Tactical Tupperware — For Men


Ol’ Dick Wizda was a tricky son of a gun. Whenever he wanted to “Tom Sawyer” us kids in the neighborhood, he’d sound the alarm! An aromatic smoke signal of sorts, it worked. Around 11:15, he’d light his charcoal grill. By 11:40 the briquettes were perfect for grilling. Dick would throw about two-dozen hot dogs on the sizzling hot grate — and wait.

This alarm sounded the ol’ factory lobe of every kid in a three-block radius. We knew when we smelled food on the grill at lunchtime, Dick was calling out to us in his own way. Funny how he always had more than enough for us kids?

While gorging ourselves on hotdogs, chips and soda pop, we noticed two sawhorses with an old piece of plywood on top, forming a makeshift worktable. There were about a dozen or more green, battered .50 cal. surplus ammo cans, along with three cans of paint and about a dozen paintbrushes.

Whenever Dick bellowed his famous, “Hop in boys, we’re going to town” line and loaded all us kids in his woody station wagon, we always stopped at the surplus store. Whether Dick got anything or not, he always bought two ammo cans on his way out. He liked picking the most beat up cans there that usually ran two for a dollar in those days. After he accumulated enough, he would “re-condition” them.

Being curious boys, one of us would finally ask Dick through a mouth full of hotdog, “Mmph, whatca’ gonna…mmpgh do with…mmph…that paint and ammo cans, Dick…BUUURRPPP!?“

Laughing at the sudden expulsion of gulped air, orange soda pop and frankfurter, Dick told us it was time to “gussy-up” the ammo cans with a fresh coat of color-coded paint. He would go on tellin’ us how he’d have to be sooo-careful painting them and how much fun it was to make something so beat-up and ratty look brand new. He coulda’ sold snow to an Eskimo, he was that good.

Next thing you know, us kids would be fightin’ over paint brushes, asking Dick what color he wanted “our” can painted. Dick used red for First-Aid kits, flat green for generic uses and blue for his garage projects.

Using self-tapping screws, Dick would screw the blue cans to his garage wall with the hinge facing down. He’d add a small chain to either side so when the lid opened, it formed a shelf. He’d use 3/8ths plywood and make a small shelf that just fit in the ammo can for jars of nuts, bolts and other assorted hardware. His whole garage was lined with blue ammo cans, labeled, attached to the wall.


He’d even make security boxes out of them using a large eye screw, some washers, nuts and a lock. Ol’ Dick was tricky! He made small toolboxes, fishing kits and stored any other junk he could think of in these tactical treasure chests.

Dick even had the audacity to store his handloaded ammo, cast bullets, primers and brass in these marvelous metal masterpieces. They stacked neat as blocks. I think when Dick outgrew sticking newfound treasures in his pants pockets, like most boys, he started using .50 Cal. ammo cans.

I love surplus ammo cans, too. Besides the wonderful memories they trigger, they are darn right handy. While not as fun as hauling a bunch of kids to town and exploring the mysteries, anticipation, sights and smells of a surplus store, I just order them by the dozen from various Internet sites.

Like Dick, I use them in my garage, vehicles and reloading room. A green metal wall of cans is neater than small, scattered plastic boxes of ammo everywhere. With some masking tape and a sharpie, each can is labeled by caliber and load. There’s just something manly and “right” about using surplus ammo cans.

Maybe we picture ourselves in battle as we open the spring-loaded lid and pretend we are getting much needed ammo for battle. Or perhaps, it’s as simple as being reminded of a great guy, who took the time to talk with the neighborhood kids, kept them busy, amused and maybe, slightly, took advantage of them by doing his work?

Naah! Looking back, Dick taught us boys more than we can ever thank him for. He got us thinking, showed us how to have a sense of adventure, be resourceful and the pride of doing something with your own two hands, rather than settling for something store-bought.

Maybe I’m long overdue to “hop in and head to town” myself, go to the surplus store and have an adventure of my own? Might as well pick up some nasty lookin’ ammo cans too. Anybody wanna’ go?