During a recent trip to a local antique mall I found this little stash of metal lunch boxes. Of course, I had to investigate.
There were a few good ones there — the Indiana Jones, the Six Million Dollar Man, and He-Man ones caught my eye. Unfortunately they were all in the $20 range, had rust, and were missing their Thermoses. The ones on the other side of the aisle (Pac-Man and Rambo) had no rust and included their Thermoses, but were $50 each. I already own the Pac-Man and Rambo lunch boxes, but even if I did, $50 is too much for me.
I never understood the appeal of those generic lunch boxes, like the ones here with the girl on the side. What kid wouldn’t prefer having lunch with an officially licensed lunch partner?
Lunchboxes are one of those things that can instantly take me back to my childhood. I love way they look, the way they feel, and, when you open them up, the way they smell. Just a whiff of that plastic or metal combined with peanut butter and jelly, a pack of Zingers, and a thermos full of semi-cold milk is enough to immediately whisk my mind back to third grade for a few minutes.
Over the weekend I visited one of my regular romps, a small hole-in-the-wall vendor at a local antique mall that carries (among other things) lots and lots of vintage lunch boxes. I spent about an hour there, digging around and taking pictures of some of my favorites. I make no claim as to being a professional or even an educated collector of lunch boxes — I just buy what I like. I’ll share as many of the photos as I can with you this week.
With that, I’ll begin with pictures of the two that I ended up buying this past weekend. First up is Rambo:
I love Rambo’s look on this lunchbox. It says, “Kid, if you steal my Twinkies, I’m going to shove this rocket launcher up your nose and pull the trigger.” This particular Rambo lunchbox is considered to be the last mass produced metal lunchbox; after this one, they switched over to plastic, which makes this one somewhat collectible (although not hard to find). I paid $40 for this one, with the Thermos.
Here’s the second lunchbox I added to my collection this weekend:
It’s the Muppets! The reason I bought this one was because of the picture on the other side:
I have seen a lot of these with Kermit on one side, but the one with Fozzie Bear seems to be slightly more rare. I’m guessing the Fozzie Bear model didn’t sell as many units at the Kermit and Ms. Piggy ones. Of course I didn’t buy it for rarity’s sake — I just happen to like Fozzie Bear. I wonder how many kids found a banana in their lunchboxes and tried cramming it into their ear like Fozzie is seen doing in this picture? Maybe that’s why this model didn’t sell so well. Why do bananas never get lonely? Because they hang around in bunches! Hey, time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana! Wocka Wocka Wocka!
I paid $8 for this one without the Thermos. If I find lunchboxes I like for $5-$10 I’ll usually pick them up. Be sure to check back the rest of the week and see some of the other ones I passed on (for now).
The movie First Blood was a big hit in my neighborhood growing up, especially on VHS. I do not think that we were old enough to understand the social commentary or any of the subtext. We were more interested in this apparently super human Rambo and his ability to evade capture. This movie created all sorts of “survival” games that we would play in the swamps and meadows near the river that ran through town. Maybe we called that “playing Rambo”, I am not sure, but the tagline for those days of play would have been “one man was the hunted…”
Being young boys we also fixated on one particular prop in the movie, Rambo’s Knife. And why wouldn’t we, that thing was a lifesaver. With just a knife to start off with, Rambo was able to single-handedly take on the entire world. This was something that appealed to us. One by one we all acquired knives of similar qualities (although most were just cheap reproductions). I was able to talk my Mom into buying me one at a Swap Meet while we were on vacation in Florida. I think it was 14 bucks — it was far from authentic (oddly enough the price for about the same knife remains almost unchanged). I am not sure what she was thinking, but I guess she trusted me and that trust was not misplaced. I would use the knife for fort building and other mundane “survival skills” and never for anything that dangerous.
I cannot imagine kids toting survival knives around the suburbs today without getting arrested, but we walked proudly through yards and vacant lots with these monstrous blades strapped to our legs and never heard a peep from anyone. Your thinking perhaps people wanted to say something, but were terrified by this armed group of kids? More likely people just though we were kids being kids. Plus we did much more unusual and often louder stuff in our area. So a fixation on dangerous looking, but relatively quiet knives, must have been a relief.
Recently I stumbled across this commercial that ran on television for the knife online:
That was my exact knife! Even down to all the accessories. I made a mental note to try and track down the knife when I went home to visit my family. Surprisingly the knife was still in one piece, although the loops to make the wire saw were missing and the sheath was long gone. It also was well buckled from my constant, but inefficient sharpening. My nephew was over at the house at the time and I asked my Sister if it would be okay if I gave him the knife. Her look was one of horror — a resounding NO!
I guess times change. But I can tell you this, from the look on my nephew’s face when he saw that knife, kids do not.