Out to lunch…

“My Momma made my lunch for me today. It’s in a big white bag with “Keith” written on it. It’s a tuna fish sandwich, potato chips, and cookies. I’d say that’s pretty lucky; I have lots of friends who would give anything to have their Mom make their lunch again.” – Uncle Keith*

This paragraph rolled through my facebook feed today.  It made me cry.

It also took me on a romp through some very wonderful memories…

There were two groups of kids when it came to school lunches – Packers and Buyers. As a wee lass, i remember feeling quite special because my mother loved me enough to pack my lunch for school every day.  A sandwich, fruit cocktail in Tupperware, and a Little Debbie Snack Cake were pretty standard fare.

School lunches were available, and the majority of students bought whatever was offered – “Pizza, corn, jello” on Fridays as the highlight of the week.  It cost $0.10 more if you wanted ice cream, and some of the lucky kids got ice cream, but that was a pretty extravagant item in our world.

Before leaving the classroom, the teachers would line us up by the blackboard – Packers first, then Packers who needed to just buy milk, and then Buyers. i was a bit cocky every day knowing that my lunch had been prepared for me, and was neatly packaged in my groovy lunch box.


i had this lunchbox.  i shit you not…

Shopping for a new lunch box was part of the ‘back-to-school’ ritual!  It couldn’t be taken lightly – you were judged by what was on your lunchbox.  Carrying that really cool “school bus” lunchbox might be ok in 2nd grade, but you’d be called a baby by the start of your 3rd grade year.

disney box

i tended to be somewhat conservative with my choices, going with bright designs rather than cartoon characters, or television shows.  i do remember being tempted by a sweet “Partridge Family” box, but opted for something less likely to get me verbally abused.

and this one

By the time i was about 10 years old, the lunch box thing wasn’t cool, but it was still preferable to pack a lunch and i ditched the lunchbox for a brown bag.  Still felt damn special, though. Eventually, i got fussier about what was going in that bag, and started packing my own lunches.

Thanks to Uncle Keith, i had a happy wander down memory lane today.  With a simultaneous ache of missing my mother… It would be wonderful to have her make me a bologna and cheese sandwich on white bread, some syrupy fruit cocktail and a Little Debbie Nutty Bar again…


*Some of my older blogmates may remember Uncle Keith from a few years back. As the founder of his own religion, Keitholicism, and leader of The Riot Squad, he always brought insights and smiles.

40 thoughts on “Out to lunch…

    • i was very surprised to find it when i did an image search for 1960’s metal lunch boxes! i had one like the plaid one, too! Some of my friends had the Disney bus. Amazing that they are still out there, and apparently considered quite collectible!

  1. Lunch box shopping was deadly serious. My fav was a James Bond lunch box with scenes from Thunderball on one side and the tricked-out Aston Martin from Goldfinger on the other. Also, a Lost in Space lunchbox with the cyclops on the thermos. Now, expensive collector’s items.

    I pack my lunch to this day. Lunch in NYC = +/- $8. That’s $160/month on lunch. Crazy.

    • i’m pretty sure i’ve seen that James Bond lunch box. it was SUCH a statement about who we were as children! The Lost In Space varietal would have tempted me, i’m sure. Those matching thermoses were really the kicker…

      Did a ‘gut cleanse’ through the month of January, which necessitated me packing a lunch every day. i was amazed at how much money i saved! Even going out to Subway for a salad is almost $10 if you want a bottle of water. Still packing sometimes… i think i’m going to track down a cool metal lunchbox. To hell with these snazzy insulated lunch bags!

  2. I was a “packer” my first one or two years of school because there was no choice. My packed lunches were usually a thermos of soup and a sandwich. Once the cafeteria opened at our school, we were “buyers”. My memories of the lunches were how much I hated hominy, the ” pink worms ” spaghetti in high school, and my favorite lunch, chili and cinnamon rolls. It could have been worse.

    • My kids didn’t hate most school lunches – except for that “Johnny Marzetti” stuff, which i think was like the “pink worms” spaghetti. Their favorite was called a “Traveling Taco” — Bag of fritos, filled with taco meat and cheese and shaken up. THAT is what passes for a nutritious school lunch! i can’t say the ones i had as a kid were better, but they were made with love and perhaps a tiny bit of resentment…

      • They call ’em Walking Tacos now… and you can get them with Doritos or Fritos, it’s shredded cheese, meat, salsa and sometimes a packet of sauce, i’d like to say i’ve never had one but you know i’d be lying… they sell them at the pool and the ice rink but not at school…

    • It was a pretty popular lunch box! There was also one shaped like a barn, and it had a thermos that looked like a silo! i always kinda wanted that one, but was afraid i’d get beat up for it….

      Uncle Keith is happy, alive and still being himself out in the land of facebook. i miss his writing – he never failed to crack me up!

  3. I went home (a 5 minutes walk) for lunch, unless I had a hockey practice in lunch hour, in which case I made a sandwich in the morning. I used to make my father’s lunches when he worked out of town.In winter, I’d make pastry for small meat pies which he could heat on a stove in the crib room.Sounds like child slavery! But I rather liked it. Dad’s lunch box was metal, but my brother and I had recycled paper bags.And their was no refrigeration at school then so whatever you took had to survive 3 hours in your desk.Potato chips hadn’t reached the outer limits.In fact, I don’t think they’d even been “invented.”

    • My mom told stories of bringing her lunch to school – they’d bake potatos in the stove in the morning, carry the warm potatos in their hands on cold mornings, and then eat them for lunch! i have no doubt your dad really appreciated those lunches! The lack of refrigeration probably presented a few challenges – fruit, vegetables, bread, cheese would be enough, i’d think.

  4. I prized my Star Wars lunch box when i was a kid, might be the only one that made it more than one year, the kid who has lunch at school (the other one will join that club next year when he hits 1st grade) used to buy but suddenly did an about face and packs every day now, i make his lunch and every now and then i slip something special in and without fail when he comes rambling towards the car he’ll be grinning and then he’ll say, “guess what was in my lunch today?” and i’ll say, “What?” and then he’ll tell me and smile at his old man and i’ll say, “hmmm, wonder how that got it there?” and then we have a good laugh…

    • i was already in 7th grade by the time Star Wars came out. by then, i was buying my lunch like the rest of the school… or buying candy bars from friends who sold them on the school black market. i had one friend, margie, who lived near a small store. she’d stock up on all sorts of candy, double the price, and sell it at school. pretty sure she paid for her first car with proceeds from years of being the best dealer in middle school…

      i love your stories with the boyos, kono. those are some lucky little dudes… there will come a day when your guys are in their 60’s, and have a flashback – and they are going to say “damn, i really wish dad could make my lunch again…”… ❤

  5. I went to a Catholic school until the 7th grade. No cafeteria so we were all packers. When you don’t know the cafeterias exist you don’t think about it. I had an old lunchbox that I sold on Ebay once. Since this happened after I started my blog, I posted about it. I how you don’t think I just leave comments with links back to my blog. It is just that the last two posts I’ve read up here reminded me of stories I’ve posted.

    That psychedelic lunchbox reminds me of Goldie Hawn and laugh-in.

    • No need to apologize! i am spending far less time online lately, and appreciate back links from newer readers! i would love to spend time catching up on past blog posts, but know that i’m a bit too kinetic these days to do it – so please feel free to post links to old posts!

      Journey to the Bottom of the Sea was one of my favorites! Right up there with Flipper and Lost in Space for me! i like your description of the sale – ‘selling a memory’ and someone else ‘buying a memory’. As you say, we never sell the memories, only the object that is the reminder. i’m becoming less sentimental about ‘stuff’ as i clear out my own basement, and prepare to do the final purge of my mother’s large collection of stuff. Things that trigger fond memories for me will only trigger “WTF?” moments for my children after i’m dead. What’s the point in that?

      • thanks for giving the post a read. Yes what’s the point of WTF items for the kids. However don’t go too far. Leave some traces for the future to wonder about.

  6. It’s a good thing you didn’t need to fly to school, or you’d have been in trouble with the TSA:
    “Did you pack this yourself?”
    “Er – no…”
    “I’m going to have to ask you to step this way, please.”

  7. I had a plaid lunchbox like yours, but mine pre-dates yours by a number of years. *cough* I think I got that one around fourth or fifth grade, when, like you said, you don’t want to look too baby-ish. Earlier, I probably had a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans one, or Hopalong Cassidy since I was crazy for cowboys. (My first love was Danny Z., a Jewish kid in my kindergarten class, because he wore cowboy shirts with fringe on them. What’s not to love?) My daughter has a collection of vintage items, including a “Pigs in Space” lunchbox from the Muppets. Who knew that stuff would be worth something some day?

    • i’m pretty sure the plaid lunchbox was a “Thermos” brand box – and i probably inherited it from an older sibling who had discarded it… Amazing what memories this has triggered for so many of us! Those feelings we had as little critters? Those crushes on the boys in the cowboy shirts? So very vivid… many, many years later!

  8. My human loved your post! Memories spouted out. The Geezer was mischievous, malicious, or a miscreant child and adolescent if his tales are true. Lunch boxes were one of his favorite instruments. He was able to catch all sorts of wildlife and stashed them in unsuspecting school- mates boxes. Frogs, roaches, toads, mice, spiders, rabbits (baby), and the occasional snake found their way next to peanut butter and jelly, animal crackers, apples, and Bit-O-Honey. What he donated for lunch depended on what reaction he thought he’d get. I asked what stopped him. “I put a five foot blacksnake in my Spanish teachers desk drawer. She did a backflip out of her chair and I got 3 days suspension and a month of detention. The pleasure just wasn’t worth the pain.”

    • Your human was “THAT” kid! There was one in every class, or at least every school! i wasn’t quite that much of a miscreant, but i would often align myself with THAT kid – better to collaborate than be a target! i was more cerebral with my jokes – starting the gig to have everyone drop their pencils at the exact same time, or finding a way to gaslight a teacher to make her think she was going crazy (“Why, no, Mrs. Crabapple! The pencil sharpener has always been on that side of the room… hasn’t it, Davey?”) Glad that your human finally saw the danger in his ways! Shame that kids didn’t have video cameras in classrooms back in the day – that would make for a funny clip!

  9. Went to dinner with (older) cousins in Brooklyn, to a BYOB place. He carried their thermos of martinis in a mid-70’s lunch box that had belonged to one of their kids. Stylin’ down Atlantic Avenue.

    • Oh, my! Have you given me an idea! We are notorious for smuggling booze everywhere we go! Now i have a new technique! i may have to find myself one of those old lunchboxes… This is sheer brilliance!

  10. my sibs and family members were shocked/surprised/curious when my mom passed and I placed a twisted, scrunched lunch bag in the casket. My brother thought it was a joint or a bag of weed (as if). Others thought I was a bit unhinged. But it was a remembrance…when i was in 1st grade at Catholic School, after eating our lunch, we had to throw out the wrappings and brown bags. I cound only bare throwing them in the trash after I had squezed all the love from them. Mom made that sandwich for me, i could never throw it away. Kids are so affected by love.

    • Cheryle, that is the most touching story! Such a sweet remembrance… Thank you for sharing it. You are right, we not only remember the bad stuff, but are so deeply marked by love.

      We stashed a few things in Mom’s casket… In addition to her cane (she never let go of it), and a few other personal items, we all had the same idea. Mom always wanted to have crackers or snacks on hand in case she got hungry… so we all ended up stashing little packets of crackers, Cheez-its, pretzels and the like all over the lining of the casket…

    • i think that must have been a regional thing… Seems you had your priorities in order, even at an early age. It was just a box… Amazing how many memories it DID trigger for people… Xoxo

  11. I was a brown bagger.
    Sorry I’ve been MIA from your blog for so long…I have a lot of reading and catching up to do. You are missed. You are missed by me. What? Stop talking.

    • You were hip before there were hipsters! Good to hear from you – but i realize you’ve been off on quite an adventure! That whole ‘recover your lost soul by chucking it all and going on a walkabout’ takes precedence! Cheering madly for you, Rassles! If your wanderings ever take you towards me, please know that you have a place to crash for a time…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s