Remember ‘Tuck’ Day at School?

Remember the brown paper bags for school lunch orders?

When I was at school we never had anything quite as fancy as the printed paper bags, back in the 50s and 60s if we ordered from the school canteen, we wrote on the plain brown paper bag.
When my children went to school in the 70’s and 80’s they would fill out one of these brown paper bags for lunch orders and then the lunch monitor would take them off to the school canteen so they could get it back to the classroom for lunch.

The mum’s all helped out on tuck shop duties and the money raised went to the school. Photo from the book Australia Remember When


The canteen would be staffed by volunteer parents (my wife did that quite often as our children grew up) and they’d make sure the kids got their lunch bags filled with whatever they wanted. The children who were the lunch monitors would come in just before lunch to pick them up and they’d all be happily chatting away while they waited for the lunch ladies to get their class’s lunch box for them.

Most of the school canteens actually made money for the school and the profits were used to purchase extra equipment like movie and slide projectors, tape recorders and other teaching aids that helped in the education process. There would also be regular fund raising days when parents would make big batches of toffees, coconut ice, Russian toffees, toffee apples etc, and kids were encouraged to buy the home made treats to raise extra funds for special events.
These days of course its all about healthy eating and there are now strict Government guidelines as to what kids should and shouldn’t be having for lunch. I don’t disagree with that, especially considering that many kids now buy their lunch at school almost every day and are far more exposed to heavily processed foods and soft drink than we were when we were growing up during the baby boomer era.
Remember when sandwiches were wrapped in greaseproof paper and that paper was used over and over again

When we went to school  (we’re talking 50s and 60s here) buying lunch at the tuck shop was a rare exception rather than the rule. At that time in Australia most families survived on one income and buying lunch at school was considered a rare treat, maybe once or twice a month. Most times we took lunch to school, maybe Vegemite sandwiches or jam. On a Monday we would probably have had cold meat and tomato sauce sandwiches, leftovers from the Sunday roast. My mother used to do a great silverside and I can still taste her silverside sandwiches, wrapped in grease-proof paper, placed in a paper bag with a banana or apple for afters.

And we had to bring the paper bag and grease-proof paper home which would be re-used next day and the day after that! On the rare occasions we were able to buy lunch I would have a pasty with sauce and a berliner bun (which were renamed Kitchener buns in South Australia).
What are some of your own memories of ‘tuck shop’ day at school?

Share the memories of your own childhood with our other readers by recording your comments in the “Comments” area below. Comments may take up to 24 hours to appear.

If you love nostalgia join me on a trip down memory lane with a copy of my best-selling book Australia Remember When. Almost 250 pages, crammed with photos, memories and stories of growing up in the baby boomer years from the 40s to the 80s and beyond. Join me as we celebrate growing up in what was a very different era, when kids roamed free, parents and teachers were obeyed, discipline was an accepted part of life and the world seemed a simpler place. RRP of the book is $34.99 (plus postage) and can be purchased from Shopify, just to the right of this story.


  1. Remember the sauce on your pie was not in a little plastic box ,but squirted onto the pie which then ended up on the paper bag and you either wiped on the pie with your finger or locked off after you had eaten.

  2. When my work friends are amused when I recycle chemist bags etc to carry my lunch , I tell them about how,in the 1950s,I used to neatly fold my brown paper lunch bags and grease proof paper wrapping to take home and reuse the next day .

Comments are closed.