Former food service director continues serving others

Friday, February 3, 2017

With school starting next week those of us who are "middle age" plus have memories of days when we carried a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school in a brown bag or dashed home for a quick lunch. Some of our richer friends even hurried uptown to buy a hamburger or some other treat.

Nevada schools didn't provide hot lunches at school until 1951 when Benton was the first to have this service. The next year the other elementary schools followed suit and Ann Ephland was one of the cooks at Bryan School. She stayed in this position until 1970 when she became the food service director for the entire school district.

During these years many changes have been made in the food service, but one thing Ann Ephland stressed through all the years was that the first bite must taste good. She said that if the first bite isn't tasty, then the children won't eat any of the meal.

Those first meals were sold to the children for $1.25 a week, as compared to today when the listed price is $1.15 per meal. All of the time Ann was working in food service, the children had a full hour for their lunch break.

The high school had a cafeteria on the third floor of the old high school building, and after the school was destroyed by fire in 1956, the high school students were bused to different elementary schools for their lunch hour. Even under those conditions between 600 and 650 high school students were served hot lunches.

However, when the program first started in the early '50s only 95 students ate at Bryan School. By the time Ann left the school to become the director, there were 250 students eating daily in that one school.

In the early years, there were no choices offered the diners. They had 2 ounces of meat and a balanced meal with a salad, vegetable and dessert. It wasn't until 1975 that students were offered different menus to choose from.

The very first food service director was Iren Wilhelmson who retired to North Carolina where her son lives. Ann Ephland then become director in 1970 where she stayed until she retired in 1975.

One of the greatest things Ann enjoyed about her job was getting to know the children. All of her life she had hated being called "Annie," but when the children at school started calling her that she loved the name. After she became director she didn't have the daily contact with the children but enjoyed getting to know the teachers and administrators of the schools.

This long term cook was not a native of Nevada but came here in 1931 from Flat River, Mo., to help her sister, a woman whose minister husband needed to be gone much of the time. The sister was expecting her second child and asked Ann to come be with her until the baby was born. But by the time the baby was born, Ann had gotten a job at Kresses' store and had met Clifton Ephland, whose father was the janitor of the Vernon County Courthouse for years.

Ann and Cliff were married in 1934 and raised their family in a home on North Ash Street. Cliff was a rural letter carrier for Route 3 out of Nevada and after their youngest son was in kindergarten, Ann became a cook at Bryan School. She was grateful to David's kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Frazier, for taking her son from the morning kindergarten class to the courthouse to stay with his grandfather until Ann got off work in the early afternoon.

David now lives I Kennedale, Texas. His older brother, Tim, is in Fort Worth, Texas. Ann's daughter, Rita (Lentz), remained here in Nevada. The couple had three grandchildren.

Cliff and Ann had looked at the apartments at Balanced Care several times, but had not made a decision about moving there when Cliff became ill. After his death, Ann moved to an upstairs apartment where she has continued many of her previous hobbies and has begun a new service.

The residents of the apartments and the nursing home wanted to receive the Nevada Daily Mail in the evening, but they could only be delivered in bulk to the front doors. So Ann volunteered to hand deliver the paper every night to each subscriber in the nursing home or in the apartments. She enjoys this opportunity for a quick visit with her friends.

She supplements this service by clipping pictures and articles from the paper to send to family members of the person mentioned. She said people often want an extra copy or two so she clips out articles each night. (Author's note: I hope someone will return the favor and clip this article and send it to her.)

Ann also enjoys collecting things. She has a stamp collection, a coin collection and a collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia. But her largest collection is 850 pencils, each one different, that she stores in a slotted bag, which can be stored in her closet.

In case that doesn't keep her busy enough she made seven cross stitch quilts for her family, helps in the rose garden at the apartments and takes part in all the activities offered at the apartments such as Bible study, exercise, game time and crafts. She drives to the Church of Christ on west 54 Highway and is a member of NARFE.

When asked if she cooks much now, she said the food was so good there she didn't cook much anymore, but she does get her own breakfast and supper.

She laughed when she mentioned that one of the cooks at the apartments had been a student at Bryan when Ann was the cook.

The cook told her, "Ann, you used to feed me, and now I am feeding you each day."

And first bite still tastes good.