Ever wonder how school buses almost universally came to wear not just yellow but a specific shade of yellow? Smithsonian Magazine dug up the answer, which has less to do with caprice and more to do with actual science.
Speaking at a luncheon commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1939 school-bus conference, Cyr recalled that some school districts, by the time of the conference, had already adopted yellow as their school-bus color. Others, though, wanted to paint their buses red, white, and blue. He said at the time, “Red, white and blue was camouflage, if you think about it. It was to make kids patriotic. It was well-meaning, but they made the buses less visible. And I don’t think it really had much effect on patriotism.”
“The yellow is not pure spectral yellow,” says Ivan Schwab, clinical spokesperson at the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “The best way to describe [the color] would be in wavelength,” says Schwab. The wavelength of the popular school-bus color is “right smack in the middle” of the peak wavelengths that stimulate the photoreceptor cells our eyes use to perceive red and green. The red and green photoreceptor cells, or “cones” as they are commonly known, are the two most predominant cones in our eyes. Schwab says, “If you get a pure wavelength of one color…and you hit just one cone with it, you’re going to have x amount of transmission of signal to the brain. But if that [wavelength] were to stimulate two cones, you’ll get double the amount of transmission to the brain.” Remarkably, “That color that we are calling school bus yellow hits both peaks equally.” So although they may not have fully comprehended the science behind it, the color Cyr and his colleagues chose at the 1939 conference makes it hard for other drivers to miss a school bus, even in their peripheral vision. “And it’s darned big,” Schwab adds.
* The school bus photo above, by the way, came from Tamerlane’s Thoughts, specifically from the blog owner’s recent visit to the Pacific Bus Museum.
This was the bus I took regularly in Orange County in the 1980s when I moved to America. Apparently, these were popular on the West Coast because Crowns were built in Los Angeles.
* Motorcities this week ran a brief article on Eleanor Blevins, an actress-turned-auto-racer who drove in the mid-Teens.
One woman who made history during those early days was Eleanor Blevins (1892-1972) of Lincoln, Nebraska. Blevins was also an actress and made more than 24 films between 1913 and 1916. She also was one of the first women who enjoyed auto racing, driving many times around the Benning Racetrack near Washington, DC in 1916.
The car that Blevins drove throughout her racing career was called the Stutz Weightman Special, produced by William “Wild Bill “Weightman. It was equipped for high speeds and featured a special aerodynamic modification with a boat tail design. The vehicle was a right-hand drive model and prepared for land speed races as well.
* Finally, it seems like more communities are starting to dive into the histories of their automobile rows these days, and Boston is no exception. WBUR recently explored that bit of the city’s history.
Before Commonwealth Avenue became the spine of the campus of Boston University, it served quite a different purpose. Starting in 1910, the stretch between Packard’s Corner and Kenmore Square transformed into Boston’s “Automobile Row” — a collection of ornate motorcar showrooms and dealerships.
* Finally, many thanks to Silvaire for sending us the link to Doug Domokos’s wheelie stunt up and down San Francisco’s Lombard Street in response to our story on the so-called crookedest street in the world earlier this week.