The Lunchbox


Although my grandfather Charles “Penny” Pannabaker, a heavy equipment operator and business owner, passed away when I was only five years old, I vividly remember sitting at my grandparents’ kitchen table with him after he had a long, hard day of work. He would share his last sugary sip of coffee from his thermos with me (I blame him for my coffee addiction!), while his dingy, old lunchbox sat nearby

After working on the Panama Canal in 1941 and then serving in WWII, my grandfather came home and saw a need for his skill set in the community. He quickly created a custom grading and excavation business and got to work — an entrepreneur well before that word was trendy. I am certain that lunch box was along for most of the ride. He eventually went on to work for the state highway department as a foreman.

Years after he passed away, his friends and family would share warm stories with me. He was a great husband, a great grandfather, a great friend and, from all accounts, a very hard-working and fair businessperson with a goofy sense of humor (something I acquired from him).

My first (and last) attempt using heavy equipment with my grandfather in 1972.

Today, that roughly 75-year old, banged up aluminum pail with a worn leather hand strap sits in my office as a constant inspiration for me to always keep things moving forward, to be a great businessperson and to work hard every day . . . just like he did. I nicknamed it “Pappy’s Pail.” His hand etched name on it was later covered with an embossed label he made. It functions now as a catchall for my keys, sunglasses and whatever else I can toss in to reduce office clutter. I use it every day. I imagine each ding, large dent and scratch has a story behind it. Maybe there was a minor mishap on the job site when something didn’t go quite right. Maybe it just fell off the excavator at lunchtime. Regardless, each indentation is symbolic of something he had to push through. I’d also like to think perhaps he dented it as he tossed it aside to give my grandmother a kiss and a hug after a great day!

It reminds me that there will always be dings and dents along the way in business and in life. Those marks tell a story, give you character and make you stronger.

What object from the past inspires you?

 Jason Minick is owner/photographer at Minick Photography, LLC

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