My Lunch Box

When I was in grade school, my mother made my lunch every day. Tuna fish sandwiches on white bread. A pickle spear. Potato chips. A pink marshmallow covered cake (not homemade.) Sometimes it was bologna and pickle sandwiches. Sometimes meatloaf. With ketchup. You get the idea. These lunches were squishy and smelly. This was in the days before plastic zipper bags. The dill pickle was slipped into a wax paper bag that was, maybe if my mother remembered, twisted closed. The sandwiches, too,were wrapped in wax paper. Then it all went into a thin, inexpensive, small brown paper bag, which was too full to fold over. My name was written on with a marker. By the time I got off of the school bus at 7:45 the edges of the bag were damp. By the time I fished it out of my desk for lunch there was a soggy hole in the bottom of the bag. I don’t know why I didn’t have a lunch box and tidy Tupperware containers. Other kids had tins with the Monkees embossed on them, or Batman, or Flipper the dolphin. I had a small, crumpled, paper bag. This went on for years, until, gratefully in junior high, I was allowed to buy cafeteria food. Having lunch in a school dining hall with several hundred kids was horrifying enough, but bringing an odiferous, falling apart paper bag to the communal table would have made the experience unbearable. How I appreciated getting my meal handed to me on a neat tray!  I no longer wished for a lunch box. Anyway, at this point, lunch boxes were not cool.

Recently I bought this lunch box. I wonder how different my life would have been if I had carried my salami sandwiches to school in it.

It would not have made me instantly popular, and I still probably would have eaten by myself, but I would have liked having this goat for company.

I would have told stories to this dog.

I didn’t know any real chickens, but I would have enjoyed these. I would have named the horse.

I wonder who carried this to school. Was he or she proud of it? Or, is it possible that the child who owned this box wished for a brown paper bag that could be tossed right into the trash so that nothing had to be carried back home?

Did you have a lunchbox?



  1. I did get a lunch box early in the late grade school/early Jr. High years…it was plaid. But heaven help you if you forgot it and a left over banana was allowed to sit in it over the weekend!!!!! Then there was the niffty matching thermos that came with it. It fit in the box, but took up so much room….and it was destined…get…dropped and broken. Didn’t last too long. The tray lonches at the cafeteria were great except on Wednesdays…very dry lima beans that if you didn’t eat, the Lunch Lady would come by and tell you about starving childern in Korea, Armenia (Insert country of choice here). So I got very good at stuffing said dreaded lima beans into my empty milk carten before Lunch Lady made her rounds. About that time,going back to the lunch box seemed GREAT, at least on Wednesdays.

    • The lima beans story could go into a Captain Underpants book :) I remember being given two pennies to buy milk daily. No one wanted milk so we slipped the pennies into a crack in the old school building. I believe that the school is still there. I wonder how much money is in its walls!

  2. I attended a catholic school and lunch time was 1 full hour. If you lived close enough you were allowed to go home, which I did. My lunches were delicious and served with love, but I always wished to take my lunch. You never realize how fortunate you are until you’re older!

  3. I had a lunch box shaped like that one but it was black and the thermos was silver. I remember a lot of peanut butter, tuna, and fried chicken, which I would trade with other students for sushi with sour plums or BBQ turtle. We had no idea in the fifties about endangered species, and seldom actually saw the turtles in the wild, as they were much hunted. I love that they are back now, after much conservation effort, and can be seen whenever you walk on the shore.

    • I love turtles. What type are native there that you ate? I just had iced tea with a sour plum in it at a Chinese restaurant. Delicious.

  4. The most common here are green sea turtles. Swimming near them is wonderful – and a real education in relaxing in the water! I love the way they let waves pass through their midst without being bothered.

  5. My now 40 year-old daughter had this exact lunch box!

  6. I had that lunch box! But can’t remember what my lunch was, other than some kind of sandwich wrapped in wax paper and the ever present red apple. And sometimes home made chocolate chip cookies, Thanks Mom;-)

  7. I had a lunch box but can’t remember what it looked like. Mother cut my sandwiches into unconventional shapes, sort of geometric finger sandwiches. The thermos sometimes contained soup. One day it had cider that turned good and fizzy by lunchtime. I had a good nap that afternoon!

  8. I had a red plaid lunchbox until I was lucky enough to get a “very cool” Scooby-do lunch box. My thermos was always broken by lunch time, so my mom signed me up for milk. Does anyone remember when pudding cups came out? The little pull tab metal cans that we always licked even when the lunch lady said, “Stop that, you’ll cut your tongue off !” No one ever did though. We also had fruit cups, but my mom forgot to put in a spoon. Sigh, good times, good times.

  9. I had a metal lunch box at first and later graduated to white paper lunch bags w/ designs on them. They were sturdier than the brown paper lunch bags. My mom made peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches on egg bread along w/ small chips and a piece of fruit. In grade school I was allowed to buy lunch, but I had to remember to ask my mom for the .35 cents, which I kept in my Ronald McDonald coin bracelet/holder. As I got older, my mom made fewer lunches and I began buying lunch at school. The school lunches weren’t very healthy. My favorite school lunch was a cheese boat (French bread w/ marinara type sauce topped w/ lots of mozzarella cheese) and tator tots. Today’s lunch bag can be made colder or hotter depending on what you put in it. So we’re back to carrying bags that we have to cart home vs. the disposable paper bag.

  10. Oh those dreaded memories of milk soaked paper bags that were so embarrassing, I don’t know why my grandmother thought wax paper would work to stop a reused jelly jar from dripping milk. I remember once when my entire milk jar wet all my classmate’s paper lunch bags,which of course was not discovered until lunch. So much for ever having friends in the third grade. Oh if only I too would have owned a very cool metal lunch pail….so what is the point of wax paper?

  11. My lunch box was in the shape of a school bus with Disney charaters in the windows. I honestly don’t remember what mom made for me for lunch.
    Marie I too went to catholic schools and we were not aloud to leave campus. In high school we were good at sneaking off campus though. I’ll never forget the time we went thru the McDonalds drive thru and when we pulled up the PRINCIPLE was there to take our money!!!! He did serve us but detention was also on that menu. ;-)

  12. I remember having metal lunchboxes complete with thermos. Back in the 40s and early 50s they didn’t have pictures painted on them. My first one was battleship gray. Every fall my mother and I would go to the 5&10 and pick out decals to decorate it (and differentiate it from the other kids’). By the end of the year they would have pretty much worn off so we’d pick out new decals for the next year. Normally lunch consisted of a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich (sometimes peanut butter and sliced banana) on Wonder bread :-( and mother’s homemade choc. chip cookies or what she called cowboy cookies (basically an oatmeal choc. chip :-)

  13. I remember I had a black plastic one with Barbie and her friends on it. Yes, it had a Thermos. I went to a Catholic school at the time when we couldn’t have meat on Fridays at all. My mom used to pack me cream cheese and sliced olive sandwiches. No one would sit by me~~but I still love those sandwiches! I still have the lunchbox. I keep pink sponge hair curlers in it! No, I don’t use them!

  14. Gosh, what a classic! I had metal lunch boxes, and although I don’t remember the characters exactly, I’m sure there was a Scooby Doo one and maybe one with Snoopy. We ate a lot of bologna and American cheese sandwiches with mustard. And she would send a whole piece of fruit – an orange or an apple. My friends always had cut up fruit. I never had time to peel and orange or eat a whole apple, so I’m sure many piece of good fruit went into the garbage :(

  15. Hi Terry, I’m glad that you have this lunch box now. It’s wonderful!