One of my favorite childhood memories is of the time my family toured the Binney & Smith plant in Winfield, Kansas. Binney & Smith produced Crayola products and my grandparents lived in Winfield. It was a tour that was a long time in the making due to the lengthy waiting list at the plant. My father smartly placed us on the list and on one lucky Kansas vacation we finally made it to the top.
I remember driving by the Binney & Smith plant on the outskirts of Winfield several times, wondering what sort of colorful Willy Wonka-esque world of art supplies existed behind those beige warehouse walls. I remember the summer day when we arrived for our tour and swinging my short legs while sitting in the little waiting room, mesmerized by all the Crayola memorabilia for sale. There were t-shirts, coloring books, watches, jewelry, and of course, crayons and markers galore.
We soon joined other families on the tour and learned all about crayon making process. We saw the crayon and marker colors of the day rolling along the assembly line, waiting for paper wrappers and plastic caps. The plant workers served as quality control, making sure each finished crayon was in tact, sharpened, and ready for the famous yellow and green box.
I can't remember if the perfume of crayons was in the air -- that wonderful smell of wax, creativity and possibility -- but I like to think it was.
My sister and I each left the tour with a travel pack of crayons, little coloring book, and t-shirts that featured cute cartoon crayons. We wore those shirts proudly that summer, and many days after that. Sometime later my Kansas grandparents gave me a crayola wristwatch complete with crayons as the watch hands and scribbled letters for the numbers.
I went back to elementary school that fall with a new knowledge of where crayons come from. Every time I pulled out a box of Crayola crayons, I looked on the back to see if they were produced in the Winfield plant. Most of the time they came from Easton, PA (my only association of that city is crayons!) but on rare, exciting occasions the box read "Winfield, KS" and I pointed out proudly to my table mates that my grandparents lived there and I've been to the factory! It was one of my few exciting life trivia facts (later to be replaced by once seeing Jennifer Garner in person, sitting next to Michael Eisner, the one-time CEO of Disney on a college visit, and saying hi to Ross 'the Intern' Matthews at a work event.)
The crayon colors have expanded since I was young (see all the exciting "flavors" and colors above) and now crayons are even trilingual, which is incredibly cool as Karl and I aspire to raise children one day who are at least bilingual.
I purchased a brand new pack of 48 crayons a few months ago for a work coloring contest and felt so nostalgic as I opened the box. The waxy smell, rainbow of colors, and 48 sharp crayons absolutely made my day for less than $3.
Do you have any crayons or markers in your arts and craft stash? If not, go buy a pack, print off some online coloring pages (or pick up a coloring book!) and connect with your inner child. It's fun, I promise.