Sunday, November 17, 2002

Lunch-box exhibit coming to Ky.



By Carl Hartman
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The lunchboxes are coming to Lexington.

The Smithsonian Institution has dug out kids' lunch boxes from among its millions of artifacts and is sending them on a sentimental journey to American museums.

A three-year "Lunch Box Memories" tour began Saturday at the Lafayette Natural History Museum in Lafayette, La.

But those who remember Mystery Date, The Partridge Family and the metal Disney box shaped like a schoolbus driven by Mickey Mouse can see their favorites February 1 through March 30 at Lexington's Headley-Whitney Museum.

The curator in charge, David H. Shayt of the National Museum of American History, traces the origin of modern lunch boxes to the large cookie containers and tobacco tins that workmen used a century ago.

The tins gave way to plain black or gray boxes made of sheet steel. Sometimes those boxes, with a domed cover to hold a thermos, swayed high above cities beside workers too busy on the girders to come down for lunch. They remain a favorite model.

Best-remembered are children's lunch boxes that started appearing around 1950 and were tied to the emergence of television. Unlike the old steel boxes that were rounded and opened on top, these were square or oblong and opened on the side.

On one side would be a colorful picture about the size of an early TV screen. The first came from the popular Hopalong Cassidy cowboy series. More than 600,000 sold in its first year.

The most successful - a school bus crowded with Disney characters - sold more than 9 million.

Allen Woodall, a collector and dealer who runs a museum devoted to lunch boxes in Columbus, Ga., said rare early versions sell for as much as $4,000.

Pre-TV models had pictures from newspaper and film cartoons. Walt Disney was so eager to popularize Mickey Mouse that in 1935 he paid to have the image on lunch boxes, Mr. Shayt said. Only five examples could be found. Mr. Shayt borrowed one for his show.

Later, box manufacturers paid license fees to use cartoon characters. They had to guess at the start of each school year which programs would become so popular that all the kids would want the scenes. Guessing wrong meant large stocks of unsold boxes.



TOP HEADLINES:
Lawyer's bill tops monitor's fees
Wallets take hit for health care
Many causes for rising health costs
DNA testing can leave traces of doubt
Bag screeners put on a happy face
Airport close to implementing scan requirement
ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS:
PULFER: Maternity after 50
BRONSON: Ex-cop tells other side of beanbag shootings
SMITH-AMOS: Paying more for less health insurance
CROWLEY: GOP has come a long way, but Dems not going away
ACROSS THE TRISTATE:
Students stress, vie to be best
CINCINNATI-HAMILTON COUNTY:
Mom's slaying blamed on son
Reece wants Jones to be monitor
Teen beaten in jail after hate-crime conviction
Accused Pepper kidnapper arrested
GE's cuts push Lockland levy
Job seekers find more bang for their resume buck at fair
Good News: Local golfer, 84, may have shot at hall of fame
Six drug arrests made
Help sent to Van Wert
Man identified as robber
OBITUARIES:
Thomas Gentil coached singers, choruses
William Klohe, decorated WWII pilot
BUTLER COUNTY:
Man who sent porn to FBI agent sentenced
Police probe stabbing
OHIO:
Taft wants federal aid for tornado damage
KENTUCKY:
Cigarette tax rise appears unlikely
EPA issues water quality standard for Kentucky
Trucks losing ground in coal transportation
Lunch-box exhibit coming to Ky.