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The End of the Road - The Story of My Trusty Sidekick, Oscar the Coleman Cooler

My sidekick Oscar - the Coleman Cooler

My sidekick Oscar - the Coleman Cooler

The other day my husband and I decided to clean up our "junk room". You know, that room in the basement where everything gets lost once it gets put there. We haven't cleaned it since we moved 4 years ago so it was a big chore.

Armed with a box of trash bags and ready to purge, we worked our way from one end of the room to the other. Keepsakes were consolidated, empty boxes were piled high, and tough decisions were made about what to keep and what to throw out. Quick work was made that day and we held no prisoners. If we hadn't used it in a few years and it held no sentimental value or wasn't needed for the house then it was gone.

As we made our way through stacks of bins and boxes we came across it. There, sitting dusty and dejected, behind the overflowing box of Christmas ornaments and under a stack of old camping blankets, was my Oscar Coleman Cooler. "Oscar!" I exclaimed! Finding Oscar put me in a quandary. Here was an item that, at first glance, fit the category of "throw it out". We hadn't used it in a while, it didn't work anymore and, according to my husband, couldn't possibly hold any sentimental value. Thrown into our trash pile, Oscar looked lonely and I started reminiscing.

I've had "Oscar" a very long time...since the mid 1980s. I haven't used him (yes, I'm referring to the cooler as "him") in a while. He's pretty stained on the inside and his kelly green top falls off, even with the handle locking it in place. Food hasn't stayed cool in Oscar for a long time. I can't remember a time in my teenage and adult years that I haven't had Oscar. He's been by my side through thick and thin and in happy and sad times.

Oscar is my sidekick and this is his story.

Oscar's early years

I got Oscar when I was in my teens. My best friend's family had invited me to go with them to the Mall in Washington DC for the fourth of July festivities. It was going to be an all day affair in the blazing sun. The Beach Boys were playing and the fireworks promised to be amazing. Needing something to carry my drinks and food in, my parents brought Oscar home from the store for me. He was bright and shiny and ready to help keep me cool in the 90 plus degree weather. Off I went, with Oscar in hand, but not before my mother made me write my name in big 5 inch letters on one side with permanent marker. Seriously Mom?! What were you thinking? Well, I can vouch for permanent markers because my name is still emblazened on Oscar's side for all to see and my mom was right...Oscar got lost a couple of times, but was always found because my name was on him.

I took Oscar with me that 4th of July and for many others to come. He was by my side at every summer outing, keeping drinks and food at a safe temperature. He came with me when a friend and I camped out for the rock band The Who tickets at the now long gone Capital Centre in Landover Maryland. Boy that was a good time, although I still can't believe my parents let me do that. What were they thinking?

There was no question that Oscar would be by my side when I headed south to college. He came home with me on every break and rode back to school in the front seat so I had easy access to one of the homemade goodies my mom had packed in him so lovingly. My college buddies thought it was great. Nobody had a cooler in the dorms so I ended up being the go to girl when we went off to campus concerts and parties. Not only did he keep our beverages icy cold and do double duty as a handy seat, his top could be flipped over to reveal two cup holders. Very cool! With that bright green top and my name on the side, he was always easy to find if the crowd got too rowdy and we got separated.

Oscar's middle years

I found a job in New York City when I graduated college. It was an exciting and scary time in my life and I set off on this new journey with mixed emotions. My parents took me down to Union Station in Washington DC and put me on a New York City bound Amtrak train. I had one duffle bag crammed full of clothes, a backpack with various necessities, my purse and Oscar, filled, yet again, with homemade goodies from my mom. With no place to live and not much money, I stayed in a sad seedy hotel until I could find an apartment. Oscar was my refrigerator in those early New York City days and when I finally found a dingy basement studio apartment I could afford, Oscar doubled as a chair and was my only piece of furniture until il I was able to get a few things. When I would go in search of the perfect tan, he'd sear in the sun in Central Park keeping my sodas cold.

5 years later we packed up and headed down the road and back to my roots in the DC area. Oscar began to get pushed further back in my closet, only coming out for an occasional adventure. He'd come with me to the beach every summer and the odd picnic or canoe trip. I was more successful then. I'd bought an apartment, worked 60 hours a week and didn't really have the down time I used to have. Life went on as they say.

Once I got married, Oscar was used less and less. My husband had a big fancy cooler and we only brought out Oscar when we needed more room or if we only needed a few drinks for a long car ride.

For a little while Oscar enjoyed resurgence in popularity. It was about 9 years ago when my mother fell ill with sepsis. She was really sick and touch and go for a while but she muscled through. Once she was home from the hospital, still frail and sickly, I would pack Oscar full of fresh fruit and homemade goodies and make the hour long trip to visit her. We even laughed about the times she would pack Oscar full of her homemade goodies for me when I went off on my journeys.

Oscar's sunset

Oscar has been as far north as Maine, as far south as Florida and as far west as Michigan. He's been a beach bum, a camper and he's seen many rock concerts. He's been on too many picnics to count, carrying food and drink wherever it needed to go. When my daughter was a baby, he'd carry her formula on our road trips. He's been with me as long as I can remember.

Oscar doesn't carry much anymore. Years of use as a seat has made his top so lose so that it falls off when you carry him and makes it impossible for him to keep things cool.

When my husband and I started the day determined to clean out our junk room I hadn't taken Oscar into account. We started to take those piles of unwanted things to the garage for the next trash pickup. Oscar went up too, but I haven't had the nerve to put him in the garbage can. I'm not really even sure I will. Right now he's sitting in the hallway patiently waiting. Maybe I'll find a hidden corner somewhere in the house and tuck him away for a little while longer. Maybe I'll throw him out next week. Who knows, he may even have another journey in him. I think I'll decide tomorrow.

© 2012 Claudia Mitchell


Claudia Mitchell (author) on September 23, 2020:

Thanks for reading and for your story.

Benita W. on September 21, 2020:

I enjoyed reading about your Oscar. We have my late father-in-law's which we use but never really paid attention to until I looked more closely at the name and logo yesterday. Then I realized this cooler must be pretty old and decided to look on-line to find out when it was manufactured. That's when I came across your post. Ours was manufactured in January 1985 in Wichita, Kansas.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 27, 2020:

I love that you still have yours and that you got in in your divorces! I just used mine the other day. Thanks for reading.

Linnea J. on July 26, 2020:

In addition to traveling the United States with me, I’m made sure I got my 1970’s Oscar in both of my divorces!!

One in 1982 and the other in 1999!!

I won’t ever give it away.... my kids will fight over it when I’m gone! LOL

Linnea J. on July 26, 2020:

I love my Bright Blue Oscar by Coleman Cooler too! I’ve had mine since, I believe, sometime in the late 70s. It has floated the Apple River in Wisconsin with me and has gone on fly-fishing trips in MT.

I currently live in Idaho and so I’m using it when I go fishing here on the Coeur d’Alene River.

Like yours, I don’t use it in a whole lot right now but it’s in perfect condition and it is the perfect size for when I go fishin’!!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 17, 2020:

That's awesome! Mine's still in the basement and we use it from time to time.

Danny McCul on July 17, 2020:

OSCAR! I'm sitting here with my '84 Oscar. My dad bought this and a larger playmate when we were kids and headed to Ocean City MD. Years later, almost 40! I'm here using my trusty pal to pack drinks for my kids and myself. The playmate died many years ago, but this guy, with his cup holders still is a must bring! Thanks for the story

Linda Hietala on March 02, 2020:

I have had mine since early 79 - like you he got lots of use but now it's only two or three times annually - once a year beach visit and a couple of weekend road trips - he'll be with me till I die and my sister said it's the one thing of mine she is sure to keep - great memories!!!!

Jeff Hintz on October 08, 2019:

What was the year of your Oscar? Date of mfg is imprinted on bottom, and did you buy him new? Just wondering, I think it's fun to see the years (when made) of things like this. I have a '79 Oscar and an '83 Lil' Oscar... reminders of better days of fishing/hunting trips, trips to the beach, picnics, camping, etc.

Jason on September 07, 2019:

I have the Little Oscar version I got it at a garage sale for 2$ it still serves me well I use it for camping, road trips tailgating and much more!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on November 16, 2018:

Your story made me smile. These coolers have served people well for many years and mine is still around too. Thanks for reading.

F L Stelth on November 15, 2018:

Great story! I've had the exact same cooler since 1984 or so when I was in high school. I bought mine for a camping/hunting trip. Mine has also served me well and there are many memories attached to it. I now use it to store car washing supplies and it serves as a large bucket for soapy water whenever I do get around to washing a car. I always smile when I see it in my garage.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on August 21, 2018:

I appreciate that John. It fun how seemingly everyday objects can make such an impact on us. Glad you enjoyed the article.

John D Custer from Tampa Bay Area, Florida on August 20, 2018:

Hi Claudia, yes, mine goes way back also. I got it 1978 or 80, I don't remember exactly. I know I was taking it to a Christian fellowship called the Rock of Ages in Ohio. Just the right size to fit into a station wagon we used to travel from Albuquerque, NM to Ohio and back. We had a carful of friends and needed some snacks for travel and for camping out. It sits in my closet in case it needs to be invited to local friends gatherings today for 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Holiday events throughout December, and start the year all over again...Fun, eh? Thx for the article. It's great.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 08, 2018:

Hi Doris - Good memories from those concerts on the mall. Glad you stopped by.

Doris Wella on July 05, 2018:

I was at that Beach Boys concert in Washington DC. The Fireworks were the best I've every seen. We were standing down in front of the Lincoln Memorial. I also have an Oscar from back in the day. It goes with me to the grocery in the summer.

Tom K on March 24, 2018:

I adopted my Lil' Oscar in the summer of 1982; just out of high school; at the local Kmart. My Lil' Oscar is the green bottom with the white top and handle. Lil' Oscar is in great condition, he gets a bath at least once a year in the kitchen sink.with soap and water and a little bleach. For his age he doesn't show much wear. The sticker alone looks as wonderful as the day I got him. Lil' Oscar has carried by lunch to work everyday for the last 36 years. He works as good today as he did when I got him. It is a running joke between my co-workers and myself that we are inseparable. I work on the average 6 days a week. The folks at Coleman created an AWESOME cooler! At the time of my death I have ask my wife and children to have my body cremated, ashes poured into Lil' Oscar and sealed shut with a large bead of J-B Weld between the top and bottom and J-B Weld the handle in the up position. We will be together for ever. This is no joke folks! Some people may think I am weird, but all I know is Lil' Oscar and myself are best Buds.forever! :)

Claudia Mitchell (author) on March 24, 2018:

Marie - It is still in my basement, but your idea is the best one yet. I love it and can make it beautiful with flowers. Thanks for idea!!!!

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on March 23, 2018:

Since this is two years old, I'm sure you've decided what to do with your cooler. I would have transformed him into a planter myself. Blessings!

Donna from East Yorkshire, UK on January 30, 2018:

I live Coleman. It survives well even in Africa and when moved to the UK and needed a tent, we bought a Coleman. Good luck and hope you have make many more memories.

LinRoc on July 03, 2017:

I feel for you. My husband and I could never get rid of our Oscar. It has seen more beach and BBQ parties than I can count. It has traveled cross country many times and goes to the supermarket three times a week. I am goin to write to the CEO of Coleman and try to convince him to bring back the Oscar. Min has seen better days but keeps on truckin.

Sherry on April 29, 2017:

Keep him

Keep the memories

My daughter has a bunny I bought her when she was 7 now at 46 bun is old ragging and lost his eye part of his ear

But she loves him from better youthful days

Donna Herron from USA on April 18, 2017:

My parents have the same exact cooler. They bought it somewhere around 1982 when they bought a summer cottage in Maine. It has made weekly trips up to Maine every summer for the last 35 years or so. It's still going strong and serving its intended purpose. If you still have a use for Oscar (or know someone who does) and he still keeps things cool, then keep him!

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on March 12, 2017:

Awwwww....I'd keep him, if for nothing else than that occasionally needed extra seat...or for grandkids to put toys in...surely he has more years of service in some pursuit, even if not in keeping things cold.

Jeff V on September 01, 2016:

Just repaired the hinges on the handle with several through bolts. Parents have had an Oscar since 1981 and they were both super sad recently when the handle finally gave out...lol. i this article is soooo us and how we treat this great little cooler. I couldnt stand the thought of this being the end of the road for our family's 35 year adventure with Oscar, so with fresh new hardware (artificial hips) of stainless steel, I figure it's good another few years...:)

Oscar is great on August 18, 2016:

Had the same Oscar cooler since 1978 and other than a rusted rivet on one side of the handle, it still works great. Seen much use over the last 38 years. Best cooler ever!!

Erik on July 28, 2016:

I have the Super Oscar with a red top, I'm guessing it's a little bigger than the Oscar. It was originally my dads and he gave it to me when I went off to college back in 05. I've been on many adventures with it, and I decided to look it up on google and was surprised to find this article. I have used mine as a seat many times too, I'll try to stop if it damages the lid, other than that I feel like this cooler would last a lifetime. You know it's always going to be a good time when you're bringing along your Coleman Oscar cooler!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on May 30, 2016:

Love the last line that you wrote and it's so true. I wrote this a few years ago and the cooler is still in my basement and used from time to time. Doubt I'll ever get rid of it.

David M on May 27, 2016:

I came across a review for Yeti coolers. Real nice , bear proof , but $500 ! So i thought about my cooler and internet searched. I have a Coleman Oscar cooler purchased over 30 years ago . Like yours , it was 2 piece , until the top was left behind in a grocery store …. . Went back and inquired …. never showed up : ( It’s been to east and west coasts – California etc. I still use the cooler without the top for grocery shopping. It paid for itself many times over and doesn’t owe me anything.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on June 23, 2015:

Hi Mary A - Interesting that you came across this article when looking for a cooler lid! That's so fun. I didn't know that one could buy replacement lids for an Oscar cooler. Thanks for reading and commenting!

Mary A on June 22, 2015:

My mom's Oscar finally sprung a leak in the lid and I threw it out. Oops!

I later found that the lid could be replaced. That was while I was searching for one just like it—speaking of attached. That's also how I came to your article!

I did find the exact colors I needed in a wear-free cooler online. Whew! Coolers come and go, but Oscar is perfectly behaved.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 04, 2015:

You're welcome. It had a hint of humor as well. :-)

Claudia Mitchell (author) on June 04, 2015:

Thanks Kristen - It was fun to write and remember all these things.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 03, 2015:

What a great tribute to your cooler, Glimmer. Very charming and interesting. Voted up!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on May 16, 2015:

Hi CThompson - I still have Oscar in the basement and we still use it from time to time. I just can't get rid of him yet. Thanks for reading and leaving such a great comment.

CThompson on May 16, 2015:

I just inheriated an oscar from my great aubt who got hers in the 70's, and where she went he went. I loved seeing what was inside when she visited me as a child and into college. I would say it's a keep as I've kept hers and he's still my best travel companion. He stays shut and still keeps cool even after all this time.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on November 12, 2012:

Thanks FreezeFrame! I still have him around. :-)

FreezeFrame34 from Charleston SC on November 10, 2012:

Interesting read! I vote to keep Oscar too!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on October 03, 2012:

I'm glad your mom still has the cooler and I'm really glad my hub brought back memories for you. Thanks for commenting!

Heather from Arizona on October 03, 2012:

We had the same exact ice chest growing up. In fact, I think my mom might still even have it. We took it everywhere-- The Everglades, Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, Devil's Tower, and many more. Your picture just reminded me of so many great family vacation memories. Great hub. :)

Claudia Mitchell (author) on August 25, 2012:

Thanks so much rajan. I still have not gotten rid of Oscar. I probably never will. It is interesting how certain things make us remember special times. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on August 25, 2012:

Very interesting story of Oscars association with you. True some things make us reminisce about good old times.

Enjoyed reading it. Voted up and interesting.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 17, 2012:

Thanks truth! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 17, 2012:

Thanks fennelseed! I'm glad you still have your Oscar. Mine has found a new spot in our basement. He's not going anywhere soon.

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on July 16, 2012:

Nice story about Oscar. What a great companion.

Annie Fenn from Australia on July 16, 2012:

I voted you keep Oscar, why? well I have an Coleman Oscar too, and our Oscar has a very checkered history from his beginning in the early 80's. Mostly used in those days as a very important part of me delivering the daily smoko (morning tea) out paddock to my then farmer husband, especially when our children were helping out as farmhands during the school holidays and yes Oscar would provide extra seating out the paddock when it was time to sit and enjoy a cuppa!! But many, many outside concerts, camping trips, fireworks shows, and visits to family later, Oscar still serves us well, albeit without his handle!! Instead of carrying him easliy with one hand, he is now lovingly carried on hip with arm wrapped around him should he fall and spill his contents!!! Oh, boy we do get attached to things don't we!!! But then better our Oscars are loved than put into landfill!!

Great hub, I related all the way - Long live our Oscars!!!

All my good votes and sharing!!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 15, 2012:

Thanks B Lucy! I appreciate the comment.

B Lucy from Podunk, Virginia on July 15, 2012:

LOVE this!!!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 15, 2012:

He's still here. Thanks for the comments.

Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on July 15, 2012:

Oscar looks pretty nice, if you ask me. I'll bet you could store plastic bottles in Oscar or perhaps use the cooler in some other way. I think he is a keeper. Fun hub and voted up!

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 09, 2012:

Thanks so much Janine! I appreciate it. Right now I am keeping him too!

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on July 09, 2012:

I am usually a throw it away if you don't use it kind of girl, but after reading your story, I would have to say you need to keep Oscar. He has been through too much with you and just for sentimental reasons, I would keep him. Just my opinion, but felt I needed to give my 2 cents here. Voted up and shared too.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 09, 2012:

Thanks Jackie!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on July 09, 2012:

Very informative and interesting. I have a few that need to go to heaven..or somewhere.

Claudia Mitchell (author) on July 09, 2012:

Thanks billybuc!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on July 09, 2012:

Oscar served you well and hopefully, now, he (she) is in cooler heaven enjoying a tall, cold one! Fun hub!

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