My dad’s a big history buff and when I was a kid we were always watching movies set either in ancient times or in the Middle Ages.

One of the shows that I really enjoyed was the TV version of “Ivanhoe.” I haven’t seen it in years and years. All I remember are the knights on their horses jousting, their lances splintering. I was about 9.

Almost as soon as the movie was over, I went to work. I found a few old boxes somewhere, and got my scissors and Scotch tape. For a few hours, my parents could enjoy quiet while I was upstairs working away.

I used to have a little office area outside my room by the stairs where I had a desk and shelves for books (with a hidden compartment behind the books for contraband). This was where the construction took place.

When it was done, I came downstairs and proudly presented myself to my parents. I was clad, head to toe, in a cardboard suit of armor, complete with helmet, shield and sword. The helmet had the visor down, covering my face. That was very important.

At that moment, I was a knight in shining armor, and by the way, why were my parents laughing? If you see the picture of it today, you know why, because I just look like a kid covered in pieces of cardboard and scraps of tape.

Throughout my childhood, cardboard was a favorite, if not the favorite toy.

It all started when I was really small; I think I was younger than 5. I can remember making a biplane out of paper. My parents stood in the kitchen, watching me, and Dad said, “That’s pretty good.” They talked in that tone parents get when they suspect this may be a sign of some future potential.

But while my future belonged to paper, my childhood was dominated by cardboard.

I was always claiming old boxes, grabbing them and hiding them in my room before Mom could throw them away. Between the pack rat she had married and me, she couldn’t throw out much. I even saved lobster shells and pretended they were aliens or those crab things from “The Dark Crystal.”

In my little office area I constructed one thing after another. I built the entire ship from “The Black Hole,” detailing it with markers.

Dad’s office was right at the bottom of the stairs (he preferred that we call it the library, so we never did). When I took a break in my labors, I could look over the edge and watch Dad working on his own projects. Once he made a chariot out of cardboard that he painted in robin’s egg blue and gold. It was drawn by two plastic horses, if I recall correctly. When I pointed out how cool it was, he lamented that a chariot should really be pulled by four horses rather than two.

Eventually he let me play with it, and it probably got wrecked.

On the wall in his office hung his paintings, one showing figures in front of a medieval castle. He was never entirely happy with them, but I always liked them.

While Dad’s weekends were spent pondering the ages, his day job was cutting meat. For a while he had his own meat shop, and I would go there after school.

For some reason, there were always tons of white, cardboard discs in the office at the store. I don’t know what they were intended for, but they set the stage for the greatest of my constructions – a replica of the Millennium Falcon. I built it to a scale that could accommodate my action figures. It included an enclosed cockpit and crew quarters, not to mention the gun turret and radar dish.

It looked pretty good to me until my friend Steve came over on a sleep-over and brought his plastic toy one.

Soon after, my parents bought me one of my own, but I still remember the cardboard version.

When I would start building something, I would always picture the end result in my mind and it was perfect. I knew I would work hard and complete every detail. I would color it to perfection. It would be as good as any store-bought toy when it was done.

The final product, however, never lived up to the expectations. Sometimes it suffered because I didn’t have just the right box. Sometimes I was so impatient to play with the thing that I rushed it.

But the fun was in the construction. The thing itself would only last a short time.

The other day, my son was feeling down because he had to work on a school project.

I realized we were looking at the project from the wrong angle. I explained that it involved drawing, coloring and building a pyramid out of cardboard.

“On any other day, we’d do all that stuff for fun,” I said.

He cut up a box into triangles and taped them together. The pyramid was open on one side and the interior was divided into two floors. The sides were painted. The floor was sandpaper. He had made a mummy to go inside out of modeling clay and covered it in a cardboard Sarcophagus ornamented with golden glitter.

This was more than a school project. This was tradition, a rite of passage. He was the third generation Dunkle man to take up this art form.

And even though I can take all the credit for providing the genetics and the proud heritage that led to this feat, I should probably add one minor footnote.

It was his mother who helped.