Lunch Box Museum Filled With Memories
By Laura Bergheim - The Tampa Tribune - 05/16/1993

You remember it well, that rectangular metallic friend, bearing the image of your favorite teen idol, sports star, cartoon character. It swung daily at your side, filled with tuna sandwiches, tomato soup and browning banana from home.

Your lunch box: faithful childhood companion, deserving of a place in your personal history. But you never expected to find it in a museum, especially one above a country-music radio station in Columbus, Ga.

Allen Woodall owns the station and the museum. His eyes tighten at the corners with glee as he talks about this passion for acquisition that has embraced everything from Coca-Cola memorabilia (also on display here) to Southern pottery.

He began collecting lunch boxes a mere four years ago, because, as he puts it, "they're just so neat!" He now has more than 1,000 lunch boxes and related items, including thermoses, coolers and even tobacco tins that doubled as lunch boxes.

Step off the funky freight elevator and you're in the first of two rooms filled with lunch boxes.

Early on, Woodall points out the display of Western motif boxes, which includes the Hopalong Cassidy lunch box (circa 1951) that started the trend of character decoration when a decal of the cowboy star was slapped onto a metal lunch box and it sold like a brush fire spreading across America.

Much of midcentury American pop culture can be found here. From teen idols such as Bobby Sherman and the Osmond brothers who made hearts throb, to the TV series such as "Flipper" and "Charlie's Angels" that shaped our media- driven values, these lunch boxes reflect the familiar influences on our lives. Sixties pop art also appears on this, the ultimate functional form for expression. And yes, you'll also find here an astounding array of variations on the classic black and red plaid theme.

The industry went plastic in 1986 after metal boxes were ruled "lethal weapons" by the Florida Legislature. But Allen Woodall's heart belongs to the metal beauties: the lunch boxes of our lives that carried our sandwiches and showed the world our true colors, be they black and red or bread all over.