Posts Tagged ‘Forest Echoes’

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 14, in which we examine Abel Woodman.

“A Character is Coming to Crossett.”

This was the headline on a small announcement item greeting scrupulous readers of the December 1947 issue of Forest Echoes. As our faithful Peeling Back the Barkers know, Forest Echoes was the popular local monthly magazine published by the Crossett Lumber Company of Crossett, Arkansas, between 1939 and 1962. But who was this new character being teased in the magazine’s final issue of 1947? Curious readers were assured of an answer in the new year: “Don’t miss next month’s Forest Echoes, you owe it to yourself to meet this character.”

As promised, the mysterious new character made his debut in the January 1948 issue. Found in a one-panel comic in the back of the magazine was a well-built man with beady eyes, smoking a pipe and holding a large axe. The man was dressed in traditional lumberjack garb (boots, suspenders, flannel shirt) and there was no doubt about his location—a large Crossett smokestack was visible in the background.

Abel Woodman, January 1948

First-ever appearance of the man who would become Abel Woodman, January 1948 (click to enlarge).

The only problem was he had no name. To rectify this, the Forest Echoes editorial staff created a contest, inviting readers to submit their name ideas for the new character. As seen under the cartoon above, the best entry would win a $25 U.S. Savings Bond (side note: The “I ain’t Mr. Hush…” comment references a famed 1946 contest on the Truth or Consequences radio game show, where host Ralph Edwards phoned random people and asked them to identify a mystery voice known only as “Mr. Hush”).

The following month a winner was announced. Thanks to the entry of William “Bill” Preston Haisty, the new character was officially christened “Abel Woodman.”

Winner William "Bill" Preston Haisty, February 1948

Click to view the full February 1948 Abel Woodman cartoon.

Abel Woodman immediately became a regular monthly feature of the magazine. At the back of every issue readers would find Abel delivering a message on forest conservation, job safety, or some other local topic, always in his own humorous way. Like the Forest Echoes publication itself, the Abel Woodman cartoon was a reflection of life in Crossett and Crossett’s view of the world (in this case through the eyes of artist Lee Davis). Abel Woodman cartoons provided a unique commentary on issues specific to Crossett (a new town jail, Crossett High football, a redesigned company logo, the joys of Crossett bleached food board!) as well as more general concerns (taxes, the dangers of drinking and hunting, anxiety over the atomic bomb).

Abel remained a permanent fixture on the inside back cover until the final issue of Forest Echoes in June 1962 (the year Georgia-Pacific purchased the Crossett Lumber Company). For this fourteen-year run, the Abel comic was drawn by artist Lee Davis. In his final year Davis found a way to put himself in the action alongside Abel.

Abel Woodman by Lee Davis, March 1962

Davis did get help from the public along the way. In 1958 Forest Echoes held a “Cartoon Editor” contest, inviting the public to submit “a situation and appropriate remark for an Abel Woodman cartoon.” Ten winners won $10 each and had their cartoon ideas drawn by Davis and printed. The first winning entry (from Lloyd Gardner) was published in March 1958, and is notable in that it foresaw “Moon Trees” a good thirteen years ahead of Stuart Roosa’s journey into space.

Abel Woodman March 1958

The final Abel Woodman cartoon ran in the last issue of Forest Echoes in June of 1962. His glory years seemingly already behind him, Abel had been reduced to company shill—touting the benefits of charcoal made by the Crossett Chemical Company. Despite this inauspicious end, Abel Woodman lives on in Crossett. In 2002 an “Abel Woodman” statue was erected in a small park in the middle of town. The original Abel Woodman also lives on here at FHS in our collection of Forest Echoes magazines, and our other materials documenting the history of the company town of Crossett, Arkansas.

Continue below to view a few more Abel cartoon classics. (more…)

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That’s not Kate Upton on the cover. And that’s not Sports Illustrated. And that’s not even in color.

Hot off the presses in 1947, it's the swimsuit issue!

That’s Miss Sally Johnson. And it’s the new swimsuit issue of Forest Echoes—well, “new” on the forest history temporal scale. It’s from 1947. And to be honest, it’s not really their swimsuit issue. So what’s going on here?

Forest Echoes was the monthly magazine published by the Crossett Lumber Company of Crossett, Arkansas, from 1939 until the company merged with the Georgia-Pacific Company in 1962. The company incorporated in 1899 and built the town of Crossett, which was incorporated four years later. The history of the company and the town are intertwined. Both are also closely linked to the Crossett Experimental Forest, which has a long relationship with the Yale Forestry School, often the source of some of the magazine’s humor (see cartoon below). We’ll have an article on the history of the experimental forest in the next issue of Forest History Today.

But back to Forest Echoes. What began as a mimeographed safety bulletin distributed by the company’s personnel division to some 1,500 workers in September 1939 quickly evolved into a slick little monthly magazine that contained personnel news, safety information, announcements of new technology and equipment, school events, and local events and programs like the Miss Crossett beauty contest, which Sally Johnson won in 1947.

From the July 1947 issue of Forest Echoes.

From the July 1947 issue of Forest Echoes.

Sometimes they printed general education information on income taxes and social security, or on more mundane things like personal hygiene. This same issue included an article on the necessity of taking care of your feet and wearing good shoes because “a little advance foot care may save you many hours of pain and lost income.” Short works of fiction were also published. They had to be short: the magazine was 6″x9″ and on average just 16 pages per issue. The magazine also provided news about the African-American employees events in their community. Overall, Forest Echoes provides an excellent resource on the town’s history.

The magazine is interesting from a historical perspective as much for what it says as for what it doesn’t say. Forest Echoes reflected what was going on in the national culture at the time in some ways, such as the beauty contests and community picnics and baseball games, while being selective about the news from the outside world. It was strictly about life in Crossett and Crossett’s view of the world, or at least that of the editors. During World War II residents were kept apprised of what the local boys were doing to win the war, and after the war an occasional article would appear on Crossett men who were in the National Guard. But the fight to desegregate schools in Little Rock in the 1950s is never mentioned and the magazine ceased operating long before the town schools integrated in 1968. It would have been fascinating to see how and if the magazine reported on the talks between the white and black communities about integration and the subsequent end of segregation.

Another way the magazine sheds light on this era is through the humor published within. From the very first issue, lots of jokes were included. Initially they were scattered throughout the newsletter but eventually they were consolidated into a column called “Wind in the Pines.” The jokes are on par with what you’d have seen in Reader’s Digest then and even now—jokes about the work place, everyday life, and relations between the sexes. Often they depict a hobo or a working stiff putting one over on or giving comeuppance to the rich and powerful. Not long after the magazine started, a cartoon character named Abel Woodman appeared on the inside back cover. He typically gave a message about forest conservation or job safety but sometimes it was just straight humor. You can look forward to a “Forgotten Characters” post about Abel sometime soon. For now, here’s a taste.


The presence of Yale Forestry School students every summer in Crossett gave the artist of Abel Woodman plenty of fodder over the years.

At the outset I joked that the issue shown here was new. Well, it is new to us. It is through the generosity of David Anderson at the Crossett Public Library that we just received that issue. In fact, he sent us more than a hundred issues of Forest Echoes, which will go a long way towards filling out our collection of Forest Echoes in the library. Along with those, he sent copies of two histories of the town. So for researchers interested in Crossett Lumber and the town of Crossett who can’t get to Arkansas, come on down. As Sally Johnson might say, the water’s fine.

Miss Crossett winners from 1954

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