I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up in the Eastern Townships, about 100km east of Montreal, as the Habs were assembling what was probably the greatest hockey team of all time.
Lafleur, Lemaire, Cournoyer, Dryden, Savard, Robinson, Shutt, Gainey, Lambert, Lapointe, Tremblay... I was a fan of all of them. During our almost-daily road hockey games, winter or summer, I'd become any one of my heroes depending on the play that I was making with that shaved tennis ball.
Strangely enough, one of my favourite times of the year was when we were preparing to head back for another school year. It wasn't because I particularly enjoyed school (I was good at most subjects, though bored easily) but around our house it was akin to another birthday or Christmas: lots of new stuff for the kids! We'd hop into the car a couple of Saturdays before the first day of school and head to the Woolco in Granby to get new jeans and shirts, shoes, school supplies, book bag, and various other things. If my parents felt particularly adventurous, a road trip to Sherbrooke or across the border to Vermont was in order.
Being a Hab fan meant that I wanted anything with a Hab logo on it. Jerseys, hockey cards, stickers, clothing, sheets and pillow cases... I loved anything bleu, blanc et rouge. All of those things made me feel just that little bit closer to my winter heroes.
So naturally, when it came to a new lunch box, my mom bought me this:
|I may as well have had cooties|
You'll note that it's not a Montreal Canadiens lunch box. Their team colours weren't black and gold, and they never had a defenseman quite as great as #4 play for them. No, that red and blue Canadiens lunch box went to my brother who was neither a Habs fan or a hockey fan in general.
I protested. I pleaded. There may have even been some kicking and screaming involved. But none of it worked; on the first day of school, I was to be waiting for the bus with my brand new Bobby Orr lunch box.
Needless to say, my new acquisition didn't go over all that well with all of the other kids on the bus, who were just as big of Canadiens fans as I was. I thought that my tres-cool satin Hab jacket would have deflected at least some of the criticism, but unfortunately that went only so far considering I was using what amounted to friend repellent to carry my fried baloney sandwich, Wagon Wheel, thermos of chocolate milk and a fruit punch juice box. My mom's drink of choice was appropriate as I remember receiving the odd upper-arm love tap because of her purchase.
My first defense was to use the design of the offending box against those suspicious stares. After all, Bobby Orr was one hell of a defenseman, something that even the staunchest Hab fan had to admit. And if I were to get an argument, Orr's NHL accomplishments were listed on the front of the box to help me make my case. Yeah, that's it: it's a BOBBY ORR lunch box, not a Bruins lunch box! Brilliant!
Not so much, apparently. Semantics meant nothing to a bus full of elementary school kids.
"He plays for the Bruins and it has a Bruin logo on it, and it's black and yellow, so what do you have to say for yourself?
I don't remember having a decent answer, though I do remember having to part with the fried baloney in return for safe passage. After school I asked my mom if I could have a new lunch box, but she responded with something about having just spent good money on this one and if Bobby Orr was good enough to be on a lunch box then he was probably good enough to be carried around by me. She then pulled out that classic parenting axiom, "If your friends don't like you for (your lunch box) then they're not really your friends." I'm guessing that mom didn't get teased a lot when she was a kid.
|The offending chocolate milk storage and transportation system|
I don't remember it being too many days after that I came upon the idea of removing the sticker with the offending artwork from the front of the box. The folks at Aladdin must have had my predicament in mind, as it pulled off rather easily. Voila... problem solved! That is, until my mom saw the box and wanted to know why I had ruined a perfectly good lunch box by removing the sticker. An answer of, "I didn't ruin it, it still works perfectly" didn't go ever all that well.
Long after I outgrew the age where using a lunch box was cool, that black and yellow beating-producer ended up being used as a tool box, then eventually to hold fishing equipment. The fish could have cared less about the colour.
I don't remember it making the trip with us when we moved to Ontario in 1983; it probably ended its life in a landfill somewhere in Quebec. In fact I had long forgotten about it until I recently read about a posting for one on a hockey memorabilia auction site. In good shape, with the matching thermos, it would bring almost $300.
No wonder my mom was upset at me for having removed the sticker.