|For thirty-five years, metal
lunch boxes were a critical accessory for school kids. Starting with
the Hopalong Cassidy model in 1951, a lunch box could be a child's
most personal statement. While the exterior let everyone know what
was the coolest new TV show or pop music group, the interior neatly
housed a meal of your choosing (with help from Mom).
And, if another child coveted your meal or denigrated your TV
heroes, the metal box could be wielded in a panicky arc as a superb
The reign of metal lunch box terror ended in 1986 when the
industry went plastic, influenced by soft packaging technology and a
ruling of the Florida legislature that they were "lethal weapons."
lunch box lives on at the Lunch Box Museum, an establishment
which shifts position every few years. This report describes
conditions during its tenure above the South 106 radio station, a
block from the Chatahoochie River in old downtown Columbus. In the
interim, it moved to Salem, AL, sold off part of the collection,
then recently moved back into town to the River Market Antiques and
The first room offers a peek at Baby Boomer Grammar School Heaven
-- brightly colored metal lunch boxes arrayed on shelves up to a
high ceiling. Glass cabinets protect special groupings of boxes and
matching thermoses: Disco Fever boxes clustered with Family Affair
and the Brady Bunch; Land of the Giants with Land That Time Forgot.
All are in mint condition -- no skulls have been dented with these
Owner Allen Woodall keeps three walls of favorites lining his
glass enclosed office -- Twiggy, Donny & Marie, Junior Nurse, Soupy
The collection includes over 3,500 boxes now, but many are
duplicates (3 or 4 deep), used for trading. Woodall co-authored the
definitive collectors guide to metal lunch boxes. He started
acquiring in the early 1990s, and is a well-known garage sale fiend
in the area. A major part of the collection was originally owned by
Dr. Robert Carr, who passed away unexpectedly. Woodall promised the
widow Carr he'd start a museum.
He did, along with the Stoneware Museum, which exhibits rare
regional pottery -- some worth over $100k! But it's the lunch boxes
that feed our souls -- a wistful reminder of a soggy cheese
sandwich, a Drakes Yodel, and a vanquished schoolyard bully.
(Lunch Box Museum: River
Market Antiques and Art Center at 3226 Hamilton Rd.