The Way It Was – Max and Seth


Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.

Some time ago, I wrote a column about a boy named Max Biederman. He was a first grade classmate of mine in 1938. He sat right across the aisle from me, and we became friends.
Max was kind of a “class clown,” and he would do most anything to get a laugh. He was also a paste eater. When we worked on art projects, our teacher, Ms. Westlake, kept on her desk a jar of that white paste that first graders use. Max would scoop out some paste and take it back to his desk. He would use some of it on his art project, and then he would eat the rest.
I never knew whether Max did that because he liked the taste of paste, or maybe he was just trying to make us laugh. Either way, I don’t think paste eating among first-graders was terribly rare. I saw a couple of other kids try it now and then.
When I showed a draft of my column to our daughter-in-law, Laura, she told me about a boy named Seth, who was in her first grade class in Galion, Ohio, during the 1960s. Seth didn’t eat paste, but he did something that was even more rare. He ate crayons. I never knew any kids who ate crayons, but I suppose there could have been a few closet crayon eaters in my class.
Laura said it took some time to catch Seth in the act, and here’s how it happened:
You see, Seth had a problem with numbers. He could count OK, but doing addition or subtraction problems was quite a struggle for him. His teacher spent extra time with him, and every now and then she made Seth stay inside by himself during recess so he could work on a few math problems.
On the days when Seth stayed inside by himself, it was not uncommon for a few kids to come back inside after recess and find that the black crayon was missing from their crayon box. No one could figure it out. Those crayons couldn’t just disappear into thin air.
Then one day, the teacher noticed Seth chewing on a black crayon in the middle of the day. She put two and two together, which made Seth a “person of interest” in the missing crayons caper. So the next day after recess, when a couple more kids reported missing black crayons, she called Seth up to her desk and asked him if he had taken those black crayons.
Seth swore up and down that he knew nothing about the missing black crayons. He said he was just trying to work on his math problems. But as he talked, the kids in the class started laughing. The teacher wondered what they were laughing about at first, but then she could see that Seth’s teeth were tinged with black, and there were tiny shards of black crayon between some of his front teeth. Seth’s secret was out of the bag for good.
Laura didn’t tell me any more about Seth. I don’t know if he received any kind of punishment, nor do I know if he was ever able to shake the “black crayon habit.” Perhaps the most puzzling thing of all, however, is why did Seth only eat black crayons? Was he hooked on licorice? But crayons don’t come in flavors. All crayons taste alike. Or do they? I don’t know. I have never eaten a crayon.
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