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Posts Tagged ‘Rudy Wendelin’

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 13, in which we examine Herman I. Cautious and Paula Bunyan.

The first week of May marks the annual occurrence of North American Occupational Safety and Health Week. Sponsored by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), NAOSH Week is intended to raise awareness about occupational safety, health and the environment. In honor of NAOSH week, and in the spirit of workplace safety, Peeling Back the Bark brings you not one, but two new forgotten characters of forest history.

Herman I Cautious headIn early 1960, the Pacific Plywood Company of Dillard, Oregon, launched an innovative new safety program. Under the slogan “Caution Pays You,” the new program awarded employees for eliminating workplace accidents. Accident-free years would bring cash awards, based on money collected from monthly contributions into a Safety Dividend Account plan. To help launch this new safety program, a promotional character was introduced: Herman I. (Izzy) Cautious.

While his name was a basic play on a safety question (“her man, is he cautious?”), there was no doubt about Herman’s commitment to workplace health. Always safely decked out in hardhat and gloves, Herman appeared on posters and signs around the plant to raise awareness for the program. His image was accompanied by the “Caution Pays You” slogan, which was trademarked in 1960.

Herman I. Cautious

Pacific Plywood employees with Herman I. Cautious signs. Bob Young at far right.

The idea to use monetary rewards to reduce accidents came from Pacific Plywood Company’s Safety Director Bob Young. He and others at the company had big plans for the program.  An article in the May 1960 issue of The Lumberman stated, “Considerable interest has been shown in the plan by outside industries, and many inquiries have been made about its operation even before it has been started.” It’s unknown how much interest was shown in the Herman Cautious character, though. He was used on company safety awards for a short time, but then appeared to quickly vanish from the public eye.

Pacific Plywood Co. safety award

Herman Cautious wasn’t the only hardhat-wearing forest-related safety character to fade from view in the early 1960s. The U.S. Forest Service has a forgotten safety character of its own: Paula Bunyan. Paula, drawn by legendary Forest Service artist Rudy Wendelin, was presented as the “Guardian of Safety” for the agency.

Paula Bunyan

We’ll let the official backstory on Paula speak for itself: “She is the daughter of Paul Bunyan, the legendary, swashbuckling, and sometimes unsafe north woods hero. Being a woman, Paula knew how to get her message across to her father and converted him to a safety conscious individual without impairing his tremendous production. This spread his fame all the more. We feel the modern day forester is susceptible to the wiles of such a safety symbol.”

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Eighty years ago, Rudy Wendelin was a young artist fresh out of the University of Kansas School of Architecture struggling like many others to find work during the Great Depression. Relief came in 1933 when he applied for a job in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, under the new Civilian Conservation program launched that same year. Wendelin got the job, a position as a draftsman with Region 9 of the U.S. Forest Service, and immediately began turning out various artwork, signs, displays, publications, architectural drawings, and much more for the agency. By 1936 the local newspapers were referring to him as “the Ding Darling of the United States [Forest] Service” after the famed cartoonist Jay Darling. Within four years Wendelin would be promoted to the Forest Service’s national office in Washington, DC, and go on to become well known as the primary artist and “caretaker” of Smokey Bear. His time in Milwaukee working on CCC projects, though, was a crucial step towards this future career success.

During his final year working for Region 9, Wendelin drew a series of sketches depicting the forestry work of the CCC that were used in an instructional pamphlet given to enrollees. Woodsmanship for the Civilian Conservation Corps, published annually from 1937 to 1941, served as a guide to using various tools, basic first-aid, poisonous plants and insects, and an introduction to conservation and forestry. Some of the artwork was also used in other CCC materials, like recruitment flyers. The cover image captures the spirit of the CCC then and the perception of it today—the strapping young man made strong from the work and smiling with gratitude for the opportunity.

“The mountains and forests of this country may seem a wilderness to those of the Civilian Conservation Corps who come from the cities and farms,” read the pamphlet’s text. “Experience in the C.C.C. . . . will, however, call for what is known as ‘Woodsmanship’ – the ability to live and work safely, conduct yourself in accordance with your surroundings, and adapt yourself to your environment. No one can be taught woodsmanship out of a book, but here are a few traits of a good woodsman.”

View selections of Wendelin’s CCC art from Woodsmanship below, and consult the Rudolph Wendelin Papers in the FHS archives for further information.

CCC artUsing the Shovel, CCC artwork.
Fighting Fires, CCC artwork. lookout tower art.
Carrying the Crosscut, CCC artwork.
Carrying the D.B. Ax
Felling Trees, CCC artwork.Drill Ye Tarriers
Holding the Ax
Planting Trees, CCC artwork.
Always Break your Matches
Dragon art.

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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 7, in which we examine Spunky Squirrel.

Spunky SquirrelJanuary 21 is Squirrel Appreciation Day. While I hold dear to my cartoon-loving heart Secret Squirrel (and his sidekick Morocco Mole), and enjoy the music of Squirrel Nut Zipper, there is one squirrel who stands above the rest—Spunky Squirrel. And I more than appreciate him. I want to celebrate him as he approaches his thirtieth birthday.

Spunky was the brainchild of the American Forestry Association (now American Forests) in 1981. They wanted a symbol for their Urban Forestry Program that would appeal to children. Wisely, they turned to artist Rudy Wendelin for help in developing the character. Rudy had been the primary artist for Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl before retiring from the U.S. Forest Service in 1973. When Hank DeBruin of the AFA contacted Rudy in September 1981 about creating Spunky, he offered Rudy some ideas about Spunky’s apparel, which you can see in the letter below. But dressing him in blue jeans, a t-shirt, running shoes, and a cap that looks like a beret might have made him look more like a confused Frenchman than a hip American youth. (Props to Hank for suggesting Adidas running shoes, though. He anticipated by four years rap group Run-D.M.C. making Adidas popular among urban youth. Maybe Run took a fashion cue from Spunky.)

1981 letter from DeBruin to Wendlin

1981 letter from Hank DeBruin to Rudy Wendlin

Rudy’s initial try, though, garnered some ribbing from Hank. “Grandpa Squirrel” was not what they were after.

Grandpa Squirrel

Grandpa Squirrel test art.

In August 1982, AFA introduced Spunky and his slogan “Care for Trees!” to its members in the magazine. The ad copy is written by Spunky and gives his backstory—how he was born uptown and lived in an oak tree in a park. But when the tree got sick and had to be removed, he and his family had trouble finding another tree to call their own. The ad then goes on to extol the many benefits of urban forests.

That October, Spunky made his first public appearance at the second National Urban Forestry Conference, which was sponsored in part by the AFA, in Cincinnati. Spunky was there to hand out tree seedlings to kids, who “thronged” him as he made his way from the stage to greet them. Soon after his introduction, Spunky became the de facto mascot of Arbor Day. At Milwaukee’s Arbor Day event in 1983, he was made an honorary citizen!

Raymond Burr and Spunky Squirrel

Actor Raymond Burr with Spunky at the 1982 National Urban Forestry Conference in Cincinnati. The actor had a long-time interest in natural resources issues.

Spunky’s popularity quickly took off, especially after he was introduced to kindergarten, first and second graders in Weekly Reader. He also made an appearance on TV’s “Romper Room,” where he told children all over America how to improve the environment in their cities and towns. The usual merchandise followed—Spunky Squirrel t-shirts, balloons, flying disks,  buttons—even Spunky Squirrel bike packs and plastic tumblers.

Spunky Squirrel promotional items

Spunky Squirrel promotional items

Part of his message included telling people how they could protect their trees from the gypsy moth, which continues to wreak havoc on eastern hardwoods. He graced the pages of a workbook about the gypsy moth published by the AFA and the U.S. Forest Service. Rudy even created a gypsy moth character. The AFA made ads for gypsy moth information featuring Spunky available to newspapers in affected areas, probably for free.

Gypsy Moth

Gypsy Moth, one of the villains in the Spunky Squirrel rogues' gallery.

It’s not known how long Spunky remained in the public eye—perhaps just a couple of years. Like so many forest characters, Spunky soon found work hard to come by, and was reduced to making appearances in odd places, like at a city function in Santa Rosa, California, in 2006. We can’t confirm it, but it looks like he’s had some plastic surgery done. (The things an older squirrel must do today to compete against younger squirrels for spokes-animal work. Spunky’s barely recognizable.)

Santa Rosa's Spunky Squirrel, circa 2006.

In Oklahoma, though, his name and slogan “Care for Trees!” live on in an annual poster contest. And he’ll always live on in our hearts.

Spunky Squirrel in Milwaukee

Spunky at the 1984 Arbor Day celebration in Milwaukee.

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