Saturday, September 11, 2010

School Lunch Boxes: 1960s Before & 2010 After...

(Chocolate and White Eichler Home)

A dry crust eaten in peace is better than steak every day along with argument and strife.  Proverbs 17

School lunch boxes have come a long way baby.  Back in the sixties, a deli ham and cheese sandwich with Miracle Whip on a Kaiser roll was considered a gourmet treat.  That's because Skippy peanut butter and Welch's grape jelly had cornered the cafeteria market sending a widespread yawn at noontime.  With school bells ringing again across the nation, how could we not honor our faithful friend, the school lunch box?  I don't know about you, but it helped me fend off more than a few bullies during school yard scrapes.  

Once again, we're hanging out at the iCafe Woman Moderne, a women's virtual cafe inside a mid-century Art Moderne home.  

This time, we're sipping Yoo-Hoos and Vitamin water chatting about how lunch boxes and their contents have gone through a New Millennium makeover.

Our iCafe Woman Moderne divas, Vanessa, Zenobia, Ivy and a few others brought in their sixties and seventies lunch boxes they saved for their eighties to New Millennium daughters.  Fat chance they'd use those dusty relics when Cabbage Patch, Punky Brewster and Bratz lunch boxes snared their attention.  

We asked the daughters and granddaughters -- our iCafe Girl Moderne -- to bring in their spanking new lunch boxes or should I say lunch systems.  (You'll see what I mean in a few.)

  (Dual Compartment Barbie Lunch Box)
(Insulated iCarly Lunch Box)

We've taken over the iCafe Woman Moderne sunroom displaying our "before and "after" lunch boxes on every flat surface, while enjoying our "before" and "after school lunches as the sixties television show, Julia, plays on the HD flat screen.

Kiki, here... miracles and blessings to all of you.  We're dedicating this text webisode to a brand new school year we pray will sow good gifts in the future lives of our children.  

Eating nutritious meals play an important role in a child's development.  What kind of energy would Malcom and Brittany have to tackle those Algebra equations if they only had Boston cream donuts for breakfast and a bag of potato chips and soda for lunch?

A major difference between the "before" and "after" --  60s lunch boxes were mostly metal and showed off popular Saturday Morning cartoons, family sitcoms and bestselling toys.  Peanuts, Barbie, The Flintstones, Casper the Friendly Ghost and The Jetsons were definite student crowd-pleasers. 

(The Flying Nun)

In 2010, cable shows and movies rule in the lunch box arena.

 Cars Backpack Lunch Tote and 
Dora the Explorer Dome Lunch Bag

The School Box Lunches of Yesterday -- 
1960s and Today -- 2010

It wouldn't surprise me to find bean sprouts inside a gorgonzola cheese, tomato and spinach wrap... or a veggie California roll tucked away in little Sasha's Bento Box 2.0 Lunch System ... this being 2010. 
 This sophisticated Bento Box below and many others fit in with the high school and 9-to-five crowd. 

Bento boxes seem to be the wave of kids' lunch boxes to come.
Children have become pickier eaters perhaps due to the soaring food choices.  But today's students are also looking for that cool quotient. 

Nevertheless, parents still remain vigilant in their quest for healthy lunches kids will want to eat.  And these colorful Bento lunch box systems attract even the pickiest eater.  They're convenient for parents and come in many shapes, colors and designs for our style-savvy kids.


  • The Laptop Lunch Set - these are fully insulated, affordable and come in a variety of trendy colors. Kids and parents will love the five inner containers, utensils and parents will appreciate the user's guide to help get the most from the lunch box.
  • Mr. Bento Stainless Steel Lunch Jar – Great for keeping colds cold and hots hot and really sleek and stylish.
  • Bento Buddies Lidded Containers – These neat little containers are flexible in that you can put nearly anything in them and you can choose the ones you want to use for each school lunch day. They are also great for snacks anywhere you go.
Bento Box Benefits: 
Kids will want to eat their food.
Easy to pack.
Food doesn't get squished or soggy
It'll help kids eat better.

Panda Face Two-Tiered Bento Box
Flower Print Insulated Bento Box

Two-Tiered Frog Face Bento Box

Mini Bento BoxKotobuki 2-tiered Red Beckoning Cat

Black Mini Bento Box
Kotobuki Two-Tiered Red Beckoning Cat

Before your iPhone goes off or your iPad claims you attention, let's hopscotch back to 1965.  A time long ago where tartan and baby doll dresses attached with chain purses walked the elementary and junior high halls.  

A time when kids named Dick and Jane sneaked Bobbsey Twins and The Hardy Boys Mysteries into book bags that resembled doctor's briefcases.  

Okay, let's first set the stage for our "before" and "after" lunch box looks.  It starts at home.  It begins with the house where you might see Ozzie and Harriet eating dinner with the kids, or watch Mike and Carol round up the Brady bunch for a family photo opp ... or catch Mr. Wilson hiding from Dennis the Menace, now a sneeze away from collecting Social Security.   And away we go...

BEFORE ... 1960s


This is the home I day-dreamed about while figuring out fractions at the dining room table in my inner-city row home.  Did suburban kids dream of living in inner-city row houses?




I loved my Barbie lunch box.  It was a little more updated than this one.  It's amazing that Vanessa's (our iCafe Woman Moderne diva) Barbie lunch box, reminiscent of the one below, survived Sloppy Joe Mondays and Pork and Beans Wednesdays.



This 2010 chic Barbie sack can make a stylish entrance as our hip grade schooler ducks flying pizza.  Speaking of making an entrance, our Sixties iCafe Woman Moderne divas can't resist dressing  the part.  Here's Vanessa wearing an Artemis hot pink shift dress from Posh Girl

Zenobia sports a familiar Pucci-inspired wrap-around dress, a standard among the PTA set.  Her college coed daughter, Zoe, found this updated version at Nordstrom's in the Spring.  It looks like a perfect mix of Vanessa's and Zenobia's dresses.

"Before Lunch Boxes"
Here's Ivy's favorite.  You can't go wrong with the Peanuts gang.

Now, let's run a little history for the buff.  In 1935 Mickey Mouse pushed out the solids and plaids and became the first popular character to appear on the lunch box.  It took off as a reflection of personal style in the 1950s.  Execs at Aladdin realized they could sell more lunch boxes if they decorated them with popular culture icons. 

According to, cheap vinyl lunch boxes made a brief appearance in the 1960s, but metal continued to dominate the lunch box scene until the 1980s, when molded plastic -- which was less expensive to manufacture -- took over.   Rambo was the last metal lunch box produced in 1985.  Aladdin stopped making lunch boxes in 1998, though Thermos continues to make them.

During the 1980s, the Dukes of Hazard lunch boxes couldn't stay on the shelves long enough.

So what about the actual lunch?  There are significant differences in what's popular now and what children gobbled up back then.  However, there are some food favorites that managed to withstand the generations.  Grilled cheese tops the list.  Now, you'll also see it as a Panini with bacon and tomato added, like the grilled cheese isn't fantastic all by itself.  If it aint broke, please don't fix it.

  "Before" and "After" School Lunches 

Before : 
You may remember these popular lunch box lunches from the 60s and 70s:  PB&J, Tuna Fish, Liverwurst, Salami, Boiled Ham & Cheese and Potted Meat.  Or can still smell these popular hot lunches: Grilled Cheese Shepherd's Pie, Pork & Beans and Sloppy Joe's.

Today, you'll find:  filled wraps, pita bread, crackers along with food you can assemble.  Forget the salads with lettuce, you'll mostly see pasta with corn kernels and tomatoes.  Also, a growing number of today's children are vegan and vegetarian, or they simply don't eat red meat.  Can you imagine telling our parents we don't eat red meat?  As far as hot lunches, you'll get a whiff of pizza, chicken fingers, fries and mac and cheese at any given school cafeteria.

Did you just say our lunches and earlier eating habits may have contributed to our rising cholesterol and blood pressure as adults?  All I have to say is thank goodness those goodies are no longer part of our daily diet ... lessons learned.  That's why we need to get our children on the right healthy eating track before they scream, "no!" 


Six Healthy Kids’ Snacks that Miss the Healthy Mark – 
  1. Yogurt
    Have you seen any cows produce purple or hot pink yogurt lately?  Those neon yogurts are loaded with sugar including high fructose corn syrup and lots of additives and preservatives that don’t nourish your body.  If your kids love yogurt, here are healthier options.
  1. Granola Bars
    Granola bars are unhealthy?  Yes, when chocolate, candy and  extra sugar and fat are added. 
    3. Meat & Cracker Combos
     Granted, they're convenient, but convenience comes with a price.  They're loaded with excess salt and fat.  Make your own combination and pack it in a Bento Box System.  Use whole wheat or rye crackers, Swiss or cheddar cheese and low-sodium turkey or ham or leftover turkey or chicken.  (as long as your added salt is moderate) You’ll save money and control the ingredients.

    4. Veggie Chips
Once fried even veggies aren't healthy.

   5. Fruit Snacks
Despite having the word fruit in the title,  most of these chewy snacks contain corn syrup and artificial flavors.

   6. Fruit Drinks
Lemonade, iced tea and other such drinks are loaded with sugar and calories.  Buy 100% fruit juice.

What were your favorite school lunches?  iCafe Woman Moderne would like to know your story.


Anonymous said...

Oh, I really enjoyed this one! It made me thing--I think I had a Brady Bunch lunch box. Was never really much into Barbie Dolls. My lunches were never very typical, though. Coming from an Italian family, my mother always packed a lunch large enough to feed everyone at my lunch table. I opened my lunch box to meatball sandwiches, chicken salad, and when I got a little older--peppers and eggs! Other Italian kids never looked twice. But the look on the faces of the non-Italian kids--priceless! Italian families are also very big on fruit, so Tastykakes, when I got them, were a real treat! Today, my son buys lunch most days, and is treated to an unbelievable buffet of hot and cold foods. I went to Catholic school--you had to bring a lunch. The only day we could buy was Fridays--that was pizza day. What a treat!! A hot lunch in school! My, how things have changed...


Gayle Herbert Robinson said...

Yes, finding Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets in your lunchbox was like opening a gift on Christmas morning. Sometimes my older sister would surprise me the night beore and make hoagies. (a hero-like sandwich popular in Philly)
Your lunches sound great. Thanks for sharing ... diva!