Gertrude Applebaum Remembers the First 1946 Association Conference


SNA's 2017 Annual National Conference (ANC)

The following is the fifteenth in a series of news stories exploring the exciting opportunities and events at ANC.

In 1946, one year after the end of World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his famous “iron curtain” speech warning of Soviet expansion and the United Nations established UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund). Tupperware and the bikini made their debut, and the very first Cannes Film Festival was held premiering,The Best Years of Our Lives and It’s a Wonderful Life. The New York City Ballet was established, Robert Penn Warren won the Pulitzer Prize for writing All the Kings Men and Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah rose the charts as number one song in the U.S.

Also in 1946, President Harry Truman signed the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act into law, which for the first time through subsidies to schools, low-cost and free lunch meals where provided to qualified students. That milestone, led to the official merger of the National School Cafeteria Association and the Conference of Food Service Directors into the School Food Service Association (or what is today known as SNA!), which took place at a conference held in Chicago.

Hired earlier in February 1946 by the Corpus Christi (Texas) Independent School, for what was then a whopping $2,400 annual salary, a young 25-year-old Gertrude Applebaum boarded a train (which is how they traveled in 1946) and headed to Chicago to attend the joint merger convention, which was billed as “the first really big nationwide, postwar gathering of school foodservice operators.” In a program that included nationally known speakers, educational sessions, exhibits and a field trip to Chicago schools and a “test kitchen,” there Applebaum met profession pioneers such as Mary deGarmo Bryan, Constance Hart and Betsy Curtis.

“When I first heard about this meeting held in Chicago, I thought, what a great opportunity to network with the people in the industry, who I could become friends with and would learn from,” recalled Applebaum, in an exclusive interview she did with School Nutrition magazine, which you can read, in the June/July issue. “I didn’t know anybody. I was very young, determined and gutsy.”

“I can still visualize it,” she reflected. “It was a great meeting; it took place at the elegant Sherman House Hotel and Frank Washam, who was the director of Chicago Public Schools chaired the meeting.

“What was interesting is, they talked about the same kinds of things that we talk about today but maybe in a different way. They talked about menus, recipes, training, equipment and sanitation but not finance, legislation or technology, that came later. Yes, there were displays and exhibits, but to my recollection, the entire program took place in the main ballroom of the hotel.”

Applebaum says much has changed with SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC) since that first meeting in1946, which she says, had about 200 people in attendance.

Oh, conferences have changed dramatically,” says Applebaum, who has attended 55 of the past 70. “Obviously, the size and the scope and the exhibits is larger and the introduction of processed food in the 1950’s changed a lot of the food exhibits. Conferences today are showcasing more sophisticated and technological equipment but when you boil it down, the education sessions are still relative to what is happening in the schools. And there is always training, menu planning, equipment and sanitation in one form or another.

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“Looking back, we used to have these beautiful banquets, which they don’t have anymore. And in the past, every conference had a branded theme.”

One of her more memorable themes she recalled was when the conference was held in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1973.

“Our theme that year was Mardi Gras,” remembers Applebaum, who later served as SNA president in 1981-82. “And everything we did at that conference was based on something to do with Mardi Gras.”

Does that mean you did a lot of partying? “You bet!”

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