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Posts Tagged ‘John F. Kennedy




For school children today, a “lunch box” is a simple and utilitarian affordance (indeed, it’s rarely even a box).  But for many readers (and your correspondent), the lunch box was much more than a way to schlep a sandwich; it was a totemic possession. In the days before tee shirts could be worn to school (much less tee shirts with cool logos or designs), a lunch box was a proclamation of allegiance– I dig Lost in Space, I adore Barbie– a step toward public identity and an ingredient in the gel that held adolescent school friends together.

Lunch boxes date back to the 19th century, when working men began to carry them to factories or construction sites or mines to protect their mid-day meals from the perils of the job site.

By the 1880s, school children began to emulate their daddies by making similar caddies out of empty cookie or tobacco tins. The first commercial lunch boxes, which resembled metal picnic baskets decorated with scenes of playing children, came out in 1902.  And the first popular character, Mickey Mouse, appeared on a lunch box in 1935.

But the lunch box as personal statement really took off in the 1950s, fueled by television. Executives at a Nashville company called Aladdin realized they could sell more of their relatively indestructible lunch boxes if they decorated them with the ephemeral icons of popular culture: even if one’s Cisco Kid lunch box was barely scratched, one would want to trade in his pail for one featuring Marshall Dillon.

Manufacturers moved from metal to vinyl briefly in the 60s, then switched to molded plastic.  But the growth of school lunch programs (and relaxed attire rules, allowing students to wear their enthusiasms) began to eat into the market; Aladdin left the business (though Thermos remains).  Today lunch boxes are generally made of vinyl, with foam insulation, and an aluminum/vinyl interior (so that they’re better at retaining their temperature but are less rigid/protective)– and they’re no longer the cultural signifiers that once they were.

Perhaps unsurprisingly then, collecting older lunch boxes has become an active hobby.

Read more at the Smithsonian’s “The History of the Lunch Box” (from whence, the photos above) and see the galleries at the National Museum of American History’s “Taking America to Lunch.”


As we wrap our apples, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that Congress passed Public Law 87-293, authorizing and funding The Peace Corps.

To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.

Since 1961, over 200,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps and served in 139 countries.

President Kennedy greets the first class of volunteers



Written by LW

September 22, 2012 at 1:01 am

Democracy in action…


Alvin Greene came (literally) out of nowhere to win the Democratic primary race to face Tea Party champion Jim DeMint for the honor of representing your correspondent’s home state in the Senate.  Wonkette reports on the result achieved last Tuesday by the candidate who never really campaigned, raised funds, hired a staff, nor for that matter, explained who in the world he is, and whose most news-worthy achievement during the campaign was to be indicted for showing pornographic pictures to a college student, then asking about going back to her room:

Presented without commentary, here are some of the Senate candidates who received fewer votes than Alvin Greene did yesterday, according to the most current AP numbers:

Senator Harry Reid: 361,655
Senator-elect Mike Lee: 360,050
Alvin Greene: 358,069
Sharron Angle: 320,996
Senator Mike Crapo: 318,468
Senator-elect Joe Manchin: 281,661
Senator Blanche Lincoln: 280,167
Senator John Thune: 227,903
Senator Daniel Inouye: 276,867
Senator-elect Kelly Ayotte: 265,967
Senator-elect John Hoeven: 181,409
Senator-elect Chris Coons: 173,900
Senator Patrick Leahy: 145,486
Senator Lisa Murkowski (Total Write-In): 81,876
Joe Miller: 68,288

Yes, yes– your correspondent appreciates that the states in question are not all the same size… still…

As we wonder when someone will get around to investigating the functioning of the electronic voting machines used in the primary in which Greene emerged, we might recall that it was on this date in 1968 that Richard Nixon’s “Silent Majority” strategy paid off:  after losing to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and then Pat Brown (in a run for Governor of California two years later), he defeated Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace to become the 37th President of the United States.  It was one of the closest elections in history, decided by under 500,000 votes.



You stand on the verge of…

It’s May, and readers are no doubt beginning to make notes for the commencement wisdom they’re soon due to dispense.  Here, inspiration:  from the helpful folks at Online Universities, five graduation addresses (including JFK’s famous 1963 American University speech, pictured above) and 45 other exemplars of the rhetorical arts: “50 Incredible, Historical Speeches You Should Watch Online.”

As we clear our throats, we might recall that it was on this date in 1994 that Queen Elizabeth II of the UK and French President François Mitterrand spoke at the opening of one of “the Seven Wonders of the Modern World,” the Channel Tunnel.

Where’s Wellington when one needs him?

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