The ‘professional child impersonator’ and her Oslo lunch

In my last post about the school’s milk program, I received a comment that the milk given out to Australian school children every day would have complemented their Oslo lunches. My immediate response was, ‘what the hell is an Oslo lunch?’ After a little bit of searching in the National Archives, I found this poem, which gave me some clues…

The Oslo Lunch

Joey was a boy so slight,
That he was a perfect fright:
Then his Mother had a hunch,
She gave him the Olso lunch

One red apple every day,
To strengthen Joey for his play…
One good ounce of ‘Kraft’ cheese spread,
On some buttered wholemeal bread

1/2 a pint of milk, quite pure,
Joey’s normal then, for sure;
He’s a strong and healthy boy,
So he is his parent’s joy.

It turns out that the Oslo lunch was a mid-twentieth century phenomenon – designed by Norwegian Professor Schiotz in the 1930s, trialled in London 1938 and slightly later in Melbourne in 1941. Nutrition conscious housewives, constrained by rationing, were encouraged to give their families an Oslo lunch – in other words, a cheese and salad wholemeal sandwich, accompanied by fruit and a drink of milk. It’s fair to say that cheese manufacturer Kraft saw the Olso Lunch as a rather wonderful marketing opportunity.

Family eating sandwiches for lunch

The Black family eat a healthy lunch of sandwiches in their flat in 1962. The family had recently immigrated from England, and this photo was one of many thousands taken by the government to lure yet more immigrants to Australia. NAA: A12111, 1/1962/22/2

Such a solid and sensible lunch seems an unlikely source of inspiration for a series of poems. However, Brisbane housewife and  ‘Professional Child Impersonator’ Dulce Letitia Burns felt otherwise. In 1945 she submitted a series of children’s poems (suitable for an illustrated booklet) for copyright. The poem above is hers. Another sample of her work:

Mummy, Daddy, Sister Sue and me

My Mummy has the Oslo lunch…
She has it every day,
For then my Mummy knows for sure,
That fat she will not stay.

And Daddy always likes it too,
It fills him full of vim…
He knows the good from Oslo lunch
Isn’t just a whim.

And sister Sue enjoys it too
It makes her bright and gay
For when the Oslo lunch she has
Fit she’ll always stay.

And I just look for it each day
And run in quickly from my play
For when I hear the luncheon bell
I know the meal is swell

And she finishes the poem off in capital letters, ‘KEEP YOUNG AND HEALTH… TRY THE OSLO LUNCH’

Dulce’s submission is confusing. Is it really a booklet of children’s poems as she claims in the accompanying form? As a mother, I can’t really envisage reading my kids poems about Oslo Lunches. I think further hints can be found in the text next to poems.

Under one poem titled ‘Brother Bob’ she has typed ‘I have always eaten ‘Kraft’ Cheese, when previously on the market. My Mother and husband… would not allow anything else in the house… that’s a fact’.

This is not a booklet of poems – this is a pitch she’s written to Kraft for a series of radio advertisements. On another page she says ‘I could put this poem to music, should you wish, but the child’s speaking voice I use is rather funny. I could also come down to sing in my natural voice… I can sing Shirley Temple songs, a bit like her (when she was little).’

My guess is that she’s written this pitch for Kraft as an idea for advertising on radio, and at the same time applied for copyright on her work, so that Kraft couldn’t steal her creative ideas.

She submitted a few things for copyright over the years – mostly songs, Her most creative year was towards the end of the war in 1944, when she submitted the following songs: ‘Hail to America’, ‘Tribute (to the American dead)’, ‘Eleanor (America’s First Lady)’, ‘Our Gracious Queen’, ‘In the Hush of the Evening’, ‘The Street of Forgotten Men’, ‘Marching Feet’ and finally, ‘The Women of Britain’.

Her obvious bias toward America is interesting – given that she lived in Brisbane during WWII. She can’t have had any lingering ill feelings from the 1942 Battle of Brisbane. It would be interesting to know where, and to whom, these songs were ever sung. She does mention in her Olso Lunch copyright application that she worked in war effort entertaining.

So I’ll finish with another of Dulce’s efforts:

Little Mary from next door

Little Mary from next door
She looks so very, very poor
If she had the Olso lunch…
She’d look better, that I’m sure.

This entry was posted in 1940s, copyight collection, National Archives, nutrition, Queensland and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The ‘professional child impersonator’ and her Oslo lunch

  1. Required says:

    The significance of the Oslo lunch is that it was part of an overall nutritional education program for working-class people, so many of whom, to put it bluntly, ate crap. This was partly because they could not afford to eat better, but chiefly because of sheer ignorance about dietary matters. For working-class people, it had long been a challenge just to get enough to eat, never mind a healthy choice of food.

    Even in the 1950s, when I was in primary school, we were taught about the ‘Three Food Groups’, as though our mothers were too oblivious of such matters to feed us properly. Our school had a canteen, where sandwiches and rolls were prepared by volunteer mothers for sale to we pupils. We wrote our name, class, and choice of sandwich filling on a brown paper bag, or our mother did so for us, enclosed the cash, handed it over tge canteen counter before lessons commenced, and our lunch was delivered to our classroom in a large, shallow wooden box. There were no ‘snack’ foods offered for sale, nor soft drinks. The idea was to raise funds for the school, and encourage healthy eating in children.

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