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Lunch boxes attract visitors on the I-5

Monday, August 10th, 2009


Lunch boxes fill the shelves in the dining area of the Apricot Tree Restaurant near Firebaugh, California.

APRICOT TREE RESTAURANT, Firebaugh, CA – Speeding north or south on the Interstate 5 at 80 miles per hour, the off ramps become a blur as I sail on by. But there’s one off ramp I try not to miss when I travel to northern California or Oregon. The Panoche Road exit near Firebaugh and located between Fresno and Los Banos.

Panoche Road leads to the Apricot Tree Restaurant. And for me a step back into my childhood days.

For lined up in neat rows high on the restaurant’s walls in the dining area are about 400 vintage lunch boxes. Now the story goes – according to our talkative waiter – that the value of these little mettle boxes soars well into the six-figure range.

An Internet search confirms that these vintage and retro lunch boxes in which many kids carried their peanut butter sandwiches, carrot sticks, and thermos filled with milk to school in the 1950s, 60s’ and 70s’ indeed command premium prices.

As a little kid of the 1950s I was fascinated with cowboys and horses. So my wife Nanette and I took a table in the western theme section of the restaurant. My favorite TV show in the ‘50s was the Lone Ranger featuring the masked man and his sidekick, Tonto. And up above me on a shelf next to Little House on the Prairie sat the Lone Ranger lunch box.

(“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty “Hi-yo, Silver!” The Lone Ranger!”… “Who was that masked man? He’s the Lone Ranger!”)

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