Home economist classes taught young and old to cook

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FLBK_Cooking Class_Jean Hanks
OPPD Home Service Advisor Jean Hanks gives a class demonstration to school children in 1980.

Thousands of elementary students got their first formal cooking lesson in one of OPPD’s kitchens.

In fact, the Junior Cooking classes were so popular that they were booked a year in advance. After school, parents would load their scout troops or 4-H groups into their station wagons and head downtown.

This group of youngsters received diplomas after completing the Junior Cooking Class in 1948.
This group of youngsters received diplomas after completing the Junior Cooking Class in 1948.

And they’d make that trek for four consecutive weeks to cover the lessons: breakfast, lunch, dinner and a tea for the parents.

Wide-eyed children huddled around home service advisors who demonstrated what to do. Then, the students took turns cracking eggs, tossing salads and doing whatever else was needed to complete the meal.

When the youngsters completed the course, they received a diploma and a Junior Cook Book.

The classes taught the children more than cooking. They learned how to use electric appliances, such as hand-mixers, ovens and garbage disposals; how to set the table; and how to behave in the kitchen.

Fond memories

In 1996 — when OPPD celebrated its 50th anniversary – a few of the retired home service advisors recalled fond memories of the classes.

“One boy cracked an egg, and it fell into a drawer,” said Marion MacDonald, who served as the department’s director from 1973 to 1976. “He came over to me so worried. I told him that sometimes things like this happen, and we just clean it up.”

Another time, a little boy poked holes in all the paper cups that were set at the table. “I told him to go sit in the back of the auditorium because he obviously wasn’t old enough to cook,” said MacDonald. “He sat back there for a while and watched, then he came up and told me he was ready to help. He grew up in a hurry.”

Clumsy Chefs

Men from OPPD's Service Department took part in the first "Clumsy Chef" class in 1947.
Men from OPPD’s Service Department took part in the first “Clumsy Chef” class in 1947.

The Home Services Department held cooking classes for other groups, too.

There were classes for housewives, student nurses, home economic majors, special-education students, appliance dealers, appliance sales personnel, senior citizens, men and nursing home staffs. They even held cooking school for employees at night.

Many men participated in the “Clumsy Chef” class. Clad in white aprons and paper hats, the men prepared a full-course meal under the direction of the home service advisors, and later enjoyed the meal with each other and any wives willing to take the risk.

Of course, they were not disappointed.

FLBK_Cooking Classes

Vietnamese immigrants attend a cooking class in 1975.
Vietnamese immigrants attend a cooking class in 1975.
Paula Lukowski

About Paula Lukowski

Paula Lukowski, The Wire managing editor, has more than 34 years of experience in corporate communications, 28 of them at OPPD.

One thought on “Home economist classes taught young and old to cook”

  1. Brings back all kinds of memories and tips from Jean Hanks: Vitamins float away in water, so only use a little bit when cooking them! Thanks for the flashback!

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