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Posts Tagged ‘Keep California Green’

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 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 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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