When my girls were little, they rode the bus to school, and of course, ate their lunch at school too. As a kid, we only lived 5 blocks from school, and since Mom didn’t work then, we went home for lunch. In days gone by, the kids walked into town to school. There was not time for them to come home for lunch…only the town kids could do that. You wouldn’t think that these situations have much in common, but the thing they do have in common is the lunch container…so to speak. When my girls were little, their first lunch box was the Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox. They loved it. And every year after that, they got a new lunchbox, because as we all know, a first grader can’t have a Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox. That is totally not cool. By the first grade you would need something cool, like Care Bears or My Little Pony. The right lunch box made that first day of school, and the wrong one, ruined it. Ok, maybe it wasn’t quite that serious, but we all know that for a kid, very specific things mattered in school.
Things were a little different in the old west, as well as in the early 1900’s. Fancy lunchboxes didn’t exist. Instead of a lunchbox, the children took their lunch to school in a lunch pail, and it was really a small pail. I remember watching the Little House on the Prairie shows and seeing the girls bringing their lunch to school. It seemed so primitive…like taking their lunch in the same container they might just as easily have played in the sand with. I don’t know if they purchased the pail for the purpose of taking their lunch to school in, or if the pail was purchased with something else in it, and then used for lunches when it was empty, or just how it came to be a lunch pail. Who thought of that idea? Was it someone, who like me, tries to find a use for things that just look like they are too good to throw away, and maybe something could be made from them? In researching this thought, I found that often the children would try to create a lunch pail out of the containers that biscuit mix came in, so I guess that kids have always wanted a fancy lunch box.
From what I read, the lunch box used to be a kind of low status symbol too…at least in the working world. The worker who carried his lunch was viewed as someone who could not afford a hot lunch at a restaurant. Thankfully that isn’t the way it is view now, because I know a lot of people who bring their lunch to work. For most of us these days, it is more a way to eat healthy, and avoid the fast food places. So in that way, I guess the status symbol has taken on a whole new meaning.