Old-School Ojai: Pixie Lunchbox, Famous Artist

Local resident Sergio Aragonés designs a cute keepsake for Friend's Ranches.

CITRUS-SWEET COLLECTIBLE: People who track down vintage metal lunchboxes from the 1960s and '70s know the various themes -- Saturday morning cartoons, popular dolls, hot toys, and such -- and they know the hard-to-get items.

It's a passionate calling for those who collect, a pursuit that's made even more intense by the fact that metal lunchboxes are now, for the most part, a thing of decades gone by. You can walk into any large store and see soft lunch carriers, or plastic, but the classic rectangle character-plentiful sandwich-holder is now found in antique stores and around online collectible sites. There is, however, a new place to find such a treasure, and it has such a cheerful local twist that its appeal will reach Ojai aficionados, those who love citrus, those who count themselves as mavens of Mad magazine, and, yes, metal lunchbox collectors. It's the new Ojai Pixie Growers lunchbox, perfectly sized for stuffing full of citrus, as is noted on the web site, and check out the artist: Sergio Aragonés, a longtime resident of the fruit-laden, creative-minded Ventura County community.

FRIEND'S RANCHES... just posted that the lunchboxes, a dream that's been in the works for a good long while, just arrived in mid-May. You can buy one at the packinghouse on certain days of the week, and at a local market, too. They're not yet on the web site but word has it mail order will be a thing down the road for these beauties. As for the bright and humorous designs? They're pure Aragonés, in the madcap Mad-style tradition, but with a local Ojai Valley twist. There's the iconic post office tower, there are the surrounding mountains and hills, and there are plenty of pixies, Ojai's hue-happy symbol. Are you adding this one to your collection? A metal lunchbox with an especially local twist doesn't arrive all that often. Just be sure to fill it with Ojai pixies, at least once, so the theme of the lunchbox matches its nutritional contents.

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