I have a cousin who would kill to find the Hopalong Cassidy lunch box of her youth. It’s the guiding principle when anyone in my family stops at a tag sale. Found a Hoppy? Pull out the cellphone and hit that speed-dial button!
You can’t blame my cousin for her commitment. As explained in Smithsonian.com’s History of the Lunch Box, those heavy metal lunch boxes long served as personal billboards, bearing the messages we kids wanted to send the world at large, or at least our classmates. What better way for a cool ’80s fifth-grader to sum himself up than with a “Knight Rider” lunch box?
The article digs deep into “Paileontology” and explains how 19th-century workers first brought their lunch to work in metal containers—and how their kids wanted to emulate them. Not surprisingly, Mickey Mouse was the first popular character to hit the pails, but the craze really took off when the first baby boomers headed off to school in the ’50s. Today, kids tote soft plastic versions of the metal originals, but the fun designs live on—even if Hoppy doesn’t.