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Crayola Has Another Surprise: Top Crayon Maker Colorblind

December 5, 1990 GMT

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) _ Crayola company officials might be turning a little red, make that fuchsia, with news that its top crayon maker is colorblind.

Emerson Moser, who is retiring next week after 35 years, isn’t colorblind in the sense that he can’t see color at all. It’s just that some colors are confusing to him.

That means trying to spot the difference between a cadet blue and a blue green can make him feel, well, like a shrinking violet.

″If you have a serious case of it, you could foul up a lot of materials,″ said Moser, 63, who has made a record 1.4 billion crayons. His title at Binney & Smith Co., the official name of the company that makes Crayolas, is a crayon molder.

As far as Moser and the company can tell, there’s been no threat of children coloring the sky green and the grass blue - unless they were doing their Andy Warhol imitations.

″He’s blue-green colorblind, but despite his handicap, he’s gone to the top of his trade,″ said Brad Drexler, spokesman for the Easton-based company.

Moser has made seas of salmon, pecks of plums and is a king crayon craftsman, Drexler said. Tuesday, Moser made yards of yellow and Wednesday, it was oodles of orange - colors that give Moser no trouble.

″When you have shades of one color, you get a little doubt about it. Before you go do anything, you double-check yourself,″ said Moser.

It’s the second technicolor shock to come out of the Crayola plant this year. In August, it retired eight traditional colors into the Crayola Hall of Fame.

The company is asking Moser to donate his final pair of ankle-high boots, splashed with the waxy colorful remains of his time on the job, for inclusion in the hall.

″The colors splash a little bit when it comes out of the kettle into the bucket,″ said Moser. ″People daily clean their shoes, but I don’t. I have a multicolored pair of shoes. It’s probably made them waterproof.

″This pair I have now ... there’s yellow on them, because I worked yellow today, and some orange and some red,″ Moser said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

A company doctor detected Moser’s slight vision problem during a physical conducted when he was hired Oct. 12, 1953, as a floor boy in the packing department.

″It’s so slight that if the doctor wouldn’t have tested me, I probably would have never noticed it,″ Moser said.

Less than two years later, Moser graduated to the most colorful job in the world, pouring molten wax into 2,400-crayon molds nearly 100 times a day. Once the wax is set, crayons are flicked out of the racks and stacked in a bin for a conveyor belt to carry them to a labeling machine.

At Crayola, there are subtle shades of everything.

But can anyone over age 12 really tell the difference between violet and blue violet, cornflower and navy blue, blue green and cadet blue, sepia and brown, orchid and thistle, or mulberry and red violet?

Other colors to worry about are the new shades of cerulean (a type of blue), dandelion, fuchsia, jungle green, royal purple, teal blue, vivid tangerine and wild strawberry. They replaced blue gray, green blue, lemon yellow, maize, orange red, orange yellow, raw umber and violet blue last summer.

For less than obvious reasons, Moser likes the eight basic Crayola colors: black, white, red, yellow, green, blue, brown and orange. He even liked the eight retired colors, which now are remembered only in 5-foot-tall models at the hall of fame.

But Moser says there is no reason to wax nostalgic about retiring the crayon colors.

″The new ones are nice. They really stand out when you color with them,″ Moser said. ″The other colors were nice, too. You grew up with them and got used to them, but you can’t survive on sentiment. Sentiment doesn’t keep a company moving forward.″