A few Sundays back, I was having brunch and happened to look up above the bar to find a row of old metal lunch boxes. (This is why I love brunch—you can eat at a bar and drink before noon!) They were sitting above a T.V. that was playing a DVD of T.V. commercials from the 70s. At this point, it hit me: kids today don’t take their lunch to school in metal lunch boxes anymore. Instead, they either use brown paper bags or, if they have more progressive minded parents, they take their gluten-free, non-PBJ lunches encased in soft-sided reusable faux lunch bag contraptions. If they are really fortunate, then they will have a re-purposed, fair trade model from Whole Foods.
But alas, they will never enjoy the fun of a metal lunch box, dented and rusting at the edges because it got left in the rain at the bus stop with paint that may or may not have lead and a Thermos bottle loaded to the hilt with BPA! That’s how we rolled in the 70s! Even the kids lived on the edge with their fake cigarette candy bubble gum!
By the time I was in school in the 70s, lunch boxes had been around for some time. Apparently, the first one was made in 1935 with Mickey Mouse on it. By the time television hit its stride in the 50s and 60s, the movie/T.V. show-tie-in was in full swing.
|OK, I'm not sure how they were able to breath on the moon!|
Speaking of TV shows, my first lunch box was a Space 1999 lunch box. This piece of classic T.V. sci-fi melodrama was about the crew of a base on the moon called Moonbase Alpha, and how they struggled each week to survive after a massive explosion throws the Moon from Earth’s orbit into deep space. It aired for three seasons (1975-77), and I think my first real crush was on the actress Barbara Bain who played Dr. Helena Russell. (Pictured above.)
I also had a bright green lunch box with dragsters on it. (No, not those kind!) I think I got this one after I went to my first drag race when I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade. My last one was red with Peanuts cartoons on it. I must have have read those strips about a hundred times. Poor ol' Charlie Brown never did get that kite out of the tree!
And I remember the day I had to retire the Peanuts lunch box because one of my friends told me that once I went to Junior High, I would have to trade in my lunch box for a plain, brown paper bag. That was the day that my childhood truly died.
I also think that we were a better country when metal lunch boxes ruled the schoolhouse cafeteria. It certainly made us better at logistics, or at least our moms. You see, moms had to pack a fulfilling, nutritious lunch in a space that was slightly larger than a paperback book after the Thermos was placed in there. My mom was the master at this. PB&J (again, this was the 70s—we lived on the edge) took up less space than a ham and cheese with iceberg lettuce—likewise, a bologna sandwich. Twinkies could be crammed in a tight space too. And we were all budding commodities traders: I’ll trade you a Twinkie for your Little Debbie oatmeal cream pie! And of course, there were the days I knew the larder was low. This usually meant a plain cheese sandwich made from the heals of a bread loaf and some desiccated carrot sticks. At least that was better than the kid who ended up with a green bell pepper at least once a week!
These days, when I pack my kids’ lunches for school, I recall those metal lunch box days fondly. And I feel that my kids are getting shorted compared to what I got. Though every now and then, I will smuggle something sweet and give them a “don’t tell wink”—the 70s still live!