By John Blankenship
If you are a certain age, you remember lunchboxes you faithfully toted to school every day. They were emblazoned with a variety of motifs, usually cowboys, cartoon characters, celebrity figures or familiar TV show characters.
If sweet childhood memories include the trusty lunchboxes, then it’s a wonderful excuse to drift into nostalgia for a few minutes.
The golden age of lunchboxes occurred in the 1950s and ’60s and on into the ’80s as plastic lunchboxes replaced metal ones.
Safety questions popped up: The unsettling image of ruthless bullies slamming an unsuspecting child in the head with a metal lunchbox worried some parents, and the last metal lunchboxes were issued in 1987.
Children’s metal lunchboxes, for what it’s worth, had their genesis in the metal lunch pails blue-collar men carried to work at the beginning of the last century. Kids envied their daddies, so it was a natural step to create lunch pails just for children.
These early lunchboxes, beginning in 1902, allegedly were shaped like picnic baskets and featured pictures of children playing. But it wasn’t until the 1950s that sales of lunchboxes took off. The credit goes to manufacturer Aladdin and its Hopalong Cassidy lunchbox.
American Thermos retaliated with a Roy Rogers lunchbox, and the golden age of the lunch box had begun.
And speaking of nostalgia, here’s another item of interest. According to a new study, most of us carry a torch for images that were popular when we were in our youth, no matter how old we are now.
Consumer nostalgia is defined as a preference for products and images that were popular in the past but can no longer be easily obtained.
And though the word nostalgia may evoke childhood memories of Grandma’s baking, the study found that, on average, people are most attached to memories from their early childhood.
Even the preference for cars, movies and hairstyles can be traced back to childhood. There seems to be a critical period for preference-formation, during which people “imprint” images of popular products.
This time of life is formative because it marks the beginning of independent choices: We become consumers as opposed to being dressed by our parents.
And the depth of an emotional experience can spur nostalgic bonding. Or as one researcher puts it, “When something is powerful to you, it creates an enduring bond in your psyche.”
We get letters and e-mails, meanwhile, from many of our readers who live in the southern Appalachian states. Practically any state south of the Mason-Dixon Line qualifies as a repository of quaint sayings and even quainter pronunciation, a place where many one-syllable words easily become two syllables with a little practice.
We got an e-mail from my aunt in Raleigh, N.C., the other day. She sent me some of her quirky expressions. How she came by them is anybody’s guess, so we cannot vouch for their veracity, only their charm.
For instance, someone once noted that a Southerner can get away with the most awful kind of insult just as long as it’s prefaced with the words, “Bless her heart” or “Bless his heart, if they put his brain on the head of a pin, it’d roll around like a BB on a six-lane highway.
It reminds me of my boyhood and my relatives, many of whom hailed from Tennessee. My aunt Bessie would say things like “right good” and “right soon” when talking in the kitchen.
No one seemed to think back then that it was “right funny” when she would say she was “fixin’” to do something.
“I was just fixin’ to,” she would say. I’d give anything to hear those words again, I reckon.
Folks would say “I reckon” instead of saying “I suppose” or “I guess so.”
And when the power went out, “Somebody must have turned the juice off,” someone would say.
Radio, meanwhile, was pronounced “redio,” as in “You can hear it on the redio,” when the Rainey Quartet would sing on WCKY Cincinnati. “Git yer one-huntert baby chicks for one dollar,” the advertisement blared on the nightly radio programs.
And “over yonder” is a good Irish phrase still in use today.
At the same time, Southern girls know everybody’s first name: Honey, Darlin’ and Sugah.
“Nawlins” is a city in Louisiana. “Challston” is in South Carolina.
And supposedly there is a rubber stamp in Atlanta that says, “After all, if a cat had kittens in the oven, that wouldn’t make them biscuits.”
Top o’ the morning!
— Blankenship is a columnist for The Register-Herald. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org