject of Lucy, he could go on and on
and on, Sally knew.
Lucy left last year after a series of mishaps with teachers and
the principal, Mr. Newton. She started her problems by clearing
unauthorized personnel from the kitchen. She asked a dean, who used
the kitchen bathrooms and distracted the workers, to find another rest¬
room. A coach she asked to stop making himself sandwiches in the
kitchen. Not only was it against county regulations for such people
to be in the kitchen; it was unsanitary and interfered with the
morning work. She had offended the school's "hot shots" but they had
trespassed on her domain.
In Lucy's attempt to defend her staff, she got "canned." The
event triggering her transfer concerned a confrontation Sally had with
a teacher.
When Sally was cashiering on Line II, a teacher came to the exit
door, demanding a lunch. The teachers, like the students, were supposed

108
to get in line, facilitating serving and cashiering. One student had
passed the cashier without paying for an extra fish. Sally called
him back, but he disappeared into the crowd. Another, taking advantage
of the confusion, handed the cashier his ticket and slipped out with
an extra orange juice. (Students did this as much for food as fun.
It was considered a coup to take things without being caught.) Sally
reached over toward him and asked for the extra dime.
"I ain’t got no dime," he said, handing her the juice. Students
backed up, waiting to hand the cashier tickets and to get out of line.
The teacher again demanded to have her lunch handed to her.
"I'm a teacher," she said, lowering her glasses, glaring over them.
The cashier pointed to the line. The woman left and went to
tell Mr. Assphat5 a vice-principal, she was refused service.
He wanted to see the manager, he told one of the workers.
After the lines closed, Lucy went to the teachers' table where
Mr. Assphat was eating. He did not like his teachers being turned
away, he said. Her workers never turned anyone away, Lucy told him.
Teachers received no special treatment; the lunch program was primarily
for students. Everyone had to get in line, a county regulation.
He did not like being quoted rules when he wanted a meal, he said.
Assphat must have felt insulted, Lucy said, because he went
to the principal about the incident. She erred in talking in front
of the teachers, but she did not retract what she said, she told Sally.
On this same point—enforcing county regulations—she had come
in conflict with the principal once before. He wanted her to waive
the mandatory ten dollar fee for the kitchen use. She was not authorized
to do so, not even for the Lion's Club barbecue.

109
Apparently he remembered this incident, and others like it, when
he called Lucy to his office. He was not satisfied with her management,
Newton told her. Lucy was caught unawares. He had never complained
about how she ran the lunchroom; he had never even eaten there. She
learned later that a series of phone calls preceded this meeting.
After Assphat complained, Newton called the superintendent of schools,
a friend of his, and told him he wanted her out. The superintendent,
in turn, called the assistant superintendent for auxiliary services,
who called the director of Food Service. Lucy was not asked to
explain the situation. She transfered the next year.
Ever since she came to Hogtown High, she had trouble, not so much
from students—although they were rowdy—but from teachers. At her
first teacher's meeting, they did not speak to her, she said.
"When they found out I was a college grad, well, then they
could speak to me. Imagine that? That made the difference whether
I was a person or not. When I was working on organic chemistry, my
college roommate was on the floor making a flannel board for her
elementary education classes!"
"When I first started working here, I thought my salary was a lot,"
she confided. "But I don't now. I earn every bit of it. I could do
this manager's job with half a mind. But I have to be a psychologist,
labor relations mediator, family consultant, financier .... You
name it and I do it on this job."
Abe and Sally stood in the parking lot, still talking about Lucy.
"Abe, I forgot something in the office," Sally interrupted.
"Could you open the door for me?"

110
"Sure thing. I'd do anything for my Sal. Now when I'd say that
to Lucy, shoot, she'd leave." Abe made some fluttering sounds.
"Thanks, Abe."
Sally went into the office. Cora was putting the records together
and was about to take the money to the front office.
"You back?" Cora asked.
"I forgot to get my cinnamon roll."
"Oh, Lord. You know what that professor wants us to do?" Cora
asked. Sally shook her head no. "To write a report about some
restaurant. We have to go to a restaurant and tell about the color
scheme and type of customer and help and hours it be open and all that
kind of information. Everybody have to give the report to the class
too. In front of the class."
"They do you like that sometimes," Sally replied.
"Sure do. And we have three tests. Lord, I have one tonight and
I haven't even looked at the book yet. Don't know if I have time to do
that. I got to catch the bus out there," Cora sighed, struggling to
get out of the broken chair.
"I'm going to go take this money up to the front office. And then
I got to get out of here today."
"I'm going, Cora Lee. See you tomorrow." Sally cast Cora a look
of sympathy.
When Cora returned from depositing the money, she gathered her
bundle of material, her big purse and the unopened marketing book into
her arms. She would get Nell to help her with the rest of the inventory
tomorrow, and she would finish posting the invoices then too, she hoped.
She turned off the lights, looked around the kitchen, and quietly

Ill
closed the back door. The telephone rang. Cora hesitated for a moment.
She unlocked the back door, dropped her things on the table and fumbled
for her keys.
"Hello, H.H.S. Food Service," Cora said clearly and calmly. It
was the secretary at the county Food Service office. "A manager’s
meeting today?" Cora said she would be there. She pushed the bottons
downand dialed Lucy's number. She might be able to catch her, she
thought.
"Lucy?" she questioned. "Lord, I forgot all about that meeting
this afternoon. Could you come by and carry me to the meeting with
you?" Lucy said she could. She would be over in a few minutes, she
said.
Cora started working on her invoices. Half an hour later, she
heard knocking on the back door. Cora turned off the lights, locked
the office and collected her things from the table. While they were
going to the car, Lucy asked how things were. Cora laughed, remembering
what had gone on that day.
"They're just cutting the fool. Just cutting the fool."

Notes
1. See Coser (1963) for a collection of excerpts from literary works
used to illustrate certain concepts in sociology. Coser believes
that the social scientist has much to learn from the insight of first-
rate novelists, poets and others, even though this is no replacement
for scientific inquiry (1963:3-4). Bateson (1972:81-82) agrees with
Coser that literary or artistic representations can give the "feel"
of the culture, perhaps better than the anthropologist can, but that
it is the task of the anthropologist to analyze the culture as well.
2. Contradictory or simply different evaluations made on the same data
may reflect the incompleteness of the knowledge of a time. Whitehead
(1948:182-83) notes several such cases in science, one concerning
Newton's and Huyghens' two theories about the physical nature of
light and another involving Galileo, the Inquisition and Newtonian
astronomers on the motions of the earth and sun. At the time what
appeared to be inconsistencies were different sides of the same
truth. In anthropology another reason for different evaluations
results from the attitudes of the researchers. Redfield (1966:155-
56), commenting on the celebrated case in which Lewis' (1951)
description of Tepoztlan differed from his own, notes that Lewis did
not object to his having different values but that he had the "wrong"
values. Despite different premises from which anthropologists work,
Kobben (1967) argues that exceptions must be explained in order to
rule out errors due to defective classification, to multicausality,
to parallel causality, etc.
3. "Language is that part of culture which, more than any other, enables
men not only to make their own experiences and learning continuous
but, as well, to participate vicariously in the experiences and learn¬
ing of others, past and present, who are or have been members of the
group. To the extent that a culture as a whole is made up of common
understandings, its linguistic aspect is its most vital and necessary
part" (Hoijer 1954:556).
4. The women at Hogtown High's lunchroom, who read the chapter, said
that it portrayed life in the lunchroom as it was. There was nothing
that they would add or take out.
5. Obviously I have no way of knowing what people think except as they
express these thoughts through language and behavior. I have used
thought, believe, feel, etc. as literary devices to facilitate the
data presentation.
112

CHAPTER IV
EXAMINATION OF THE DATA
Against the theoretician, the observer should
always have the last word; and against the
observer, the native. (Lévi-Strauss 1966: 114)
Analyzing the data is like working with a jigsaw puzzle without
knowing what the picture looks like. One has a lot of different pieces
that do not seem to fit together, but gradually by trying one piece
with another a whole emerges.
When the anthropologist collects his data, he tries to do so in a
systematic way in order to facilitate the analysis later on. Most of
his information, however, comes in bits and pieces; many times his most
valuable information and insights are gotten by accident or by mistake.
These errors and accidents tend to disrupt his research program and to
jar him out of any preconceived ideas he might have had. Yet oftentimes
they are the very things that tie all the pieces together and make sense
out of seemingly unrelated and conflicting pieces of information.
When the researcher presents his study, this process is often
omitted leading the reader to believe that the analysis and conclusions
are inherent in the data. That is not to say that the analysis and
conclusions are not based on the data, but rather that different
analyses and conclusions might have been drawn from the same data base.
Anthropologists tend to make the mistake of using the data to support
their analysis, intertwining the two in their reports, or simply
presenting the data under various headings and calling this an analysis.
113

114
The first type of error falls heaviest on those who do problem-oriented
or hypothesis-testing kinds of research and the second, on those who
do ethnographic studies. Both fail to make a distinction between the
data and the analysis, between information and interpretation.
This dissertation attempts to strike a balance between these two
approaches and to avoid their inherent errors. The data, therefore, are
presented as a separate entity, distinct from but related to the analysis.
The data chapter, based on two years of fieldwork, is a reconstruction of
one day in the lunchroom. Because each day was much like every other
day, this account reflects fairly accurately what happened in the
lunchroom on a daily basis. In addition, such an account attempts to
give the reader a feeling for the life of the group. By rendering not
only a factual account, but one that expresses the particular quality
of that life, hopefully a closer approximation of the culture is
achieved.
This approach, i.e., presenting the data in a synchronic way, has
one major drawback: It does not show development over time. Processes
and patterns which emerge from a diachronic presentation are contained
in an indepth coverage but are not clearly visible. Through flashbacks
and references to the future, however, such developments may be
represented ameliorating somewhat this drawback.
Analysis is a cumbersome process of sorting and countersorting, of
trying to find which pieces of the puzzle fit together. The outcome of
this step by step process of inclusion and exclusion, isolation and
generalization is given in three tables: Setting, Characters and Action.
These tables try to show the relationship between the raw data presented
in Chapter III and the elements and relations into which the data can be

115
analyzed. Categories of behavior and values are listed on the left-hand
side of the table, followed by the pages on which the data are given
which relate to particular units of analysis. On the table's right-hand
side, an interpretation and/or additional data are given. Although I
realize "that any single trait of a culture will prove on examination
to be not simply economic or religious or structural, but to partake
of all these qualities according to the point of view from which we
look at it" (Bateson 1972:63-64), it is necessary to make some kind
of critical evaluation of the potpouri of information and impressions
one garners in the field research in order to arrive at a synthesis,
based on examination of the data.
The three tables are prefaced by an outline showing the relationship
of the parts to the whole. As an aid to the reader, pages in the tables
on which outline items appear are given in the outline. A brief summary,
emphasizing the dramaturgical nature of the interpretation, is given at
the end of the chapter.

116
Outline for Table I: Setting
I. Place
A. Spatial environment
1.
Location
a.
In Hogtown
b.
In Hogtown High
School
c.
In Food Service
Organization
2.
Layout
a.
Kitchen
b.
Office
c.
Serving and dishwashing area
d.
Cafeteria
e.
Outside area
3.
Equipment
Sensory
environment
1. Sound
2. Sight
3. Smell
4. Taste
5. Touch
II. Time
A. Daily schedule of activities
1. Preparation
2. Lunchbreak
3. Serving
4. Clean up and bookkeeping
B. Daily schedule of workers
1. Staggered schedules
a. Workers enter and exit at different times
b. Individual's time schedule spans all four periods
c. Changes in scheduling
(1). Result of worker's absence or leaving
(2). Result of a change in school participation
(3). Result of annual raise
d. Donated time
2. Partialness of lunchroom employ
C. Other schedules
1. Weekly schedule
2. Monthly schedule
a. Club week
b. Bicentennial meal; holiday meal
c. Manager's reports
d. Pay day
3. Yearly schedule
a. Opening and closing of school
b. Vacations/unemployment
4. Periodic events
a. Birthdays
b. Christmas
c. Club activities
page
117
118
119
120
121
122
123

Table I: Setting
Outline/Pages in Text
Interpretation/Additional Data
I. Place
A. Spatial environment
1. Location
a. In Hogtown
b. In Hogtown High School (15-16)
c. In Food Service Organization (103)
2. Layout (15-16)
Hogtown, a Southern community of 74,500 people, is the
location of a major state university and the urban
center for an agricultural county of 131,000 people.
Hogtown High School, located in the city, is one of
thirty-two schools in the county. Within the school,
the lunchroom is grouped with other service activities.
The main office of the county Food Service is located
at the school board office. All county schools
participate in the School Lunch Program.
a. Kitchen (33,42,87,107)
b. Office (34,94)
c. Serving and dishwashing area
(33,75-86 passim)
d. Cafeteria (33,94)
e. Outside area (51,67,94)
3. Equipment (33-34,57,62,65,66)
Stage for workers; backstage to customers
Divided by workers into individual work territories
Manager's territory; off-stage to workers
Stage for customers
Divided by workers into territories
Off-stage to workers
Off-stage to workers
Props for workers; helpful but also potentially dangerous
117

B. Sensory environment
1. Sound (38-39,65,84,102)
2. Sight (83-84)
3. Smell (58)
4. Taste (60,72)
5. Touch (37-38,43,58,61-63,68)
Time
A.
Daily schedule of activities (20,63)
continued
Sets atmosphere
Music aids workers in job performance, while noise
from pots, pans and equipment as well as from the
students hinders work completion and creates tension.
Quiet aids manager in her job performance.
Light aids workers in their work activities. The
industrial colors of grey and green set an institutional
tone, while school or holiday colors break the
monotony and signify school spirit.
Good smells, such as bread baking, create a homelike
atmosphere within the kitchen. Bad smells, for example
from sour milk, contribute to the unpleasantness of
the work.
Sharing of food and drink contributes to group
solidarity. Appreciation by group members of a well-
cooked meal creates job satisfaction.
Variations in temperatures, e.g., moving from a cold
walk-in to a hot kitchen, contribute to illnesses.
Accidents arise from scalding water, hot pans, etc.
The daily work schedule is such that the mornings are
rush periods which often do not allow sufficient time
for the workers' lunchbreak. This gives workers
leverage over management such that they are able to
take rest periods later in the day or leave work a
little early.
00

1. Preparation (33-68 passim)
2. Lunchbreak (68-75 passim)
3. Serving (36,75-86 passim)
4. Clean up and bookkeeping (86-112
passim)
Daily schedule of workers
1. Staggered schedules
a. Workers enter and exit at
different times (34,36,51,56-
57,61,90,98-99,104-05,111)
continued
From 8 a.m. until 10:40 a.m., workers prepare food
for the school lunch program.
From 10:40 a.m. until 11:10 a.m., workers are supposed
to take their half-hour unpaid lunchbreak. Due to
the time needed to prepare meals, however, they are
late for their lunchbreak.
Each year the serving time has come earlier although
there has been no attempt to stagger the students.
As a result students bunch up during the early part
of the serving time (11:10 a.m. until 12:10 p.m.),
creating long lines for them and pressure on the
servers and cashiers.
Cleaning takes place after the lines close from 12:10
p.m. until 2 p.m. Although the time is ample, because
of the workers' staggered hours, the burden of cleaning
often falls on one or two people.
Bookkeeping, ordering and other office activities are
done during this time. Because of frequent interruptions
during the day, the manager often takes work home with
her.
The lunchroom is allotted a certain number of hours
for employees by the county Food Service office
based on the number of lunches served. The manager
distributes these hours among workers according to
work demands.
No worker has more than six hours and some as little
as one and a half hours. Due to this structure,
workers enter and exit at different times.
119

b. Individual's time schedule
spans all four periods
c. Changes in scheduling
(1). Result of worker's
absence or leaving
(39-40,55,99)
(2). Result of a change in
school participation
(50)
(3). Result of annual raise
(39.92.99)
d. Donated time (36,57,92,98)
Partialness of lunchroom employ
(90-92)
continued
Schedules of all workers include preparation, lunch-
break, serving and clean up. The manager, however,
is the only person paid for the complete seven hour
period.
Changes in scheduling result from a worker's absence
or leaving, from a change in school participation
and from the annual raise.
When a worker is absent, the manager, instead of
calling in a substitute, may tell another worker to
come in early or to stay late.
When a worker leaves, a new person is hired rather
than distributing her hours among the other workers
because of the need for a minimum number of workers.
Workers' hours are increased or decreased according
to the level of school participation in the school
lunch program. In part because of the principal's
open campus policy (i.e., students can go anywhere
during lunch time), the participation in the lunch¬
room is low.
Each year when workers are given an annual raise,
their hours are cut.
Workers often "give" time to the manager, for which
they are not paid, in order to complete their work.
Like the lost lunchbreak time, this acts as a leverage
on management when workers want to leave early.
Many of the workers maintain households and have second
jobs, e.g., project receptionist, real estate seller,
cook for private family, seamstress.
120

Table I
C. Other schedules
1. Weekly schedule (20,103)
2. Monthly schedule
a. Club week
b. Bicentennial meal;
holiday meal
c. Manager's reports (35,59)
d. Pay day (105)
continued
The rhythm of the week is based on the county menu such
that meals easier to prepare are scheduled for Monday
and Friday. This allows the manager time to give out
tickets to students early in the week and to make orders,
receive deliveries, etc. It allows the workers to set
up the kitchen and then later in the week to give it
a thorough cleaning. At the end of the week, the
manager sends an account of the week's activities to
the county Food Service office.
As a service to the school, the serving lines stay
open an extra half-hour during club week, which puts
pressure on the workers' activities during the clean
up period.
A special meal, which often coincides with a national
holiday, is prepared each month in order to celebrate
the nation's two hundredth birthday. Although it is
extra work for the women, they welcome it as a break
in the routine and as a time to show school spirit.
Monthly, the manager sencfe to the county Food Service
office a payroll record, purchase invoices and an
inventory.
The women are paid once a month. The manager receives
a monthly salary and the worker's paycheck is based
on an hourly wage which ranges from the minimum wage
to $3.80 an hour.
The women would prefer to be paid biweekly or at least
before holidays. By the time the checks come, the
121

Table I - continued
3. Yearly schedule
a. Opening and closing of
school
b. Vacations/unemployment (92)
money is committed to pay off debts incurred during
the month. New workers often ask the manager to go
over the payroll record because they cannot believe
they have made so little.
The women work several days before school opens, setting
up the kitchen and after it closes, putting things away.
The opening is a time in which friendships are renewed
and gossip about what happened over the summer is
exchanged. At this time, the manager distributes various
forms from the county school office relating to health
and life insurance. The closing is celebrated with
cake and water fights. At the end of the year, the
manager makes an evaluation of the employees and gives
them a form from the county school office indicating
their intent to rehire them in the fall. The form is
not a contract and does not commit the county to rehire
the workers at the beginning of school.
Although the women welcome the vacations during the
school year and summer, they are not compensated for
a loss of employment. Vacations break the monotony
of work and give workers time to rest, but on the
other hand, workers are left without income. During
the summer, for example, because they are school
employees, under a recent state legislative act, they
are not eligible for unemployment benefits. As a
result, some seek alternative employment and do not
return in the fall. Even if they could get unemploy¬
ment benefits, the women believe that by the time that
they would be receiving these benefits, they would be
back at work again. One person said that she did not
dare seek such benefits, because the county
122

Table I
Periodic events
a. Birthdays
b. Christmas
c
Club activities (29)
continued
superintendant had made it plain that he did not
consider such actions as being "part of his team.
Birthdays are celebrated usually with a card from the
manager signed by all employees, and with a plant
donated by one of the workers. When this woman left,
the practice of gift-giving for birthdays ceased as
a group activity.
For Christmas, the women draw names for the purpose of
exchanging small gifts. Women who are "tight" or close
friends also exchange gifts at this time. The manager
usually brings a cake and along with the head cook
purchases gifts for the student helpers.
Throughout the year, various clubs, e.g., Lions Club,
use the kitchen which requires payment of a small fee
and the hiring of one worker. None of the workers want
to work for these activities for four reasons: (1)
Even though they are not supposed to clean up, but
merely operate the equipment, they are left with these
tasks. (2) They do not want to be with "all those
men." (3) They are paid through the county Food
Service office at the end of the month and all regular
deductions are taken out. (4) They prefer to be with
their families at night and on the weekend when these
activities usually occur.
123

124
Outline for Table II: Characters
Group members
A. Characteristics
1.
Age
2.
Sex
3.
Race
4.
Health
5.
Education
6.
Religion
Attitudes toward religion
7.
Neighborhood
8.
Regional and urban/rural background
9.
Marital status
10.
Children
a. Attitudes toward children
b. Attitudes toward mothers
11.
Income from Food Service
12.
Family incomes
a. Husband's job
b. Other resources
13.
Class
a. Views toward groups below
them
b. Views toward groups above
them
Structure of the group
1.
Formal structure
a. Manager
b. Level I worker
c. Level II worker
d. Substitute
2. Informal structure
a.
Political organization
(1).
Leadership
(2).
Followers
(3).
Substitute
b.
Friendship patterns
(1).
Pairing
(a). Work related
(b). Situational
(2).
Cliques or factions
(3).
Isolates
c.
Fictive kinship
(1).
Terms
(2).
Uses
(3).
Omissions
Formation of
the group
1. Recruitment
a. Process
(1). Formal
(2). Informal
(3)- Other: DCT
Reasons for working
page
127
128
129
130
131
132
133
134
b.
135

125
2. Socialization
a. New members
b. Role models
(1). Purpose
(2). Selection
(3). Types
(a). Career, liberated woman
(b). Southern lady
(c). Mother
(d). Fashion model or "slick chick"
c. Process
(1). Formal
(2). Informal
d. Content
(1). Formal
(a). Regulations
(i). Appearance
(ii). Absence
(b). Responsibilities
(c). Rewards
(i). Wages
(ii). Benefits
(2). Informal
(a). Regulations
(i). Taboos
(ii). Sanctions
(b). Responsibilities
(c). Rewards
D. Maintenance of the group
1. Kinds of interactions
a. Unifying interactions
(1). Status
(2). Cooperation
(3). Reciprocity
(a). Work related
(b). Non-work related
(4). Friendship
(5). Ritual observances
b. Divisive interactions
2. Group values
a. Managers
b. Workers
E. Leaving the group
1. Types
2. Reasons
3. Effect on the group
II. Outsiders
A. Types
1. Food Service Organization
a. Former group members
b. Food Service Association
c. Managers
136
137
138
139
140
141
142
143
144

126
2. School personnel
a.
Students
(1).
Free
(2).
Reduced
(3).
Paid
b.
Faculty
c.
Staff
Cl).
Custodial staff
(2).
Administration
3. Other outsiders
a. Delivery men
b. Health inspector
c. Relatives and friends
d. Union representative
B. Relationships
1. Friendly relationships
2. Conflict relationships
a. Conflict between workers and students
b. Conflict between workers and teachers
c. Conflict between manager and principal
3. Avoidance relationships
Grievances against Food Service Organization
145
146
147
148

Outline/Pages in Text
Group members
A. Characteristics
1. Age
2. Sex
3. Race (21,43,47,54,94,99)
4. Health (34,48,52,71,73,96,102)
5. Education (21,35,98,109-10)
6. Religion (35,73)
Characters
Interpretation/Additional Data
Eighteen to thirty-eight
Female
Black and white
One white said her maternal grandmother was a full-
blooded American Indian.
One black said she had two birth certificates, indicating
on one that she was white and on the other, black.
Black members occasionally refer to their different shades
of skin color and to the kind of hair that they have.
Good color is "high" or "bright," usually indicating a
light brown color. Good hair is long and/or straight.
Generally good, although most are overweight and some
have chronic illnesses, e.g., high blood pressure,
ulcers, headaches and menstrual problems. All complain
of tiredness.
Mainly high school, although one manager has a B.A.
and the other is attending a local junior college. One
worker left the tenth grade to get married. Another
completed high school during the study.
Education is valued as a way to get better employment.
The women are all Protestants. Many belong to the
Baptist church. One woman was raised in a Sanctified
church and another belongs to the Christian Methodist
127

Table II
Attitudes toward religion (38,40,
73-75,101)
7. Neighborhood (22,36,50,73-75,89,
91)
8. Regional and urban/rural
backgrounds (21)
9. Marital status (22,34,36,40-41,
52)
- continued
Episcopal (C.M.E.) church. The only person actively
involved in religious affairs attends revivals as well
as her own church.
The women believe that religion is a private affair,
one which need not include church going. Some believe
that church contributions enhance the minister's income
and not the work of God.
The blacks live near one another in the black section of
of town. One black lives in a rural town, again though
in the black section. This residential pattern increases
the likelihood of their knowing one another before
employment in the lunchroom.
Whites tend to live outside the city limits, one in
a neighboring county and another in a rural town.
Most of the married women own (or are paying mortgages)
on homes. One lives in a trailer. One single woman
lives in a low-income family project and another with
her family of orientation. No one lives alone.
The women are from small towns or rural areas of the
South. The two managers have lived in the North.
Few of the other women have visited other sections of
the country, although one worker has visited Hawaii.
Most are married, although one is separated from her
husband and another is widowed. Only one woman has
been divorced (once from her present husband).
The women seem to feel that it is more important to
have a dependable man who loves you than to have a
husband. Several married women said that should some¬
thing happen to their husbands, they had no desire to
marry again. Several single women are having affairs,
a situation which the other women accept. They believe
that a man needs a woman and a woman, a man.
128

Table II
10. Children (37,41,52,61,71,91,93)
a. Attitudes toward children
(22,38,41,44,71)
b. Attitudes toward mothers
(18,100-01,104)
11. Income from Food Service (92,
103,105,109)
12. Family incomes
a. Husband's job (36)
continued
Between one and three. One of the single women has a
child, the father of whom asked her to marry him, but
she declined and is raising the child with the help of
her sisters.
Having a child, the women believe, makes a woman more
responsible and consequently more respectable. They
condemn, however, the pregnancies of young girls in
high school as irresponsible, knowing that the children
will be raised by the grandmother or other female
relatives.
Many came from large families (as many as fifteen
siblings), but they intend to have small families, i.e.,
one to three children.
Most believe that mothers are special people, deserving
respect and filial piety. Although they talk about
their own mothers, they rarely discuss what kind of
mothers they think they are. One manager, however,
said that she serves as an example to her children of
what women can accomplish.
Based on the school year, income from Food Service employ
is between $1,000 and $3,500 for workers and between
$7,700 and $8,500 for managers.
Family incomes are between $25,000 and $4,000 with the
average around $10,000. Many have other sources of
income, e.g., other jobs, welfare and veterans benefits.
Workers' husbands work primarily in service occupations,
e.g., as firemenj butchers, bus drivers. One manager's
husband works in construction and the other's in
administration.
129

Table II
b. Other resources (36,77,90-92)
13. Class (21)
a. Views toward groups
below them (77)
b.
Views toward groups
above them (107)
Structure of the group
1. Formal structure
a.
Manager (45,107-09)
(20,35,39,45,53,59,95)
continued
The women engage in reciprocity at work, exchanging
goods and services. Outside of work they have
extensive exchange networks with relatives, friends
and/or neighbors. These exchanges include babysitting,
sewing, cooking, house cleaning, as well as loans and
transportation.
Poor to middle class; mainly working middle class.
This latter, a term applied by a worker to herself,
describes membership in the middle class which is
contingent on both husband and wife working.
Groups the women consider poor are not necessarily
economically poor or those lacking education, housing,
etc. They are behaviorally poor. That is, they do
not know how to act (or "show out") and they do not
know how to talk.
Groups above them, the women judge on a different scale.
Such people have more and better things. They are not
necessarily better people—kinder, more respectable,
more considerate.
Hierarchical
The manager is responsible to the Food Service office
and to the school principal. She maintains the records,
places the orders and takes the inventories. She makes
decisions about the distribution of work and the
implementation of the county menu. She sees that
government regulations are complied with, keeps peace
among the workers and makes an evaluation of workers
at year's end.
130

Table II
b. Level I worker (48,103-04)
(77,87)
c. Level II worker(46,52,58,65)
d. Substitute (40-41)
Informal structure
a. Political organization
(1). Leadership (17,52,54,
57,63,68,72)
(2).
Followers (68)
- continued
The head cook prepares the main dish, assists the
manager in preparing the daily work schedule and taking
the inventory and serves Line I, the line for the
Type A lunch.
The bookkeeper maintains records and accounts, and
cashiers Line III, the line for bag lunches and a la
carte items.
Level II workers do the baking, operate the milkshake
machine, make the salad and prepare whatever else is
necessary. They assist in cashiering, serving, running
the dishwashing machine, washing pots and pans,and
cleaning up.
A substitute undertakes the responsibilities of an
absent worker.
Lateral
Group leadership is provided by the head cook who leads
by example and instigation. She rarely takes a stand on
an issue or takes sides in disputes: To stand up is to
stand out. Nonetheless, she molds the group together
through her cooperation and friendliness.
She knows how to do all the jobs in the kitchen and
keeps the work moving along "ripping and rolling."
She acts as well as the historian of the group because
she has been at Hogtown High's lunchroom the longest.
The other workers look to the head cook for direction
and assistance, and for cues in their performances.
Although workers recognize the manager's authority
over work assignments, if she is to be included in the
informal group, she too must accept the norms and behavior
of the informal group.
131

Table II
(3). Substitute
b. Friendship patterns
(1). Pairing
(a). Work related (48,50,
76,87,94-95)
(b). Situational (57,110)
(2). Cliques or factions (55,
99)
(3). Isolates
(52)
c. Fictive kinship
(1). Terms
- continued
When a substitute comes, the other workers evaluate
her on her job performance and compatibility. In a
sense, she "trys out."
The women form pairs or binary relationships with one
another, pairs which may overlap and change.
The women work in groups of two, e.g., the manager and
bookkeeper, head cook and baker, servers on Line I.
A common experience—dating, going to college—often
prompts an alliance.
Although no such pattern was evident during the study,
the women referred to such a split, attributing its
cause to various reasons: racial, managerial, work
performance, etc.
The first manager did not take part in group activities,
believing that office and production functions should
be separate. One worker, although a member of the
informal group, does not cooperate with other workers
(except newcomers) and rarely joins in the performances.
Some said that she wanted to be "boss."
Fictive kinship refers to a social relationship that is
not based on ties of consanguinity (blood) or affinity
(marriage), but has certain likenesses to kinship.
Brother and sister; grandpa; grandma and grandbaby;
wife; mother and daughter; baby
132

Table II - continued
(2). Uses (97)
(96)
(93)
(36,99)
(52)
Brother and sister are terms used among blacks to
address one another. Whites, if known and acceptable
to blacks, are also called by these terms. Their
usage seems to be more common among males; few women
use them. Although they are used now to signify
racial identity, their origin may stem from their
use in church to denote church membership.
Grandpa is used to refer to the head custodian who
appears frequently in the kitchen and helps the women
on the diswashing machine. Because of this role,
perhaps his age (fifty-seven), and the joking relation¬
ship he has with the women, he is called by this kinship
term.
The manager calls one worker's daughter, "grandbaby"
and, in turn, the worker calls the manager "grandma."
The manager is this worker's patron, i.e., she got
her a lunchroom job at HHS. The two terms ("grandpa"
and "grandma" ) are applied independently of each
other.
One woman refers to the field supervisor as the "wife"
of the director of Food Service, because of her role
in smoothing out relationships.
The baker refers to the head cook as her "mother" and
to herself as the "daughter',' a relationship which the
head cook repudiates. This fictive kin terminology
may be one way in which to recognize the closeness of
the relationship.
Others refer to the head cook as the "mother" because
of the help and guidance she provides.
One worker refers to the first manager as a "mother
hen" because of the way she tried to protect her workers
against outsiders.
The milkshake machine operator refers to the machine as
her "baby," which others think a bit crazy. She talks
133

Table II
(3). Omissions
Formation of the group
1. Recruitment
a. Process
(1). Formal (13,41)
(40,71,96)
(38,59)
(2). Informal (59,94)
(3). Other: DCT (44,55)
continued
to the machine and gives her "baby a bath" as if were
a child.
Absent are male terms for father and husband, which
may reflect the lack of males associated with the
group or, on the other hand, the matriarchal orienta¬
tions of their families.
No one refers to the group as a family.
A prospective employee applies to the county school
board office and submits an application to the non-
instructional personnel office. She is informed, at
that time, whether there are openings suitable for
her. If not, she waits for a call from Food Service
or gets on the substitute list.
A potential manager is interviewed by the Food Service
office and may be placed in management training.
Managers are also drawn from the workers' ranks.
When a vacancy occurs, a worker informs the manager
about a relative, friend or neighbor who is seeking
work.
One worker was employed in the lunchroom under the
DCT (Distributive Cooperative Training) program while
she was attending the high school. Later, upon the
recommendation of the manager, she was hired by
Food Service as a regular employee.
134

Table II - continued
b.
Reasons for working (13,23,
(52)
(59,109)
(55,74)
Most work because they need the income, find staying
at home boring and enjoy the company of other women.
One said that she worked in order to forget her
troubles and to alleviate, through physical labor,
her personal frustrations.
Both managers said that they found the job challenging
and they liked working with children.
Many choose this kind of work because the hours are
convenient and flexible; their weekends are free; and
they do not have to work during vacations when their
children are out of school.
For some women, lunchroom work was their first job
and they stayed with it. Others liked working with
food and always sought employment as cooks, bakers,
etc. A few started working at HHS because relatives
or friends worked there or they had gone to school
at HHS.
2. Socialization
a. New members (40)
(70-71)
(60,73)
New members, who have worked there as DCT workers or
as substitutes, are familiar with the work routines,
the other employees and the ambiente of the group.
A new employee, recommended by a group member, is
briefed and shown around by this member. A new
employee, unknown to the group, is usually quizzed by
one worker and this information passed around. Some¬
times the newcomer has relatives working in other
schools and learns through them about work conditions,
responsibilities, etc.
If the new worker is black, usually other blacks in
the group know something about her because of their
neighborhood ties, i.e., she may have gone with some¬
one's cousin or have kin that belong to a group member's
church.
135

Table II - continued
In short, almost no newcomer comes in totally blind,
nor is she unknown to other lunchroom employees.
b. Role models
(1). Purpose
(2). Selection
(3). Types
(a). Career, liberated
woman (107-09)
(b). Southern lady
(18,95)
(c). Mother (63)
(d). Fashion model or
"slick chick"
(56,93)
Older members serve as models to newcomers in the
socialization process through which they become not
only employees of the lunchroom, but members of the
social group.
Based on the newcomer's background, she selects a
group member to imitate. This selection is not a
deliberate or planned one; rather the selection stems
from the compatibility of life styles, interests and
expectations of the role model and newcomer.
The first manager, in particular, reflects the atti¬
tudes of such a woman: Women are capable of perform¬
ing efficiently and decisively. Women should hold
responsible positions outside the home.
One worker, although she does not always exemplify this
model, believes that it is worth pursuing. Such a
woman acts with graciousness.
The head cook and to a lesser extent, the managers,
act the role of mother, guiding, encouraging and
protecting their charges.
One worker dresses in the latest fashions and acts
"hip" or "cool," i.e., she is able to attract and
hold the attention of a number of men without getting
involved.
136

Table II - continued
c. Process
(1). Formal (58,65)
(2). Informal
d. Content
(1). Formal
(a). Regulations
(i). Appearance
(14,56,106)
(ii). Absence
(39)
Generally, the newcomer is given the least desirable
work to do—washing pots and pans, and working the
dishwasher. From this position, she learns where
everything is and what everyone does.
The informal process of socialization is conducted
primarily through example and imitation. Few
directions are given. The women are rarely critical:
errors and accidents are treated with humor, for
the most part.
The manager informs the newcomer, on her initial inter¬
view, about regulations, responsibilities and rewards.
County Food Service regulations are not detailed in
the interview. Although they are listed in the manager's
manual, they are referred to infrequently.
Workers are told to get a white uniform, comfortable
shoes and a hair net. However, only the manager and
head cook comply with this code; others prefer to
individualize their appearance.
If a worker is absent from work, it is her responsibility
to call the manager as soon as possible so that a
substitute may be obtained.
Two workers were fired during the study ostensibly
because they failed to call in. In fact, though, they
were slow workers and kept to themselves, behavior
which affronted both the formal and informal systems.
137

Table II - continued
(b). Responsibilities A general assignment sheet and a daily work sheet
(20,63)
outline the individual responsibilities of workers.
(c). Rewards
(i). Wages
(92,105)
Wages for workers are based on an hourly rate. This
rate is determined for each worker based on her level
of employment, education, experience, years of service,
etc.
Managers receive salaries based on similar criteria.
(ii). Benefits
(56,70)
Benefits include health and life insurance; retirement
benefits; a uniform allowance; sick, personal and
emergency leave; and a "free" lunch.
(2). Informal
(a). Regulations
Regulations of the informal group are not written nor
spoken about. Newcomers learn by trial and error
what the group tolerates and what the taboos and
sanctions are.
(i). Taboos
A violation of the taboos may jeopardize group harmony
and threaten their employment in the lunchroom.
A major taboo is to bring personal problems to work
and to reflect in one's behavior these problems.
A second taboo is giving the performance away to out¬
siders. When outsiders are present, the women are
quiet and attend to their tasks. During the students'
lunch hour, workers present a united front.
(ii). Sanctions
Gossip about the offender ensues and sanctions—
silence, avoidance and withdrawl of cooperation,
138

Table II
(b). Responsibilities
(c). Rewards (24)
D. Maintenance of the group
1. Kinds of interactions
a. Unifying interactions
(1). Status (28,52,65)
(2). Cooperation (19,37,49,
59,66,68,94-95)
continued
support and reciprocity—cut the offender off from
the rewards of the informal group. Should the offender
pursue in violating the group's taboos, these
sanctions usually result in her leaving the lunchroom.
Responsibilities include participation in group
performances and cooperation on work assignments.
Acceptance as a group member includes one in the
established patterns of cooperation, reciprocity and
friendship.
Workers regard each other as equals, although they
regard certain jobs as having more status. Office work
(e.g., the manager's job as well as cashiering and
bookkeeping) are considered to have more status because
they are seen as easier work.
All wear the same kind of uniform, although the manager's
has an insignia from Food Service and a bar with the
title "Manager" on it.
During serving the women are treated in the same way
by customers, treatment which gives them a shared
experience, solidifying them into one working and
performing unit.
Certain tasks require that women work together; at
other tasks, they voluntarily help each other.
When a crisis occurs, the women adopt a "can do"
spirit and pitch in to get the work done.
139

Table II - continued
(3). Reciprocity
During both performances, workers assist one another
in giving a uniform rendition of their servant's act
before customers and a harmonious, amusing play for
themselves.
(a). Work related
During work hours, the women exchange items of food
(38,47,62,70,75-76, which they have control over. For example, the
89)
milkshake operator gives a half-filled cup to
another worker from whom she has taken a piece of
salami.
(46)
Occasionally, the manager needs someone to run
errands, and, in exchange, lets this person leave
work early. Other workers who have given time to
the manager are similarly treated.
(b). Non-work
Workers exchange services which result in products.
related (18,21,25, Such products are usually prepared at home, but are
91,105)
invariably exchanged at work.
Although the person initiating the exchange knows
what she is getting, the person performing the
service does not. The women specialize in certain
services (e.g., sewing, baking, etc.) such that the
return is predictable.
If no compensation is made, however, the next time
that person wants something, the other offers excuses
why she cannot perform the service. No reference
is made to the initial, unequal transaction.
(4). Friendship
Friendships formed at work seem to be genuine, but
oftentimes they do not extend beyond the work place.
(5). Ritual observances
(91,98)
Birthdays, holidays and the opening and closing of
school are celebrated, usually with cake, small
gifts and merriment.
140

Table II - continued
b. Divisive interactions
Violations of the formal organization's regulations
are not divisive unless they interfere with work
loads or morale.
Violations of the informal group's regulations or
taboos cause disruptions in the normal operation.
Women who do not get along avoid one another and
exchange perfunctory greetings. Usually this
animosity does not interfere with work, but if it
should, the group applies pressure to both
individuals "to play it cool." When a dispute
persists, usually one worker leaves.
2. Group values
Individual and group values coincide, for the most
part, because of the similarity of backgrounds and
the common conditions of work.
The women value work highly as a necessary activity
for any able-bodied adult.
a. Managers (28,41-42,44-46,
59,75,77-78,109)
Although managers share many of the workers' values,
they place greater value on efficiency, compliance
with regulations, professionalism and productivity
than do the other women. These values stem from
their managerial roles which require greater
attention to the formal organization's values.
b. Workers(14,39,49,63,94-95)
The women place great value on cooperation. When
crises arise, the can-do, make-do and get-through
values assert themselves. Competition and aggression
are discouraged.
Women do not consider their work a success or a
failure, but something that has to be done. They
value their toughness and ability to "rough it" under
adverse conditions and both physical and psychological
pressures.
1*71

Table II
E. Leaving the group
1. Types
2. Reasons
(107)
(38)
(99)
continued
Women accept responsibility for their own work and
value dependability in others. Each pursues her duties,
independent of supervision from the manager or other
workers. Nonetheless, group values of loyalty and
reliability are important.
They accept changes with equanimity, some of which are
helpful and others, harmful. Detrimental changes,
they accept because they believe that either they
will be changed again or, in a little while, they
can be ignored.
A sense of humor and the ability to "jive" well are
valued highly. One worker who eventually left said
that she did not like "all that stupid, silly talk."
A person leaves the group by quitting, resigning,
being fired, transferring and not being rehired in
the fall. Some are at the initiation of the
individual and others, at the insistence of the
manager or the county Food Service office.
Three people transferred during the study: two
laterally and one, up in the hierarchy. One worker
transferred to a school closer to her home; another,
because of a conflict with the principal and her own
desire for change; and a third, because of the
opportunity to become a manager.
Two indviduals quit and walked off the job, because
the manager said she was going to fire them for
insubordination and foul language.
About six individuals resigned: one got a better
job; one wanted to work only for six months; the
hours of one were cut and she did not think it was
worthwhile continuing; one received and injury on
142

Table II
(39,71)
3. Effect on the group
(55.99)
Outsiders
A. Types
1. Food Service Organization (103)
a. Former group members
b. Food Service Association
(25,103)
continued
the job and asked for two weeks to recuperate and
travel with her husband, time which was denied
(because of the travel); one had problems at home;
and another got a job paying more money.
Three of these women belonged to the same clique
and with their withdrawal, the other clique took
over full control of the group, facilitating group
harmony.
The Food Service Organization has approximately
two hundred and forty employees (half white and half
black), thirty-two of whom are managers (five
black). There are two administrators: the director
and field supervisor, both white women. Only four
employees are male.
Former members of the group, when they return to the
lunchroom as visitors, are treated as guests.
Although they are no longer employed there, they
usually help with the work.
Gossip is exchanged filling the ex-worker in on high¬
lights of the story.
About half the Food Service workers meet once a month
at the Food Service Association meetings. During
these meetings the women group by schools. Only the
manager and head cook attend with regularity.
143

Table II
c. Managers (111)
2. School personnel
a. Students 41-45, 75-89 passim)
(1). Free (42,100)
(2). Reduced
(3). Paid
b. Faculty
(100)
continued
Managers meet once a month with Food Service
administrators. Although I never attended these
meetings, there seems to be a comraderie among
managers which is not found between groups of
workers.
Hogtown High School has 1,920 students; one third
of the student body is black, dating from county
school desegregation in 1970.
Students are classified by the county school system
according to their families' ability to pay for the
school lunch. This is accessed by the assistant
principal for auxiliary services, according to a
federal schedule of eligible recipients.
Although many white students are eligible for free
and reduced lunches, the primary users are black.
Approximately three hundred students eat a Type A
lunch each day and another one hundred purchase
a la carte items. Hogtown High has the county's
lowest percentage of student participation, in part,
because of the open campus policy and the economic
composition of the student body.
The high school has a faculty of ninety-five teachers,
twenty percent of whom are black.
Between ten and twenty teachers eat in the lunchroom
daily. Their meals, unlike those of the students,
are not subsidized by the government, nor is the
cost of the meal covered by the price that they
pay.
144

Table II
c. Staff
(109)
(1). Custodial staff (33,38,
46-47,49-50,63-64,87,94,
96,105-07,110)
(2). Administration (45,85)
Other outsiders
a. Delivery men (42,47,53-54,59,
66.97)
b. Health inspector (54)
continued
The high school staff consists of six or eight
custodians, four secretaries, five administrators
and six para-professionals.
On a regular basis, only the secretaries, two
custodians and one administrator eat in the lunchroom.
During this study, the principal never ate there.
The head custodian often helps on the dishwasher,
and he and some of the other custodians help to put
up groceries. The second kind of assistance is
mandated by the county school board, but the first
is voluntary.
The assistant principal for auxiliary services is
the liaison between the lunchroom manager and the
principal.
Deliveries are made throughout the week: milk (daily),
orange juice, produce, laundry, bread, cookies, coke
and canned goods (weekly), and ice cream, milk shake,
oranges, meat and warehouse (at irregular intervals).
Some of these men are known to the workers and friendly
exchanges ensue. A few are considered potential boy¬
friends for the single women in the group. Such
alliances are pursued by both parties.
Once a month, the county health inspector checks
conditions in the lunchroom. Violations are the same
each month due to the inadequate design of the kitchen
and old equipment, factors which the county school
system does little to alleviate.
145

Table II
c. Relatives and friends (56)
d. Union representative (92-93)
Relationships
1. Friendly relationships
(42-43")
(46-50 passim)
2. Conflict relationships
continued
Occasionally, a worker's husband or brothers buy their
lunches at the school. Almost all of the workers'
children have been to the kitchen; usually, the women
fuss over them and buy them cookies.
If a worker's boyfriend is employed by the school
system (e.g., as a bus driver), his presence in the
kitchen is frequent.
A union representative visited the lunchroom twice.
The women showed little interest in the union,
primarily because of the dues. However, when it was
rumored that the county school board was requiring
a doctor's certificate in order to grant sick leave,
the women voiced a need for unionization. Many of
the workers use sick leave, not for themselves, but
for the care of their sick children. The rumor
proved groundless.
There are basically two kinds of relationships between
the group and outsiders: one of civility and the
other of conflict.
The women maintain friendly relationships with most
outsiders, the exception being students and teachers.
Generally, these relationships are superficial and
routine, although the prospect of a romantic entangle¬
ment changes the relationship.
The head custodian has a special relationship with
the group because of his assistance and joking manner.
Conflict occurs daily between the women, and students
and teachers. One major conflict occurred between
the manager and principal.
146

Table II
Conflict between workers
and students (75-86 passim)
(80)
(79,83,88-89)
(80)
(44,108)
(43-44)
Conflict between workers
and teachers (60,86,106-09)
continued
Conflict between workers and students is a daily
feature of lunchroom life. In one loud and unruly
mass, students descend on the lunchroom and then jockey
for positions in the serving lines.
Students are demanding and generally unappreciative.
They rarely ask for something, except to say "give me"
or "I want," which coincides with demands from several
other students. Rarely does a student thank a worker.
Rather, students compain that something is too large
,or too small, too hot or too cold, too hard or too
soft.
Students "jive" or "con" workers, trying to get more
food or credit. A few ask for sexual favors. Others
threaten the jobs of the lunchroom workers by reporting
them to the school administration for alleged abuses.
Occasionally, students are abusive, using explatives
(e.g., shit, damn, hell, fuck) in response to unfulfilled
demands. A few apply derogatory names (e.g., bitch,
whore, square-headed honky) to workers.
Some students steal from the lunchroom, passing food
through the lines, failing to pay the cashier, returning
half-emptied milk cartons for full ones, etc.
Not all students are like this, however, and some
maintain familial-like relationships with the women.
A few assist in the lunchroom during serving.
Teachers, although they are not as abusive and unruly
as students, are as demanding and inconsiderate. Often¬
times they want something that is not being served or
more of something that is for which they are unwilling
to pay. They cut in line, interrupting the flow of
students and the rhythm of the servers. Once a teacher
accused a cashier of stealing her money.
147

Table II
c. Conflict between manager
and principal(36,45,107-09)
Avoidance relationships
Grievances against
Food Service Organization ,
(105)
continued
Deans, who are supposed to keep order in the lunchroom,
do so sporadically, creating greater pressure on workers.
Other teachers shrug their shoulders in a show of
sympathy, but do nothing to maintain order.
Conflict between the principal and the first manager
was a long standing one, stemming from a dispute over
the payment for use of the kitchen by a service club.
This conflict came to a head over teachers' use of
the lunchroom. He charged the manager with a poor
attitude which was reflected in her staff's treatment
of teachers, in particular, and students. (After
she left, the records did not indicate any significant
increase in participation, although there was an
increase in revenues, a result of her suggestion to
open a third line for bag lunches and a la carte items.)
Underlying their conflict was the dual hierarchy
under which the lunchroom manager operated: the county
Food Service office and the school principal.
The first manager believed that the lunchroom ought to
be professionally operated within government guidelines.
Her allegiance was primarily to the Food Service office:
they hired her and paid her salary. The principal, on
the other hand, believed that, since he had responsi¬
bility for the entire school, he ought to be able to
manage it as he saw fit.
Workers avoid direct contact with Food Service adminis¬
trators, treating them like other outsiders—by silence
and attention to their work.
Many have grievances against the organization which
foster this relationship.
An obvious grievance concerns monetary compensation
for work: low wages for years of service, no paid
148

Table II
(92-93)
(92,99)
(61)
(48)
(64)
(48)
(109)
(70)
(92,99)
continued
vacations and summer lay offs. Job security is another
factor: cut in hours, no guaranteed reemployment in
the fall and no contract.
Conditions of the work place are not optimal—no air
conditioning in the summer and little heat in the
winter. Much of the equipment is twenty years old,
in constant need of repair and difficult to maintain.
Much of the food is not prepackaged nor precooked,
requiring more time and effort for preparation.
Built into the county Food Service regulations is the
implication that workers are dishonest. Accounts are
double checked; cashiers cannot make the plate count
for fear they will adjust it so that they can take
part of the receipts. Good food goes bad over the
weekend, or is thrown out, instead of being given
to workers. This allegedly avoids overplanning or
preparing too much food.
Food Service does not actively support workers in
disputes with school personnel, ranging from daily
abuses by students, special treatment demanded by
faculty and work assigned which is not theirs to do.
At the annual in-service workshop, the administration
takes a paternalistic attitude toward workers,
reminding them to take bathes, brush their teeth,
etc. Workers are told that they have never had it
so good, getting annual raises, benefits and a free
lunch. Workers are aware, however, that increases
in pay (twenty-eight cents an hour this year) result
in a cut in hours. Benefits, when used as was the
dental insurance, are dropped the following year.
They are not paid for the half hour in which they
take their "free" lunch.
149

150
I.
II.
Outline for Table III: Action
Basic script
Performances of the group
A. Role-playing
1. Content
a. Rehearsals
b. Performance
(1). Tuning out
(2).
(3).
(4).
(5).
(6).
(7).
2. Structure
3. Function
B. Cutting the fool
1. Content
a. Verbal behavior
(1). Joking and/or
(2).
page
151
152
Playing stupid
Passing the buck
Putting someone- on
Putting someone down
Playing it cool
Putting something over on someone
(3),
jiving
Exclamations
(a). Cursing
(b). Religious exclamations
(c). Affirmative exclamations
Dialogue
(a). General topics
(b).
153
154
155
156
(c).
Non-verbal behavior
(i).
Female topics
(ii).
Personal problems
157
(iii).
Gossip
Individual stories
(i)-
Law
(ii).
Religion
158
(iii).
Medicine
(iv).
Children
159
(v).
Affairs
160
(vi).
Fashion
Group
story
2.
3.
(1).
(2).
(3).
(4).
Structure
Function
Listening to music
Dancing
Pantomime
Restagings
161
162

Table III: Action
Outline/Pages in Text Interpretation/Additional Data
I. Basic script (20)
The basic script has been discussed in the other two
tables. See Table I: Setting for the work routine and
rhythms as well as the spatial and sensory environments
with their helps and hazards, territories and boundaries.
See Table II: Characters for the structure and function
of the formal organization and the work group as a social
unit.
II. Performances of the group
The workers give two types of performances, one for an
audience of outsiders and another one for themselves.
The primary purpose of the first—role-playing—is to
avoid conflict and of the second—"cutting the fool"—
to engender cooperation. Both help to create an
esprit de corps among the workers and to solidify the
group into one acting and working unit.
A. Role-playing (75-86 passim)
In the first performance the workers assume the roles
of servants before a group of patrons that demand that
this particular part be played. Once the serving
period is over, the women quickly drop this role.
1. Content
Role-playing incorporates various survival techniques
a. Rehearsals (71)
in a single performance.
There are two types of rehearsals. The head cook, at
the workers' lunchbreak, goes over the kinds of food
that will be served and their places on the plates.
She also indicates the kinds of customers to expect
and the kind of behavior that will ensue.
A second kind of rehearsal occurs when a person changes
positions. The person who formerly held the post briefs
the newcomer on what to expect from customers and how
she is supposed to respond.
151

Table III
Performance (75-86 passim)
(1). Tuning out (41-42,72)
(2). Playing stupid (82)
(3). Passing the buck (88)
(4). Putting someone on (86,106-
07)
(5).
Putting someone down (84)
continued
The performance takes place on the serving lines which
become the stage for the workers during the school's
lunch period.
The women give a unified performance by adopting similar
behavior and backing each other. No one gives the
performance away by telling the customers "where to
go" or what they think of them.
Tuning out, one way of coping with customers, occurs
when the women pretend not to hear what is demanded.
The women pretend not to know whether they have some¬
thing or not, where it is or who has it, or what the
explanation for something is.
An accompanying survival technique to playing stupid
is to tell the customer to ask someone else who then
passes them on to a third party.
To put someone on is to publicly agree with the person
and to privately disagree. This occurs in exchanges
between workers and teachers. The women rarely argue
with teachers, even though they know that the teachers
are wrong.
This technique, a way of shaming a person, is used by
the manager to handle students. She tells them that
they are better than the behavior that they exhibit
would indicate. They are too smart, too pretty, too
responsible to act in such an unruly manner. Some¬
times she threatens to tell their mothers, many of
whom she knows, that she did not know they had
children like that.
152

Table III - continued
(6). Playing it cool (23,84,86) Playing it cool has two meanings. The more general
means to maintain one's composure under trying
circumstances. Losing one's temper, cursing students
out, letting students know that they can get "close
to you" are examples of losing one's "cool."
Another meaning is to maintain friendly relationships
with the opposite sex without becoming involved
(i.e., coquetry).
(7). Putting something
over on someone
Putting something over on someone is to deceive a
person into believing that he has gotten away with
something. To a particularly annoying customer, for
example, some women give a smaller or leftover item.
2. Structure
The structured relationship between situational
unequals is reflected in forms of address and reference
(80,106-09)
Treated as subordinates by teachers and students alike,
workers are expected to show deference to them.
Unless workers are known to students or teachers out¬
(41,79,83)
side of work (in which case they are called by their
(74,79)
(47,72)
(70,75)
(87,104)
first names), they are often called "hey you." The
manager, however, is addressed by her married name.
Workers address students by their first names on-stage
but backstage they are known as "those children."
Faculty and staff are called by some title, e.g.,
Mr., Dean, Miss and Mrs. along with their last names
(106)
if these are known. Backstage they are known as
"those teachers," their last names and, in some
cases, their first names.
3. Function
The function of role-playing is to expedite serving and
to avoid conflict. It allows the women to maintain
a sense of dignity and individuality, because they
know, even if their customers do not, that their role
is a "put on." At the same time, because of the need
153

Table III - continued
B. Cutting the fool (36-75 passim,
86-103 passim,111)
1. Content
a. Verbal behavior (36-111 passim)
(1). Joking and/or jiving
(37,47,71)
(50,74-75)
for all workers to play similar roles and because of
the shared experience of abuse and harassment, the
solidarity of the group is enhanced.
Cutting the fool, a Southern expression, means acting
the fool. Both cutting and fool have contradictory
meanings. Cutting means both working and playing.
The fool is usually thought of in two ways: either
as a person deficient in judgment, understanding or
sense, or as an entertainer employing mime, jest or
pranks. A third meaning of fool is that of the
wiseman masquerading as an idiot in order to tell
truths that no one wants to hear. In this context,
cutting the fool means to be wise enough to play at
being the jokster at work.
The content of the performance contains both verbal
and non-verbal behavior.
The dialect is Southern American English (used by
whites) and "black English" (used by blacks).
Joking and jiving are similar kinds of verbal behavior
which involve bantering, a ready tongue and quick wit.
Joking is the term more commonly employed by whites
and jiving, the term used by blacks.
Short, spontaneous outbursts intended to amuse are
made in response to something that another has said or
done and may themselves stimulate a rejoinder thus
continuing the jiving. This gives jiving a certain
rhythm which is usually not associated with joking.
Oftentimes the women take part of what another has
just said, repeat it and go on with what they were
saying. This use of refrain is similar to verbal
154

Table III
(70,88)
(65)
(51,54)
(56,96)
(2). Exclamations
(a). Cursing (61,76,95,
106)
(b).
Religious
exclamations (37,48,
continued
behavior that occurs in some black churches and revival
groups. When the speaker (the minister or any other
person addressing the congregation) says something which
a listener thinks important, the listener will repeat
that part.
Another aspect of jiving is to take part of what someone
has said and then rhyme something with it. Many times,
however, the women have internal rhyme in whatever it
is that they are expressing. Punning, the use of words
having similar sound, but different meanings, is another
variation of this, as is stringing a series of words
together.
A person who jives well can make an apparently innocent
remark take on sexual meaning. Such double entendres
are usually intentional, although few claim any
responsibility for the listener's interpretation.
References,for example, are made to bananas (penises),
apples (scrotums), etc.
Exclamations, made in brief, standardized outbursts to
oneself, express feelings of surprise, disgust or
anticipation. When addressed to another, they express
agreement.
Cursing, in this case, refers to such exclamations as
shit, damn, hell and other "four letter words." Only
one person makes a regular habit of cursing, although
other women curse when given cause, e.g., a pot dropped
on their foot. In general, however, cursing is not
approved of and if done, it is expressed under their
breath.
Religious exclamations are more widely used, particularly
by blacks. Examples are: Oh, Lord Jesus; Oh, Jesus,
155

Table III - continued
61,75,110)
(c). Affirmative
exclamations (49,57,
59,62,74,98)
(3). Dialogue
(a). General topics (55,
74-75)
(i). Female (51-52
topics 71,74,
101)
(49,53,56-57)
or such supplications as: Lord have mercy on me (us,
you); Lord, let me get through the day.
These are not expressed as religious convictions or as
a way to deride religion, but simply as all purpose,
handy exclamations.
Affirmative exclamations, for lack of a better term,
are those that show agreement with something said,
e.g., That's right; I know that's right; Isn't that
right?; I know that's true; Ain't that the truth?
Dialogue refers to the conversational exchange between
two or more persons, which is intended to convey
ideas, opinions or information. Dialogue, one of
the essential parts of the story, is the way in which
women learn about the group and each other.
There are few topics of conversation that the women
do not cover. Topics range from politics to gardening,
death to fashion, education to prison, naming children
to the war in Angola. Usually these talks, based on
news or something that has happened at work or at
home, are not of great length, nor are they in depth
reports. Incidents are recounted and opinions expressed.
One basic topic revolves around the fact that the
workers are all women. Pregnancy, childbirth,
menustration, hysterectomies and affairs provide
material for their talks. Generally these discussions
are frank and explicit. Intercourse, however, is only
alluded to, although such allusions are strong and
frequent. Romantic involvements—past, present and
future—are readily discussed, but marriage itself is
not. One's marriage, like sex, is not mentioned
directly, but unlike sex, it is not joked about.
156

Table III - continued
(ii). Personal
problems
(40-41,51,
101)
(iii). Gossip
(22,94-95,97
(b). Individual stories
(i). Law
Menopause, perhaps because none of the women is of
menopausal age, is not discussed.
Discussing personal problems during work is a taboo,
although after work women confide in one another
about such problems. Homosexuality, drug addiction,
promiscuity, beatings, prostitution, etc. are not
discussed, except as they relate to society in general.
Gossip results from these sessions after work. In
general the gossip is not malicious, althoughat times
it acts as a social sanction. The head cook is the
main person to whom people give information and from
whom they get it.
Each woman has her story to tell, based on her own
sense of privacy and group norms. Although many of
the women have similar backgrounds, their individual
experiences are diversified enough to provide variety
in the conversations at work. Certain themes are
repeated in each individual's story: law, religion,
medicine, children, affairs, fashion, etc.
One individual has had many run-ins with the law. She
recounted the time when she beat up a sheriff's deputy
because, in his attempt to arrest her for shooting at
a couple of men who were harassing her daughters (the
new "meat" in town), he had manhandled her. Criminal
charges were brought against her and she hired some
"big city" lawyers to defend her. She had to ride up
to the state capitol in a "supped-up" car with a
shot gun in the front seat to clear her name.
Charges were dropped; her youngest daughter started
going with the deputy; and the family moved out of town.
157

Table III
(ii).
(iii).
Religion (34-
35,40,73-75,
101)
Medicine
(40,73,95-96
101)
(52)
- continued
This same individual stands in defiance of law
officers, but at the same time uses them to settle
family disputes.
Another woman who is particularly religious—she is
"saved" and stayed saved—supports her church and is
a devotee of a revival preacher. Although she does
not proselytize, she tells the workers that they
need to "get right" and that their sins will come
back on them at judgment time.
Although the other women do not feel it necessary to
take religion too seriously, they acknowledge the
Christian God and believe that one ought to be a good
person, regardless of faith. A few go to church
regularly, more for their children than themselves.
Many believe that one ought to have a good time in
church, but that "falling out," "witnessing" and other
fundamentalist behavior is unnecessary.
Many of the women are under a physician's care for
high blood pressure, menustral irregularities, dieting,
ulcers, etc.
During the study, one woman had a hysterectomy which,
before the operation, was graphically and frequently
discussed. Each person took a role in the hospital
procedure: nurse, dietician, surgeon, etc. They
told her that they would "lay her out on the kitchen
table and cut her right here." During the operation,
however, they called her at the hospital to see how
she was doing. The manager sent a floral arrangement
on behalf of the group.
Many go to gynecologists for check-ups, an experience
that is told, leaving little to the imagination.
They believe that doctors get "free feels" and "ooh,
that's not right." One told her doctor that he could
not examine her, because it was her "time" although
158

Table III
(iv). Children
(61)
(v). Affairs (43—
44,53,56-57)
(56)
continued
she was not menustrating.
One doctor refused to see one woman because she had an
outstanding medical bill for her daughter. The women
agreed that he had the right to refuse her services,
because he had to make a living too.
In general, the women are satisfied with the medical
treatment that they receive, although they consider
one hospital in town inferior to another.
Although the women do not talk often about their
children, they occasionally point out that a worker
is acting like one of their children.
Sometimes they relate amusing incidents involving their
children, indicating their very different, but definite
personalities.
Some have taken in foster children or run-aways for
varying periods of time, believing that they need a
strong home life which they can provide.
The women constantly kid one another about boyfriends.
Usually these pairings are black with black and white
with white, but not always. If the women know both
parties and like both, then such interracial trysts
are alright. If either of these two factors is missing,
the women disapprove. Because most of this match
making is taken in jest, any male is a potential match,
regardless of age, race, marital status, position, etc.
Harried women caution single women about having "Jody,"
or more than one man at a time, and about going with
married men, particularly if they are living with
their wives and children. Few look at this as an
ethical or moral question, but rather as a practical
one: it is dangerous and no good can come of it.
Single women, however, are not encouraged to marry.
159

Table III
(vi). Fashion (36,
56,59-60,62,74,
83-84,93)
(c). Group story
(103)
(21)
Non-verbal behavior
(1). Listening to music (38-39)
continued
All of the women seem to be fashion conscious; many
sew. Clothes are an important means of expression.
Frequent comments are made about what they and others
(both male and female) are wearing. At the annual
Food Service Association dinners, many dress such that
"they hardly recognize one another out of their uniforms."
Many wear evening gowns, even though their audience is
essentially female.
The group story consists of tales about accidents,
crises, plans, former group members, amusing situations,
etc. Since many illustrate group values, they are a
major source of socialization.
They talk about celebrations, e.g., lunch at Morrison's,
birthdays, end of the year parties, etc.
They discuss their encounters with students, teachers
and club men.
Not everything, however, is in the past. The future is
elaborately planned for, e.g., the annual Food Service
Association meeting to which few go.
Both future and historical accounts do not always
coincide with what actually happened. Individuals
add or omit in the story, which like their personal
stories is selective, sometimes speculative, but
always amusing.
Non-verbal behavior consists of listening
and dancing to radio music, pantomime and restagings
of the first performance.
Many listen to radio music as an accompaniment to work.
A few of their favorite songs are
"Junk Food Junkie" by Larry Groce
"Disco Lady" by Johnnie Taylor
"Do It Any Way You Wanna" by Peoples Choice
160

Table III
(2). Dancing
(3). Pantomime
(4). Restagings (87 88)
2. Structure
continued
If a song has special significance, i.e., it mentions
a worker's name, speaks about a situation in which she
is involved or evokes memories of another occasion,
the song is called to her attention.
A couple of the women dance the "bump',' a popular
dance, which consists of bumping against posteriors.
Once one worker gave an exhibition of the latest
dances, many the women thought obscene, but nonetheless
entertaining.
There are two types of pantomime: "the apron trick" and
"stick them up."
The apron trick consists of folding the front of an
apron into a projectile and waving it upward simulating
the action of an erect penis. Sometimes this person
charges another who has lifted her apron up.
The second, stick them up, consists of thrusting the
breasts upward and pointing them at someone.
Both are infrequently performed and are always done
backstage, keeping outsiders ignorant of their occurence.
Occasionally, workers replay customer-server encounters.
The "customer" always acts very pleasantly as does the
"server" but the former demands things that the server
does not have and frequently changes her mind about
her order. The restagings end abruptly in laughter.
The women participate in these activities either as
performers themselves or as an appreciative audience.
Some women are better story tellers or jokers than
others, but everyone is encouraged to contribute.
161

Table III
3. Function
(36-111 passim)
(90)
(36,93,96,99)
(14)
continued
The use of first names, unlike in the first performance,
indicates a sense of equality among the women. Some
are thought better of^ than others, but no one thinks
herself superior or inferior.
In addition to the use of first names or some derivative,
some workers have special names. One black woman, for
example, is called "Blondie" because of her strawberry
blonde hair. Another is called "Bell" in recognition
of the rural county where she lives.
Fictive kinship terms, e.g., grandmother, sister,
express the closeness of certain relationships within
the group.
Both managers said that they ought to have the workers
address them as Mrs. and their last name as a sign
of respect for the manager's position. The first
manager seemed serious; the second said it in jest.
The performance's function is to make the time pass
quickly and sociably, and to create within the group
a spirit of cooperation and perse veranee. By creating
such distractions, the women put variety into the work
routine, adding entertainment to a situation devoid
of humor.
By exchanging stories about their personal lives, they
get to know one another better and form friendships
which serve as the basis for cooperation at work.
These relationships provide adult companionship with
others of the same sex and age group (if age is computed
as sociological age) which serves as a diversion from
home life.
This performance fosters solidarity within the group
and creates an alliance between workers and manager.
162

Table III
(87)
(109)
continued
This performance allows workers to play out aspects of
their personalities which are not evident elsewhere.
Many said that their actions and speech during this
time, is unlike their behavior outside work. Women
who are reserved at home are flamboyant yea risque
at workers. Others who are submissive at home are
aggressive at work or vice versa.
Some argue that it is the group's influence which
makes them so "bad," or mischievous.
Other women commented that they were only half there
when at H.H.S.

164
Recapitulation
i
Working in Hogtown High's lunchroom is like being in a soap opera.
The women themselves have made this comparison and have suggested that
they as a group go on television. Although the suggestion about going
on TV was made in jest, the comparison that they have made between
their lives at work and the dramas that they watch on daytime television
is apt. Both are dramas which are based on possible situations that
are exaggerated and suspenseful. The situations are exaggerated
providing thereby entertainment and diversion from the ordinariness of
life. They contain elements of suspense because of the small segments
of life presented each day which give only a little information each
time the drama is presented. Each day's performance builds on the
last and forms a bridge to the next one.
Setting: place. The setting of the story (for the story is the
name by which the women call the soap operas) is a county high school
lunchroom. The areas in which most of the action takes place are in
the kitchen and serving lines where about four hundred students, staff
members and teachers, or approximately one-fifth of the high school's
population, take their daily lunch. At lunch time, the serving lines
provide the stage upon which the actresses perform for their audience
of students and school personnel, and the kitchen itself, which at
all other times is the stage for another kind of performance, is the
backstage. After work, the manager's office, the stoop outside the
back door and the head custodian's office are off stage as are the

165
homes, churches and other community institutions where the lives of
the workers center after the performances. The working areas both
backstage and on stage are divided into separate domains by individuals
who defend these places agains incursions from others. As a group
they protect the sanctity of the kitchen and the area behind the
2
serving lines from outsiders.
Space is only one dimension of the setting. What is included in
that space is equally important not only for the purpose of identifying
the place, but also in terms of giving it its proper atmosphere. Hence
industrial stoves, refrigerators and the like identify the place as a
mass production kitchen and the school colors, calendar and posters
mark it as a high school lunchroom.
The sounds, aromas and temperature of the kitchen change with the
different activities of the day and the comings and goings of people.
Sometimes the kitchen is relatively quiet, warm and filled with the
smell of baking bread which gives the area a homelike atmosphere and
at other times, it is like a beseiged camp in which the noises of
students drum out other physical sensations.
Setting: time. Each work day is divided into four parts:
preparation, lunchbreak, serving and clean up. The workers enter and
exit at different times although each person's stay spans these four
periods. The goal of each day, i.e., to prepare a Type A lunch
according to federal specifications, is the same, but the tasks and
the time needed to complete them vary with the daily menus prepared
by the county Food Service office. The tempo of the week gradually
quickens toward midweek and then falls off on Friday when the meals
are again simplier and easier to prepare. This spacing of the meals

166
allows the workers time to do other things, e.g., distribute tickets
on Monday and give a thorough cleaning on Friday. Each month a
bicentennial meal, which often coincides with a national holiday, is
prepared.
Every day is much like any other day. The routine established
by the demands of the work make many of the jobs tiresome because of
the monotony and the physical effort involved. The workers have
assigned tasks which may vary with the daily menus in terms of kinds
of things handled, but not in terms of the kind of performance required.
For example, one meal may call for applesauce and another for cranberry
sauce, both of which are prepared in the same way. The jobs are not
rotated and change only when someone is absent or leaves. The daily
confrontation with students and other school personnel during the
lunch hour is itself similar from day to day. The tension this creates,
however, is not lessened by its familiarity. The pandemonium and
constant abuse cause a different kind of fatigue than the physical
demands of the job. As one worker expressed it, "It gets on my nerves."
Crises within the group, such as labor shortages or lack of
supplies, serve to break an otherwise tedious routine as do the
special celebrations such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, birthdays and
graduation. The women plan for these events weeks ahead of time and
after the actual event, they are gone over and over again. They serve
as highlights in the group's history and through sharing of such
memories, they help to tie new members with the old. Other kinds of
crisis situations with customers tend to reestablish an esprit de
3
corps among the kitchen workers and to solidify them into a group.

167
Characters: group members. The group, composed of individuals
hired by the county Food Service office as lunchroom workers, is a
mixed group of blacks and whites, young and middle aged, poor and
moderate income, and married and single women. The workers, for the
most part, have high school educations and both managers have college
backgrounds. All the women are Protestants of various denominations
and Southerners, some with rural backgrounds. All the blacks who
live in Hogtown reside in the black section of town some distance from
the high school; the whites are scattered in neighboring rural
communities or live in unincorporated areas of the town.
The group's formal structure consists of one manager, two Level I
workers (i.e., the head cook and bookkeeper), four or five Level II
workers (i.e., baker, salad maker, dishmachine operator, pot and pan
washer, a la carte preparer) and substitutes. The group's composition
and size are determined by the type of operation and the level of
participation by school personnel.
The informal organization/* however, has a different kind of ordering
than the hierarchical formal structure. The women consider each other
as equals and evaluate one another on the basis of individual traits
and participation in the group. The undisputed leader of the group is
the head cook who keeps activities "ripping and rolling."
The women recognize that their behavior at work is different from
their behavior off the job when they are with their own families and
friends. Although there is a great deal of friendly behavior at work,
the women that they work with are not necessarily people whom they
would choose as friends. This does not make the friendships at work any
less intimate or genuine. The responsibility for the friendship, however,

168
ends when the women leave for the day.
For some, the friendship relationship at work is expressed through
fictive kinship. The black workers apply sister/brother terms to one
another regardless of their familial relationship; their racial bond
alone establishes this. Whites are included in this if they are
persons sufficiently familiar and acceptable to the blacks. Other
terms, such as grandmother, grandpa, mother and daughter are also applied
to certain individuals indicating the type of relationship that they
have in the group, although the group as a whole was never called a
5
family.
The social relationships of friendship and fictive kin are
established over a period of time. The women cooperate together, usually
in pairs, in order to get the job done and conspire together against
outsiders presenting them with a fairly uniform performance. Their
cooperation and conspiracy are not altogether planned but are a
necessary part of surviving on the job. Each worker depends on the
others to make the work easier and the confrontations less onorous. One
person alone could not accomplish this, but one person could disrupt
the work so that the jobs of other individuals and the group as a whole
would be jeopardized.
A great deal of reciprocity takes place between the workers which
enhances a harmonious work relationship. At work they exchange food
with one another and lend each other small amounts of money. Each
person has a different skill, such as sewing, plant growing or baking
6
which she performs in exchange for another kind of service.
A new worker has to learn not only her job and the work patterns

169
of the school lunchroom, but she needs to learn the informal system
of the group as well. Through observing what others do and how they
handle situations, the newcomer learns to imitate this behavior and to
adopt it as her own. At the same time, she gradually acquires the
attitudes and values of the group as she is exposed to its philosophy
and to the confrontations which have given rise to this particular view
of the world. The woman who learns these lessons well and adapts
herself to the group norms will stay. She is one of the survivors.
A woman who will not or cannot adjust, leaves and is replaced by
7
another who will go through a similar training process.
There are several different models which initiates may follow,
depending primarily on her own background: the career, liberated
woman; the Southern lady; the mother; and the fashion model or "slick
chick." Regardless of the particular character she chooses to imitate,
expediting her integration into the group, she must subscribe ultimately
to the behavior and values of the group.
Characters: outsiders. Much of what happens can be done and a
lot of what is said can be expressed because the workers know that these
goings on will not be betrayed by group members. All the workers are
implicated in the activities of others and this alone assures some
secrecy. Outsiders are not trusted and when they come into the women's
domain, the activities and talk are altered accordingly. When figures
of authority enter, for example, the women are quiet and procede with
unnecessary concentration to their assigned tasks.
Because these people are not part of the group, they do not share
the same experiences of constant harrassment which the women are power-
8
less to do anything about, nor do they share the feelings of weariness,

170
monotony and boredom which come with doing the same things day after
day. They are outsiders who know nothing of this and yet have the
power to disrupt the harmony of the group by exposing the members to
embarrassment or even dismissal from employment. They wonder at the
comraderie and riotness of the group, not knowing that these stances
make life at Hogtown High's lunchroom tolerable and at times enjoyable.
The job itself has few rewards. With a high school education,
a new person is paid the minimum wage and can expect only small
increments and little chance for advancement over the years. The
turnover rate, therefore, is steady as women seek employment for more
money in local restaurants or find clerical jobs which are considered
easier work with more pleasant working conditions than lunchroom work.
The benefits of the job are few, although they include sick leave,
health and life insurance and a uniform allowance. The reputed benefit
of caring for children and helping the nation's poor is one more
commonly expressed by the administrators of Food Service than by those
women who work with the students and are themselves kept poor.
Administrators emphasize the professionalism of food-related
occupations, although little support is given workers in terms of
training, working conditions or labor disputes. Should a worker find
herself in disagreement with a policy, situation or person, through
a grievance procedure instituted by the county school board, she can
present her grievance. This procedure, which is handled by management,
is seen as a ploy to avoid unionization of the lunchroom workers.^
Regardless of administrative rhetoric, the workers realize that they
"must make do and get through."

171
Action; basic script. The two overriding considerations of the
group are (1) getting the work done and (.2) staying out of trouble.
The major way in which these goals are achieved is through the creation
of a fiction: the story. The basic plot line follows the group's daily
efforts to make and serve lunch and then to clean up and put things
away. It forms the foundation upon which the story is built.
Action: performances of the group. The story has two distinct
performances: role-playing and cutting the fool. The women execute
both performances with considerable skill and virtuosity. Some of the
women are better than others: The veterans are often more accomplished
than the newcomers.
The first performance, given before an audience of outsiders
composed of students, teachers and staff, is a controlled one, the
script of which is fairly well adhered to. During the lunch hour the
women adopt the role of servant actresses in order to play out the
theme that the customer is always right. In this way they are able to
function in their jobs with a minimum of friction and are able to
maintain at the same time a sense of identity and dignity. The women,
like people in other service jobs, isolate themselves from the
frustration and degradation by assuming the role behavior expected of
them by their patrons. They adopt deference behavior toward their
10
customers, behavior which is dropped upon the cessation of work.
Backstage in the kitchen, where the workers are out of view of this
audience, another kind of performance ensues. Here the women play to
themselves and for themselves on a second kind of stage. They entertain
one another with restagings of what happened with their customers;
11
occasionally someone will call for the apron trick.

172
Everyday happenings within the lunchroom provide a ready source
for the imaginative. The women talk about the news and call to each
other to hear their favorite songs. They dance to the music and sing
to the tunes on the radio. They make sexual allusions to apples,
bananas or anything else which can be construed as genitalia. When
someone makes a mistake, they laugh good naturedly and recall the time
when someone else made an even greater faux pas. They outdo each
other with verbal assaults, rhyming words and "making like a poet if
they only knowed it."
The play in the kitchen is like vaudeville in that there is
such a variety of entertainment. The function of this, they have said
themselves, is to get through work and to cheer each other up. Playing
together creates a willingness to cooperate on work assignments and
to cover for someone when that person is having a bad day.
In addition to the source material that the work and the situations
on the job provide, each woman brings to the group's story, one of her
own which becomes part of the group's production. These individual
accounts serve to infuse new vigor into the story at work. The women
select out information to share about their personal lives, a selection
12
which is made by the individuals but conditioned by group norms.
The most commonly shared information concerns relationships with
men. Most of these are of a romantic nature having to do with court¬
ship and alliances short of marriage. Marriage, like death, is
considered a serious topic and is not conducive to the same kind of
light-hearted treatment that is due the boy-meets-gril, girl-gets-boy
episodes. Another relationship with men which occurs with regularity
is one with physicians, particularly gynecologists. Medical procedures

173
and operations become amusing anecdotes when told by the workers and
the doctors themselves are subject to scrutiny. Husbands, fathers, sons
and brothers are little mentioned.
Although much of the dialogue deals with relationships with men,
each of the women brings to the group information about other kinds of
relationships which concern her. Outside of the lunchroom, the
experiences of the women are sufficiently different to provide variety
in the source material for the story. For example, one woman was
concerned with the law, and others with their churches, schools or
children. The community and familial concerns provide the story with
specific and constant themes.
Accidents, such as house fires or car wrecks, sudden illnesses or
neighborhood fights, add unexpected drama to the story. At one time or
another many of the women have had such experiences themselves and the
telling of one such incident prompts the telling of others. Sharing
such dramatic incidents reinforces their sense of commonality.
Bringing personal problems to work is discouraged unless such
problems can be treated with humor. If they cannot be handled in jest,
they are not discussed by the group and pressure is exerted on the
individual to act in her normal way. Beatings, drug use, homosexuality
and promiscuity, if they pertain to any particular individual of the
group, are not discussed. As general "failings" of mankind, however,
they serve as the basis for many humorous dialogues which contain both
a sense of understanding and sympathy. After work off stage, individuals
will consult with one another about such personal crises with varying
degrees of confidence and will exchange advice whether it is consoling
or chastising.

174
The tale that develops with the intermeshing of the group's life
at work and their individual lives outside of work is one of romance
and intrigue, of obstacles overcome and humiliations suffered, of
friendships formed and trust betrayed. The tale relates not only what
the women are doing and have done, but what they plan to do as well.
During the performances, the fantasies that they create mimic life
which no one confuses with her own.

Notes
1. Goffman's (1959) model for the study of the dramaturgical nature of
institutions is excellent for use by social scientists interested in
work behavior.
2 Hall (1959, 1969) gives insights into the use of space by human beings
in his studies of proxemics.
3. Shils and Janowitz (1971:306-11) look at soldiers' behaviors which
create group solidarity and an effective fighting unit. The same
principles apply to this group of lunchroom workers.
4. Barnard (1938), among the first to recognize the importance of the
informal organization, modified the idea of rationality, changing
its basis from that of routines and orderly structuring of positions
to one based on communication rather than hierarchy per se.
In a study of interpersonal relations in two government agencies,
Blau (1966) found that informal groups were critical to the functioning
of the operation and at times made the operation possible as well as
more efficient.
5. Some of the women who worked in the lunchroom during the study were
in fact sisters and others had aunts or other female relatives who
worked in the county school lunch program. Sheth (1968) in his study
of an Indian factory found that workers are recruited by kinsmen
who fulfill their obligation to the family and factory at the same
time. Kinsmen exercise control over the newcomer, socialize him
into factory life and insure his commitment to the work place.
6. See Mauss (1954) for a discussion of reciprocity as both a social
and economic exchange.
7. See Shelley (1975) for a good review of the literature on socialization.
8. Sennett and Cobb (1973:76) argue that not only the material penalties
of capitalism fall on the working class but also the moral and
emotional hardships as well. One of the waitresses that Whyte (1948:
94) interviewed expressed this sentiment more prosaically. "The
trouble is, when the guests get nasty with you, you can't tell them
off. You have to keep it all inside you. That's what makes it so
nerve-wracking."
9. Whyte (1948:204) notes that many strikes result not from wage and
hour disputes, but from a failure of management and unions to agree
on the adjustment of human-relation problems.
It should be emphasized that obligations are matters
of human relations, for here is where so many employers
175

176
misunderstand employee reactions. They feel that
when, in addition to paying good wages and establishing
good physical conditions of work, they give medical
and hospitalization policies, they have done enough
to put the workers under obligations to them. There
are two things wrong with this point of view. In the
first place, those are all broad, general policies
that do not hit any of the workers in an individual,
personal way. In the second place, those policies are
determined entirely upon the initiative of management
and then simply presented to the workers. (Whyte
1948:254)
10. Smith (1971), in her study of female domestic servants in Lima, Peru,
documents similar kinds of deference behavior. She found that
"servants' behavior changes dramatically when not in a patrona-
muchacha relationship. They liven up and are indistinguishable from
the other non-servant lower class young women" (Smith 1971:111ft).
11. Roy (I960) documents similar kinds of "psychological survival"
practices among a group of men. Langer (1970) chronicles non-work-
at-work activities for women of the telephone company.
12. According to Gluckman (1963:307-16), the more exclusive a social
group, the more pervasive will be the gossip about each other. Murphy
and Murphy (1974:133) observe this among the Mundurucu.
A remarkable amount of gossip is relayed by the
women about the men and, especially, about each
other. Now gossip is not inherently malevolent or
spiteful, though we commonly think of it as such.
Much of the female gossip consists of exchange
of valuable information about people.

CHAPTER V
CONCLUSION
This book, being about work, is, by its very nature,
about violence—to the spirit as well as to the
body. ... It is about a search, too, for daily
meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as
well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor;
in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday
through Friday sort of dying. (Terkel 1974: xi)
Working is a necessity for most people, not only because of the
economic rewards which sustain physical life but for the social inter¬
actions as well which help to satisfy man's need for association with
other men. Work itself is any physical or mental exertion that has
purpose; it may be done under compulsion or from necessity, or through
interest and inclination.
All the women at Hogtown High's lunchroom valued work as a good.
Work was considered a necessary activity for any adult man or woman. All
kinds of work were valued, whether paid or not. For example, employment
in the lunchroom for which there was renumeration and preparing meals at
home for which there was no monetary reward were both considered work
by the women. Both kinds of work involved similar tasks, i.e., the
feeding and caring of children, although the institutional setting and
the role/status positions were different.
Even illegal activities, although they were thought less respectable
than legitimate occupations, were valued. Some kinds of work were con¬
sidered harder (e.g., farm work) than other kinds of work (e.g.,
teaching), a distinction based largely on physical exertion. Certain
177

178
kinds of work were considered more desirable than others based on a
variety of characteristics: higher pay, greater security, greater
autonomy and freedom of movement, more possibilities for social contact
and less involvement with children.
Every job was thought to require special skills and learning. In
that sense, each job was different, but equal. Occupations were not
ranked according to the traditional American hierarchy which accords
high status to some occupations and low status to others (Blau and
Duncan 1967). Insofar as the women ranked jobs, they did so according
to the job's desirability. Although occupations were ranked in this way,
the people in these jobs were not. This attitude is consistent with
the women's view that all work is valuable and that people are judged,
not on their affiliation with a particular occupation, but on the basis
of other criteria. For example, the women considered people to be "low
class" if they did not know how to behave and "showed out." Those who
were "high class" simply had more: more money, possessions, education,
etc. (See Chinoy 1955.)
The value of work can be contrasted with the value of non-work, or
the value of leisure and laziness. Leisure usually implies some kind of
non-productive activity such as entertainment, recreation or personal
development. For most of the women, their "leisure" activities were
second jobs. They were always involved in doing something purposeful,
e.g., sewing, baking or gardening, and had little time to do "nothing"
or little inclination to "go out and have a good time." They did not
seem to pursue such diversions as television, movies, concerts or plays,
nor did they engage in such recreational activities as swimming, hiking
and the like. Some engaged in personal development activities but

179
these (e.g., sewing classes) were closely related to their leisure
pursuits. Leisure, for many of the women, simply meant time away from
the work place when they could pursue activities of their own interest,
at their own pace and with people of their own choosing.
Laziness, or the avoidance of work and an unwillingness to cooperate
with others, was generally abhorred by the women. Laziness was considered
to be a personal trait which inhibited the individual from making some¬
thing of himself and from contributing to the well being of his family.
The women considered some of their fellow workers lazy, but no one
thought this of herself.
Working in the lunchroom, in contrast to the great value attributed
to work, was not always seen as a good. Working there has its daily
conflicts and crises, not to mention the tiresome routine of working with
less than optimal equipment and materials under time and manpower
constraints over an extended period. The job itself has few financial
rewards or benefits and limited opportunities for advancement and
training. The institution as well as the clients of the institution
demanded that the workers assume a kind of "humbling" role in which
there was little tolerance for individual expression.
In order to cope with this work situation, the women at Hogtown
High's lunchroom created a world of fiction which they called "the story."
The story was based on their lives at work as well as on part of their
lives outside of the work place. In the story, the women gave two
performances: on the one hand, they assumed the roles of servants for
the benefit of their audience of customers and outsiders. On the other
hand, they entertained themselves with another performance called
"cutting the fool."

180
Sennett and Cobb (1973:93) note that people in institutions, be
they factories or schools, consider the "real time" or "meaningful time"
of their lives as that time spent outside of the institution with their
families and neighbors. Many women in this study expressed similar
sentiments: They were only half there on the job. They could work
with half their mind and still get the job done. They were not themselves
at work. They looked forward to the time when they could do what they
wanted.
Yet, Hughes (1958) and Freud (1930) argue that working is the most
important part of man's experience and that it is his closest tie to
reality. If this is true, why do workers consider the real time of
their lives to be that time spent outside of the work place? More
specifically, why do women at Hogtown High create a fictitious world
in order to deal with the reality of working in the lunchroom?
If the women value work so highly, abhor laziness and even work
during their "leisure" time, surely the answer lies not in the work
itself. The answer, I believe, addresses one of the fundamental questions
of modern society. In the Japanese novel, The Woman in the Dunes
(Abe 1965), a man is held prisoner at the bottom of a sandpit where he
and a young woman work shoveling and hauling sand. He is trapped by
the villagers, but in a larger sense, he is held prisoner by society.
He asks himself, the woman, anyone who will listen: Do we move sand
in order to live, or do we live in order to move sand?
Perhaps this has always been one of man's questions. But it seems
particularly relevant for modern man to ask himself and his fellows
this questions: Do we work in order to live or do we live in order to
work?

181
In more primitive societies or in earlier periods of this society,
oftentimes the work place and the home were one and the same. The
community in which one was born was also the community in which one
lived and worked, and in the end, it was the place where one died.
There was continuity and unity in this kind of existence.
For, in these "early" societies, social phenomena are
not discrete; each phenomenon contains all the threads
of which the social fabric is composed. In these
total social phenomena, as we propose to call them, all
kinds of institutions find simultaneous expression:
religious, legal, moral, and economic. (Mauss 1954:1)
One knew one's fellow workers because they were one's family or neighbors
and one, in turn, was known by them. Each individual had his place in
the society, and both his status and his role as a member of the society
were known. He as an individual was accepted by the group and he
accepted the group's values and behavior.
Modern society, however, is diverse and discontinuous. The people
who are known to one at birth are not the same as those throughout one's
life, nor are they the ones known at the end of life. An individual
moves in and out of many circles in the span of a lifetime; some of
these circles overlap and others do not. Some form the core of one's
life and others are at the periphery. One's role in each of these
circles may be different, and various too are the statuses that one
individual may possess. These circles are the institutions which make
up modern society, e.g., the churches, governments, banks, clubs, schools
and work places.
Man in modern society is dependent on these institutions for his
survival as they are dependent on him for the survival of the society.
Durkheim (1933) believes that this organic interdependency is the

182
hallmark of modern society. He argues that modern man will eventually
shift his allegiance from his family, his native land and the traditions
of the past to a tie with his occupational group. "Their natural milieu
is no longer the natal milieu, but the occupational milieu. It is no
longer real or fictitious consanquinity which marks the place of each
one, but the function which he fills" (Durkheim 1933:182).
The differentiation of functions as well as their isolation into
separate institutions has altered the individual's relationship to his
society. To the institution, the individual is a worker who is rewarded
as a means of production. It is a limited relationship, one that does
not involve reciprocity, but exploitation, as Marx (1909) has aptly
pointed out. Marx was primarily concerned with the economic injustices
of this kind of society, but Mauss laments as well the social loss. In
the introduction to The Gift, Evans-Pritchard summarizes Mauss' position.
Nowhere does this come out more clearly than in the
Essai sur le don, where Mauss is telling us, quite
pointedly, in case we should not reach the conclusion
for ourselves, how much we have lost, whatever we may
have otherwise gained, by the substitution of a
rational economic system for a system in which
exchange of goods was not a mechanical but a moral
transaction, bringing about and maintaining human,
personal relationships between individuals and
groups. (In Mauss 1954:ix)
What Mauss laments is the passing of a society in which primary or
face-to-face relationships were pervasive and the replacement of this
society with another in which institutional relationships are the more
common pattern. Individuals in every society have had to deal with
their relationship to the group as a whole, but this problem is particu¬
larly acute for modern man who must reconcile society's need for the
differentiation of functions into institutions and his own need for a

183
more personal kind of existence.
In order to work within the institution, the formal organization,
the women have formed an informal organization. This informal organiza¬
tion acted as a buffer between the institution and the women as
individuals, allowing them to fulfill their responsibilities as workers
while at the same time allowing them to retain a sense of self and
others that comes from primary relationships.
The informal group, in the main, was inclusive rather than exclusive,
egalitarian rather than hierarchical, harmonious rather than divisive.
Individuals were evaluated by others based on their personal characteristics
rather than on any aggregate category of race, class, family position or
job title. The solidarity of the group was assured by the cooperation,
reciprocities and friendships of the individual women. Any behavior
which was detrimental to the harmony of the group, such as personal
problems or prejudices, was verboden.
This kind of behavior is similar to what Simmel (1964:40-57) calls
"play form" or "sociation." Man enters most completely into the play
form equipped only with his capacities, attractions and interests. The
attributes of an individual, such as wealth, social position, fame or
erudition, as well as the deeply personal traits of one's life, such as
character and mood, must not enter into the exchange. Tact and discretion
regulate the interaction of individuals in a relationship that is
reciprocal. An individual offers as much as he receives in terms of
sociable values, e.g., relief, liveliness and job. Because the play
form entails the elimination of the wholly personal and the wholly
objective, the form itself is democratic and individuals are treated as
if they were equals.

184
Sociation is based on realities of life, but creates its own
sphere in which its autonomy is preserved in the face of these realities.
Sociation is freed from content and any individual purpose, and is free
to create a unit based on the interactions of the elements of association.
In a sense, it is pure association. The internal purpose of sociation
is the success of the sociable moment and perhaps a memory of it.
The world of sociation or play form is an artificial one, Simmel
argues, because it has placed limits on the individual and has suspended
reality. Man is wrested from both objective and contentual claims,
claims which lie outside of the play form. Yet it is not merely an
escape from life or a suspension of the seriousness of life, but a
sublimation and, at the same time, a dilution of life as it is most of
the time.
To many serious persons who are constantly exposed to
the pressures of life, sociability could not offer any
liberating, relieving, or serene aspects if it really
were nothing but an escape from life or a merely
momentary suspension of life's seriousness. . . . Yet it
is precisely the more serious person who derives from
sociability a feeling of liberation and relief. He can
do so because he enjoys here, as if in an art play, a
concentration and exchange of effects that present all
the tasks and all the seriousness of life in a
sublimation and, at the same time, dilution, in which
the content-laden forces of reality reverberate only
dimly, since their gravity has evaporated into mere
attractiveness. (Simmel 1964:57)
Sociation or "the story" is the kind of interaction created by an
informal group of workers employed in a high school lunchroom. It is
their way of reconciling the demands of society as expressed in the
institution of work with their own personal demands for fellowship and
individuality. The women have imposed on the formal organization with
its impersonal, yea institutional relationships, one of their own which

185
more closely approximates the primary relationships that one has within
the family, neighborhood and other such groups.
Kluckhohn (1944:80) argues that "a given bit of culture is
'functional' insofar as it defines a mode of response which is adaptive
from the standpoint of the society or adaptive and adjustive from the
standpoint of the individual." The informal organization with its
various performances maintains the value of work, carries out the
function of the institution, and allows the workers to be individuals
associating with others. Although work may be man's touchstone with
reality, working in the lunchroom, an institution of modern society, has
forced workers to create an unreality in order to survive.

APPENDIX
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Some information on women working in the early periods of American
history may be gleaned from more general studies which focus on women
working in the home and on farms of colonial America. Spruill (1972)
documents the importance of women in stabilizing the life of the
Southern colonies. The women helped to establish homes and the continu¬
ity of the colonies through bearing and raising children, but assisted
as well in a complex of activities which specialists now fulfill. For
example, women were often in charge of raising poultry and small live¬
stock, curing the ills of the family, extending hospitality to strangers
and acting as midwives. Scott (1970) comments on what happened to some
of the descendants of these early pioneers in a later period 1830-1930
as they became the ladies of the antebellum South and later the organiz¬
ers of relief for Confederate soldiers. Scott credits Southern women
with the survival of the Reconstructed South since they took over the
management of farms and moved into factory work while the men recovered
from the defeat. Women, in part because of their emergence from the
home during the Civil War, became involved in civic activities
promoting the establishment of schools, TB control, prenatal clinics
and penal reform.
Most of the literature dealing specifically with working women,
particularly those employed in factories, was written prior to World
1
War I. The studies and documents of this period deal with the
186

187
conditions in the factories and with the hardships endured by the
women and children employed there. These studies, written by upper-
2
class and upper-middle-class women for an audience of their peers,
were intended to promote reform of some of the most flagrant abuses in
the factories and mills, and to encourage protective legislation for
3
these workers (Roby 1975:203-205).
Two examples of the excellent kind of material written during this
period are given here. Many of the observations and conclusions are as
relevant today as they were over fifty years ago. The first study,
conducted by a group of women in New York City, found that Negro women
were limited to the most unskilled and least desirable jobs; that they
were fired when whites could be found to fill their jobs; and that they
4
were underrepresented in the unions (Swartz 1919). The study condemned
this situation and the assumptions underlying it: namely, that the
Negro worker was slow, unreliable and inexperienced. When employers
were questioned, the researchers found that many of the black women
were better educated (some with high school and college educations),
faster and more skilled than their white counterparts.
The van Vorsts' study (1903), a record of "two ladies as factory
girls," investigated the living and working conditions of working
women. After seeking shelter in boarding rooms and putting on the
5
rough attire of the poor, the van Vorsts worked at several different
jobs for varying lengths of time approximating in some ways the pattern
of other working women. Although the van Vorsts found their work
monotonous, tiresome and sometimes dangerous, after a weekend spent
without amusements or resources, they too "longed to be in the hum and
whir of the busy workroom" (1903:31). The sociability of factory life

188
and freedom from personal cares were recognized as positive qualities of
6
working then as now.
The late nineteenth and early twentieth century marked a period in
which the role of women in American society was changing as women moved
away from their traditional roles in the home and entered non-familial
institutions (e.g., clubs, industry, universities). At the 1848 Seneca
Falls meeting, a small group of women formulated a declaration outlining
their political, social, economic and legal position. These early
feminists urged that women be given the rights and privileges belonging
to them as citizens of the United States. More than a half century was
to elapse before women were enfranchised; the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment)
controversy continues to the present.
Intertwined with the changing position of women in American society
was a dramatic change in the American economy. Economic growth and
technological change brought new job opportunities and created labor
shortages. Under these conditions, labor saving devices and jobs which
required less physical effort facilitated the entry of women into
industry.
Demographic changes as well affected the demand and supply of
labor. Simultaneous with the increased demand for labor, there was a
decline in the segment of the population which traditionally met this
need. At the time that Swartz and the van Vorsts were writing, the
females in the labor force were largely unmarried women who withdrew
from work when they married; the typical female worker, for example,
was twenty-eight and single. Today, however, the female labor force
resembles the adult population as a whole with regard to age, and
marital and family status. That is, in addition to young and single

189
women, married and older women are now participating in the labor market
(Oppenheimer 1970). Many of these women interrupt their employment
during the child-bearing years, but return later to the work force;
others adapt to the dual needs of home and work by chosing part-time
7
jobs.
During both world wars, women increased their participation in
industry in order to release men for military service. Women took over
jobs which were formerly held exclusively by men; some became highly
skilled workers. When the men returned from the war, however, the
women either voluntarily left their jobs or were fired. Not until 1970
did women again hold as high a proportion of the jobs in skilled
occupations as they had during World War II (U.S. Department of Labor,
Monthly Labor Review 1974:14).
Since World War II, women have gradually joined the labor force as
permanent and full-time members, but are segregated into "female"
8
occupations (such as nursing, teaching and clerical work) which
are characterized by low wages and limited job opportunities. Among
workers fully employed the year around, women's median earnings were
less than three-fifths of those of men. In the service industry, the
second largest female occupational group representing about seventeen
percent of the total female labor force in the United States, the
wages of a female worker were $4,606 in 1972 (U.S. Department of Labor,
Women Workers Today 1974).
Despite the fact that two out of every five workers are women and
three and a half million working women are heads of households (ibid.),
women are still viewed as marginal to the labor force. They are
thought of as a reserve supply to be called upon only in times of

190
emergency or in periods of rapid industrial expansion. Many still
believe that women are taking jobs away from men who need them to
support families and that women are working only for pin money or for
the acquisition of personal or family luxuries (Beulah 1941). Because
women are considered secondary earners in the family, they are treated
as temporary help and are given the least interesting and most
monotonous work.
Traditionalists argue that a woman's place is in the home and that
her employment will have detrimental effects on family life. Research
on this subject indicates that there are no differences between the
children of working and non-working mothers because of the mother's
employment (Nye and Hoffman 1963). With the increased practise of birth
control and the ideology of shared responsibilities in the home, many
women have been able to combine careers and a homelife as men have done
in the past.
Nonetheless, women have difficulties in combining employment and
family which men do not encounter. A woman's career, unlike the male's,
is more complex (Ginzberg 1966) due in large measure to the time
devoted to child bearing and rearing. As a result, a woman who drops
out of the labor force temporarily to have a child may lose seniority,
if not the job itself. Because of the time lapse between leaving and
reentering the labor market, women may need to acquire new skills to
be rehired or they may need training for other types of employment.
Some may be considered "too old" since many jobs that women fill are
based on youth and sex appeal (Sullerot 1973:96-97, 107).
Those women who establish footholds in managerial or professional
areas enter the male dominated sectors of industry, business and

191
government. Many believe that women are not capable of responsible
positions because of their alleged feminine traits and that few men
Q
would be comfortable working for them. While there are still prejudices
against women professionals, men who have worked with them evaluate them
much more highly than do those who have not (Basil 1972:16).
This historical sketch of women's participation in the labor force
notes some of the major factors leading to their changing role. Women
have always worked, but economic growth, demographic changes and
feminist ideology gave women the opportunity to seek non-traditional
roles. The attitudes and beliefs of both men and women hamper the full
and equal participation of women in the labor force. To accommodate
these prejudices, most women are segregated into "female" occupations
which have few economic and social benefits. The few women who enter
managerial and professional positions leave the woman's world of work
to become isolates in a male-dominated environment."^
Until the present, little note has been taken by some sectors of
the academic community of these changes in the labor force. "In recent
years, researchers—industrial, sex-role, family and occupational
sociologists, manpower and labor economists, industrial and occupational
psychologists, and industrial relations experts—have not devoted a
single book primarily to women employed in blue-collar, industrial, or
service jobs" (Roby 1975:205). Some research has been conducted on
employed women, however, but most of these women are in the professions
or administration.Other texts dealing with workers, reputed to be
"general" texts, have focused almost exclusively on males, as is reflected
in such titles: Men and Their Work; Man, Work and Society; Man in a
World at Work. The classic work done at the Hawthorne plant of Western

192
Electric did include women, but did not analyze them as a distinct
group. When this analysis was done later, significant differences were
12
found between all-female and all-male groups.
In response to the women's movement, the blue-collar women's rights
movement in the unions, and a national concern with alienated workers,
female researchers have started to study this neglected area. Most of
these studies are of an aggregate nature intended to obtain a general
picture of the working woman. Roby (1975:208) identifies four areas of
interest: (1) "manpower" studies focusing on the opportunities of
women returning to the labor force after an interruption due to marriage
and/or pregnancy; (2) studies of the status and power of working women
in their families; (3) union studies concerning the participation and
hindrances to participation by women in the unions; and (4) studies
investigating the compliance with equal employment legislation, e.g.,
wages and working conditions.
Anthropologists, because of the breath and intensity of their
discipline, have a potentially great contribution to make to the study
of women and their work activities. Because anthropologists individually
study one group of people intensively and collectively study a great
variety of these groups from all parts of the world, the possibility of
understanding the nature of womankind exists, although this cross-
cultural perspective has yet to be attained. Most ethnographies concen¬
trate largely on the activities of males on the one hand because the
13
anthropologists doing these studies are male or male-oriented, and
on the other hand, because male activities are considered more important
than female activities. Mead in her insightful way notes that in every
society whatever is done by men is considered more significant than

193
what is done by women.
In every known society, the male's need for achievement
can be recognized. Men may cook, or weave, or dress
dolls or hunt hummingbirds, but if such activities are
appropriate occupations of men, then the whole society,
men and women alike, votes them as important. When
the same occupations are performed by women, they are
regarded as less important. (1971:168)
A few pioneering studies have been done primarily by female
14
anthropologists on women in various cultures. Most of these studies
have been limited to aboriginal or peasant women, or, if done in the
United States, to women of minority or select ethnic groups. Each of
these studies emphasizes different aspects of being female; none is
exclusively concerned with women at work. Some general observations,
however, may be drawn about women and work based on the data from
these ethnographies.
The work patterns of traditional societies follow closely the
theoretical model proposed by Brown (1970), i.e., women pursue
subsistence and economic activities which they can combine with their
roles as wives and mothers. They are most likely to make substantial
contributions, Brown argues, when (1) they are not obliged to be far
from home; (2) the tasks are relatively monotonous and do not require
rapt concentration, allowing for interruptions and easy resumption of
work; and (3) the work is not dangerous. The applicability of this
model is easily seen for Indian and peasant societies in which foraging
activities and the preparation and distribution of food and clothing
15
are major subsistence functions. Kaberry (1939) found that the
aboriginal women of Northwest Australia provide the major portion of
food for the camp by collecting roots, berries and fruits. Mexican
village women, Arnold (1973) discovered, might also be the major

194
providers for the family even though this was not widely acknowledged
by the villagers. The work patterns of many American women fit this
model as well inasmuch as they pursue part-time work and employment
which can be learnt on the job and left when family obligations
necessitate (Dougherty 1973).
Dividing work on the basis of sex is one of the basic ways in
which societies organize themselves (Durkheim 1933). Not only does this
divide the tasks of a society between the men and women, it separates
the men from the women. While working together preparing cassava as
the Mundurucu women do (Murphy and Murphy 1974) or washing clothes
together in the river as is common amongst Mexican peasant women
(Arnold 1973), women exchange confidences and gossip, joke about the
men and plan for their children.
The separation of women in their work activities extends to other
spheres of life. At a birth, for example, aboriginal women gather to
perform certain rites and rituals in order to insure a healthy birth and
the continuation of their group (Kaberry 1939). At other less critical
times, these women hold their own corroborees apart from the men,
painting themselves, joking and dancing. By cooperating in work,
assisting in life crises and playing together, women establish the
solidarity of their group. Among Arab women for whom the separation
of the sexes is most marked, the relationships that women have with one
another are more personal and emotionally charged than those they have
with men (Fernea 1965). Although an extreme case, the world of these
Arab women is composed largely of other women.
One characteristic common to groups of women, whether organized
for work, ritual or play, is cooperation. Women share tasks daily and

195
exchange assistance and gossip in a continuous matrix of reciprocities.
Dougherty (1973) and Stack (1974), for example, comment on the extensive
amount of sharing amongst American black women. In an attempt to
maximize what they have, they extend their network of social relation¬
ships to a great variety and number of people. Not only are services
and goods loaned and borrowed, but child-rearing as well may be shared
to the extent that the grandmother or another female relative will
16
care for the children while the mother goes to school or works.
These findings on the existence of cooperation among groups of
women have been substantiated by research done in other disciplines.
In each of these studies women appear to be less competitive and more
cooperative than males. For example, Argyris (1973) found in a
comparison of a single-sex and mixed laboratory groups that female
themes included affiliation, family, and conflicts about competition
and leadership, self, and relationships, in contrast to male themes:
competition, aggression, violence, victimization, practical joking,
questions of identity, and fear of self-disclosure. In two other
studies, by Vinacke (1959) and Uesugi and Vinacke (1963), female game¬
playing strategy in several laboratory studies was accommodative,
including rather than excluding, and oriented toward others rather than
toward winning, whereas the male strategy was exploitative and success-
oriented. Maccoby (1966:323-51) summarizes much of the research that
has been done on sex differences, which strongly indicates that females
have a higher rate of participation in cooperative activities.
That cooperation may be a female approach to organizing activities
must be examined further against data from other societies. Such a
social trait may be the result, not of any inherent genetic difference

196
between males and females, but rather a result of their differential
socialization. From a study of three New Guinea societies, Mead (1968:
260) concludes that there is no basis for regarding "masculine" and
"feminine" qualities as sex-linked. Mead found that the Tchambuli
reverse the sex-attitudes exhibited by Western culture and that the
17
Arapesh and Mundugumor have attitudes shared by both sexes.
Based on this pioneering effort, other researchers have explored
the stereotypes of women in other cultures. When Arnold (1973) examined
the stereotype of Mexican women as retiring and subservient (las tímidas),
she found an equally strong stereotype of women as brave and aggressive
(las ¿alionas), as represented by the women who fought in the Mexican
revolution. Neither gave an accurate description of village women, who
Arnold suggests, combine qualities of both stereotypes in their daily
lives. Although Arnold never explicitly states that the one may belong
to the public sphere and the other to the private lives of women, her
data support this hypothesis. Although women do not hold official
positions in the community, for example, their influence through kinship
18
networks and neighborhood reciprocities is considerable. Other
studies indicate similar results. Differing with earlier characteriza¬
tions of the aboriginal women, Kaberry (1939) found the welders of
the digging stick to be whole and independent individuals. Within this
society, Kaberry found that there were two distinct but parallel spheres
into which the sexes were divided. Like Kaberry, the Murphys (1974)
found the Mundurucu women to be positive about their own identity and
self-worth, even though the mythology of the group assigned them an
inferior position. "Women are not intrinsically, personally and
naturally inferior—their roles are inferior" (1974:110). The women

197
recognized and resented this position, and considered the men, for all
their claims to superiority, lazy.
Several different themes are common throughout these ethnographies:
division of labor by sex; combination of work with family obligations;
cooperation and collectivity within work groups of women; and finally
women as individuals distinct from cultural stereotypes. Each study
treats these subjects differently, giving more emphasis to one theme
and less to another. Yet it is striking that such patterns are prevalent
throughout, given the diversity in environments, economic structures,
social organization and histories of these cultures.
Additional data on women and work can be obtained from the biographies
of American women. Traditionally, the anthropologist himself has had
to collect the life histories of his informants since much anthropological
research has been done with non-literate peoples. Fortunately, however,
several American women have written their own biographies, aiding in
deciphering what is idiosyncratic and what is cultural behavior. Of
the four biographies presented here, two were written by young black
women (Moody 1968 and Angelou 19 70) and two somewhat fictionalized
accounts by two white women (Shulman 1969 and Jong 1973).
Although race seems to be the overriding factor in the prejudice
that Moody and Angelou encountered, Shulman and Jong were subject to
what Friedan (1964) describes as the feminine mystique, i.e., a
prescribed, sexually determined role in which that of wife and mother
are stressed. Their struggle, no less difficult than that of Angelou
and Moody against racial prejudice, is one against traditional views
of a woman's place. The problem does not lie with them entirely. As
Beauvior points out, "just as in America there is no Negro problem, but

198
rather a white problem;. . . so the woman problem has always been a man's
problem" (1970:118-19).
Both Angelou's and Moody's biographies, although primarily about
their childhood experiences, give personal accounts of their entry as
black women into the labor market. Both encounter discrimination,
Angelou because she breaks into what is considered "white" work, and
Moody because she never accepts the deferential manner and subservient
behavior demanded by white employers and accepted by her family. Others
in the black community, Angelou notes, have adapted to this barrier to
employment in other ways: (1) by acquiescing to the dominant group
and accepting positions inferior to their skills; (2) by working almost
exclusively within the black community; and (3) by engaging in activities
19
considered illegal or irresponsible by the dominant society's norms.
Shulman and Jong describe their lives as women who have not accepted
the sex-linked roles of mother and wife. Not a new theme, it is one
that Nora in Ibsen's play A Doll's House puts most succinctly.
Helmer: Before all else, you are a wife and mother.
Nora: I don't believe that any longer. I believe that
before all else I am a reasonable human being,
just as you are—or, at all events, that I
must try and become one. . . .1 must think over
things for myself and get to understand them.
(1950:88)
Both writers relate similar experiences of growing up in a society
20
replete with patriarchal values and institutions. Rebellion against
such an entrenched establishment is difficult, because what one is
fighting has become part of one's self. One of the most fundamental
lessons women must learn, Mitchell (1973:61) argues, is that their
problems are not individual ones, but are shared by all women as part
of the condition of being female in a male dominated society.

199
Although the four biographies mentioned here do not deal
specifically with women at work or working women, they give insights
into the behavior and attitudes, the experiences and hopes of some
American women. Such resources serve as an excellent introduction to
literate cultures.
Summary
Women, like men, have always worked, but because most of their
working has been confined to the family environment, it has gone
unrecognized. Most of the information that is directly applicable to
working women outside of the home was written during the heyday of the
suffragettes in the United States at the turn of the century. The
revival of interest in women from a scholarly point of view is not
unrelated to the women's movement of today.
Anthropology, as a discipline, has not paid much attention to
working women per se, but it does offer a perspective on group behavior
and norms and data of a cross-cultural nature. The various studies
mentioned here, for all their diversity in cultures and economic back¬
grounds, indicate that women working together show similar patterns and
values. In each of these studies, the researcher found that women acted
as cooperative or reciprocal units, and that they acted collectively,
particularly during life crises and in subsistence activities. In
spite of the groups' mythology attributing inferiority to females,
the women acted as individuals, not as the subservient or menial beings
that they had been portrayed as.
The biography, another source for evaluating the position of women
in society, is a most useful tool for tracing the ontogeny of a person

200
becoming a member of a social group. Several good autobiographies have
been written by black women who give an insider's view of what it is
to be black and female in the United States. The two fictionalized
biographies by white middle-class women give expression to the feminine
mystique, an experience common to many of their contemporaries.

Notes
1. Roby (1975:229-31f) gives an extensive list of books written during
these early years and of studies published by the U.S. Women's
Bureau prior to 1925.
2. Domhoff (1970:34-35) notes this as one of the three functions of
women of the upper class. The other two functions are maintaining
the endogamy of the rich families by preserving certain social
institutions, and setting the social and cultural standards for
others to emulate.
3. With the assistance of various women's groups, particularly the
influential National Consumer League, some of this material was
helpful in passing protective legislation for women and children
(O'Neill 1971:94-96). It is somewhat ironic that this legislation
which was meant to assist women may in fact be hindering them.
Presently protective legislation is the subject of much controversy
among women trade unionists and promoters of the ERA. Some of
these women feel that protective legislation has been used to
discriminate against women keeping them from being hired, trained
or promoted to better jobs (Agassi 1972:246f).
4. See Marshall (1972: 249-61) for the relationship of black workers and
unions. Beale (1970:92-95) argues that these conditions have not
changed very much since it is the capitalist system which has created
and maintained the oppression of the blacks. Lerner's (1972)
documentary history of black women in America gives personal
accounts of this discrimination.
5. Cassell (1974:85-94) examines dress as a boundary maintenance
mechanism which signifies both group membership and group exclusion.
In the van Vorsts' case, they found that by changing their expensive
clothes for those of the poor, they assumed the identity of the poor.
They were presumed to be ignorant, lacking in experience and devoid
of authority (van Vorst and van Vorst 1903:11).
6. Hoffman (Nye and Hoffman 1963:28-29) suggests that this same
rationale for work exists today.
This is not to say that work on an assembly line
is a mad, gay lark, but it does have certain
advantages. It takes place outside the home.
However unattractive the place of work may be,
the fact that there is a change of scenery—in
traveling between work and home as well as in
actually doing the work—adds a variety to the
day. ... It usually involves interaction with
201

202
other adults, not only at coffee-breaks, which
the housewife may also have, but also during
working hours.
7. Agassi (1972:245-46) argues that the world of work is a creation
of men for men and that it should be changed to accommodate the
needs of women as workers, wives and mothers. She notes that
such changes have already taken place in Europe, particularly in
West Germany and Sweden. Germany, for example, has an eighteen
month optional, unpaid maternity leave with full protection of
seniority and pension rights. Sweden has adopted an even more
radical solution allowing women to work up to fifteen years
part-time without loss of rights for training, promotion, etc.
8. Mary Stevenson (1972:8) found that sex segregation in the labor
market is "the real problem underlying the low wages that women
receive. It would seem that whenever women are cordoned off into
a circumscribed number of occupations and industries, the consequences
are low wages." Papanek (1973:860) notes that women form complementary
pairs with males in Western societies (e.g., nurse and doctor,
secretary and executive, teacher and principal, research assistant
and editor) in which there is little reciprocity and fewer rewards.
9. Kanter (1975) summarizes the available statistics on women in
managerial positions and urges that further research be done on
the politics and informal networks of this male-dominated area.
Kanter notes that management itself and management theory are
charged with masculine culture and traditions.
10. Laws (1975) develops the theme of Token and Sponsor, taking as her
example the female faculty member. This system of selective
mobility supports the status quo in that the entrance of women is
limited and that women as Tokens are divided against one another
inasmuch as they identify with the dominant male group. Horner
(1968) deals with the larger problem, the "motive to avoid success,"
that is, the failure of seemingly bright women to achieve. Lockheed
(1975), based on this initial research of Horner's, found that such
a psychological motive was not random but group specific. When
women were viewed as deviants in the group, their prospects for
success were few; but if the composition of the group changed such
that half of the students were female, thereby eliminating this
deviant status, the women's motive for success was good.
11. See Roby (1975:232-33) for a list of books dealing with professional
and academic women. This list is not exhaustive but is fairly
representative of what has been published.
12. Kanter (1975:34-74) took another look at the classic experiments
conducted at the Hawthorne plant by Roethlisberger and Dickson
(1939). The three groups which they studied varied in size, type
of tasks, experimental manipulation and sex, but they took into
consideration only the first three factors, neglecting to analyze
differences that may be related to the sexual composition of the

203
groups. When Ranter did this analysis, she found that the first two
groups were cooperative and trusting of management while the third
group was counter-dependent, aggressively controlling and suspicious.
The first two groups were all-female groups, and the third was all¬
male. Ranter suggests that this may be a sex-linked attribute in
keeping with the maternal role of women, or simply a realistic
response to women's structural position in society (1975:954).
13. Jacobs (1974:viii) in the preface to her bibliography of cross-
cultural studies argues that Western social science is constrained
by a male bias from obtaining complete and accurate descriptions
of cultural behavior.
If one uses more, or only, members of a given
sex to obtain data, and relegates information
obtained from a few members of the opposite sex
to a lower category (as uninformative or un¬
interesting) , then one is gathering only half
the data needed to present a complete picture
of the problem in question. In the case of
studies of societies, or individuals in *
societies, and of cross-cultural analysis of
various cultural norms, limitations arise
resulting from the concentration of researchers
on males to provide answers to questions derived
from male-oriented epistemologies.
14. Rosaldo and Lamphere (1974:1) list ethnographies that present a
woman's perspective: Chinas (1973); Fernea (1965); Goodale (1971);
Raberry (1939 and 1952); Landes (1938 and 1947); Leith-Ross (1965);
Strathern (1972); and Wolf (1972).
15. When anthropologists analyze economic systems, greatest stress
seems to be placed on production and marketing which are largely
male activities. Such economic activities as processing, prepara¬
tion and distribution, which are largely female activities, have
not been given the same consideration in the literature.
16. Stack (1974) found that urban black women have an extensive network
of kin and friends which acts not only as a social institution
but an economic one as well. Stack describes the pattern of co¬
residence; elastic household boundaries; life-long bonds to three-
generation households; social controls against the formation of
marriages that could endanger the network of kin; the domestic
authority of women; and the socially imposed limitations of the
role of the male.
17. Mead (1971) found that the division of labor by sex was quite
arbitrary in the five societies she studied (i.e., the Balinese,
the Arapesh, the Manus, the Iatmul and the Samoans). She rejects
the claims of endocrinologists that the work rhythms of men and
women are sex-linked.
That because men are more capable of working
in spurts, monotony is more expensive for them,

204
and that women are biologically more
naturally capable of enduring monotony
without psychic expense—seem without
any present foundation in the research
material. (1971:174)
18. Pescatello (1973) found this to be true of Latin American women
as well because of the latitude given in the extended family.
The extended family, still widespread and
potent in the countryside and city, affords
the female an extensive amount of influence
on the members of her family. This certainly
confirms some theses of Aries, Goode, O'Neill,
and others that the "traditional" kin network
in extended families with its built-in
delegation of duties among several members
gives women more "equality" and influence,
and that it is the development of the nuclear
family with its demands that women perform
functions which had previously been parceled
out which causes the North American feminist
reactions.(1973:xiv)
19. Johnson (1941) in his research on black children growing up in
the South and Davis, Gardner and Gardner (1965) in their study
of a segregated community in the South support the individual
experiences of Moody and Angelou with data drawn from a much
larger sample.
20. Millett's (1970) second chapter "Theory of Sexual Politics" is
particularly relevant to an understanding of the patriarchal
system of this country. She argues that dominance based on sex
is one of the last remaining areas of oppression.
Groups who rule by birthright are fast disappearing,
yet there remains one ancient and universal scheme
that prevails in the area of sex. However muted its
present appearance may be, sexual dominion obtains
nevertheless as perhaps the most pervasive ideology
of our culture and provides its most fundamental
concept of power. (1970:24-25)

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
S.A. Lawson
When I was born, what schools I went to and where I work are not
important, not really. What is of importance, I believe, is what a
person thinks and feels. Many years ago I read something by Claude
McKay that has stayed with me. In his poem If We Must Die, he spoke
of death, although the measure of death was life. He wrote of man's
inhumanity but also about the most humane thing about man: his struggle
with life. He said
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, 0 let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
0 kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
In the Dominican Republic, camposinos say this no less eloquently when
asked how they are: Estamos en la lucha. We are in the struggle.
216

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
Professor of Anthropology
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
Theron A.
Associate Professor of ^nthyo-
pology ( /
I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it
conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully
adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy.
-OviUL— C ■ [¿-eCLi
William A. Kelso
Assistant Professor of Political
Science
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Depart¬
ment of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences and to the
Graduate Council, and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
December, 1976
Dean, Graduate School

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