Before there was fast food there were lunch boxes. These colorful and often comical containers were a great way to enjoy a healthy, homemade meal even when you weren’t at home. The noontime meal was forever changed in 1950 with the arrival of Aladdin Industries’ sturdy steel box that sported a scalloped color decal of television’s favorite heroic cowboy Hopalong Cassidy. Although the first lunch kits were created in the 1920s, the advent of a container with popular television/book/magazine characters of the day captured the attention of children, and lunch-packing parents everywhere. It didn’t take long for more than 600,000 Hoppy boxes to find their way into the hands of children, and for more companies to follow Aladdin’s lead.
According to historical details, including those found in Warman’s® Lunch Box Field Guide, the lunch box era of the 1950s and 1960s capitalized on the popularity of America’s fascination with cartoon and film heroes and villains. Whether they were riding the range, saving the town, exploring space, or keeping us laughing, the characters with a line of lunch kits were the epitome of cool. The reign of metal boxes went on until the 1980s when parent groups concerned about lead in the lunchboxes and the potential for lunch boxes to cause injury called for a change, referring to metal boxes as “deadly weapons.” This prompted the creation of plastic lunch kits, which in turn served as the catalyst for the insulated lunch boxes of today.
Despite the general departure from metal, these classic containers can still be found at rummage sales, auctions, and online at sites including Lunch Box Pad – a gathering spot for anyone with a love of lunch boxes. In addition to their popularity among collectors and the school-age crowd, the nostalgia factor of lunch boxes is undoubtedly cool. Just last month the San Francisco Chronicles’ Pop Culture Critic Peter Hartlaub wrote about his own longing to be part of the lunchbox crowd in a tribute to lunch boxes; on the popular parent and baby blog spot, The Poop. The section below from Hartlaub’s entry touches on the lengths a child will go to be part of the lunch box crowd:
“I only had hand-me-down lunch boxes, the best of which was a battered yellow plastic Snoopy pail, with the paint so chipped that Woodstock was nothing but a head and some tail feathers. The clasp was broken, so I had to hold the whole thing together as I walked to school, which I gladly did: As I wrote about before, it was imperative that Snoopy survive, because his understudy was my sister’s girly old Holly Hobbie lunch box. Try walking across the school yard with one of those and avoid getting your butt kicked five times. Even the 80-year-old yard duty lady wanted to give me a wedgie.
As I got older, I started bringing brown bag lunches more and more, which cut down on the potential ridicule. But it didn’t lessen my lunch box envy, a yearning that lingers to this day.”
For anyone who can relate to the desperate need to own a lunch box or lunch kit, or appreciates the fun and fantastic designs of lunch boxes with their characters of yesteryear Warman’s® Lunch Box Field Guide boasts great photos of lunchtime treasures, along with current value, and historical tidbits. Order your copy of this great new guide by November 7 and shipping is FREE! To order, visit www.krausebooks.com and include Coupon Code ATRBART1031, or call 800-258-0929.