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April 17, 2008


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The key for the Peter Pan can -- is that like the keys they used to have for sardine cans?

Anyway, I keep an old 7-oz green bottle of Coca-Cola around. I think they're still made, but they're rare, and it's still (to me) one of the sinuous package designs ever.

Altoids tins, of course. Although I'm trying to train myself to throw them in recycling - you only need so many. I feel the same about the Traveler's Chocolate tins (available full of chocolate from Trader Joe's). But what I'm probably most nostalgic about are film canisters. We love to store quarters in them, and always have at least one in each car for those times you need them for the meter. And they're getting harder to find. We don't buy film anymore....

Fedco! I remember going there with my grandparents all through my childhood. I remember when they tore down the one in my hometown and refurbished the mall it was located in.

This is more ephemera than old packaging, but it was the first thing that sprung to mind when you asked for consumer packaging we might treasure. My grandmother just cleaned out and sold my grandparents' RV, and ended up passing on to me a lot of the tools and tupperware they kept in it, including an old rolling pin that she'd kept wrapped in one of those little white bags the baggers used to wrap ice cream and stuff in at the grocery store. The bag must be from the 1980s--it advertises "Old-Fashioned Western Family Ice Cream", which I haven't been able to track down a vintage for. Though I have no reason to keep re-wrapping the rolling pin in it, I keep doing it anyway, every time I use it.

My parents were born in the 1920s, grew up in the 30s and went to war in the 40s.
At first my siblings and I thought that saving things was the result of liking those things. Later we figured out that growing up in the thirties meant saving things for survival. Every penny or package could be your last. Then the war come along and saving things became a religion. Save the boys over there by not using valuable materials. Saving became a force of habit.
After cleaning out my grandfathers house,which included :a large dresser drawer filled with old pocket knives, another with broken watches, a barrel of used nails in the garage, hundreds of other collected items;I realized the method of carefully collecting and saving things became more important than the things themselves. Waste not want not.
The products themselves are like old photos found at the bottom of a closet. We can't resist looking and wondering.

Mike: Yes, the key is similar to old sardine-can keys (sardine cans now come with pull tabs), but--if I recall correctly--with a narrower slot. On the peanut butter can, you removed only a small strip around the circumference so you could replace the lid.

Erin: We found one of those freezer bags in my parents' pantry. Love the graphics. Good news: the bags aren't obsolete. My local grocery store (Piedmont Grocery) still stocks them. Similar design, too: cartoon boy rushing home, smiling happily, ice cream safely insulated. As for Altoids tins, it's hard to believe they'll ever disappear: the brand has been around for more than a century.

Hey, I use(d) Zud! It helped me get back many a security deposit in my single days!

I know what you mean about unpacking the packrats. My grandparents were born between 1915 and 1920 and the motto for their generation was "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." They saved everything, especially my grandmother. (Here's how I described the unloading when she moved to the nursing home: http://thenightwriterblog.powerblogs.com/posts/1153279168.shtml)

As far as collectible packaging, is there anything to rival Cool Whip (and similar) containers? Behold these noble and utilitarian holders of leftovers, small hardware and the dog's water! Future archeologists will find these and use them themselves to organize all the "stuff" they uncover.

Finally, the Peter Pan jar reminded me of the time back in the late '60s when PP hired Alan Seuss from the "Laugh-In" show to play Peter Pan in their commercials. I've sometimes wondered, in retrospect, what the company was thinking when they hired this six and half foot tall, flamboyantly effeminate actor to prance with children through commercials in tights, tunic and elf shoes - pretty avante garde for 1968 (or whenever). Perhaps this led to Jif creating their own competitive slogan - "Choosy mothers choose Jif!" I don't think that Alan lasted long in the role.

Night Writer: Ah, yes, Alan Seuss of the independently rolling eyes! The *perfect* Peter Pan. These days they could hire Michael Jackson.

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