From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Lunchboxes

All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in The Nebraska Sandhills...



It's school-supply season, and I notice that the needs of young students haven't changed much. The basics are still paper, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue and Kleenex.

And then there's essential school luggage -- backpacks and lunchboxes.

I didn't need a backpack when I was in grade school because we didn't take schoolwork home with us. In a one-room school with students of various ages, our teacher had a lot of classes to work into each day. She gave us plenty of assignments to keep us busy while she was teaching other classes, but we had plenty of school time to get them done.

LunchboxOf course I had a lunchbox -- a round-top metal box that swung open from the middle. The top half held a Thermos, and the bottom had plenty of room for a sandwich, fruit, and cookies.

When we arrived at school, we set our lunchboxes under the bench next to the door. We hung our coats on hooks above the bench, and we sat on the bench to take off our rubber overshoes.

In warm weather, our mothers packed peanut butter sandwiches for us because they didn't spoil, but in winter, they often sent meat sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil. The floor was cool enough where our lunchboxes were kept that the sandwiches didn't spoil in the few hours before lunchtime.

On winter mornings, we laid our foil sandwich packets on top of the old fuel-oil heater at 11:30 to warm them. If the heater was running a lot, our sandwiches were well-toasted by 12:00.

When we got home from school, we were supposed to clean out our lunchboxes immediately. This was important because anything damp (like a half-eaten piece of fruit) would make the lunchbox rust, and food left in it smelled bad after a day or two.

LunchboxI remember owning several silver lunchboxes. The Horner girls, my perpetual schoolmates, had a black lunchbox that they shared. When my little sister started school, I think she had a square red-plaid box. If we still had our lunchboxes, they would still have a little value as vintage pieces, despite dents, rust, and scratches

If anyone in our school ever had a lunchbox with pictures on it, I have forgotten it. It must not have impressed me. I wish I had one of these lunchboxes now, though. Here are the values of the top ten collectible boxes (in 2005), and half a dozen of them are from the era of my schooldays:
  1. Superman (Universal, 1954 -- $13,500
  2. 240 Robert (Aladdin, 1978) -- $4,200
  3. Toppie Elephant (American Thermos, 1957) -- $3,200
  4. Underdog (Okay Industries, 1974 -- $2,500
  5. Dudley Do-Right (Universal, 1962) -- $2,200
  6. Jetsons Dome (Aladdin, 1963) -- $1,650
  7. Beatles (Aladdin, 1966) -- $1,600
  8. Bullwinkle & Rocky (Universal, 1962) -- $1,600
  9. Star Trek Dome (Aladdin, 1968) -- $1,450
  10. Knight in Armor (Univeral, 1959) -- $1,250
(For lunchboxes in absolutely perfect condition. According to Toys and Prices 2005. Source.)

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NOTE:
I've tried to use the word "lunchbox" throughout this post, but I think we really said "lunchpail" or "lunchbucket". Our parents probably had real lunchpails when they were kids -- metal lard buckets with wire handles and big round lids.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.