A box of 64 wonderful, colorful ways to inspire

They arrived in the hands of millions of children in what might be considered a version of the “Weight Watchers” recipe file – a taller, thinner box with a flip-back lid which looked smashing and scholarly in forest green and school bus yellow. The Kingston Trio was singing “Tom Dooley.” Hats, furs and shoes played an important part in the fashion stamp of 1958. Hats were tall and set toward the back of the head; although they were not considered to be a Hennin – the cylindrical hats sported by women in Medieval times.

Looking very much like Hennins all in rows were the newly-released 64 Crayola crayons. These crayons, featuring different, brilliant colors – plus a first ever built-in sharpener – resided in four cardboard neighborhoods within this box.

Introduced in 1958 on television’s “Captain Kangaroo Show,” the box of 64 sold for only $1 and offered 16 new colors. I was not around when this colorful moment arrived; however, nine years later I did receive my first box of 64 crayons for my 7th birthday.

I was spellbound.

Carefully flipping back the lid, the waxy smell became my cologne and the brilliant display of colors (plus that sharpener) was music to my soul. It was the perfect time to receive a new box of crayons, because my much smaller school-box ones were looking awfully tired. They had a place of honor on my bedroom dresser and I realized the start of summer was going to be boundless. Not only had I received the Cadillac of crayons, but three color books as well. The first book was “Sing Along Nursery Rhymes;” second was “Trip Around the World” – color-by-number with complete story which introduced me to Ghana, the Taj Mahal in India, and Holland’s tulips and windmills; and the third was “Smokey the Bear.”

As a child, I studied each crayon’s name and wondered who were the lucky souls were that actually named each of these crayons. Jan and I still smile when we talk about red violet and violet red yes, they are different! The original 1958 Crayola box of 64 included the following colors: apricot, aquamarine, bittersweet, black, blue, blue gray, blue green, blue violet, brick red, brown, burnt orange, burnt sienna, cadet blue, carnation pink, copper, cornflower, flesh, forest green, gold, goldenrod, gray, green, green blue, green yellow, Indian red, lavender, lemon yellow, magenta, mahogany, maize, maroon, melon, midnight blue, mulberry, navy blue, olive green, orange, orange red, orange yellow, orchid, periwinkle, pine green, plum, raw sienna, raw umber, red, red orange, red violet, salmon, sea green, sepia, silver, sky blue, spring green, tan, thistle, turquoise blue, violet (purple), violet blue, violet red, white, yellow, yellow green and yellow orange. What was your favorite color?

Technology has done a wonderful job of connecting the history of Crayola crayons to the present desire of color changes. Over the years, several colors have had name changes and some have even been retired. The Crayola Co. conducted a survey and has listed the top 50 Crayola colors. Guess what color is ranked No. 1 in this survey? It was introduced in 1903 and was included in the original colors. It is blue!

In addition, they have added these elements on the website to make the colors more exciting and relatable to the importance color plays in our lives. The categories include: personality traits, cultural meanings, fun facts, history, sports, music and movies. For example:

No. 1-ranked Blue, under music, relates to Blue Moon (Alley Cats), Blue Suede Shoes (Elvis Presley);

No. 6 Caribbean Green, under fun facts, describes green as often used in libraries because it creates meditative atmosphere;

No. 40 (a favorite of mine) Bittersweet Orange lists under personality traits as vibrant, warm, autumn leaves, and adventurous, to name a few;

Coming in at No. 50 is Laser Yellow. In the sports list, it shows yellow balls were used in baseball before they were in tennis;

My favorite has to No. 41, Carnation Pink. In the color information section we learn that body builders report a 10 percent gain in muscle size when the gym is pink;

No. 33, Robin Egg Blue, is a good color for rooms in which tedious work is done – such a kitchen or laundry room. (No wonder Julia Child

selected this for her kitchen and my parents chose this for their Laundromat. Maybe this color should be introduced to the walls of Congress!)

Spending time with crayons and color books has always been a point of discovery and development for me. I see this tradition continuing with Lydia. Nothing makes me smile more that seeing an adult with a crayon in hand and child at their side exploring and enjoying the world of coloring. My mom sat with me and colored and Delores Thompson, my mother-in-law, has spent countless hours over the years coloring with her grandchildren Tyler, Tanner, and Lydia. My brother, Tom, showed Lydia the wonders that a paper towel can do when rubbed over a colored page. Jan and Lydia have colored enough princesses to fill the Magic Kingdom and beyond.

One of the very first color books that Lydia and I shared is “Famous American Women.” The first to be colored was Amelia Earhart. Lydia’s little 3-year-old mind asked many questions about this amazing woman of flight. Next in line was alto Marian Anderson. She became not only a great singer, but a U.S. delegate to the United Nations. When Lydia was 3, we took in Bismarck’s lighting of Belle Mehus Auditorium at Christmas. As we stood in line, she noticed a poster of Marian singing there years earlier. It was a great moment as she connected to her coloring the image of Marian. Coloring these illustrations of strong women has given her an easel of knowledge that will benefit her for a lifetime.

Crayola has done a wonderful job with technology. One can now scan a favorite photo and turn them into coloring pages. So with that in mind, I am going to scan a photo of a little girl standing by her mother at Minot State University’s commencement. As a faculty member, her mother is wearing her gown and hood which she earned by having a dream – which became reality. Once we have colored this picture, it is going on the fridge – her play fridge, where it will remind her every day that coloring books are an important part of building character and fulfilling dreams.

As the 64 box of Crayola crayons celebrates its 55th anniversary, take time to color with your child. We know that childhood experiences have a great impact on our voyage in life, and what could be better than giving a child a lasting, colorful memory of strength and knowledge applied first with color.