Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Posts Tagged ‘Crayola

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America’s Brightest Hall of Fame


We smelled it as soon as we swooshed through the cool glass doors from the oppressive Pennsylvania humidity into the revitalizing air-conditioned low brick building.

“Crayons,” my wife said. She always says things like that before I do.

This nasal nostalgia triggered a rainbow of reminiscences: my first Christmas crayons and coloring book, the shopping sprees for the opening day of classes all through grade school, and the comfortable, colorful clutter of books and chopped-up crayons around the house as my children were growing up.

We had entered the Crayola Hall of Fame in the Binney & Smith corporate complex nestled in a high rolling Easton meadow close by the New Jersey border.

It was a timely visit because, for the first time in history, eight traditional tones were to be retired and a similar number added to the colorful contingent. To make room for the new hot hues – dandelion, wild strawberry, vivid tangerine, fuchsia, teal blue, royal purple, jungle green and cerulean – the traditional tints of maize, raw umber, blue gray, lemon yellow, green blue, orange red, orange yellow and violet blue were ensconced in the hall of fame.

I lobbied for the enshrinement of a violet orange I developed when an old crayon melted in my water color set long ago. But I couldn’t get enough weighted votes.

The move to modernity was made after interviews with Crayola’s major consumers – kids – revealed a need for brightness among the 72 official corporate colors.

We asked our guide, a retired Crayola craftsman, if there was any move to add a scent to the product. “Are you kidding?” was the response. Studies show that crayons are among the 20 most-recognized scents in America. Coffee and peanut butter top the list. And the most popular 32-color Crayola carton is to coloring what Coke is to soda pop.

While the scent is readily recognizable, it isn’t easily discovered. Plan to add at least 30 minutes for getting lost when you book an appointment for a tour of the coloring complex. The directions and map accompanying confirmation of your tour aren’t much help. Be prepared to ask local residents how to get to the Binney & Smith plant.

Inside, it’s almost disappointing to see how such colorful pieces of my life could be the product of such a small, spotless and constantly-clattering plant. It was like discovering that Santa’s workshop is in a carport.

Workers do display an elfin quality in the care and concern they show in making sure all those Crayolas have straight labels and perfectly pointed tips. My palms itched and ached to rake over those pristine-pointed columns of color. While there are more than half a million Crayolas on the floor at any one time, there are only a dozen or so workers attending clackety-clacking molding and packing machines. They produce 1 billion Crayolas a year. Another billion are produced at plants in Kansas, Canada and England.

Color is splattered all over as paraffin is recycled in large globs, colorful paper sleeves await the cylindrical sticks of color, and the familiar orange-and-green boxes of various sizes house the hundreds of thousands of Crayolas ready for shipment to more than 60 nations.

Crayolas have rolled out of this site since the first eight-color pack was produced in 1903 and sold for a nickel. The trade name Crayola derives from the French word craie for chalk and the Latin oleum for oil. Crayolas are made of paraffin and pigment. And crayon is the generic term for a colored writing stick. Anything else you ever wanted to know about Crayola and crayons can be obtained by writing to the company or by visiting.

The one person I hunted for but never found: the inspector who checks for crayons that stay inside the lines.

Scaglione is a San Diego free-lance writer.

April 07, 1991

Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 2, 2011 at 7:03 am