Saturday, November 8, 2008

History and use of lunch tins

What do you think of when you think of grammar school? Playgrounds, favorite teachers, bullies? Some of us have nice memories, others...well, not so nice.

One thing that does stand out in my mind though was lunch time. No standing in those long lunch lines for me! No way! My mom made sure that I would have nutritious meals. So, every August we would go hunting for...yep...lunch boxes. That was a process. After all, it had to be the right one, the one that would show my favorite...whatever of the year. That was part of the fun of shopping, finding what it was that best suited my mood or personality at that time.

Here’s a little background on lunch tins: They weren’t used until the early 20th century when people started using tobacco tins to haul their lunches to work and school. Can you imagine the smell that went along with each bite of sandwich? Yuck! The first lunch tins were made at INCO mines in Sudbury,Ontario.

In 1935, Geuder, Paeschke and Frey produced the first licensed character lunch tin, “Mickey Mouse”. It was a lithographed oval tin and had a pull-out tray inside. It did not contain what they called the “vacuum bottle”, what we know today as the thermos.

In 1950, Aladdin Industries created the lunch tin based on Hopalong Cassidy. This one sold 600,000 in it’s first year!

Do you remember your favorite lunch tin? Superman? Partridge Family? Care Bears? Barbie? How about Archie Comics or Peanuts or Knight Rider? There was a lunch tin for everybody!

Sadly, they stopped making metal or tin lunch boxes in the 1980’s due to concerns of them being used as weapons on the playground.. In the 90’s, people had pretty much stopped buying them altogether, though they still make some out of vinyl or plastic.

Too bad. It was fun that first day of school “showing off” our lunch boxes (never mind the contents!), seeing what fads my friends were into.

Some of your older, in-good-shape ones, actually sell for a few thousand dollars! Have one laying around in your attic?

It’s a long lost era. The fun news is that there are “retro-lunch tins” out there. A few places sell them, and antique stores still carry a few.

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