It seems to be a stereotype that many people do not (or didn’t) like school lunch. Eating the cafeteria food is often seen as a form of cruel punishment equivalent to pulling out fingernails and breaking knuckles. I will note here, that in grade school our food at school was incredible. It was a small private school and the food was actually the kind you looked forward to. Plus, my Mom was one of the cooks. Insert lunch lady joke here.
My point is, most people probably would have liked to have taken their lunch to school. However, no brown paper bags! No newfangled soft cooler lunch totes! No, no. Only a noisy, sturdy metal lunch box will do! If the food at my school had been putrid, I would have sported one. In fact, I should have just carried one around, sans food, because I would have been the envy of all. (At least, in my mind.)
My recent trip back to visit my family brought the remembrance of the lunch box my parents still possess. The Muppets, with thermos intact. You can’t beat that! It was quite a trip down memory lane, while I was back, my niece and I went to the movie theatre to see The Muppets’ new movie (It was fantastic, by the way. . . fart shoes. . heh heh) and during that outing we also found a Smurfette lunch box, which of course, we had to get. It’s not an original one or antique, we actually found it at Old Navy, of all places, but I still think it’s great that there is a new version of this classic item that is accessible and reasonably priced. My niece loved it and couldn’t wait for her first day back to school after winter break so she could carry it.
Her second day back, I took her to school, where she proudly threw it (literally) in the big steel cooler they have the kids who bring their lunch, put it until lunch time. See, you don’t even need an ice pack friendly lunch box! I then returned later to eat lunch with her and while waiting for her class to come to the lunch room, all the brought lunches were sitting on a table. Smurfette was the only old school metal one! Yes, my niece, the non-conformist, breaking from the crowd and the norm! She’s off to a good start. Her shiny, quirky lunch box was surrounded by all those contemporary blah soft ones. (If you carry one, no offense, I’m just biased.)
The vintage metal ones are very sought after by collectors. As collector’s items they can fetch quite a price. At a local flea market in Kansas, I found the same Muppets lunch box like my parents have, but without the thermos, very dented and rusted, with a price tag of $25! My parents’ is in mint condition with thermos, I can only imagine how much it is worth.
Though I can’t say the monetary value means much to me, it’s the feeling this kind of item provides. The smile it creates with the thought of the grip of one’s fingers on that handle, the sound of the hinges, and the shifting clang of the thermos and contents against the walls inside. Ah, savory.
The added bonus of it, is that it’s actually practical and sturdy. Those metal walls and spacious body provide the best home for your soon to be eaten goodies. You know your pudding isn’t going to get dented and splattered open all on the inside of your lunch box. You know you’re not going to open the lid to find your sandwich a squished mess of what used to be bread and some filler content. This box will perform its duty and provide superior protection for the precious morsels that have been lovingly packed.
Also, while back in Kansas, one of my trips to Lawrence (where the University of Kansas is, Rock Chalk Jayhawk!) took me to a great antique mall they have downtown. It is the kind of place that makes me shake with anticipation at the kind of kitschy, unique items I may find. There are usually some hidden gems here, but there is also a lot of the weird and bizarre items that make you wonder who even owned them in the first place.
While there I found a plethora of metal lunch boxes. They came in various states of health, some beaten and rusted, some just dented, and some hardly showing their age. Most were without their trusty sidekick, the thermos, which seems to be quite common. The Junior Miss one was the only one still claiming its thermos, sporting a hefty price tag of $50.
There were a lot of good finds, the Fat Albert one made me chuckle. G.I Joe and King Kong would be pretty swell to have. My sister loved Strawberry Shortcake when she was younger, so I immediately thought of her when I saw it. And what’s more, it had the name “Kelli” written on it. My sister’s name is Kellie. Spooky.
Maybe the best find of all was the Bionic Woman thermos. I wonder what happened to her lunch box, what tragedy befell it to separate the two? I’m sure it was a sad story. At least, the world was left with this amazing find. If I’d had money this gem would have been mine. I love the various scenes, depicting all her powers. It’s quite funny and made me giggle out loud. Plus, I saw Lindsay Wagner on the street in New York City once, I think that’s connection enough to want the thermos with her likeness on it.
I’m definitely going to start packing my lunch. It’ll be okay, right? An adult packing their lunch in a Smurfette or Kermit lunchbox? If only there was a Gonzo one, he was always my favorite, but I digress. If I carried those around (only one at a time, on different days, of course) it wouldn’t be weird, right? I’d still like to think I’d be the envy of all. And at least no one would try and beat me up for my lunch money, though they may beat me up for other reasons.