I started collecting lunch boxes in the early 80s; they were an easy, cheap chunk of fun at the local thrift stores, rarely costing more than $1. At one point I had about 40 of them, and this was before the big lunch box collecting craze hit. When the totally artificial prices in the lunch box collecting bubble crested in the early 90s, I was way broke and cashed in on dozens of them, fetching ridiculous prices for substandard-condition boxes at a trendy consignment shop in downtown San Diego. I'm glad I did! I got a lot more for them back then than I ever could on eBay now.
There's a metaphor in there somewhere. I don't know; it eludes me.
But! I did save some of my favorite boxes, and all of them are filled up with junk. The one seen above is one of the saddest, and therefore greatest, ones in my collection, an embarrassingly generic "pro sports" theme. It's very Pee Chee folder, no? In its own clumsy way, it's more interesting and more pathetically charming than a Kiss or Partridge Family lunchbox (we'll get to those later).
Somewhere along the line, this box accumulated a classic junk-drawer-type mix of stuff. A lot of it is from high school and even earlier, some souvenirs and some random, worthless crap from college, etc. I can also be literally truthful when I say that this box holds a little part of me. Actually, it holds several little parts of me:
Here's what's in it:
- Souvenirs from my my father's trip to Australia and New Zealand UPDATE: and Korea, see comments. Early 80s? Includes volcanic rock tiki statuette and clip-on koala bears wearing airline logo t-shirts.
- Miniature Steiff hedgehog.
- High school souvenirs: Punk rock wristband! Can no longer snap! 1982 "Arizona Allstate Music Festival" embroidered patch. Hand-made button for "Muffy and the Topsiders" gag talent-show punk band.
- Roll of yellow tape that says "radioactive material."
- Rainbow air fresheners emblazoned with "I HEART BIG JUGS."
- Antique tin box containing Irish beach stone.
- Two small plastic boxes each containing four baby teeth.
- Sea shells, wooden nickels, a piece of tiger's eye.
- Monopoly cards and playing pieces.
- Pack of miniature playing cards in a leather case.
- Miniature wind-up plastic fan.
- WMAQ NBC TV Chicago button.
- Dymo label maker (loaded!).
- Small American flag.
- Empty Wacky Packages wrappers.
- Check dated 03-20-1992 from the US Treasury for $1.00.
- Thingmaker bugs! I know I speak for each and every one of my siblings when I gaze lovingly at the burn scars on my hands and know that these are important family heirlooms.