Do you remember your first lunch box?
Mine was a G.I. Joe model, used and dented, but I loved it.
Lunch boxes go way back, over a hundred years, in fact. Then they were called “lunch pails” and were usually recycled cans that originally held biscuits or even tobacco. It wasn’t until the 1950s when the Aladdin Corporation struck upon an idea, leading to the explosion of the themed boxes so many of us remember. Realizing that a metal box was durable and thus likely handed down in a family, executives decided to put celebrities and pop culture icons on the side. In other words, they wanted to encourage consumers to keep buying them – even though a perfectly good (but dated) one was in the back of a closet. The first themed box featured Hopalong Cassidy, the popular TV cowboy in 1951. They hoped to sell 50,000 units and wound up moving 600,000 that first year.
The reason for the demise of the lunch box in the late ‘70s and ‘80s was, in some ways, the same reason for its rapid ascent back in the 50s. Analysts believe kids found new status symbols with which to identify. It also didn’t help that some officials thought a metal box could be utilized as a dangerous weapon. Plastic boxes were sold, but they weren’t nearly as popular or durable.
But beyond the nostalgia, I was thinking: Most children carried a lunch box to school for a short period of time, maybe a year or two. Yet, many of us still carry the memories and the impact of those years, both good and bad. We may not remember the detailed drama of the playground, but we probably recall the bully in the back of the room or the teacher who believed in us, perhaps before we even believed in ourselves.
What are you still carrying from your early days of school?
For those of us who are parents, we’re reminded that childhood is a fleeting season of life, like a spring flower, with its quickly fading blooms (Isaiah 40:8). At times, it seems like it’ll never end, but suddenly, and even unceremoniously, it fades away. The best thing we can do as parents is enjoy the time and meet our responsibilities to the best of our abilities.
And so, as school begins in earnest, I would encourage you to metaphorically but deliberately open your child’s lunch box each evening. Take a look inside and talk about what you discover. Help them process the day’s events and the emotions that accompanied their time in the classroom.
But just for fun, let me go back to my initial question: What kind of lunch box did you have – and more importantly, what are some of those early memories of first and second grade?