Friday, August 18, 2017

In The Kitchen

When I graduated from high school I needed to find a job. My friend saw an ad that said one of the hospitals was looking for help in the dietary department. It was a fancy way of saying kitchen help.

We both applied. She took a part time job there. Her parents had a little money so she did not have to work. I was hired full-time. 

I was to work the morning shift. It started at 6:00 AM. Once I was trained I was responsible for taking steam carts of food to the floor that served maternity and then to the floor that served pediatrics.

The steam cart was a heavy push cart filled with water. It would be plugged in to heat the water and then again on the floor to keep the water hot. That kept the food warm. And boy were they heavy and bulky. Not easy to steer.

Carts containing food trays with whatever dishes and silverware necessary had been taken to the floor a little earlier. They also had napkins and a name card with the room number, bed number , and name of the patient.

Special diets were served by a different part of the kitchen staff. Those were meals for diabetics or other patients who needed special foods.

For breakfast I made toast as well as looking at the menu for the day and serving each tray. I made sure that whatever beverage was placed on the tray. Juices and milk were kept in a refrigerator on the floor. I had a large coffee pot to fill individual pots for the trays and hot water if tea was the requested drink.

After serving my floors I returned to the kitchen area and the work really began. The steam carts were pushed back to the kitchen. The food wells were removed and emptied. They were sent through the dishwasher. That steam cart was thoroughly cleaned and refilled with water to heat for lunch.

We took turns operating the dishwasher. There was a pressure sprayer to clean most of the food off the dishes. The dishes were placed in racks. When the racks were full they were sent on a conveyor through the washer. It also sterilized them with extremely hot water.

When the dishes came out of the conveyor they air dried fairly quickly because of the heat. Someone would stack them and carry them to where they were ready for the next meal.

My regular chores were to make coffee in all the big coffee pots for each floor. After they were emptied I also cleaned them. Once a week they were cleaned in a special solution to keep that coffee oil from building up.

I made the Jello that is a staple of so many hospital meals. It had to be done early enough to be set when needed.

Each day we had to get salad ingredients ready for both lunch and dinner. We peeled potatoes. We did have a potato peeling bin that spun them against a rough side that scraped the peels off. Then we had to rinse them and make sure that there were no peels or eyes left.

Then the potatoes were put into huge pots and covered with water. Our dietician wanted us to put MSG into the water to keep them fresher. We finally convinced her that we could not do that because it was against dietary rules.

Then we got lunch ready to go.

After lunch I again made coffee, did dishes when it was my turn, and we cleaned, cleaned, cleaned. The afternoon shift and part-timers would be in soon and we would be going home.

My salary was $240 a month. We were paid twice a month so before taxes I had $120. It was good money at the time.

As I say all the time my family did not have much money. I still lived with my parents and siblings. I gave Mom $20 each time I was paid. That was for room and board. My parents never asked me for it but it was what I wanted to do.

I also gave Daddy $20 to help with the car payment and gas for the car.

My youngest sister and youngest brother were very small. After I got paid I would take them to town. They each were able to choose a toy or something they wanted. Then we would visit the food counter at Woolworth's. They usually had strawberry shortcakes and I had strawberry cheesecake. It was a fun outing for us.

They were both so small that they do not remember anymore. But they were fun days for me.


  1. You are a hard worker and generous with your money.
    Thanks for sharing memories.

  2. That surely sounded like a lot of work for a small salary, but then, as you said it was a good amount for the time. And, it was generous of you to give money and treats to your family, Emma.

  3. Hi Emma. I hope you are well. I am just popping by to say hi. I hope to update my blog soon. I can give no reason for my tardiness with blogging. John.

    1. No reason needed. You know I worry about you. I sent you a birthday card but you did not retrieve it. Belated Happy Birthday.

  4. Everybody has a different childhood.

    But this was quite a memory.

    1. It makes a wonderful world that we all have different childhoods.

  5. What a great memory, and very detailed tale from the past. It sure must have been a learning experience working there and being able to give back to your family. Very heartwarming indeed. Greetings.

  6. That was a very interesting memory, Joanne. And even if your younger brother and sister do not remember now: at the moment of getting the strawberry shortcake they were happy!