Friday, August 14, 2009

Dad's Dinner Bucket

For as long as he worked, six days a week, my dad used one of these lunch pails; he called it his "dinner bucket." When I was little, I'd pass on my afternoon snack just so I could eat half a jelly sandwich that he saved for me in his dinner bucket. They were warm and sweet and it didn't matter that it sat in his locker, in his dinner bucket, all day long.

Dad worked for the Northern Pacific railroad and during his summer vacation he'd bring me and my sisters to the shops so we could visit with his buddies, run around the trains, and sit inside cars, pretending to be on a long journey in the Orient. He worked for 30 years for the railroad and near as many years part-time at Montgomery Wards in the car service area. He worked long and hard hours until he was 60! I can't imagine how he did it day after day, taking only two weeks off all year.

I wanted to honor my dad's memory and keep all of his momentos in a safe place. When I came across a lunch pail on Ebay, I knew I found exactly the way to hold my memories. I decorated the pail with a picture of my dad sitting on a woodpile at the house where he and I grew up. He's wearing his favorite uniform of "dungarees" and achambray work short. My dad was never without his ubiquitous blue (or red) cowboy handkerchief. Unfortunately, we didn't think to keep any of his, so for this project Bill donated one of his, which I tied to the handle.

My dad died when I was 22 and when the song by Mike and the Mechanics, "In the Living Years" came out a few years later, I felt the pain of the words in my heart. I still choke up every time I hear it. It's about missed opportunities with our fathers while they are alive, about generational differences, and about how easy life can be if we just listen. On my dad's scrapbox, I've included a couple of my favorite lines from the song; the ones that give me hope that he now knows how much I truly loved him.

While my father's adulthood wasn't easy, nor was his childhood. My grandfather passed away when my dad was 13, so it was up to this little boy to help support his mother, brother and little sister. He did this with a paper route covering miles of our old neighborhood. As an 18-year-old, he met my mother at Phalen Lake, near where he and I grew up, they married and at 27, went into the Navy. My mom had their first baby, my brother, while dad was based in Guadalcanal during WWII. His letters home to mom, only reassured her that he'd be home soon so they could be a happy family -- but he reminded her to ration and not spend money.

Inside Dad's Dinner Bucket I've placed his notebook of addresses from his paper route, his dog tag from WWII; letters to my mother from Guadalcanal; a Northern Pacific matchbook and train schedule; his tie-tack from Montgomery Ward; his President certificate from my grade school's PTA; and of course pictures of my loving, calm, sweet, funny, and smart dad.


  1. OH MY!! I have tears in my eyes from reading this post on your blog. Its sooooo true to hold onto the memories of our loved ones. My dad is still with me and EVERYDAY I love with him. He loves my daughter with all his heart and I hope to make memories for her to keep forever. I love your kind words about your dad and the Lunchbox was the Best Idea ever.

  2. Thanks, Lisa! I hope you are inspired to make a keepsake for you and your daughter! I wish I would have kept more things of my dad's but what I have, I cherish.

  3. I have been watching your videos for a while, but i just came to browse your blog. You have been cooking lately and so inspired I went to the kitchen and used what I had to make a mousaka. Then I came across this post. I really loved this idea to honour someone so amazing. There is nothing so extraordinary as the life a person leads in keeping their family. The pictures of the lunch pail are gone for me, would it be possible to repost one? I would love to see it.

    Thank you for sharing this,