Friday, June 03, 2016

The Guy Who Designed Lunch Boxes

If you were a kid in the 70s/early 80s, you likely carried a lunch box to school. On that box was probably a 3-D/bas relief-type image of your favorite TV show. Like this:



I was listening to the Mystery Show podcast last week when its host did an episode about this lunch box:




A fan of the show wanted to know where the artist had gotten this scene, since it wasn't in any of the episodes. (He'd watched them all numerous times.) Why is the jean jacket knotted? And why does Epstein look like he wants to fight Barbarino? They were friends.



To get her answer, the podcast host tried to track down the lunch box's designer, Elmer Lenart. He's no longer alive, but his designs live on in the Smithsonian, where the Kotter lunch box and many others are on display:



This is Elmer, as the giant on the Land of the Giants lunch box:



He also designed this one:



This one:



And this one:



Eventually his job was phased out. Lunch boxes stopped looking like ^^^that^^^ and started looking more like this:



And this:



Needless to say, the latter two lunch boxes likely won't end up in the Smithsonian.

Did you have a lunch box growing up?

37 comments:

  1. Yup, I had several of those 70's lunch boxes - Superfriends, Six Million Dollar Man, and Scooby-Doo.
    The scene on the Kotter lunch box might have been an outtake or still. That gave them something original for the box.

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    1. Gabe Kaplan's response to the podcast host's question was basically, "I think you're overthinking this!" Absolutely. But that was the theme of her show--she just took a "mystery" one of her friends had and tried to solve it...most of the mysteries were silly like this one!

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  2. I remember those lunch boxes well. They are big collectable items now. I agree those last two boxes will probably not be remembered or found in the Smithsonian.

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    1. They were fun while the trend lasted!

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  3. I remember getting a new lunch box each year, including a Strawberry Shortcake on in fifth grade. That was the last time I got a lunch box. In sixth grade, I began brown-bagging. In high school I alternated from brown-bagging and the cafe. College was cafe only. Recently, I've had to take lunch to work, using a plain blue insulated box.

    I'm now trying to remember what other character lunch boxes I had. I don't know what I did with all of them !

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    1. I had a Holly Hobbie lunch box. That's the one I remember most for some reason.

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  4. Oh I love lunch boxes and I had a Gilligan's Island lunch box and my brother had Hogan's Heroes. I actually have a lunch box..."It's A Wonderful Life"

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  5. My kids had a variety of these lunch boxes. The ones I remember are Barbie and Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers. I only took a lunch to school in first grade in 1944 and it was in a brown paper bag that was reused for my bacon sandwich and orange until it was in shreds. :)

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    1. I mostly carried a lunch to school in elementary school. In junior high, it wasn't considered "cool" anymore, so I stopped.

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    2. Except for first grade when I lived with my grandmother and rode a bus 15 miles, my elementary school was close enough for me to run home for lunch. In junior high and high school the real food home made meals at the cafeteria were so good we all ate there. :D

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  6. Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Alas, I had a brown paper lunch sack--not the fancy metal kind. But, as you might remember, my children had one of these that they proudly carried to "Miss Doris's".

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    1. Did I have the Charlie's Angels box? I know I would have wanted it, but I can't remember! I remember Holly Hobbie.

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  7. Mine was on sale and just plaid. No paying extra for awesome TV. I wanted Dark Shadows!!

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  8. Stephanie, I'm back! I took a bit of a blogging break to try and get some writing done. Unfortunately, I didn't get much done. But it's cool to come back to this post, because I did have one of these lunch boxes. I don't know if he did it, but I had the Evel Knevel lunch box. And yes, I had the Thermos too. I used to love him. I even had one of his stunt bikes. Probably the reason I used that vintage commercial on my E day this past A-Z.

    For whatever reason, I seem to recall the Welcome Back Kotter lunch-box too. But I don't recall owning it. It's possible my brother may have had one. I recently saw the WBK lunch-box in an antique shop. I just love those places. They are like a museum where you can purchase the exhibits.

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  9. Several, in the 1960s! It's a shame to see what some of these oldies are worth!

    I heard that some of the Welcome Back, Kotter cast visited John ravolta on the set of Pulp Fiction, and gave Quentin Tarantino a WBK lunchbox. He immediately made it his pencil box!

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    1. Don't know how I dropped the "T" in "Travolta."

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  10. I had one of those metal lunch boxes when I was a kid. It had the Looney Tunes on it. My brother had one, too, but I can't remember what was on his. Thanks for the fun post!

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  11. I had a plastic one when I was a kid...I think it was Scooby Doo. What I remember most was how much those things would reek if you accidentally left food in them.

    It was a relief to switch to lunch bags. Some of those boxes were a work of art, though.

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  12. I ate in the cafeteria while going to school, so I never had a lunchbox. There were some very cool ones back in the day though.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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  13. You have really done some research on this.
    Those boxes does look attractive and no kid would like to miss them.
    Oh yes we had lunch boxes - without any pictures :-(

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  14. Oh yeah, I had a lunch box. With a Thermos, that was made of glass. I remember many times finding my drink undrinkable because the Thermos broke. As for the lunch boxes themselves, I can't remember what kind I had. That was too many years ago!! :)

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  15. Ooh, you've recalled a long forgotten memory. I carried a psychedelic looking plastic lunchbox and thermos with big cartoonish daisies. The orange, pink, and yellow color combination was hideous. I don't know if I picked it out but I liked choosing pencil boxes for some reason. I guess that's the writer in me. Thank you for the fun post triggering the memory.

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  16. I had a Barbie lunch box, and a My Little Pony lunchbox! and matching thermos's! but then when I turned about nine it was uncool to have one and we had to bring the stupid brown paper bags if we didn't want to be labeled a total nerd :( but I still wanted my lunchbox lol. And I about fell over laughing when I saw the Welcome Back Kotter one! Epstein would never fight with Barbarino!

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  17. I probably had around 4 or 5 of them, once I graduated from the generic plaid! OMG, don't get me started on lunch boxes! I once had my lunchbox mixed up with another kid's and by the time the teacher got my lunchbox back, my sandwich was all eaten, including whichever hostess snack my mom packed for me. What did I get stuck with? Mayo sandwich and zilch, nadda, empty! My poor teacher had to buy my lunch because she felt sorry for me!

    Oh the days! :(

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  18. Yes! I did! Maybe it was even a Columbo one! Teasing...I just remember my mom constantly cleaning the thermos!

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  19. My first lunch box became part of my life in the third grade. It was green and had Winnie the Pooh on it. I used paper bags during fourth and sixth grade (don't know why). In fifth grade I had Josie and the Pussycats.

    Love,
    Janie

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  20. I vaguely remember having a lunch box, but it might have been my older brother's.

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  21. I remember having a KISS lunchbox and a Grease lunchbox. I always hoped my crush and I would sing "We go together." Geez I was 7 years old and he was 12 and named Danny.

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  22. Oh yes, I remember the metal ones. I also remember the transition to the plastic. I couldn't tell you off the top of my head which ones I had (I believe I got a new one every year, but I can't be sure about that), but if I saw it, I'd know. None of the ones you showed, alas.

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  23. Of course I did!!
    Bionic Woman is the shit. I love her! I have a doll. :)

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  24. Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars! I was allowed one per year so when they'd get stolen it was back to brown-bagging ;-) Fun times to discuss how fast you'd be over over a peanut butter and jelly sandwich :-)

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  25. I had a lunchbox, but can't remember what was on it. I remember it was something pop culture. I miss them.

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  26. Yes I did. I don't remember what was on it. I mainly remember playing with the handle.

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  27. I had a variety of metal lunch boxes growing up. Just goes to show that we must not have eaten very big lunches because the thermos took up a ton of room. I don't think I ever had a plastic one. Went from metal to brown bag. :)

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  28. I remember I had to have a new one every year! I loved Scooby Doo, Charlie's Angels, Gilligan's Island, The Archies... so much fun.

    Mary
    Jingle Jangle Jungle

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  29. I had several metal, bas-relief lunch boxes. Funny, but I can't remember a single one of them. Probably because I never got to pick one for a show I really liked. Our choices were always limited to the 2 or 3 that the local dime store offered and always disappointing. Something for boys; something for girls; never anything my brother or I liked.

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