Guy-Perkins District names cafeteria after longtime cook

By Tammy Keith Originally Published December 20, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated December 19, 2012 at 9:40 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Curt Youngblood

Marcelle Fielder serves lunch to students at Guy-Perkins School District's cafeteria. Fielder is in her 35th year of working at the schools’ cafeteria, which is going to be named after her.

— Marcelle Fielder, 89, said she loves her job as a cook in the Guy-Perkins School District, but she had to be talked into the job almost 35 years ago.

The feeling is mutual among the staff, apparently, because the school board voted to name the lunchroom the Mrs. Marcelle Fielder Cafeteria.

Fielder said when another cook was out because of her husband’s illness, then-Principal Ed Stephens called and asked if she wanted to come to work.

“I said, ‘No, I didn’t really care about cooking,’” she recalled. She filled in for a month and went back home.

“He called me again and wanted me to come up here. I said, ‘Oh, what have I done now?’”

What she’s done is become a beloved member of the staff.

The Guy-Perkins School Board voted to name the lunchroom after her.

The Parent-Teacher Organization also dedicated its cookbook to her. “That was real sweet,” she said.

Guy-Perkins High School Principal Brian Cossey likes to tell the story of Fielder’s devotion to her job.

“A couple of years ago she had open-heart surgery. Two weeks out of surgery, she missed the cafeteria and the school so bad she made her daughter bring her up here and put a chair right behind where she serves breakfast just so she could say good morning to all the children while somebody else served. That’s what kind of person she is,” Cossey said.

“I know a lot of them by name ... when I go out anywhere they’ll always say, “There’s our cook lady; there’s our cook lady,’” Fielder said.

Fielder said she was given a schoolwide get-well card after her double-bypass surgery. “Everybody up here signed it. It was just wonderful. I spent hours reading my little verses and everything people had written me,” she said.

Fielder gets to serve two of her eight grandchildren at the school.

She is a 1942 graduate of Guy-Perkins High School.

During the war, Fielder said she, one of her sisters and their father worked at a box factory in Little Rock.

“A man from Guy had a truck with a built-in back like a bus, and he picked up all of us and took us to Little Rock and back. We got 45 cents an hour and thought we were making money,” she said, laughing.

Fielder said her two sisters liked to sew, but she didn’t.

“I either wanted to be helping cook or be outside,” she said.

She and the late Bill Fielder had five children, all of whom live in Faulkner County.

Being a school cook has changed in the past three decades, Fielder said, from the increase in the number of students to the menus.

“Used to when you went to school, you could go in there and cook whatever you wanted to — add a little to it — but that’s all changed,” she said.

“We practically knew our recipes. Now you need to get that recipe out and look at it.”

She said new requirements include using wheat flour and wheat spaghetti.

One of the favorites among the children is the chicken-fried steak, she said, and lunchroom cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls seem to be universally loved.

“I really like to make vegetable soup,” she said. “We have some good food up here.”

Fielder is the first one at school every morning — 6:30 a.m. — starts the coffee and gets everything out to make breakfast, then is joined by the other employees.

“These other ladies here have been great to help me,” she said.

One of her favorite stories is when she made a mess in the kitchen.

“I always serve breakfast, but before breakfast, I got my ingredients in a big old mixer to start my cookies after I got done with breakfast,” she said. Another cook put the milk in the bowl.

“When I turned it on, it was on full blast, and it slung all that on my head, and it was running down my face. I had to go home and clean up,” she said.

She doesn’t regret her decision to take the job.

“I guess I got up there and saw it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. We had fun, too,” she said.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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