Every Monday at 12:25 p.m. on the 104.3 KLKS ("KLakes") Radio Station located at Breezy Point north of Brainerd, I listen to a 5-minute segment called "Lunch with John". John, who is an announcer at the radio station, proceeds to describe what his wife has packed for him in his Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunchbox for that day. The old T.V. show's drawn out theme song plays in the background. "Happy trails to you until we meet again. Happy trails to you. Keep smilin' until then. Who cares about the clouds when we're together." As it plays John says, "Let's open up the 'ol lunchbox and see what I have today." Then he unwraps the contents in his 50 year-old lunchbox that he's had since he was a kid. His sandwich, which is generally braunsweiger or sardines with mustard on whole wheat bread... or something as equally old-fashioned that were my dad's favorites when I was growing up, is wrapped in wax paper as was common in days gone by. One Monday he said that his 9 year-old granddaughter had come from Minneapolis over the weekend for a visit so she had packed his lunch instead of his wife. He discovered a pita pocket instead of his usual w.w. sandwich. He guessed that was what they ate in the big city. The segment just makes you smile. Lunch is such a simple thing but, when it is packed with thought and care for someone you love, it sends a powerful statement.
In an issue of Real Simple Magazine, I ran across the following woman's memory of her father's lunchbox. Her retelling eloquently and lovingly expressed my own feelings toward my father's lunchbox that he carried to work each and every day to the Minnesota State Highway Department in Brainerd.
This is what Tina Yost shared in the magazine article about "the everyday treasure that once belonged to her father, Royce H. Martin, who died in September 2004 at age 81. He had sandcasted his name on the aluminum handle and jury-rigged the latches, which tended to release unexpectantly, to stay shut. When Yost was about five years old, her father started coming home from his job as a powerstation operator with a cookie or some candy for his youngest daughter in his lunchbox. Every evening she would greet him, anxiously waiting to see what surprise he would offer from the lunchbox. In the final days of Martin's battle with cancer, he lamented that he had scant material possessions to leave to his three children. At his bedside, Yost told him that she wanted his lunchbox. She went to the garage, where it had been stored among his many projects, and blew the dust off and looked inside. There was still a piece of waxpaper- her mom's handiwork- lining the bottom, and she brought the box to him. His eyes lit up as he ran his fingers across the raised letters of his name. You could tell he was proud of it. The lunchbox sits on a Tina Yost's bookshelf as a reminder both of Martin's ingenuity and the knowledge that one can live a rich life without a six-figure income or a big bank account."
My father's lunchbox was constructed of a rigid black plastic rather than aluminum. I hold fond memories, like Tina's, of waiting for his arrival home from work to see if he had left a cookie in the bottom of his lunchbox. Now I wonder if he left one on purpose just so my siblings or I, whichever one of us made it to the lunchbox first, would not come up empty-handed.
I ran across this lunchbox at a yard sale recently that is the very one pictured in Tina Yost's magazine photo except that the handle has been jury-rigged rather than the latches. I display it in my bed and breakfast's railroad car tearoom alongside Tina's story.