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On this date in 1903, Bob “Forest History” Hope was born in London, England. His career in comedy spanned 60 years and moved from the Vaudeville stage to radio and film and eventually television. He appeared in more than 70 movies, most famously in the “Road” series with his pal Bing Crosby, a fellow tree enthusiast. Readers of a certain age may remember Bob’s many television specials in which he’d refer to himself in the third person and use the name of his sponsor as his middle name, as in “Hi! This is Bob ‘Texaco’ Hope…” So we thought we’d share the few items we have of Bob “Forest History” Hope with you.

This first item appeared in the Advertising Council’s “The Campaign to Prevent Forest, Woods, and Range Fires in 1948″ booklet sent out to magazines and newspapers. It contains sample ads like the one below and Smokey Bear posters that publications could order up and use for free. Why was Bob Hope used? We know that he was one of the most popular celebrities in the country at that time, but we don’t know of a direct forest connection. The booklet says that “to attain high reader interest we use famous people in our newspaper ads” as attention getters and wrap “a serious, pointed story” around them. That information page shows Bob, Bing, and (we think) Jack Benny as their examples. (Leave your guess in the comments section!)

1948 campaign celebs

Bob Hope Fire Prevention ad 1948

Bob Hope Fire Prevention ad 1948.

The second item is from 1950. It appears that Bob was caught backstage somewhere and forced against his will to hold the sign with Woody while his picture was taken. Note the mop or broom handle behind him. The caption with the photo (FHS5978) reads:

Bob “Keep America Green” Hope takes time off from his tour through the Lake States to display this fire prevention poster, designed by American Forest Products Industries for use in schools. Bob holds the national version of the “Keep Green” reminder that was localized for the various states.

Bob Hope (FHS5978)

Bob Hope with Keep America Green poster.

The photo below was taken when Paul Searls, “the living Paul Bunyan,” appeared on Bob’s highly-rated radio show in 1954. Paul was the world champion log-bucker and an employee of Weyerhaeuser Timber who competed in lumberjack competitions and toured giving demonstrations and promoting tree farming. Paul also appeared on the television show “You Bet Your Life.” In the center is actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, who’s famous for being famous, kind of the Paris Hilton of her day (coincidentally, Zsa Zsa was married to Paris’s great-grandfather, Conrad Hilton.)

Bob Hope, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Paul Searls

Bob Hope, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Paul Searls in 1954.

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Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues with Part 12, in which we examine Benny Beaver.

Although Benny Beaver is back in the news, don’t be confused. The one making news is Oregon State University’s mascot, and that’s because he’s been redesigned. Again. The Benny Beaver beloved by forest history buffs was the mascot for the Redwood Region Conservation Council (RRCC).

Benny BeaverThe RRCC was a forest products industry group in the Redwood-Douglas fir region of California that sought to inform the public about the necessity of conserving the area’s natural resources, in particular commercial timber, and the importance of doing so for the benefit of all. The RRCC was involved in certifying forests for the American Tree Farm System and already employed Woody and the Keep Green program to get the word out about fire prevention when Benny was introduced.

What makes this character stand apart from all those is that his creators went to the trouble of formulating a backstory for him. Benny was introduced in the summer of 1965 (we don’t know when they stopped using him). In the introduction below, besides learning about Benny’s extended family and ancestors, they even implied that he was OSU’s Benny Beaver—hence the reference to being mauled by a wolverine (in 1965′s Rose Bowl, the University of Michigan handily defeated OSU.) And when Benny was introduced, Bernard Z. Agrons was RRCC’s president, so we think that’s where the name of Benny’s great uncle came from. Anyway, his creators did such an entertaining job on the backstory that I’m going to let the announcement of Benny’s “hiring” do the talking.

Benjamin “Benny” Beaver—faller, bucker, dam-builder and member of the world-famed lumbering family—has joined the Redwood Region Conservation Council as its supervisor of forest activities.

Benny applied to RRCC headquarters for work following a six-month period of convalescence.

Last January 1 while inspecting the culinary qualities of the wood structures which support Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, he was seriously mauled by a curmudgeonly wolverine. Seems the wolverine had left his home in Michigan for a trip to Disneyland and had stopped off in Pasadena for some mild exercise. A beaver with a football was all he could find to tussle with.

Healed, Benny headed back to his familiar forest where, he says, the most dangerous creatures are 21-year-old loggers on Saturday night and a funny old bear who wears a silly hat.

Benny’s first assignment will be to work with that bear—Smokey they call him—in an effort to keep the Redwood Region green. But being a charter member of the “hard-hat-on-head, we’re-not-dead” club, Benny indicated he would try to talk Smokey out of wearing his felt campaign hat.

“Widow-makers,” he warned, “can drive you into the deck like a wicket.”

Well known as an industrious woods worker, Benny has numerous qualifications for his job in forest conservation.

His great-great-great granddaddy pioneered the technique of selective logging, and early lumberjacks copied Benny’s great uncle Bernard Z. Beaver’s method of getting logs from the forest to the mill by river floating.

As a matter of fact, Benny’s cousins still excavate canals—some several hundred feet long—to float wood for life’s necessities into their communities. Their dams are engineered perfectly to keep the water in the canals at a proper depth….

The announcement concluded: “RRCC hopes the Redwood Region will welcome Benny Beaver. We expect him to fight wildfire, prevent litter-bugging and help us tell the public that conservation means the wise and multiple use of our natural resources.”

That last statement reveals the stumbling block to success that so many forest history characters trip over: they are given too many things to simultaneously to represent and it confuses the target audience. Is Benny about fire prevention? Stopping litter bugs? Wise and multiple use? Aren’t the first two really just part of the third? This problem of a muddled message is why the Forest Service later created Woodsy Owl—people were trying to use Smokey Bear to talk about litter and other issues and it diluted the power of Smokey’s message. Further complicating Benny’s path to stardom was the introduction of Cal Green and Sniff and Snuff in California the same year Benny was introduced. How’s a beaver in cut-off overalls supposed to compete against charismatic Cal and the sartorial splendor of Sniff and Snuff? As Benny might say, dam if I know.

Fighting forest fires in northern California kept Benny as busy as a, well, you know.

Fighting forest fires in northern California kept Benny as busy as a, well, you know.

The RRCC made ads like these available to newspapers.

The RRCC made ads like these available to newspapers.

Redwood Region Conservation Council letterhead

Redwood Region Conservation Council letterhead featuring Benny Beaver.

RRCC Benny Beaver poster

RRCC vice president Norman Traverso with student poster contest winners, 1966.

RRCC bookmark.

RRCC promotional bookmark featuring the “Woody” character.

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Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues with Part 10, in which we examine Howdy the Good Outdoor Manners Raccoon.

Howdy Raccoon saysIn the spring of 1959 the Pennsylvania Forestry Association (PFA), along with nine other conservation agencies in the state, sponsored a contest to name a “Good Outdoor Manners Raccoon.” The unnamed character at the center of this contest was to be used by the PFA as the new spokesman for a statewide anti-litter campaign. With increasing costs related to cleanup, maintenance, and repair work on public recreation lands in Pennsylvania, an awareness campaign was desperately needed. The PFA hoped that a friendly raccoon character, wearing a hat and a lumberjack-style plaid flannel shirt, would be an effective centerpiece for their “Good Outdoor Manners” crusade. All they needed was a name. The PFA would have plenty of options to choose from as over 48,000 Pennsylvania school children responded to the contest. The winner, John Hoyes, a first grader at the Second Street School in Charleroi, was selected in May 1959. His winning name entry: “Howdy.”

PFA Howdy

Howdy the Good Outdoor Manners Raccoon was quickly put into action across the state. Lloyd E. Partain, president of  the PFA, stated that “soon you will be seeing ‘Howdy’ along country roads, in parks, and at the many other places where people gather for recreation.” In the fall of 1959, 100,000 school book covers featuring Howdy were distributed to Pennsylvania children asking them to write their own good outdoor manners pledge.

As a forest animal spokesman, the Howdy character was in many ways inspired by the success of Smokey Bear. In early press releases about the character, the PFA actually went as far as to say that Howdy “is expected to become as well known in conservation as Smokey Bear.” In 1964, at the Dauphin County Firemen’s Parade, Howdy got to meet the famous bear himself.

Howdy Raccoon and Smokey Bear

While his popularity never reached the level of Smokey, Howdy’s image did spread beyond Pennsylvania’s borders, eventually finding a dedicated fan on the other side of the country. Margaret Robarge of Seattle, Washington, took Howdy’s message and ran with it. After encountering trash and graffiti on a hike through Washington’s Cascade Range, Robarge was moved to found the Good Outdoor Manners Association. With the permission of PFA, she began using Howdy as the group’s symbol. Based in Seattle, the Good Outdoor Manners Association (GOMA) promoted anti-litter campaigns, sponsored clean-up efforts in parks, and published a monthly magazine, Howdy’s Happenings. Howdy reached new heights out on the West Coast, where he was used by GOMA throughout the 1960s. An active chapter in Los Angeles began showing a 30-minute film, “Recreation or Wreckreation,” featuring Howdy in a starring role.

A 1966 article in Time magazine mentions that GOMA had nearly 50,000 members nationwide. The same article also detailed the group’s annual “Booster” and “Buster” awards, given to the best and worst examples of outdoor manners. And when they say “worst” they weren’t kidding. The 1966 Buster award nominees included such reprehensible examples of humanity as an unknown rifleman who slaughtered over 100 sea lions on the Santa Barbara Island in California and then proceeded to blow up an unattended ranger station.

While GOMA eventually disbanded, Howdy continued to be used as a symbol for several more decades back in Pennsylvania. In the early 1980s you could still find Howdy on t-shirts and tote bags for sale from the Pennsylvania Forestry Association.

Howdy Racoon shirts

Like all of our forgotten characters, though, Howdy eventually faded into obscurity. It may have been due to the Forest Service’s nationwide promotion of a new anti-litter animal character. The need for Howdy was certainly lessened by this pesky new owl, who rendered the “Good Outdoor Manners” message somewhat redundant. Out West, Johnny Horizon also began to encroach on Howdy’s territory. Beyond this, the other factors leading to his demise are open to speculation. Was it his use by multiple organizations? His cumbersome name? His aversion to wearing pants? Whatever the reason, we here at Peeling Back the Bark would like to pay tribute to our forgotten friend, Howdy the Good Outdoor Manners Raccoon.

Howdy Raccoon comic
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Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues with Part 8, in which we examine Sniff and Snuff.

Sniff and Snuff During the 1960s, the California Division of Forestry was concerned about the growing number of wildfires started by children. According to the division’s statistics, “children and matches” were one of the leading sources of human-caused fires at the time. To limit these numbers, the division began to target young school-age children through educational materials, teacher kits, fire prevention promotional items, and more. The division also looked to create a character to assist in the efforts–someone or something like Keep California Green’s Cal Green, only more appealing to children. This campaign led the division into a brief and unlikely partnership with famed animation studio Hanna-Barbera, the result of which was the new firefighting duo Sniff and Snuff.

In the mid-1960s Hanna-Barbera was creating Saturday morning cartoon classics such as The Magilla Gorilla Show, Jonny Quest, and Space Ghost. Did the studio really take the time to create characters for the California Division of Forestry? According to a short blurb in the Western Conservation Journal, they did.

The May/June/July 1968 issue mentions that “a couple of years ago, the Division also developed two new characters to supplement Smokey Bear. These two animated cartoon characters, designed by the Hanna-Barbera Company of Hollywood, are appropriately called ‘Sniff and Snuff–the Super Fire Safe Snoopers.’ These two characters will again be seen on television throughout the coming fire season.”

One wonders how much time Hanna-Barbera actually spent designing the characters. Snuff was the tall one with the long head and a weak jawline, while Sniff (man, woman, pig?) was short and stumpy with a Moe from Three Stooges haircut. Sniff and Snuff wore Robin Hood-style get ups and feathered hats, which occasionally and inexplicably transformed into hard hats. The division hoped the duo could teach children the importance of fire safety and the dangers of forest fires. Looking at Sniff and Snuff now, though, is it really any surprise that the characters never caught on?

Admittedly, we have not been able to track down any animated footage of the duo, so maybe they were more entertaining than we think. If anyone remembers seeing Sniff and Snuff on television in California or has footage, please let us know. What we do have is the coloring book, Sniff & Snuff the Super Fire-Safe Snoopers Meet the Most Dangerous Animal in the Forest. In honor of this forgotten duo, enjoy a few page selections below.

Sniff and Snuff Meet the Most Dangerous Animal in the Forest

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Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues with Part 6, in which we examine Ev’rett (the Friendly Evergreen).

In the 1950s, a new front opened in the War on Christmas. The first front had opened with a presidential ban on Christmas trees in the White House in 1902 out of concern for natural resources. A half-century later, Christmas trees made of aluminum or plastic had become so commonplace that that the plot of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which first aired on television in 1965, revolves around this idea of artificial trees having replaced natural trees. Artificial trees were so commonplace that when Charlie Brown and Linus see a single wooden tree alone on the tree lot full of artificial ones, Linus asks Charlie Brown, “Gee, do they even still make wooden Christmas trees?” To CB, the dominance and pervasiveness of artificial trees represented how disconnected Americans had become from the spiritual and religious roots of Christmas. Having a natural tree helps him and his friends reconnect to the true meaning of Christmas, as expressed in a heart-tugging soliloquy by Linus.

NCTGA logoAs the 1960s drew to a close, the artificial tree industry was cutting deeply into the sale of natural trees and growers were in a panic. The National Christmas Tree Growers’ Association (NCTGA) decided to do something about it. Like a plot from an old Hollywood musical, they respond to this attack on tradition with—a song! One can picture Mickey Rooney as the son of a Christmas tree farmer who’s on the brink of bankruptcy during the Great Depression. Having overheard the mean banker (maybe Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life”?) tell Mickey’s father that unless he can pay the mortgage, he’ll lose the farm. Desperate and inconsolable, Mickey turns for comfort to his gal played by Judy Garland, who then sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to cheer him. Afterward, they talk and hit on the idea of writing a song and then Mickey says, “Hey kids! Let’s put on a show!” The show (and the movie) end with the unveiling of a new song Mickey wrote celebrating natural Christmas trees, “Ev’rett the Friendly Evergreen.” It’s a smash sensation, and the show saves the farm! Roll credits!

Evrett

Take a listen and tell me that this doesn’t save the farm.

Ev’rett the Friendly Evergreen
1969 (2min 09sec): 



Well, that’s how it would have played out in the 1930s film version. The contemporary version would be closer to the truth—a little darker and with an ambiguous ending. (more…)

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Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues with Part 5, in which we examine the Fire Wolf.

Fire WolfA blood-curdling howl echoes through the forest. The wind suddenly picks up, bringing with it a blanket of thickening smoke. The temperature begins to rise and a red glow shines ominously on the horizon. The howl grows closer, suddenly transforming into loud and unnerving laughter. It can only mean one thing: the Fire Wolf is on the loose.

The Fire Wolf was born at the end of World War II, during an era of rising concern about catastrophic wildfires throughout the western United States. With fire constantly threatening the American timber supply, forest industry groups began to fight back. Education quickly became an important weapon in the industry’s fight. During the 1940s, a deluge of fire prevention messages were dropped on the general public. Contributing to this effort was American Forest Products Industries (AFPI), a research and promotional arm of the lumber and wood products industries (AFPI would later be renamed the American Forest Institute before becoming part of the American Forest & Paper Association in 1992). In addition to their usual work promoting the industry, the folks at AFPI also began running numerous forest fire prevention campaigns during the 1940s. One of these advertising campaigns, first launched in 1945, featured a character known as the Fire Wolf.

Fire Wolf fire prevention character

Coming on the heels of AFPI’s popular “Woody” character that launched four years earlier, the Fire Wolf was designed to capture the attention of children and adults alike. In contrast with fellow fire prevention symbol Smokey Bear, who premiered a year earlier in 1944, the Fire Wolf was no friend of the forest. Dubbed “Forest Enemy No. 1,” he operated with a modus operandi similar to the Guberif. As presented in various print advertisements, the Fire Wolf—his body literally made of flames—stalked the forest, threatening innocent woodland animals and other wildlife. A crafty creature, he made fast friends with careless smokers and lazy campers. The Fire Wolf welcomed destruction by flame, taking an arsonist’s glee in watching the woods burn. Liked to play with matches? The Fire Wolf was your boy. This big bad wolf wouldn’t just blow your house down, he’d burn it to the ground. No wolf in sheep’s clothing, he’d sooner douse you in gasoline than pull wool over your eyes. Absolutely no one in the vicinity of a forest was safe from his wrath. As the ads declared, “Every creature in the woods is scared to death of the Fire Wolf.”

Fire Wolf advertisement

During his brief heyday in the late 1940s, the Fire Wolf appeared in advertisements throughout the U.S. and Canada (Fire Wolf was given a boost north of the border through the cooperation of the Shawinigan Industries of Canada). Even more so than other forgotten characters, though, his time in the spotlight was incredibly short-lived. Fire Wolf was never able to gain significant traction with the public—especially in the face of the growing popularity of other characters such as Smokey Bear and Woody. His existence only in print ads also limited his impact (as opposed to Woody who made public appearances on behalf of AFPI). Fittingly, the Fire Wolf’s lifespan was that of a match, just a fleeting flame across the national fire prevention scene. In the end, maybe it was better for the Fire Wolf to burn out quickly rather than slowly fading away. In remembrance of his brief but useful career, continue reading for a few selections from the AFPI records and scrapbooks featuring the Fire Wolf in his prime.
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Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues with Part 4, in which we examine Cal Green.

Cal Green logoCal Green was a child of the popular “Keep Green” fire prevention campaign of the mid-twentieth century. Not to be confused with the jazz guitarist, the boxer, or the California Green Building Standards Code, Cal Green was a short-lived symbol of the California timber industry, as well as a regional figure in the growing national forest fire prevention movement. His existence may have been fleeting, but Cal nonetheless represents an important chapter in the history of forest-related organization on the state level.

Cal’s lineage can be traced back to May 31, 1940, when Washington Governor Clarence D. Martin issued a proclamation appealing for the public to become proactive in the prevention of wildfires. Martin’s call led directly to the creation of the Keep Washington Green Association, the first statewide forest fire prevention organization of its kind. Washington’s model proved influential, and in May of 1941 Oregon Governor Charles Sprague called together state leaders to form a Keep Oregon Green Association. From there the movement took off. The American Forest Institute formed a national Keep America Green program in 1944, and by the beginning of 1949, twenty-four states had their own Keep Green programs.

Keep California GreenCalifornia was in this first group of states to join the movement. Like other states’ campaigns, Keep California Green advocated for forest fire prevention while also demonstrating the importance of protecting the state’s valuable forest resources. The program proved successful, and by the 1960s the leadership of Keep California Green decided the organization needed its own mascot. Who or what would best represent their work? Keep Idaho Green was already setting the tone with their brilliant and unique Guberif campaign. The Guberif would be hard to top, so instead California decided to go a more traditional route.

Mean Cal GreenIn 1965, Keep California Green officially adopted a new character as their mascot. A logger with a hard hat and boots, usually carrying a shovel, he was named (what else?) “Cal Green.” The organization’s newsletter, Keep Greener, announced his arrival in May 1965: “‘Cal Green’ has been adopted to serve as front man of this timber industry oriented group. ‘Cal’ will be the central figure in all future Keep California Green publications and will cover California with his fire prevention efforts.”

As a logger, Cal clearly demonstrated the importance of forest industries while delivering his messages of fire prevention. His image popped up on signs, billboards, and trucks around the state, as well as on Keep California Green’s publications, mailings, and advertisements. Unfortunately for Cal, though, his time was relatively short-lived. There’s no official record stating a reason for his demise, but for whatever reason the character never caught on. Maybe he wasn’t cute and cuddly enough for the kids, maybe it was the Hitler-esque mustache, or maybe it was the Sixties and Cal represented The Man at a time when California youths were flocking to Haight-Ashbury. More likely, it was just the overwhelming popularity of Smokey Bear as the singular figure of fire prevention nationwide. Regardless, here at Peeling Back the Bark we pay tribute to this forgotten character with a few selections from our archives of the little man in action.

Cal Green sign

Cal Green sign displayed at front entrance of the Yolo County Fair in Woodland, California.

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Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues here with Part 3 in which we examine the life and tragically short career of Johnny Horizon.

He came from out of the West. He was a loner who brought the people together. With their help, he said, together they could clean up their towns and farms. “Do-gooder,” they called him. “Square-jawed,” they said. Troubadours traveled the countryside, singing about how a folk hero walked among them. Hearing his story changed the people’s lives. Rural folk and urban kids, hippies and businessmen, even the president—they all did as he asked. As his fame and power spread, the government grew nervous. Then one day the suits in Washington said they’d had enough. They’d created him, they could silence him. They ordered him “phased out.” To this day, he is still honored in the one state that loves its forest history characters more than any other. He was Johnny Horizon. And his legend lives on.

It was the late 1960s. The environmental movement was in full swing. Trash and water and air pollution had become major concerns for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Johnny Horizon arrived on the scene in 1968. His message was simple: It’s your land, it’s my land — Keep it clean! It was just what the BLM wanted to hear. They’d been the brunt of jokes for years, ridiculed as the Bureau of Livestock and Mining. The BLM needed help to clean up their image and clean up their lands. Johnny was the man for both.This Land is Your Land

Johnny had it all going for him. He was Hollywood handsome, “a tall, lean man with strong facial features, who wears slacks and sport shirt buttoned to the collar (both green, when colored), no tie, a field jacket (red, when colored), boot-type shoes (brown, when colored) and who carries a backpack.” His message was as disarming as his good looks: Clean up America for its 200th birthday. Who could argue with that?

At first the bureaucrats at the BLM were smitten. They hired the handsome stranger as their anti-litter symbol and spokesman. Johnny was an instant hit. A television appearance sparked 23,000 letters in one month from fans promising to reduce litter on public lands. Others signed pledge cards saying they’d do the same. He became bigger than anyone had ever imagined. Somewhere a talking bear was shaking in his blue jeans.

Johnny Horizon pledge card

Johnny Horizon pledge card.

Hollywood stars flocked to him right away like moths to a flame. Celebrities like Cicely Tyson and Glen Campbell recorded TV and radio spots for him. Comics like Red Buttons and Carol Burnett joined in. Folk singer and actor Burl Ives quickly teamed up with Johnny and the Department of the Interior to help spread his message. In a press conference in 1970, Ives promised to “get 200 million Americans aware of and caring for their environment.” Within a few years’ time, “countryside clean-ups” had spread to 40 states and 300,000 people were volunteering their time. Ives even commissioned songs to help spread the message. Together with singer Randy Sparks and the New Canaan Singers, he toured the country and gave free concerts, literally singing Johnny’s praises. And spreading his radical message that the people take care of their land.

Burl Ives Johnny Horizon LP

Johnny Horizon music LP featuring Burl Ives, Randy Sparks, and others.

One song invoked the names of the Founding Fathers and made a direct appeal to “the rangers and the Wolf Cubs and the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts” … “to help keep America clean.” Johnny was winning the hearts and minds of the kids. They could get free bumper stickers and buttons with Johnny’s message. They could buy t-shirts and watches and belts with his face on it. He even showed up on the popular kids’ cartoon “Fat Albert.” (more…)

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Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. Peeling Back the Bark‘s series on “Forgotten Characters from Forest History” continues here with Part 2 in which we examine the Guberif.

The Guberif“What the hell is a Guberif?”

Residents of Idaho began asking that question in 1950 when the Guberif first invaded their state’s forests. Rarely seen today, the Guberif is a creature that stalks the woods, leaving behind devastating forest fires in its wake. Commonly found throughout Idaho during the 1950s, the creature was mostly eradicated through a successful statewide “wanted dead or alive” hunting campaign. A sworn enemy of the forest, the infamous Guberif nonetheless developed a cult following, and still stands as one of the most unique characters in state history.

To fully understand the Guberif, we first need to go back to 1946, the year the Keep Idaho Green campaign was launched. The campaign was an extension of the Keep Green program that began in the state of Washington in 1940 to combat the growing number of catastrophic fires in the Pacific Northwest. The program quickly spread nationwide and other states began implementing their own forest fire prevention advertising campaigns under the Keep Green banner. By 1946 twelve states, including Idaho, had created their own official Keep Green organizations.

Keep Idaho Green logoThe driving force behind the creation of Keep Idaho Green was the Idaho State Junior Chamber of Commerce. Most of the Keep Idaho Green organization’s early executive committee members (composed of representatives from State, federal, and private interests) came from the Junior Chamber. Like other states with Keep Green programs, the Idaho organization designed and distributed educational materials such as posters, stickers, pamphlets, and displays boards, as well as short films and radio spots featuring messages of fire prevention.

Looking for a way to help differentiate their forest fire prevention campaign from that of other states, Keep Idaho Green invented a new character. First introduced in 1950, the “Guberif” was defined as a creature that starts fires in Idaho’s forests through acts of carelessness. The development of the character is credited to Richard A. Trzuskowski, who was publicity director for the Keep Idaho Green committee at the time.

Guberif postcard

One of the many Guberif postcards distributed by Keep Idaho Green, 1951.

Designed as an ugly winged insect, normally seen smoking a cigarette or pipe and sporting a clueless expression, the new Guberif character was plastered on posters and other items by the Keep Idaho Green organization during the next few years. In 1951 alone, more than 100,000 postcards featuring the Guberif were distributed in Idaho. In addition, 300 road surface signs bearing messages of fire prevention – and mentioning the Guberif – were painted on Idaho highways (some of which can still be found today in various parts of the state). A short film was even produced featuring the Guberif in a starring role.

Guberif road sign

Clarence Grone, director of the Rutledge Unit of Potlatch Forests at Coeur D’Alene, points out one of the new Keep Idaho Green road surface signs, 1952.

Derived from a relatively simple concept – the word “firebug” spelled backward – the character produced immediate reactions. (more…)

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Everyone knows Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and maybe even Ranger Rick Raccoon, but there are many other forest and forestry-related fictional characters that long ago fell by the wayside. We here at Peeling Back the Bark would like to shed some light on a few of these forgotten characters, discussing their place in forest history and showcasing them to modern audiences.

Featuring Woody imageOne such forgotten character is Woody, a walking, talking log of wood who first came about through a forest products industry public relations campaign during the early 1940s. The creation of Woody is credited to American Forest Products Industries (AFPI) – an organization created in 1932 as a trade promotion subsidiary of the National Lumber Manufacturers’ Association (in later years AFPI would be renamed the American Forest Institute and would go on to become part of the American Forest & Paper Association in 1992). The main role of AFPI was to fund and distribute research and promotional projects relating to lumber and other wood products industries. In 1941, in response to negative public opinion about forest industries as well as the threat of federal regulation, a formal “Forest Industries Public Relations Program” was launched under the guidance of AFPI’s Public Relations Committee.

One of the first tasks for this new public relations program was to design various forest products advertising campaigns. These ready-made ads were designed for use in newspapers and allowed forest products companies to provide educational messages to their local communities. The first ads began circulating in 1942, carrying messages about the importance of forests as a natural resource. In 1944 a character named “Woody” first appeared in the AFPI advertising campaign. This log of wood with arms and legs proved to be immensely popular, and continued to be added to subsequent editions of AFPI advertisement books.

Introducing Woody advertisement

A 1944 press release from AFPI announced the debut of the Woody character, describing him as “a smiling, animated log.” As part of an industry-wide public information campaign Woody served as a symbol of forest products, good forestry, managed woodlands, tree farming, and more. Because of the time period, many of the Woody ads from this first series included wartime tie-ins.

Woody wartime advertisement

After the war Woody evolved into a figure of forest fire prevention, and later became a symbol of the national Keep Green Movement. (more…)

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