This article was inspired by Australian matchboxes, but I must begin with the most charming letter imaginable; written by the British author Sylvia Townsend Warner to her dear friend Alyse Gregory. It was in response to the gift of a sweet, wooden match box.
THE AUSSIE MATCHBOX
The familiar Redheads matches were first made in Australia in 1909 by Brymay, in Richmond. Sad to say, they are now made in Sweden.
There was scarcely an aspect of life in this country not affected by World War II. Rationing was in place and even the humble matchbox had to undergo changes to support the war effort. Due to limited supplies of phosphorus, the Federal Match Company produced boxes with only one striking side. The back of the box was used to advertise war bonds. There was even a suggestion that the matches themselves should be made with a head at each end, to conserve match wood.
GREAT FOR COLLECTING…. AND VERY COLLECTABLE
In the early days, entomologists from the Australian Museum would take empty matchboxes into the field when collecting specimens. With a bit of protective padding they made cheap and serviceable containers.
The boxes themselves became collectable when they were printed with colorful images . During the Great Depression young boys would hang around the docks in port cities offering to buy matchboxes from foreign seamen. The going rate was a penny apiece.
MATCHBOX FUN AND GAMES
Give your children a few empty match boxes and they will entertain themselves for hours .
My siblings and I used to print the letter B in the bottom of a box. We would then trot about annoying people no end by asking if they wanted to see our pet bee. Oh dear!
Here is better trick published in a 1930’s newspaper;
This little trick is quite easily prepared. Place a few used matches in a matchbox and then fix it up your sleeve by slipping an elastic band around your wrist. Remember it must not show. Now take an empty box in your hand, and go to a friend with it. Shake the box so that the one up your sleeve rattles, then hand him the empty one to open. He will be so surprised to find no matches.
You could furnish an entire dolls house with matchbox furniture and many of us did when we were young. I made armchairs and tables, but never a writing desk. It’s pretty cool.
A wriggly snake is simple to make too;
Someone told me recently that her mother would save the foil from Easter Eggs to cover matchbox dolls’ furniture ….what a lovely idea.
It seemed that disposable lighters would spell the end for matches and their useful boxes, but they are hanging in there. I still use them to light my wood fire.
A confession. During my misspent life as a teenager, a matchbox was the cause of one of the most embarrassing incidents of my life. I was attending dancing lessons, and lit a cigarette between the waltz and the foxtrot. Not knowing what to do with my match, I thrust it back in the box. Unfortunately it was still burning, and a few seconds later the entire contents ignited. I held the box until 20 odd matches burnt themselves out. How the cardboard did not catch light I will never know.
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