Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Farm Boy “Thermos”

When I was a kid, we didn’t lack for anything, but there wasn’t money to throw away, either. Dad had a typical domed lunch box that he’d purchased in years past, and I had an old hand-me-down one that had been painted green at some point. It worked as good as any other. I suspect that an insulated bottle once fit in the top of Dad’s box, but they were glass-lined then, and I figure that it had been dropped at some point, because I don’t remember ever seeing it. What we BOTH had was a low-budget way to semi-insulate a quart jar of iced tea to go with our lunches.

Back then, no-one had yet dreamed of plastic shopping bags, so paper bags were used and saved by nearly everyone. Of course they came in various sizes, some of which were just the right size to envelope a quart canning jar and let you roll the top to “seal” the paper container. So, when Mom packed our lunches to take on “the ridge” three miles from our home to work at our sawmill, we took our fancy drink jars with us.

One bag wouldn’t have had much insulation value so the system usually started with at least three. As sweat from the icy drink jar softened the bags and they gradually went to pieces over the course of a week or more of use, another bag would be added as needed. Sometimes, a five pound sugar or flour bag would be used as part of the system, as they held up pretty well. I’m sure that, since the worst damage to the bags was on the bottom, a piece of round cardboard inside the inner bag would have done much to lengthen the life of the bags, but we never thought of that. This paper package was then placed inside a one gallon paint can, thus giving the unit a hard, unbreakable bottom and sides, and providing a handle (the bail).

We’d take our lunch break when Paul Harvey was on (12:30, I think). We’d pull the truck over close to the skidway, turn on the radio loud enough to hear a few feet from the truck while the door was open, then sit on a skid and eat our lunch. Often, we had cold hamburger sandwiches with pickles (mine sweet, Dad’s dill). Sometimes I had bologna and cheese and Dad had pickle loaf or pimento loaf. When we pulled out the ice tea, there would always be some ice still floating at the top of the jar. A couple upside down shakes and the weak tea on top (from the melted ice) would be blended with the stronger tea in the bottom and we’d wash down our sandwiches, and whatever we’d have for dessert, with our favorite drink.

Incidentally, those little gallon buckets were handy things to have. We used them for nail buckets when we were either building or dismantling something. They could be used for egg baskets, waste cans in the truck, picking berries, or even holding paint! Containers are one thing that EVERY homesteader or farmer will always have a use for. I want a clean gallon bucket to use for dipping saw chains in naphtha to degrease them, so I called the paint store today. I leaned that I can buy new, unused ones for $4.07. I may get more than one, since they’re so handy to have around. © 2016


Glen Filthie said...

Nostalgia and shop notes. Another fine post, sir! And entertaining as always.

Gorges Smythe said...

Thanks, Glen.

Vicki said...

Brought to mind my Dad, going off to work early every morning, wearing his bib overalls and carrying his black domed lunch box. Being a northern boy, he carried a thermos of coffee instead of iced tea. I like your trips down memory lane.

Gorges Smythe said...

Dad's was black, too, Vicki. Maybe they ALL were back then, like Model T's. - lol

Ralph Goff said...

Buying empty paint buckets.. How the world has changed. I still have a few re-purposed paint pails here that come in handy.
Keeping ice water drinks cold I just wrapped an old towel around a bottle of ice and usually there is still ice in it at the end of the day if I haven't drank it all.

Harry Flashman said...

"Things were better then than now." Don't remember the song that came from but it's true.

Gorges Smythe said...

We always used "recycled" ones too, Ralph. If I remember, mine looked as if it was about 50 years old! Unfortunately, I don't have any paint cans around right now except those holding paint.

Yeah, things WERE better then Harry.