This is the story of a young boy whose first remembrance of the world around him was in the mid-1950s. He lived in a two-story house just above a busy highway. Each day, he would watch as the many buses and cars passed by, coming and going. He knew not where they were all going in such a hurry. He only knew they were coming from somewhere and going to a place along the road he had not been.
Sometimes, he would go to a place not far from his home and sit on a hill top that overlooked a big turn in the road just below. The cars and buses would slow as they rounded the sharp turn. Watching the cars pass, he noticed the colors of the cars. The buses were many colors with signs that advertised the world around him. He could see the faces of people on the buses as they looked out the windows. They never looked up to where he sat. He waved to the passing buses and cars, but no one ever looked up from their busy world.
When the bright green crab apples fell onto the ground nearby, he would toss one onto the top of the bus and hope someone would look up and wave to him. But none did. He just watched the many colors of the cars and buses that passed by each day. That is when he first remembers his world was made of colors.
Once a week a green Willeys truck would stop and sell vegetables out of the back. The side panels lifted to display green, red, and yellow vegetables in baskets. The women of the small community would bargain with the man as he would weigh their purchase on a scale that hung off the back corner of the truck.
Occasionally, the young boy and his brother would hear the music from the truck which sold ice cream. It was painted a bright white color with multicolored pictures of ice cream cones and frozen treats. The truck was always clean in this world of dust and dirt. The young boys would eat the frozen treats as they sat on the steps of their home in the summer heat.
In good weather the young boy would walk to school not far away. The boy would marvel at the beautiful creek that ran along the road on the far side. He was not supposed to cross the busy road, but sometimes he did to look down on the stream that passed by in the morning sun. He wondered if all streams were as beautiful as this one. Its waters were a shimmering golden color and so clear he could see to the bottom. The rocks in the creek were also the bright yellow color. Even the stones along the sides of the stream were a golden brown when dried in the sunlight. He believed the golden color was beautiful as it ran slowly past the green trees of the valley.
He remembers many of the houses along the way, they were gray in color. The painted lapped siding of the homes was once different colors, but the dark gray that had settled on the board made all the houses the same color in the sunlight.
Some days, the sunlight would take on the color of a hazy brownish yellow as rays of light passed through smoke from chimneys. The tinted light would shine down onto the houses, buses, cars, and creeks of his world.
The alley where he walked to his school was covered in red crushed stones. When a car would pass by, a cloud of red dust would rise and float in the air as the sunlight passed down through the green trees above. The young boy would watch as the car drove past and the red dust would seem to follow the car.
His school was a large old brick building and the hallways, to the small boy, seemed to tower over him with high ceilings. The great glass globes of the lights that hung from chains were yellowish brown in appearance. Most likely the dust from the outside world had for many years settled on the large glass globes and taken on the brownish yellow color.
The young boy did not understand that the world he lived in was colored by the environment. To the boy, it was his world and it is not something he questioned or wondered why. It was many years later, after he moved away from that place, that he began to realize the true colors of that world he had left behind.
That community was surrounded by long abandoned mines and their runoff caused the stream to be colored by seepage from the mines. He came to realize the yellow color of the stream allowed no creatures to live there.
The road that passed by his house that was so busy with colors is now only used by local traffic. A new interstate highway nowadays takes the traffic away that used to pass by as he watched from his place on the hill.
Furnaces used to heat homes produced the gray ash which settled on the lap siding of the houses in his community. The stones that gave off red dust were a type of slag from steel mills. It was crushed into gravel and placed on dirt roads and alleys. In the nearly 60 years since those days much has changed. Those colors he remembered as a small boy have long faded into a cleaner world, except in his memories.
There is one other color the young boy remembered from long ago. In the large hallway on the south side of his school was a large porcelain water fountain. It was one of those kind that was built into the wall and in front of it was a small wooden step so he and the young children could step up to get a drink when coming in off the playground. He remembers its cool feeling when he leaned on it to drink.
The large fountain was one more color in his daily world. He knew what the color of the porcelain fountain was because just beside it was the word describing its color, “WHITE”. It was many years later before he understood the true color of the fountain.
That young boy was me long ago. Recently my wife and I took a trip back in time to the place of my youth. I wonder about those colors of that long ago world and what they were today.
Our house on the hill is long gone and the creek is now green and full of creatures. The homes along the road are now clean with no dark smoke coming from chimneys. The red stone alleys have long since been covered with black top.
What of the school? It has been gone for many years, along with the fountain. It only exists in the memories of children who once went there.
But for me, it was the time I can first remember my world in colors. It took many years for me to understand the meaning of colors in that world from long ago as I look back Thru the Lens.