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Will 64 colours produce better crayon art work?

Joyce Walter reflects on the many colours of Crayola
Reflective Moments by Joyce Walter

The years have gone quickly by, leaving me to ponder the exact year in which I received my last box of Crayola crayons.

Whatever the year, it was definitely several decades in the past, and the purchase was made by the parents in compliance with a demand from the school teacher to have students return to the one-room classroom with a box of brand new crayons.

The minimum number in the box was to be eight, but students were permitted to show up with the grandiose number of 16 or was it 24? Those students were the envy of their classmates and we who showed up with eight-packs showed suitable awe. And there was sympathy also for the students whose crayons were not new that season, but were leftovers from a previous grade.

In a school as small as mine was, there was a community spirit and soon we were sharing our crayons with each other as new colours were explored and our art work showed considerable promise, or at least our growing ability to stay within the lines.

The colours in those vintage eight packs were simple: red, orange, black, brown, yellow, blue, violet and green. I wonder now why white wasn’t considered a colour for purposes of producing white horses and snowmen and ladies.

This whole business of crayons returned to my attention recently when I ventured into one of the local five and dime stores to purchase some crayons for colouring tables at two summer events.

There before me, for my buying pleasure, were boxes of not eight, not 16, not 24, not even 36 crayons. The modern boxes available for school children everywhere contained 64 crayons. So what colours have morphed from those original eight, in boxes that sold for a mere five cents. Trust me, that five and dime expectation did not come into effect for the 64-packs.

Did the inflated price have less to do with all those colours than it did with the added bonus that was part of each box? In all my recollections I do not believe a sharpener was included with crayon boxes of old. But there it was, advertised right on the box: “sharpener included.”

Being a bit of an explorer, I admit to opening the box, dumping out the 64 colours in search of the sharpener. But wait. There was no sharpener inside, packed as an individual piece of equipment. No siree, the sharpener was cleverly designed to be part of the cardboard package, explaining the round hole in the box which would have been evident if I had looked more closely. Amazing development since those olden days.

With that puzzle solved, my attention turned to those 64 colours as I returned them to the box. Why would anyone need eight orangish colours? Upon inspection I learned the names of those crayons: orange, burnt orange, peach, mac and cheese (I am not kidding), red orange, yellow orange, melon and goldenrod.

And what about the blue hues? The pack defined them as blue, robin’s egg blue, sky blue, cornflower blue, turquoise, cerulean blue and periwinkle blue.

Ditto for many of the other colours, offering young artists a full palette of the primary colours as well as several derivatives.

To my relief, if the opportunity arose to produce a Frosty the Snow person or one of those albino horses, there is one single white crayon included in the maze of 63 other colours. Surprisingly, it is simply called “white.”

With some sorrow, I noted that none of the children who were colouring at the previously referred-to events, made any attempt to use the white crayon, opting instead for various shades of black, blue, red and brown. They thumbed their artistic noses at mac and cheese and red orange, suggesting to me that eight-packs would still meet all the crayon desires of this young age group.

I’m still impressed with the sharpener and wonder if it would work on regular pencils — an experiment for another day. Colour on!

Joyce Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.

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