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My Magic Lunch Box

September 1, 2017
Not My Magic Lunch Box
Not My Magic Lunch Box

Lately, I’ve been prowling junk shops and Goodwill stores on a quest for frames for the growing number of paintings in my garage, and yesterday morning I spotted something that brought back a flood of memories.


When I was eight, a Drug King opened nearby, and as part of the grand opening they were selling a few Army Surplus items. Strange that a drug store would sell Army surplus, but such was the case. I was intrigued by a pyramid of green metal boxes—ammunition containers according to a sign. They looked cool—boys love most things military— and at only fifty cents each I had to have one.


Once I got it home I needed to find a purpose for it, something creative since I didn’t have any ammo. I decided it would make a cool lunch box, much better than the brown bags my mother stuffed my lunches into.


I should have taken into consideration the fact that an Army Surplus ammunition container, even empty, is much heavier than my Yogi Bear lunch box, and the length of my walk to school was considerable. My fellow classmates were less than impressed with my lunchbox; in fact, I faced ridicule. They’d all been to Drug King’s grand opening and had passed on the ammo boxes.




Army Surplus Ammo Box


Then something prompted a change. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that my mother elevated frugality to an art form, even buying day old bread at a bakery outlet. I’m certain that bread was more than a day old and I’d complain it was too hard to eat, a lie since I always ate everything in front of me. Mom’s comment was, “Toast is hard. Just pretend it’s toast.”


Well, it wasn’t toast, just incredibly stale bread.


I noted something unusual with my sandwiches after I started lugging that container to school. At lunch time when I pulled out my sandwich, the bread was no longer stale. It was soft and seemingly fresh. I was raised in a blue-collar community and my mother wasn’t the only one to frequent that bakery outlet. Many kids were faced with stale sandwiches in their lunch boxes.


When I commented that my new lunchbox made stale bread fresh I was mocked, until I gave a bite of my sandwich to someone and the next day he appeared with his own ammo box. Before long, half the class was lugging them to school.


But the weight of the darn things finally prompted a return to brown bags. The ammo case had to be lugged home while kids could just throw a crumpled paper bag in the trash. Unless you lived with my mother, who made me reuse the paper bag. My dad ended up using the ammo box for tools.


So much for my magic lunch box.




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So I guess the heaviness of it helped to insulate the lunch? Most of the time I carried my lunch in plastic Star Wars lunchboxes, though I think I had a metal Muppets one too at some point.
By: PT Dilloway on September 1, 2017
I have one of those that I keep tools in. It never occurred to me that it would have made a good lunchbox.
By: Rick Watson on September 1, 2017
Nice memory. What a good idea.
By: tabor on September 1, 2017
Mike has one of those - he keeps first aid supplies in it. Now that I think about it, those supplies are probably 20 years old. Ha!
By: The Bug on September 1, 2017
Ammo boxes are also popular among the Geo-caching community.
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 1, 2017
I've got one of those in my closet right now! (only mine has shotgun shells in it) They're awfully heavy boxes, so I can't imagine toting one back and forth to school. My favorite lunchbox was red plaid.
By: Kelly on September 1, 2017
I have one of those too, they would be heavy as a lunch box though.
By: Jimmy on September 1, 2017
Ah, but now that you are big and strong, you could put it to use again for car trips. Might get a couple to keep my emergency food stash and one for first aid supplies to keep in my car. Good idea--thanks.
By: Arkansas Patti on September 1, 2017
How neat, freshening stale bread!!
By: fishducky on September 1, 2017
I got two of those ammo boxes after my father died. I never thought to use one as a lunch box. And I had retired my Steve Canyon lunch box years earlier.
By: Mitchell is Moving on September 1, 2017
It's a shame you couldn't have kept one at school and let all your friends put their sandwiches in first thing in the morning. You'd have been very popular, softening their sandwiches for them.
By: messymimi on September 1, 2017
My father was also frugal. Nickels screamed as they were pulled from the tight grip of his fingers. He usually took his lunch to work, and I have no idea how many times he used the same paper bag. Probably until it fell apart. I know he had to replace it quickly on one occasion when he set down his lunch outside for a moment while waiting for his car pool. He always let the dogs out to wait with him, so when he put down the bag, one of them peed on it. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 1, 2017
I always wanted one of those ammo boxes. Never found a purpose that would convince my mom and dad. Years later I worked with some photographers who were Viet Nam vets. They used the ammo boxes to store parts, cables, adapters and such.
By: TomCochrun on September 1, 2017
Interesting. I wonder what "magic" helped out the bread. The ammo box brought back a few memories for me as well because I had a couple of them back in the day. Being a military brat, I had all kinds of gear that my dad brought home. Take care.
By: Mr. Shife on September 1, 2017
Hmmm, I wonder if an Army Surplus Ammo Box would work as a bread box ... since our bread is always going stale and we end up throwing half of it away (or, don't tell B, I give some of it to the dog).
By: Tom Sightings on September 1, 2017
You got me head scratching...did it work like a microwave somehow?
By: cranky on September 2, 2017
I remember those metal ammo boxes. I think my dad had one that he used for tools, too.
By: Catalyst on September 2, 2017
My next-door neighbor's dad was in the National Guard, and they had all kinds of military surplus stuff in their shed. I never saw one of those ammo boxes, though. My lunch box was also red plaid. It always smelled faintly of apples and bologna, even in August, when starting the new school year.
By: Val on September 2, 2017
hmmmm we still have plenty of ammo in ours. Just in case.
By: Kathe W. on September 2, 2017
Your story of the stale bread reminds me of my husbands issue with the same thing.His mom worked at a diner and always brought home stale rolls. She would sprinkle them with water, reheat them in the oven and tell the kids they were fresh rolls, ha-ha.
By: Marcia @Menopausal Mom on September 3, 2017
Luckily, I never had to deal with lunchboxes or ammo boxes! Schools in Germany let out well before lunchtime when I was a kid. We all ate our lunches at home. I wonder what made the bread turn soft in the ammo box?
By: Pixel Peeper on September 3, 2017
I have one, painted white and padded, as a camera case when canoeing. The white paint keeps it cooler, but you have to test it to make sure the seal isn't broken. I also had a Daniel Boone (aka Fess Parker) lunch book as a kid.
By: Sage on September 4, 2017

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