Sunday, October 02, 2022

Crayoning glory

by ELENA JOHNSON/Coeur Voice Contributor
| August 10, 2022 1:00 AM

That fresh chemical smell of scuff-free linoleum. Laminated posters shimmering in still bug-free light fixtures, unworn, unmemorized, unforgotten. The crinkling of fresh, crisp papers in your backpack.

No, this isn’t the lead up to everyone’s favorite nightmare. (Is yours arriving in your underwear, or are you a fail-the-final-for-a-class-you’ve-never-taken-type?) It’s a little elementary school nostalgia. And a request.

For much of the country, it’s back to school month. For local kids, it’s more like Gather Supplies While Pretending Summer Isn’t Ending month. (Comfort the complaining kiddos in your life with the knowledge they’re among the elite who get to wait until Labor Day!)

And for many wee ones, school supplies season means one promise: the sweet waxy, and almost fruity scent of a fresh box of crayons. All 16 — or 32, or 64, big spender! — perfectly pointed, chromatically categorized, sturdy sticks of joy. Oh, and I guess they’re good for schoolwork, too.

But let’s be honest, most of us weren’t training to be Picasso at 8. Even those of us with an obscene number of coloring books, craft paper, and drawing supplies couldn’t singlehandedly consume a 32-pack. (Who even touched the peach that looked more like puke? That tip stayed titanium sharp in my box.)

Key colors are worn to nubs and lost. Crayola still doesn’t sell replacement packs of black, white, brown, and the primary colors. So while you grumble about America’s favorite crayon company missing out on a major sales avenue, you grab a 64-pack and hope this time you won’t have to get a new box so soon (but you will).

What happens to the old box?

If you don’t amass a giant crayon bucket, it’s usually thrown out. And even worse, many restaurants do the same thing with that little box of 90 minutes’ entertainment.

Not only does the wax-based coloring tool not decompose, it’s taking up a lot of unnecessary space in trash piles and serves no use. Plus, it’s simply nonsensical for something that literally can’t go bad (except pukey peach, but hey, sometimes kids want to draw that, and they should have the ugly crayons to do so!) to lie there unused in a dump.

Luckily, August is National Crayon Collection Month. The Crayon Collection charity dedicated to recycling — or really, reusing — encourages restaurants (and individuals) to spare those Vivid Violet, Fern, Fuzzy Wuzzy and Sepia from the worst fate known to crayonkind: The garbage bin.

For those of us who drew our way through dinner in this area, where many local restaurants reused the same crayons, the need might seem a little less dire. But in recent years with supply sharing becoming a little more complicated, more restaurants may be demoting crayons to single-use status. (After all, there’s a difference between sharing crayons among the same classroom of 30 kids and sharing between a couple hundred eating at a Chili’s this month.)

A crayon is truly a kid’s best friend. Or so my precious 64-pack with the built-in sharpener (I was the envy of my fifth-grade friends) told me.

Who knows, by fermenting your child’s love of drawing and access to the greatest coloring tool of all time, they just might grow up to be an underpaid (joking, Ms. Editor!) writer of a column that at least 20 people pick up once in a while.

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Elena Johnson can be reached at

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