Every time Darren, the phantom, and I practice, he brings his Batman lunch box. And whenever I see his Batman lunch box, I magically rewind to the yestertech days of slide rules and compass sets, the days when wetware was the only ware, the days when I had my very own Wild Bill Hickok and Jingles lunch box. (This was in the 50’s, when I rode the big yellow school bus along the historic Red Coat Trail through the Bone Creek Municipality from Scotsguard to Shaunavon.)
Grandma would pack into that lunch box, peanut butter and crab-apple jelly sandwiches, a couple of dill pickles, some cinnamon sticks, and a thermos of milk (evaporated can milk mixed with water … yuk).
During those school lunches in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, I always sat with my two friends, Herbert and George. Strangely, I remember those Herbert-George lunch conversations – they were always about shows on television. I remember when the school day ended, riding the bus back to the farm, then wandering the farmyard and fields watching for swallows, kingbirds, meadowlarks, and gophers.
Sadly, when Herbert was seven, he was killed falling out of the box of his dad’s half ton. George, on the other hand is alive and well, working as a counsellor at Mental Health Services, just one block down the street from where I presently reside.
Moving off the farm from Scotsguard to Vanguard, Saskatchewan, I became a town kid. I quite liked being a town kid, walking home every noon hour, alongside the Hopfner boys and Anderton boys, to indulge in the nonversations and halfalogues at the dinner table with my Grandma and Sid.
As we farm kids did in school at Shaunavon, the farm kids at Vanguard too, ate their lunches in the classrooms. I especially remember James, one of the farm kids, always crunching his dill pickled carrots, salting his hard-boiled eggs, and washing his peanut butter and jam sandwiches down with his thermos of farmer’s milk (freshly squirted that morning from the cow’s teat), during the class before the dinner bell, so he could get the whole hour playing ball in schoolyard.
When the school days ended for the farm kids like James, they rode the bus home to do chores. When the school days ended for the town kids as I, we played pool until suppertime, and then after supper played hockey at the rink in the winter, and in spring, summer, and fall, just hung around the Chinese café every night.
Fifty years hence, lunchtime is still a favorite part of my day. I’m a guidance counsellor in a high school, and I, along with most of the teachers of the same school, all being soldiers in the academic trenches; climb out only at lunchtime for the social succor from the morning sessions of classroom management (teaching).
The delightful synchronicity of our daily lunch demands that all the usual characters must be seated in their habitual spots for the noon repartee to begin.
At the head of the table always is the urbane and unflappable Anne, a vegan sylph who is the English teacher. Anne is witty and lovely (beautiful actually) and her foodstuffs, which are contained in a plastic square, she always warms in the staffroom microwave.
In the middle of the pack sits oenophile Paul, the verbose utility shop teacher. Food is Paul's daily theme of conversation, and his lunch is always the leftovers from whatever he and his sweetheart had prepared and eaten with the accompaniment of a bottle of wine the previous evening.
Next to me sits Rob, the shooter, who typically eats the wild game that he’s tracked and hunted. Rob is our Resource Officer, a Constable of the Regina City Police, who frequently shares his quarry at our lunch table.
Then there are the sandwich guys, Jason and Chris, who always sit next to Ann. I’ve bracketed them together because they are both fine artists and vintage car guys, and they are buddies. And they are both the raconteurs, the undergird that launches our lunchtime banter. I call them the sandwich guys because they often venture out for lunch, bringing back sandwiches big enough for bouldering.
As for myself, I prefer to eat the daily specials on the menu in the school cafeteria. Most things I like, except for the pork or perogy dishes.
Now to my point, this is: The number of lunch kits around our staff room table is zeroth. And to explain why this is, I shall offer for those of you who were not there, a vicarious brief history of lunch kits.
In 1950 Aladdin introduced the first lunch box to feature a television character, Hopalong Cassidy. This is not surprising, since television too, was introduced to the masses in the 50’s. The increased popularity of television throughout the 50’s and beyond prompted manufacturers to produce lunch kits that catered to school children, stamping popular television characters on both the tin lunch kits and the accompanying glass-lined thermoses.
For example, in the 50’s, lunch boxes depicted Hopalong Cassidy, Howdy Doody with Cowboy Bob, and the king of the cowboys, Roy Rogers.
In the 60’s, Bonanza, Have Gun Will Travel, and Zorro were popular.
(Cowboys were the hits on television, probably one of the reasons I still, today, fancy myself as a cowboy!)
The 70’s had the cowboys riding off into the sunset, making room for the likes of Sesame Street, the Fonz, and the Brady Bunch.
And in the 80’s, the science fiction and fantasy of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Masters of the Universe, seemed to take over.
In the 90's, the prevailing zeitgeist of the tin lunch box came to an end. For those shiny little people in school, their lunch kits were quickly replaced with plastic and vinyl. (But for the other people who ate out of a lunch box, the not-so-polished olla podrida of construction industry, they are still packing their lunches into those black mail-boxes, the ones with the silver thermos stored inside along the top.
Dear reader, this is not an entry of woebegone; it is a regular woolgathering day whilst on my first busk of spring at VALUE VILLAGE.